Category Archives: Decluttering

Home Organizing for Couples

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

In our work with couples we have found that often they have different organizing styles, for example, one might be “the keeper” the other might be “the minimalist.”  It is our belief that couples come together to learn something from their partners.

We have put together a top ten-list of ways that couples can work together to have their house better organized, easier to navigate and set up with systems that make the household run smoothly for everyone.

1. Identify each partner’s strengths and weaknesses. While focusing on the positive, keep focused on your own particular problem areas. It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of focusing what your partner can do to change.  Most of the time, both members of the team each have their own challenges.

2.  Make a list of the roles each of you play in the household.  Who is in charge of purchasing food?  Who buys the clothes for the kids or for each other?  Who cleans the kitchen?  Who keeps up the yard or front area?  Who is in charge of the information?  Is one of you the family archivist?  It’s important to value the different roles that each of you play.   The keeper of the family is often the one who is the heart of the family; and the minimalist will help keep stuff from taking over the house

3. Establish ground rules for what is acceptable behavior towards each other (i.e. no name calling, asking instead of accusing, etc., staying focused on your part of the problem)

4. Come to an agreement about doing the project together.  Don’t let one person take over the whole project…unless the partner is totally unwilling to participate…then the willing partner needs to start with their own space and their own stuff first.  This often inspires a recalcitrant partner to take care of their stuff…especially if they aren’t nagged about it.

5. Reframe the problem in financial terms.  Identify the cost of keeping the clutter.  Given their rent or mortgage, figure out the square footage that the clutter takes up, what are you paying to keep the stuff?  $2,000 per month for rent for 1,000 square feet of living space.  $2.00 per square foot.  Clutter takes up one 10 X 15 foot room.  That is 150 square feet times $2 per square foot = $300 per month which works out to $3,600 per year.  It gets easier to figure if you have a storage unit that is used to house items that you don’t need at home…The costs for a storage unit at $100 a month can really rack up.  It’s common for folks to have units for 5 years or more…is the stuff you’re storing in there really worth the $6,000 you’ve paid to hold it?

6. If one of you is resistant, try this game:  Pretend you are going to be traveling for 6 months.  Then, set aside what you would need if they were going to be away for that long, pack up what is left, put it in off-site storage for 3 months.  Notice what it feels like to live with less.  Notice what you miss, if anything.

7. Decluttering may upset the balance of the relationship.  Be gentle with each other.  You may also consider counseling to deal with the emotions and feelings that are bound to come up in the process of extensive decluttering.

8. If you as a couple cannot reach consensus on decisions, it is sometimes helpful to divvy up areas of the home.  One person gets to decide on the family room – the other gets the kitchen.

9. If your space allows for both — it’s better to share a bedroom than a home office.

10. Keep it light — decluttering almost always opens the door to a better sex life.

This article was co-written with Deborah Silberberg of www.ShipShape.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bedroom, couples, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, 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!

 

1 Comment

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

Manage Active Projects Without Piles

project clutter

Is your desk covered with piles of papers that are relevant and urgent…things you’re “working on?” Most everyone has a mix of To-Do’s and actual projects that require more than one step to complete.

Active projects are different than other kinds of To-Do’s or papers because they usually are a mix of action items and reference materials. They may include checklists, timelines, research, drafts, and proposals.

They are active enough that it makes sense to keep them right at hand or they won’t be kept forever, just for the duration of the project.

Some examples –

  • Event planning
  • Kid summer camp planning: Printouts or brochures of possible camps, registration forms, vacation schedules
  • College searches & applications
  • Tax prep
  • Travel planning: May include articles about particular hotels or sites, schedules, reservation printouts
  • Minor or major house projects: Estimates, budgets, material samples or ideas, schedules, drawings.
  • Work or volunteer project

HOW TO MANAGE THOSE PROJECTS

A pile is OK if you have a dedicated space for it that doesn’t interfere with your regular workspace, but the point of having a dedicated home is it keeps the project out of the way of other business and it keeps other business from getting mixed into the project materials. Using a container vs. a loose pile lets you label the categories…and the project itself.

