Category Archives: Decluttering

Creating Space for Distance Learning

homeschooling-5121262_1920With the new reality of distance learning for children, it’s even more important to carve out space for them to do their work. Our colleague, Educational Coach, Lorina Daves Tornai reminds us that parents are scrambling to create more permanent schoolwork spaces at home…and fast! School is starting early!

Here are some parameters to follow when making space for homeschooling.

Create a dedicated work space

  • Try not to depend on a common-use table like the dining room table
  • Identify a location that is in a public area of your home. Children need supervision–especially when they are accessing the internet
  • Set against a wall with a stationery chair (rolling chairs turn into toys!)
  • Ideally long enough so an adult can sit with them to help when needed
  • A 2’ x 4’ folding table can be ideal, multiple tables can be put together for large projects
  • Small wooden desks are too limiting and kids outgrow them

    2 x 4' folding table - adjustable height

    This 2′ x 4′ folding table is height-adjustable and is available at ULINE, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc.

Create space for basic supplies nearby

A rolling drawer unit works well to hold pencils, markers, scissors, scotch tape, paper.

3-Tier-Cart

Contain paper

Magazine Files work really well for managing handouts and work in progress so paper doesn’t end up in stacks on the desk.

magazine holder

Declutter

You can enhance your child’s learning and attention by removing distractions. In the process, you’ll simplify your surroundings and make tidying easier for all.In addition, creating a intentionally designed schoolwork space helps both the parent and the child take learning seriously, supporting a lifelong habit of organization and growth.

Get help

If you need help reimagining your home and the potential it might have for multiple workspaces, consult an organizer.  We tend to think out-of-the-box!

 

Leave a comment

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

5 Closet Editing Tips from a Personal Stylist

Denitsa Shopova - Image Consultant - 1

We asked image consultant, Denitsa Shopova to provide some tips on how to choose which clothes to keep and what to let go of while organizing a closet.

Do you know what it feels like to go to your overstuffed closet in the morning to get dressed and feel you have nothing to wear? This is not uncommon!

#1 Store your clothes together

Have all your clothes in one closet if possible. You can do this!

#2 Make the most of your current wardrobe

Maximize the potential of your current wardrobe before investing in new clothes. You would be surprised what you actually own and can be restyled.

#3 Create outfits

Arrange your clothes into categories of different styles and color themes so it’s easy to grab and go that provides stress free mornings. It’s also inspirational.

#4 Complementary colors for eyes:

• blue eyes: gold, copper, peach, warm browns
• green eyes: plum, violet, wine, pink
• golden brown eyes: eggplant, lavender, magenta, lilac, sky blue
• red-orange brown eyes: turquoise, navy, emerald, seafoam
• almost black eyes: bronze, coral, sand, terra cotta

#5 To let go of clothes that don’t serve you anymore, ask:

• Does this suite my personality?
• Does this complement my shape?
• Does it fit me right now?
• Does this work with my current lifestyle?
• Is this in a good condition?
• Does this color suite me?
• Am I happy wearing this?
• Have I worn it in the last 12 months?
• Why am I holding onto to this item?

Editing your clothes is often easier if you sort by type first rather than going through things one by one. That also lets you see where you may have lots of similar items and can pare down to just one or two of that type. Remember your goal – make space for the items that make you feel great!

If you feel stuck, ask for help! An investment in a clothing stylist can save you from uncertainty and hours of time shopping because you’ll know what looks (and feels) good on you. And, Denitsa can work with your virtually!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bedroom, Closets, clothing, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

5 Organizing Myths Banished

These are common myths that we tend to tell ourselves. They can hold us back, make us feel bad and make organizing harder than it needs to be.

1. I just need to try harder. This is a simple thing… Just do it!!

Not everybody is a linear thinker.  You need some linear thinking to do the process; getting the macro view helps to identify what to do first or second or last.  You might need some coaching help to identify your vision and how to prioritize things. It’s not about being lazy or industrious, it’s more about how your brain works and gaining objectivity about your own stuff.

