Reducing the Clutter of Life

August 18, 2008 · 17 comments

If there is one thing I have learned this year it is that you only have so much time in a day to accomplish all of the things you need to get done. Think of a 24 hour period as a box, and the daily tasks blocks that you are putting into the box. There are only so many blocks you can put into that box! Which means you need to take a hard look at those blocks.

Sleep. Work. Commute time. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. Exercise. Yard work. These are all the little blocks of life that we work on filling up our daily boxes. We telecommute so we can eliminate or reduce the commute time block. We go through drive-through to shrink the cooking block. We pay our kids to mow the lawn so we can focus on another block. Life is constantly choosing the blocks of time we focus on.

I haven’t been getting done all of the things I want to get done lately and so I spent some time this weekend reducing some of the clutter that has built up in my daily habits. Blocks of clutter that while well-meaning, were reducing the amount of space in my box.

The first thing I did was uninstall Steam from my primary computer. Steam is a multi-player gaming engine that allows one to easily download and play a number of cool games. I actually had uninstalled this over a year ago but my son asked me to install it so that he and I could play some multiplayer games together. I had not been playing it too much but a few weeks ago I started playing it again seriouslly, spending a number of hours each night “unwinding” with the game.

Now “unwinding” is a reasonable block to put in your box but in my case the block was getting too big. Steam has a new feature now where you can see how many hours you have played a game over the last two weeks and on Saturday I saw that I had been playing Steam for 25 hours over the past two weeks.

That’s a big block!

So I uninstalled that clutter. I know myself well enough to know that I have to go cold-turkey on these things. I can’t just say “From here on out I will only spend 4 hours a week unwinding on Steam.” I had to uninstall it. So I did.

After uninstalling Steam I took a look at Google Reader. Over the years I have built up an impressive number of RSS feeds that I read. I never read them all and periodically I just mark all as reader in Google whenever I feel overwhelmed by the number of unread feeds. But managing that process and reading feeds that are similar content to other feeds are again, blocks of clutter that were impacting my ability to do other things.

So I have started picking the best of the best from my reader and flushing the rest. This pruning will need to be done often as I add new feeds as time goes by. But I feel liberated by having a smaller reading list.

So now that I have reduced some of this clutter; got rid of some of the blocks of life, what will I get done? Will, this post is one thing. Exercise should be another. I’m coaching both of my kid’s soccer teams this fall, that will be something too.

Do you have clutter in your life? What are you doing to get rid of it?

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MizFit August 18, 2008 at 5:22 am


it is so ‘relieving’ and yet simultaneously scary as, at times, what we need to prune are TOXIC PEOPLE, huh?

Luckily I don’t have that problem. That I know of.

PointSpecial August 18, 2008 at 10:41 am

My wife and I just moved and this has afforded some great opportunities to do a bit of self pruning… but it also has afforded us the opportunity to think “Hey, we’ve just moved, we’re going to have some clutter for a while.” The thing is, it’s driving us nuts. We’ll get to a point that much of our clutter is picked up… and then we’ll bask in the unclutter for 3 days… and it will get cluttered again. Like so many other things, getting uncluttered isn’t a destination… it’s a lifestyle.

Personally, I’m a stacker and a collector. If things are cluttered (which they tend to be, because I keep everything, under the guise that, if I should some day need that and NOT have it, I’ll be really unhappy with myself), I will either put them in their place or stack them. Usually, they don’t have a place, so they get stacked. And this works for a while… until the stack grows so high it falls over.

The thing is, there is some urgency here… my wife is pregnant with twins and technically due in November, but twins are notorious for coming early. I also am starting grad school in a week and a half. These things need to be addressed and addressed now!

This is a great post… really puts things in a better perspective for me!

I have my cluttered moments but for the most part I am known in my family as the guy who throws things away. I am always de-cluttering when it comes to picking up the house. Part of this is training from long-ago restaurant work “clean as you go.”

Steve v4.7 August 18, 2008 at 11:48 am

I’m working on prevention primarily. I look at most of the little things that enter my life and occupy the horizontal surfaces as “seeds”. Each and every little thing tends to sprout if it is ignored and accumulates other little seeds until it becomes a stymieing mess. Allen’s 43 Folders helped me a lot. Organization and scheduling makes my blocks and seeds a lot more manageable.

What has really helped me in my non-weight loss efforts is building a dashboard of weekly goals along with trends both of action and results. Now if I can only apply that here (better than I have been).

Andrew is getting fit August 18, 2008 at 1:12 pm

The computer games do tend to take up a lot of time. I used to spend wayyyy too much time playing them but have given them up for blogging and reading blogs.

Some would argue that isn’t much better but then you are also getting out and doing some amazing runs, so eff em. :-)

workout mommy August 18, 2008 at 1:50 pm

I definitely have too much clutter, and sadly most of it is internet/blog/computer related. I wish I had more time to visit more blogs, comment more, twitter more, etc but I just don’t. So, a big ‘de-cluttering’ is on the horizon for me. Like you said, life is about choosing the blocks you want-and right now my main blocks are two little boys under the age of 3!

Two boys under 3 will keep you busy, that’s for sure. You mention Twitter - clutter is one reason I haven’t jumped on board that train.

Annette August 18, 2008 at 3:54 pm

good way of looking at clutter. I don’t have a lot of clutter. I scale down frequently because clutter makes me nuts ;) The only clutter I can think of at the moment is the extra weight and I am getting rid of that as we speak ;)

The hardest clutter is always the last to go!

Flat Stomach Blog August 18, 2008 at 9:54 pm

I have a quote from Denis Waitley that I always keep in the back of my head to keep me motivated and to not procrastinate.

“Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it another day”.

Getting rid of the clutter is a great step towards making the most of your time. Good post John, thanks.

What a great quote!

Lin Burress August 18, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Hi John, I’ve had to get rid some clutter as well, especially in terms of the number of social networking sites I participate in. Plurk is now gone, but I’m hanging onto Twitter and FriendFeed as those are my favorites for sure. Oh yeah, and I could never do without Stumble Upon.

I’ve also reduced my RSS feed a tad in a the last couple of weeks, but I’ve also subscribed to other blogs since then, so I don’t think I’ve accomplished very much in the clutter reduction department. At least it’s more manageable now.

I think it’s a cycle like any other - you gather up clutter until you feel overwhelmed, then you prune. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Israel August 18, 2008 at 11:26 pm

When I first moved to Florida, I sold all my bulky belongings, clothes, and stuff I did not need. It felt great. I was able to start fresh.

Fortunately from a physical clutter standpoint I’ve got things pretty much under control - we have a garage sale every year and tons of storage bins that I am constantly filling up with stuff that we then sell. Plus I’m damn good at throwing things away. It’s the mental clutter I struggle with.

Skinny Guy August 19, 2008 at 6:40 am

Clutter has always been an issue with me, from my computer up to and including my garage. I should make a more concerted effort to reduce it.

I actually started getting rid of a bunch of books that were just taking up space earlier this week. I figured I really wasn’t going to need that copy of Peter Norton’s Complete Guide to Windows 95 anymore…

I can relate to that. Check out my own history of selling books on Amazon.

Every year for the past 7 years or so we’ve been having a garage sale where I unload a bin or two of books. I think I’m down to less than 10 now. Slowly and steadily, I’ve been reducing that clutter too.

kathyj333 August 19, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I think I need to do some serious decluttering.

Metroknow August 20, 2008 at 1:59 am

I too am with you on the games adding a lot of time-sucking clutter. I purposely avoid multiplayer online games specifically for that reason. Well, that and because I value my marriage. :)

Chris August 20, 2008 at 1:52 pm

This is something I totally could have written. I find myself on the computer, and out of nothing but sheer mindless force of habit, I click on Games and play Spider or Minesweeper for half an hour before my brain really registers what I’m doing.

I think my solution is less computer time.

Health Information August 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I have a storage area that when we moved in to the new house if I couldn’t find a home for something it went in this area. It has been bothering me for quite some time. I just dedicated a couple of days and feel so much better since I did some pitching, sorting and organizing. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted. The desire to declutter has now spread to other areas of the house. My husband said to keep up the good work and I had to promise to stay away from his hunting stuff. LOL

Vilma August 21, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Great post, John! I am currently de-cluttering every area of my life right now. My mind, my finances, websites, stacks and stacks of paper, my body and other things as well. I think we have become so accustomed to wanting and having everything, we have forgotten how simple life can and should be.

Also, I’ve learned that since none of us has a guarantee about tomorrow or next year, all we can do is make the most of each day.

I am also a list person, and it’s what helps me get through my day.

SuperDave August 21, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Luckily, I have decluttered about a year ago. My life seems much less hectic now. Even though, the few things that are important still take up 20 hours of my day! That leaves 4 hours of sleep..
Yikes, I better stop blogging I only have 3 1/2 hours to sleep now..hehe

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