Declutter – The 6 Month Rule

I’ve moved more times than I care to admit. Ok, I’ll admit that since I have become an adult I have moved at least 10 times. I could count, but that would frustrate me, then I could go on a tirade… we don’t want that.

Each time I’ve moved I’ve said out-loud; “I am never moving all this crap again! This is it!”. Usually that was followed by the position that we have way too much stuff and moving it was extremely time consuming, costly and frustrating. Each time I’ve gone through old boxes, dresser drawers, filing cabinets, junk drawers and, if it wasn’t already in a move-ready box, it got shifted to a new box to be moved to the new house and put back in the same dresser drawer or new junk drawer.

This is insane! Why? Because most of the time I’m moving stuff that I don’t think about or even touch unless I’m putting it in a box to move it to the new place. Like I said, this. is. INSANE!

So, I think it’s time to initiate the “6 month rule”.

The rule basically goes like this:
If I come across anything that I haven’t seen, used or thought about for at least 6 months, it gets thrown away, sold or donated to charity.

This obviously doesn’t go for everything. I have a good set of tools that can come in handy under certain circumstances. I have cloths for different seasons that may not get worn but one month out of the year. I do have a few keepsakes that I am not willing to get rid of.

This would apply to items that have been given to us that don’t have a solid purpose. From where I’m sitting now, I see a figurine that my dad came across at a garage sale that he thought my son would like. It was well intentioned, and we are very grateful that for the thought and gift, but my son doesn’t really like it. It doesn’t fit any of his toys or collection. It lies on it’s side on a shelf (no care was taken to set it upright) instead of in my son’s room.

It’s things like this that should go. Half pencils, old DVDs that we’ll never watch again (no coincidence that they are mostly exercise videos), busted cables that I keep swearing that I’ll fix, that old pair of shoes that “might come in handy someday”. The list is long.

So, the 6 month rule is in effect. From this point forward if I come across anything that I haven’t had a need for in 6 months or more, it will leave my home. By force, if need be.

Do you have any methods for keeping the clutter at bay?

Work Less, Live More!

We overwork ourselves, and for reasons that don’t have any true meaning.

Somehow, in the US, it has become acceptable and even expected of us to work 40 or more hours a week. Society has decided that 40 hour workweeks are what makes us a productive part of society. Any less than that and we aren’t carrying our share of the load. Even worse, some think that working more than that makes you a better, more valuable person. There are many people that easily put in 50+ hours a week and scoff at others that don’t do the same.

So, where did the 40 hour norm come from? According to The History Channel, Ford Motor company was one of the first companies to establish the 5 day, 40 hour work week. Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s son is quoted as saying “Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation”. Henry, himself, said “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege”.

Around the globe, other nations realize the importance of less work and more personal time. Some countries even have laws supporting this. Here are just a few:

  • Netherlands: Average workweek hours – 29
  • Denmark: Average workweek hours – 33
  • Ireland: Average workweek hours – 34
  • Germany: Average workweek hours – 35

On top of that, all of the above average over $40,000 a year salary.

So, the path to simplify your work-life balance is to work less. I know, that’s not possible for a lot of people today. But it’s something that everyone should strive for.

Imagine how much better your life could be if you worked less. More time sleeping, more time playing with your kids and teaching them. More time playing sports, socializing with your friends.

How do you get there? Learn that buying more things, a bigger house, new cars and the most expensive cloths only force you to work more to pay for them. The only people that truly benefit from you working more are the people that own the companies that you work for and their stockholders. And do you know what they are doing? WORKING LESS.

Once you learn this, you can stop buying the next new thing and even downsize what you currently have and don’t really need.

I think it’s time we adopt the mindset that working 40 hours or more is unacceptable. The US is over-worked and over-stressed. We need to end this thought that the more we work, the better person we are. We need to quit putting emotional value on possessions and putting it on relationships.

Life should be about life, not work.

These Two Simple Words Kill Dreams

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. There is the fear that you feel when watching a scary movie. There’s the fear you feel when walking in a dark room alone. These are natural reactions intended to keep us safe.

I want to talk about another kind of fear, the kind that keeps us from achieving our goals.

While these fears are still a part of instinct, they can often be figments of our imagination. Fears that we bring on ourselves because we worry too much about what others think of us or expect from us.