2. I could knock this out in a couple hours if I just put my mind to it.

If you usually find organizing pretty challenging, it’s not reasonable to expect you can handle an overwhelming situation in a short period of time. And, if you think a week of solid work would do the trick, can you imagine how exhausting it would be to shift to “organizing mode?” and make it last for days? Be realistic about your time estimates and plan to work in stages.

3. My partner/spouse/children will be absolutely delighted when I get organized.

The fact that someone isn’t experiencing the clutter as a problem might mean they won’t be invested in the solutions.  Everyone has a different tolerance level for clutter.  If they don’t experience it as an issue, they might find it disruptive if you go and make changes independently.  It’s good to do some legwork, but try to get buy-in on what the solution will look like so you’re not imposing your vision on someone else and expect them to maintain it.

4. I need pretty (and expensive) bins to be organized…and bins will automatically make me organized.

Buying containers put the cart before the horse. You need to know what you’re storing, why, and where before you know how to contain it. A shoebox can work just as well as an attractive woven basket. First focus on the function that the container needs to fulfill and then buy or repurpose one that fits your budget and style.

5. If I’m not born an “organized person” I will never be organized.

There’s lots of way to get help: blogs, accountability buddies, or working with a professional organizer. Part of our mandate as professional organizers is to transfer skills to the client that they can carry forward.  Even though organizing can be easiest for those who naturally think a certain way, techniques can be learned by just about anyone.  Working with a professional can help you acquire those skills.

Give yourself a break and ask for a helping hand. It might not take as much as you think to get past your roadblocks.  You’re not alone in this, help is available.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies

COVID and Hoarding

 

Sue Zee Poinsett, a long-time Professional Organizer and Hoarding Specialist shares a compassionate perspective on hoarding that we can all relate to during this health crisis.

COVID and Hoarding

I think most of us would agree that there is nothing good about Covid-19.  It seems to have tipped the universe onto its side and caused so much of what we knew to become unfamiliar.

Take the experience of going to the grocery store:  I have done it for many, many years and, until Covid, found it to be a rather mundane but necessary experience.  Now I worry about when to go, what to buy, and how much of it I need.  I have watched people leaving stores with baskets full of common items like water; that’s right, water, the stuff that comes out of the faucet. I have witnessed people racing to the personal care sections of the store and have seen rows of empty shelves because people wanted to make sure they have enough.

People are never sure they have enough because every day someone suggests that another thing we count on may not be available, so they rush back to the store to get more eggs, butter, meat, and always toilet paper.  In the early days of this pandemic there were long lines, short tempers, and I think we all experienced some form of “better pick up an extra just in case…”

The reason I bring this up is that I think this is an opportune time for us to gain some emotional understanding of hoarding disorder.  It would appear that the virus has caused us to develop a disposition for hoarding, and I am hoping it might also help us better understand those who always have too much stuff. Although the word hoarder is often used in the sentence; “I have a lot of stuff but I am not a hoarder”, I think many of us have now had first-hand experience of an emotional component that activates hoarding behavior.  Some of us have become that person who worries about having enough and who feels comforted by getting more; the person who forgets what they have bought and buys more “just in case.”

Our need to buy and keep too much stuff in response to this pandemic does not rise to the level of hoarding disorder but can inform us of what goes on inside those who do actually hoard.  The need to feel we “have enough” is very human and at times of stress the concept of “enough” becomes a bit tricky.  Those who hoard feel they never “have enough” and continually get more “just in case.”  Feel familiar?  (I have even tried freezing milk since I became worried there might not be enough for my morning coffee.)  Then there is the idea of keeping things, just in case.  That frozen milk is still in my refrigerator, just in case; and I still have the 17 masks I have been given or bought, even though I mostly wear a bandana.

There is more to be understood about hoarding behavior than there is to be mystified or repulsed by, and I hope that we can all look at our behavior over the last few months and see the very human part of wanting, getting, and keeping too much stuff.

__________________________

Sue Zee Poinsett, MA (Masters in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling) began her career teaching in junior and senior high schools in the Los Angeles area.  She moved on to a career as a mortgage broker and then earned a Masters Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling as well as one in Education. For the last 20+ years she has worked as a Professional Organizer specializing in work with adults with ADHD.  She became particularly interested in hoarding behavior in her work as an organizer and was one of the founding members of the Marin County Hoarding Alliance and has been an active member since its inception over 10 years ago. Her understanding is based on research and study and is informed by her many years of professional organizing.

Her email is suezeep at att.net

 

4 Comments

Filed under Decluttering, disaster, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Seniors

Pandemic Purge – A Closet Story

closet clutter

Is junk getting in the way of a clear view?

This week we share the firsthand account from one of our clients who used her time at home to tackle the bottom of her master closet where lots of household stuff had accumulated. She used the S.P.A.C.E. technique developed by Julie Morgenstern where she completely emptied the area and did a sort before she put things away.  We hope you find it inspiring, let us know if you need any help making a plan of attack for your own closet!

The Pandemic Purge

There were no excuses this time.. the plethora of stuff shoved in my closet behind all the hanging stuff was lurking, and with more dead time than normal I decided to take on the job of the one closet I so avoided on every prior cleaning endeavor. Let me back up, I am the type Kondo would disown as a friend about five days into the upkeep of prior organizational tasks. But I figured if things were purged, they wouldn’t be there to reappear.

I vowed to give it 2 hours a day, and a 5-day timeframe. And stuff I debated, left out to re-think the next day and hopefully move to the discard pile. And that I would commit to “trash day” and be done by our pickup day.

What I discovered was 3 teenager’s worth of paperwork, some old projects that were not ever going to be missed, old report cards (with C averages that we wouldn’t necessary be sharing at a dinner party anyway), and an ex-husband/and ex-boyfriend worth of photos and random cards I once felt too guilty to recycle. Tons of old random frames I took old photos out of and scanned. And gifts I thought about regifting (don’t grimace, you’ve done it). All badly boxed and shoved in miscellaneous areas.  Skeletons or past lives in the closet? Ya. Pretty much.

What I ended with was three small folders to give our now 25 and 26 yr. old’s, and no “baggage.” I felt SO liberated and the peace that comes with being mindful of recognizing this stage in life, embracing where I am it, and what components of it are meaningful. Narrowed it to four simple small boxes that I labeled.

Great to know I have a functional closet, but the unanticipated reward was closure and the weight off in that space that I never knew I was carrying.

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering

Make S.P.A.C.E. in the Pantry – VIDEO

 

Pantry Organizing

CLICK to watch the full 4.5 min video

The pantry is another area that you can tackle while you have time on your hands. It might be both entertaining and educational for young children to help with this. Again we will use the the S.P.A.C.E. process for organizing, developed by best-selling author and organizer, Julie Morgenstern. You can organize anything using this system.

SORT – Pull out everything (ideally) or by shelf or category and sort into category groups. It helps to make temporary labels to make the process go more quickly:

  • grains, pastas, beans
  • packaged mixes/sauces
  • baking related: flour, sugar, baking soda & powder, cocoa, decorations
  • snacks: chips, cookies, crackers
  • dried fruit, nuts
  • canned goods
  • oils and vinegars
  • spices
  • cereals
  • teas
  • coffee
  • paper products

You’ll often find that there are different categories of items (hardware, for example) stored in unorganized places like a pantry.  Separate those out and dedicate a location to sort and store those items later.

PURGE – eliminate expired items and items you had good intentions around but know you’ll never eat. Offer non-expired items to friends or drop-off in a food collection barrel available at many supermarkets.

ASSIGN A HOME – Re-evaluate the available real estate of your pantry. High use items do best in easily accessible places.

CONTAINERIZE – There are a few different products that can help with maximizing space in a pantry. Tiered shelves work well to keep canned goods and spices visible. Lazy susans work well to keep oils accessible, shelf risers are a great way to maximize vertical space in a cabinet, and small open bins are a nice way to group and contain bulk packages or soft packaged items.