Choose a container that you like and fits well in your space. It may make sense to use different types of containers for different types of projects:

  • Magazine holders
  • Binders
  • Pocket Folders
  • Letter paper tray
  • Plastic filing tub – good for large volume projects

If a project has enough different parts and volume of paper, use categories to subdivide it. You can use actual file folders to group categories, post-its, separate containers.

Here are some of the project containers we recommend:

WHAT ABOUT DIGITAL?

A digital folder is a perfect container for projects. Plus, you can add subfolders if needed to break things up even more. For projects that have a mix of different types of digital files – photos, video, websites, and documents, programs such as Evernote are useful tools.

CLEAN UP WHEN YOU’RE DONE

Once a project is finished, don’t forget to weed it before filing any long-term keepers. In the summer camp example, you may want to keep flyers from camps that you didn’t choose this year but want to remember as possibilities for next year – these could live in a “Kid Activities” file in your system. Same goes for travel ideas. Construction projects always have lots of keepers – final permits, contracts, change orders, records of payments, final plans. OK to toss drafts and duplicates.

Now you can celebrate a successful completion with a clean desk…ready for the next project!

 

4 Comments

Filed under Decluttering

Get Organized! Or Not…

theonionarticle - 1

Brace yourself, here it comes…the flood of New Year pressure to (fill in the blank) lose weight, start exercising, be a better person, and GET ORGANIZED!

By all means, if you’re feeling inspired we encourage you to ride the wave of momentum to tackle some clutter and take on an organizing project. Truth is, chances are you WILL feel better if you do. If you’re rolling your eyes a bit at the crush of repurposed articles and tip lists you’ll enjoy this lighthearted take from The Onion on the usual organizing advice. Here’s our favorite 5 from their list of 10.

If you feel overwhelmed by a big project, get the simplest parts out of the way first and then decide you’re done.

Condense all your lists of people to get revenge on into one well-maintained enemies list.

When organizing your desk, start by sorting things into piles of blue things and not-blue things.

Designate a special spot near the front door for keys, purses, backpacks, shoes, coats, unread mail, lunch boxes, musical instruments, sports equipment, loose papers, and yard games.

When decluttering, examine each item you own that was purchased with money you will never get back that was earned at a job you hate and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?”

Happy New Year! Here’s to keeping perspective while you’re setting intentions for the future!

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Perspective

The Reality of Tiny House Living

Hillary's Tiny House outside

Could you imagine living in a house this small?

Small and tiny houses have increasingly become popular and known. Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters TV shows have heightened the public’s interest in this style of living.

Tiny houses on wheels are often compared to RVs. However, tiny houses are built to last as long as traditional homes, use traditional building techniques and materials, and are aesthetically similar to larger homes. A tiny house is often considered one that is under 400ft2.

So, what’s it really like to downsize and live in a tiny house? We interviewed our friend Hillary who’s been living in one for the last 6 months. Her space is under 200ft2. The footprint of the home is 8.5’ x 18’ and it sits on a trailer.

Why did you choose tiny living? Basically, the cost of living. It was a creative way to afford rent, and work to live instead of living to work. Also, I was interested in the environmental benefits and owning less.

What surprised you most about tiny living? How comfortable it feels. I’m getting along really well! It took a leap of faith but there have been more positives than negatives. I’ve realized I don’t have to own a lot to be content.

What has been an unexpected benefit? Buying less stuff. Even less food. I don’t go to home stores anymore for random décor. I’ve saved money and affirmed to myself I don’t need as much stuff as I used to.

What has been the hardest part? Finding the right place to put my tiny home took about a year.  I ended up finding my landlord through an East Bay Tiny House meetup. He has 3.5 acres in Diablo Valley area so I am surrounded by nature but also able to connect into utilities. My water comes from a hose line. I have a direct electricity and sewer line hook up. I have propane tanks for heating water and gas stove.

Another challenge is the lack of space for food and clothes. Clothing storage has been the hardest. I still use some offsite storage at my mom’s house but hope to gradually eliminate that.

