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Creating a 'to do' shelf

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Ann Hermes/Staff/File

(Read caption) Stocking a shelf full of things you want to get done – books to read, games to play, or instruments to learn – will help you avoid the temptation to buy something for personal entertainment.

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Recently, I stripped all of the books off of my bookshelf in our bedroom. My wife and I each have a bookshelf in there, stuffed with books and other miscellany. Many of the books I’ve already read wound up in a box headed to goodwill, with the handful of absolute “must-keeps” and the unread ones set aside for the moment.

Once I’d done that, I spent the next few hours filling the shelf with things left undone.

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I put a couple boxes of stationery cards on there. I put several books I’ve always wanted to read on there, along with my Kindle. I put a box of my home electronics gear on there, along with my miniatures paints and brushes and a couple of books on learning acoustic guitar and the harmonica. I put a book on garden planning on there, as well as a few of my favorite solitaire board games. I put a little box of video games on there, too, and many other little things.

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The reason for making this shelf is so that whenever I’m tempted to buy something for personal entertainment, I know that I can just go look at that one place for something to do and I’m almost instantly overloaded with options.

Did I really need a physical place for this? Actually, I did.

So often, when I’d think of buying something new for my hobbies or my personal entertainment, I won’t necessarily be reminded of all of the things I already have available to me already. I might think of two or three things, but if those things aren’t immediately exciting me, it’s easy to just blow past that and buy something new.

Instead, now I have one place for a lot of my hobbies.

Even more important, the shelves are situated in a place where I see them every morning and every evening. They become a constant reminder of all of the unfinished projects that I have going on.

The more I see the shelves, the more all of those projects slowly burrow their way deep into my mind, so that when the moment comes where I’m thinking about buying something else, I have many, many more items that pop up in my thought stream telling me that I really don’t need anything else.

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A final touch: whenever I’m in one of those “what shall I do today?” moods, all I have to do is walk over to that shelf and there’s a multitude of great ideas that cost me nothing at all.

It’s pretty straightforward to set up a “hobby shelf” like this. Just find a bookshelf in your home, preferably one that your eyes visit on a regular basis, and just fill it with little pieces of each of your hobbies. You don’t have to have all of your knitting supplies there, for example – just enough so that you can get started.

I really enjoy giving my own shelf a nice long glance. It just gets me excited and raring to go for the day, because I want to get all of my tasks done so I can have some time to tackle one of these interests.

Best part? It doesn’t cost an extra penny. It’s all stuff I already own, just waiting for me to put my own time and energy into it.