Category Archives: children

Take Its Picture and Let It Go!

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We all know we hang onto more things than we really use, like, and need. According to a Nielsen survey, we have an average of at least 50 unused items in our homes, including clothing, electronic devices and toys.

But letting go of items with sentimental value can be the hardest! Guilt, memories, all kinds of emotional attachments often get in the way of clearing out the excess. Experience and research shows that one of the most effective ways of helping folks feel more willing to let go is taking a photo of an item.

One of the reason we keep things is that they trigger good memories.  What we really are afraid of losing by letting go of a precious item is the memories or feelings it generates. A photograph can be just as an effective trigger of that good memory as the object. It’s may not be as rich an experience as holding an object but often can be good enough.

A study done with college students moving out showed that when they took pictures of items, they were 35% more likely to let go them for donation than if they didn’t. That’s a big shift!

Here are examples of items to consider photographing instead of keeping:

  • 3D art and school projects from your kids – think dioramas, science fair projects, ceramic objects
  • Sport trophies
  • Thank-you plaques and certificates of achievement or participation
  • Baby clothes and objects
  • Family china or furniture

Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work so well for things we hang onto for reasons other than sentimentality. Keeping things out of a sense of frugality or necessity is a different issue altogether!

So, take a picture of that object that is taking up precious space and let it go!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Storage, Strategies

Lessons Learned from an Organizing Guru

joy of being clutter free

An expert in organizational design, Peter Walsh is a television & radio personality as well as the author of numerous New York Times best-sellers.

Peter has brought organizing into the public eye from his beginnings in the popular organization and design series Clean Sweep (Discovery’s TLC Network), on to his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show where he was dubbed the “Get Your Life Organized Guy” and now leading his own series, Extreme Clutter. He’s also appeared and continues to appear on hundreds of national TV programs and in thousands of publications across the world.

Recently Katherine had the pleasure of attending a talk by Peter and came away with lots of gems we’d like to share:

Clutter is anything that gets between you and your best life (the life you want to live). This means clutter is different for everyone. You must decide what is getting in the way.

Stuff has power.  We have brought it into our homes. Our society says that Stuff should give us something.  We are invested in the promises sold to us with Stuff. We believe owning the item will fulfill the promise. Fear of letting things go is related to fear of letting go of this promise – which was false to begin with!

Our instincts know that too much stuff sucks the life out of a space and robs us emotionally, spiritually, socially and even financially. Often, we feel the burden of the clutter, but don’t connect it to the accumulation of too much stuff.

If you’re feeling that weight and instinct it’s time to reflect: “Does the stuff I own create a path to the life we want?” If you don’t create the home you want, no one else will.

Start With Your Vision. When you first moved in, what was your dream?  What did you want from this home? What is the feeling you want to have when you open the front door?When deciding whether to keep something ask yourself, “Does this move me closer or farther away from the vision I have for my home?”

Stop using the word “later” – later is the best friend of clutter

Use this rule of thumb: Don’t put it down, put it away

Kids need limits and routines…we all need limits and routines

When dealing with memory clutter: pick only the treasures, the peak of the peak…treat them with the honor and respect they deserve…the rest of the “memory clutter” will fade away, they will not be needed if you have preserved a few choice items.

The role of a professional organizer is to be your advocate in helping realize the vision you have for your own life and space.

Being organized can change your life at a fundamental level. Peter reported that every time he decluttered a space where children were living, when they come back into the space, they danced!

 

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Filed under children, Decluttering, downsizing, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Tackle Messy Build-Up With Your Kids This Summer

organizing crafts

Everyone with kids knows that they typically come with lots of STUFF. And somehow it keeps coming in…if you have more than one kid the challenge is even greater.

This buildup is natural. More than any other time of life, the very nature of childhood is about growth and change. Your child’s abilities, interests, and sizes are constantly evolving  – and all the toys, clothes, learning materials change along with them. And young ones are magnets for toys and gifts from relatives.

This means if you aren’t keeping a constant vigil on moving out outgrown items (and how many of us are, really?) you’ve likely got some backlog of unused and unneeded kid stuff.

