Monday, July 27, 2015

What I Learned from the Yard Sale

To improve your success at yard sales/garage sales, you have to analyze what sold and what didn't. Then you have to decide whether the problem was the price, the presentation, or the audience.

I think my presentation was good. I had a nice green sheet on the table which showed up the items. I accidentally took the smaller of two tables I own, which means things were crowded, so next time I'll bring the larger one.

The night before I made three flyers to hang on the table showing pictures of groups of items (that's what you saw in the last post), but I ran out of time to make small signs for the table. Fortunately, I have decent penmanship and can spell, so I just made some on-site. However, I didn't allow enough time to do that before the crowds started arriving, so next time I need to either make them before or arrive earlier.

It was supposed to be a nice day, so although I had a 10x10 EZ-Up in the car, I didn't bother to put it up at first. Later, though, when the sun shifted my way and the metal objects on the table started getting hot, I set it up. This meant, though, that people weren't browsing my items while I struggled — at first, by myself, then with other lovely people who took pity on me! — to put up the pop-up. Next time I'll do it at the beginning, no matter where I end up. The customers appreciate the shade, too.

So what sold? Used, cheap costume jewelry. Some lawn decorations. The Donvier ice cream maker.

What didn't sell? Vintage. This particular crowd wasn't looking for vintage that day. Or books, even though I heard they went like hotcakes at prior events. Or albums (vinyl).

What did they ask about? Craft items. Mens' jewelry. More rings.

Funny, but as I sorted out the stuff I took home, I thought about how similar selling at a yard sale is to submitting a short story or novel for publication. Not everyone will want what you have, or maybe they will, but not when you're offering it. Don't get discouraged; just find a different yard sale. Or sell something different.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Decluttering in Action: Yard Sale 7/25/15 in Winchendon, MA

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Winchedon, MA is holding their massive vendor and yard sale on Saturday, July 25, at 126 Central Street, Winchendon, from 9 AM until 1 PM.

In addition to their usual yard sale, they'll have vendor tables with fresh produce, locally made craft items, and plenty of bargains.

I'll have a table with the following items and more!

Retro scarves (all polyester) from the 1970s including one that says it's a Peter Max design.

Morris the Cat memorabilia

Data General ephemera
Computer memorabilia from the 1970s including flowcharting templates and punch cards!

Antique Table Talk Pie tin pans

Retro unicorn and gnome keepsake boxes

Retro long evening wear gloves from the 1960s and early 70s. Polyester, of course!

Retro 1970s choker necklaces.

A cobra car insignia that may or may not be a Shelby Cobra insignia.

Ladies' handkerchiefs. Perfect for crafting.

Donvier Ice Cream maker, with instruction/recipe book

Vinyl (record albums)  from the 60s and 70s. No guarantee on the condition.

Novels by local author, set in Framingham

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday: No Progam is Perfect

Decluttering, that tedious job of going through everything you own to weed out the things you can release and the things you can retain, does have its moments of pleasure. Maybe you'll find that pocket knife or earring that you thought you had lost forever. Or maybe you'll find evidence of a civilization long gone; that is, your early years.

Today I found two printouts from an early computer job. When I say early, I mean that one printout is on perforated paper, printed with a dot matrix printer. The other is a photocopy of something typed on, I believe, an IBM Selectric typewriter.

The printout from the dot matrix printer is a poem called "The Perfect Programmer." It doesn't say who the author is, so I searched the Internet. The HP Calculator Archive attributes it to Lou Ellen Davis, having appeared in "65 Notes," January 1977, Volume 4, Number 1, Page 1.

In the April 4, 1983 edition of InfoWorld, the poem appears on page 50, but with no attribution. The poem, apparently very popular, appears again in 2009 on page 220 of Classical Fortran: Programming for Engineering and Scientific Applications by Michael Kupferschmid.

I wanted to know who Lou Ellen Davis was. Was it a woman? Was she one of the first females in the field? Was it a man whose middle name just happened to be Ellen? Did he/she publish other poetry?

Alas, I didn't find an answer and I really should get back to decluttering. But I'll leave you with my favorite stanza:

He died at the console
Of hunger and thirst.
Next day he was buried
Face down, nine edge first.

