Category Archives: Decluttering

Is Your Clutter A Sign Of Unresolved Grief?

There are many different reasons we find it hard to let things go…dreams of wanting to be a different size, fond memories, thinking we’ll need things one day, anticipating life changes. But sometimes our grip on things is based on unresolved grief. It is like a different form of nostalgia and it’s something that could be overcome.

We often associate grieving with death, but really any kind of a loss can cause grief. Divorce, change in health status or physical abilities, marriage, moving, retirement, graduation, birth of a child. Even positive life events can generate feelings of loss and grief and increase our attachment to things.  Nostalgia is fine, but when it starts compromising our present, there is a problem.

Unresolved Grief

Unresolved grief is a result of unfinished business, getting stuck in loop of remorse, regret and disappointment, being unfulfilled in “what could have been” or “what could have been said or done.”  The feelings may persist years after the event.  It may be that you don’t become fully aware of the need for resolution until decades later.

You may be experiencing unresolved grief when you are trying to deal with stuff that you know is getting in your way but is just too painful to deal with…it triggers emotions that are overwhelming; pain, anger, sadness.  Especially if the stuff has been there a long time.

Examples:

  • Boxes of leftovers from an “X” that feel unpleasant – even toxic — yet can’t bring yourself to deal with?
  • An overloaded garage populated by tools from a beloved deceased parent
  • A closet full of toys and games from a child who is moved out and moved on

What can you do about it?

  • Recognize that we are socialized to avoid grief and loss, to ignore or repress lingering feelings of sadness. Often our friends and family, while well-meaning, are incapable of addressing those feelings of loss.
  • In getting organized, we can face and name these feelings and try to “get under the hood” of our attachments. Sometimes that alone may shift your perspective.
  • Don’t go it alone!

Grief support groups art generally are aimed at people who have experienced a recent death or trauma. It’s usually about providing a safe place to share feelings with others who have had a similar experience.

There is a specific form of counseling called Grief Recovery Method®.  The goal of this method is to resolve the grief. This is a process designed to deal with all types of loss and bring you to a point of resolution of your grief.  You can work with a friend or on your own, in a facilitated group, or one-on-one or virtually with a trained coach.

We are grateful to Tina Kopko, LMFT for her presentation which introduced our local chapter of Professional Organizers to the concept of unresolved grief.

 

Tina Kopko

Tina Kopko, LMFT provides the Grief Recovery Method® to individuals and groups

 

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective

Stop Wasting Your Time, Money and Attention

Book cover_not giving an F - 1

When people talk of organizing, we often think of getting rid of “things.” We found a humorous, and irreverent, resource for tackling the clutter in the rest of our life. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do is written by Sarah Knight who gives straight talk on a touchy subject.

It’s a spin on the decluttering principles made famous by Marie Kondo – conscious decision making. Crafting a life by design instead of by default.  It’s not really a parody, rather it’s a parallel to the Konmari method…it’s Konmari turned on your life instead of your stuff.

Fair warning: the book is intentionally riddled with the F-word, but we found if you mentally substitute something a little less harsh such as “care” – as is “don’t give a care” it’s a little more tolerable.

Cares

We have a limited amount of bandwidth and energy; time and money and we get to choose how to spend that. We get to make a budget of “cares,” so to speak.  When you’re spending it on people place and things you don’t really care about, you’re draining yourself.  You are keeping yourself from doing things you really want to do and which bring you energy and joy.  When you realize how much power you have to give yourself permission to set boundaries and say no, it’s completely liberating!  And (bonus!) you can do it without being a jerk.

Recognize the Drain

The author lays out a method of how to go about this but one of the first steps is to think through all the ways you spend your time, energy, and money and start to see which ones don’t feel good. Here are some red flags to recognize things that you might be doing things that don’t bring you joy:

  • Where do you feel obligated?
  • When do you think of doing something with someone and your feeling is dread as opposed to pleasurable anticipation?
  • What tasks feel inefficient and inconvenient?