If your kids have a little more time at home during the summer, take advantage of that to do some weeding.

Break It Down

You’ll have a better chance at success if you focus their attention onto one category of stuff at a time. A general request to “clean out the playroom” isn’t going to get them very far. But a specific request to gather up all the DVDs and choose the ones they love to watch is much easier to get follow through on.

If you divide up the project into categories you’re teaching an important skill about grouping “like items” together.

Put out a big bag or box and have the kids weed some or all of these groups:

  • Board games
  • Clothes that don’t fit (can even break this down by type – tops, pants, jackets)
  • Sports equipment
  • Craft supplies
  • Art projects/ drawings
  • Books
  • DVDs, video games
  • Electronics
  • Toys (you can break this category down by type – electronic, stuffies, dolls)

Create a System and Motivate

Sometimes it’s easier to decide what to keep, rather than what to let go of. Clearly labeling 3 bags or boxes – KEEP, MAYBE, DONATE/SELL can help. Let your family know it’s like going shopping for things they love within our own collection. This helps kids get in touch with making conscious choices about what they really use and like.

Motivation strategies to get them going:

  • Help them visualize the end result – more space to play with their favorite items
  • Use a timer to bound the work
  • Offer incentives or rewards – a movie night after clearing out unwanted DVDs for example.
  • Create a contest or game around who can purge the most 

Enlist Help

If you’re paying for a babysitter or childcare, enlist their help to tackle 1 category a day. Even as little as ½ hour each week spent on weeding will go a long way to staying ahead of the next influx of new gifts or purchases!

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Filed under artwork, children, Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

5 Tips for Helping Your Parents Downsize

mom-daughter

Are your parents ready to move? Maybe one is thinking about moving but the other isn’t ready? Are you worried about their safety and think they should be thinking about moving but they don’t seem interested at all?

Assess the situation and be realistic. Deciding to downsize is process with many layers and chapters. Where are your parents in that process?

  1. Not ready. Can’t see themselves leaving home
  2. Considering the possibility, but not convinced
  3. Ready but don’t know where or how
  4. Ready and have a plan

Assuming your folks ARE ready to move and are just getting started, here are some tips for helping you successfully help them:

  • Your pace may not be their pace. Be respectful and mindful of where your parents are at in the process of being ready to move. You’ll only be able to go as fast as they are capable and willing to. Understanding their resistances rather than fighting them will enable you to better tailor your message to their ears.
  • Help assess their immediate needs. Are they or you considering moving because of a need around safety, health, hygiene, housekeeping, meals, or social life? Help identify solutions to challenges in these areas while they are still at home if possible.
  • Don’t let your attachments hold them bac Can’t believe they are wanting to get rid of the special quilt Aunt Mary made? Then you take it!
  • Don’t take sides. When one person in the couple wants to move but the other doesn’ Generally, unless health and safety are at risk, there are many pros and cons to moving – all subject to a particular person’s perspective. Remember that the negotiation process between couples is complicated and not so much about right and wrongs as it is about finding a set of solutions that both can live with.
  • Offer to find resources. Downsizing and moving can require a lot of research and using different vendors – offer to research and coordinate potential resources that may be needed during the process. This can allow your parent to focus on the work of sorting and decision making.
    • Estate sale folk, auction houses, online auctions: who is in the area? How do they work and what percentage do they take? What happens to the things not sold?
    • Thrift stores – which ones will come pickup from the house? Which ones require staging things outside? Who will take what?
    • Hazardous waste – how to get rid of leftover cleaners and chemicals in your area? (stopwaste.org) Are free pickups offered for seniors in your area?
    • Free city bulky waste pickups – most cities offer at least 1 per year but all have different rules about how to schedule them, what can be picked up, and how items have to be organized at the curb.
    • Movers & packers – find out rates, ranges, and availability. Check reviews and call references
    • Professional moving/organizing help – Sometimes an extra hand is needed to make the move happen. NASMM.org and NAPO.net both offer search pages to find professionally trained help in your area.

Additional resources you may find useful:

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Filed under Bay Area Services, children, Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, Perspective

Car Seat Recycling at Participating Targets

Have you had trouble finding a new home for your child’s outgrown car seat?  The charity stores won’t take them.  It can be pain. They take up a lot of room in your house or garage and they don’t fit in the trash can!!

TerraCycle and Target want to reward you for recycling your old car seat at a participating Target store!

How It Works

From April 17th through April 30th, you have the opportunity to recycle your old car seat at participating Target locations! To participate, simply bring your old car seat to the designated Target Take Back recycling area at a participating Target store.

All car seat brands are accepted for recycling. In return for recycling your car seat, you will earn a 20% discount on a new car seat.

To see if there are participating Target locations in your area, please click here.

You don’t have to buy a new car seat in order to take advantage of this service.

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Kids, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Grab-N-Go Kits for Hassle-Free Outings

Be Prepared For a Day at the Beach

Be Prepared For a Day at the Beach … or Anywhere!

Want to head out to the park and find yourself scrambling around the house trying to find where the sunscreen was last left? Or the hats?

Summer, with its many outings and camps is a great time to put together a few “grab & go” bags. If you have certain activities you do often, it is worth duplicating some items in order to always have them on hand when you’re ready to go. The bag contains the staples that always need to be there and things like snacks or reading material can be added as needed.

Beach/Pool Bag: bathing suits, sunscreen, goggles, earplugs, towels & hats

Park/Outing Bag: sunscreen, hats, bug repellant, picnic blanket

Day Camp Bag: sunscreen, sunglasses money, hat, light jacket

The key is having a dedicated home where your specialty bags live and remembering to replenish the bags after your outings. Make sure freshly laundered items make their way back into their bags instead of into a dresser or cabinet.

This model of making specialty bags also applies year-round to other activities and not just for kids:

  • Sports: uniform, water bottle, sunscreen
  • Overnights: toiletries, flashlight,
  • Classes: paper, pen, class materials
  • Gym/Workout: water bottle, toiletries, snack bars
  • Meetings or Committees: notepad, pen, reference materials
  • Charging kit: extra phone & computer chargers

It may seem like a bit of extra work, but when your supplies are ready to go, getting out the door quickly keeps you relaxed and able to be spontaneous. Spend your time on your outing instead of stressing out and wasting time searching the house for the park blanket. As an added benefit your kids learn the benefits of being prepared ahead of time!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Holidays, homework, Kids, organizing, School, Strategies, Travel

Closing Out the School Year

 

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Do you know that feeling of celebration when the school year ends? It’s all well and good but with the end of school comes stacks of homework, completed art projects, elaborate dioramas and original literary works.

Do yourself a huge favor and don’t wait until the end of the summer to weed through it all. The good news – it doesn’t have to be a big hairy project. You can make huge headway in a short amount of time. As little investment as one hour can save you lots of hassle in the fall.

Here are four quick projects you could do in an hour (especially if you enlist the kids for some help!):

  • Empty out the school backpacks completely and search the house for orphaned schoolwork
  • Go through completed homework and separate true keepers from the rote worksheets and tests. Pick a representative sample that captures the school year and preserve only the assignments that both you and your child want to carry forward
  • Decide what you’d like to display and move other items to a memorabilia box or oversized art portfolio (pay attention to the fact that these items have a lifespan)
  • Throw out broken or used-up school supplies – dead glue stick, broken pencils, dry highlighters, etc. – in the process create a kit with the leftovers to be used for next year’s backpack

Involving the kids teaches them the lesson of “cleaning up” after an event. It teaches children the importance of having a sense of closure and responsibility. This is a useful habit for other areas of life too: you know the problem…you return from a conference or a trip and all your mementos, notes and maps are stuffed into a backpack or gift bag waiting to come back and haunt you at a later date.

Do you have a tip for how you motivate your children to go through their schoolwork? Share it with us!

 

 

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Filed under children, General Organizing, Kids, paper organizing, School