EQUALIZE – Remember, life isn’t static and you’ll continue to have new influxes of food supplies regularly. As tastes and eating habits change, so should your pantry system. It’s good to plan a reorganization at least once a year – this is the step to EQUALIZE your systems with your stuff!

Experience the joy of an organized pantry that, especially when shelves and bins are labeled, everyone can contribute to keeping tidy.

Pantry Before and After

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage, Strategies

Trouble Letting Go? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Declutter QuestionsIt’s easy to get stuck when you’re trying to pare things down, either just to clear clutter or in anticipation of a move. As organizers, the coaching we do with clients helps them slow down their thought process and ask objective questions.

Here are some questions to help frame your perspective as you consider the true value of items in your home:

  1. When is the last time you used this?
  2. Would you buy this again today?
  3. Is it worth the time/energy/money to pack, move, and unpack this item?
  4. How does this add value to your life?
  5. Would you really care if this was lost in a fire or flood?
  6. How many of this item does it make sense to move/keep?
  7. Could you replace this in under 20 minutes for under 20 dollars?
  8. What do you gain or lose by keeping this?
  9. If you keep it, will you remember you have it?
  10. What’s the worst thing that would happen if you let this go?

This process isn’t about letting go of everything, it’s about having clarity about why you’re keeping things.  To spark reflections and interrupt your immediate response to the question, “should I keep this?”  For most of us who tend to hold onto things, the answer is “YES!” because we haven’t put the thinking into it.

Our possessions tell our story – edit what you have to keep the best story of yourself. Think of writing haiku instead of an epic poem like The Odyssey!

3 Comments

Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Moving, Perspective, Strategies

3 Areas to Tackle While Stuck at Home

stuck at home

In times like these, it can feel good to take control of the things you can.  Using this downtime to face areas of your home that stress you out can make you feel better.  Here are a few areas to consider with tips for making improvements:

Paperwork

  • Gather extraneous mail and papers lying around, extract the to-dos, purge the trash, and file the keepers.
  • Pick 5 folders from your filing system and pull out expired or unneeded documents.
  • Gather your 2019 tax documents.

Kid Stuff

  • Grab a grocery bag or spare box and fill it with outgrown toys and kid books.
  • Go through all the art supplies and toss anything used up or broken.
  • Have kids try on clothes and gather outgrown items for donation.

Dining Room Table/Counters

  • Do a rough sort of all the things that land here that really should belong somewhere else. Use temporary containers (shoeboxes, Tupperware) to sort things by type.
  • Anything that represents an action item (things to repair or return) could go in one container and make a list of the actions instead.
  • Return the sorted items to their rightful homes. Anything leftover need to be addressed – either create a home for them or let them go.

If you can’t get out to do drop-offs, clearly group and label things; e-waste, donation, shredding, sell. You can just tape a piece of paper to each pile/bag. Put them somewhere you’ll follow through when things are opened up again.

The hope is that you come out on the other side with a more organized home. And, in the process, transfer organizing skills to your family.

Do you have an area of the home you’d like some virtual advice on cleaning up? Let us know!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Paper, toys

Make some S.P.A.C.E. – a Technique to Get Organized

Pantry_tips

Do you have an area of you home you want to organize but don’t know where to start? The S.P.A.C.E. technique, coined by organizer Julie Morgenstern in her first book, Organizing From The Inside Out, is a tried and true way to go about it.

The acronym breaks down the organizing process into 5 simple steps anyone can follow. We’re going to walk you through the steps using a kitchen pantry as an example but the steps apply to any space you’re trying to organize – a single drawer to a whole house!

Sort

The first step in organizing any space is a sort. Gather like things together in order to see how much you have of similar items.

Empty the pantry onto a large table and sort by types of food:

  • Canned goods
  • Nuts, dried fruits, small bagged snacks
  • Rice, pasta, grains
  • Boxed cereals
  • Baking items
  • Packaged food mixes

Purge

Look through each group of your sorted items and get down to what’s relevant to life now.

