Category Archives: General Organizing

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

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

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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!

 

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

Make Your Closets Work for You

ElfaSale

Sale ends February 28th, 2018

It’s that time of year again. Your closets are bursting, drawers are overflowing, and this is the year you are finally getting organized. You’re in luck, the elfa® shelving sale at the Container Store® is underway!

Why do we love elfa® closet systems?

  • Esthetically pleasing
  • Completely changeable
  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to install

CLEAN LINES, VARIETY OF LOOKS

There are several different finish options for your closet system – a ventilated wire shelf in white or platinum with optional wood edging, solid shelves in many different veneers…the variety means their systems fit lots of different tastes. See examples of the different styles on their best-selling solutions page.

PRICED TO FIT ANY BUDGET

Closet pricing can vary from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand depending on the size and complexity of the design.

  • A standard 6’ closet outfitted with one clothes rod and two 6’ shelves prices out at around $200 (during the sale!) — mind you, that doesn’t include their fantastic drawers or gliding shoe shelves
  • “Décor” edging and shelving, drawers, shoe shelves, tie racks, hooks, bins, and other accessories will add to the cost
  • The ventilated and solid melamine shelving are the most economical

Master closet right after move-in

This plan, with solid front drawers costs $965

NOT JUST FOR CLOSETS

The variety and adaptability of this shelving makes it perfect for many spaces – they also have free-standing elfa® units if you don’t have available wall space:

  • Garage, basement & attic are great places for shelving
  • Create a wall-mounted desk with shelves above
  • Kitchen pantry

COULD IT BE ANY EASIER TO INSTALL?

The design of the system makes installation super simple.

  • The whole system hangs from a single bar they call a top track. Once you get that installed securely, there is no further need for tools or the help of your handyman
  • It usually takes about an hour to install a basic 6’ closet
  • We must say that the Container Store’s® installers are friendly and quick.  They can handle demolition of the existing closet and can handle any adjustments needed for unexpected glitches in the planning process
  • If one is only installing a single closet system, the installers are a little pricey (they have a $180 minimum) so take advantage of this sale – installation is also discounted

BUT WAIT! Closet design isn’t the starting point.

How each closet functions is an integral part of how a whole house stays organized. Before you invest in a makeover of any one closet be sure that you’re storing what you really need and that you’re storing it in the appropriate location…should your boxes of photos and memorabilia really live in the master bedroom closet?

We offer closet and storage assessments to advise on how to maximize space. If you want help figuring out the best closet solutions for your needs, contact us!

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Filed under Closets, General Organizing, Products

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

Pacing Yourself During the Holidays

If you regularly have a lot going on in life the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load…where can the kids participate or invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping are examples. Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out? Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a December that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself what could you do to avoid those pitfalls?

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

5 Reasons To Get Organized Before You Get “Old”

5 Reasons Organize Before Old

1. Moving is challenging at any age

And it only gets harder the older you get. Having a really organized home dramatically simplifies a move — if you decide that’s what you want.

2. Alleviate hidden stress

You will have many years without the nagging feeling like you “should” be getting organized. Studies show that the volume of possessions can elevate stress hormone levels.

3. Make your own choices before someone has to make them for you

1 in 10 people over 65 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia and almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.

4. Expect the unexpected

Sudden illness may strike, leaving you with your pants down. Who do you know who has looked forward to their retirement years to catch up on all those postponed house projects and been caught off guard by a stroke or onset of dementia?

5. Get a fresh start now!

Getting organized is like starting a life chapter. The process of decluttering enables you to take stock of your past and make decisions about what you will bring forward into your future. What do you have from your past you’d like to leave behind?

Start organizing today by tackling one small space…a drawer, a shelf or countertop.  And reward yourself for your efforts!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, General Organizing, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Seniors