Category Archives: disorganization

Untangling Electronic Cable Clutter

cable salad

Who hasn’t opened a desk drawer to see a snarled rats nest of cables and electronic devices from the past? An intimidating and unappealing cable and device salad?

We live in a time of amazing technological advances but one of the drawbacks is that devices quickly become obsolete. Our consumer culture pressures us to keep replacing things, which creates a constant stream of electronic litter in our homes.

The charging and connecting cords that go with these items create an extra layer of frustration and confusion around the issue. Hot tip: when you get a new device, take the time to wrap the cables! Purging old electronics becomes so much simpler when you can quickly grab the device and all it’s parts and cables.

bundled cables

Many people get rid of the electronics but don’t search for the cables (and even the CDs that that go with them) to dispose of at the same time. They’re left with a box of cables they are afraid to get rid of.  There might actually be a useful one in there for a device they still have. The box of chaos becomes a project for that mythical weekend when you’re going to organize your garage, sort your photos and finally deal with that box of cables. Yeah, right.

The simplest way to bundle cables is using twist ties. You can use the grocery store variety or a heavier duty kind – silicone twist ties, which are sturdy and easy to use. Ziploc bags work well to group accessories and software with the cables making it even easier to dispose of the group when the time comes.

It sounds like such a straightforward solution, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the most elegant.  And they can save you from future frustration. Your time is precious, invest a little bit up front to save yourself hours later.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Office, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Technology, Time Management

Giving Your Photos and Memorabilia a Reason for Living

photo organizing

Do you have piles of photos stored somewhere in your basement or attic or the back of your closet?  You’re not alone.  Many of our clients hit a wall when it comes to tackling the photos and memorabilia.  It always seems to be the lowest priority until a life event like a birthday or graduation prompts the need for quick and easy access to your loved ones photos.  It’s then that you realize how inconvenient you’ve made it for yourself to view your family memorabilia.

Organizing photos (digital or printed) is a lot like organizing anything in the house – the first step is to determine why you would be keeping them.

Take a few minutes to consider the bigger picture…what do you want your photos for? Do you imagine that you’ll pass the unfinished project on to your kids? Would you like to have some on display or in albums? How important is it to identify people or events for others?

Before you dive into the backlog spend some time framing (pun intended) the picture of your immediate and long-term goals – it will give needed clarity to your sorting and purging.

Figure out what you’re keeping. This takes setting aside time, regularly, to gather and weed your collection.

Divide your photos into 4 categories:

1 – Photos to display, share or put in an album

These are the best of the best; the ones you would be sad if they were destroyed. You may never actually create the album, but it’s important to make the separation in case you or your family member gets motivated.

2 – Photos to keep but not display

The second cut, those you want to store or archive for safekeeping and possible future use.

3 – Photos that tell a story

Even if they are not perfect, don’t automatically toss a great picture if it tells a significant story. They can be illustrative of some specific point in time or mark a milestone.

4 – Photos to dispose of

Come on!  Do you need to keep the 5th copy of a photo you don’t even like? Blurry photos, poorly composed photos, photos of people you don’t even remember can all be tossed.

Next step, determine the keepers.

Set up containers with the 3 separate categories labeled — Album/Display, Archive, Trash — so it’s easy to separate them.  The pictures that tell a story can be tagged with notes and put in the appropriate category.

Once the initial sort happens, you can drill down into more specific categories.  Categories help with retrieval. They help you browse the archive for retrieval or help determine the structure of an album.

Would a picture of Aunt Mary on vacation with you in Hawaii get sorted into Vacations, Aunt Mary and Her Family, the year & month of the trip or …?

There are no right or wrong choices, but you will need to make a choice.

Post-its and index cards, Ziploc bags are great temporary ways to sort printed photos until you arrive at your final organization. Start with broad categories or themes and know that you can come back and fine-tune, if desired, later. To keep the process moving, limit your time with categorizing of each particular photo to a couple seconds. Resist the urge to reminisce; there will be plenty of time for that later.

Power Sort Box

Power Sort Box from Creative Memories for sorting physical photographs

Digital photos need this kind of attention and maintenance also! Don’t kid yourself – the accumulation of thousands of unsorted digital photos will create just as much overwhelm and hassle as the boxes or bags of printed photos taking up closet space. Digital photos can be tagged with multiple categories.  This is a great advantage; it’s the equivalent of having the same photo in 3 or more different places.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tackle bite-sized chunks.  Commit to just one box of sorting, or time yourself and do one-hour blocks of time or enlist an interested party and make a date to do it together.

