#Unclutter 2017 – The 3 S’s of paperwork

In my last post of this #Unclutter2017 series, I tackle an area of our lives that we all have to deal with: paperwork.

Tackle your family filing

When I finally addressed the issue of our family’s paperwork, I was well into my minimalism journey. However, I can’t begin to tell you how shocked I was to find old utility bills from several years earlier – and from a house in which we no longer lived. I also had items relating to my daughter’s childcare when she was a pre-schooler. She is now almost 15…
I had ‘archives’ in the loft (or so I thought), plus ‘current’ items in my admin cupboard.

Evaluate and sort

I brought everything together and had a long, hard look. First of all, some of the items I had archived were actually current (house documentation) so should have been stored more carefully. Other items, like a water utility bill from 2008, should have been shredded a looonnnggg time ago.
So, I was ruthless. I immediately placed in the recycling anything that didn’t need to be shredded.

Follow the 3 S’s of paperwork

For the rest,  I followed the 3 S’s of paperwork:


Scan information you need to keep whose paperwork you don’t need to retain. Evernote or Dropbox are great places to keep your scanned paperwork.


Shred papers containing confidential information. The shredding may feel like a nuisance; I don’t own an industrial sized shredder so this job took me a long time. If you are planning to buy one, get the best shredder you can afford.


Store what you need in a logical way. The storage system is your choice, but having tried filing cabinets (graveyards for paperwork you’ll seldom look at again) and hanging files, I opted for simple office-type box files. Easy to order in alphabetical order by organisation, they are the minimalist’s best friend. Once they start getting full, you can’t keep adding to them otherwise they refuse to close. So, then you go back to the 3 S’s….

#Unclutter 2017

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series on decluttering throughout January. If living a clutter-less life is one of your goals for 2017, then I hope that these posts will have helped you on your journey.

Coming up in February

February heralds the start of a new series entitled #FrugalFebruary. We’ll start with money-saving tips on food and groceries, but also explore aspects of eco-minimalism. If there’s anything you’d particularly like to focus on, just drop me a line.

Blogger Recognition Award


Something I’ve discovered about the global blogger community is that its members are incredibly generous with their ideas, their constructive comments and their support for one another.

When Jenny from This Tiny Blue House nominated me as one of her favourite bloggers, I was really touched by her kindness, so was keen to return the favour.

The rules of this game are as below:


  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Write a post to show your award
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have mentioned them and provide the link to the post you created

So, thank you, Jenny!

How I got started

My keen interest in minimalism began in 2014, when I started my journey towards a clutter-less existence. I began to to see the benefits of decluttering straight away, but took things a step further when I started the blog in summer 2016.

A quiet week on vacation with my daughter had made me see that I needed to make some significant changes in my life to enable me to enjoy a fuller life (but with less stuff). I wanted to create more capacity in my life to focus on the things that really mattered. This blog was a way to reflect on that journey.

Two pieces of advice

  • Be yourself. People say, “Can you be a minimalist with a family, car, job, dog and all of the associated responsibilities?” Well, I say you can and my blog is designed to share my mid-life, family perspective. Whatever you’re writing about, consider how your unique perspective can add a distinctive voice to a particular theme or topic.
  • Be helpful. Chances are, if you’re writing regularly (and reading more widely about your particular area of interest), you’ll have built up a level of knowledge and expertise that could help others on their journey. It’s lovely to interact with those who read my posts and I try to be as helpful as possible if others seek advice.

My 15 nominations

Oh, can I have just one more?

Some of these blogs might be new to you; others familiar. What’s your favourite? Is there a blog you read regularly that’s not featured here? I’d love to know.

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What’s at the heart of what we call minimalism? 




Jenny’s post at This Tiny Blue House prompted me to reflect on my own approach to minimalism. As the movement grows and builds traction, the voices of its detractors arguably become louder.

So, what’s at the heart of what we call minimalism?

Today’s tweet by The Minimalists’ put it simply:

Minimalism is a tool that can help you focus on living a worthwhile life.

I commented on Jenny’s article that I had recently listened to an interview with James Wallman in conversation with Brooke McAlary for The Slow Home Podcast.

It was Wallman who coined the word ‘experientialism’ in his best-selling book, Stuffocation. His manifesto asserts that buying stuff for its own sake has contributed to many of society’s problems. Instead, acquiring things to enable you to have enjoyable and memorable experiences is ultimately the best path. That is, reduce unnecessary clutter (physical, mental or emotional) to become freer to make intentional choices, which will result in meaningful experiences. It’s these choices that will ultimately bring you joy.

In the interview, Wallman began by distancing his own philosophy from some approaches to minimalism. In the end, he had to admit that what many of us understand by the term is very close to his own idea of experientialism.

Two sides of the same coin

To me, minimalism and experientialism are two sides of the same intentional living coin.

The whole idea, as I see it, is to reduce or eliminate that which no longer adds value to create more capacity in our lives. This space or new-found freedom enables us to do what really matters – notably to have experiences whose impact and enjoyment far outweighs the buzz we might get from acquiring more stuff.

What really matters

What really matters to you will undoubtedly vary from the priorities of others. Nonetheless, we can all enjoy the shared experience of living more intentionally, slowing down, developing a greater awareness, and focusing on loving the life we uncover when we remove the clutter.

Further, what I consider to be ‘clutter’ may not be ‘clutter’ to you. That’s the beauty of this approach; we are not bound by convention but are free to adopt what works for us. That’s at the heart of it and it’s that which truly matters.

#Unclutter2017 – Go electronic


During the Christmas holidays, I discovered the joy of sending e-cards. I wanted to send personalised messages to local friends, as well as to folks further afield. My furthest away recipient was my pal, Cindy, in Beijing! Another friend recommended Jacquie Lawson whose electronic cards cover a range of celebrations and all for less than £10 per year.

In doing this, I was also able to send a small number of physical home-made cards with personalised notes in them, thus enjoying the best of both worlds.

Taking the eco-friendly option

The electronic way of sending good wishes appeals to the eco-Minimalist in me. Instead of buying commercially-produced cards to send via the Royal Mail (where the cost of a 2nd class stamp exceeds that of the card itself), I was able to be a little more generous to local charities’ festive collections. The environmental cost of producing and sending a single card must be huge.

Consider what else could go electronic

My mum encouraged me to borrow e-books from the library. Easy to sign up, I have been devouring books I have wanted to read ever since. In the past year, I’ve enjoyed more non-fiction and the library has been a reliable source of ‘good reads’ in this category. Currently, I’m reading Miranda Sawyer’s Out of Time: Midlife if you think you’re still young…. Hmmm. Let’s gloss over that!

I can’t find all of my favourite authors (Maggie O’Farrell and Liane Moriarty are nowhere to be found in the Overdrive online library), but that means I am exposed to new material.

Opt in to e-Billing

Some retailers already send e-receipts, although beware the high street store that automatically asks for your email address because they’re going to bombard you with electronic marketing.

However, it makes sense to receive regular updates from utility companies (for example) who will incentivise customers to move to online billing and for good reason. It’s less costly for them and better for the environment. For you, there’s no need to sort paperwork or file things away, albeit there’ll be the email notification of your bill’s availability to deal with.

So, save a tree and avoid having to manage too much in the way of paper storage. Your supplier may even offer you an attractive discount on your bill.

What works for you?

What have you found works well if you go electronic? From calendars and news consumption to greetings cards and photo albums, I’d be interested to know what you enjoy.

Coming up
In my last post of this month’s #Unclutter2017 series, we will look at paper storage, since we all have to keep some paper records. I’ll be examining different storage options and recommending ways to keep clutter-less.
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Next month: #FrugalFebruary

Update on The 30-Day Yoga Challenge


Taking a short detour away from the #Unclutter2017 series, I thought I’d check in with you on how my 30-day yoga challenge is going.

Throughout the month of January, the wonderful DoYogaWithMe folks are sending subscribers a daily email containing two videos. One is for beginners, the other for intermediates. I’m in the latter category, although I have done one or two of the beginners’ classes.

How things got started

I began with a couple of beginners sessions, as the videos in the early part of the intermediate series were ones I’d already enjoyed over the Christmas holidays.

I then transitioned to the intermediate classes, which I’ve enjoyed very much. The daily ritual of rolling out the mat and the competent, clear and inspiring instruction has challenged me (as intended) to ‘Do Yoga’ every day.

When the going got tough

As January unfolded, I became unwell. This happens rarely, so I was shocked to find myself with a full-on head cold, which lasted for two whole weeks.

During this period, there were days when I simply didn’t feel well enough to practice. There was also a very long class (73 minutes) mid-way through my second week of feeling unwell, when I already had a full evening schedule, so that precluded me from taking part.

Keep calm and carry on

I’ve previously written about quitting, which may not always be a bad thing to do. However, on this occasion, my approach was simply to move on and pick up with the next class.

That approach has worked well. Even though I missed a session yesterday (50th birthday party), I was back on the mat today with a 40-minute vinyasa flow sequence, led by the fabulous Tracey Noseworthy.

A different kind of challenge

Whilst we may challenge our bodies over these 30 days, the real test is whether we can develop the discipline of returning to the mat, even if we didn’t practice the previous day (or the one before that).

What we learn is that it’s OK to step back sometimes. It’s not always possible to do everything all of the time. What’s important is that we get back on the mat, keep going, and know that every day will be different. We just have to approach our practice, as often as we can, and observe how it goes.

The 30-day challenge instils in subscribers a sense of anticipation, as we await the daily email, wondering how long it will be and who will lead it. I recommend it to you, even if you haven’t yet begun. The series offers a challenge in tenacity and commitment to self, but is a gift in so many other ways.

Have you set yourself a New Year’s challenge? Did you make a resolution and have you stuck to it? Let me know how you got on!


Further reading:

When yoga brought me back to simplicity


#Unclutter2017 – Overcome inertia through a new impetus


If you’re well into your journey into minimalism, it’s still possible that you may be holding onto at least one or two items about which you have felt unsure. As the following quotation points out, it may simply be that you have held onto stuff because you haven’t decided what to do with it.
“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions, fuelled by procrastination.”
– Christina Scalise

Finding a new cause will reinvigorate your verve for decluttering

A new fundraising venture encouraged me to strengthen my resolve, enabling me to tackle my final uncluttering tasks. Before Christmas, my daughter signed up for a school’s expedition with Camps International. In July 2018, she will participate in a 4-week expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. As a part of the challenge, she is expected to undertake a variety of fundraising activities to support the costs associated with the trip. Her fundraising will also contribute to the development activities of the organisation itself.

Camps International suggests the idea of car boot sales or eBay sales to help boost funds. Ironically, this also meant bringing new things into the house as my mum started uncluttering to help provide things we could sell! You can imagine how this made me feel – I wanted it gone as soon as possible!

Over the holidays, we began listing these items and also benefited from using our local “Things for Sale” Facebook group.

Get behind a new cause

Getting behind this new cause was the catalyst for us to look around to actively find more things we could relinquish. We did identify some things and – you know what – we haven’t missed them one bit.

Is there a cause that you could get behind, which might help you part with those final items you’ve been holding onto? The ’cause’ might simply be to boost your own savings (or to help others). You might want to save for a long-term goal such as a trip or special project.

Alternatively, you might decide to support a local, national or international charity, thus ensuring the proceeds from the sale of your unwanted stuff have gone to a good cause. Even better, your stuff has gone for good (both literally and metaphorically).

Overcome inertia

So, choose a cause that might reignite the spark and one the key tenets of minimalism: decluttering. Doing good will make you feel good. Feeling good will help you do good! *

Let me know what your ‘good cause’ might be!

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*This is based on Gretchen Rubin’s ‘do good, feel good’ approach (The Happiness Project)

#Unclutter2017 – Tidy up


Today’s tip is super simple and quick: Put stuff away.

Everything in its place

Every day, sweep up things that have accumulated in your living space. Don’t leave incoming mail sitting on your counter. Place it where you will deal with it. I use a wicker basket in my study as “goods in”. You might use a box or plastic tray.

The same applies to things like shoes. We have a flip-top bench in our hallway. I’m always bemused to see shoes and boots sitting where their owners left them (on the mat) rather than having been put away. The same applies to coats (on their hooks, not over the end of the bannister!) and school bags.

Tidy up

Take a look around? What can you tidy up now?

#Unclutter2017 – Moving On


Having recently finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I was on the lookout for something new to read. I was thrilled to discover a Nora Ephron book in Warwickshire libraries’ e-Book collection: I Feel Be About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman.

A wide-ranging collection of essays

Essentially a collection of essays, the book offers an amusing and witty perspective on various aspects of life from the point of view of a woman of a certain age.

Ephron’s topics are wide-ranging: from ‘maintenance’ to the nostalgic quest for the perfect cabbage strudel, I recommend the book to you wholeheartedly (whether or not you are, like me, a woman and most definitely on the ‘wrong’ side of 40).

A surprise in the narrative

A chapter entitled Moving On included the following fulsome surprise. As a minimalist, my virtual antennae is perpetually attuned to concepts like decluttering and its resultant benefits. So, I relished the following paragraph, which I reproduce in full, below. In this piece, Ephron and family are preparing to leave their Manhattan apartment after many years living there:

“So we prepared to move. We threw away whole pieces of our lives: the Care Bears, the wire shelving in the basement storage room, the boxes full of bank statements, the posters we hung on the walls when we were young, the stereo speakers that no longer worked, the first computer we ever bought, the snowboard, the surfboard, the Portafiles full of documents relating to movies never made. Boxes of clothing went to charity. Boxes of books went to libraries in homeless shelters. We felt cleansed. We’d gotten back to basics. We’d been forced to confront what we had outgrown, what we’d no longer need, who we were. We’d Taken Stock. It was as if we’d died but got to sort through our things; it was as if we’d been reborn and were now able to start accumulating all over again.”

Extract from Nora Ephron: I Feel Be About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman

Just look at that:

“We felt cleansed. We’d gotten back to basics. We’d been forced to confront what we had outgrown, what we’d no longer need, who we were.”

Letting go

This piece captures so eloquently but wistfully the process of letting go whilst revealing so clearly the resultant benefits.

Aspiring minimalists already know the joy of living with less. What Ephron captures is the sense of moving on, not only physically but emotionally, from the life she once had.

Where our perspectives diverge is in the very last part where Ephron suggests the idea of starting to ‘accumulate all over again’. We know that re-filling our lives with stuff will not add value or provide the sustained benefits of a clutter-less existence.

Over to you

So, if you are cracking on with #Unclutter2017 this weekend, remember that the process may cause you to confront who you once were. You’ll feel lighter as a result, however, and I promise you it’ll help you get back to basics and focus on what really matters.

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, do Join the community for additional content, recommendations and news updates. You are all very welcome.

Further reading

5 top tips for moving house

Don’t confuse your possessions for treasured memories 

10 ways to avoid re-cluttering our lives


#Unclutter2017 – One in, one out


What happens when you need to replace something?

Does this sound like you? You need a new X because your existing X has worn out/broken/cracked/gone baggy/has shrunk in the wash. Your natural inclination is to replace X with Y, but to keep X because:
  • I can use it in the garden
  • I can wear it around the house
  • I can keep it as a spare
  • It might come in handy
No! Unless you are seriously into home decorating, gardening or DIY, the likelihood of using/wearing X again is negligible.

Let it go by following the one in, one out rule

Establish this principle: When you bring a new item into the house, an old one has to go. This is the ‘one in, one out’ rule.

Gone for Good

There are some fantastic initiatives that support the ‘one in, one out’ approach. My local independent underwear shop accepts pre-worn bras, which are then donated for charity. Old books are very welcome at the second-hand not-for-profit book store. Charity shops will often accept all sorts of miscellaneous items, some of which can be sold immediately in your local store. Tap into local initiatives because there’ll certainly be a way for you to pass on your no-longer-needed items and you’ll do some good in the process.

Stay clutter-free

If you’re well on the road to living a fuller life with less, this rule will help you avoid the trap of ‘re-filling’ your home with more stuff.

Join the Community

Finally, if you’re new to the blog, I invite you to join the Midlands Minimalist community here. It’s great to have you on board!

The 4-Step Wardrobe Edit

Before and After

I’m so thrilled to welcome new followers to the blog, following the publication
of my 4-Step Wardrobe Edit. Big thanks to Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist

Receive your own copy of the Wardrobe Edit Checklist

Everyone who joins the Midlands Minimalist Community will receive their own copy of my 4-Stage Wardrobe Edit checklist, so make sure to sign up if you’d like to get this straight to your inbox.

Further reading

If you’re new to the blog, you may want to check out related articles including my take on Minimal make-up.

If you’re a shopper, check out why I believe that slow shopping is a minimalist thing.

Finally, take a look at why I believe you shouldn’t keep things for best, but wear them and enjoy them every day: Give up your Sunday best!

Coming up

Next month, my theme will be Frugal February, so drop me a line to let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover. We’ll be covering a number of topics from grocery shopping to credit cards.

So, don’t forget to sign up to grab your free Wardrobe Edit Checklist. It’s great to have you on board.