Category Archives: Guest Experts

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

Stop Wasting Your Time, Money and Attention

Book cover_not giving an F - 1

When people talk of organizing, we often think of getting rid of “things.” We found a humorous, and irreverent, resource for tackling the clutter in the rest of our life. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do is written by Sarah Knight who gives straight talk on a touchy subject.

It’s a spin on the decluttering principles made famous by Marie Kondo – conscious decision making. Crafting a life by design instead of by default.  It’s not really a parody, rather it’s a parallel to the Konmari method…it’s Konmari turned on your life instead of your stuff.

Fair warning: the book is intentionally riddled with the F-word, but we found if you mentally substitute something a little less harsh such as “care” – as is “don’t give a care” it’s a little more tolerable.

Cares

We have a limited amount of bandwidth and energy; time and money and we get to choose how to spend that. We get to make a budget of “cares,” so to speak.  When you’re spending it on people place and things you don’t really care about, you’re draining yourself.  You are keeping yourself from doing things you really want to do and which bring you energy and joy.  When you realize how much power you have to give yourself permission to set boundaries and say no, it’s completely liberating!  And (bonus!) you can do it without being a jerk.

Recognize the Drain

The author lays out a method of how to go about this but one of the first steps is to think through all the ways you spend your time, energy, and money and start to see which ones don’t feel good. Here are some red flags to recognize things that you might be doing things that don’t bring you joy:

  • Where do you feel obligated?
  • When do you think of doing something with someone and your feeling is dread as opposed to pleasurable anticipation?
  • What tasks feel inefficient and inconvenient?

Examples of things you may not really care about:

  • Attending routine professional meetings that aren’t truly mandatory
  • Dress codes – high heels, come on! Need I say more?
  • Clothes – are you dressing for yourself our outside expectations?
  • Giving and receiving Christmas gifts. It’s hard to keep coming up with original ideas. A lot of time and energy is spent getting there.
  • Cooking

What To Do About It

Review your list and see what you can let go of wholesale. Let them go and move forward guilt-free! We can’t automatically jettison everything we don’t love. You could, however, find ways to eliminate or modify the most onerous parts of that task to help.

  • 
Hate to fix dinner for your family but want everyone to eat healthy?

Buy pre-cooked meats or pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s is a good shortcut to a well-rounded meal. Have a standard set of 10 meals you rotate through and don’t worry about whether your family is bored with it.

  • 
Dread getting dressed for work in the mornings?

Make a uniform for yourself so you never have to angst about what you’re going to wear.

  • 
Anticipate holiday gift-giving with panic?

Decide on one simple gift and give it to everyone.

Don’t Be A Jerk

One of our hesitations to start shedding off obligations is the fear of offending people we care about or risking repercussions from work or others. It’s possible to be true to yourself and honest without being a jerk about it. Politeness, honesty and authenticity are key here. Saying the truth is usually the best tact.

  • “Thank you for inviting me to the symphony, but I really don’t enjoy sitting and listening to music for more than 15 minutes.”
  • “I have a personal policy that I don’t give donations at the door”

Releasing yourself from obligations that don’t enhance your life is incredibly liberating. Start by noticing where you already make choices about activities that feel valuable to you and build on that. Give yourself permission to say NO – you’ll change your life!

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Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

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

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

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!

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

A Perspective on Moving from a Coach

artful coaching on moving

Our favorite personal coach, Sydney Metrick of Artful Coaching has just gone through the experience of downsizing and had some valuable insights to share.

How long does it take to accumulate more stuff than you need? I’m a person who detests clutter not only for aesthetic reasons, but because I think better when things are neat and organized. Yet, it appears I have waaaay more stuff than I need or would ever use.

Stuff seems to fall into six categories:

  1. The things I use regularly and actually need
  2. Items I acquired because they were interesting and I might enjoy them
  3. The “someday” items that are clothed with good intentions
  4. Gifts
  5. Memorabilia
  6. Mystery items

Because I’m moving, drastic downsizing is mandatory. Going through two decades of books, clothes, art, and extensive miscellaneous stuff, I’ve learned two really important things. The first thing is that only the stuff in category #1 is worth packing and taking, like insurance papers, my computer, clothing, and shoes. The second insight came about from looking through everything in categories #2-#6. That is, looking through them is enough. It’s kind of like a review and letting go. It was nice to take those little trips down memory lane, but bottom line, living in the past is not for me. Would I truly miss a wooden cigar box, or a meditation candle I received one holiday? Did I really care about the glass that acknowledged Peter and Jennifer’s wedding? And what exactly are the little brushes for anyway that were in the box with printer ink?

So, in addition to scheduling time to go through everything, I also had to pack and label the things I’m keeping, and arrange for everything else to be sold, donated, given away, or shredded. It was a lot. But I thought how moving is such a great motivator. Going through all those things was fun, interesting, informative, and useful.

Wondering how this might work for you if you’re not moving? Consider the “gift of the month” exercise. Pick a drawer, shelf, box or whatever, that you haven’t gone through for quite a while (or ever). Set aside an hour or so one day that you’ll devote to emptying and looking at everything in that space. Put back only what really makes sense and discard the rest. What’s the gift? Well, it may be that you find something you’d been looking for or had forgotten. Or you have the gift of a newly decluttered and organized space.

Be Sociable!

sydney-metrick.jpg

Sydney Metrick of Artful Coaching – Coaching for ADHD and other non-linear thinkers since 1998.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, Decluttering, downsizing, Guest Experts, Moving, Perspective, Strategies

The 5 Types of Items Worth Holding Onto

Items-That-Will-Be-Worth-More-in-the-Future-750x485

This week we share a post by Brian Graves from Everything But The House (EBTH). This post first appeared on NextAvenue. 

Determining which collectibles have the potential to increase in value has changed drastically over the past 20 years. With the introduction of e-commerce, items once believed to be rare were made available en masse. And with previous generations of collectors in a position to divest their prized possessions, the forces of supply and demand may have never had a more profound impact on collecting.

For centuries, there were cyclical styles of items that could be acquired when they were out of favor with the knowledge that eventually they’d come back in vogue. It’s why you hear some furniture styles described with the term “revival” after their name (there was the original period and then the period where they were revived).

So, what makes something popular and worth holding onto? Well, as the founder and Chief Learning Officer of the estate sale company and auction platform, Everything But The House (EBTH), I’d say it’s the herd mentality. When I started collecting in the 1990s, the predominant design themes in the average American home included Southwestern patterns in pastel tones (mauve, teal, peach) and traditional furnishings with Grecian patterned upholstery in burgundy, gold, and hunter green. At the time, Midcentury Modern furnishings were only starting to regain a following. I recall pulling a pair of DUX Midcentury Modern chairs out of the garbage and proudly sold the pair at a show the following weekend for $150. If I had known then what I know now, I might have held out for more.

My point is that by the time you know something is in demand, it’s often too late. Therefore, in order to know what might be worth holding onto, you have to be able to do something most of us can’t: see into the future. Still, there are five keys to knowing which possessions offer promise:

1. Items that are either one-of-a-kind, handmade by a skilled artist or craftsperson or made in limited quantities will always be in demand. For instance, curating an art collection of living artists can be a good investment strategy. But not always. So pair this rule with the following three points: 1) Buy the art to enjoy it. 2.) Don’t invest more than you’re comfortable losing. 3.) Diversify.

2. Items made of high-quality materials by notable firms will always have an audience. Names like Hermès, Chanel, Tiffany and Cartier get collectors to pay closer attention. They’re like buying blue-chip stocks. These firms have stood the test of time and shown they have what it takes to maintain consumer interest, even if that means reinventing themselves. The items won’t necessarily appreciate in value, but they are much less likely to depreciate if kept in good condition.

3. Other collectibles to consider are ones that remind us of our youth. Once a generation reaches middle age with disposable income (usually older than 35), they tend to collect objects that remind them of their yesteryears. This transcends categories and applies to toys, books and even vehicles. For instance, in recent years, He-Man action figures from the 1980s have appreciated to values exceeding even earlier generations of toys such as G.I. Joe figures from the 1960s.

But the timing on the sale of these types of objects is critical. A rule of thumb: consider selling nostalgia items 25 to 35 years after they originally became popular. It’s important to note that the earliest editions —produced in limited quantities before the category became popular enough to justify increased production — command the highest prices.

4. Consider holding onto items connected to unique events or people in history but that were intended to be discarded. These are often referred to as ephemera. The key here is that the item must be one-of-a-kind or hard to come by.

For example, many people held onto newspapers reporting the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the moon landing, so they’re not rare and therefore not valuable. But if you held onto an early promotional poster for The Rolling Stones from the same timeframe, you would have more than enough to pay for a nice vacation after selling it.

5. Another category to consider: objects that have a tangible value based on what they’re made of. Precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum all have an associated market value, which is readily identifiable and allows for immediate liquidity. Antique or high-quality examples of these objects can often have values worth two to 10 times the value of the precious metal itself or even more. But profiting from less desirable, and more common, examples — such as bullion coins or damaged serving pieces — depends on the current price of the metal. Silver, for instance, is currently worth about 1/3 what it was in 2011, but that’s still about three times as much as in 2001.

So what would I recommend keeping that might be worth more money down the road? Well, nothing really. You should only hold onto something if you love it, use it and have a place in your home for it. Be careful not to become too hung up on hanging onto collectibles in the hopes they might go up in value, especially if you don’t have the space for them. Most collectibles fall out of favor in time. My advice: be cautious about holding onto items which create clutter and cost money to store and care for, coupled with no guarantees.

If you want to get a glimpse into which types of objects people are most interested in collecting today, click here to see the most followed objects at my company’s site, EBTH.com.

by Brian Graves July 20, 2017

Brian Graves is founder and chief learning officer at Everything But The House (EBTH), where he uses his extensive knowledge of history, antique valuation and authentication to help maximize value for clients. A longtime collector and a graduate of the Mendenhall School of Auctioneering, Brian founded EBTH in 2008 with Jacquie Denny, after years spent buying, refurbishing and reselling antiques in his spare time.

EVERYTHING BUT THE HOUSE (EBTH) is the only online estate sale company that combines high-touch customer service with the reach of an e-commerce site. Their full service model— photography, cataloging, payment and delivery – makes the entire process of planning and managing an estate sale easy and seamless.

 

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Filed under artwork, Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, Guest Experts, Moving, Perspective