Category Archives: Perspective

The Allure of Free Stuff

The allure of FREE

Every week the SF Chronicle runs a classic column from years past. This week there was a gem from 1988 titled, “1,000 paper clips? If they’re free, customers love it.”

It seems an office supply store ran a promotion giving away 1,000 paperclips per customer hoping those folks who turned up would shop for additional supplies. Thousands showed up, few bought office supplies, and probably even less needed the paper clips in the first place!

Here’s a perfect quote from the article:

First in line was an elderly gent named Mr. Jeffries, who said he did not know what he was going to do with his 1,000 free paper clips, but they would surely be nice to have around.

When I asked him, when was the last time he used a paper clip?

“I can’t remember,” he said. “Couple of weeks ago, I think. Mailed in a bill.”

At a rate of one clip every two weeks, Mr. Jeffries’ free clips will last 38 years.

“How about that?” said Mr. Jeffries.

One could argue that a few boxes of paper clips isn’t going to take up much space but we often see this same pattern on a larger scale:

  • Duplicates, triplicates, and quadruples of tools and utility items picked up at garage sales cluttering up drawers and shelves
  • Chairs taken from the someone else’s curb that seem so full of potential, if only you could get them recovered and figure out where they go in the house. Meanwhile they crowd a guest room. For years.
  • Books – recently a young couple that lives in tiny 1 bedroom home wanted to keep a free set of hardbound Harry Potter books – for their not-yet-conceived child to read one day.

For us humans, FREE is an inexplainable siren’s call that triggers our sense of need and desire regardless of the actual value of the item to our life. It’s useful to recognize this powerful pull and practice taking a step back and thinking about how the item will add VALUE to your life.

  • Do you actually need it?
  • How often will you use it?
  • How does this add value to your life TODAY?
  • Where will you keep it? Is that space better used by something else?

Define value based on need and relevance, not cost and availability.  So, next time you get caught going after something that’s “FREE,” or “cheap,” pause and think, “who am I going to hire to sort, catalog or store it?” “Is this really WORTH it??”

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies, Time Management

Collaborate for Success

Dana Arkinzadeh and Katherine Korlacki - 1

This week we are celebrating our 200th blog post!! Let’s take a step back and tell you the story of our blog. It’s a story of risk taking, growth, and collaboration.

Back in November of 2012, both of us felt some pressure that we “had” to have a blog to be “legitimate businesses” and jump in the pool of social media marketing. At that point Dana had been in business 10 years and Katherine for 16 so we both felt established and reluctant to take on a new form of promotion. We decided to tackle the project together – to co-write a blog that we would publish jointly and could each re-purpose for our own use.

Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned through 200 posts:

  1. Don’t go it alone – tough jobs are way easier, and often actually fun, if done with a friend
  2. Have courage to move forward even if you don’t know what you’re doing – things have a way of sorting themselves out and you learn along the way
  3. Commit regular time in your calendar – make it realistic if you want to get something done
  4. Don’t give up – your partner may have energy when you’re flagging
  5. Honor your limits – over the last 6 years we adjusted our start time, adjusted the frequency of posts, and gave us ourselves permission to repost old blogs when feeling uninspired
  6. Go for good enough, instead of perfect – don’t let perfectionism be a roadblock; done is better than perfect
  7. Keep things simple
  8. You don’t have to have all the answers – bring in outside experts to help with topics or technical issues
  9. Make your own rules for success – don’t let others’ expectations drive your goals or standards
  10. Celebrate your accomplishments – it’s often only the negatives we focus on, celebrating helps you remember and savor the positives

Does the blog get us new business? Hard to tell. But we get consistent feedback from current clients that they like hearing from us and get value from the topics. Taking the time to think through topics keeps us curious and open to ideas and creates content that we can use in presentations, newsletters, and other places. One of the biggest benefits to us is a regularly scheduled time to stay connected, support each other through business challenges, and celebrate business and life successes.

How could you collaborate to achieve some of your goals? Have you had a great collaboration experience related to organizing? Share your story with us!

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies, Time Management, Work

Just In Case…Do You Know Where These Documents Are?

Checklist

Let’s have a show of hands.  Who loves to prepare for disasters and contemplate death?

…We didn’t think so.

Let’s have another show of hands. Who thinks of others and would like to make life easier on family and friends?