  • Expired foods & spices
  • Boxes and bags with just a tiny bit left
  • Extras from overbuying because you forgot you already had it (think food bank!)
  • Items you thought would be delicious but now don’t seem so appealing

Assign a Home

This is the core of the work. Clutter happens when items don’t have an assigned place to live. Using labels makes all the difference here.

  • Make sure high-use items are in the most accessible shelves
  • Decide which sorted groups are “friends” – would you like your jars of tomato sauce to live near your pastas or other jars and canned goods?

Once you have clarity on your groups, their use, and where they should live you can make smart choices about whether containers make sense for them to live in…

Containerize

Shop smart and save yourself time and money by saving the containerizing until the end of the process.

  • Use small boxes on shelves to group loose bagged items together; the box functions as a mini pullout shelf
  • There are numerous organizing products to help maximize shelf space and visibility. Do a quick search on Pinterest to get some ideas
  • If you don’t have the perfect container you can always use a cardboard box, Ziploc bag or other temporary container until you find the perfect permanent solution

Equalize

Life isn’t static. Getting organized isn’t a one-time process. As life changes – sizes, interests, jobs, etc. your organizing systems may need to shift and change to keep up. Make time each season (or at least each year) to inventory your possessions and update your systems.

Try it out yourself.  Start small as a test. Pick a single drawer or cabinet shelf to create S.P.A.C.E.   See how it goes and report back!

Need more help? The Container Store has a page with tips for organizing your pantry.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kitchen, Perspective, Strategies

Identifying Root Causes of Clutter

root causes

You know the clutter in your house is making you feel terrible and you want it to change. But are you aware of why it’s happening in the first place? Often the first thought is self-loathing…”I used to be able to handle this, what is wrong with me?”

You’re not alone. Clutter is a fact of life for many people, people don’t feel good about it, and they put blame on themselves.  As organizers, we try to get a sense of why the clutter is happening in the first place. Before you descend into guilt or run out to buy containers, think through the why a little more thoroughly…when clutter happens, it can be a symptom of bigger things going on in your household.

SITUATIONAL BUILD-UP

Sometimes the clutter is completely situational – the change could be major or minor. Minor disruptions include:

  • Returning from a trip and haven’t had time to unpack
  • Family members have been sick recently
  • Being consumed by particularly busy period at work
  • Hosting visitors

Major life events include:

  • Home remodels
  • Having a new child
  • Getting married or divorced
  • Death in the family
  • Change of job
  • Major injury
  • Extensive travel
  • ADD or other new diagnoses

These events can tax the bandwidth that you used to have to clean up the house AND changed life situations always require a revisit of your organizing systems.

LACK OF HABITS

Staying abreast of clutter build up requires implementing new habits of getting things back to their homes. We often say that being organizing doesn’t mean you HAVE to be neat but being organized gives you that option when you want to do clean-up/pickup. To avoid minor build up turning into a major dig-out effort, you have to create routine habits of putting things back where they live.

If you go to clean up and find yourself thinking you don’t really know where it lives or there’s no good place to put it that’s a clue that it doesn’t have a good home – see the next section!

NO GOOD HOME

“Don’t just put it down, put it away”…easier said than done if there is no assigned home for things. How often have you heard (or spoken) the phrase, “Go clean your room!”  Well, if the room hasn’t been set up with good homes for their things, you might as well say, “Go build a rocketship!” Everyone needs to learn the basic principles of organizing.

A good home is created by design rather than by default.  The home should take into account the who, what, when, where, and how: what is it and how is it used? by whom? where does it get used? how often? Creating a good home for things may require purging unused things that are taking up valuable space where your active things should live.

ASK FOR HELP

Once you identify that clutter is beyond you…you can’t get a handle on it, this is one reason to work with a trained professional…and not just a friend.

You may not be able to solve the root problems, but being aware of them helps to bring empathy and compassion to the situation. Ask for help.

As Professional Organizers, we are experienced in being able to recognize the multiple layers of influences that are contributing to the disorganization in the space.  Once we’ve toured the space, we can help identify the root causes, prioritize the different aspects of the project and let you know what’s possible…and sometimes refer you to others who can resolve the issues.

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, organizing, Perspective, Strategies