Saturday, December 26, 2009

Out with the Old: Clutter Clearing Tips for the New Year

“Out with the old…” This New Year’s slogan is a good one to keep in mind when tackling clutter in your home. Most of us realize we have too much stuff, but acquiring things is often easier than getting rid of them. Once clutter gains a foothold in your home, it tends to spread like kudzu, rapidly taking over your living space until, pretty soon, the process of eliminating it seems overwhelming.
Clearing clutter in your home is like weeding a garden so the flowers have room to thrive. If your dining table is littered with newspapers, magazines, and junk mail, you won’t be able to enjoy an attractive centerpiece. Piles of clothing draped over a Victorian boudoir chair will completely obscure its graceful lines.
Clutter also makes it harder to keep your home clean –– you have to shuffle mounds of stuff around in order to dust, vacuum, or wipe down a countertop. Disorder and dirt continue to build on one another and the cycle keeps expanding until housekeeping becomes an insurmountable task.
Deciding what to save and what to toss is a personal matter, and each of us will make different choices. In my opinion, the advice of English designer William Morris provides wonderful guidelines for paring down clutter: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Clutter Clearing Styles

There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to clear clutter from your home. Some people prefer to dive right into the deep water, so to speak, and start with a heavy-clutter area such as a basement or attic. They blaze through the accumulation as if they were hacking through a jungle with a machete. One of the satisfactions of this “take no prisoners” style is that it allows you to see dramatic results at the end of the day. Other folks are more comfortable wading in slowly –– say, organizing a spice rack or medicine cabinet –– gradually working up to the really big jobs.
An approach that works for many people is to start in the room where you spend the most time. Focus on one room or one section at a time, rather than doing a little clearing here and a little there –– you’ll notice greater results. The sense of satisfaction you’ll derive from finishing this job will help inspire you to tackle clutter in other parts of your home.
Often it’s easier to do a little at a time, every day. If you spend only ten minutes a day picking up clutter, you’ll make progress. This “easy does it” approach prevents burn out and helps you establish a regular clutter-clearing routine. Find your own comfort zone and proceed in whatever manner works for you. The important thing is to keep at it. As you clear away your clutter, remember the Buddhist saying: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Here are some things you can do right away to cut down clutter in your home.
Throw out everything that’s really useless.
Do you have a drawer full of expired coupons? Warranties to products you no longer own? Plastic containers with no lids? Single socks? Start by trashing all this trash. You’ll immediately see progress and free up space.
Get rid of the biggest stuff first.
Eliminate the biggest pieces first –– the exercise bike no one rides or the giant panda you won four years ago at the fair. Making a noticeable dent in your clutter can help motivate you to continue with your task.
Return borrowed stuff.
One of the easiest and least painful ways to reduce clutter is to return all the stuff lying around your home that belongs to someone else. Other people’s books, housewares, CDs, videos, clothes, toys, tools, etc. can add to your own clutter. Make a point of returning things you’ve borrowed as soon as you finish using them.
Gather up newspapers, magazines, catalogs, etc.
Newspapers, magazines, and other reading materials scattered about can really make your home look messy. Recycle or toss those you’ve finished reading and shelve the rest. If you don’t have time to sort through them immediately, collect them in a basket or box until you can organize them properly.
Go through your closet and get rid of 10 things you haven’t worn lately.
Most people wear 20 percent of their clothing 80 percent of the time. How much of what’s hanging in your closet is just taking up space? Collect ten garments you haven’t worn in the past year and take them to a consignment shop or donate them to charity.
Pick stuff up off the floor.
If you don’t have time right away to do a thorough pick up, at least collect the stuff that’s scattered on the floor. Stash everything in a laundry basket or large box until you can deal with it properly. Your home will look neater instantly.
Toss or fix broken stuff.
Are you holding on to broken articles that you keep meaning to repair, but never seem to get around to it? If something has languished in its broken state in a closet, basement, or garage for more than a few months, either fix it or throw it away.
Every time you acquire something new, get rid of something old.
This rule applies to everything –– clothes, toys, books, CDs, etc. If you throw out, recycle, or give away something each time you get something new, mathematics shows that your clutter can’t increase.
To purchase Skye's books 10-MINUTE CLUTTER CONTROL and 10-MINUTE CLUTTER CONTROL ROOM BY ROOM, click on the link to Skye Alexander's Website then Skye's Books and use your credit card or PayPal to order copies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice marks the sun ingress into the first degree of the zodiac sign Capricorn, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This year the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 (although it can vary a day or so from year to year).
In pre-Christian Europe, Britain, and Ireland the Winter Solstice celebrated the birth of the Sun God. This holiday of good cheer and festivities, also known as Yule, commemorates life over death and the return of the sun. The turning point in the year, it heralds increasing sunlight as the days grow steadily longer for six months. The holiday was so important to Pagan cultures that Christianity adopted this joyful season to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Like the Sun God, Jesus is said to bring light into the world during the darkest time of the year.
A Pagan custom was to build a fire from wood of the nine sacred trees (some people say seven) as part of the Winter Solstice ritual. An oak log, known as a Yule log, served as the fire’s centerpiece and represented the ascendancy of the Oak King, who would rule until the Summer Solstice. (A small piece of the Yule log was saved for next year’s fire.)
After the fire burned down, anyone who wished took ashes from the ritual fire and wrapped them in a piece of cloth, along with a pine cone. Then they placed their packages under their bed pillows to solicit nightly guidance and angelic advice about the coming year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Ancient "Roots" of Holiday Plants

The tradition of decking the halls with greenery at Christmastime originates in the Pagan winter solstice festivals of northern Europe and the British Isles. Because the evergreen tree keeps its needles even during the coldest months, when other plants die or lose their foliage, our ancestors viewed it a symbol of everlasting life. (Christmas trees didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the late nineteenth century.)

Trees of all kinds were sacred to the Druids. According to Celtic mythology, holly bushes provided shelter for the faeries and nature spirits during the winter. The holiday custom of hanging it on doorways and in our homes stems from an ancient belief in holly’s protective powers.
The Druids also valued mistletoe, and considered it an herb of fertility and immortality. Used in talismans as an aphrodesiac, mistletoe was thought to enhance creativity of all kinds––perhaps that’s why we kiss beneath it today.

From the perspective of aromatherapy, the fresh scent of pine, balsam, and spruce offers cleansing properties. These evergreens help to clear the air during the winter months, when we close up our homes to keep out the cold. When inhaled, the essential oils extracted from these trees can also provide relief from winter colds and flu.