And for a clue why that particular stanza tickled my geeky little heart, I look at what I also found while going through old clutter:

Yup, an old IBM punch card. In the early days, a programmer (later it would be a keypunch operator), would punch them up on a clunky machine similar to an old teletype. Later these machines would be replaced by a computer terminal connected to a device that would do the actual punching.

Either way, when you finished punching one per line for each line of the computer program, you'd load the cards into a machine that would read them into the computer that would run the actual program.

You had to load them a specific way for them to be read, much like you have to load a printed page in a printer to manually print on the other side. With these punched cards, it was always the same way...

Yes, you guessed it: Face down, 9-edge first.

For more info, see this article on Wikipedia:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Faux Decluttering

Today's guest blogger, author Catherine E. McLean, describes her secrets on how she tames clutter in a tiny working space.

Faux Decluttering               
by Catherine E. McLean

I bet you read the title of this piece and thought, "faux" means "fake," so how does one fake decluttering? Clutter is clutter.

Okay, so we writers are sometimes packrats, if not bona fide hoarders. Especially when it comes to juicy tidbits that spark our imagination. We find research so fascinating that we make copious copies of it to keep. And we constantly hear that little devil's voice whisper into our ears, "You'll need it one day."

I am fortunate to have an office in my home. Okay, in reality, it's a glorified closet— eight feet wide by sixteen feet long. The door at the end faces a small window on the opposite wall. Yet, in this space is a big four-drawer desk, a file cabinet (vertical, four letter-sized drawers), a work table for the cutting board and typewriter, my desktop computer, its tower and monitor, two printers, and six bookshelves. My office chair has just enough room to swivel from the desk to the computer station and back. Not quite a knee-knocker turn.

Of the six bookshelves, three are a foot wide (originally they were video towers. Two were placed to form a square base against the back corner wall. One unit is fastened on top of the two, allowing for more books, and a little shelf space— for the alarm clock and Office Minions (cute knickknacks, like a space alien reading a story to a robot).

The three video units, plus the other narrow bookshelf house forty "keepers," the books on writing craft. The books are the top picks out of the four hundred that I have studied. They're handy references when a fellow writer has a question or wants a definitive source on an aspect of writing fiction.

The computer desktop was originally a kitchen countertop, one that had been ordered but, because of an error, was too short. I wasn't letting something that nice go to waste. So, I had shelf units built to the correct ergonomic height for my keyboard, which means I work comfortably at the computer for hours on end.

Those shelf units hold my enormous American Heritage Dictionary and my thesaurus, manuals for my office equipment, and boxes of clipped "settings" (scenic pictures from calendars and magazines like National Geographic). After all, a picture is worth a million words.

Also stored (that is, crammed) into my office space is my writer's "stuff." It lines the walls and tops of bookshelves. Yet, the secret to keeping my office ergonomically unfatiguing and efficient comes from a kitchen remodeling workshop I once attended. The secret is— work centers.

In essence, my office is arranged into work centers. My desk is for the business of writing. My computer station is for creating tales. Everything for the printers and printing is on the bookshelf next to the printers. I don't get out of my chair to reach the reams of paper, card stock, address labels and business card blanks, brochure papers, etc.

When I turn around from my computer, I face the largest of the bookshelves. It holds bulging three-ring binders, half have four-inch spines. Those contain my story worlds. Stacked on top of the bookcase are more binders— copied information, each one on a specific story element, to help me put the story together, revise it, do the synopsis, etc.

The space under the cutting table's legs shelters three old cardboard file drawers sitting side by side. One drawer holds the overflow from the file cabinet. Another holds clear plastic envelopes (within are hard copies of stories that came to life but are missing elements, which keeps them in limbo, at least for now).

The third file drawer holds an assortment of miscellaneous stuff— like inspirational mottoes that can be pinned on my walls. (No mottoes have to do with being neat or tidy!)

Other "work centers" include a drawer of CDs— backups of the computer's story files. You see, I don't believe in "the cloud" for backups or storage. Computers crash when least expected. Nature and hackers are a threat.

All right, I'll confess. I have an external backup drive. Trouble is, I don't trust it either.

Another work center is the vertical file cabinet. One and a half drawers house correspondence (a lot of it decades old, which I really should purge). The other drawers contain alphabetic files of information on subjects like animals, food, runes, weapons, etc. Such material brings stories to life because I can see pictures as well as read descriptions.

