Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Night Classic Music Video

3 weeks ago I was looking for more videos to feature when I found this one...

Fort Wayne Site of the Day

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Friday, April 29, 2011

History Lesson in Manliness

From The A.O.M. blog:

Lessons in Manliness from Bass Reeves

Who was the greatest Deputy U.S. Marshal of the Old West?

Wyatt Earp?
Wild Bill Hickok?

How about Bass Reeves? Bass who?

Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves was arguably the greatest lawman and gunfighter of the West, a man who served as a marshal for 32 years in the most dangerous district in the country, captured 3,000 felons, (once bringing in 17 men at one time), and shot 14 men in the line of duty, all without ever being shot himself.

He was also a black dude.

To understand the story of Bass Reeves, you first need to understand a bit of the fascinating history of Oklahoma. Let’s start there.

Before Oklahoma was a state, it was a territory. When the “Five Civilized Tribes” (Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Seminoles, and Chickasaws) were forcibly removed from their ancestral homes in the Southeast, they were relocated to the middle of the country, to an area called the Indian Territory.

Because the Five Tribes sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, the federal government forced them to renegotiate their treaties and cede the Western half of Indian Territory for the settlement of other tribes. This was called the Oklahoma Territory, and it was opened in 1890 to white settlers. The two territories were referred to as the "Twin Territories."

The Indian Territory boasted an unusual mix of peoples and cultures. It was the home of Indians, Indian Freedmen (the black slaves of the Indians who were emancipated after the Civil War and made citizens of the Five Tribes), white settlers and African-Americans who had formerly been slaves to white masters in the South who rented land from the Indians as sharecroppers, and finally, outlaws fleeing the law and squatting on the land.

The Indian Lightforce police and the tribal courts governed this diverse population. But the tribal courts only had jurisdiction over citizens of the Five Tribes. So if a crime was a committed by an Indian and/or it involved a fellow Indian, it was handled by these tribal courts.

Non-Freedmen blacks, whites, and Indians who committed a crime against a person who was not a citizen of the Indian nations had to be tried in the U.S. federal courts in Paris, Texas and Fort Smith, Arkansas. And so the only U.S. law enforcement officers or judicial figures in Indian Territory were the U.S. Marshals, who rode for miles over the prairies, for months at a time, looking for wanted criminals to arrest and bring back to Fort Smith or Paris.

This made the Indian Territory a highly desirable place for horse thieves, bootleggers, murderers and outlaws of all varieties to hide out and lay low. At the time, it was estimated that of the 22,000 whites living in Indian Territory, 17,000 of them were criminals. This was truly the Wild West, or as the saying of the time went, “No Sunday West of St. Louis. No God West of Forth Smith.”

“Eighty miles west of Forth Smith was known as “the dead line,” and whenever a deputy marshal from Fort Smith or Paris, Texas, crossed the Missouri, Kansas & Texas track he took his own life in his hands and he knew it. On nearly every trail would be found posted by outlaws a small card warning certain deputies that if they ever crossed the dead line they would be killed. Reeves has a dozen of these cards which were posted for his special benefit. And in those days such a notice was no idle boast, and many an outlaw has bitten the dust trying to ambush a deputy on these trails.” -Oklahoma City newspaper article, 1907

Indian Territory was the most dangerous place for a U.S. Marshal to work then or ever. In the period before Oklahoma statehood, over one hundred marshals were killed in the line of duty. It helps to put that number in perspective: Since the US Marshals Service was created in 1789, more than 200 marshals have been killed in the line of duty. 120 of those were killed in the Indian and Oklahoma territories before statehood in 1907. That’s right, half of all the U.S. marshals ever killed were killed in the Twin Territories.

A man really had to have true grit to be a marshal at this time and in this place.

Bass Reeves had that grit in spades.

Reeves was likely the first African-American commissioned as a deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River and was brought into the service by Judge Isaac C. Parker, aka the “The Hanging Judge.” Parker presided over the largest federal court district in U.S. history (74,000 square miles) and sentenced 88 men to be hanged during the course of his career. For more than half of his years on the bench, no appeals of his decisions were allowed. Reeves and Parker enjoyed a professional and personal relationship of great mutual respect.

It was a respect Reeves worked hard to earn.

Reeves stood 6’2 in a time when men were much shorter, and he had very broad shoulders and large hands. He was a giant among men. Such a large man needed a uncommonly large horse (“When you get as big as me, a small horse is as worthless as a preacher in a whiskey joint fight. Just when you need him bad to help you out, he’s got to stop and think about it a little bit.”). He rode the territories with two six-shooters, his trusty Winchester rifle, and a big black hat upon his head. Needless to say, Reeves cut an extremely imposing figure.

But it was his reputation more than his appearance that really struck fear in the hearts of the “bad men” of the territories. Contemporaries described Reeves as a “lawman second to none,” a man who was “absolutely fearless,” and a “terror to outlaws and desperadoes.” He was said to be the “most feared U.S marshal that was ever heard of in that country,” and his nickname was the “Invincible Marshal;” the undisputed king of narrow escapes, “at different times his belt was shot in two, a button shot off his coat, his hat brim shot off, and the bridle reins which he held in his hands cut by a bullet.”

Reeves was also know for his honesty, dogged persistence, and unswerving devotion to duty and the law. He always got his man; having arrested 3,000 criminals, he only once failed to nab the man he was after. He never shot a man when it wasn’t necessary and they hadn’t aimed to kill him first. And he never changed his policies or treatment of folks on the basis of race, ethnicity, or even familial ties; all were equal under the law. Not only did Reeves arrest the minister who baptized him, he also arrested his own son after the young man murdered his wife in a fit of jealously. None of the other marshals wanted the latter assignment, but Reeves simply strode into the Chief Deputy Marshal’s office and said, “Give me the writ.” Two weeks later, he brought in his son to be booked.

Oh, and he had an awesome mustache.

Reeves’ deeds and exploits are the stuff of Hollywood films, but they’re absolutely true and offer us several lessons in manliness.

Lessons in Manliness from Bass Reeves

It’s Never Too Late for a Man to Have a Second Act

Bass Reeves was born a slave in Arkansas in 1838. When the Civil War broke out, his white master joined the Confederate Army and took Reeves along to serve as his body servant. Reeves bided his time, until one night he saw an opening, laid out his master with his mighty fists, and took off for the hills a free man. He was taken in by the Keetoowah, an abolitionist sect of the Cherokee Nation.

When the war was over, he struck out on his own and settled with his family in Van Buren, Arkansas, making a good living as a farmer and horse breeder. He was the first black man to settle in Van Buren, and he built his family an eight room house with his own hands.

He started making some extra money by helping the U.S. Marshals with scouting and tracking and soon earned a reputation for himself as a man who knew what he was doing and could be relied upon.

He was commissioned as a Deputy U.S. Marshal in his own right in 1875, when he was 38 years old. During this time marshals were paid for the number of criminals brought in and the distance traveled in capturing them and bringing them back to court. With so many miles to cover in Indian Territory, and with his legendary effectiveness for tracking down wrong-doers, Reeves made a great living at his job. And so it was only as he was nearing 40 that he found his true calling.

Compensate for Weaknesses by Cultivating Signature Strengths

“My mom always said she heard that Bass was so tough he could spit on a brick and bust it in two!” -Willabelle Shultz, granddaughter of fellow marshal

Because he grew up a slave, Bass Reeves did not know how to read or write. Being an illiterate U.S. Marshal was highly unusual—the men needed to fill out forms and reports–but Bass got and kept his job by compensating for this weakness with other valuable strengths.

First, he could speak the Muskogee language of the Creeks and Seminoles, and he could also converse pretty well in the languages of the other Five Civilized Tribes. He took the time to get to know the tribes and their customs, and they respected him for it. His friendly and sterling reputation among Indians, blacks, and whites alike led folks to trust him and give him assistance and tips they didn’t feel comfortable sharing with other marshals.

Reeves knew Indian Territory like the back of his hand, and his scouting and tracking skills were second to none.

But his most notable strength was his prowess with firearms. He carried two big .45 caliber six-shooters and wore them with their handles facing forward. He employed the cross-handed draw, as he believed it was the fastest way for a man to grab his guns. And indeed, he was known as a man who could draw with lightning fast speed; numerous men tried to beat him, and 14 of them died in the attempt.

But unlike what you see in movies, cowboys in the West did not rely on their pistols; those were their back-up firearms. A cowboy’s weapon of choice was his trusty Winchester rifle, and that was the gun Reeves used most. But he was a proficient marksman with both weapons. Ambidextrous and always cool under pressure, Reeves could fire an accurate shot with pistol or rifle, with his left hand or his right. It was said he could draw “a bead as fine as a spider’s web on a frosty morning” and “shoot the left hind leg off of a contended fly sitting on a mule’s ear at a hundred yards and never ruffle a hair.”

Turkey shoot competitions were popular at territorial fairs and picnics, but Reeves was banned from entering them because he was too darn good. Once, when he saw 6 wolves tearing at a steer, he took them all out with just 8 shots from the back of a galloping horse.

The Mind Is Just as Powerful a Weapon as the Gun

“If Reeves were fictional, he would be a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and the Lone Ranger.” -Historian Art Burton

Despite Bass’ legendary strength and prowess with firearms, he didn’t simply go after criminals with guns and fists blazing. Rather, he took a far slower, methodical, and ultimately more effective approach. He was an intuitive and quick-thinking detective who often got his man from being smart and crafty.

Reeves was a master of disguise, a tactic he used to sneak up on unsuspecting outlaws. They would undoubtedly see a giant black man on a giant horse coming for them, so when Bass was closing in on a man, he would switch to a smaller ride, and he learned tricks from the Indians on how to look smaller in the saddle.

And often he would ditch the horse all together. For example, one time he dressed like a farmer and lumbered along in a ramshackle wagon pulled by old oxen. He drove the wagon close to a cabin where six outlaws where holed up, and as he passed their hide out, he pretended to get the wagon snagged on a large tree stump. When the outlaws came out to help this humble farmer, he coolly reached into his overalls, drew out his six-shooters, and placed the men under arrest.

On another occasion, Reeves was after two outlaws who were hiding out at their mother’s house. Reeves camped 28 miles away to be sure they didn’t see him coming or hear he was in the area. Then he ditched his marshal duds and stashed his handcuffs and six-shooters under a set of dirty, baggy clothes, flat shoes, and a large floppy hat into which he shot three bullet holes. Dressed like a typical tramp, Reeves sauntered up to the felons’ hideout and asked for something to eat, showing them his bullet-ridden hat and explaining how he had been shot at by marshals and was famished from having walked for miles to flee the law. Having ingratiated himself as a fellow outlaw, the men ate together and decided to join forces on a future heist. After everyone had fallen asleep for the night, Reeves crept up to the two outlaws and handcuffed them in their sleep, careful not to wake them. In the morning, Reeves bounded into the room and woke them up with his booming voice, “Come on, boys, let’s get going from here!” As the men tried to get out bed, they quickly realized they’d been had by crafty old Bass Reeves.

Be Reliable–The Details Matter

Even though he was a tough-as-nails badass, locals also remembered Reeves as a man known for his “politeness and courteous manner” and as someone who was “kind,” “sympathetic,” and “always neatly dressed.” He was also a man who took pride in getting the details right.

Reeves was unable to read or write and yet part of his job was to write up reports on his arrests and serve subpoenas to witnesses. So when he had to write a report, he would dictate to someone else and sign with an “X.” When he would get a stack of subpoenas to serve to different people, he would memorize the names like symbols and have people read the subpoenas out loud to him until he memorized what symbol went with what subpoena.

He took great pride in the fact that he never once served the wrong subpoena to the wrong person. In fact, many of the courts specially requested that their subpoenas be served by Reeves because he was so reliable.

Keep Cool. Always.

“Reeves was never known to show the slightest excitement under any circumstance. He does not know what fear is. Place a warrant for arrest in his hands and no circumstance can cause him to deviate. ” -Oklahoma City Weekly Times-Journal, 1907

Bass Reeves had an uncanny ability to stay calm and cool, even when he was in a really tight spot.

He found himself in that kind of tight spot while looking to arrest a murderer, Jim Webb, who was hanging out with posseman Floyd Smith at a ranch house. Reeves and his partner moseyed up, tried to pull the old, “we’re just regular cowboys passing through” trick, and sat down to get some breakfast. But the two men weren’t buying it and sat glaring at the marshals, pistols at the ready in their hands. An hour went by and Reeves and his partner still didn’t have an opening to make a move on the outlaws. But when Webb was momentarily distracted by a noise outside, Reeves jumped up, wrapped his large hand around Webb’s throat, and shoved his Colt .45 in the surprised man’s face. Webb meekly surrendered. Reeves’ partner was supposed to jump in and grab Smith, but he froze. Smith fired two shots at Reeves; he dodged them both, and with his hand still around Webb’s neck, he turned and took Smith out with one shot. Then he ordered his partner to handcuff Webb and called it a day.

Reeves was the target of numerous assassination attempts but he often saved his own neck by staying completely calm and in control. One time, he met two men out riding who knew who he was and wanted him dead. They drew their guns and forced him off his horse. One of the men asked if Reeves had any last words, and Bass answered that he would really appreciate it if one of them could read him a letter from his wife before finishing him off. He reached into his saddlebag for the letter and handed it over. As soon as the would-be-assassin reached for the letter, Bass put one of his hands around the man’s throat, used his other hand to draw his gun, and said, “Son of a bitch, now you’re under arrest!” The outlaw’s partner was so surprised he dropped his gun, and Reeves put both men in chains.

Another time, Reeves faced a similar situation; this time three wanted outlaws forced him from his horse and were about to do him in. He showed them the warrants he had for their arrest and asked them for the date, so he could jot it down for his records when he turned the men into jail. The leader of the group laughed and said,“You are ready to turn in now.” But having dropped his guard for just a second, Reeves drew his six-shooter as fast as lightning and grabbed the barrel of the man’s gun. The outlaw fired three times, but Reeves again dodged the bullets. At the same time, and with his hand still around the barrel of the first man’s gun, he shot the second man, and then hit the third man over the head with his six-shooter, killing him. All in a day’s work for Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves.

Build a Bridge

When Reeves was appointed a marshal by Judge Parker, the judge reminded him that “he would be in a position to serve as a deputy to show the lawful as well as the lawless that a black man was the equal of any other law enforcement officer on the frontier.”

Bass took this responsibility seriously.

Black law enforcement officers were a rarity in other parts of the country, but more common in Indian Territory and surrounding states like Texas. In fact, despite Hollywood’s depiction of the Old West as lily white, 25% of cowboys in Texas were African-American.

Because of the reputation Bass earned as a marshal who was honest, effective, and doggedly persistent–the Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal of the Western District, Bud Ledbetter, called Bass, “one of the bravest men this country has ever known”–more black marshals were hired in Indian Territory; a couple dozen were part of the service during Bass’ tenure. Nowhere else in the country could a black man arrest a white man. Bass had paved the way, and done one of the manliest things a man can do—build a bridge and a legacy for others to follow.

Sadly, when Oklahoma became a state in 1907, it instituted Jim Crow laws that forced black marshals out of the service. Despite his legendary record as a deputy marshal, Reeves had to take a job as a municipal policeman in the town of Muskogee the year before he died. But his shining example of manhood cannot so easily be passed over and still speaks to us today.

Source: Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves by Art Burton

Fort Wayne Site of the Day

Close enough to Fort Wayne. Click on Pic.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Take The Time

Everyone of us have about 16 hours a day to accomplish something.