Examples of things you may not really care about:

  • Attending routine professional meetings that aren’t truly mandatory
  • Dress codes – high heels, come on! Need I say more?
  • Clothes – are you dressing for yourself our outside expectations?
  • Giving and receiving Christmas gifts. It’s hard to keep coming up with original ideas. A lot of time and energy is spent getting there.
  • Cooking

What To Do About It

Review your list and see what you can let go of wholesale. Let them go and move forward guilt-free! We can’t automatically jettison everything we don’t love. You could, however, find ways to eliminate or modify the most onerous parts of that task to help.

  • 
Hate to fix dinner for your family but want everyone to eat healthy?

Buy pre-cooked meats or pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s is a good shortcut to a well-rounded meal. Have a standard set of 10 meals you rotate through and don’t worry about whether your family is bored with it.

  • 
Dread getting dressed for work in the mornings?

Make a uniform for yourself so you never have to angst about what you’re going to wear.

  • 
Anticipate holiday gift-giving with panic?

Decide on one simple gift and give it to everyone.

Don’t Be A Jerk

One of our hesitations to start shedding off obligations is the fear of offending people we care about or risking repercussions from work or others. It’s possible to be true to yourself and honest without being a jerk about it. Politeness, honesty and authenticity are key here. Saying the truth is usually the best tact.

  • “Thank you for inviting me to the symphony, but I really don’t enjoy sitting and listening to music for more than 15 minutes.”
  • “I have a personal policy that I don’t give donations at the door”

Releasing yourself from obligations that don’t enhance your life is incredibly liberating. Start by noticing where you already make choices about activities that feel valuable to you and build on that. Give yourself permission to say NO – you’ll change your life!

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Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Clutter-Free Gifts

As Professional Organizers, we meet people who are anxious about what to give their loved ones that are personal, valued and “green.” One solution is to give “consumable” gifts. The advantage of a consumable gift is it gives the recipient a special experience, doesn’t take up any room and doesn’t leave behind any clutter.

food gifts

Edibles and Drinkables

  • Gift baskets of food – nice fruits, cheeses, nuts, chocolates. Who wouldn’t want to try a variety of yummy foods put together by you…or from your favorite vendor? The SF Bay Area is home to many artisan chocolate and food makers; a basket of local treats makes a personal touch.
  • Your parents might appreciate a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant or one you think they’d like.
  • Gift an invitation to dine out with you at the hot new restaurant or a known old favorite – your treat of course!
  • Teens love gift cards to Peet’s, Starbucks, ice cream, lunch food.
  • How about a wine or beer club membership?

 

live-escape-game-1155620_640

Entertainment

  • Consider an outing to an Escape Room – a group game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles.
  • Tickets or gift certificates to movies, dance, theater, museums or sports events can be prized by people who can’t seem to justify frivolous expenses.
  • How about Poetry by Request?  My colleague, Claire Tompkins brings her trusty Royal typewriter to events and creates personalized poetry on demand.
  • Subscriptions to entertainment services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix can provide easy access to movies and entertainment at home.
  • Gift of a special outing with you: ice skating, a picnic in the park, a visit to a children’s museum, the zoo or an amusement park.
  • Annual pass for a ski resort or for a fun place like Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Lottery tickets make great stocking stuffers!
  • Did you know that AirBNB offers gift cards?

cooking-class

Education

  • Get cooking!  Kitchen on Fire offers a variety of classes. Cooking lessons are fun to do with a group or with one special friend: either at a store, a cooking school or in your own kitchen.
  • A stack of specialty magazines on gaming or weaving or architecture – whatever they’re into – are a treat!
  • Would your giftee love an art or other adult education class?  Offer to take it with them!
  • How about a subscription to a meditation website such as Headspace – a gym for your head?
  • A block of classes at the local pilates or yoga studio can inspire them to get going on their health goals.
  • Sign them up for a historical tour of a local hot spot

relaxation

Pampering

  • Massages, facials, and nail services are always welcome treats
  • A thorough and expert housecleaning session is great for folks who always do it themselves
  • Hot tub session at a place such as Piedmont Springs
  • Do you know someone who complains about the state of their closets, garage or playroom? Give the gift of a session with a professional organizer!

