Three essential tools for clearing mental clutter

Thanks to ad partner FM and sponsor Microsoft and Windows Phone 7, I've been invited share my take on the concept of "More With Less."

There is so much I could say about how "more with less" has applied to my life, especially during this last year. I'll try to resist the urge to get philosophical and stick closer to the spirit of Parent Hacks, which is practicality. In practice, nowhere has "more with less" has been more obvious than in my ongoing mission to declutter.

If you're a fan of productivity/lifehacking/getting organized blogs, you've probably read your share of "declutter-and-change-your-life" manifestos. The promise is that when you get rid of stuff you don't want, need, or use, you'll be rewarded with free time, a pleasing home, and mental clarity. Less stuff, more happy. The message is seductively simple. The follow-through? Hard. Especially when you're wrangling little ones who conspire to interrupt your sleep, complicate your schedule and toss Cheerios onto every horizontal surface in your life.

In the last six months, I've made remarkable headway in my quest to declutter. I owe some of my success to timing: my kids are now past Cheerio-throwing age. But I've also discovered that, before I could declutter our various bulging closets, I had to clear out the most overstuffed container of all: my mind.

The chronic distraction and forgetfulness often pegged as "mommy brain" isn't just a consequence of sleep deprivation. For me, it's what happens when one mind is responsible for handling the details of three lives: mine and my kids'. Too much input, too many variables, changing too quickly, and brain goes BOOM.

As such, every time I tried to do something declutter-y like clear out old toys or organize the linen closet, my mind would revolt long before I finished the job. And you know what half-finished decluttering projects produce: more clutter.

What changed? I finally put tools and systems in place to support my poor, overtaxed brain. More importantly, I've made an in-sickness-and-in-health commitment to using these tools every day:

My calendar

Everything with a date or time associated with it goes into my calendar. And I mean everything. All the obvious stuff (appointments, classes, birthdays), plus the stuff I figured I'd just remember but never do (when my friend expected results of a troubling medical test, when to give my dog his monthly flea medication, when to send more lunch money to school with my daughter).

Now, the parts of my brain formerly devoted to sorting and remembering obscure dates (when's the field trip again?) can rest, secure that something much more reliable is on the job. Plus, by constantly interacting with my calendar, the dates are reinforced in my memory — which makes tracking it all that much easier.

The key: your calendar must be with you at all times. I use an iPhone synced with Google Calendar, but any paper or electronic calendar will work just as well.

My to-do list

While my calendar provides the big-picture view of my week, my to-do list helps me navigate each day. If your experience of parenting is like mine, the logistical variables change too quickly to map neatly onto a schedule. My to-do list has become the viewfinder for all those moving targets, large and small, that need my attention now, at a fixed point in the future, or someday.

I have found that an electronic to-do list is more useful than a paper version because I can sort and manage so much more information. When I find myself with ten minutes of free time (in a waiting room, say), I find myself making lists: gift ideas, quick pantry meals, my Life List, etc. Because I use an app for the job (Things for the iPhone), the lists have somewhere to live; in the past, my jotted-down paper lists would die a meaningless death at the bottom of my purse.

As with my calendar, the act of writing these lists forces me to break tasks into component steps, and gives me a clearer picture of my responsibilities. And it frees me from the overhead of having to remember it all. And, every time I do something, I get the visceral satisfaction of checking the "Done" box (we parents need to take props wherever we can get them).

My ability to delegate

The mental space created by my calendar and to-do list has prepared me for the most powerful tool of all: delegation. I've already got some paid help including a housecleaner and a neighborhood babysitter for our weekly date night. But in the midst of mental chaos, delegating chores to my kids felt like too much work. Shortsighted, foolish, irresponsible, even, but true.

Now that I've learned how to break my own tasks into simpler steps, I can help my kids do the same. Now that I've practiced using my beloved brain-support tools, I can create simpler versions for my kids. Again, timing helps: they are old enough to pitch in. But it also turned out I needed to strengthen my own skills  before I could teach them to my kids. Too bad: this job would have been much easier for all of us had we started years earlier. (Take note, parents of toddlers.)

So, if you find yourself trying to declutter your garage for the umpteenth time, take a step back and assess your cluttered mind. That may be the most important place to start.

What's your Parenthacker take on "more with less"? For me it's about mental hygiene, but what about for you?

The giveaway has ended. Thank you to all who participated.

And now for the goodie part: the Windows Phone 7 giveaway! The contest runs from 11/15/10-11/29/10. ONE winner will be chosen at random on November 30, 2010. You may enter once per day each day the contest is open.

This giveaway is brought to you by the new Windows Phone 7. Less MIA. More PTA: Learn about Windows Phone online and see it in person at local T-Mobile stores today.

Be sure to read the official eligibility requirements and contest rules before you enter. Important highlights: The contest is only open to residents of the United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older. Comments must be between 25 and 250 characters in length.  There are over 50 other sites participating, so you can enter there as well. Good luck!

Related: More productivity tips


  1. Ree says

    For me it’s about not trying to overschedule the days. One outing or activity is all we can handle with little ones.

  2. says

    For me, it’s about simplifying the little things — we use 1 soap for the whole family, 1 bottle of shampoo, everybody wears white socks, everybody wears white underwear & undershirts (so laundry is streamlined), we roate 21 meals in the same order every 3 weeks … if there’s any way I can simplify an operation, I try to do it.

  3. Anna says

    Doing more with less….for holiday gifts!
    I think that sentimental gifts are the most memorable way to do more with less. My favorite gifts are photo calendars, filled with memories. These are easy and affordable, and can be tailored for families and friends.
    Lastly, don’t forget to spend a little something for those who can’t spend – whether it is adopting a family for a holiday or buying something small for a toy drive. When I was little, I was the recipient of a secret toys-for-tots gift (I had no idea where it came from, it was left at my doorstep), and it helped me continue believing in Santa although my family was not able to afford gifts that year!