Maybe more if you sleep less than 8 hours every night, but let's just work with the 16 daily hours x 7 days a week and you've got 112 hours to fill each week.

Take away 50 hours of work time.

And a few hours each day getting up and a few hours eating each day, and there will still be 20 to 40 hours left.

Take the Time for You.

And I don't mean to be selfish about it. Sure, take the time to enjoy some quiet solitude, but part of taking time for you is to share with others.

That could be your kids, your spouse, your other family members or friends.

Now that all of my kids are on their own, my time is spent volunteering and making new relationships.

Monday evening I was one of the judges for the Fort Wayne Advertising Federation Scholarship Awards for 2011.

Tuesday morning I took part in a Fort Wayne Social Media Breakfast.

Tuesday evening I was part of a meeting with the Fort Wayne Three Rivers Festival that is launching a new event during this summers event.

Wednesday evening I took a trip to nearby Columbia City. I was one of the volunteers selected to serve on the Citizens Advisory Panel for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

I had to miss a meeting with the Anthony Wayne Area Council of B.S.A. marketing team due to other commitments.

And right now I'm in Indianapolis to see my niece perform in a school musical.

This is what I mean by Take The Time.

Life has too many opportunities to ever be bored.

Go live it!

Fort Wayne Site of the Day

Close to Fort Wayne. Click on Pic.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

10 Tips to Move Forward

Recently a good friend of mine was trying to figure out how to give away $1000 and they were mulling over the possible complications and conversations and was stuck on how to do this without a lot of drama, etc.

Too often we complicate what can be kept very simple.

The DLM Blog has a list of ten for achieving that goal:

How to Simplify a Complicated Decision

Posted: 23 Apr 2011 07:47 AM PDT

You make decisions every day, all day long. With all of that practice, why is it so easy to get hung up on the biggies?
  • Snooze button or wake right up?
  • Shower or bath?
  • Coffee or tea?
  • Button down shirt, or pull-over?
  • Cereal or fruit?
That's a lot to think about all before breakfast. Those are not examples of complicated decisions. In fact, we can usually make those choices without a list of pros and cons, or giving them too much thought.

What happens when you need to make a big decision? The trick is to apply some of your gut instincts that you use in your daily, simple decision making to the big choices too. You know what's best for you and your family, and once you start to trust that, you will make better decisions faster.

10 Steps to Simplify a Complicated Decision
  1. Be debt free
    Money will play into most of the choices you make. If you don't have debt, you can put less emphasis on the financial element of your decision.

  2. Don't ask everyone about what you should do.
    If you ask 5 people to give you their opinion, you will get 5 different answers. That input will lead to second guessing and confusion. Consult the people who will be directly affected by your decision and let everyone else know what you've decided, with confidence.

  3. High/Low
    What is the best thing and worst thing about each choice? Is the best thing worth putting up with the worst things?

  4. Call it
    You may take time to actually make your decision, but when presented with the choice, your gut/heart/intuition or whatever it is that speaks to you, will give you an immediate answer. Write it down. That written answer could be the tie breaker.

  5. Be grateful for the opportunity
    If you see your options as a burden instead of an opportunity, you may not choose wisely. Once you realize how fortunate you are to have the choice put in front of you, you can act accordingly.

  6. Consider the escape clause.
    What happens if you back out? Recognizing that something is reversible, makes it easier to take the leap.

  7. Take the pressure off.
    Chances are, this one choice you make is not going to save or ruin the world. Let go of the drama and consider the facts. Trust yourself. If you can't make a choice, go back to #4.

  8. Consider option C.
    Often we put ourselves in a position of choosing A or B. Don't be afraid to create C. Things are not always either/or.

  9. Rinse and repeat.
    Remember how you made your last great decision and do that again.

  10. Believe it.
    Once you make your choice, believe in it. Know that you made the right decision for that moment and move forward. Let go of the what ifs and make the best of your new opportunity.
When considering a big decision, take your time and apply a few of the steps above. If you can keep it simple, you will have more clarity on the best way to move forward. Good luck simplifying your next complicated decision.

Written on 3/17/2009 by Courtney Carver. Courtney is a writer and fine art photographer. She wrote a book called Simple Ways to Be More with Less, and blogs three times a week. You can also find her on Twitter.Photo Credit: Andrew.Beebe

Fort Wayne Site of the Day

Be sure to click on the radio link when you get to the home page and listen Thursdays at 10.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tech Tip Tuesday

Most of the work I do is with words and not images. But as that saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words...

Kim Komando recently wrote an email with lots of FREE image related programs that you can download.

The first one, I use every week:

Freebies for photo buffs

Photography is one of my favorite hobbies. Just put a camera in my hand and watch me go! Of course, I also like to help others improve their photos. That's why I wrote a guide about digital photography.

Snapping the shutter is only part of the process. You still need to edit, convert and organize your photos. Fortunately, I have some great free software that will help you do all that and more.

IrFanView - Do you need to resize your images before emailing them or posting them to the Web? Need to convert one file format to another? If so, you'll dig this free, easy-to-use program.

This is a terrific file viewer that lets you open and convert just about any type of image file. You can also grab some free plug-ins that expand its capabilities. For example, they'll help you uncover your photos' EXIF data. This is hidden data that reveals the camera you used, settings and more.

Image Composite Editor - Some subjects are just too big for a single photograph. We've all run into this problem. You want to capture something cool. However, it just won't fit into a single frame.

Microsoft Research has come up with a solution. You take as many pictures of a single subject as you want. The Image Composite Editor will stitch all the photos together at full resolution. You'll have a spectacular panorama in no time.

GIMP - Photoshop is the best- known image editor. It has loads of features, and it can completely transform a photo. But it will also dent your wallet. I'm talking hundreds of dollars.

Don't reach for that credit card just yet. Try GIMP. It's a free image-editing program. And it has an impressive set of tools. It can handle nearly any editing task.

RawTherapee - Digital SLR owners should have the option of shooting in RAW format. RAW format gives you more control when editing your photos. You can adjust white balance and exposure. You can also eke out more detail.

However, you need special software to process RAW files. Thankfully, RawTherapee is a free, full-featured RAW editor. It has the same features you'll find in pricey programs. It is a must for anyone serious about photography!

DNG Converter - RAW files are a boon to enthusiasts and professional photographers alike. Unfortunately, most camera manufacturers use proprietary RAW formats. And RAW formats even vary from model to model. Not all of these are supported by RAW editing programs.

Adobe does have a more standardized format called DNG, or digital negative. Adobe also provides the DNG Converter program. It can convert most RAW files into the DNG format. Most, if not all, RAW image editors support the DNG format. If your RAW files aren't supported by your software, this converter can be a real lifesaver!

Picasa - Keeping your photos organized is important. Picasa is organization software that helps you instantly find, edit and share all the pictures on your PC. Every time you open this program, it automatically locates all your pictures and sorts them into visual albums sorted by date.

You can drag and drop to arrange your albums and make labels to create new groups. The program also has basic photo editing features. You can even use it to upload photos to the Web.

JPEGsnoop - Digital pictures carry tons of extra information. I'm referring to EXIF data. Inside the EXIF data you can find when, where and how the picture was taken. You may even find the original image before it was cropped.

JPEGsnoop is a program that's designed to reveal EXIF data in JPEGs. It lets you see pretty much everything about the photo. Before you share a digital photo, run it through JPEGsnoop. That way, you can be sure you're not sharing too much.

Luminance HDR - Digital photos tend to lack the dynamic range of film. With limited dynamic range, photos can appear flat and non-detailed. That is why some professionals have yet to switch to digital photography.

This is where Luminance HDR can help. It is an open source program designed for creating HDR, or high-dynamic range, images. You can create HDR files from a set of images of the same scene. Simply use shots taken at different exposures. Merge the photos to create an image with more depth and detail.

TiltShift Generator - There are some great effects that can transform your pictures. Tilt-shift effects are some of the coolest. They can make objects seem less lifelike. A real cityscape can look like miniature model.

TiltShift Generator takes all the complication out of the process. The only thing this program does is the tilt-shift effect. Just upload your photos and play with the settings. Experiment with it until you get the results you want.

Cost: Free
Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7

Click Here to Download Now >>

Fort Wayne Site of the Day

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Video Time: Not So Fast

36 mph is all it takes.

Sort of.

Fort Wayne Site of the Day

On these Media Monday Fort Wayne sites of the day, I'm going in numerical order, which brings us to a station that I work for in the advertising world.

This is one of 4, and be sure to contact me at for more info.

In the meantime, Click on Pic.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

10 Weeks to a Clutter Free Life

That is if you implement one per week.

From the DLM Blog:

10 Ways to Remove Clutter from Your Life

Posted: 05 Apr 2011 07:42 AM PDT

Our lives tend to accumulate clutter in every corner: on our desks, in our drawers, on our shelves at home, in our closets, on our computer -- you name it, and clutter finds a way to fill every available space.

But having a simple, uncluttered life is possible, with some very simple methods.

Devote a little of your time to tossing clutter from your life, and keeping things relatively clutter-free, and you'll be rewarded with much more pleasing living spaces, with a less stressful life, and with better organization and productivity. Clutter weighs us down, distracts us, brings chaos into our lives.

Let's look at some ways to kick it out ... for good.
  1. Your desk
    If your desk is covered in paper and other clutter, clear it off to create a pleasing work environment. The steps here are the basic decluttering steps we'll follow for many of the other steps below:
    • Clear everything off: Take everything off your desk and put it in a pile on the floor. Clear out the drawers too, if you have time. The only things that should be on your desk now are the computer, phone and other similar equipment.

    • Clean: Wipe down your desk, and clean your drawers if you're decluttering them too. It's good to start with clean surfaces.

    • Sort: OK, here's the meat of the process: sort through your stuff, one pile at a time. Toss out or route as much as possible, so that what you're left with is a relatively small amount of stuff. If you won't be using it again in the near future, or if you can access it on the computer, toss it out.

    • Designate homes: Now you get to place everything back in your desk. Set up a simple alphabetical filing system, with one folder for each project or client. Have drawers for your office supplies and other stuff. With less stuff to organize, it shouldn't be too hard. Be sure to have a place designated for everything, and keep things in those places. Sometimes it helps to label, so you don't forget.

    • Leave flat surfaces clear: Don't put stuff on top of your desk. Have an inbox for all incoming papers, and then sort them each day and either toss, delegate, do them immediately, or file all documents, so nothing remains on top of your desk. The only thing that should be on your desk is your computer, phone, inbox, perhaps a family photo, and the documents you're working on right now.

  2. Files
    If you decluttered your files in the above step, you can skip this, although you should declutter not only your work files but your home files as well. Keep a simple alphabetical system, and try to fit everything in one drawer. It's good to take out all your files, and purge what you don't need. Many times that can be half of your files or more. Get rid of as much as possible -- most times, we keep copies of stuff we'll never need again. When you're done purging, you should have a minimum of files, and it shouldn't be hard to keep organized.

  3. Information
    In today's digital world, there are tons of ways that information comes into our lives -- and it can be overwhelming. It's information clutter -- we get too much of it. Instead, set certain times of the day when you check email, your RSS feeds, Facebook, or various forums or other things you read daily. Reduce the number of things you read each day -- purge anything that doesn't give you value, reduce your consumption of news and television, get rid of magazine subscriptions. Keep information to a bare minimum, and only check it at certain times of the day instead of letting it rule your life.

  4. Computer
    Purge your computer files, getting rid of stuff you don't need. Clear your desktop of icons -- they slow your computer down, create visual clutter, and are an inefficient way to access files, programs or folders. Set up hotkeys with AutoHotKey or similar programs. With online search tools (such as that in Gmail) and programs such as Google Desktop, you don't need to keep your files in a complex array of directories and subdirectories -- just archive, and search later. Purge old, unneeded files at least every month or two.

