10 tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan Flickr via Compfight cc

Does the name Marie Kondo ring a bell? She’s the Japanese de-cluttering guru that people are gaga over. (If you don’t know her work check out this summary of her approach by Cate La Farge Summers.)


Like me, you probably spend a lot of time organizing, cleaning & schlepping stuff from one room to another, from one floor to another etc.


One of the key things Marie lays out in her book is the importance of purging our stuff. This is a key first step that many forget. We tend to jump straight to the organizing of said stuff. (Hang in there for a personal example below.)


It stands to reason that if we have less stuff in the first place then we have less stuff to organize, clean, schlepp etc. It’s a basic formula but one we tend to forgo.


Sounds obvious but I see it over & over. We go straight to organizing without purging first.


Don’t pass go, stop & chop first.


I swoon at the thought of getting organized. Seriously, it helps me relax so I can power onto my work more effectively & efficiently.


Not so my crazy, creative, big picture, mountain top beloved. Years ago when we first started dating & I was making some lists, he leaned over my shoulder & whispered ‘don’t those make your head hurt?’ I was seriously confused. I had not a hot clue what he was talking about.


Twenty-eight years have since passed & he’s introduced me to universes I didn’t know existed because we see the world in very different ways.


And to this day I go to his office every few months & help dig it out.


It’s been a significant challenge to figure out what organizing strategies work for his working & learning style (which is so different from mine). Hint: magazine folders, each labeled with a picture of the publication inside, has worked like a charm for more than a year now.


Can I resist the temptation to say that our brains interpret pictures 600,000 times faster than text? Nope.



Recently I embarked on a massive challenge (in my eyes only, as this wasn’t an issue for my beloved).


Challenge: I wanted his side of the bedroom tidied up a bit.

Context: Let me set the stage for you – his side often looks like several suitcases vomited their contents onto the floor while a pack of toddlers decided to see just how tangled they could get the many electrical cords lying amongst the detritus.

Solution: I decided to switch out his chest of drawers for a wardrobe (& yes he knew & yes he agreed). No need to hang, fold or other pesky details. Just open door, push stuff in, close door & be done.

Outcome: My goal was to tidy up his side of the bedroom without causing him any pain or consternation aka to do it in a way that worked with his organizing style. It worked! The floor is visible, he likes his new wardrobe & I am breathing easier.


Learning moments from a wardrobe,


So why am I telling you this rather personal story?


He always says that not every moment is a learning moment but I beg to differ. I was fascinated to notice that when we started he was organizing his stuff without purging it first. I gently asked if he really needed his 3 decade old address book on the middle shelf of his new wardrobe (aka prime real estate space).


We’re still working on rewinding & purging some of this stuff first but you get the point. Purge first, organize second.


My ah ha moment


When I was out walking our mutts one lovely Nairobi morning, I realized this principle of decluttering first in order to get organized applies not just to our stuff, but also to our time & our work.


Here are 10 tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff


Take a breath, even if it’s cramped at first, because you’re about to create some breathing room, some more space. Ready?

  1. Core desired feeling – I’m a huge fan (& close friend truth be told) of Danielle LaPorte’s work. She has created a unique process for figuring out how you want to feel- what she calls your core desired feelings (CDF). Your CDF’s in turn help your prioritization, your work, your ambitions, your choices etc. My CDFs are spacious possibilities – I’m at my best when I feel unrestricted, & when I have space to create.

It’s been a learning process to figure out that when I’m grumpy & not at my best, it’s almost always because I’m not feeling my CDFs. In order to start uncluttering your life I recommend you find out your own CDFs. Here’s how to do just that.


  1. Pay attention to your pain points – this is the opposite of #1. Where finding your CDF’s is asset or strength based, this one flips the mirror & asks you to find what’s not If you know what’s not working (what’s uncomfortable, tiresome, frustrating etc.) you can start to take action on relieving those pains.

Here’s an example. I’m embarrassed to admit that after 20 years in business for myself I was spending ages looking up people’s contact info. It was a slow & frustrating experience. After realizing this was a big pain point for me, I did a technology audit on my business, where I made a list of other things that weren’t working well. Then I worked with a professional to help me find solutions to those pain points. Voila a new contact management system.

So pay attention to what’s cramping your style. Jot it down. Make a list.


  1. Five bucks for Fiverr – back to those pain points, if there’s something driving you nuts or an itch you need to scratch, check out Fiverr. It’s a portal of things that vendors will do for $5.00 USD. I’ve had many an infographic designed beautifully by the Codeville, a vendor on Fiverr. Sweet, easy, efficient & effective. High five for fiverr.

Here’s an example. I had my CV put into an infographic.


  1. Getting organized in Google era; I once saw Douglas Merrill speak (the former CIO of Google) & I bought his book of the same name on the spot. It’s been an inspiration for how technology can bring me ease & efficiency (one of the workshops I teach is how to use technology in this way & more). A sanity saver of mine is using technology to get stuff out of my blender brain & into a portal. In other words I make sure to get the whorls of to do’s, ah ha’s, what if’s & must remembers into a place where I can refer back to them.

Workflowy is one of the tools I use for that very purpose. It’s super easy, & because it works in the cloud, it’s across all my devices (phone, laptop, tablet). Want to see how it works? You can because it’s also shareable. Here’s the link. I’ve made it editable so please add a comment if you wish.


  1. Know your boilerplate; say what? Boilerplate text is text you type over & over. It may be how you open your emails, how you respond to LinkedIn invites, a particular email you write incessantly etc. It can be URLs you use all the time, even pictures. Make a list of them (bonus: you can keep your list in workflowy) & then for the sake of your mental health get a text expander.

Text expanders do just that- you ‘teach’ the program what an abbreviation stands for & when you type that abbreviation it expands it into text (or picture or URL) you want. Important note: the abbreviation has to be something you don’t normally type or else unwanted text will keep being inserted. Here are some examples of text expanders: TypeIt4Me (this is the one I use, it works on Macs), FastFox or Breevy (both are Mac & PC compatible).


Here’s an example. One of my abbreviations is thankq. When I type thankq the following picture is automatically inserted.

Bonus: text expanders work across all platforms, so you use them in email, word, excel, on your blog etc. Cool huh!



I’m well aware that 4 of my 5 suggestions involve tech so I’m also aware that your head might be spinning a tad.


So there you go, let’s pause for now.


Take a break, try some of the above & next week, inspired by figuring out how to sort out my beloved’s side of the bedroom, I’ll be back with 5 more tips for uncluttering your life, not just your stuff.


And know that I’m hard at work on my website redesign. It’s coming along nicely, as is my reboot for my social media strategy. I can’t wait to share it & engage with you. Stand by.


Annnnnd take action:


  1. Figure out not just what you want to do but what your core desired feelings are
  2. Id attention your pain points
  3. Resolve a pain point with fiverr
  4. Get stuff out of your blender brain & into something like workflowy– click on the link & try it right now by leaving me a message
  5. Get a text expander & save tons of time & hassle
  6. Let me know how it goes in the comment section below. I’d love to hear, as always.





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