What was the process of downsizing your possessions like to prepare to move here? I’m still transitioning through the downsizing process because I’m still storing some furniture at my mom’s. Also, most of my book collection. I’m an English teacher and I’d really like to have my books with me but I haven’t figured out how to integrate them into the space. I still need to sell or donate extra stuff. I feel like I haven’t yet had the cathartic moment of truly releasing things that didn’t fit. Other people I’ve talked to in tiny houses have described how freeing it is to let go.  That said, I do realize that there are lots of things I haven’t needed or thought about for 6 months. I still want to take on the personal challenge of only owning what will fit in my space.

Kitchen, sleeping loft and bathroom

Tiny House Living Room and Entry

Kitchen, Living Room, Entry

STORAGE

Let’s talk about storage – how do you get by without a garage? Right now, I’m not fully addressing that; I still store low use items such snowboarding & camping supplies offsite. There is some space underneath the trailer where I can store tubs – I have my backpacking gear in a heavy-duty tote as well as extra blankets & shoes.

How have you had to modify your shopping practices? I shop more often and buy smaller amounts of things when I do. I’ve had to become more aware of what I’m buying. I still buy a few things in bulk and use the storage area adjacent to my sleeping loft to hold low-use pantry items such as baking supplies.

Storage loft with overflow pantry items

How do you get by without a closet and a dresser? The home does have a really thin closet – 1.5’ wide. I have to be very selective about what gets hung. Reducing clothes was hard because I like to have options of what I wear.  I use open crates in the sleeping loft for folded clothes.

Has living in a tiny house changed your relationship to stuff? Not dramatically, but I feel like I have a higher level of awareness of nice-to-haves vs. have-to-haves. And I’m OK with that. I realized I’m not feeling the loss of giving up on the nice-to-haves as much as I would have thought.

LIFESTYLE

How has the move affected your social life? Not too much. I do have folks come over. I haven’t had big gatherings but I have outside space so that could be used in good weather for gatherings. Having 2-3 people within the house is tight. Having over one extra person is pretty comfortable. I find myself sitting outside more often both when I’m alone or with others. Seating inside a little cramped, especially for tall or larger guests.

Do you have a full bathroom and shower? The toilet and shower are separate and spacious enough. They are average size. I have an on-demand water heater and originally I had a composting toilet but then was able to connect into the landlord’s sewer line so I replaced it with a regular flush toilet.

What life circumstances would have to change for you to feel like you have to move? I feel like I could live here indefinitely if I was living alone. Cohabitating with a partner doesn’t feel very feasible to me here.  If I had a child it feels like it would be feasible maybe for the first year or so.

What are people most curious about? Mostly they just want to know – “Is this working for you? Are you comfortable?”  Anyone who comes to visit quickly sees how doable it is!

Want to watch the entire interview? Let us know!

1 Comment

Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Tools For Emptying Your Storage Unit

Storage Unit Tools (1)

Storage units have their place and can be a great solution for the right situation. Too often they get filled with the intention of being temporary, but end up languishing for years. Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions is quoted in the New York Times:

“Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators,” … “Because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage.”


Also, according to the Self Storage Association, only 30% of renters say they will rent for more than 2 years
.

Here are some practical approaches to finally clearing out that unit and recovering that monthly rent back into your budget.

Come Prepared

Don’t make the mistake of setting aside time to deal with the unit and show up empty handed or with just a garbage bag. These basic tools will enable you to effectively sort, purge and pack both items you’re keeping and those for donation. Be prepared to keep the kit in your unit for use across multiple days.

  • Small folding table
  • Step stool and/or folding chair
  • Marking pens and tape for labeling containers
  • Small and medium moving boxes for containing loose items
  • Packing tape, box cutter or scissors
  • Notepad for listing items in boxes or making notes of to-do’s
  • Smartphone camera
  • Garbage bag
  • Headlamp
  • Gloves/dust mask
  • A friend or helper for motivation and company!

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Just like organizing within your home, one of the first steps is to decide what you’re keeping and separate it from things you are not.

