Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: declutter (page 2 of 7)

Digital Declutter: Three Tips for Decluttering Photos As You Go

According to the April 2012 edition of National Geographic, Americans were projected to take 105 billion digital photos this year. That’s 322 per person and I’m pretty sure I take WAY more than that.

Inforgraphic Credit: National Geographic

Inforgraphic Credit: National Geographic

I have no idea how my mother ever got a single good photo of my sister and I without a digital camera. She’s got albums filled with decent shots of us smiling into the camera, but when I take pictures, I usually take 20 and settle for the one where my five-year-old isn’t frowning and my two-year-old is still in the frame.

Alison is Silly

I used to save every shot, download them, and keep most of them – even if they were bad photos. Now we have a million photos taking up a lot of space on various drives and if I have to find a particularly good shot? Forget about it.

Three Tips for Decluttering Photos As You Go

Tip #1: Delete Photos As You Go

Knowing that someday I will need to do a full digital declutter of our photo folders, I’ve started to pre-declutter. After taking a few photos, I immediately go back and delete the bad ones. I save only one photo – the best photo – of each pose.

If I’m really on top of things, I save only one photo from an entire event. Photos are great for bringing back memories, but those memories can just as easily be triggered by one photo as they can with 20.

Keep only the best shots. Only download keepers.

Tip #2: Mark Favorites

Another key part of keeping photo folders clean is picking out the very best photos as you download them. This is a tip from Joshua Becker’s book Clutterfree with Kids. He suggests using a photo-organizing program like the Mac OS X Photos software in which you can tag or favorite photos. That way, when you need to go back and find a good photo you have a quick list of the very best ones.

Keep a short list of your very favorite photos.

Tip #3: Photo Blogging

In a slight twist to favoriting photos, I keep a private family blog. My best photos go on the blog along with some commentary. At the end of the year, I turn the blog into a book, which serves as a photo album for the year. When I need to go back and find a great photo, I start with the blog.

Our Private Family Blog

Our Private Family Blog

I love this technique because distant relatives can keep track of what we’re doing throughout the year and I don’t have to spend a bunch of time scrapbooking. The blog serves both purposes. You can do something similar by starting a free blog on Blogger or WordPress and turning your blog into a book at Blog2Print or Blurb.

Blog only your favorite photos.

Note: There are many, many other sites you can use to write a blog and print a book. I recommend doing your research before starting. I have used Blogger and Blog2Print in the past, but every year there are new options that warrant evaluation.

Do you have any tips for choosing your best photos? Comment and share!

Digital Declutter: Facebook

Declutter Facebook

Sometimes…Facebook is Great

 Over the past year, I’ve started using Facebook less and less. I’d like to say that it’s because I spend more timing actually connecting with people in real life, but I’m still pretty bad at that too. The real reason is that it makes me feel…weird.

I’m not alone. It’s called Facebook envy and studies like the one done by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan have concluded that reading Facebook often makes us more jealous and depressed about our own lives. People only post their best material, with the best spin possible on Facebook. So when you compare the reality of your own life with the highly curated snapshots of others’, of course you’re going to feel bad. Yes, it can be an amazing tool to stay in touch with old friends, but most of our newsfeeds are cluttered with information we really don’t care about, from people we haven’t seen in decades. Last weekend, I decided to do something about that. I decided to declutter Facebook.

Update Your Friend Lists

There are three pre-determined friend lists on Facebook: Close Friends, Acquaintances, and Restricted.

  1. Close Friends are friends whose updates you want to see all the time and you can even turn on notifications for when they post on Facebook.
  2. Acquaintances are people you’d like to see less of in your newsfeed. You’ll still get notified when something big happens like when they are married or have a baby, but you’ll miss the daily miscellaneous stuff.
  3. Restricted people are people you want to remain Facebook friends with, but with whom you don’t want to share.

Use these instructions to run through your first three steps to declutter Facebook.

Step 1: Whittle down your list of “Close Friends” to those you really care about. I now have about 10 close family and friends on that list.

Step 2: Go through your friends list and switch everyone for whom you don’t want to see every notification to “Acquaintances”.

Step 3: Add people you never want to share with to a restricted list.

Update Preferences

From this handy Newsfeed Preferences screen, you can do some really powerful things. Use it to adjust whose posts you see and prioritize them.

Facebook Newsfeed Preferences

Facebook Newsfeed Preferences

First, unfollow some people for whom you really don’t need updates.

Step 4: Unfollow people for whom you don’t want to get anymore updates. These are people that you may want to reach out to in the future, but you don’t want to see their daily updates.

You can always take a look at who you’ve unfollowed via Preferences later and reconnect with them.

Step 5: Prioritize who you see first. Of your friends, whose posts do you want at the top of your newsfeed?


In the past, when Facebook was new and your only option to get rid of someone’s updates was to unfriend them, I endured a few real-life awkward conversations when it was discovered that I’d unfriended someone. Now, you can avoid those conversations by simply Unfollowing.

I reserve unfriending for the people I truly don’t remember.

Continue to Purge

Is somebody or something in your newsfeed wasting your time? Remember that you can always add people to your Acquaintances list, Unfollow, or Unfriend them.

I started with 360 “friends”, but ended up unfriending 11 people (who are these people?), knocked two people off the close friends list (I don’t need to see every one of your pet photos), unfollowed 104 people (yes, there are 104 people I doubt I’ll need to contact again, but just in case….I didn’t unfriend them), and prioritized 10 people’s posts (these, I want to see at the top of my feed).

Change How You Facebook

Has it worked? Kind of, I was just on Facebook and the top five posts were things I really cared about, then it started to go downhill. I definitely need to continue to purge.

Honestly, the best way I’ve found to use Facebook is sparingly; reserved for the updates from my favorite people. Do you take time everyday to peruse your newsfeed, just to see what’s out there? How much of the content is really interesting and pertinent? I realized that (unscientifically) about 20% of it was really useful and the rest was just noise. So, a few months back, I picked a few key people, starred them as “Close Friends” so their updates would push notifications to my phone, and began to only pay attention to their posts when they made them. I became happier.

Step 6: Drop the daily newsfeed reads and, at most, peruse Facebook once a week. You’ll still see the important updates and you’ll get a lot less of the travel photos, dog photos, and ads. And, you’ll be happier for it.

Do you have a great “declutter Facebook” tip? Have you ever completely dropped off Facebook? Comment and tell us what you did!

Marie Kondo’s Missing Miscellaneous Categories


A few weeks ago, I wrote about discarding items from Marie Kondo’s Miscellaneous Category. This category, which Kondo describes in her popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has taken me quite a long time. Not because it’s as difficult as finding and sorting all of the paper around the house, but because there are a lot of hidden “Miscellaneous” categories that you need to discover on your own.

Everyone’s Miscellanea is Different

In her book, Kondo lists the following sub-categories with which you should start:

  1. CDs, DVDs
  2. Skin care products
  3. Make-up
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc)
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely electric)
  7. Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc)
  8. Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc)
  9. Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc)
  10. Others (spare change, figurines, etc)

I’ve found a few extra categories that should also be considered.

Marie Kondo’s Missing Miscellaneous Categories

After I’d finished Kondo’s categories, I walked around the house and visited every drawer, looking for items that I hadn’t yet considered. Do these “spark joy”? Are these part of a whole new category I need to consider? Here are my additional categories.

  1. Holiday decorations
  2. Wrapping paper & ribbons
  3. Kids’ toys
  4. Wall furnishings (framed photos and paintings)
  5. Furniture
  6. Pet supplies
  7. Linens/blankets
  8. Towels
  9. Magnets (yes, we have a ton of magnets)
  10. Craft supplies
  11. Sports/Hobby equipment (each sport and hobby needs to be considered separately)
  12. Outgrown baby/children’s supplies
  13. Games/Cards

These are my missing miscellaneous categories. What are yours?

Sell CDs, DVDs, and Games

Discarding CDsI recently got a great question from a friend who asked me what she could do with her CDs that don’t have cases. Many of us, in an effort to save space, have gotten rid of the CD jewel cases as well as the artwork, so what do we do once we’ve gone completely digital? It seems like a waste of space to keep the CDs around.

Selling CDs, DVDs, and games can be split into two distinct categories:

What to do if you have cases and artwork in tact
What to do if you don’t have cases or artwork

How to Sell CDs, DVDs, and Games if You Have Cases & Artwork Intact

 If you have the cases and artwork, you’ll have a much easier time finding buyers. There’s always Ebay and Craig’s List, but here are a few ideas that are more interesting.


Decluttr is a service that will pay you for your old CDs, DVDs, and games (no matter what they are), plus, they’ll pay the shipping for you! You must have a minimum of 10 discs or a $5 value before they’ll pay for shipping. You enter your barcodes and they give you a price. (For reference, they offered me $.86 for my two-disc The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic set.) This is a truly easy route to take if you just want to make a little money off your old discs. They’ll even take your Jagged Little Pill CD, which, apparently, everyone is now trying to get rid of.


Bonavendi is like Bookscouter for CDs. Enter the barcode and they’ll compare the prices you can get over a variety of online buyers. They’ll recommend buyers, then send you to their websites to sell. Vendors vary on whether they’ll pay shipping.

Bonavendi - Sell CDs, DVDs, and Games

Amazon Trade-In Store

The Amazon Trade-In Store will give you Amazon gift cards in exchange for your CDs, DVDs, games and other items. In true Amazon style, free shipping is included. Enter a CD’s code you’d like to trade and they’ll give you a price. If you often shop on Amazon, the trade-in store is almost as good as cash. My Weird Al set would have gotten me $1.10 in Amazon gift cards. 

How to Sell CDs, DVDs, or Games if You Don’t Have Cases or Artwork

There aren’t many ways to make money on your old discs if you haven’t kept the packaging. Your only consolation is that people aren’t making much money on their old albums that DO have art so you’re not missing out on much revenue.

Here are some things you can try:

Sell Your Entire Collection (at once) on Ebay

Start the bidding at $1-$5 for your entire collection and wait. This person sold their 500-disc collection for $43, which is better than nothing.


Located in my college hometown of Madison, WI, Murfie will create a high-quality audio version for you ($1 per disc) and/or store your entire CD collection for free (for one year). If you never want your discs back, they’ll keep them and others may eventually have the chance to buy and enjoy them. While you don’t make any money on them, you still get some added space in your house and the chance to order high-quality recordings.

CD Recycling

Are you ready to give-up on making money? Good, then here’s your best option. The CD Recycling Center of America will take your old discs (and printer cartridges, cell phones, cables, Christmas lights, cords, and small electronics) and dispose of them properly. Even in CDs, there are harmful chemicals that can leach out of them in landfills and it’s best to recycle them. They securely destroy your discs, recycling the plastics inside them and it costs you nothing! This is a pretty good way to gain some shelf space. To get started, find the closest recycling center and print a shipping label.

Have you found a good place to sell CDs? Comment and tell us where!

My Decluttering Kid Stuff Experiment

There is one major decluttering category I haven’t touched yet and it’s taking over our lives and causing the kind of stress that you only feel after stepping on another lego in bare feet. Following Marie Kondo and Joshua Becker’s advice, I haven’t touched (most) of the kids’ things (or Nathan’s actually, but he’s de-owned a few spaces on his own). I can’t even get the kids to help me sort through my things. Is there a pack rat gene? Because I’m pretty sure these kids have inherited one. My daughters are 5 and 2. Here’s how a typical conversation about de-owning goes in our house.

Me: “Girls, do you want to help me decide what we should give away in x room or category?”

Kids: “No, I want to keep ALL our/my stuff!”

Me: “But we aren’t using some of this stuff like, x!”

Kids: [Grabs the item and starts using it.] “We love x. Mom, don’t take away our stuff!”

Me: “Wouldn’t you like to give this to your cousin, Holly?”

Kids: “No!”

Me: “But it’s a baby toy.”

Kids: “Well, we’re babies [fake crying].”

Me: “But there are plenty of kids who don’t have as many things as we do. Don’t you want to help them?”

Kids: “No”

Me: [Disappointed look]

Kids: [Tears]

Now, to be fair, they are really good kids and in every other way would jump to the aid of anyone else in need. I just can’t figure out how to get them to give up their excess things! What do they think is going to happen? That I’ll take away all of the toys?

Finally Decluttering Kid Stuff

Maybe my kids are simply too young to understand what I’m trying to do, but I’m at my wits’ end. Their toys exploding in every corner of the house is causing all of us stress and I know it’s unhealthy for them. I decided to finally take matters into my own hands and try a decluttering kid stuff experiment.

The Experiment

This weekend, I grabbed all of the toys in our living room (which included a corner filled with them, a bookshelf, miscellaneous toys just lying places, and a toybox filled to the brim) and I took them all out. The whole room was practically covered in toys. Then, I started to place toys I knew the girls loved into shoeboxes (a KonMari organization trick) and watched carefully while they began to play with toys they hadn’t seen in months.

We did this for hours. I’d organize another set of toys and they’d move swiftly from one item to the next. Then I bagged up the toys they didn’t touch and set them aside.

De-Owning the Forgotten Toys

I plan to hold onto the bag of unused toys for a while to see if anyone misses them. I doubt they will. The toys in there are things I’ve rarely seen them touch, even when they were new. Getting rid of these is likely the right decision. I’ve also got a completely organized toybox and the kids have actually been putting toys away in their designated spots!

Our Organized Toybox

Our Organized Toybox

No Apologies, But Be Slick About It

I’m still learning how to handle de-owning with kids. I know that if they found the bag and found out what I wanted to do with it, they’d be mad. That’s why the bag is well hidden and I’ll be taking it directly to a donation center when I’m satisfied they won’t miss them. Life’s too short for too much stuff and eventually I think my kids will agree.

Do you have a technique that gets your kids excited about giving away their things? How do you do it?

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