  4. Betsy says

    I’ll be different. It’s about the kitchen counter. If it’s cluttered, I have no chance of uncluttering anything else.

  5. boliath says

    The shredder – most every document I need is online in some form or other – bank statements, old tax returns etc so I shred shred and shred, I’ve freed up about half of my basement and filed the rest, it’s great and makes me feel so much more organized! I can’t afford a smart phone but would dearly love to have a calendar with me wherever I go!

  6. deanna says

    Last year, on one side of the family, we opted out of Xmas gifts entirely and planned a trip together instead. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made!

  7. Trish says

    it’s true uncluttering your mind helps. also, not piling crap all over my dining room table which is my landing pad for most everything!

  8. Kate says

    More with less for me is all about toys. My kids don’t need a whole bunch of toys to have fun. My 3 year old’s favorite toy right now is a piece of ribbon.

  9. Jen (yup, another one) says

    We simplified our menu planning. We eat pretty much the same thing every week. Less variety equals way more freedom right now, and it’s a very good tradeoff for our family. The kids like the predictability, while my wife and I like not having to put a lot of effort into planning shopping or agonize each night over what to cook.

  10. Brian says

    Combo of Google Calendar and Toodledo (todo list + notepad), both synced through to every device I own and every computer at which I work. No matter where I am when I need to know something and/or need to add something, my e-brain is always there and synced up.

  11. Heather says

    for me it’s about the old mantra of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’… making your THINGS as useful as possible for as long as possible.

  12. Jeannie says

    I have way too many products in my bathroom and my closet. So I’ve given myself incentives for using up what I’ve got – no new clothes until I reach my desired weight, and no bathroom remodeling project until I finish every last bottle of shampoo, bath soap, toner, cellulite-fighting body lotion. I also think of how the French would do it. Which multi-tasking product or wardrobe staple would pass muster with Juliette Binoche?

  13. Carrie says

    Doing More With Less: Reusable grocery bags. It’s environmentally friendly, it cuts down on the clutter of plastic bags and, because they’re cloth and comfortable, I can haul more things in fewer bags, which cuts down on the time I spend bringing groceries and such into the house.

  14. Clueless Lurker says

    I find making the distinction between things I can (personally) change vs. system-wide battles, and trying to check off the former while accepting the latter helps.

  15. says

    Organizers and containers save my life! They hide the clutter and keep everything organized. Stress for me stems from not being able to find things. Whether it is work or my child (sometimes I lose them on purpose, just joking…), I need a handle on organization

  16. Teresa says

    With 2 little ones (3 tears and 3 months), I am trying to learn how to expect less from myself. And forgive myself if I don’t gt my whole list done everyday. As long as everyone is fed and had all the love and attention they need, the day is a success!

  17. Cathy says

    Lately I’ve been focusing on reusing or re-purposing items already in our possession instead of going out to buy something new. It helps us save money and it keeps our home less cluttered.

  18. Ghanimatrix says

    For me, more with less is all about using what we already have or what we can get for free these days. With the holidays around the corner I’m trying my best not to spend an extra cent anywhere I don’t have to!

  19. Kirsten says

    I have found that if I turn off the computer, I can get soooo much more done. The internet can be a great time saver, but an even bigger time waster.

  20. Rilla says

    As I tell my three daughters: I can only do one thing at a time. And if I remember that, I get more done with less stress.

  21. says

    For me it’s about buying less, less things, and more value on what we have or can reuse.. Buying less food and finding more nutrition and activities in the art of cooking with the family not only are we over burdened with stuff and things but we’ve also been filled with junk from stomach to closet. Time to step back and start over..

  22. peggy says

    I am at the other end of the spectrum. My parents have become my children. So decluttering my mind is important and I like your idea of adding everything to a calendar.

  23. D says

    I think making sure that we focus on getting things that we really need is important to having more with less.

  24. Samantha Tran says

    Most definitely make lists, lots and lots of schedules and lists. I have actually written on previous schedules, time to make a new schedule. And once I do that, my day seems to run much more smoothly. However I don’t like to spend money on crazy palm pilots and such, I like the simplicity and readily duplicate copying ability of Post-its. Call me old-fashion :)

  25. Lisa R says

    This doesn’t answer the question, sorry, but it reminded me I’ve always meant to thank you for a Parenthacks tip that has helped me so much: creating a “Possibilities” Google calendar to remind me of things going on that we aren’t committed to, but would be fun if we’re free and everybody’s ready for an activity.

    Now I guess I’d better answer the question: I do more with less by realizing our house has finite square footage and getting new furniture to solve organizational issues doesn’t help. I have figured out ways to repurpose CD towers, desk hutches, shelving units, and more. Takes some imagination, but ultimately it’s easier and less wasteful than getting rid of furniture that’s outlived its original purpose and then acquiring new stuff.

  26. says

    With less money to spend on groceries, we decided to plant a garden full of veggies. Since mid simmer, we’ve noticed a difference in the bottom line. Also, we eat healthier. So, more goodness for less.

  27. says

    I have been meal planning every week. When I have a week that works well (new recipes are loved, similar ingredients) I keep that “set” which includes recipes and grocery list. I’m hoping after doing this for a while, I will have enough ready meal plans, that I no longer need to meal plan!

  28. Heather says

    Like you, I’ve ditched most paper calendars/reminders and moved EVERYTHING onto a bunch of combined Google calendars. It’s amazing how much that simplified things.

  29. W says

    for me, doing more with less involves trying to ensure that things have multiple uses. It’s a philosophy that I originally took from Alton Brown (who hates one use kitchen items) and now try to apply to all things in my life.

  30. Amber says

    More fun with less toys. It really is possible, and really does work. Now if I could only convince the grandparents…

  31. Lisa says

    When we lived in a 1bed condo, we started the 1-in-1-out policy. Anything we brought home had to have an empty/shelf drawer for it or something else had to go to make room. It just becomes a habit. It made us stop to think before we bought something, “Where are we going to put it? What are we going to give up to make room?”

    That works with calendars, too. Start with an empty calendar. All downtown would be first be filled with things like “Relax” and “Hang with Family.” If you want to add some activity, you’ll see that you have to remove one of your “relax” hours in order to do it.

    We also schedule straightening up time, that we do as a family. Not as much of a drudge if you do it all together.

  32. Dele O says

    Doing more with less. for me it’s many things.
    – Reuse, reuse, reuse…when possible
    – Cook more, eat out less
    – etc.

  33. Corrie says

    “More with Less” for me means using what we have. I try not to run out and buy something new before trying to use what we have in the house first. For example, not buying new mittens for my toddler when I could easily knit a pair with some leftover yarn. Keeps costs AND clutter down!

  34. says

    When I was a new mom, I didn’t realize how much stuff we would buy just for fun. Now that I have 5 children, I realize that it is too hard to stay organized in our home when we have too much stuff. The less we have, the less time we have to spend cleaning, and the more time we can spend doing fun things together as a family.

  35. says

    I agree entirely about mental clutter being a root problem for me (and how my house operates). With a preschooler, toddler, and impending baby, I really miss the opportunities for reflection that my earlier adult life offered. On the other hand, I now greatly appreciate a few silent moments when my thoughts can flow without a request for more milk or a ground skirmish over a toy.

    A critical question for me lately has been high tech versus low tech (as in “Will this task be best served by a high tech or low tech solution?”). This quick evaluation yields surprising results. Addressing baby shower envelopes when I already have a spreadsheet of guests seems like a high tech no-brainer, but factoring in my perfectionism in print materials I know it will take me over an hour longer to create a satisfactory file and then manually feed all the envelopes through our aging printer. Low-tech wins because I have decent handwriting and can whip a 30 longhand envelopes in about half an hour. Holiday greeting cards will get the high tech compromise of sticky labels. I lose a little time to formatting, but don’t have to wrestle everything through the printer.

    Cooking dinner every night (which simplifies our routine and finances) has essential high tech components. By using a menu planning service ( that creates a sorted shopping list, we can plan a week’s meals in minutes. We add a few other groceries to the list (in pencil). Jim and the kids go shopping, and I cook the meals. We rarely lack ingredients (a chronic problem before), and menu selection/list creation save us lots of time. We also eat a wider variety of dishes as we are not limited by my own culinary imagination.

    I also use Google calendar for all kinds of reminders, but the to do lists and pocket calendars remain analog for the time being.

  36. says

    Prioritization of needs vs. wants is huge. Do I REALLY need new clothes for the winter or will they do just fine? Coming to terms with things like that lets you treat your family to things a bit greater than the “less” you’ve been carrying on with.

  37. Ame says

    Living within or below your means, intentionally and not allowing your children or yourself to be overscheduled.

  38. Kirsten says

    I get tons of clutter on the countertop from just the mail. I’ve started going through the mail and right when I bring it in. I open it, and if it’s a bill, I enter it right into my online bill pay and file it. If it’s an invitation, write it straight onto the calendar and throw it away etc. I have a special inbox where I keep things that need attention later. Dealing with it straight away has helped my counter top not become a clutter zone.

  39. TamrahT. says

    Donate or Keep? I’ve chosen to give more away than to keep. Really gives me a fulfillment that cluster does sitting around! That’s one less thing on my TO-DO-LIST..

  40. Michelle says

    I love organizing and being organized, but find that I’m better off if I use the time/space/tools that I have, rather than succumbing to the temptation to buy some great new organizational tool that will solve all of my problems. Of course, a smartphone probably would really solve all of my problems ;-)

  41. says

    I love the idea of getting rid of everything: ah, simplicity. But reality is a whole ‘nother topic. Sometimes I feel that twinge of regret right as I throw away the offending items (especially if they belong to my husband). Should I have kept it? Will my life be ruined now?
    Thanks for the inspiration!


  42. says

    We don’t have a lot of storage space in our house, so as soon as something is past its prime use, it goes. I donate things to charities, to other friends as hand-me-downs, or it gets tossed in the trash. Not much hangs out here.

  43. Erin says

    I at least try to keep surfaces clear in my house. My husband has a tendency to cover every bare surface, which just makes me insane.

  44. Emily says

    Usually I love technology hacks, but I just can’t get with electronic to-do lists. A little post-it is so much more satisfying–I scribble my task down right away, I get it done, and the thrill of physically throwing away the day’s post-it is so much better than just clicking “done.” Ok, so most days I end up transferring some items to the next day’s post-it, but at least the act of writing helps me focus on the task!

  45. Em D says

    For me it’s about not committing to things in the first place- there’s a lot of freedom in the word no!

  46. W says

    getting rid of distractions is huge. But I can’t wholesale turn off the internet, because that is my information resource for my job (I am a student studying for my ph.d. in science). I’ve found the Firefox addon Leechblock to be helpful in curtailing my recreational surfing (ie keep me the hell off of facebook).

  47. mafong says

    Right now I use a paper calendar, but would love to have Windows phone to help with the clutter. I spent the day filing tax papers and going through magazines to take to the hospital and doctr waiting rooms.

  48. Eina says

    For me, it is all about the planner. I carry mine where ever I go. All of us have a different color (there are 5 of us plus one for my brother in law who is an occasional sitter). I can see where the conflicts may come up while scheduling, and keeps me on track with my event days.

  49. Samantha Tran says

    I also love other gifts you can make. Ive bought fairly cheap picture frames and made collages of me and that person.

  50. Becky says

    Doing more with less means not buying a bunch of new stuff — finding ways to repurpose and take care of what we have. Old shaggy sweaters make wonderful winter pillow covers, for example. We purge regularly, make sure any clothes are clean and donate whatever we can so things can be USED and not just buried.

  51. Tara says

    In our recent move, I really questioned all of the items I owned and the purpose it serves me. As a result, those things I hold onto “just in case” but I havent used yet were donated or recycled. It wasnt a perfect process and I feel like I still have things I don’t need, but I feel like such a weight is lifted from me! Getting rid of “stuff” really has given me peace of mind and I feel like I can do more as a result. Thanks for the opportunity.

  52. Mandy says

    Mental hygiene: love that phrase. I think so much better once I’ve got everything organized in my head, which usually means putting it on paper first.

  53. Linda says

    Over the course of my work day, I use three different desks and computers – home and two jobs. I love love love MS OneNote. I carry it on a flash drive and can drop myself a note any time, all day long :)

  54. Emily says

    Shopping online lets me compare reviews, which helps me avoid wasting money and cluttering my house with junk. Plus, I often find that if I can have it now-now-now because of the shipping time, the impulse to buy goes away.

  55. Dele O says

    Saving money and handmade gifts this Christmas equals holiday vacations. it’s gonna be a fun holiday season with the family this year. Will be even better with the windows phone. ;)

  56. chris says

    Keeping little things cleared out is key. Clutter breeds more clutter (in our house at least). If I can keep the kitchen island clear, the rest of the kitchen stays clear, and it keeps a better attitude of tidiness throughout the house. But leave some mail on the island, then the lunchboxes pile on, then the recycles don’t go out, then it quickly spirals out of control through the rest of the kitchen and throughout the house as they all say “why bother?” when asked to pick up their socks.

  57. David says

    Bulk purchasing is big for my family. Too many trips to the store of the day are big time wasters whether the kids go with you or not!

    Invest in a 2nd freezer, join a warehouse club and buy in bulk. As long as it it used eventually it is the way to go.

  58. Lisa says

    I think it’s all about realizing that less other obligations (extracurriculars, social outings, commitments) provide more family time with who/ what really matters. Decluttering your life if you will…

  59. Tom says

    For me, it’s picking 3 things I have to do every day and doing them. No more than 3 or else it too easily becomes overwhelming.

  60. Tony says

    I am in a constant struggle to declutter and organize my mind and physical space. I have just started using the calendar on my phone to make a positive start in getting everything in line.

  61. Emily says

    I go in cycles with the mental and physical clutter. I’ll be swept up in the de-cluttering project on a weekend, and maybe I’ll be good till Wednesday, and then it all just falls apart. Sigh. I guess I just need to maximize those inspired weekends.

  62. Sean says

    If I have leftover sauerkraut after cooking with it, I call up my pal Saul, and we make ruben sandwiches. Great way to do more with less with Sauerkraut Saul!

  63. Sam says

    I just put all of my leftovers into a blender and chug them until I am satisfied. Mmmm leftover smoothie, so smooth ;)

  64. JJ Murphy says

    My parent hack is that I use my current phone to keep todo’s based on location. when I am near that location, my phone alerts me of things to do in that area. Currently working on a similar app for WP7, so if I win, bonus I can test it on live hardware!

  65. Tricia says

    I love your idea of mental decluttering. For me, doing more with less means, simply, doing less. Is that class important? Is that assignment worth it? Would we really enjoy ourselves at that party? Do the kids really want to go to the museum, or do they need a day at home in their PJs? We say no whenever we can and save our energy for the important, family-oriented things.

  66. says

    My calendar and my cell phone are the 2 things that I rely on heavily to stay on task and keep focused. And when I’m at home, stay off the phone and away from the computer.

  67. Dele O says

    Doing more with less sometimes means working on the go. Which is where my laptop and a good smartphone comes in handy. Go windows phone

  68. Marge says

    I use the old adage if you haven’t thought about using it in 6 months or used it in a year then give it away. If you don’t love it then dont buy it. If you can’t find a home for it in your home in your mind then dont buy it. My easiest tip – don’t bring the mail in your house. Go to the mailbox – sort the mail on your way back in (recycle, shredded or keep). Most of our bills are electronic now but we still get a lot of mail.

  69. Brian says

    Google calendar(synced phones, for appointments & special dates), & the notes app (for todo lists, notes, reminders). Both of these have optional sharing to stay on the same page. Our Groceries app helps, too!

  70. says

    I am trying to declutter our house, we just have too much stuff for our house. I am trying to make sure everything has a place, and if it doesn’t then I am looking at if we really need it or not.

  71. says

    I get more (of the important stuff) done by doing less (of the unimportant stuff)… and I’ve accomplished this by learning to say NO. No, I can’t be in charge of the neighborhood Christmas event. No, we can’t make it to every party we’re invited to. That allows me to say yes to the things I really want to do!

  72. says

    I love using an online calendar system, one for me, one for kids, one for work one for sports. Helps my brain process the millions of requests, and dates that are thrown at me daily. I also started printing out a monthly calendar for my four year old so she can track the days and know what’s happening and prepare herself.

    It’s helped simplify life incredibly.

  73. Peter Schott says

    Gifts – that’s one place. We’re trying to simplify with fewer gifts that mean more or are useful.

    For me – I want to have my life easy to access in one place – I carry a smartphone and keep my details there. It’s a lot easier than wondering if I put an event on a particular calendar or not. I also appreciate the reminders. Plus, with a good task app, I can keep track of what I’m getting done and what I’m not.

    And finally for meals – we plan out our menus to minimize eating out and to make sure that someone can take care of the meal if the other gets delayed for some reason.

  74. Anna P. says

    We are living this concept now as we have recently become a one income family. I do my best to stretch the budget with menu planning and coupon clipping. You would be surprised how much that saves for us!

  75. brandishaunell says

    i need serious help to unclutter my carry around suitcase needed to keep my life in order. a new phone with all these features would be a saviour! to my brain and my back!!

  76. Samantha says

    cutting back on the insanity, dont try to do too many things at once and making realistic goals

  77. Alison F. says

    We recently moved back to my home town and have half of our things in storage. Funny thing is, even though we only have a fraction of our “things” with us, I don’t seem to miss the things we don’t have.

  78. Erin H. says

    I like the TO DO list, but I especially need to cross off the unnecessary or never-going-to-happen items. Then I can know I’ve chosen not to do them and I can mentally let them go.

  79. Emily says

    I try to do a lot of my shopping online. A lot of times, I’ll get so involved with reading reviews, the buy-it-now impulse will pass and I realize I don’t really need it. Fewer purchases = less clutter and more money in the bank.

  80. Emily says

    Hmm, just realized that was similar to my tip from the other day. Here’s a new one: I’ve been trying to give “event ticket” type gifts for birthdays and holidays. It creates nice memories, and doesn’t get left on the floor for me to pick up later.

  81. Sean says

    Whenever I get mail, I am typically very disappointed. It is usually junk mail, with the occasional “suspicious package.” What I usually do is keep a sort of “incinerator” out back to burn all of my junk mail. Great way to do less with more!

  82. Dele O says

    I’m all about replacing my stone-age phone with a revolutionary one. And I’m sure with it, i’ll be doing more in less time. Thanks for the giveaway.

  83. Samantha says

    I need to spend some time everyday to remind myself that life isnt overwhelming, a deep breath to remind myself to keep everything in perspective and things arent that bad

  84. JJ Murphy says

    I think that lists lists lists and lists are the best way. The GTD process of organizing, and getting it out of your head works well for nearly everyone.

  85. Dele O says

    Calendars are a huge help. And the Outlook Quickstep is a great shortcut tool that helps me quickly create some of my common tasks, appointments, and emails while on the go. The win phone 7 will be a great mobile tool to aid in this

  86. Emily says

    I try to reduce my grocery-store trips. This forces me to use up all those random ingredients from the back of the pantry, so it’s not such a mysterious jungle in there.

  87. Alison F. says

    Write down everything. You WILL NOT remember it all later. The thing you had to do, the thing from the store you can’t remember, who’s birthday?

  88. Steph says

    putting our feet down on too many little plastic toys that only get played with for a few days. books & art supplies & music only please!

  89. Heather D says

    Doing more with less is always important to my family. We got rid of several unnecessary expenses so that my husband could stay home with our son and finish school. We lived on a lot less, but were very happy.

  90. Turtle Mom says

    I have learned to do more with less since I suffered a back injury and haven’t been able to work. I don’t miss a lot of the extras that I used to think I had to have.

  91. Cecilia says

    I’m all about clutter reduction and just generally reducing the amount of STUFF in our lives. Buying less, buying used when possible and passing along old toys whenever we add new ones to the house. It’s an ongoing battle!

  92. Schmidty says

    Doing more for less means decluttering and utilizing what we do have, and having ‘frugal’ as a priority in most aspects of our life as a daily ongoing occurrence.

  93. Erica Best says

    i found the planing ahead really help but also good not to plan to far ahead because i never know what could happen i say live life 2 days at a time.

  94. Dele O says

    I’m all about doing more with less by using free tools such as the Google calendar to organize my day, week, month, year…need I go on!!!

  95. Schmidty says

    My more for less: Bake family goodies instead of buying storebought. Make extra and freeze for later. Do the same for meals: cook more, freeze extras.

  96. Samantha says

    long term block schedules so i can plan in advanced fun time and busy times. i know it sounds nerdy but it works out and i am not a particularly spontaneous person

  97. Turtle Mom says

    I try to stay out of the stores unless I need something and then I take a list and stick to it. I use the internet to search for the best price before I waste gas.

  98. Emily says

    I read the grocery store weekly ads during my lunch break. That helps me plan out my grocery trip and gives me meal ideas, so I waste less time trying to think “what’s for dinner.”

  99. Dele O says

    I do more with less by using awesome phone apps. There are many useful, fun, and creative apps out there that help make life a little bit easier to manage.

  100. Shelby M. says

    I do more by sleeping less. It is amazing what you can get done in the morning without distractions.

  101. Maureen says

    I have been de-cluttering my house and being strict on not bringing anything into the house that I won’t use all the time.

  102. Schmidty says

    Doing more with less means creating a tight budget and sticking to it, avoiding impulse buys, and saving for rainy days. Peace of mind generates productivity.

  103. Karen says

    We bought a smallish home (<1,000 square feet) for our three person family. It forces us to get by with less, and that is good. And our mortgage is affordable. :)

  104. Turtle Mom says

    I do more with less by baking from scratch and cooking meals instead of grabbing fast food or eating out. It saves money, but it’s also healthier.

  105. says

    I think I can have “more” with “less”…time. Even though I can’t stay home all day and hang out with my 5 year old, I probably do more than I could ever imagine in the relatively small amount of time I get with him. He inspires me to be the best parent possible and I really do like it when he bugs me to play with him…even if I’m in the middle of working on a project at home.

  106. says

    I work for state government, so “more with less” feels like my life. In my home, going from one to three kids helped me think about what we need. I have tried to pare down the toys and other kid stuff, thinking about what the kids really enjoy and purging the rest. This way they get to see their toys instead of wading through tons of junk all the time.

  107. says

    Mental hygiene is IT!!! I feel crazy is a cluttered house. Home schooling 6 kids, my house can be just that. I hate to feel like a nag, but even the kids appreciate de-junking their own room, telling me how relaxing it is. I’m always looking for stuff to get RID OF! Where does it all come from anyway???

  108. Emily says

    I bring snacks with me everywhere, especially while travelling. This helps avoid the low-blood-sugar rush to a regrettable fast-food meal.

  109. Christina says

    I use my calendar constantly, and another way we try to declutter is when something new comes in, something old must go out, whatever the new thing is it must serve 2 purposes, or be planned to use for a *very* long time so we don’t have to keep buying stuff – I find this rule my dh came up with a good help with the baby things (2 dd’s under 3) so we don’t have a zillion pieces of gear that are only good for 3 months before getting the next size thing.

  110. Amy says

    Strangely enough, one thing that has really helped me out is the WII. I have workout “games” for it and I do one as soon as the kids get on the bus.

    I find if I start my day off doing something constructive, it seems to continue. When I start my day off lazily, I never get anything done that day. It also really simplifies because I can exercise at home and save all the time and money of driving back and forth to a gym.

  111. E.M. says

    For a family of 3 living in a very small apartment, “less” is what we’ve become accustom to for our sanity. Breathing room is important and we’re all happier humans for it.

  112. jennys says

    For me doing more with less is all about my impact on the world. I use less plastic by carrying more canvas bags. I mend whatever we can when it breaks. And we don’t get gizmos we don’t need. That said, I think I need a smartphone.

  113. Turtle Mom says

    Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for people who put their hearts and souls into blogging for us! I am thankful that the giveaway is a phone as I am in real need of a new one.

  114. Schmidty says

    Doing more for less means buying a gently used car that’s been cared for and maintaining it carefully for another ten years.

  115. Samantha says

    during the holidays i give coupons for watch your kids for 1 hour or clean your house. its cheap and easy and everyone is happy

  116. Emily says

    Happy Thanksgiving! During the holidays, when I’m camped out on so many deal sites, I make sure to keep an eye out for kid’s books and toys. This helps stretch my giving-to-charity budget so I can donate more to Toys for Tots, school libraries, etc. Amazon has a Flat Stanley boxed set for $7.50 now!

  117. Rdel says

    Our family mantra is “At the end of the day, it’s just us,” meaning that no matter what other chaos is happening around us, we’re still a family and that’s what the most important thing is.

  118. Schmidty says

    More for less: Host a get together with your friends and have a clothes swap …exchange your don’t-likes and never-worns for things you can use. Everybody wins!

  119. Dele O says

    Doing more for less is all about doing dishes before, during, and after thanksgiving dinner. Saves a lot of time the next day.

    P.S. happy thanksgiving

  120. Steph says

    I do more with less by cooking in big batches. Having precooked chicken and beef helps me get dinner on the table quicker! It is healthier than buying precooked preprocessed stuff but just as convenient.

  121. Amy says

    I love using google calendar to help stay organized. Everything important I need to remember I put on there.

  122. says

    Declutter has been the theme in my life the last couple months. Even if I can tackle one drawer per month, getting the crap that we don’t need in the garbage makes me feel LIGHT. Also, those pesky McDonald’s toys. I bought a “mom’s manager” calendar last week and I’m dying to scribble all of our family events in it. Dying! (does that make me lame?)

  123. Dele O says

    doing more with less could mean budgeting and adhering to it. It allows us to save properly and spend wisely

  124. AmyS says

    Before birthdays and Christmas, I have the kids go through their toys and clothes to collect anything they don’t want anymore and donate it to Goodwill or pass on to younger friends. Making room for the things they will receive eases my mind and helps clean up, too!

  125. says

    The best example is my computer. Who would have thought two decades ago that I could set appointments, make calls, video chat with someone overseas, have my schedule synced and accessible through the cloud, keep track of my flight, and watch movies!

  126. Samantha says

    m and ms are probably my favorite more with less candy. i use them to decorate cakes, i use them in counting games with kids, and they just taste good :)

  127. Schmidty says

    My grandmother taught me to “save steps”. During chore time around the house, always have something with you to be returned or replaced as you move from area to area and room to room.

  128. Dele O says

    Doing more with less sometimes means reusing grocery bags, or buying the recyclable types and using those. Saves the environment and saves the grocery stores money, which in turn saves you money.

  129. Emily says

    I recently chopped off 8 inches of hair, all the way up to my jawline. It’s SO much quicker and easier to do my hair now, which leaves more time and patience for all the other million things every morning. Plus, it means I can’t just toss my hair up in a ponytail every single day.

  130. Alexander says

    Many of us try to do more with less – not in the sense of cutting corners but rather to get the best result for our time/energy/money. That’s why I love productivity sites; having two kids raises everything to the next level! I think WP7 devices are great and hope to get one soon.

  131. Jearv says

    One way we do more with less is with leftovers. Especially during Thanksgiving time. An example would be using ham for lunch sandwiches and using the leftover turkey for quesadillas or my favorite turkey and tortilla soup! The phone looks great!

  132. says

    How to do more with less? I have in my own house a soda vending machine, when I feel like drinking one, I buy one. At the end of certain period of time, I open the vending machine to recollect my profit!!!

  133. Schmidty says

    Doing more for less means delegating more responsibilities to the kids so my time can be used more productively.

  134. Samantha says

    I really like keeping notebooks around for ideas. It doesnt cost much and it helps me later on when I am bored or uninspired to give me new ideas

  135. Pam in Missouri says

    Since quitting my job this fall, we are living more with less everyday! Now that I have more time, I’m really working on attacking the sentimental clutter that builds up. I have two small children adopted from China and find myself drowning in doodads from the adoption trips, preschool art projects (each one more precious than the last), and all sorts of other goodies. I’m planning to have a more tidy approach to collecting sentimental items next year. Each kid will get a notebook and only the best of the best of each month will be saved to the notebook. All else will get recycled. Wish me luck!

  136. says

    I like to hang my hat on the concept that there is no such thing as “having time” when you’re a parent. You have to make time. And making time, like crafting anything else, takes the right ingredients and the right system. Although everyone seems to have their own recipe (to greater or lessor degrees of success), the critical ingredient seems to be consistency. And the primary facet of any system being the understanding of opportunity cost.

    For me, whenever I am asked to take on an additional responsibility, I examine where I can steal the additional time from. So I never add to my schedule, but simply manipulate what is already full calendar.

  137. Dave B. says

    For my family, it’s about more experiences with less “stuff”. Reading together, walking, sledding, museums, board games. We cherish these times.

  138. Steven James says

    Keep your brain clutter-free by keeping your work space, house, and especially your bedroom entirely clutter-free. I don’t always succeed at that, but it does always work when I do.

  139. says

    I’ve always subscribed to the “more with less” mentality. For parenting, it can be giving your kid a box instead of a toy; washing disposable diapers to save the environment; etc. But seriously, try to stay away from America’s disposable mentality as much as possible… use what you have to make something great.

  140. daffiney says

    Although I work from home in the publishing industry, I don’t print anything out anymore. Instead, I rely on scans, emails, and saved screenshots of receipts and other documents. I’ve even started a blog for my kids (who are 8) so that we can save and share their best artwork without feeling horrible for tossing (or losing) their “treasures.”

    I went from getting/sending 3 FedExes a day and stacks of paper everywhere to just me and my laptop. It helps to feel like I’m helping the environment at the same time that I’m decluttering my house and mind!

  141. Sharon says

    For me its about buying less stuff, especially “tech” stuff, and spending more time face to face with my family, vs. online.

  142. says

    Like many people, we had to get by with less money this year. So, with four kids, we try to buy used items instead of new items or wait for the items to go on sale (love those 40% Borders coupons).

  143. Kerri says

    To do more with less, we try to have less. We clear out a lot of toys by selling them on Craigslist or by donating them to a charity store. We also gather up all of the small toys to give to my sons’ schools for use in classroom “treasure boxes.”

  144. HeidiY says

    Trying not to over-schedule and take a break, especially on some weekends… I like the concept to ‘let go’ and leave it up to the calendar.

  145. Carrie says

    Another “more with less” thing we do is abide by the idea of fewer things but of better quality. I’d much rather two lovely sweaters than a whole closetful of tops that don’t flatter me. Although I admit it’s tough to do with kids’ clothes — the stains!

  146. Lisa S says

    I just pulled out our Christmas decorations and I’m so glad that last year I took the time to get rid of a bunch of decorations I never used or didn’t like. Now there’s just three very manageable tubs. It’s great!

  147. Julie says

    It’s about curbing my Target habit. I was routinely dropping $150 a week on stuff we really didn’t need. I’ve cut it back to once a month, go in with a set list, and am not persuaded by a pleading 4 yr old for another toy.

  148. Chris M says

    Do more with your kids by doing less with TV! Not only are you helping them be healthier and smarter, but you’re building relationships! No one ever lays on their death bed and says “I wish I watched more TV”!

  149. hochoch says

    we have very little space in our house, so for us it’s all about making use of what little is available for play and activities. we pretty much have to move something to do any other thing!

  150. Emily says

    Doing more with less: I’m on a pantry clean-out kick. No grocery store for me until all those aging boxes of couscous and off-brand pinto beans are cooked and eaten! More pantry space and more room in the grocery budget.

  151. says

    I need to schedule everything super-tight, as there’s only about 2 hours for errands, dinner, homework, baths, and storytime between getting home and my kids’ bedtime. That means being super organzied, and making sure I have my to-do list streamlined and available at all time.

  152. SarahK says

    I’m in school full time with a 6 year old in Kindergarten. My schoolwork is pretty demanding, but I keep track of everything in an agenda. Instead of getting overwhelmed by all the insanity, I take things one week at a time.

    It helps me tremendously!

  153. Mike says

    I’m in the boat with the “less toys are more” theory. We could have just sealed up my daughter’s toy bin and donated it because she’s only been playing with the 4 toys and books that are on top anyway. She’s 28 months old and we found toys at the bottom of the bin she’s had since before she could crawl!

  154. Dennis A says

    We’re trying so hard to reduce clutter, but it seems like for everything we get rid of there’s something new to replace it. The big thing for us is to make a list before going to the store and sticking to it, that way we’re focused and not so distracted.

  155. anu says

    i recently read the book, “getting things done” – and i’m with you on the mental hygiene. i try to empty my brain of all the open loops – pending projects and ideas for projects, and then physically go through the list when i have time.

  156. TL says

    My wife and I both reduced our work schedules so that we can be home more with our daughter (I work two days and she works three days). I believe it’s a great balance where I can have adult interactions but at the same time having quality time with my daughter. We don’t make as much money as we possibly can but the pay back in worth so much more.

  157. Kirsten Olsen says

    For me it’s routine, once it’s a routine I can do it without thinking about it, that and knowing what things I can let go and put off without being bounced out of my routine and what things I absolutely need to make time to get done so as to stay in the routine and not forget things.

  158. Beth says

    More with less… Our family size has ebbed and flowed over the years with elder family members living with us and with the birth of our first and only child. While many families that we know are upgrading houses and cars, we have been able to maintain our family in the same home that we first purchased and with cars that are 5+ years old.

  159. Bethany says

    I agree with the physical decluttering first… want to see the inside of my mind? take a look at my kitchen countertop. :-)

  160. Liz Davey says

    Lately, we’ve taken a little break from all of the “extra” things. We’re home schoolers and believe me when I say these kids do NOT need any more socialization. I’m thankful for a chance to wind down a little around the holidays and appreciate a little quiet.

  161. Robert in SF says

    For me, “more with less” is about stress reduction…I don’t have to keep up with all of the different things in my life and constantly feel I am forgetting something if I can get by with less and enjoy it more!

  162. Carmen says

    Being creative with what we have is how we stay away from too much clutter. Cutting the bottom off of a bucket and hooking it to a tree makes for a great basketball hoop!

  163. says

    “More with Less,” (to me) means getting the most out of life with the least amount of wasted time, energy and resources. Like Asha said, keeping a calendar helps with the mental organization, but even things like recycling everyday items into new toys or gadgets is a great help!

  164. Heather says

    When I am desperate for some retail therapy, I go online and fill the virtual cart to my heart’s content… racking up thousands of dollars worth… and then I close the window without checking out. By the time I’m done, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t need ANY of that stuff!

  165. nancy says

    Try not to over schedule or commit to events or activities. They often involve more than just time.

  166. Mo Flynn says

    I need to corral all of the info – 3 kids, mine, my husbands… from all of the craz calendars and notes into one space! And then And then there is the rest of the family; parents, cousins, etc… would love this giveaway!!

  167. Michelle says

    For me, it all comes down to planning. If I plan my time well, I can do more in less time. If I plan meals ahead, I can do more with less waste.

  168. Christina says

    I’m still trying to declutter the horizontal surfaces, everything I touch seems to float to a surface instead of finding a “home”. Digitizing things has helped some, so I don’t have little notes everywhere.

  169. charis says

    I try to keep the stuff in our house to a minimum, thinking strategically about everything having a place, making kids stuff accessible to them (which means they can clean it up), and letting go of the things that are no longer meaningful/needed.

  170. Jearv says

    I do more with less by combining my errands into one drive and trip so I save gas. An example would be going to the store, post office and barbershop in one trip, rather than going at different times of the week. This way, I can do more with the money I have because of the less money I have to spend on gas! Hope I win!

  171. says

    I used to check my email through a browser; a few months ago I started using an email client. Now I can check all my email accounts at the same time! That’s doing more with less!

  172. Jen (yup, another one) says

    Organization frees up space, time, and resources. If everything has a place, anyone in the family can find it quickly, so we don’t need to waste time hunting for things or replacing them unnecessarily. Unfortunately, this is often more of a goal than a reality in our house but we are working in that direction.

  173. Turtle Mom says

    This phone is amazing! I’ll be able to get so much more done with less when I get a smart phone.

  174. D says

    I think we should spend more time talking and listening to our kids and less time worrying about what they’re thinking.

  175. Andrea d says

    more with less for me is about using coupons and trying to get the best deal. I always ask myself..Do I really need this?? And If so can I wait until it goes on sale. I have saved so much using coupons which has helped me to have extra money to get other things that I need

  176. mm says

    I also use an “electronic brain.” My cell phone has a calendar with alarms and you can repeat the alarm for years. So every recurring task is easily programmable with a musical reminder. I found if I just wrote it on a calendar I would forget to look at it. So this way my phone trills at me and reminds me of any task which needs remembering. ;)

  177. mom22 says

    For me the ‘economic downturn’ has helped to force me to simplify and streamline everything. Dinner is ‘what we got’, there’s always ingredients for soup it you keep a pantry stocked (breakfast can also be a great dinner) Movies are what’s free at the library. No cable=no cable bill, etc. I use a paper wall calendar, a little one so I can throw it in my bag as I go. I have ‘business hours'(for me it’s 5am -10am) i.e. the time in which I take care of all the awful chores that I hate, at the end of business I ‘close shop’. I do carry over the ‘undone’ on a paper checklist (I use a sheet a day desk calendar as my scratch pad/to-do list, it’s a big block of paper, easy to locate) I find you don’t actually ‘have to’ do most of what you have to do, and you don’t actually need most of what you ‘need’. For me the kids benefit from a lower stress level from mom and the opportunity to be creative and contribute to the family. This is just my experience. Not sure how it would work for everyone.

  178. Jason says

    For me, “more with less” is all about finding ways to enjoy not having as much stuff as our friends and family. Boxes upon boxes of toys the kids never play with is clearly not as good as a small collection of toys with massive replay value. I try to apply this to my daddy gadgets, but I have more progress to make than my kids.

  179. jaspreet says

    I want to get it for my wife, we are expecting our first child and this would be an awesome gift for her

  180. Dele O says

    Doing more with less could be decorating the christmas tree as a family. More work done in less time, and lots of family time together.

  181. Schmidty says

    More for less mean having an emergency kit in my car when I travel, and also carrying our own snacks and drinks so that we don’t have to make expensive stops.

  182. Denise says

    For me it’s my wardrobe. I keep it very simple without being sloppy. I just try to take care of what I have and make it last so that we can use the money for my teenage girls to look cute and stylish! I am not tooting my own horn, trust me I have more magazine subscriptions than most people, but in this case for me less is better!

  183. Tracy says

    I like replacing many things with one multifunctional thing that takes less space and does more for me. For example I love how iPhone apps can do this. Bye bye alarm clock, boom box, day planner, mp3 player, dvd player, and so on. I’ve got all that in my pocket.

  184. says

    I’m determined to get more sleep. Going to bed earlier makes me feel like I have less time in which to get things done, but in truth I’m more productive when I’m well-rested.

  185. Sarah T says

    Finding useful tools for organization are the best way to declutter my life. A simple basket for holding mail, or a closet shoe organizer for winter hats/mittens keeps our family a bit more sane.