Category Archives: Perspective

Location, Location, Location

Be choosy about where you let things live in your home

Be choosy about where you let things live in your home

Do you feel trapped at home and the need for more space? Tackling some of your organizing projects is a good way to take control and free up some real estate. Have you ever looked around your house and thought about the value of the different storage spaces inside your home? Particular drawers and shelves and closets?

Have you consciously chosen where items live? Or do they end up living wherever they happen to fit?

Places in your home that are easily accessible and highly functional are PRIME PROPERTY! Things that reside in these prime locations should be items you use frequently and are of high value to your life.

Often we see cabinets and drawers filled with items that aren’t very active – crowding out active items onto counters and floors or into hard-to-reach places.

Prime real estate includes:

  • The top 2 row of drawers in any cabinet or desk
  • The center 2 shelves in upper cabinets or closets
  • The spaces within arms reach on your desk when you are sitting
  • The top drawer of a 2-drawer filing cabinet
  • The 2 middle drawers of a 4-drawer filing cabinet

Storing high-use items in the most accessible places in your home makes life easier. For example, if you prepare lunches daily having your sandwich wraps and/or lunch containers both near your food prep area and in a higher drawer make lunch-making more convenient.

So, when you’re putting things away…after a move or after a grocery-shopping trip, ask yourself:

  • Where will I want to find this?
  • What other collateral items will I need to use with it? (see Friends with Friends post)
  • Do I use this often enough that it needs to be more more accessible?

Take a fresh look at how you’re using your storage spaces and replace the things that don’t belong with items that earn their right to live in your prime real estate.

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Filed under General Organizing, organizing, paper organizing, Perspective, School, Strategies

Trouble Letting Go? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Declutter QuestionsIt’s easy to get stuck when you’re trying to pare things down, either just to clear clutter or in anticipation of a move. As organizers, the coaching we do with clients helps them slow down their thought process and ask objective questions.

Here are some questions to help frame your perspective as you consider the true value of items in your home:

  1. When is the last time you used this?
  2. Would you buy this again today?
  3. Is it worth the time/energy/money to pack, move, and unpack this item?
  4. How does this add value to your life?
  5. Would you really care if this was lost in a fire or flood?
  6. How many of this item does it make sense to move/keep?
  7. Could you replace this in under 20 minutes for under 20 dollars?
  8. What do you gain or lose by keeping this?
  9. If you keep it, will you remember you have it?
  10. What’s the worst thing that would happen if you let this go?

This process isn’t about letting go of everything, it’s about having clarity about why you’re keeping things.  To spark reflections and interrupt your immediate response to the question, “should I keep this?”  For most of us who tend to hold onto things, the answer is “YES!” because we haven’t put the thinking into it.

Our possessions tell our story – edit what you have to keep the best story of yourself. Think of writing haiku instead of an epic poem like The Odyssey!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Moving, Perspective, Strategies

Make some S.P.A.C.E. – a Technique to Get Organized

Pantry_tips

Do you have an area of you home you want to organize but don’t know where to start? The S.P.A.C.E. technique, coined by organizer Julie Morgenstern in her first book, Organizing From The Inside Out, is a tried and true way to go about it.

The acronym breaks down the organizing process into 5 simple steps anyone can follow. We’re going to walk you through the steps using a kitchen pantry as an example but the steps apply to any space you’re trying to organize – a single drawer to a whole house!

Sort

The first step in organizing any space is a sort. Gather like things together in order to see how much you have of similar items.

Empty the pantry onto a large table and sort by types of food:

  • Canned goods
  • Nuts, dried fruits, small bagged snacks
  • Rice, pasta, grains
  • Boxed cereals
  • Baking items
  • Packaged food mixes

Purge

Look through each group of your sorted items and get down to what’s relevant to life now.