Here is a simple project to prepare for the unexpected. Regardless of the state of the rest of your house, these are the documents to keep organized and accessible just in case:

  1. Life or disability insurance policies and/or agent contact information. Don’t forget to include any coverage offered through your employer and/or auto insurance.
  2. List of assets and open accounts – you can gather sample statements or create a list of all accounts, loans, lines of credit, etc.. Make sure to include the safe deposit box key and information.
  3. Trust Document and/or name of your attorney
  4. Will
  5. Healthcare Directive and Financial POA
  6. Passwords and log-ins to unlock the phone or computer
  7. Medical cards and list of doctors/caregivers
  8. List of prescriptions
  9. Vital Records: Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage certificates, copies of drivers licenses
  10. If you own a business, who are the key contacts? What is your emergency plan?
  11. Funeral arrangements

Whether you are partnered or not, identify the person or persons who would be tasked with managing things in your absence and share with them the locations of these documents. It’s ideal to also keep a digital copy of these items and make sure your trusted helper has access to those as well.

Think of how much easier it will be for your loved ones, and better for you, if in the time of crisis they don’t have to dig through various drawers and files looking for information unsure what they may be missing. Creating a simple system for just in case is the kind of gift that provides peace of mind to you and to those who are left to take care of business when you can’t.

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, middle-age, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

Capture the Story, Release the Object

still life marlin

While we are working with people who are downsizing or just clearing space, we hear the stories about many of the objects that they might be parting with. We’re always looking for ways to help our clients to make room for their next chapters and/or to let go of excess stuff. It’s often the attachments to “stuff” that holds people back from making that move to a more desirable area, to downsize into a place that feels more cozy … or to just have people over.

We were introduced to Laura Turbow of Still Life Stories. She and her partner Rachel Friedman, photograph and capture the essence of special items. Grandpa’s chair, a prized-but-bulky trophy, that taxidermied swordfish that just doesn’t fit any more (did it ever?). In the process, they honor an individual and/or the story behind it.

One of the goals of Still Life Stories is to help people hold on to what matters and brings them joy and to let go of the rest. That happens to dovetail with our work as Professional Organizers. We help people discern what our clients will bring with them into their future. And to keep what brings them joy.

Downsizing does not have to mean the end of things. Converting the ‘thing’ into digital photos and story that can be shared and remembered, that can survive fires, floods and disasters…while giving you the space you need. The April 4th post on the Still Life Stories Facebook page shows the power of a story when the history behind an object is shared.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

Make Your Home a Priority

superhero

Be a SUPERHERO in your own home!

Do you feel like there’s never enough time to get things put away, straightened out, picked up, cleaned out?

Guess what? There isn’t!

Maintaining your living space must be given priority in your regular schedule. We depend on our homes for our daily living but often don’t recognize how important it is to make regular time to keep the contents maintained. When your roof has a hole, you fix it. When your plumbing backs up, you fix it. We immediately recognize the urgency of these situations and prioritize them.

How about applying the same sense of urgency to a dining room table always full of mail? Or a pile of returns waiting to get to the post office? Or cluttered kitchen counters taking up prep space? Recognizing the urgency of these situations that we often just acclimate to and tolerate requires a shift in perspective.

Think about the quality of life you’d gain by:

  • Being able to get dressed quickly in the morning
  • Having adequate supplies for school projects
  • Finding ingredients for dinner when you haven’t had time to shop
  • Finding sport equipment for the next game
  • Knowing exactly which bills are due and where they are

How To Do It

The first step to making this happen is to make some time for it. Too much stuff and too little time is a recipe for disaster. Maintaining an organized home takes sacrifices because time won’t magically appear in our schedules unless we make it a priority.

If weekday schedules are completely full with work and school you may have to sacrifice some optional activities on the weekend. In our busy lives we often don’t realize that many of our fun activities are actually optional – book clubs, kid sports, outings, travel. It can be a little painful, but creating a short-term plan to carve out enough time to get caught up on problem areas of the home will pay you back daily when life is simpler and easier.

And it doesn’t have to all be done at once; prioritize the areas that affect your daily living the most. It feels great to finish one area at a time instead of chipping away in multiple areas. The sooner you see and feel the results of your efforts, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going.

Be your own superhero – make time magically appear by scheduling organizing sessions in your calendar. If you don’t own it, no one else will! Remember, just as you would hire that roofer or plumber if you couldn’t fix it yourself, get professional help with your home if you can’t tackle it on your own.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Organized Travel – Planning Tips

Travel Planning

Summer is approaching, what are your travel plans? There are a lot of moving parts in travel planning: ideas, resources, and schedules.

Stay Organized, Create a System

Having any kind of system in place to manage the inflow of resources is critical to reduce overwhelm and help make your decision making more efficient. Organizing information is like organizing things in your house.  Having a dedicated space for your travel plans makes it easy to pick up where you left off in your planning efforts.

Choose one location where you’ll keep track of everything. This is critical to avoid having bits of information floating everywhere – random emails, scraps of paper, bookmarked website. Examples:

  • Evernote or Pinterest –online project management tools
  • Email folder and/or Documents folder
  • Spreadsheet
  • Notebook
  • Shared calendars or documents or folders if multiple people are involved in the planning.

Keep a running to-do list of planning tasks. In addition, create a checklist of major components: this includes transportation, lodging, activities … in addition to logistics: banking, credit, phone. Checklists help you know what has been handled and what is still outstanding.

Travel Checklist

Set Your Priorities

Sometimes working with the blank slate of an open 2 weeks is daunting. To help build out the structure of a trip it helps to determine your “have to do’s” vs. your “nice to do’s”.

  • Are your to/from dates set in stone? How much flexibility do you have around travel dates? Prices can vary a lot based on day of week you travel
  • Are there key sights or events that are MUST do’s? If so, are they available any time or are there limits? For example, if you’re traveling to Paris and getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a must for you – researching the availability of tickets for that may determine which day that has to happen.
  • Are you traveling for an event such as a wedding or concert/play/tour?

Your top priorities will be fixed points both for day and location that the trip planning will evolve around so figuring them out first makes planning more efficient.

Gather Resources

Planning can take a lot of time – start your research early – talk to friends, put it out on Facebook, browse travel websites. Find out what you shouldn’t miss! This will help give you a rich pool of things to choose from while setting your top travel priorities.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Many people have taken your trip before you…there are tons of travel advice and resources on the Web. A quick search of “things I need to do before traveling to X” will turn up a great list to build your Travel To-Do list.

Delegate

Delegating can make the trip more fun for you…especially if you’re not the only one responsible for logistics.  Share the burden and get your fellow travelers’ buy-in. Can you assign your partner to handle a component of the research and planning… or can your teen-age companion scope out fun things to do at your destination?

Stay Organized on the Road

As the date of departure approaches, tidy up.  Dispose of unnecessary bits of info and separate out the final itinerary details from all the planning materials.

You’ve worked hard to plan the trip – continue to reap the benefits of your organization the whole way. Create digital images of all your important documents and reservations. Keep one pocket of your carry-on dedicated to holding any travel plans. Have a backup also – send it to yourself in an email or make sure you’ll have cloud access to any summary documents you created. Make sure your traveling partner has all the info as well.

Just as being organized at home helps you enjoy your space better, organizing your travel planning helps you focus on the adventure ahead instead of being mired in logistics.

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, Holidays, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management, Travel

Nudge Yourself to Do the Right Thing

choices

Do you realize you’re being nudged when you drive within the lines on streets and highways? …or when you queue up in an orderly way at the theater because of the velvet ropes indicating where to stand?

“…a nudge is a way of framing choices that subtly favors the more desirable outcome. It can be a way of encouraging people to do what’s in their best interest, even when other perfectly human tendencies—such as the urge to procrastinate—are conspiring against them.” Nudge Yourself: Make Smarter Decisions with Your Money, Mark W Riepe, Charles Schwab

How can you use nudge theory to help you stay organized?

Kitchen: Using a silverware container with slots that match the shapes of the silverware.

Closets: You want family to help put things away…use labels! On shelves and containers in closets: pantry, linen closets, utility closets.

Entryway: Have dedicated hooks and/or cubbies or baskets for each person’s belongings…put their name on it if necessary.  If that isn’t enough, put an incentive in the empty cubby.

Garage: It’s easy to see where small hand tools go when there is a pegboard with outlines of the tool shapes showing exactly where each one lives. Tired of having bikes and scooters all over the garage?  Install bike racks and ball bins to make it easier to put things away.

Toys/Art Supplies: Dedicated containers for different types of toys and supplies with pictures on the fronts in addition to text labels.

Laundry: Tired of stepping over dirty laundry that didn’t make it into the hamper? Have multiple hampers in all the places dirty clothes get removed. One for each person if needed. Adding a basketball hoop mounted over a kid’s hamper is a great example of a fun nudge.

Mail: To encourage yourself to weed out the junk immediately when mail comes in, place a recycling bin, shred bag and trash can near where you actually stand to process your mail.

Starting a new habit: Despite good intentions, it can be very hard to start a new habit. Pair the habit with a routine task such as putting your vitamins by your toothbrush so you remember to take them every time you brush your teeth. You can also set a repeating alarm on your phone to nudge you to do a new task.

Remember, a nudge is an external cue that guides you to a particular behavior. It takes the decision to do something out of your conscious mind and makes the behavior more intuitive. Harness the power of your subconscious by setting up your environment to keep you organized.

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Strategies