43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


Mathowie's decluttering project

The Great Uncluttering

Matt Haughey recently posted a Flickr set documenting a dramatic, decluttering re-do of a spare bedroom that transformed it from the typical suburban catch-all/playroom into a tidy space for hanging out and watching Monsters with the familia.

before after
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Vox Pop: Converting clutter from trash to treasure

Quick way to dispose of lots of stuff? | Ask MetaFilter

Wow, talk about good timing.

I've noticed in comments on this week's clutter posts that there's a lot of interest from you all in the away part of "throw away" -- people seem to have a lot of ideas on the most interesting, charitable, creative, and environmentally-responsible routes for converting your own trash into someone else's treasure.

So far we (and that AskMe thread) have covered:

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My War on Clutter: Inspiration for Independence Day

Tomorrow is the Independence Day holiday here in the US, so a lot of folks reading this will have the day off from work. If my own clutter war is piquing your interest in improving your surroundings, tomorrow could be the occasion for you to put a few minutes toward making a dent in your own pile.

Here's some inspirational (and cautionary) links to get you started.

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My War on Clutter: The Tools to Purge BIG

[This is a first-person account of what's worked for me in preparing to gut the crap out of my house; you should feel free to do or not do any part of this -- or just adjust the recipe to whatever suits your own needs, hangups, household fetishes, and budget. But you knew that, right?]

My past attempts at removing clutter have consistently bottlenecked at a few common points. Often I wasn't really committed to the idea of a full purge, so I'd ignore whole boxes of memorabilia. Other times, my goal was primarily aesthetic, so I'd end up shoveling things into pretty boxes and "organizers". But I finally realized what's really been stopping me from accomplishing anything substantial. It's so simple and so dumb that I'm embarrassed to admit it: my garbage can was too small.

Yeah, I mean that both literally and figuratively. Because part of my success in purging this time around has come from thinking much bigger in every way -- I want bigger changes from throwing out more stuff including the big dumb items that won't fit in a garbage can. Here's some tools and processes that have helped me.

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My War on Clutter: Never "organize" what you can discard

One of the most basic concepts Peter Walsh talks about in _It’s All Too Much_ brought a total breakthrough for me. If the stuff that you accumulate doesn't help get you closer to the life you want to have, it's simply not worth keeping. Period.

Obviously (and unavoidably), this goes for a family room that's turned into a junk drawer for DVDs and books, and you can clearly see it evidenced in a kitchen where no flat surface is free of junk mail, bills, and newspapers. Those you can't miss.

But, for me, the real story is about the ways you try to solve clutter problems solely by getting more space or obtaining more containers -- jamming all those DVDs into cabinets and stuffing those newspapers into bigger volume baskets. The clutter doesn't need a prettier package; it just needs to go. Now, and in very large quantities.

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My War on Clutter

As I mentioned the other day, I learned about the anti-clutter book, _It’s All Too Much_, when its author, Peter Walsh, was interviewed for the Unclutterer site.

Well, the timing must have been right, because I bought a copy, and by the time I'd finished the first chapter, a switch had flipped in my head. I say "timing" because, while the book is pretty good (if perhaps not particularly groundbreaking), the author's observations on why people allow themselves to live with too much crap were an overdue existential bitchslap for me. And, I'll admit, he has simple cures for dealing with this seemingly intractable challenge, and for me that's a hard combination to beat.

Clutter of every kind has been the default state of my physical world forever. Although no official record of the conversation exists, I would not be surprised to learn that I tried to talk the staff who delivered me into letting me keep my first diaper; just because -- y'know -- you never know when it might come in handy. Bad habits formed early, bad habits stuck, and, for the most part, bad habits remain intact to this day.

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Unclutterer talks with "Clean Sweep" host, Peter Walsh

Peter Walsh answers questions for Unclutterer.com

Thanks to my self-imposed media tunnel vision (and the bulging TiVo that enables it), I've apparently managed to miss a show on TLC called Clean Sweep that sounds like it's potentially up my alley. I guess the idea is that they parachute in to crazy-messy houses and help the harried occupants affect a makeover.

The wonderful Unclutterer.com recently interviewed the show's host, Peter Walsh, and he had a couple interesting things to say about origins of clutter that get to the root cause:

Clutter comes in many forms and the reasons why people hold onto it is similarly complex. There are two main types of clutter: Memory Clutter – which reminds one of an important person, or achievement or event from the past – and I-Might-Need-It-One-Day Clutter – this is the stuff held onto in preparation for all possible futures that one might encounter. Keeping things from the past or sensible planning for the future are great things – it’s when the objects take over that there’s a problem. With many of the people I encounter, their primary relationship is with their stuff. Instead of owning their stuff, their stuff owns them. This clearly is not only unhealthy but also a real stumbling block to happiness and a fulfilling life.

Here's Walsh's new book: It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Already ordered our household a copy.

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Mark Morford on de-cluttering (and the SF reuse culture)

The always-enjoyable Mark Morford has a cure for the clutter in your life that doesn't involve gnashing of teeth or the intervention of a TV show. He calls it getting rid of stuff.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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