Pare Down Your Stuff: Real World Excercises

Your home is the foundation for your physical life. It is where you begin and end the day. It is where your body, as the vehicle for your soul, is fed, bathed and rested. Take a minute to look around your home. Is there an atmosphere of serenity? Do you feel nurtured and loved here? When the world becomes too much for you, do you consider your home a haven where you can restore your body, mind and soul?

In our Get Organized! Challenge last January, we began the work of creating an organized environment. This September our focus is a bit different. Instead of looking at what is already in place, let's put our focus on how we are affecting our home environment every day. If we can get a handle on the incoming materials, we will have taken another step in the process of "zen organizing."

For the next 21 days, I want you to be mindful of every single item you bring into your home. I want you to notice whether it adds to the beauty and peace of the environment or creates more chaos and confusion. The tiniest piece of paper makes a difference. Let's say, for example, that I live in a busy city like New York where people hand out flyers on the street. If I bring home one flyer a day and toss it on my kitchen counter, every month I will have added at least 30 pieces of paper. The old saw "pennies make dollars" has many applications.

Here are some examples of the things you can do in the various areas of your life. As you begin this week, post your ideas and suggestions on our message board to help inspire others. These are not set-in-stone homework assignments. They are meant to be creativity sparks! Grocery shopping:

  • Eliminate excess packaging from all grocery purchases. It may be economical to buy two large bottles of bathroom cleaner at one time. It is pointless to keep the cardboard container that holds them and the plastic wrap that covers them.
  • Do you realistically have a generous stash of paper and plastic bags in your home? Toss what you brought home today.
  • If one item replaces another, be sure to toss the old when you put the new item in place. How many issues of TV Guide do you need this week?

The mail:

  • Open your bills and toss all the ads.
  • Toss all advertisements, fliers and junk mail immediately.
  • Keep your magazines and catalogs in one area, preferably in some kind of rack or basket. Consider tossing previous issues you haven't read.
  • If you have children, they will no doubt be coming home from school with stacks of paperwork. Be sure the homework assignments go to their rooms. Take a few minutes to establish a system for keeping track of each child's paperwork for the school year.

When I studied the martial arts, my teacher explained why we had patterns to learn. It wasn't so that we could say to an attacker: "Look here. Why are you moving in such an erratic manner? Can't you follow the form? Don't you want to fight on a level playing field?" That would be insane. We learned patterns in class in order to imprint on our muscles the appropriate reaction to an attack. It took me six months to get it on a deep level, and I remember the moment it happened.

Now I want you to imprint on your body and brain little habits that will establish Zen organizing traits for the rest of your life. Life is an adventure. No matter how overly simple this may seem to you intellectually, I promise you will reap rich rewards in 21 days. Are you ready?

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