Category Archives: home organizing

These 3 Types of Paper Are Clogging Your Files

If you’re still getting these in paper form they are likely clogging up your filing system … or creating piles!

Pay stubs – They are informational only.  When you get your pay stub each period, check it over to make sure your vacation, sick balance and other deductions are accurate. If all is okay, you don’t need to keep it. Your W-2 form at the end of the year is the only record to keep for taxes. If you need written evidence of accrued benefits, keep your last pay stub of the year. That would have your year-to-date accumulations. If you get electronic paystubs, then for sure, shred the archived ones from long ago.

Expired insurance policies – once the term is over, the policy isn’t valid.  Having a claim or loss in the previous period, might justify keeping it. But most folks don’t have this issue and old policy statements can be tossed (shredded) when they expire. You’ll be surprised how many years back these bulky documents go. Hit all the categories – auto, home, life, umbrella, etc.

Monthly investment statements and activity confirmation statements. Once you receive the quarterly or annual statement, these documents are redundant.

 

BONUS! Banks and credit companies CYA privacy policies and term sheets. Have you ever had to refer to these in the lifetime of your credit card or account? They could trigger you to update your privacy settings with the institution (online or in writing) but if you know you will never get around to it, just let them go.  All these are available online.

Give yourself the gift of a clear desk or roomy files by removing things that just make you feel unsure and guilty. If you truly can’t imagine letting these items go, get them in a box (labeled, with a “date to destroy” in a reasonable amount of time) and store them far away from your active work space.

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Filed under home organizing, Office, Paper, paper organizing

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.

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

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

Lose the Psychic Weight of Clutter

psychic weight (1)

Do you have a room in home that when you walk into it you just say, “Ughh!”?

These are spaces that are enough out of sight and out of mind that they are the perfect spots to accumulate years of random items. Attics, basements, garages, guest room closets, dining buffet bottom drawers … every home has them!

So why bother? For the most part they don’t affect daily life – the few times a year you have to retrieve something from them is a hassle but rarely hassle enough to raise the daunting task of cleaning out the space to the top of your to-do list.

These spaces may seem benign…not a problem, no worry…but they actually do have quite a presence. Spaces that trigger guilt, shame, inertia, and paralysis contain psychic weight. We know this from the decades of working with clients. Our clients almost universally describe the feeling of clearing out old clutter as having had a huge weight lifted from their backs. They had become used to living with the problem and hadn’t realized just how much of a mental burden putting off dealing with the clutter was. Feeling the relief of the cleared, organized spaces made it crystal clear what a weight they had been carrying in the background of their consciousness.

Observe and measure how you feel in each room of your home. The spaces can be as simple as a drawer, a cabinet or an entire room. Identify where you are being drained:

  • Where do you find yourself sighing?
  • Is there an area of your home that you completely avoid?
  • What space triggers a sense of feeling trapped?
  • When you want to use a space that’s cluttered, is it a complete hassle to reclaim it?
  • Would you be embarrassed for someone else to see the space?
  • Does the thought of dealing with it make you want to take a nap … or go on a trip?

Take stock of how much mental weight you are carrying around. Where is your extra weight hiding?  Wouldn’t it feel great to be relieved of the heavy feelings of those spaces?

If you’re inspired to get started, choose a small project or part of a room that you can get through in about an hour. Getting to experience that wonderful sense of relief that comes from making progress will fuel your motivation to go further. If you get stuck, reach out!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Seniors, Strategies

Untangling Electronic Cable Clutter

cable salad

Who hasn’t opened a desk drawer to see a snarled rats nest of cables and electronic devices from the past? An intimidating and unappealing cable and device salad?

We live in a time of amazing technological advances but one of the drawbacks is that devices quickly become obsolete. Our consumer culture pressures us to keep replacing things, which creates a constant stream of electronic litter in our homes.

The charging and connecting cords that go with these items create an extra layer of frustration and confusion around the issue. Hot tip: when you get a new device, take the time to wrap the cables! Purging old electronics becomes so much simpler when you can quickly grab the device and all it’s parts and cables.

bundled cables

Many people get rid of the electronics but don’t search for the cables (and even the CDs that that go with them) to dispose of at the same time. They’re left with a box of cables they are afraid to get rid of.  There might actually be a useful one in there for a device they still have. The box of chaos becomes a project for that mythical weekend when you’re going to organize your garage, sort your photos and finally deal with that box of cables. Yeah, right.

The simplest way to bundle cables is using twist ties. You can use the grocery store variety or a heavier duty kind – silicone twist ties, which are sturdy and easy to use. Ziploc bags work well to group accessories and software with the cables making it even easier to dispose of the group when the time comes.

It sounds like such a straightforward solution, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the most elegant.  And they can save you from future frustration. Your time is precious, invest a little bit up front to save yourself hours later.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Office, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Technology, Time Management

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Contempt

marble-couple

Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore contempt and its antidote.

In our post about criticism, we addressed how blaming inhibits a couple’s communication and ability to work together to create a home that supports them both. Contempt takes criticism to the next level.

Contempt is poisonous. It is so threatening to communication because it comes from a position of superiority. It displays disgust. Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts.

If your goal is to get someone to change their behavior, you’re not going to get very far by putting them down.

EXAMPLE: Misplaced Items

Contemptuous Approach

Partner A: Where’s the packing tape? It’s supposed to be in the kitchen drawer!

Partner B: I left it in the office where I was using it.

Partner A: That’s so stupid, why did you put it there?! It belongs in the kitchen! You really like to make my life miserable (said with a sneer), don’t you?

The antidote is to describe your own feelings and needs. Actively use positive affirmations, building a culture of appreciation and respect. If you find yourself tearing down your partner in response to some transgression, stop yourself and consider how to turn that around.

Collaborative Approach

Partner A: I can’t find the packing tape in the kitchen drawer where we keep it, do you know where it is?

Partner B: I left it in the office where I was using it.

Partner A: It’s most convenient for me to find the packing tape in the kitchen. Would it be helpful to get a second roll of tape and keep it in the office where it would be more convenient for you to put it away? (said in a genuine tone of voice without irony)


Your desire to make your home functional and organized is legitimate. Modifying your approach may be more effective to get your needs met … and to meet the needs of your partner at the same time. Next up…Defensiveness.

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, home organizing, Perspective

Dedicating Space for Household Management

homeoffice

Do you find your household paperwork doesn’t have a home? Is your bedroom getting used for stashing unmanaged mail? Do you have papers and mail all over the house? Are you frustrated that your home never looks tidy? Many people use a large portion of their kitchen counter to manage notes and mail…and it spills over from there. But the kitchen counter space often doesn’t provide enough room for a tidy work space.

All these scenarios point to the importance of dedicating a space for a household management center.

Location

The ideal location for a household management center is close to where this work usually gets done. Kitchen, dining room, living room are very common areas. Look where your paper is accumulating and see if you can dedicate a bit of space to make it an “official” work area. Active projects need to be out and accessible where you will really work on them. Where does the work actually get done?

If you have a more remote home office but don’t find yourself staging the mail and active projects there, you might find paper clutter creeping into the living space. It would be appropriate to create an active work station more centrally and store overflow and permanent files in the office. For example, if you find yourself most often sitting on your couch paying bills online, can you create a space there to catch incoming bills?

The Critical Bits:

  • Active projects: to-do’s and bills to pay
  • Active reference: family schedules and phone lists
  • Basic office supplies (stamps, envelopes, paperclips, post its)
  • Dedicated containers to get the recycling and shredding out of the way and off the countertop

Nice to Have Nearby:

  • Printer – can be hidden or made wireless so it can be stored in a back room or closet
  • Main household filing system – including past years taxes and permanent records
  • Overstock office supplies
  • Kids’ art portfolios

Instead of berating yourself for being messy, embrace the idea that household management needs dedicated space. And give yourself the gift of organization.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, homework, Kitchen, Living Room, Office, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Storage, Work