 

personal gift certificate

Your Time

  • What do YOU do well? Offer a session with your loved one sharing your skills and time with them: interior design help, personal shopping, gardening, back rubs, clutter-clearing, cooking a meal or teaching a cooking technique, a personalized sight-seeing tour, iPhone instruction-sessions…the sky’s the limit!

Remember to follow up with your giftee. Sometimes people forget about gift certificates. Put a reminder in your calendar for a couple months in the future to touch back with your recipient. Re-invite them to take you up on your offer of a fun experience or remind them of the gift certificate you gave them.

Have a great consumable gift idea? Share it here!

 

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Spooky Storage Solutions for Halloween

halloween organizing tips (1)

Halloween approaches and, as with any holiday, it’s an opportunity to revisit how you organize all the supplies that go with it. Drag out all the bags and boxes where your Halloween stuff is lurking and give it a fresh look!

Costumes

  • Set aside outgrown kid costumes to hand-down to friends & family or donate.
  • Repair or discard damaged/broken props and costumes.
  • It can be useful to separate small props/accessories from larger costume pieces.
  • Ziploc bags or smaller boxes within a larger container are helpful.
  • Give your future self a gift and label all containers.

Decor

It’s a good idea to keep décor in a separate container from costumes. It makes decorating easier and you may need costumes for other parties/occasions/general dress-up play. It makes sense to have them live in different locations.

Party Supplies

There’re basically 2 options for Halloween specific party stuff– keep them with other Halloween supplies or keep them with other party supplies.

  • Halloween friends: Sometimes these end up stuffed into the same box as décor. That can work if you don’t have that much but do yourself a favor and at a minimum use large Ziploc bags to keep paper goods separate from house décor.
  • All party friends: Store all holiday/party specific paper goods in a container together but keep them separated by holiday/event within that container.

A word about containers…

Don’t forget the concept of container as limiter! What containers you choose depends largely on where you decide to store Halloween supplies and how much room you’re willing to give over to it. Lidded tubs are great because they’re deep and can stack and be labeled easily.

Some décor (such as giant inflatables and yard props) are too large to contain in a tub and must have some shelf or floor space. Remember, you get to choose how much is enough in each category – contain it appropriately then live within.

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Filed under children, Closets, Decluttering, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids

The Allure of Free Stuff

The allure of FREE

Every week the SF Chronicle runs a classic column from years past. This week there was a gem from 1988 titled, “1,000 paper clips? If they’re free, customers love it.”

It seems an office supply store ran a promotion giving away 1,000 paperclips per customer hoping those folks who turned up would shop for additional supplies. Thousands showed up, few bought office supplies, and probably even less needed the paper clips in the first place!

Here’s a perfect quote from the article:

First in line was an elderly gent named Mr. Jeffries, who said he did not know what he was going to do with his 1,000 free paper clips, but they would surely be nice to have around.

When I asked him, when was the last time he used a paper clip?

“I can’t remember,” he said. “Couple of weeks ago, I think. Mailed in a bill.”

At a rate of one clip every two weeks, Mr. Jeffries’ free clips will last 38 years.

“How about that?” said Mr. Jeffries.

One could argue that a few boxes of paper clips isn’t going to take up much space but we often see this same pattern on a larger scale:

  • Duplicates, triplicates, and quadruples of tools and utility items picked up at garage sales cluttering up drawers and shelves
  • Chairs taken from the someone else’s curb that seem so full of potential, if only you could get them recovered and figure out where they go in the house. Meanwhile they crowd a guest room. For years.
  • Books – recently a young couple that lives in tiny 1 bedroom home wanted to keep a free set of hardbound Harry Potter books – for their not-yet-conceived child to read one day.

For us humans, FREE is an inexplainable siren’s call that triggers our sense of need and desire regardless of the actual value of the item to our life. It’s useful to recognize this powerful pull and practice taking a step back and thinking about how the item will add VALUE to your life.

