Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reduce Clutter Update & Spotlight Interview - Meet Bella!

It's been a while since I've updated you on the de-cluttering madness at my house.  I have to say that I was on a roll from about January through April, then I gave myself the month of May off and I bet you can guess what happened from there.  June was slow.  I could blame it on being pregnant, busy and hot, but really I just started losing steam and motivation.

The theme for June is "digital clutter."  I've accomplished a few tasks, like clearing out my email inbox and keeping it clear (that's a hard one!), organizing my desktop files and updating all my computer backups.  But the list is long and June is almost over.  I'm not going to put that kind of pressure on myself, though.  So, I've made a small list to accomplish between now and next week.  

1) Clear out the 1300 photos on my Iphone
2) Organize my Iphoto library and pick out my favorite photos to be printed for our soon-to-be updated created photo wall
3) Learn Bento, a new program to help organize my mailing list

I feel inspired to continue on, especially since I know how darn good it feels when I clear out the junk.  Ahhhhh....I love space!

And I think you'll feel totally inspired, too, after reading the following interview with the lovely and wonderful Bella Sinclair.  If you have yet to visit her doodlespot, then go there today!  She's real, she's honest, she's incredibly funny and super talented.  Enjoy reading a snippet of her journey as she commits to creating more space in her life for what matters most.

1.  Why have you chosen to join the "Reduce Clutter:  Create  Space" challenge for 2010?
When life took a sudden left turn last year, I found myself having to downsize in a big way.  We had practically a house-worth of belongings in storage in New Jersey and a fully furnished apartment in Tokyo, and somehow I had to squeeze all these things together into a townhouse in California.  We had a lot of stuff.  Embarrassingly too much stuff.  Hyperventilation-inducing stacks.  I joined the Reduce Clutter challenge to motivate me in re-prioritizing and organizing and reducing. 

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
2.  What does "clutter" mean to you?
Clutter, first and foremost to me, means things that just sit and collect dust, never being used.  I have so many of those "maybe-one-day" items that I've held onto for years.  In addition to material clutter, there's also financial clutter.  I had too many open credit lines and bank accounts for my comfort.  I prefer to live simply and to be streamlined.   And then there's time clutter, my constant nemesis.  Settling into a new life and a new house involved a to-do list that never seemed to end.  I felt paralyzed by all the things begging to be done.  I am still searching for the best and most productive routine for my days.

3.  What kinds of reducing have you started?
It took several months, but I managed to consolidate all our belongings under one roof.  I have donated about 30 boxes of clothes and household goods to charity.  Don't open my closets, though.  I have several of them stuffed with items that will one day end up on ebay and Craigslist.  Financially, I closed bank accounts and canceled credit cards.  Timewise....  ugh, don't ask.

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
4.  Have you noticed any new space  being created as you let things physically, mentally and emotionally go?  
I can't really say that I've created physical space.  I had to use every space in my home that I had.  For instance, I had no space for all my CDs, so I re-purposed drawers in a rarely-used bathroom for my CD collection.  Not the most elegant display, but it works.  The space I've created from all the reducing has been within me.  I feel like I can breathe more freely, and that I have more control over my domain.  Letting things go has been a shedding of emotional burden of sorts.

5.  What's been the easiest part for you?
When we were living in Tokyo, many of our things were in storage for two years.  Although I felt sad at having to box away the things I loved, I found that I didn't really miss anything at all.  All of it was just...stuff.  I could make do without, and I was even freed to discover new interests, new things.  I even convinced myself that if my moving truck somehow vanished, it would be okay and it would, in fact, solve my problem of having to consolidate so much junk.  So for me, it was relatively easy to just let go of material things.

(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
6.  How about the hardest?
I said the easiest part was letting go of material possessions, and now I'm going to contradict myself by saying the hardest part was letting go of material possessions.  Specifically, I found it very difficult to let go of the gifts that my late husband had given me over the years, even if I never used them or they were not my color or style or if I secretly disliked them.  So they are with me still, up in a closet.

7.  Any surprises so far?
You know, I was surprised to find that it's harder to get rid of stuff than I thought.  In Tokyo, forget about it.  You have to pay to throw large things away.  Here in the US, I tried to sell a large collection of books to a used book store and was surprised to find that they do not accept hardbacks after the paperbacks versions have come out.  Electronics have to be recycled to specific sites.  Even old medicines have to be specially disposed.  Of course, the simple answer to that is to just donate all the usable items to charity.
(Photo courtesy of Bella Sinclair.)
8.  What are your intentions for joining other "explorers" on this journey?
My intention is not to lose steam.  Seeing someone else clean up and reduce motivates me to do the same.

9.  Any tips, thoughts or suggestions you might want to share with others who are interested in starting to "reduce clutter" so they can "create more space" in their lives?
Living in Japan where space is at a premium and discarding things can end up being a headache, I learned to control my buying impulses.  If there is something I really like, I usually put it on my wish list and sit on it for a while to see if I really want or need the item later.  Ultimately, what's really important is not all the material stuff.  What really matters is that you have love and good health and laughter, and that's the stuff you can't buy off the shelf.

A BIG thank you, Bella, for sharing a glimpse of your story with us.  You inspire me and I feel much more motivated now to continue the quest.  Onward, my friend, to inviting more love, good health and laughter into our lives.

Your Personal Reflection:  How is reducing clutter going for you?  Tell us your story! I believe there is great power, strength, and courage that comes from sharing.  If you haven't already, join the reduce clutter explorers and check out our forum.


  1. Dear Bella
    I love to see your tea cups ;)
    Yes, love, a good healt and laughter really matters!
    I'm cluttering every day. Now I'm cluttering the computer.
    Bella I love you :) You're doing it good and it needs time.
    Big hug, Patricia XO

  2. my inbox is ridiculous, you've reminded me I really should get those emails sorted out! They go back years!

    Hope your pregnancy is going well :)


  3. bella is one of my favorite art pals and it's great to get a peek into her organizational process! i thought her take on financial clutter was spot-on - the minute that part of my life deviates from the simple, i feel paralyzed. that made me realize that our various buckets of clutter, whether physical or not, are all connected and impact us as a whole. great interview - thanks shannon!


Thanks for sharing!