Category Archives: disorganization

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.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Be S.M.A.R.T. About New Year’s Resolutions

hallway (2)

It’s that time of year – we are flooded with messages in ads, articles and magazine covers, about setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Over and over, GETTING ORGANIZED ranks in the top 3 – right next to getting healthier and managing your money better. Guess what?  Getting organized can help you with your other goals! A lot of us are great at setting goals but not so great at following through consistently to make progress. Without a plan behind the goal, it’s pretty hard to truly make changes.

An often-used concept in coaching and organizing is to set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. Keep this in mind as you plan out your journey to a de-cluttered home.

S – Specific

Is your goal well-defined? For some “Getting Organized” is their goal. But it isn’t specific enough. Enlisting a friend or professional organizer to help you do big-picture planning is one way to start. Defining what you truly want and are willing to work for may be more challenging than you think. If you’ve started projects in the past and not completed them, getting specific may have been the missing piece. Instead of “Organize the house”, how about “Organize the hall closet and entry area”?

M – Measurable

Identify the milestones as you progress. If you are organizing your home, emptying out one closet and re-filling it in a way that makes sense to you is a measurable task. It’s good to define your goal in a way that lets you measure your progress and success. How will you know when the hall closet and entry are organized? Will it look different? Function differently? Feel different? Understanding exactly what items need to live in these areas and having clear and functional homes for those items is measurable.

A – Action Oriented

What specific actions are required to move you toward your goal? It’s difficult to take action on something that has many components, breaking the pie-in-the-sky project down into concrete, manageable bites helps. What would be the next logical first step? Is this action observable? It could be that you schedule 1 hour progress sessions. Action tasks could be: “Go through coats and donate ones we don’t use” or “Empty out the floor of the closet and only put back what truly needs to live here”.

R – Realistic

Have a realistic game plan. Are you trying to organize an area that requires other people’s input? If so, do you have it or how will you get it? Does your project require some space to stage items as you go through them? If so, don’t start working on it right before hosting a kid’s birthday party or having guests over.

Telling yourself you are going to organize your house in a weekend when you work full-time and have 2 kids who are active in sports isn’t realistic either. Make your plan do-able. Look at the reality of your schedule and how you like to work and plan out time accordingly.

T – Time-Based

What is your deadline for achieving your goal?  And is there enough time to achieve it? A realistic time frame can keep you sane. Remember that trying to fit a new project in an already-full life, no matter how inspiring it may be, can be a stressor. Blocking out time to act on your plan helps ensure success. Beware – it is very common to underestimate how long it can take. As organizers we usually allow 2-4 hours minimum to full go through, purge, and re-organize a small hall closet (with no re-design). What can you NOT DO in order to create time to do what you are most excited about?

Enjoy the surge of motivation the new year often brings and set yourself up for success by taking the time to record your desires and spend time planning to turn those intentions into actions…and results. If you can make the journey satisfying, you’re more likely to stay on the path.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

5 Containers Every House Should Have

 

Container for loose change (1)

A place for loose change. A change bowl, a basket, a pouch – it’s possible you need one in each room.

A place for dead batteries and fluorescent lightbulbs – dedicate a location to safely gather them.  Every city has regulations on how to dispose of these items.

A junk drawer — a place to put the miscellaneous utility things.  This also applies to kid toys…one miscellaneous box for the little bits that you find around.

An adequately-sized laundry basket.  The basket can be pretty, but it needs to accommodate the laundry you produce between wash sessions.

A donation box – make sure the container can be easily transferred to your car and replaced easily.  And keep it in the house, somewhere accessible.  If it’s in the garage, things will accumulate in the house and you’ll have a mess.  Especially with kids who are growing quickly, you need a place to catch outgrown clothes. It can be as simple as a grocery bag in each person’s closet.

Honor the fact that the container is a limiter; once the bin is full, it needs to be addressed:

  • Take the coins to Coinstar, or make an outing to spend your coins on an ice cream date.
  • Make a plan to go to your local hazardous waste facility to drop off stuff you can’t just put in the trash.
  • Regularly edit your junk drawer so it doesn’t become a complete mess.
  • Create a regular schedule for laundering to keep clothes at bay.
  • Set up a donation schedule. As soon as the collection bag is full, get it into the car and schedule yourself to drop it off…with a fresh bag in the closet to collect more cast-aways.

Try baby steps:

Monday – gather your coins into a container

Tuesday – label a baggie DEAD BATTERIES and dedicate a location to collect them

Wednesday – assign a junk drawer and clear out the true junk

Thursday – size up your laundry pile and procure baskets for each room

Friday – use a Sharpie to label a grocery bag and give one to each member of the family (and a general bag for the utility room)

Saturday – Congratulate yourself!  You’re organized!

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

What Flavor Of Organizing Do You Need?

 

Did you know organizers don’t just organize?  Professional organizing comes in all sorts of flavors. Some organizers are more generalists and cover lots of areas; others pick one specialty and stick to that.  Have a look at the variety of challenges where professional organizers can help:

  1. ADD/ADHD
  2. Bookkeeping
  3. Business development
  4. Children and teen organizing
  5. Chronic disorganization
  6. Closet design and organizing
  7. Coaching
  8. Consulting
  9. Corporate operations
  10. Digital organizing
  11. Downsizing
  12. Eco-organizing
  13. Estate management
  14. Estate sales
  15. Event planning
  16. Feng Shui
  17. Financial management/Bookkeeping/Bill-paying
  18. Garage sales
  19. Garages/Attics/Basements
  20. Hands-on organizing
  21. Hoarding behavior
  22. Home inventories
  23. Home offices
  24. Home staging
  25. Household management
  26. KonMari organizing
  27. Notary Public
  28. Online sales
  29. Paper management
  30. Personal assistance
  31. People with disabilities
  32. Photography/Memorabilia/Collections
  33. Project management
  34. Psychology involved in organizing/productivity
  35. Records management
  36. Relocation and move management
  37. Social media
  38. Space planning and design
  39. Speaking and training
  40. Storage units
  41. Task and time management
  42. Team productivity
  43. Technology
  44. Travel prep
  45. Virtual organizing

No matter the size or scope of your project, we can help you find an organizer with the specialty you need! Ask us for recommendations or go directly to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals — NAPO.net.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, artwork, Bathroom, Bay Area Services, Bedroom, Business Organizing, children, Closets, clothing, couples, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Moving, Office, Paper, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, School, Seniors, Storage, Technology, Time Management, Travel, Wedding

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

Overcoming Resistance-Getting Yourself To YES

Yes

We may want to get reclaim our dining room table or our linen closet from the throes of entropy.  But that isn’t usually enough to get ourselves to make it happen.

Resistance to our goals shows up in different ways for different people… boredom, sleepiness, getting distracted, anxiety, procrastination, avoidance.  So how do you get around your own resistance to meet your organizing goals?

I’m overwhelmed!

Being overwhelmed can stop us in our tracks.  We freeze because the project feels too big and scary.  There are some techniques to managing that overwhelm. Rather than tackling the whole project, take one small step. How about:

  • Working on just a corner of a dining room table or
  • Cherry-picking only the catalogs and magazines or
  • Moving the shredding bag and recycling bin next to the table
  • Removing only the mail that looks critical and leaving the rest for now or
  • Doing a rough sort and gathering only large categories of things: for example, paper, items made of cloth, dishes, other people’s things

I don’t have time for this! I’m too busy! There’s other important things to do!

It may be very true that you are busy and other things seem more important. But this project you are looking at must be costing you something or it wouldn’t be bothering you…mental distress, distraction.

  • What value will you gain by finishing this project?
  • How is this project you’re putting off affecting your daily life?
  • What is it costing you in time, money or distraction? …late fees, family arguments, inefficiency?
  • Get clear on why you’re doing it
  • Schedule a session and see how far you get.
  • If you’re waiting for this magical block of time to appear, unless you make an appointment with yourself, you’ll always feel too busy
  • Ask a friend to keep you company while you work on it or commit to someone else to make progress

I might need it! I paid a lot of money for it! Someone gave it to me!

We all have these objections.  Not valuing your current life as much as you value money you already spent and can’t fully recoup…or letting someone else’s generosity keep you from having your home the way you want it is debilitating.

  • Save that resistance for things that are truly hard to come by, not for things that are easy to borrow or replace, like novels and cheesecake pans.
  • Ask yourself “Is it really that precious to take up valuable space in my home and my life?
  • Is the value of having it on hand worth the everyday cost of keeping it, taking up space, requiring cleaning or care?
  • Don’t let the “maybe/somedays” stand in the way of living comfortably right now. How about that specialty appliance that you have been meaning to use…Is that bread maker/ice cream machine/panini press taking up valuable space on your counter or in your cabinets?
  • To keep from getting stuck, try dividing the items in question into three categories: “YES” – “NO” – “MAYBE” to maintain forward momentum while sorting

Sometimes our resistance isn’t literal or immediately obvious. Maybe you’re avoiding that pile of papers because you have a huge bill due…or clearing out a space means facing memories of someone who used to be in your life.

Hold that vision of the how great it will feel to have made progress on your organizing goal.  The cumulative effect of slight behavior changes can improve the course of your life.  Be kind to yourself, some resistance is pretty intense. If you truly get stuck, move onto something else or reach out for a helping hand.

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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!

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Perspective