Now you're thinking all I've done is organize my office. No, sorry, it's still cluttered because things are stuffed, crammed, and compressed into containers, which are haphazardly stacked, shelved, or hidden in drawers.

But, you know what? That's faux decluttering at its best!

About Catherine
In addition to being a wife and mother, Catherine has ridden and exhibited Morgan Sport Horses. She is an avid clothing and costume designer, an award-winning amateur photographer, a 4-H leader, and a Red Hatter who loves bling.

Catherine lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal stories where a reader can escape to other worlds for adventure and romance.

Book Launch

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb . . .  No reason to panic.

Join Catherine for an online Release Day Celebration at the HEARTS AKILTER BLOG,  1-5 p.m. EST on August 5, 2015.

Participate in the Release Day Celebration and get a chance to win a $50 gift card giveaway and other prizes. See the Release Day Celebration page for more information.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I *Told* You I'd Need That Someday!

Face it, it's gonna happen. You'll give away, recycle, sell, or toss an item and immediately need it.

Recently I gave away almost every plant pot I owned, especially the smaller ones, because it's futile to try to garden with a back yard overrun with groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, and I'm not good at remembering to water a container garden.

Of course, I had forgotten that package of cilantro seeds — what did I say about memory? — that I had purchased because I didn't want to be throwing away nearly a whole bunch of store-bought cilantro every time I made guacamole.

Rather than buy more plant pots, I drilled holes in the bottom of used plastic cups I scavenged from a friend at a cookout.

After looking at the results, I thought maybe the clear plastic would focus the sun's rays on the poor roots and bake them, so I placed them in a paper coffee cup. When the cilantro is ready to transplant into the pots that I didn't give away, I'll simply rinse and recycle those temporary planters. Depending on the shape that the coffee cups are in, I'll either recycle or toss.

About a week later, Dear Hubby asked to borrow my spare insulated lunch container, the one he had urged me to get rid of since I had two others. Well, I had gotten rid of it, and the two I had left were the girly purple one I bought when my grey one leaked when carrying ice. He double-bagged the ice and used the grey one. It worked.

So, yeah, you'll give something away and then discover you need it. It's just the Universe messing with your head. The Universe is like that. You'll survive.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why Can't I Find Things?

While you work on stopping — or at least slowing down — the accumulation of items, let's look at why they are never where you expect them to be.

There's No Place to Put Things
You need to get rid of some things or you need to find a bigger place. Or both. This blog will try to address both, eventually.

For now, pick one area that's a real problem for you. Clothes? Remember my comment that some people keep buying tee shirts when they already have enough to clothe a third-world country? Maybe you think that's not you.

Okay, try this. Go through your room, apartment, house, whatever, and grab every tee shirt you own, clean or dirty, and put it on the kitchen floor. (Uh, maybe you should vacuum first?)

Make only two piles: Clean and dirty. (Yes, I want you to go through your laundry bag.) Look everywhere: Your dresser drawers, your closets, your gym bag, your suitcase, under the couch, behind the couch  — everywhere. Don't stop until you've made sure that you have every last one. And don't just eye the closet. Pull everything out! Open boxes! Look on hangers.

When you're finished, count the total number of tee shirts in both piles. Now, if you wear a clean shirt every day, how many days of clean tee shirts is that? A week's worth? A month? A year?

How many still fit? How many still fit well? How many are faded, stained, ripped? Why are you keeping them? If they're faded, stained, or ripped, but they have strong emotional ties, here are some ideas:
  • Take pictures. You're going to hear me say this a lot, but it's true. Take pictures and write a description of where you got each one, when, who you were with (was it the first time you went to a concert without your parents?), and any other interesting details. If you're a writer, maybe you want to describe the fabric, the color (the color in photos isn't always  true), how it felt (was it thick cotton, or a soft blend?), maybe the size or style (was it back when shirts ended at the waist, or mid-thigh?).
  • If you're good with photo manipulation programs, make a cool collage of the tee shirts. Post it on your web site or Facebook page. Or print it out and see if it can stir a remembrance or inspire a short story.
  • Know someone who's crafty? Are you crafty yourself? Cut out the good bits and make a quilt or pillow. Check out these cool ideas from Instructables. Or cut out the best part of the tee shirt and make it into an applique for a canvas tote bag. Stretch it over cardboard or frame it.
Now you're down to those that aren't faded, ripped, or the wrong size. Is it still a manageable number?

You Misplace Things Because You're Too Scattered
You have triplets, two jobs outside the home, and you're the president of the local writer's association. You exercise two hours a day and make meals from scratch. Your wife's mother is staying with you while she recovers from hip surgery. Sounds like you need to declutter your schedule. Start thinking about that. I've got some ideas on that for later.

You Keep Misplacing Things Because You Don't Have a System
Unfortunately that annoying adage we heard as a child, "A place for everything, and everything in its place" does have some value. Maybe you never bothered with getting organized before because you knew where everything was.

Well, that was before: Before you had enough income to buy Stuff. Before you had a million other things crowding your mind that were more important than where you put the pack of pens. Before you started getting — ahem  — older, and lost that wonderful memory that you had as a young adult.

You're the Only One in Your Household with a System
If there is more than one of you in the household, maybe you're not the problem. Maybe you have a perfect system, but no one else follows one. Maybe you're the one who picks up after everyone.

I once heard a mother say that she made her teenager's bed because her daughter "didn't do it right." I'm not a mom, so you'll probably laugh at what I'm going to suggest, but I'm going to suggest that you make them do their part and you put up with the bed not looking exactly perfect or them not always remembering which drawer the screwdriver goes in. If they don't get in the habit now, you're giving them the gift of being a clutterbug when they leave the family home. I doubt they'll thank you for that.

I know, I know, it's hard, so hard, being a parent. You've got a lot on your plate. But if you keep doing things for your child, you're adding more to your own plate and you're making it harder to keep things under control. Just try to get them in the habit, and don't stress if you're not successful. Baby steps.

If, on the other hand, you're a parent who has dealt with this successfully, maybe you could leave some tips or suggestions in the Comments at the bottom of this page. I know some of you must have found a system that helps.

You Just Can't Throw it Away
Maybe the main reason you can't find anything is just that you have too much stuff because you just can't throw it away.

I came to some of the same conclusions that Justine did in her guest post The Socioeconomics of Clutter, though I'm sure I won't relate them as eloquently. Did your father "come from poor" and your stepmother raise five children during the depression? Did you pick up the packrat-itis from them because they drilled it into you with "You never know when you'll need it"?

This one is a hard one to deal with. Some of the ways I'm dealing with it is by being realistic, a suggestion from Dear Hubby. Let's say that I discovered that I have 71 pens in the house. I'm a writer, so it's realistic to assume that I will always need a pen one day. But how long does a pen last? (If you want, do an experiment: Use only one pen, a new one, which you mark with tape so you know which one it is. Keep it in your pocket or bag. How long does it last?)

Let's just say a pen lasts a month. That's 12 per year. Those pens will last you almost SIX YEARS. What will be the condition of the ink at the end of six years? Will it flow smoothly, or be so sluggish your hand cramps while you drag it across the page? What are the chances that some new pens will come out, some that you are dying to try, that flow better, fit in your hand better, or have some new feature we can't even dream of now?

Maybe the reason you can't throw things away is that you're living in the past. When you grew up, there weren't many shops nearby, and they were closed on Sundays. There was no online shopping with next-day delivery and mail order took forever. So you keep a stash of all-occasion cards just in case you forget to buy Aunt Tilly a birthday card and the shops are closed. You keep fancy paper and blank notecards because long-distance phone calls were too expensive and that was the only affordable way to keep in touch with friends and family. Or maybe you had three small children and it was just too much to try to get out to the mall or walk to the convenience store.

How many of those reasons are still true? Maybe there's an all-night drug store nearby. Maybe Aunt Tilly prefers Jacquie Lawson e-cards now. Maybe you rarely write letters or notes and the designs and colors of the ones still in your possession turn your stomach. And the young children you had to drag out to the store are now in high school.

Is it that the things you're keeping have an emotional connection, like with the tee shirt from your first concert attendance? Maybe your mother died when you were young. Or maybe you lost a sibling at an early age, and those toys are your only memory because people didn't take as many pictures back then or you lost your pictures during a flood or a move. Or maybe you lost your partner and the smell of him/her still lingers in that ratty old bathrobe.

Those emotional attachments are hard to deal with. Years ago I tried a major decluttering project and failed because I tried to attack those hard-to-release items first. My emotionally connected items are still in boxes in the basement. My new approach is to deal first with the things that have no connection so that I'll have room for the things that do. And at some point, I'll have to even give them up.

For now, I'm starting with the easier things.

The Gnomes Got 'Em
Suspect gnome infestation if things suddenly disappear and reappear. For example, you can't find your reading glasses in your office. You walk out to the kitchen to get coffee, come back, and they're just where you thought they should be. The gnomes got 'em and they're messing with your head. They love aggravating humans like that. So do cats.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Stop Buying Too Much Stuff

So maybe you understand a little more about why you have so much clutter, but what can you do to deal with it?

Here are some possible solutions to buying too much stuff, one of the problems I mentioned in Pens, Morven, Really?

eBay and
Stop it right now. Block those web sites if you have to — There are extensions for your browser and I'm sure there are apps for your phone. As I said when talking about the Mall later in this post, it doesn't mean you can't do it forever, it's just that you can't do it now.

The Home Shopping Network
Is that still even on? Whenever the cable company updates the line-up, the first thing Dear Hubby does is to "hide" the channels we don't want. The Home Shopping Network and its kin are among the first to go. This makes it quicker to find what we want when browsing through the channels. There's a side benefit in that it prevents you from accidentally landing on that channel and getting interested in what's on sale. Find out how to hide channels on your cable setup. If you can't figure it out by "walking" through the menus, do an internet search. You're not the only person who's wanted to do this.

Offers in e-newsletters
Create a special folder for all incoming salesy newsletters. If your email program or app allows you to make rules, you can set it up so your newsletters go there automatically. If not, anytime one arrives, just move it to the new folder without reading it. Yup. Until you get things under control, don't look at it at all! Remember, it's not forever; it's just until you get things under control, which is an excellent incentive for being serious about decluttering. Why didn't I tell you to delete it? If  you're like me, you think, "Oh, but there might be something in there I really need!" You're more likely to put it in another folder where you can get it if you need it than you are to delete it.

The Mall
Okay, the Mall is a great place to do your daily fitness walk during inclement weather, but walk right past those stores! While you're in your decluttering phase, you've got to do that! It's like avoiding carbohydrates completely during the Induction phase of the Atkins diet. Complete abstinence is temporary. It doesn't mean you can never go into those stores again, just don't do it until you get a good idea of what you have and where you can fit it.

Buying Too Many Gifts
Are you one of those people who buy birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Christmas, Hannukah, and Easter gifts for everyone you know? That means you have gifts, wrapping, and cards stashed away, doesn't it? And you can't always find them (or remember you bought them), so you buy more.  And your friends and family reciprocate gifts, buying you things you might not have room for, right? At some point you need to review — with your family/friends — who you'll exchange gifts with and what kinds of gifts they'll be. More on that later. You can start by saying, "Please no gifts. I'm trying to declutter." Or ask for non-physical gifts: Vouchers for movie coupons, gift certificates for a restaurant, a donation to your favorite charity.

Coming Back with More
If you or a family member have the problem of going to the local Swap Shop and coming back with as many items as you dropped off, try this technique. For every one thing you get from anywhere — shops, online, giveaways, gifts — you have to get rid of two. Or three.

No, it won't make a major impact in your pile of stuff, but it can help you stop accumulating more while you get a handle on what you have.

Think of it every time you buy or grab a freebie. Free promotional bags at the Farmer's Market? Fine, but think of the ones you already have and which ones you're going to give away. Get in the habit of doing this with little, inconsequential things so that you naturally think of what you already have and what you'll do with it any time you're about to acquire another item.

Buying Things You Don't Need
This takes some self-control, but, at least for your major decluttering time period, stop buying things you don't need.

Example: You see the greatest-ever tee shirt. You already have enough tee shirts to clothe a third-world country. Do you absolutely need another tee shirt now?

Another example: The latest Apple watch is out. You have a watch (maybe even a smart watch). You have a cell phone. There are inexpensive watches available for under $30. Do you absolutely need the latest smart watch now?

Defer your purchase until after the decluttering phase. Get your stuff under control before you make any other non-critical purchases. Get comfortable with the difference between need and want.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Socioeconomics of Clutter

Maybe your personal space is cluttered because you just haven't had the time to declutter, but maybe there are deeper reasons. In the second of my guest blog posts, Justine Graykin, Writer and Freelance Philosopher, muses on the connection between clutter and socioeconomics.

The Socioeconomics of Clutter
by Justine Graykin

I have a theory: Clutter is directly related to how much money you have.

It's not that poorer folks are necessarily messier than rich folks.  It's just that they have a harder time throwing stuff away.  After all, you might need it.  It might be useful someday.  And you might not be able to afford a new one.

When money is less of an issue, you don't worry about throwing away something potentially useful.  You can always buy another.  And chances are, you have a bigger house anyway, with more places to store your stuff.  Including all your kids’ art projects and report cards, and your dad's collection of WWII memorabilia.  Run out of room?  No problem.  Get a storage unit.  Get two.  Get a second home to fill with the spillover from the first. 

Is your clutter getting disorganized?  Tired of dusting all those tchotchkes (I love that word!) that you've collected?   Hire somebody to take care of it all.  Or pack it all up and donate it to charity.  Makes a great tax write-off.

But when your income does not include a surplus for housekeepers, storage units and second homes, or when you've endured a long stretch of poverty that has ingrained the hoarder's habits, it's tough to throw stuff out.  You save it for a rainy day.  You think, "Someday I'll be very glad I held on to this."

There are those houses you pass with cluttered yards.  When you're poor, and you need to keep that car, that mower, that appliance, running for as long as possible, and you need to fix it yourself because you can't afford repairs, you keep a lot of spare parts around.  Get a new (probably refurbished) washer?  Better keep the old one.  Might be some useful parts in it. 

Eventually, all those potential sources of parts (or maybe they could be fixed when you get around to it) sit in the weather for too long and disintegrate into junk.  But then what do you do with it?  Can't take it to the dump.  The dump charges you for the disposal of large items.  Towing away all those junk cars would cost money.  So there they sit, slowly becoming part of the landscape.

And giving the neighbors fits.  "The place is an eyesore!  Why don't they get rid of all that unsightly clutter?"  I'm betting the income of those who complain is higher than those they complain about.

So, writers.  Writers accumulate stuff just like everybody else.  Probably even more so, because writers are notoriously eccentric.  So what they collect, on top of all that potentially useful debris, is eccentric.  Writers also tend to be a sentimental, sensitive lot.  Goes with the territory.  So they keep the origami rose their youngest child made for them, the first draft of their first ever published novel, the cups from the BarFleet party at Arisia, the model of a real castle picked up in Scotland, MLP figures, business cards of every single person they ever met at a convention, mouse skulls, butterfly wings, sea glass, plant pots, pressed leaves and flowers, silver streamers from the Blue Man Group concert,  bookmarks, a handmade change purse from Mexico with Dia de los Muertos figures on it, and crates of books they'll probably never (but they might!!) read/reread.

And, of course, pens.

Now, none of this would be a problem if writers earned lots of money for their work.  They'd just get nice display cases for their eccentric stuff.  And as for the pens, well, who needs pens, anyway, when you've got all the latest devices?  Oh well, maybe to sign those books for fans.  But you have that deluxe gold pen you were awarded at some posh ceremony or other.  Keep that of course.  The rest?  Pitch them.  You can always buy more.

Writers, however, do not earn buckets of money for their work.  So, clutter.  For all the reasons of clutter.  And decluttering?

Good luck with that.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Does Decluttering Take a Holiday?

Does decluttering take a holiday? No, not if you're trying to establish a habit of keeping everything in its place, but we haven't gotten that far in this blog. At this point we're just trying to figure out why everything is so cluttered and how even little bits help.

So, if you're in the United States and planning something to celebrate the Independence Day (Fourth of July) holiday, yes, you can give yourself some time off.

But if you're not going away, or hosting guests for a cookout, this is a good weekend to declutter because you might actually have time for yourself. Is it hot out where you live? Don't try going through the stuff in the attic; look in your basement (if you have one) or back yard (if you have one).

Do you have a laptop and somewhere cool to go? Now would be a good time to sort through electronic clutter. (Can I coin the word e-clutter, or did someone beat me to it?) Going through photos is a good choice; it's like revisiting the places you've been. Just make sure you back them up to something first. It's easy to go a bit heavy with the Delete key or accidentally delete the wrong folder. Get rid of duplicates or terribly out-of-focus ones. You'll need the space later when you start photographing the things you are releasing from your possession.

And then, next Tuesday, when you're back online, read the upcoming blog post I'll release by writer Justine Graykin, who also has some insightful thoughts on who clutters and why.