Category Archives: Guest Experts

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.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

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!

 

1 Comment

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!

1 Comment

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.

1 Comment

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.

 

Leave a comment

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

Ten Myths About Aging and Health

Is aging feeling like a monkey on your back?

Dana has just returned from the annual NASMM conference. One of the most inspiring speakers was Ashton Applewhite whose work focuses on battling ageism. This is a repost of one of her blogs.

Originally posted by Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks

All around the world, people are living longer—a basic hallmark of human progress, and a triumph of public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the public health business, and no organization has done more to raise awareness of ageism—the biggest obstacle to meeting the challenges of population aging and capitalizing on the “longevity dividend.” Part of the WHO’s global anti-ageism campaign  is a new list of ten common “misconceptions on ageing and health.” The global perspective is instructive, and it’s making me rethink some things—including the burning question of whether to start spelling “ageing” the logical, British-and-Indian way.

1 – There is no typical older person.

That would top my list too. Stereotyping—the assumption that all members of a group are the sameunderlies all prejudice. Of course stereotypes always a mistake, but especially when it comes to age, because we all age in different ways and at different rates. As geriatricians put it, “Heterogeneity is the hallmark of ageing.” Or, less formally, “If you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old.”

2 – Diversity in older age is not random.

Spoken like a tactful epidemiologist! WHO is pointing out that the playing field is far from level: “The physical and social environments in which we live are powerful influences on Healthy Ageing” and are further shaped by “our sex, our ethnicity, and financial resources.” As I write in the manifesto, “The way we grow old is governed by a whole range of variables, including environment, personality, and genes, compounded by class, gender, race, luck, and the churnings of the global economy—over which we have varying degrees of control.” The effects compound each other and add up over time, which is why the poorest of the poor, all around the world, are old women of color.

3 – Only a small proportion of older people are care dependent.

“Care-dependent” is a great way to put it. I tend to frame this in terms of the high percentage of Americans over 85 who live in nursing homes (10 percent) and who can go about their everyday activities without any personal assistance (over half).  The WHO frames this in economic terms as well, drawing on recent research showing that the contributions of olders in the UK “were worth nearly GBP 40 billion more than expenditure on them through pensions, welfare and health care combined”—a figure set to nearly double by 2030.

4 – Population aging will increase health-care costs but not by as much as expected.

The notion that older North Americans are an inevitable sink for healthcare dollars is incorrect, and the WHO makes the international case. “In high-income countries, there is growing evidence that at around age 70, health-care expenditure per person falls significantly, with long-term care filling the gap,”the WHO observes, so it makes sense to invest in long-term care. Aging influences health care expenditures far less than other factors, especially expensive medical technologies. Related predictions that “too many old people” will tank the economy—debunked here—are biased, outdated, and just plain wrong.

5 – 70 is not yet the new 60.

I take issue with claims like “60 is the new 40!” because they’re based in denial—60, no matter how active, is still 60—but I’ve been assuming that we’re generally healthier and more vigorous than the generations that preceded us. Not so, says the WHO. Although severe disabilities may be less common, “no significant change in less severe disability has been observed during the past 30 years.”

6 – Good health in older age is not just the absence of disease.

“The combination of a person’s physical and mental capacities (known as intrinsic capacity) is a better predictor of their health and wellbeing than the presence or absence of disease,” notes the WHO, suggesting that we focus on improving intrinsic capacity rather than on specific ailments.  As I write in the book, “While physical decline is inevitable, poor health is not.” People get chronic conditions but we learn to live with them. We find ways to keep doing the things we love—versions of them, at least. No single age-related condition affects most older people. Some of the oldest of the old live well not by avoiding illness, but despite it.

7 – Families are important but alone cannot provide the care many older people need.

“While families will always play a central role in long-term care, changing demography and social norms mean it is impossible for families alone to meet the needs of care dependent older people,” the WHO points out, calling for training and supporting caregivers and for the government and other sectors to share responsibility. It’s the absence of publicly funded support that turns caregiving into a burden—one that falls largely on women. How about paid family leave and subsidizing care for people of all ages? How about a guaranteed, collective, universal right to long-term care that gives women the same options that men—white men with good jobs, at least— have always enjoyed? How about providing decent wages, health and unemployment insurance, and a path to citizenship to those we pay to do this intimate and important work? Which would allow families to do what they do best: be family instead of nurses and administrators.

8 – Expenditure on older populations is an investment, not a cost.

Programs that help olders stay mobile and functional require funding, but what’s often omitted from the accounting is the cost of not making these investments. “These investments can yield significant dividends, both in the health and well-being of older people and for society as a whole through increased participation, consumption and social cohesion,” says the WHO. Some of the return on investment is direct. For example, better healthcare leads to better health, which saves money, improves lives, and allows people to contribute to what AARP calls the “longevity economy.”  Some is indirect, helping societies protect the human rights of their older members and enabling them to live with dignity.

9 – It’s not all about genes.

“While Healthy Ageing starts at birth with our genetic inheritance, only approximately 25% of the diversity in longevity is explained by genetic factors.” I remember how surprised I was to learn that, from none other than geriatrician Robert Butler, who coined the term “ageism” and founded the National Institute on Aging. “It’s really never too late to reinvent yourself and to invent different health habits. Only about 25 percent of our health appears to be due to genes. Seventy-five percent is environmental or behavior,” Butler told me. That why WHO recommends that policies “address these person-environment interactions across the life course.”

10 – Mandatory retirement ages do not help create jobs for youth.

“Policies enforcing mandatory retirement ages do not help create jobs for youth, but they reduce older workers’ ability to contribute. They also reduce an organization’s opportunities to benefit from the capabilities of older workers,” write the WHO. Indeed: the exchange of skills across generations is the natural order of things, but in much of the developed world age discrimination in the workplace has subverted it. Another false dichotomy is that older workers take jobs away from younger ones. Economists call this the fallacy of the “lump of labor.”When jobs are scarce, this is true in the narrowest sense, but that’s a labor market problem, not a too-many-old-people problem. A 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts study of employment rates over the last 40 years found rates for younger and older workers to be positively correlated. In other words, as more older workers stayed on the job, the employment rate and number of hours worked also improved for younger people.

Want older people to be healthy?  End ageism

A growing body of evidence shows that attitudes towards aging have an actual, measurable, physical effect on how we age. People with more positive feelings about aging behave differently from those convinced that growing old means becoming irrelevant or pathetic. They do better on memory tests and are less likely to develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They can walk faster and are more likely to recover fully from severe disability. And they actually live longer—an average of seven and a half years. Everyone agrees that health has the biggest effect on how we age—and how much it costs. Think what a global anti-ageism campaign would do to extend not just lifespan but “healthspan.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, Perspective, Seniors

4 Under-Utilized Areas of the Garage

 

This week’s post is about products you can install in your garage. But remember, the first step is to decide what you are keeping. You won’t know what storage you will need until you have made some decisions.  Start with a big sort and purge.

Thank you to guest writer Kenady Ghent from Monkey Bar Storage for her ideas and inspiration!

Is there ever enough space in the garage? Garages are the repositories for tools, sporting equipment, bikes, gas cans, lawn mowers, christmas decor and miscellaneous clutter. How are we expected to park our vehicles in there? If you never have a sufficient amount of space it could be because you aren’t utilizing valuable areas of the garage. Check out this list of the garage’s 4 most underutilized storage spaces.

Ceiling: Homeowners often overlook the ceiling as available storage space.  Overhead storage racks are perfect for storing rarely-used and seasonal items. Items are overhead and out of the way while relatively easy to access when you need them. Not to worry, these shelves have a 750 lb weight capacity, so your family and car are safe underneath.

Garage-Ceiling-Storage

Walls: Get your things off the floor and hung neatly on the wall. Products like garage cabinets and  shelving store your belongings in ⅓ of the space they used to take up. If your space is small and limited install shelving over doors and windows.

Garage Upper Shelves

Garage Wall Cabinets

Storage Products: Even your storage products can be optimized. Purchase garage shelving that has layering capabilities, that way you can store 3x more on the same shelving unit. You can even add accessories like bike hooks and sports ball bags to shelving for those items that are more difficult to store efficiently. Also, adding drawers inside garage cabinets can maximize that storage space.

Garage Wall Rack

Adjacent to the Door: The open space next to the door that leads into the house is perfect for a mini mudroom. Creating this command center prevents clutter like shoes, backpacks, jackets and keys from entering your home. Just add hooks, a shoe rack and a trashcan for wrappers and loose paper.

Garage Mud Room

Are you taking advantage of these underutilized spaces in the garage? After you’ve maximized your space, you’ll have room for the items you’ve been keeping in that storage unit and can get rid of the monthly storage unit bill. There is money in your unused garage space! With the money you save you can invest in a  garage flooring alternative that is both functional and beautiful.

For questions about garage organization solutions, visit: http://garagestoragesanfrancisco.com/.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Garage, Guest Experts, home organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage