Decluttering, Travel

Saying No To Freebies (And When To Say Yes)

Along with lightweight travel, I have been reading sites on no impact and clutter free living. One of the things at I have been trying to improve at is determining when to say yes or no to freebies. Like many people, I have a soft spot for those free items handed out at conferences and on flights. When you stop to think about it, however, most of these items ultimately end up in the same place, the trash. Take this flight that I was just on. The stewardesses had been going up and down the aisles, handing out free drinks in plastic cups along with straws and napkins. Bea over on Zero Waste Home talks how on many airlines, even the recyclable items often end up in the trash bin. In the end, I declined the free drink and the snack. I do have some work to do, as I am drinking water from a disposable water bottle. At least we will continue to refill it throughout this trip. For our trip to Australia, we will bring our own water bottle from home.

Of course, there are times when you have to seize the opportunity to get something good for free. For example, this morning, we were in the Milwaukee Airport, awaiting our flight to Boston. We heard on the PA system that they were looking for volunteers to give up their seats. In return, travelers were offered free roundtrip tickets. With our open travel plan today, there was no reason to say no to this offer! These tickets will come in handy in the next year as we plan additional screening dates for Autumn Gem.

Decluttering, Journal, Tech, Travel

Lightweight Travel to Maine

Rae and I are at SFO right now, awaiting our red-eye flight to Boston. We are headed to Maine for a Labor Day weekend wedding at which we will be the photographers. For the past several years, I have endeavored to lighten our luggage on all our our travels. While I didn’t think it was a problem at the time, I seriously overpacked when I was studying in France during college. I brought way too many clothes packed into two suitcases and a garment bag. In addition, I had a backpack and a laptop with me in the City of Lights.

Since then, I have flipped to the other side of the equation. I am constantly looking for better ways to pare down my luggage load. This trip is a little different in that we are bringing a lot of photophores gear to Maine. Still,we are not checking in any luggage on our flights. Some of my photo gear and laptop are stored in a LowePro CompuTrekker AW backpack. The tripod, camera bodies, some lenses, and accessories are in a Pelican 1510 hard case. Rae is carrying all of the clothing in a soft bag that’s backpack sized.

Why travel so light is a question I have been asked before. While I get to save a few dollars avoiding the airline check-in baggage fees, the main reason is that I enjoy having everything with me at all times. There’s a certain sense of freedom and liberty when you don’t have to lug and drag tons of stuff with you everywhere. Rae and I still remember all the steps we ascended and descended in the Paris metro stations; it’s not a good memory to have! From that point forward, both of us have followed a minimalist approach to travel. Furthermore, I enjoy the challenge of reducing what I bring to the bare essentials.

We are about to board the airplane, so I’ll be signing off now. We have some new gear to test on this trip, which I will describe in a future post on this site or on the Autumn Gem site. Stay tuned!

Decluttering, Journal

I'll Never Use This Again Decluttering Tip


Every year during the month of March, the City of Santa Clara holds its Annual Spring Cleanup Campaign. Residents of the city are able to put most any junk out onto the street in front of their houses for disposal. Dump Day is a great way to get rid of the stuff cluttering your house. From obsolete computers to old clothes to broken pool supplies, there’s been plenty of stuff we’ve gotten rid of over the years.

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Decluttering, Journal

Cables Begone!

A clutter free space underneath the desk

My quest for a clutter-free house has reached to lands where few dare to tread, the underneath of one’s computer desk. My current computer setup consists of a PowerMac G5 with two monitors, a UPS, two speakers, one subwoofer, and hordes of cables. You can see in the photos below how many cables I needed to hide:

  1. PowerMac power cable
  2. 30″ Apple Cinema Display cable, which includes separate DVI, USB, FireWire, and power cables
  3. 30″ Apple Cinema Display power adapter and cable
  4. 17″ Apple Studio Display cable
  5. ADC-DVI adapter for 17″ Studio Display
  6. ADC-DVI breakout cable, which includes DVI and USB cables
  7. One RCA speaker cable
  8. D-sub subwoofer cable
  9. Subwoofer power cable
  10. Speaker to computer cable
  11. UPS USB cable
  12. Ethernet cable

There are also times when I plug in an external hard drive or two, which would add additional FireWire cables and power bricks underneath the desk.

The other day, I purchased some loom wire from Fry’s. Loom wire is a corrugated plastic sheathing that has a cut along its entire length. I simply stuffed as many cables as could fit into the wire, effectively creating one giant cable that went to the computer. As for the display power bricks, I was able to place them to the left of the UPS, where they are nicely hidden. One thing that I’ll be doing in the future is to give some more slack to the display cables, since I often reposition the monitors on my desk.

With everything out of the way, cleaning those dust bunnies underneath the desk is going to be a lot easier. There are a few more places in the house where cables have gone wild. That will be a decluttering battle for another day!

Check out the photos below!

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Decluttering, Journal


A cluttered bookcase

I’m a yo-yo when it come to clutter. There are times when I’m a pack rat, obsessively keeping and filing away things in the hope that one day, it might be useful. Other times, I make a 360 and ruthlessly throw away things that I know I’ll never use again. Periodically, I read and marvel at Felix’s Simplify My Life posts. Lately, I’ve been pouring through the great tips and articles on Unclutterer. What more impetus did I need for the pendulum to swing?

For the past two days, I’ve been decluttering the home office. Since we moved into the new place, the bookcase had become a disorganized mess of empty boxes, CD cases, loose paper, and knickknacks. My document bins were filled with opened envelopes, ads, and other things I’ll never read. It’s amazing how much crap can just accumulate in such a short amount of time; before you know it, your bookcase and filing cabinets have turned into clutter monsters!

Yesterday, I started with the bookcase. Obsolete software like Final Cut 3, iWork ’05, and Baldur’s Gate went into a “Computer” box. The original packaging for some of my camera gear went into a “Photography” box. I reserved yet another box to hold all of my Newton paraphernalia except for my 10-year old Newton MessagePad 2100. Though it’s sad to see all of my Newton gear packed up, you have to say — or at least start saying — goodbye one of these days.

A decluttered bookcase

I spent a long time organizing my software collection, placing CD/DVDs into either a Case Logic binder or spool case. I then removed the labels and packaging from the CD cases, which will be reused in the future. Next, I organized my books in descending height order; there are a few books, however, that are no longer relevant and will soon be destined for the garage or public library –nothing makes a technical book more obsolete more quickly than purchasing it!

The bookcase was also home to dozens of DV tapes, covering events such as one of Vienna Teng’s early East Coast Tours, my wedding, parties at the house, and various film projects. Those tapes are now organized logically in a perfectly fitting box.

But wait, there’s still more! Envelopes, printer paper, and mailing supplies were collected at the top and bottom of the bookcase. I threw out tons of my old business cards from my previous companies, keeping about thirty of each for nostalgia’s sake. I do need to make new business cards for myself and Rae, but that’s a topic for another day. The shelves underneath my printers, which held my frequently used computer and camera gear — batteries, chargers, and hard drives. — was in sore need of reorganizing as well.

Finally, after dealing with the bookcase, I turned my attention to the cable swamp underneath my desk. I used a four-foot long plastic corrugated wire loom (that I got from Eric when I bought his plasma tv) to stuff as many cables as would fit. I still need to get a few more wire looms to finish the job, but the space looks much more orderly now.

The next day, I focused my efforts on my document bins. Into the recycling pile went envelopes from banks and utilities. Envelopes from the days when people sent in money through the mail for my software also went in the pile. One of these days, I’ll borrow or purchase a document scanner like the Fujitsu ScanSnap to handle bulk scanning. The flatbed scanner we have current takes too long to be efficient. After several hours, I cut the space used by my documents in half.

Let’s hope in the future, I’ll be able to better manage the clutter. For now, having an uncluttered office makes me feel better and more productive. For me, out of sight and organized means out of mind.

Related links

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