  • Expired foods & spices
  • Boxes and bags with just a tiny bit left
  • Extras from overbuying because you forgot you already had it (think food bank!)
  • Items you thought would be delicious but now don’t seem so appealing

Assign a Home

This is the core of the work. Clutter happens when items don’t have an assigned place to live. Using labels makes all the difference here.

  • Make sure high-use items are in the most accessible shelves
  • Decide which sorted groups are “friends” – would you like your jars of tomato sauce to live near your pastas or other jars and canned goods?

Once you have clarity on your groups, their use, and where they should live you can make smart choices about whether containers make sense for them to live in…

Containerize

Shop smart and save yourself time and money by saving the containerizing until the end of the process.

  • Use small boxes on shelves to group loose bagged items together; the box functions as a mini pullout shelf
  • There are numerous organizing products to help maximize shelf space and visibility. Do a quick search on Pinterest to get some ideas
  • If you don’t have the perfect container you can always use a cardboard box, Ziploc bag or other temporary container until you find the perfect permanent solution

Equalize

Life isn’t static. Getting organized isn’t a one-time process. As life changes – sizes, interests, jobs, etc. your organizing systems may need to shift and change to keep up. Make time each season (or at least each year) to inventory your possessions and update your systems.

Try it out yourself.  Start small as a test. Pick a single drawer or cabinet shelf to create S.P.A.C.E.   See how it goes and report back!

Need more help? The Container Store has a page with tips for organizing your pantry.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kitchen, Perspective, Strategies

Identifying Root Causes of Clutter

root causes

You know the clutter in your house is making you feel terrible and you want it to change. But are you aware of why it’s happening in the first place? Often the first thought is self-loathing…”I used to be able to handle this, what is wrong with me?”

You’re not alone. Clutter is a fact of life for many people, people don’t feel good about it, and they put blame on themselves.  As organizers, we try to get a sense of why the clutter is happening in the first place. Before you descend into guilt or run out to buy containers, think through the why a little more thoroughly…when clutter happens, it can be a symptom of bigger things going on in your household.

SITUATIONAL BUILD-UP

Sometimes the clutter is completely situational – the change could be major or minor. Minor disruptions include:

  • Returning from a trip and haven’t had time to unpack
  • Family members have been sick recently
  • Being consumed by particularly busy period at work
  • Hosting visitors

Major life events include:

  • Home remodels
  • Having a new child
  • Getting married or divorced
  • Death in the family
  • Change of job
  • Major injury
  • Extensive travel
  • ADD or other new diagnoses

These events can tax the bandwidth that you used to have to clean up the house AND changed life situations always require a revisit of your organizing systems.

LACK OF HABITS

Staying abreast of clutter build up requires implementing new habits of getting things back to their homes. We often say that being organizing doesn’t mean you HAVE to be neat but being organized gives you that option when you want to do clean-up/pickup. To avoid minor build up turning into a major dig-out effort, you have to create routine habits of putting things back where they live.

If you go to clean up and find yourself thinking you don’t really know where it lives or there’s no good place to put it that’s a clue that it doesn’t have a good home – see the next section!

NO GOOD HOME

“Don’t just put it down, put it away”…easier said than done if there is no assigned home for things. How often have you heard (or spoken) the phrase, “Go clean your room!”  Well, if the room hasn’t been set up with good homes for their things, you might as well say, “Go build a rocketship!” Everyone needs to learn the basic principles of organizing.

A good home is created by design rather than by default.  The home should take into account the who, what, when, where, and how: what is it and how is it used? by whom? where does it get used? how often? Creating a good home for things may require purging unused things that are taking up valuable space where your active things should live.

ASK FOR HELP

Once you identify that clutter is beyond you…you can’t get a handle on it, this is one reason to work with a trained professional…and not just a friend.

You may not be able to solve the root problems, but being aware of them helps to bring empathy and compassion to the situation. Ask for help.

As Professional Organizers, we are experienced in being able to recognize the multiple layers of influences that are contributing to the disorganization in the space.  Once we’ve toured the space, we can help identify the root causes, prioritize the different aspects of the project and let you know what’s possible…and sometimes refer you to others who can resolve the issues.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Be S.M.A.R.T. About New Year’s Resolutions

hallway (2)

It’s that time of year – we are flooded with messages in ads, articles and magazine covers, about setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Over and over, GETTING ORGANIZED ranks in the top 3 – right next to getting healthier and managing your money better. Guess what?  Getting organized can help you with your other goals! A lot of us are great at setting goals but not so great at following through consistently to make progress. Without a plan behind the goal, it’s pretty hard to truly make changes.

An often-used concept in coaching and organizing is to set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. Keep this in mind as you plan out your journey to a de-cluttered home.

S – Specific

Is your goal well-defined? For some “Getting Organized” is their goal. But it isn’t specific enough. Enlisting a friend or professional organizer to help you do big-picture planning is one way to start. Defining what you truly want and are willing to work for may be more challenging than you think. If you’ve started projects in the past and not completed them, getting specific may have been the missing piece. Instead of “Organize the house”, how about “Organize the hall closet and entry area”?

M – Measurable

Identify the milestones as you progress. If you are organizing your home, emptying out one closet and re-filling it in a way that makes sense to you is a measurable task. It’s good to define your goal in a way that lets you measure your progress and success. How will you know when the hall closet and entry are organized? Will it look different? Function differently? Feel different? Understanding exactly what items need to live in these areas and having clear and functional homes for those items is measurable.

A – Action Oriented

What specific actions are required to move you toward your goal? It’s difficult to take action on something that has many components, breaking the pie-in-the-sky project down into concrete, manageable bites helps. What would be the next logical first step? Is this action observable? It could be that you schedule 1 hour progress sessions. Action tasks could be: “Go through coats and donate ones we don’t use” or “Empty out the floor of the closet and only put back what truly needs to live here”.

R – Realistic

Have a realistic game plan. Are you trying to organize an area that requires other people’s input? If so, do you have it or how will you get it? Does your project require some space to stage items as you go through them? If so, don’t start working on it right before hosting a kid’s birthday party or having guests over.

Telling yourself you are going to organize your house in a weekend when you work full-time and have 2 kids who are active in sports isn’t realistic either. Make your plan do-able. Look at the reality of your schedule and how you like to work and plan out time accordingly.

T – Time-Based

What is your deadline for achieving your goal?  And is there enough time to achieve it? A realistic time frame can keep you sane. Remember that trying to fit a new project in an already-full life, no matter how inspiring it may be, can be a stressor. Blocking out time to act on your plan helps ensure success. Beware – it is very common to underestimate how long it can take. As organizers we usually allow 2-4 hours minimum to full go through, purge, and re-organize a small hall closet (with no re-design). What can you NOT DO in order to create time to do what you are most excited about?

Enjoy the surge of motivation the new year often brings and set yourself up for success by taking the time to record your desires and spend time planning to turn those intentions into actions…and results. If you can make the journey satisfying, you’re more likely to stay on the path.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Are You Ready For An Emergency?

earthquake

The earthquakes this week inspired a re-post of this valuable info!

In California we live with the possibility of wildfires and earthquake disasters year round. Being prepared can provide peace of mind, even if we aren’t ever faced with an emergency.

We know we should be prepared for natural or personal disasters. But we lead busy lives. Who has time to deal with something that MIGHT happen, someday?

There are ways to upgrade your disaster preparation without getting overwhelmed.

Remember ANY amount of preparation is better than none.

Most Vital: Procure and Store Water

Following a disaster, clean drinking water may not be available. Your regular water source could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. Experts say that you need to enough water for a minimum of 3 days, that’s 3 gallons per person or pet. But it’s better to have a 2 week supply.

 

Now that we’ve covered the most valuable resource, let’s choose just three of the next most important preparations and accomplish them.

Step One: Get a kit

If you are busy, purchasing an emergency kit is easier and faster than making your own.

Here is a great option from EmergencyKits.com with all the supplies the Red Cross recommends.

 

 

Emergency Backpack - 1

There are many vendors for earthquake backpacks.  It’s good to be able to customize your kit.

This kit also provides both bags of water and water purification tablets. The bags of water are not enough for 72 hours (which the Red Cross recommends). So the tablets are crucial. But to use the tablets you’ll need a receptacle for holding water. Add this collapsible water container to your order and put it in your kit and you’ll have enough water for 72 hours or longer.

While you are reading this article, click and order, and you will have accomplished Step One! Store the kit in your car for quick evacuation or emergencies on the road.

Step Two: Make a plan

An emergency plan refers to knowing who to call for help, how to get in touch with loved ones, and where to go if you need to evacuate your home.

Print one of these emergency card templates for each member of your family. Fill them out together as a family activity. Keep the cards in wallets or backpacks.

Step Three: Get informed

Next time you wait at the doctor’s office or are put on hold by AT&T, put these key contacts in your phone and copy them into your wallet. They are valuable sources for information during a disaster.

  • Safe and Well Website. To let your friends and family know you are safe, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website. You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and select the prompt for “Disaster” to register.

Now that you see you can accomplish three major steps in disaster preparation, visit Ready.Gov to learn more emergency preparations you can incorporate into your life.

Thank you to NAPO-SFBA and Emily Fox for inspiring this post.

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Guest Experts, Perspective, Strategies

3 Strategies for Sharing or Renting Your Home

organize your home for sharing - 1 (1).jpg

A great reason to declutter and organize your home is the possibility of leveraging it to rent or share or swap. Seeing your home through the eyes of guests can motivate you to pare down essential areas, streamline your own living style and in the process and create a more attractive place to live!

House swapping (HomeExchange) is a great way to eliminate lodging cost from a vacation. Short term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO) are a great way for empty nesters to earn some extra income. It can take a lot to get your space prepared to share – even partially – but comes with the added bonus of giving your home a refreshing makeover to make it more livable for you…and your family and friends.

Imagine someone walking into your home and saying, “What a nice place to stay!” You can achieve this effect without turning your house into a hotel. A few improvements can make a huge difference…and inspire you to do more. Here are 3 strategies to make this happen:

1 – Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

On visible surfaces — in the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom — clear out everything but the basics

  • Excess products put away or discarded
  • Clear the nightstand of dusty books and paraphernalia
  • Simplify the décor
  • Develop systems for managing laundry
  • Take care of any outstanding repairs that create safety issues

There’s quite a range from being very clean, neat, usable, but looking very lived in to making it look more like a hotel…very sparse. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but usable. If you are renting you can charge more for a more hotel-like environment.

2 – Create Space for Overflow and Personal Items

  • Make the house easily transformable to reduce the hassle of preparing to share. When you want to make it “guest ready” for yourself, for a relative coming to stay, for a party, or for a short term rental or house swap.
  • Make space in a closet or part of a room where you can secure your personal or valuable items for things you would put away when someone is using your space. You can even dedicate an extra room for this purpose and have a locking door.
  • Make space in cabinets or closets to store overflow items neatly but out of the way.

3 – Making Key Supplies and Info Accessible

  • Prepare an “Welcome to Our Home” cheat sheet with key emergency contacts, and basic instructions for things like TV use, internet access, and trash/recycling.
  • Make sure you have clean towels and sheets available and visible
  • Consider stocking the kitchen with a few basics such as coffee/tea to make guests comfortable

If you’re considering doing short term rentals, there are other considerations re supplies that renters might expect.  Places like AirBNB provide convenient list of things you should have stocked in your home

Not sure where to start? An organizing assessment with a Professional Organizer can provide you a punch list of things you could do, give you advice on the viability of sharing and also give you tips on what to tackle first.

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, home organizing, Kitchen, Living Room, Memorabilia, middle-age, organizing, Perspective, Strategies