A very close friend of mine recently came to me in tears. She is an aspiring author and recently had a conversation with a friend of hers that set that fear in motion. The other friend asked the dream-killing question “what if?”. “What if you don’t make it as an author? Shouldn’t you get a job instead?”. Those two simple words from that short conversation gave strength to my friends worst fears. So much so that she was ready to put down her pen and paper for good.

This simple conversation could have robbed this world of someone great. These simple, fear inducing, dream killing words probably have already robbed us of so much greatness.

This question “what if?” not only comes from outside influences, but they can also crop up in our own, internal dialog.

The outside influence is usually a conversation with a friend or parent or loved one that thinks they are helping. They think that you should forget the fairytale and “be real”. I think this most often comes from their honest fear that you will fail and get hurt. They care about you and don’t want to see you go through this pain.

Other times this advice comes from those who have failed or never even attempted to achieve their dreams. It didn’t work for them, or it was too hard for them, or, maybe they let that internal conversation win. They think that this is “real”, that dreams cannot, ever, ever be lived.

Ignore them.

The internal dialog can be worse because it starts from within and it churns our thoughts to a distorted reality. In the case of my friend; through tears she said “What if (other friend) is right? What if I spend all this time writing and no one likes it? I know I’ll never make it as an author”.

Right there she let a fear, a simple two word dream killer become a distorted reality. She went from “what if” to “I know” in 3.2 seconds.

I’ve done this, I think everyone has. But you can’t let this question, this doubt win.

I told her, I tell myself and now I tell you the following:

The worse “what if” is “what if you don’t”. What if you don’t follow your dream? What if you go get a job and live the next 40 years waiting for retirement, hating every moment? Do you know what you’re doing then? You’re building the dream of someone who wasn’t afraid.

The only way to achieve a dream is to work toward it. It will likely be difficult. You may get rejected a thousand times before you find success. You will hear a lot of “no’s” and maybe worse. But that can’t stop you.

In my friend’s case, she may not get a publishing deal, but she could self publish. There are many people who are living their dream because they turned that “no” into inspiration to find another way. You’ve heard “no” a thousand times, find a way to get a “yes”, create your own “yes”.

One trick I have is to treat things like an experiment. With experiments, we accept any outcome, good or bad, and learn from them. This helps remove the emotional tie that causes fear. If I do something, I ask myself “I wonder what will happen if?”, then whatever the result I keep notes and try again with a slightly altered approach.

I’ve been asked “but, doesn’t that just waste time?”. No, it does not. Taking action is the first step to achieving your dreams and goals. If I don’t experiment, if I just give in to the “what if” fear, then I’m wasting time.

Take action. Don’t let the fears of others or your own internal fears keep you from what you were meant to do. Experiment to learn what works and what doesn’t. The right combination of effort and luck could put you on the path to your dreams.

Stay Positive In Bad Situations

There have been some setbacks to my debt free way of life. I had the emergency room visit and my A/C unit needed a major repair. The two of them combined put me back quite a bit and was quite a blow to my enthusiasm.

Neither expense was devastating to my bottom line and goals, but they were enough to set me back quite a bit.

After the first event (emergency room visit) I was concerned. I knew it would set me back a bit, but it didn’t bother me a great deal. After the AC went out I started to sink a bit. My enthusiasm was had really taken a blow. Although I knew that they weren’t going to totally ruin my plans, my mind started working against me.

I started to think “What next?”. I knew that just as soon as I accepted the setback, I’d be hit with something else. This was a bad mindset to allow myself to get into. Immediately I started thinking “I might as well just spend, maybe buy a new car”. And I almost did.

Now, I know this isn’t nearly as bad a situation that many people are dealing with. This is small in comparison and I can hear many of you saying “Dude, quit your crying”. And that’s what has helped me snap out of it.

Since my minor financial problem I’ve had three friends lose a parent. One had gone in for a broken arm only to find out they were riddled with cancer and he died two weeks later. Whoa.

That really put things in perspective for me.

I was quickly reminded that we can’t let a bad situation get us down. It may sting a little, but you have to find the positive side of a bad situation. Having the right attitude can get you through almost anything.

In my emergency room visit there was some extensive scanning done. It could have shown all sorts of ailments or problems, but it came out clear. That’s awesome! In the case of the AC needing repaired, well, now at least I’ll be able to keep cool this summer and I could have had to replace the whole thing which would have been much more expensive. Both of these situations had a higher positive to negative ratio.

Sure there are situations that are going to really be devastating, but there is always something to be positive about. Find the good thing, no matter how big or small and focus on that. The right attitude and outlook on a bad situation will get you through it much better than dwelling on the negative.

What about you, are there some tricks you use to get through the bad times?

The Six Month Rule For Decluttering Your Life

I’ve moved more times than I care to admit. Ok, I’ll admit that since I have become an adult I have moved at least 10 times. I could count, but that would frustrate me, then I could go on a tirade… we don’t want that.

Each time I’ve moved I’ve said out-loud; “I am never moving all this crap again! This is it!”. Usually that was followed by the position that we have way too much stuff and moving it was extremely time consuming, costly and frustrating. Each time I’ve gone through old boxes, dresser drawers, filing cabinets, junk drawers and, if it wasn’t already in a move-ready box, it got shifted to a new box to be moved to the new house and put back in the same dresser drawer or new junk drawer.

This is insane! Why? Because most of the time I’m moving stuff that I don’t think about or even touch unless I’m putting it in a box to move it to the new place. Like I said, this. is. INSANE!

So, I think it’s time to initiate the “6 month rule”.

The rule basically goes like this:
If I come across anything that I haven’t seen, used or thought about for at least 6 months, it gets thrown away, sold or donated to charity.

This obviously doesn’t go for everything. I have a good set of tools that can come in handy under certain circumstances. I have cloths for different seasons that may not get worn but one month out of the year. I do have a few keepsakes that I am not willing to get rid of.

This would apply to items that have been given to us that don’t have a solid purpose. From where I’m sitting now, I see a figurine that my dad came across at a garage sale that he thought my son would like. It was well intentioned, and we are very grateful that for the thought and gift, but my son doesn’t really like it. It doesn’t fit any of his toys or collection. It lies on it’s side on a shelf (no care was taken to set it upright) instead of in my son’s room.

It’s things like this that should go. Half pencils, old DVDs that we’ll never watch again (no coincidence that they are mostly exercise videos), busted cables that I keep swearing that I’ll fix, that old pair of shoes that “might come in handy someday”. The list is long.

So, the 6 month rule is in effect. From this point forward if I come across anything that I haven’t had a need for in 6 months or more, it will leave my home. By force, if need be.

Do you have any methods for keeping the clutter at bay?

5 Simple Foods for Healthy Eating

There is boundless information about dieting these days. Everyone is trying to be a health guru and it seems they all have different advice on what to do to be healthy or shed those unwanted pounds. I’m not saying it’s bad information, but there is so much that it’s hard to know what to listen to or even pick a direction.

The thing I don’t like is that most of the advice on foods is based on foods and ingredients that are hard to find or not part of the average person’s everyday tastes (uh, flaxseed? I’m supposed to eat that?).

About 9 years ago I had reached maximum density and felt horrible. I tried one of the trendy diets and within a couple days I was starting to stray. The problem wasn’t the lack of desire or willpower, it was that the food they suggested I eat was too difficult to prepare either because I couldn’t find the ingredients or I just didn’t have time.

So, I broke down the recipes and figured out how I could alter what I ate on a normal basis to fit in the guidelines of the diet. This worked so well that I lost 30 lbs. within a couple months and I have been able to keep it off for over nine years.

There are way more than 5 foods that would qualify, but I wanted to keep it short and simply show you how you can change what you eat on a normal basis to help you be healthy.

So here goes:

  1. Eggs

I love eggs. They get a bad wrap and it seems every other year they are either great for you or bad for you. They are typically associated with high cholesterol and heart disease, but there have been plenty of studies recently that have proven otherwise. I won’t go into all that technical mumbo-jumbo, you can read it at Livescience.com.  The good thing is they are high in protein and vitamins A, D and E plus a lot more.

They are simple to prepare: throw them in a pan and fry or scramble them up. They taste awesome and are a great, easy to prepare food source.

  1. Coffee

Along with my eggs in the morning, I down coffee. I love the stuff. In fact, I get excited to go to bed not because of the sleep and rest, but because I know coffee will be waiting for me when I wake up. Other than the jolt in can give you to get you going (not necessarily a health benefit), it has been shown to decrease overall mortality, protect against Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Simple to prepare: I have a coffee pot with a timer, so its ready to in the pot when I wake in the morning.

  1. Celery

I normally eat celery as a snack during the day. I don’t always have time to prepare a big salad so I use celery as an alternative. Celery is a great source of vitamin K, A and C and potassium. It’s high in dietary fiber (uh, trust me on this).

Simple to prepare: really simple; wash slice into smaller pieces (if you want) and eat!

  1. Hummus

Yes, hummus. I just discovered hummus two years ago on vacation. The main ingredient in hummus is Chick Peas and is often flavored with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and more. Chick Peas are high in fiber and protein, zinc and magnesium. I like to dip my celery in it and use it on sandwiches instead of mayo.

Simple to prepare: while you can make your own, there are numerous brands available to buy, so no prep at all!

  1. Chicken

I’m not a vegetarian, so won’t get into that debate, and I loves me some chicken. Not the kind slathered in breading and grease, though. Chicken is a very lean protein source, has tryptophan, which increases serotonin that helps fight depression and selenium, which aids in metabolic performance.

Simple to prepare: rinse it off, throw it on the grill and eat. Maybe with a side of hummus and celery.

Like I said, there are a lot of foods that would fit in this list. There are many other vegetables and fruits that can be simple to make ready to eat. Some other things I did to cut the weight was to cut out the bread and sugar, but that will have to be another article.

What are your favorite simple foods to eat for better health?

Six Tips for Making the Most at Your Garage Sale

It’s garage sale time. This is the first step I’m taking in my six month rule for decluttering project.

Every year the town I live in has a city wide garage sale. It seems like the everyone is either holding their own garage sale or out shopping at the other’s sales. This year I’ll be selling the stuff I’ve found that I don’t need.

Product Placement

Place popular items closer to the street – this is important because you will get a lot of “drive-by shoppers”, the ones that get to your house and slowly drive by to see if there is anything they want. Having items easy to see will invite them to stop and look. Popular items can vary depending on where you live, but typically anything name-brand will grab attention because of it’s perceived value. This includes baby items, furniture, clothing and so on.

Clear the clutter

Having all your items piled together on tables in boxes and on the ground makes it hard to find anything. Sometimes you’ll get the hardcore garage sale bargain shoppers that will take the time to dig through looking for treasures. But you’ll also get many people just doing the quick scan through of your stuff. Having this stuff laid out as much as possible will make it easier for shoppers to see each item clearly.

Proper pricing

Everyone knows that there is no set price for garage sales. Just because it’s priced at $5.00 doesn’t mean the seller won’t take $2.50. Over at The Simple Dollar, they give buyers tips on how to negotiate the best price, so knowing how to price it to begin with is important. If a buyer has a rule of “offer 10% of the asking price”, the higher you can reasonably price it to begin with, the better your final sale price will be.

Research for the best price

I’ve found looking through Craigslist or Ebay for similar items helps me find a good starting point. Simply search for the item you’re selling and find an average of similar items on either or these sites. It is always good to know what something sells for new, too. This will help you negotiate a better price on something you’re selling that may be “like new”.

Have plenty of change

Having plenty of change on hand is vital to getting a better price for your stuff. Let’s imagine a shopper finds something they want that you are selling for $4.50. This frugal shopper offers you %50, $2.25. You agree and the seller hands you three dollars. If you don’t have the $.75 in change to give them, you will be forced to sell it for $2.00 (the buyer usually won’t go up in price), losing out on the $.25. This isn’t much on the one sale, but if this happens enough throughout the day, you could lose a lot of income.

Advertise

With our town’s city wide sale, you are included in the list of garage sales happening that is published in the newspaper. But, it’s always a good idea to add a listing to Craigslist with the main items you are selling. Add your address, what hours you will be open (people will knock on your door at 6AM if you don’t) and a general list of things you have for sale. Put signs out in the neighborhood with your address so it’s easy to find you.

Garage sales are a great way to clear the clutter and make a little extra cash at the same time. Having a plan and knowing how to price things will make your sale simple to operate and more fun!

What are some things you’ve done to improve your success?