IMPORTANT! Moving forward, make sure you have a sound system of photo management in place so you’re not contributing to the backlog. For most of us this means managing digital photos. Here are some tips:

  • Figure out how to sync your devices and/or copy photos to ONE master location
  • Make sure you have a backup system!
  • Use additional folders for sorting and/or use tagging to mark a photo as belonging in more than one category
  • Make actual prints of favorites so they can be enjoyed on display

If this article has left you feeling completely hopeless and overwhelmed instead of inspired, it’s time to ask for help! Search the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (www.APPO.com) for a local resource.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Memorabilia, middle-age, Moving, organizing, paper organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Technology

Is Perfectionism Keeping You From Getting Your Literal House in Order?

Do you wish your books were perfectly organized?

Do you wish your books were perfectly organized?

We’ve asked our coaching colleague Wendy Edelstein of Changeover Coaching to share some tips.

Did you once aspire to have a home where there is no excess? You know, the kind that Marie Kondo describes in her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in which there’s a place for everything – that you love – and unwanted items have been relinquished?

Perhaps you had a vision of an orderly, tranquil home when you began your tidying up project but are now frustrated and stuck midstream. To make matters worse, piles of partially sorted stuff remind you of your impasse.

As a coach who helps people perform better and become more productive, clients seek me out to meet their goals. Perfectionism, however, can be a real obstacle to moving forward.

Here are some suggestions:

Manage your project. Home organizing is a big project that can be overwhelming. Break it into manageable chunks. Marie Kondo suggests starting by pruning your wardrobe and then addressing categories such as books, papers, and personal mementos. If spending your stay-cation on tidying up is not your thing, designate 2-3 hour time blocks in your calendar to get the job done.

Practice self-compassion. If you’re a perfectionist (and I suspect that if you hear the clarion cry of organizing and decluttering, you may be among our number), go easy on yourself. Perfectionists tend to have very active inner critics. Reward yourself for each part of the project you accomplish.

Keep your goal front and center. Post images from magazines in each room that evoke how you want the room to look. Add words that represent the values you are honoring with this project (order, beauty, calm, for example) and paste them onto the image for inspiration.

Do it your way. At the risk of being heretical, Kondo’s method – which is pretty extreme – may not be your thing. Whatever works for you is perfect.

Get support. A professional organizer – or a coach – can help you navigate your project. Often, we perfectionists think there’s valor in going it alone. Admitting you would benefit from support might be just what you need to get the job done.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, home organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Clear Clutter To Prevent Falls

Prevent Falling  - 1

A serious danger to our health as we age is injury due to a fall. Clutter that accumulates on the floors of our homes creates many risks for falls. Reading material, shoes, and general “overflow” often create hazardous clutter.

Magazines, Books & Newspapers

It’s easy to let reading materials accumulate on the floor next to our favorite chairs or next to the bedside. Before you know it, several stacks have grown and prevent you from getting in and out of the chair or bed easily.

Magazine holders are an easy solution for any room where reading materials build up. They come in a wide variety of sizes and materials so it’s pretty easy to find one that will work in every room. The important habit to develop is to use the holder for CURRENT materials only. Once the container fills, it’s time to make some decisions about what can be recycled and what needs to be returned to it’s permanent home: a bookshelf.
    

Shoes

Loose shoes underfoot (pun intended) can easily cause a stumble. The entryway and the bedroom are the two main places shoes are left out. Having an accessible, convenient place to put shoes away is key to keeping them out of your way.

Shoe organizers come in 3 general types with a lot of variety within each type: floor styles (rack or bench), pockets that hang from a door or closet rod, and wall mounted. There’s also nothing wrong with having an open basket or tub to toss shoes into for a quick and easy solution.



Overflow

This kind of clutter can occur in any room. What happens over time is the shelves, cabinets, closets, and drawers that hold our items get filled. Overflow often ends up nearby but not able to be put away because the “home” is already full, often with old, unused items. If you have accumulated overflow it is a sign that it’s time for a purge. Active, accessible storage space is very valuable; make room to hold the items that you actually use and need in order to keep the floors clear.

See Your Space With Fresh Eyes

It’s can be hard to see hazards in our own homes because we acclimate to how things are. Try having a non-judgmental friend, family member, or professional come over and help you notice the fall hazards created by clutter. Seeing your space through someone else’s eyes can provide surprising opportunities for improvements!

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, home organizing, Seniors

Easy Solutions for Keeping Kid Keepsakes

kid art - 1

Do you have a unwieldy stack of kid creations in your garage or closet? Do you love to see the creativity in the various objects they create then feel paralyzed by the thought “Now what do I do with it?” Rest easy, you’re not alone. In our decades of organizing, kid art and memorabilia is one of the most common clutter challenges we deal with.

Here are 3 tips to manage the overwhelm:

Show it off before stowing it away

Dedicate a bit of wall and surface space to display the most recent creations. It gives time for everyone to appreciate the items and for attachments to wane a little. When new items come in, it’s time to decide whether the older items really make the cut at true keepsakes.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

They aren’t all keepers. Really. Remember, the goal is to keep a representative sample that catches a snapshot of their life. This includes homework. Routine worksheets and tests aren’t nearly as personal as original writing – kids talking in their own words about their lives in that moment. Also, don’t delude yourself that you’ll “make time to go through it later”. Be honest, you’re life is likely too busy and there’s far better uses of your time.

Use the right containers

Oversize art portfolios (available from craft & art stores) work perfectly for the preschool/early elementary years. Regular size art, homework, awards, cards/letters, and school/sport photos fit perfectly in a plastic file storage box with box bottom hanging files for each school year. Definitely have separate containers for each child. Object art does best in it’s own box, tissue wrapped for protection.

Bonus tip: Go digital! Take pictures of your child’s creations and put them in a system – folders, iphoto albums or sites like Picasa. And there are many apps available to memorialize your kids’ art.

Imagine your grown child coming back home to clear out their things after they’ve launched. They find a discreet amount of their memorabilia – a portfolio and a box – with the special art they created in their childhoods and are able to enjoy the memories and revel in their creativity while not being overwhelmed by dusty heaps of tattered paintings and dog-eared papers.

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Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, Memorabilia

Fear Factor: Papers You Don’t Think You Can Handle

In the spirit of Halloween we continue the discussion of how to banish the fears that keep us from starting organizing projects.

eyeball - 1

Fear #2: Papers You Don’t Think You Can Handle

Imagine this scenario: you get a thick envelope in the mail from your attorney…aaack! You don’t want to deal with it. You throw it in a pile, in a remote drawer or just leave it in your “in-box”.

If you’re lucky, days (or months) later, you get a call from your attorney’s office. “Did you get the papers we sent to you to fill out? They are time sensitive. “ If you’re not lucky, you’ll never hear from them again.

This is the kind of stuff that populates that scary file drawer or mail pile. It’s overwhelming, you don’t understand it all, and you know you’re going to have to THINK to figure out what to do next. Everyone seems to have an area like this; an “I can’t deal with this pile.”

Fear banishing strategies:

  1. Grab someone’s hand and tackle the pile together
  2. Pour a shot or two of whiskey and dive in
  3. Call your attorney and ask them to walk you through it
  4. Set a timer and commit to spending 10 minutes looking through the drawer
  5. Sign up for a “get it done” session with a coach, an organizer, a friend
  6. Break down the project into bite-sized chunks.
  7. Write down in advance –before you even look in the drawer or deconstruct the pile – what you “think” you have to do …providing a framework with which to sort the pieces of information

The project may be more than you can handle. But unless you dip your toe in, you may never know.  Asking for help, even to break open the drawer or pry apart the envelope is a valid strategy!

Next up…tackling those things that conjure up ghosts from the past…

 

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Office, organizing, Paper, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies, Work

Fear Factor: Gross and Scary Spaces

Halloween conjures up images of ghosts, death and hidden fears. The hidden (or not so hidden) fears of many of our clients is what holds them back from tackling organizing projects.

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll cover the most common fears and how best to banish them…or at least make them manageable!

Fear #1: The “Ick” Factor

cobweb 1

Could you offer your attic/basement/garage as a haunted house for Halloween? The dark corners, dangerous obstacles, cobwebs (& spiders!), even foul evidence of other furry critters visits. Let’s face it – not many of us relish the thought of digging through the “ick” necessary to get some storage spaces de-cluttered. Often though, the fear of the ick outweighs the actual reality of what you’ll encounter.

  • Work in a well-lit space. If the space doesn’t have it’s own good lighting add in some temporary clamp-style work lights so you can actually see into the corners and what you’re dealing with (though that may scare you more).
  • Come armed with safety and cleaning supplies. The arsenal: disposable plastic gloves or kitchen dish gloves, dust masks, heavy duty garbage bags, broom, dustpan.
  • Don’t fear the beasts. If rodent droppings are present it’s important to NOT sweep them up dry. Vacuum them up and/or spray the area with a light bleach-water solution then wipe them up and throw away. If you’re lucky enough that the creature causing the mess has also chosen to expire in your space, kitchen tongs wrapped in paper towels make a nice way to transfer the body into your heavy duty trash bag. If you don’t find the critter you may need to set traps or call in a professional exterminator.
  • Be ready to unload. Once you get going, lot’s of scary things are going to be released from your space: hazardous waste, dead compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries, scrap metal, re-useable hardware and building supplies. Have some dedicated boxes or bags ready and do your research ahead of time to know where to take different kinds of items (your local organizer will know all the spots, just ask!). Make space in your car ahead of time so the boxes don’t sit around for months.

Next up…tackling those scary, complex papers that make the bottom of your stomach drop!

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Garage, home organizing, Perspective, Strategies