Category Archives: General Organizing

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

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

5 Tips To Create An Organized Kitchen

Who doesn’t need a banana saver?

Kitchens are one of the hardest-working rooms in a home. They get used multiple times a day, often by multiple people. They have to house super high-use items such as cookware, dishes and silverware, and often very low-use items such as the ice cream maker or pizza stone.

If you’re lucky, when you moved into your home your kitchen was filled perfectly, where items you use the most were put in the ideal location, your bins and drawers were divided and labeled so everyone could find (and put away) what they needed.   Over time, even the best order in cabinets gets challenged by changes in the family needs and new additions to the stuff we own. Kids grow up, Tupperware lids get lost, cooking styles change, new equipment is brought in.

When it’s time to hit the reset button, follow these tips!

Tip 1:

Clear the counters or kitchen table so you have space to go through items. It can be helpful to have a few medium sized cardboard boxes on hand to group like items together until you find them all and have decided where they’re going to live.

Tip 2:

Work on one area at a time. Completely empty the shelves or drawers and give them a good wipe down. Refresh shelf liner if needed.

Tip 3:

PURGE! Toss out broken or chipped dishes.  Remove out of date food.  Take the time to match up all the food storage containers with their lids and toss the orphans. This is your time to re-acquaint yourself with your stuff – be realistic about what you use and create space to keep it by releasing things you don’t.

Tip 4:

Put things back in locations that makes sense and match the need to access them. The most accessible areas should house frequently used items. It makes sense to store dishes within reach of the dishwasher and large bowls near the prep area, for example.

Tip 5:

Use Organizing products to create more usable space.

Tiered Riser

Shelf risers maximize the prime real estate. And don’t forget that most shelves are adjustable; place the shelves where they make sense for YOUR stuff instead of just using their default position.

drawer dividers - 1

Drawer dividers help keep items sorted by size and use. In deep cabinets use drawers and pull-outs as much as possible. Bed Bath and Beyond and Container Store both sell pull-out shelves you can add to existing shelves. Custom pull-outs fully maximize the space.

Pull outs and drawers

Pantry storage containers and deep storage bins can be very useful to group types of foods.

If you’re going to tackle the entire kitchen in one session, plan for a full day. Otherwise set aside an hour per cabinet (2 to 3 hours for a pantry). Investing the time and energy into one of the most important rooms in the house will pay off every time you cook, put away groceries or go to set the table!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Products, Storage

Beyond the Junk Drawer But Before the Garage

tools-864983_640

Ever gone to find a battery or screwdriver from the junk drawer and the drawer is completely overstuffed? Do you find that handy household bits are routinely left around the house? Stuff left out on surfaces is an indicator that either there isn’t a dedicated home for it or the space they are supposedto live in isn’t sufficient.

What do you do?

Sometimes the proverbial “junk drawer” isn’t big enough to accommodate all the handy items you like to keep nearby. It does make sense to keep a certain amount of what we call “light utility” items close by in the house rather than having to schlep out to the garage every time you need a piece of string.

The usual light utility suspects include:

  • String and light rope
  • Packing tape painters tape, masking tape
  • Adhesives/Glues/Glue Gun
  • Batteries
  • Bike repair
  • Electronics cables/parts/Chargers
  • Furniture sliders and floor protectors
  • Locks and keys
  • Picture hanging supplies
  • Light work gloves
  • Rags
  • Lightbulbs

If you find you’re dedicating multiple kitchen drawers; too much valuable real estate with this kind of stuff, it can be worth an investment in a system beyond the drawer.

Good options are:

  • Tall rolling drawer unit. It can be stored in a laundry room, a closet or a pantry.
  • Stackable drawers that sit on shelves
  • Clear lidded boxes on shelves or in cabinets
IMG_8606

Labeling makes all the difference!

If you can, it’s always better to subdivide drawers and label. We have a “Miscellaneous Household” drawer where we keep both floor protection and picture hanging supplies (fishing line, crown moulding hooks, rubber chair leg tips and felt pads). Sometimes “Miscellaneous” works just fine; there will always be a certain amount of leftover items that aren’t enough to make a full category grouping in a bin or drawer.

This is an IRIS brand rolling cart – sold at Target and online

This wood-composite cabinet can also be found at Target or Michaels

SUM_16_10009502_Shoe_Bin_R050516

These clear stackable shoe and sweater drawers from the Container Store also work well for household items

The most important principle here is to consciously create a home for the things you store that fits the reality of what you own.  Be realistic. If you have more stuff than fits in a drawer, redefine the storage.  It doesn’t work to make a tiny kitchen drawer do the work of a large tool chest.

Go ahead and try it!  Set aside an hour, gather the tools and household bits, categorize and redefine your storage.  Take charge and make it work for you!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Laundry, organizing, Products, Storage, Strategies

Hiring An Organizer – Finding The Right Fit

Finding the right fit can take a little time, plan for that

You’ve finally decided to get some help tackling that closet or dealing with paper overwhelm.  How do you go about finding a Professional Organizer who will meet your needs?

Having been a part of an association of Professional Organizers for many years, both locally and nationally, we have met a lot of organizers.  We are struck by the wide range of differences between Organizers. There are varying levels of competencies, there is a tremendous amount of leeway in organizing styles and there are many different approaches to the work. Most important to realize is there really is no “right” way to be an Organizer; the perfect fit for a client comes from a mix of personality, skill sets, and process competency.

