Category Archives: Memorabilia

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

Take Its Picture and Let It Go!

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We all know we hang onto more things than we really use, like, and need. According to a Nielsen survey, we have an average of at least 50 unused items in our homes, including clothing, electronic devices and toys.

But letting go of items with sentimental value can be the hardest! Guilt, memories, all kinds of emotional attachments often get in the way of clearing out the excess. Experience and research shows that one of the most effective ways of helping folks feel more willing to let go is taking a photo of an item.

One of the reason we keep things is that they trigger good memories.  What we really are afraid of losing by letting go of a precious item is the memories or feelings it generates. A photograph can be just as an effective trigger of that good memory as the object. It’s may not be as rich an experience as holding an object but often can be good enough.

A study done with college students moving out showed that when they took pictures of items, they were 35% more likely to let go them for donation than if they didn’t. That’s a big shift!

Here are examples of items to consider photographing instead of keeping:

  • 3D art and school projects from your kids – think dioramas, science fair projects, ceramic objects
  • Sport trophies
  • Thank-you plaques and certificates of achievement or participation
  • Baby clothes and objects
  • Family china or furniture

Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work so well for things we hang onto for reasons other than sentimentality. Keeping things out of a sense of frugality or necessity is a different issue altogether!

So, take a picture of that object that is taking up precious space and let it go!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Storage, 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

Tools For Emptying Your Storage Unit

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Storage units have their place and can be a great solution for the right situation. Too often they get filled with the intention of being temporary, but end up languishing for years. Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions is quoted in the New York Times:

“Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators,” … “Because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage.”


Also, according to the Self Storage Association, only 30% of renters say they will rent for more than 2 years
.

Here are some practical approaches to finally clearing out that unit and recovering that monthly rent back into your budget.

Come Prepared

Don’t make the mistake of setting aside time to deal with the unit and show up empty handed or with just a garbage bag. These basic tools will enable you to effectively sort, purge and pack both items you’re keeping and those for donation. Be prepared to keep the kit in your unit for use across multiple days.

  • Small folding table
  • Step stool and/or folding chair
  • Marking pens and tape for labeling containers
  • Small and medium moving boxes for containing loose items
  • Packing tape, box cutter or scissors
  • Notepad for listing items in boxes or making notes of to-do’s
  • Smartphone camera
  • Garbage bag
  • Headlamp
  • Gloves/dust mask
  • A friend or helper for motivation and company!

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Just like organizing within your home, one of the first steps is to decide what you’re keeping and separate it from things you are not.

  • Borrow a rolling cart from the facility and load it with things to just make enough working space in the unit to set up a table. Or use the hallway outside the unit if that’s allowed.
  • If possible, start to physically create zones in the space to separate keepers from things going out. If it isn’t possible to literally remove items and take them with you that day, you’ll want to save yourself time in the future by staying organized throughout the process.
  • If you’re holding things for other people, use your phone to snap a picture and text it immediately asking the person what they want to do with the item.
  • LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Once you’ve made a decision or opened a box to determine what’s in it, LABEL the outside so you can know at a glance the status of that box.

Storage Unit

What Next?

  • Arrange for a charity donation pickup
  • Load donations and take them yourself
  • Arrange for a hauler to help with donations and trash such as 1-800-Got-Junk, Eco-Haul, or Lugg.com
  • Deliver items to family and friends or arrange a pickup day when they come to you
  • Arrange for a mover or hauler to bring the keepers home (if they won’t just fit in your car)

Emptying a storage unit can be a laborious process but you get the ball rolling, it takes less time than you’ve been dreading. Don’t plan on getting it all done in one day or one weekend! Be realistic and you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

Once you manage to get it empty,  don’t forget to reward yourself! Take ½ the monthly rent you’ve been paying and go out for a nice meal or treat yourself to a fun experience — you’ve earned it!

 

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Filed under artwork, Closets, Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, Memorabilia, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Seniors, Storage, Strategies

Lose the Psychic Weight of Clutter

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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

The Chaos of Business Card Collections

We’ve all been guilty of it – hanging onto business cards that somehow end up on dresser tops, stashed in drawers, or floating around on counters. We sort of know we probably don’t need them but there’s a nagging sense of importance about them that makes them seem valuable. So, we neaten the pile or shove them back in the drawer and forget about them for a while.

Why are you keeping them?

Managing clutter is all about making conscious choices.  The first step to getting a handle on those stacks is to take a clear look at your motivations for hanging onto them:

  • You may want to use that person’s services
  • Something you want to do someday
  • Somebody you want to network with
  • Neighborhood services
  • Cards of services you use regularly
  • Nostalgia – cards of family members, cards of your past careers
  • Cards whose designs you like

Figuring out why you’re keeping them helps you get clarity on how relevant the info actually is. That informs whether you really want to continue to keep them and how you store them. Part of what makes business cards a less precious resource than we think is there are so many ways other ways to find services and people – Facebook, Yelp, list serves, LinkedIn, Google… put in bits of information into a search tool and have that person show up.

After you do a serious purge of the stacks its time to decide how to store the keepers.

Store for easy retrieval

Ways to store them

  • Electronically – scan or enter into your favorite digital address book tool
  • In a mini-file box
  • Rubber-banded in a drawer or on a shelf
  • In a rolodex
  • Binder sleeves designed for business cards
  • File in a resource section of your filing system (can attach card to larger piece of paper)

Make them useful

If you are keeping cards, it can also be helpful to jot a few notes of relevant info to help you remember why you have the card.  Write on back (have a sharpie close by):

  • Next actions/promises you made to them
    • Where you met them
    • Your follow-up plan
  • Interesting fact about the person (their dog’s name, for example)
  • What you have in common with them
  • Who you both know
  • Key words (name and date of event, category of contact)

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It’s perfectly fine to hang onto cards you may not actually need or use — so long as the stacks of cards don’t stress you out and don’t impact your usable space. If they impact your peace of mind or are getting in the way – take action to clear the clutter.

When you browse through your business card hoard, what is the wackiest card you find?

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Office, organizing, Paper, Products, Strategies

Repurpose That Wedding Dress

 

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Wedding dresses can take on almost mythic significance both before AND after the wedding. Once the wedding bells have finished ringing and the party is over the wedding dress remains as one of the largest, most awkward pieces of memorabilia to deal with.

The pull of emotions and nostalgia are understandably very strong and it can make deciding what to do with your gown a challenge. A few years down the road you may be ready to reclaim the space the giant archive box is using in a closet.

A quick Internet search turns up lots of creative alternative ideas of what you can do with your gown:

  • Create a keepsake from the fabric – a nice clutch purse, a framed section of lace, a holiday ornament, a jewelry locket, a teddy bear…Pinterest is a great source to inspire you creatively to save an essence of the dress.
  • Repurpose the dress into something you can wear again. Have it altered and/or dyed to create a fancy party dress you can enjoy over and over. Have some custom lingerie made!
  • Share the wealth! Donate your gown to a charity. Brides Across America provides free wedding dresses to military and first responder brides who couldn’t otherwise afford one. Another option is Brides Against Breast Cancer, who use the proceeds from donated gown sales to help cancer patients. The Goodwill is also a fine place to make your gown available to someone in need.
  • Recoup some of the cost of the gown to celebrate a special anniversary. There are several sites specializing in selling pre-owned quality gowns. The Knot reviews their top picks here including options to rent gowns.

You might want to ritualize the departure of your wedding dress to get a sense of gratitude and closure. Reminisce a bit about the event, honor the role the dress played in making your wedding special and then feel free to transition it to a different existence – either in a different form in your life or intact to enrich someone else’s.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Memorabilia, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Wedding