  • Borrow a rolling cart from the facility and load it with things to just make enough working space in the unit to set up a table. Or use the hallway outside the unit if that’s allowed.
  • If possible, start to physically create zones in the space to separate keepers from things going out. If it isn’t possible to literally remove items and take them with you that day, you’ll want to save yourself time in the future by staying organized throughout the process.
  • If you’re holding things for other people, use your phone to snap a picture and text it immediately asking the person what they want to do with the item.
  • LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Once you’ve made a decision or opened a box to determine what’s in it, LABEL the outside so you can know at a glance the status of that box.

Storage Unit

What Next?

  • Arrange for a charity donation pickup
  • Load donations and take them yourself
  • Arrange for a hauler to help with donations and trash such as 1-800-Got-Junk, Eco-Haul, or Lugg.com
  • Deliver items to family and friends or arrange a pickup day when they come to you
  • Arrange for a mover or hauler to bring the keepers home (if they won’t just fit in your car)

Emptying a storage unit can be a laborious process but you get the ball rolling, it takes less time than you’ve been dreading. Don’t plan on getting it all done in one day or one weekend! Be realistic and you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

Once you manage to get it empty,  don’t forget to reward yourself! Take ½ the monthly rent you’ve been paying and go out for a nice meal or treat yourself to a fun experience — you’ve earned it!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, Closets, Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, Memorabilia, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Seniors, Storage, Strategies

4 Cornerstones of a Successful Senior Move

cases-2545967_640

Have you thought about moving but feel paralyzed at the prospect of how to go about dealing with everything involved? You’re not alone! Moving can be an extremely overwhelming project. A good way to approach the task is to think of it in 4 areas.

What To Do With All Your Stuff?

  • The sooner you start paring down belongings – whether you’re moving or not – the better.
  • It can be easier to think about your possessions from the perspective of what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of.
  • Start with low-hanging fruit…it is way easier to purge accumulated office supplies than the decades long backlog of photos.
  • If you’re stuck, enlist the help of friends or family (only if they will be non-judgmental), or enlist a professional organizer or senior move manager. These can be found at net, NAPO-SFBA.org, and NASMM.org.

home-2003068_640

Deciding Where To Live

  • Work with a Placement Specialist – ideally someone local, not a general internet service. Placement services are free because they are compensated by the living facilities. Local professionals really know the features and culture of all the available options and will work to find the right fit for your personality and needs.
  • Choosing a home or retirement community is as much about the outside life you’ll have there as the place itself. Do you want/need to stay near your current doctors, family, friends, and familiar areas? How will moving impact your social circle and support network?
  • There are many different options for downsizing – including staying at home! Sometimes the best choice will be plan for support services so you can age in place at home.
  • Start looking before you’re ready to move. It can take awhile to make a decision about where will be the right fit…it’s much better to do the legwork and take your time about this major decision than feel pressured or rushed if something happens and you have to move quickly.

panic-1393619_640

Manage Your Emotions

  • Moving can be one of life’s most stressful events; expect to feel a range of emotions both positive and negative.
  • Don’t go it alone! Create and rely on a support network – friends, family, hired professionals to share the tremendous workload and stress of the move.
  • Be aware that feelings about a move can come in different stages and layers.
  • Having conversations early on with your adult children (or parents) about moving can bring clarity and more ease when the actual move happens.
  • Document your desires around long term and emergency care in writing to ensure your wishes are honored if you aren’t able to advocate for yourself.
  • The move doesn’t end on moving day – adjusting to your new space and life can take time and support.

Selling Your House

  • There are real estate professionals that specialize in working with seniors. Look for the designation: SRES – Senior Real Estate Specialist.
  • There are different financing options available to help make a move happen. Consult a reputable mortgage broker or realtor to discuss options.
  • Work with a realtor who really knows your area and takes all the specifics of your situation into account when making the plan for how best to sell .
  • Staging matters – Most buyers have the easiest time picturing their life in your home when the home is staged rather than filled with your things.
  • Work with a realtor who partners or can refer to a professional organizer or senior move manager to help you downsize.

Intimidating as it is, getting started on any of these items is the best way to start! Pick something that feels relatively easy to get the ball rolling. Every step you take brings you closer to the end goal!

2 Comments

Filed under couples, Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, Moving, Seniors