What Do You Need & Want?

The easy part is figuring out where in the home or office you need help. Closet design? Kitchen reorganization? Paperwork? Kid’s stuff? The harder part may be knowing who you’ll work best with. Organizing is such personal, sometimes intimate, work that it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about what personality types and approaches may work best for you.

Would you like working with someone who:

  • Lets you take the lead or is more directive?
  • Is high energy or more mellow?
  • Has a deeper psychological perspective vs. a “let’s just do it” perspective?
  • Can work virtually as well as hands-on?
  • Does all the work themselves or has a team of organizers?

An organizer for your closet project may not be the right match for your home office project. An organizer with a background in corporate admin would come at a problem differently than someone who comes from an interior design or counseling background. And then there are differences in rates, policies, and availability to consider. Getting clear on your desires and needs will help to hone in on the right questions to find a good fit for your projects.

Experience Matters, and…

There certainly is value in working with an Organizer with many years of experience, but someone who is newer to the field may have a rich work history which lends itself to organizing. Most people come to this career after having had a significant work or life experience where they used or developed their organizing skills.  Just because someone is new doesn’t mean they won’t be capable of handling a project; ask about their work or personal background to determine their approach and skills if you can’t ask for client references.

As our industry has developed, more formal trainings and certifications have evolved.  Some Organizers have chosen to go through a professional certification process which requires they pass a test and have met a minimum number of organizing hours (1500 hours within past 3 years). To maintain their certification, they must complete continuing education. These organizers will have a CPO® designation after their name.

How Do I Find An Organizer?

As with most services, word of mouth is the best way to get a great referral in your area – post something on Facebook or NextDoor to ask your friends and neighbors if anyone has a recommendation. Or look for reviews of organizers on Yelp or NextDoor. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals (NAPO) has a searchable database to find member organizers near your zip code: NAPO.net (national search) or NAPO-SFBA (SF Bay Area). NAPO also has a handy hiring guide on their website.

You’ll know you have a successful match when your Organizer’s style and experience blends well with your needs … and you work though projects efficiently and effectively. Remember, there’s no one “right” way to organize!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, professional organizer, Strategies

Capture the Story, Release the Object

still life marlin

While we are working with people who are downsizing or just clearing space, we hear the stories about many of the objects that they might be parting with. We’re always looking for ways to help our clients to make room for their next chapters and/or to let go of excess stuff. It’s often the attachments to “stuff” that holds people back from making that move to a more desirable area, to downsize into a place that feels more cozy … or to just have people over.

We were introduced to Laura Turbow of Still Life Stories. She and her partner Rachel Friedman, photograph and capture the essence of special items. Grandpa’s chair, a prized-but-bulky trophy, that taxidermied swordfish that just doesn’t fit any more (did it ever?). In the process, they honor an individual and/or the story behind it.

One of the goals of Still Life Stories is to help people hold on to what matters and brings them joy and to let go of the rest. That happens to dovetail with our work as Professional Organizers. We help people discern what our clients will bring with them into their future. And to keep what brings them joy.

Downsizing does not have to mean the end of things. Converting the ‘thing’ into digital photos and story that can be shared and remembered, that can survive fires, floods and disasters…while giving you the space you need. The April 4th post on the Still Life Stories Facebook page shows the power of a story when the history behind an object is shared.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

Make Your Home a Priority

superhero

Be a SUPERHERO in your own home!

Do you feel like there’s never enough time to get things put away, straightened out, picked up, cleaned out?

Guess what? There isn’t!

Maintaining your living space must be given priority in your regular schedule. We depend on our homes for our daily living but often don’t recognize how important it is to make regular time to keep the contents maintained. When your roof has a hole, you fix it. When your plumbing backs up, you fix it. We immediately recognize the urgency of these situations and prioritize them.

How about applying the same sense of urgency to a dining room table always full of mail? Or a pile of returns waiting to get to the post office? Or cluttered kitchen counters taking up prep space? Recognizing the urgency of these situations that we often just acclimate to and tolerate requires a shift in perspective.

Think about the quality of life you’d gain by:

  • Being able to get dressed quickly in the morning
  • Having adequate supplies for school projects
  • Finding ingredients for dinner when you haven’t had time to shop
  • Finding sport equipment for the next game
  • Knowing exactly which bills are due and where they are

How To Do It

The first step to making this happen is to make some time for it. Too much stuff and too little time is a recipe for disaster. Maintaining an organized home takes sacrifices because time won’t magically appear in our schedules unless we make it a priority.

If weekday schedules are completely full with work and school you may have to sacrifice some optional activities on the weekend. In our busy lives we often don’t realize that many of our fun activities are actually optional – book clubs, kid sports, outings, travel. It can be a little painful, but creating a short-term plan to carve out enough time to get caught up on problem areas of the home will pay you back daily when life is simpler and easier.

And it doesn’t have to all be done at once; prioritize the areas that affect your daily living the most. It feels great to finish one area at a time instead of chipping away in multiple areas. The sooner you see and feel the results of your efforts, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going.

Be your own superhero – make time magically appear by scheduling organizing sessions in your calendar. If you don’t own it, no one else will! Remember, just as you would hire that roofer or plumber if you couldn’t fix it yourself, get professional help with your home if you can’t tackle it on your own.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies