Author Archives: Bri

Decluttering Dilemma: Does it Spark Joy?

In the popular book by Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she recommends that as you sort through your belongings, you hold each item to help you determine whether it sparks joy. If the item doesn’t spark joy, you should remove it from your home (e.g., donate it, recycle it, repurpose it or toss it, as appropriate).

If I hold an item and it’s not sparking joy, then what is it sparking? Oftentimes, for me, it’s guilt.

I’ve been known to hold a beautiful scarf in my hands and turn it over a few times, only to gently put it back into the same drawer it came from. And there it sits for another 6-12 months until I open the drawer, take it out, feel the fabric run through my hands, mumble to myself with regret about the amount of hard-earned money that was spent, and wistfully put it back into its designated storage space. I don’t wear it because it’s uncomfortable — scratchy. And while it’s nice to look at, I don’t love it enough to turn it into a piece of artwork for my wall.

What is the cost of keeping these items? After all, it’s just a few square inches of drawer or shelf space. No big deal, right?

No. These things – dare I say “junk” or “stuff”? – add up to piles of clutter that emanate bad vibes. So piece by piece, I’ve learned to let things go. And it feels amazing.

What I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t feel good to put an unloved and unused item back into its storage space. If it doesn’t fit my style or is no longer functional, then there’s no great reason to continue to allow it to take up space that could be used for an item that I’d want to use and love.

You know what feels good? Passing it on to be a blessing to someone else who would find the item useful and give it the respect it deserves.

Once I turned over the leaf from hoarding items out of guilt to moving them out of the house to be a blessing to someone else, it became addicting. One bag of donation items grew into two and then three. As it turns out, that scarf made an excellent gift-wrap option for another small boxed gift item.

But… I might need it someday!

I realize this may not be the case for everyone, but I think it’s worth mentioning:

In my 5+ year journey of decluttering, the regret of letting something go has only come up twice! Both, incidentally, were cords for electronics. The first issue was remedied by a $6 purchase on Amazon and the second by a quick text exchange: “Dad, do you have an extra Ethernet cord?” “Yes.”

The lesson I learned: it’s important for me to put labels on cords. Previously, I would let random cords pile up (albeit in neatly organized piles with twist ties to keep them looking orderly); however, since I didn’t know what purpose each cord served, the cords became clutter that I moved to the donation bin.

Otherwise, I’ve been ever so thankful to have a less cluttered, more serene home.

Some of you may be cringing: she’s been decluttering for 5+ years? Why, yes, I have. The purge is never fully complete. Sure, you might have one large pile to move out in a single go. However, the skill of discernment is constantly put to the test. I’ve had to learn to say “no” to items entering my home on an ongoing basis and it’s not easy, but necessary.

After going through a large purge and maintaining a somewhat clutter-free home, I’m no minimalist. I have one neck, but still there are more than a dozen scarves in my dresser. (I use a sock divider to organize my scarves, by the way!)

I have two feet, but more than a dozen pairs of shoes in my closet. Two wrists, but more than a dozen bracelets in my jewelry collection.

However, the items that I’ve kept are items that I use and appreciate.

Does less stuff=less stress? I think so! Has the decluttering bug bit you? What kind of impact has it had on your life?

Make it a Habit: Finish the Cycle

Professional organizer Peter Walsh often discusses the importance of finishing the cycle. The concept is a simple one: most things – if not everything – has a cycle, so make sure you complete it. Laundry, for example: you wash it, dry it, then (hopefully) hang it up or fold it to put it away. That may seem obvious to some. The trick, however, is to identify where else it might make sense to complete a cycle. Once I was introduced to the idea, I found that I had unfinished cycles all over my home!

Imagine this typical motion: the morning sun is peaking through the window as I stumble into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and some toast topped with almond butter.

Once the food and drink are prepared, I sit down to enjoy it, leaving the canister of tea and jar of almond butter on the countertop and the butter knife in the sink. Later, I take my half-full cup of tea over to my computer and subsequently get sucked into the work email tornado. Lunchtime rolls around. I leave my now-empty cup on the desk to make a quick sandwich and after consuming the meal, I put the dish in the sink.

Do you see the incomplete cycle? Instead of putting the dishes into the dishwasher or hand washing them after use, the offending articles are strewn about my home. No longer, I say!

Now that my eyes have been opened to these incomplete cycles, I’ve found it much easier to tidy as I move around the house throughout the day, which also makes it easier to fully complete the dish cycle. That is, not only have I made it a habit to put just-used dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher or hand wash as needed, but also I have come around to a regular cadence of running the dishwasher at night and emptying it in the morning. Cycle complete!

Applying this simple idea to various tasks around my home has made a huge difference. For instance, mail now moves swiftly from the mail box to the appropriate recycle for recycle, file or shred. The best part: piles of clutter aren’t mysteriously growing on the horizontal surfaces in my home from one day to the next.

If you’ve found it hard to stay on top of the daily clutter, perhaps try to identify and complete a few cycles in your home and let us know how it goes!

What’s in my work bag — Bri

For about 3 years, I carried the “Melrose” bag by Gunas in the peach color. If you haven’t heard of Gunas, they’re a sweatshop-free, animal-friendly, eco-conscious brand.

The “Melrose” tote was the perfect bag for my needs at the time, as I was traveling to-and-from headquarters in San Jose. It had metal detailing that gave it an edgy – dare I say, “hip” – look, while the shape and color made it work well for the Silicon Valley corporate world. I stopped carrying the bag when it started looking really worn out.

Alas, they no longer sell the Melrose style. I’d order another if they did! However, I encourage you to check out their other totes on the Gunas the Brand website. The “Melrose” pricing was north of $200, but they have several other great products as well; don’t miss their sale site for items <$100.

Back to the task at hand though: what am I carrying now and what goes inside of it? Currently, I’m using a $25 non-brand bag from Marshall’s. (It may have been $35 – I can’t remember the exact price.)

I chose it for the following reasons:

  • Size: It can fit my 14” laptop and charger comfortably, along with a notebook, and a scarf or thin sweater.
  • Zip-top closure: If it accidentally tips over in the car or at my desk, the closed top prevents contents from spilling out.
  • Zippered pockets inside and outside: I like to put my keys in the outside zippered pocket. On the inside zippered pocket, I tend to keep my wallet, feminine products and/or lip balm.
  • Open-top pockets on the inside: Perfect for my cell phone and sunglasses.
  • Animal Friendly: I’ve carried vegan bags for several years now. If Gunas isn’t really your style, I also encourage you to check out:
    • FreePeople: note, not all of their bags are vegan, but the link goes straight to their vegan offers.
    • Mat and Natt: I have a casual bag from M&N – love it! The link goes to their totes.
    • LuLu’s: note, not to be confused with LuLuLemon; not all of their bags are vegan, but the link goes to their vegan offers.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get preachy here. If you want to learn more about choosing animal-friendly products, there is a lot of info on the Interwebs, of course. And, I am also transitioning to vegan shoes, but we can save that content for a future post!

Here’s a look at the interior:

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If I need to carry more technology with me, I bring a Grid-It and just slot it next to my laptop. It’s perfect for corralling earbuds, a USB stick, a touch-screen cloth, an extra pen and more.

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The downside of my current choice: the $25 brandless bag quality isn’t great. The inner lining is thin and there are a few stray threads. However, as I recently transitioned to working from home more often, I am not using the bag very much and when I do, it suits just fine. After this bag wears out – which might take a while – I may pick up a bag from one of the sites hyperlinked above.

Do you have a great bag that you’d recommend for work? Any essentials for the inside you think everyone should know about? Tell us in the comments below!