  • Do you actually need it?
  • How often will you use it?
  • How does this add value to your life TODAY?
  • Where will you keep it? Is that space better used by something else?

Define value based on need and relevance, not cost and availability.  So, next time you get caught going after something that’s “FREE,” or “cheap,” pause and think, “who am I going to hire to sort, catalog or store it?” “Is this really WORTH it??”

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies, Time Management

Collaborate for Success

Dana Arkinzadeh and Katherine Korlacki - 1

This week we are celebrating our 200th blog post!! Let’s take a step back and tell you the story of our blog. It’s a story of risk taking, growth, and collaboration.

Back in November of 2012, both of us felt some pressure that we “had” to have a blog to be “legitimate businesses” and jump in the pool of social media marketing. At that point Dana had been in business 10 years and Katherine for 16 so we both felt established and reluctant to take on a new form of promotion. We decided to tackle the project together – to co-write a blog that we would publish jointly and could each re-purpose for our own use.

Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned through 200 posts:

  1. Don’t go it alone – tough jobs are way easier, and often actually fun, if done with a friend
  2. Have courage to move forward even if you don’t know what you’re doing – things have a way of sorting themselves out and you learn along the way
  3. Commit regular time in your calendar – make it realistic if you want to get something done
  4. Don’t give up – your partner may have energy when you’re flagging
  5. Honor your limits – over the last 6 years we adjusted our start time, adjusted the frequency of posts, and gave us ourselves permission to repost old blogs when feeling uninspired
  6. Go for good enough, instead of perfect – don’t let perfectionism be a roadblock; done is better than perfect
  7. Keep things simple
  8. You don’t have to have all the answers – bring in outside experts to help with topics or technical issues
  9. Make your own rules for success – don’t let others’ expectations drive your goals or standards
  10. Celebrate your accomplishments – it’s often only the negatives we focus on, celebrating helps you remember and savor the positives

Does the blog get us new business? Hard to tell. But we get consistent feedback from current clients that they like hearing from us and get value from the topics. Taking the time to think through topics keeps us curious and open to ideas and creates content that we can use in presentations, newsletters, and other places. One of the biggest benefits to us is a regularly scheduled time to stay connected, support each other through business challenges, and celebrate business and life successes.

How could you collaborate to achieve some of your goals? Have you had a great collaboration experience related to organizing? Share your story with us!

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies, Time Management, Work

Just In Case…Do You Know Where These Documents Are?

Checklist

Let’s have a show of hands.  Who loves to prepare for disasters and contemplate death?

…We didn’t think so.

Let’s have another show of hands. Who thinks of others and would like to make life easier on family and friends?

Here is a simple project to prepare for the unexpected. Regardless of the state of the rest of your house, these are the documents to keep organized and accessible just in case:

  1. Life or disability insurance policies and/or agent contact information. Don’t forget to include any coverage offered through your employer and/or auto insurance.
  2. List of assets and open accounts – you can gather sample statements or create a list of all accounts, loans, lines of credit, etc.. Make sure to include the safe deposit box key and information.
  3. Trust Document and/or name of your attorney
  4. Will
  5. Healthcare Directive and Financial POA
  6. Passwords and log-ins to unlock the phone or computer
  7. Medical cards and list of doctors/caregivers
  8. List of prescriptions
  9. Vital Records: Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage certificates, copies of drivers licenses
  10. If you own a business, who are the key contacts? What is your emergency plan?
  11. Funeral arrangements

Whether you are partnered or not, identify the person or persons who would be tasked with managing things in your absence and share with them the locations of these documents. It’s ideal to also keep a digital copy of these items and make sure your trusted helper has access to those as well.

Think of how much easier it will be for your loved ones, and better for you, if in the time of crisis they don’t have to dig through various drawers and files looking for information unsure what they may be missing. Creating a simple system for just in case is the kind of gift that provides peace of mind to you and to those who are left to take care of business when you can’t.

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, middle-age, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies