Tuesday, April 5, 2011

30 Days to a Simpler Life - Week 3

This week I continued working on the 30 Days to Simpler Life project. Each day, Fairy Tale Mama at Enchanted Schoolhouse posts an activity from the book 30 Days to a Simpler Life.  

The projects so far have been ones I've wanted to do, but haven't made the time for...or ones that weren't on my list of things to do, but have been good to do in an effort to de-clutter and simplify my life.  Here are the actions for the past week:

Day #15 - Today seek, sort, and organize the keys to everything in your life---cars, boats, bike locks, gates, sheds, houses, and offices. Purchase key labelers and rings and make duplicates, if needed. Finally, create a place just for keys. Install a rack or board with pegs or nails and label it so missing keys can be identified. This system works well for duplicate and seldom-used keys.

For everyday keys, we have three suggestions: 1) Put a basket by the front door for family members to deposit their keys. 2) Hang a hook inside your entry door. 3) Provide each family member with his own complete set of keys. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 93)

Having hooks for keys was something that I put inside my kitchen cupboard many years ago because I was constantly misplacing keys.  After coming through the mudroom, the kitchen is the next place people enter.  Since keys were often just tossed on the counter, it made sense to have a place to hang them when coming in from outside. 

What I didn't do was label each key hook which is a good idea.  So, I did that this week.

Key hooks with labels

In this process, I went through all the keys in the kitchen drawer (over a dozen) and tried them on the locks on the doors.  None of the keys matched any of the locks, so I threw them away. No point in keeping them when they don't open anything.

Day #16 - Declutter your desktop and surrounding counters. Spend at least an hour sorting and tossing. Make your work space the most efficient area in your life. Clutter is especially annoying when it is on your desk or in your office. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 100)

Normally my desk does not look like this.  In the process of cleaning over the past 15 days, I have simply dumped items onto the desk that need action in the short-term.

Desk before cleaning. 
It's become a dumping ground during the cleaning process. 
(Again...this is not representative of what my desk normally looks like.)

My goal was not simply to clean it and put the items in a pile or file folders.  I wanted to look at each piece of paper and take some form of action on it.  At that point, the paper could then be filed or recycled.  After I was done, my desk looked like this:

My desk...after.

Day #17 - Organize your computer life.  To simplify your computer life, make three piles: pile one, manuals; pile two, floppy discs and CD-ROMs; and pile three, registration materials and bills of sales. Read on to discover how to handle these piles. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 111)

I had some boxes and computer discs on my desk which were just taking space.

Computer disks and program boxes
taking up space on my desk.

In addition to these items, I don't have a tremendous amount of manuals and registration materials so I was able to place them all in a bin.  The floppy disks and CD-ROMs are all together now. 

Bin with computer disks and programs.

Day #18 - Go for Financial Freedom - To achieve financial freedom, first figure out what you have and then manage it well. Today, collect your documents that are associated with large assets---documents for your car, house, investments, and so on---and put them in one filing cabinet called Assets.

For your house: file your deed, purchase contract, closing papers, title policy, and insurance papers. For your investments: file confirmations, year-end statements, and tax reporting forms. For cars: file ownership papers, registration documents, and insurance papers. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 116)

Rather than follow what was recommended, I am continuing to use the system I have set-up.  All the important papers regarding the house are located in the safe deposit box at the bank (e.g., deed, purchase contract, closing papers, title policy). To me, this is the best place to keep documents that there is only one copy of and that are critically important.  For the home owners insurance policy information, I have a file in my desk.

For investments, I use to put them in my files in my desk.  However, I realized that it might be easier (if anything happened to me) to have everything in a 3-ring binder. When I did filing last month, I shredded all old paperwork and kept only the most recent statements for all investments, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc.

This binder is the second item in my desk drawer (the first item are receipts and paperwork for 2011 income taxes).  In this way, the most critical paperwork is located in an easy-to-find spot.

For the car, everything is in one file folder in my desk. 

Day #19 - Run Fewer Errands - Today, create a box for errands. You can use a great-looking basket, plastic tub, or shopping bag. Whatever works. Keep it by the door and fill it with film to be developed, shoes to be repaired, purchases to be returned, and papers to be taken to the copy center. On errand day, take the box in the car. When you come home, it will be empty. What a feeling! (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 123)

Since I live about 14 miles from the closest town that has the public library, grocery stores, Target, and other stores where I get household items, it is - by necessity - that I've grouped errands for the past 15+ years. 

In the kitchen, the washer/dryer unit is built so that there is a space for the top-loading washer to open.  I've placed my bag as well as items that needed to be taken for errands there.

Generally, I put items in cloth bags for each location where I need to go (e.g., one bag for books/CDs/DVDs that go to the library; one bag for books that need something photocopied).

My bag plus two bags for errands
(each bag has items that go to different locations).

The mudroom also has a bag for items that are going to be donated.  Whenever someone comes across something that is no longer needed or wanted, or no longer fits, it goes into the donation bag.  When the bag is filled, it goes to Family Pathways (the non-profit thrift shop). 

Day #20 - Be Mindful, Savor Time - Today, practice living in the present---not in fast forward or reverse. Do one mundane job with your full attention. When you pay attention in your daily life, whatever you do becomes transformed.

Step 1. Sit still for a few minutes before beginning the next activity on your To Do list. Focus on your breathing. When you feel calm, centered, and grounded, turn your attention to your task. Next, walk slowly to the site of your task.

Step 2. Now do the job slowly and deliberately. Perform this act as if it were your last.

Step 3. When mental and physical distraction arise, remind yourself to refocus. If the interruption is about something you must do later---such as calling the plumber---write it down and return to your chore. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 131)

I tried doing this a few times during the day, the first time being when I was organizing homeschooling resources.  I was going through my closet and bookshelf in my office to look at the curricula and books that I have for the girls' education.  My goal is to go through everything before the homeschool conference this month so I know what I have on hand so that I'm purchasing only what I absolutely need for the 2011-2012 school year.

As I was dividing the curricula and books into different categories (e.g., use for next year; sell at upcoming curriculum fair; donate; books to read this year), I found it was easy to do the job slowly and deliberately because I needed to looked at each resource and make a decision. 

Since my mind was focused on the task at hand - and there was a purpose to it - I didn't find that there were mental distractions.  I did have a few other distractions (e.g., cats exploring what I was working on, Olivia asking what I was doing and expressing interest in starting the Character First! curriculum right away).

Another task that I did that I enjoy, but is mundane in that it is repetitive and doesn't require much mental concentration, is making window stars.  I had several orders that I needed to complete today.  Since I have made each of the stars that were ordered many times, I found it difficult to "practice living in the present." 

I kept thinking of things that needed to be done (e.g., call about my parents' long-term health care insurance, fill out my dad's V.A. paperwork, do the laundry) or was interrupted with questions from the girls regarding what they were working on (e.g., "How do I reduce this fraction?" "Could you check my long division?" "I need help with the 'short e' page?" "What do I do on this page?").

Spring Rainbow Star
One of the window stars I made today.

Day #21 - - Travel Light in Style - Set up a Travel Center today. Include travel lists, travel documents, travel accessories, frequent flyer information, travel destination files, and books on travel. (30 Days to a Simpler Life, p. 136)

Travel Center:

Put your travel phone numbers (airlines, frequent flyer numbers, passport numbers, etc.) in one place.

Make permanent travel lists for what to pack, thing to do before you leave, house sitter instructions, household operations (e.g. how to run the sprinkler system, the alarm system, etc.), and medical release forms for your children for caregivers.

Put all your travel accessories (e.g. earplugs, eye shades, neck pillows, etc.) in one place.

Make travel folders for frequent flyer miles and trips (i.e. upcoming trip, trips I've taken, trips I'd like to take).

Create an area for travel books.

I use to travel a lot more than I do now.  To make things simple, I use one airline and have one frequent flyer number.  In this way, points accumulate on one number and result in free airline tickets quicker rather than flying multiple airlines and spreading miles across different numbers/airlines.

At this point in my life, traveling is a luxury which I wish I could do. I have no trips scheduled requiring air travel or being gone an extended period of time (more than a few days).  Thus, I didn't want to spend much time with this activity only because there are other things that need my attention at this time. 

However, I do have a file folder filled with magazine clippings of places I would love to travel to someday.  Some of the destinations are within the state, but many are places much further away (domestic and international) that I hope to be able to visit at some point in the future. 

When I was cleaning my office closet, I found some travel books from AAA, but they were outdated and from a trip that I took many years ago.  I recycled them since they were more than a few years old, and I do not plan on returning to that location in the immediate future.

Two books that relate to education and travel.

I did find two books on the bookshelf in my office that related to travel, so these are now together on the shelf.

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