  5. Closets
    Use the same method for your closets as you did with your desk: clear everything out, clean it out, sort (and toss or donate as much as possible), and designate homes for what you decided to keep. Keep only what you love and use often. I recommend keeping your closet floor clear -- it makes everything look nicer. If tackling the entire closet is too intimidating, it can be helpful to just tackle one area of your closet a day, until it's done. It's also useful to go through your wardrobe, and donate everything you haven't worn in 6 months -- it greatly simplifies your closet.

  6. Rooms
    Are the rooms in your house too cluttered? A few rules about simplifying a room: first, start with anything that's stacked on the floors; then work to the flat surfaces (tables, shelves, countertops, the tops of dressers, etc.) and clear them completely if possible; then do the larger stuff like furniture and other things that clutter the room; and finally tackle drawers and cabinets and closets. As much as possible, keep floors clear and all flat surfaces. Sort through everything in piles as in the first step above, tossing and donating as much as possible. Organize everything else in drawers and closets and cabinets, out of sight but still neat and uncluttered. Tackle one room at a time, going for a clean, uncluttered, simple, minimalist look in all cases. It can be helpful to continually edit a room once you're done decluttering -- you can always find little ways to make a room simpler.

  7. Drawers
    The way to declutter a drawer is the same as outlined above: empty everything out, clean the drawer, sort through the pile of stuff from the drawer (purging as much as possible) and organizing the few things left. Keep like things together -- a drawer for office supplies should only be for office supplies. Avoid having a junk drawer -- everything should have a designated place. Go through one drawer at a time -- don't jump from one drawer to another.

  8. Commitments
    Aside from physical clutter, our lives are often way too cluttered by the things we need to do -- at work, at home, in our civic or religious lives, with our hobbies, with friends and family, etc. Go through each area of your life, and write down every commitment you have -- from things you've volunteered or agreed to do on a regular basis, to meetings and sports games and other things you do every month or week. It can be overwhelming.

    Now examine each one, and decide if it truly gives you joy and value in your life, and whether it's worth the time you commit to it. It can be useful to just choose a few of the commitments that your really love doing. Get rid of all the rest. Just call people and tell them your schedule is too busy, and you have to decline. Learn to say no! One by one, eliminate the commitments in your life that don't give you value, and you'll have more time to do the stuff that's really important to you -- stuff for yourself, or your loved ones.

  9. Routines
    It is extremely useful to examine your daily and weekly routines. Often, we don't have any set routines, and we tackle our chores, regular tasks, and obligations haphazardly. This leads to chaotic days and weeks, and often a drop in productivity. It's better to batch like tasks together -- do all your errands at once, for example, or all your laundry at once instead of throughout the week. Write down all of your weekly and daily obligations, chores, tasks, etc. and plan out a weekly and daily routine. Post it up where you can see it and try to follow it, at least for a week. It could bring some calmness and simplicity to your life that hadn't been there before. Be sure to schedule time for decluttering in your weekly routine!

  10. Systems
    Once you've purged clutter from your life, it will inevitably start to creep back in. To keep from having a cluttered life again, you need to set up systems that will keep the clutter to a minimum. Examine how you do things, how things come into your life, and see if you can create a simple system for everything: chores, laundry, paperwork, email, RSS feeds, yardwork, errands, work projects, filing. And then write down your systems, step by step, and try to follow them. If your systems are set up right, you will continually purge clutter you don't need. For example, a system for paperwork might look like this:
    • All incoming papers go in inbox.

    • At the end of each day, inbox is processed.

    • Rules for processing: toss, route, file, do, or write on to-do list to do later and put it in "action file".

    • Process to empty, leaving no papers in inbox or on desk. Clear desk of any working papers.

Written for on 07/07/2007 by Leo Babauta and republished on 4/5/11. Leo offers advice on living life productively simple at his famous Zen Habits blog.Photo Credit: dickuhne

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