Category Archives: Strategies

Giving Your Photos and Memorabilia a Reason for Living

photo organizing

Do you have piles of photos stored somewhere in your basement or attic or the back of your closet?  You’re not alone.  Many of our clients hit a wall when it comes to tackling the photos and memorabilia.  It always seems to be the lowest priority until a life event like a birthday or graduation prompts the need for quick and easy access to your loved ones photos.  It’s then that you realize how inconvenient you’ve made it for yourself to view your family memorabilia.

Organizing photos (digital or printed) is a lot like organizing anything in the house – the first step is to determine why you would be keeping them.

Take a few minutes to consider the bigger picture…what do you want your photos for? Do you imagine that you’ll pass the unfinished project on to your kids? Would you like to have some on display or in albums? How important is it to identify people or events for others?

Before you dive into the backlog spend some time framing (pun intended) the picture of your immediate and long-term goals – it will give needed clarity to your sorting and purging.

Figure out what you’re keeping. This takes setting aside time, regularly, to gather and weed your collection.

Divide your photos into 4 categories:

1 – Photos to display, share or put in an album

These are the best of the best; the ones you would be sad if they were destroyed. You may never actually create the album, but it’s important to make the separation in case you or your family member gets motivated.

2 – Photos to keep but not display

The second cut, those you want to store or archive for safekeeping and possible future use.

3 – Photos that tell a story

Even if they are not perfect, don’t automatically toss a great picture if it tells a significant story. They can be illustrative of some specific point in time or mark a milestone.

4 – Photos to dispose of

Come on!  Do you need to keep the 5th copy of a photo you don’t even like? Blurry photos, poorly composed photos, photos of people you don’t even remember can all be tossed.

Next step, determine the keepers.

Set up containers with the 3 separate categories labeled — Album/Display, Archive, Trash — so it’s easy to separate them.  The pictures that tell a story can be tagged with notes and put in the appropriate category.

Once the initial sort happens, you can drill down into more specific categories.  Categories help with retrieval. They help you browse the archive for retrieval or help determine the structure of an album.

Would a picture of Aunt Mary on vacation with you in Hawaii get sorted into Vacations, Aunt Mary and Her Family, the year & month of the trip or …?

There are no right or wrong choices, but you will need to make a choice.

Post-its and index cards, Ziploc bags are great temporary ways to sort printed photos until you arrive at your final organization. Start with broad categories or themes and know that you can come back and fine-tune, if desired, later. To keep the process moving, limit your time with categorizing of each particular photo to a couple seconds. Resist the urge to reminisce; there will be plenty of time for that later.

Power Sort Box

Power Sort Box from Creative Memories for sorting physical photographs

Digital photos need this kind of attention and maintenance also! Don’t kid yourself – the accumulation of thousands of unsorted digital photos will create just as much overwhelm and hassle as the boxes or bags of printed photos taking up closet space. Digital photos can be tagged with multiple categories.  This is a great advantage; it’s the equivalent of having the same photo in 3 or more different places.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tackle bite-sized chunks.  Commit to just one box of sorting, or time yourself and do one-hour blocks of time or enlist an interested party and make a date to do it together.

IMPORTANT! Moving forward, make sure you have a sound system of photo management in place so you’re not contributing to the backlog. For most of us this means managing digital photos. Here are some tips:

  • Figure out how to sync your devices and/or copy photos to ONE master location
  • Make sure you have a backup system!
  • Use additional folders for sorting and/or use tagging to mark a photo as belonging in more than one category
  • Make actual prints of favorites so they can be enjoyed on display

If this article has left you feeling completely hopeless and overwhelmed instead of inspired, it’s time to ask for help! Search the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (www.APPO.com) for a local resource.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Memorabilia, middle-age, Moving, organizing, paper organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Technology

5 Organizing Lessons from Happy Brain Science

There’s been a lot of research done on the science behind happiness. According to Ayla Lewis of http://www.HappyBrainScience.com, as it turns out, our brains are not as hard wired as we may think. We tend to think of our personalities as being fairly “set” however science has proven we can take specific actions to change how we think and feel.

So how does this relate to organizing?

If you’ve locked yourself into a mindset that you can’t be organized, that you’re a “messy person,” or that you’re just not good at it – that doesn’t have to be your story!  We tend to cast ourselves into a role that is static but brain science shows change is possible.

Here’s 5 ways you can proactively change your approach to getting organized:

Don’t Go It Alone

Research shows that you can make more progress if you involve positive people in your life. This could be a professional organizer or just a supportive friend.

Take Charge of Your Attitude

Perspective has tremendous power.  It is as important as the actions you take. A shift in perspective will empower you to get and stay organized.

Focus on the Positive

Searching out and focusing on the positive in a situation primes our brains to look for more positives.  Let’s say you just pulled a pair of worn out shoes from your closet to throw away or donate.  That’s a positive step toward decluttering!  Yay! Celebrate that and see that as a step in the right direction.

Take a Power Pose

As Amy Cuddy, Harvard researcher has suggested, standing with your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman for two minutes can change your psychology.  Putting on a smiley face helps…even if you don’t mean it. Research shows that the physical act of turning the corners of your mouth up actually makes you feel happier.

Honor the Progress You Make

Work toward making progress on any given goal as opposed to measuring success by the endpoint. Happiness research has shown that this provides more satisfaction than actually achieving the goal. Spending 5 minutes on decluttering is more doable, and happiness-inducing, than setting aside an entire weekend to get organized.

People feel empowered, lighter, less burdened … and they get happier when they get de-cluttered. Isn’t it worth a try?

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies

Tips for Maximizing Your Storage Space

Most of us have stuff in storage, whether it is in a commercial storage unit or a closet in your house, we have things to store. I figure even The Minimalists have items in storage of some sort.

How do you maximize the space you have to avoid paying monthly storage fees or to minimize the storage fees you pay by renting a smaller space?

Here are a few tips for making the most out of your storage.

First: Do a little purge

Figure out your have-to-haves as opposed to your nice-to-haves. Do you really need to keep that snowboard, if you haven’t been to the snow for 10 years? Would it be easier just to rent ski equipment if you decide to take a trip to the mountains?

Doing a purge doesn’t mean you have to go through everything you’ve been storing. Take a quick look around and see if there is anything easy to get rid of. Is there a carpet that is so stained you’ll never use it again? or are you holding onto art that you’ll never hang on your walls?

It’s not very methodical, but every item you remove makes space to see and evaluate what’s you really want to keep.

Once you have done a sweep of the items you know you won’t keep, you can go through boxes individually, but for the quick and dirty method, just rearrange the space to make full use of it.

Second: Use containers for storage

Boxes are easier to stack than small loose items. Whenever possible, box and label items that can be stacked or put on shelves. Clear plastic tubs are great because you can easily see what’s inside.

Third: Maximize the use of the space

Use vertical space, add shelves, use rollers or wheels under things to make things moveable. These rolling metal shelves come in different sizes.  The shelf heights can be customized. Find them at Home Depot, Costco, The Container Store and even on Amazon.

These plastic shelves are inexpensive and easy to move around.


Fourth: Arrange the room

Packing the room according to your access needs is essential. Group items toward the front that need to be accessible…even if they aren’t exactly in the same category. For example, you might need access to your summer equipment more often than your Aunt Gertrude’s ashes (yes, we find those in storage units.) Seasonal items take priority over memorabilia.

Consider whether you need walkways to get to things or can items be put on rolling shelves and stack the shelves right next to each other – knowing you can roll them out to get to the back.

Fifth: Label

In addition to labeling any boxes and tubs it can be useful to label whole shelving units or zones within the space.

Tip: Use shelving on wheels so you can roll things out and get access to items in the back…instead of having to unpack the whole unit to get to something at the back wall.

Tip: Use as much vertical space as possible. Shelving enables that but if what you’re storing doesn’t make sense to store on shelves such as rolled carpets, framed pictures or skis, see if you can hang things on the walls or from the ceiling using brackets or hooks.

Handy items to keep in your storage unit:

  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Labels and/or blue tape
  • Large magic markers/sharpies
  • Box cutters/scissors

What to bring with you when you go to visit your storage:

  • Storage unit keys and access code
  • Camera/phone for inventorying
  • Toolkit with battery operated drill
  • Brackets/hooks
  • Sturdy plastic bins or boxes with lids

Remember to balance the true value of your items against the ongoing cost of storage Most likely, you are paying $1200 a year to store these items in a commercial storage facility.  You might intend to have items in storage for a short time, but statistics show that we keep things in storage much longer than originally planned.

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Filed under Garage, General Organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies

Ways to Get Things Out of (and Into) Your House

Are you downsizing or relocating? Or just have some stuff you want removed from your house? Every now and then need a couple of strong guys to deliver furniture or take away a big load of donations?

These 3 options provide ways to jettison the stuff you don’t want.

remoov

Remoov

Remoov is a company that takes everything away and sells or donates, recycles and trashes items you don’t need. They literally “remove” everything, sell what they can and give you the difference between the cost of the moving and processing and 50% of the proceeds from the sales of items. They curate to get the best price for the items. They sell items through their online auction site: TheLocalFlea.com.

  • 50% of the value of the sold items
  • Donation receipt for your taxes
  • Your junk responsibly discarded
  • A new home for your unwanted items

They are committed to reducing waste by increasing recycling and reuse of products. The timeframe for the removal of items can be quite short.  Getting money back from items sold can take many weeks.  Pricing is easy to figure with their online graphic.

MaxSold (1)

MaxSold

Having an estate sale is a one traditional way of clearing a home. MaxSold is an ONLINE only version of an estate sale.

What do you have to do to prepare? Separate items you want to keep from those you want to sell. Items for sell will be grouped into “lots”, photographed, put into an online catalog and marketed locally. Viewers of the auction have 1 week to bid on items. Pickups are scheduled for 1 day in particular time slots and managed by MaxSold staff. Purchasers must show ID and proof of purchase before being escorted to pickup their “lots.”

The whole process takes 2 weeks end to end. Max Sold charges 30% or $10 per lot OR $1000 overall whichever is higher. MaxSold does not handle donation or disposal of items that don’t sell.

lugg

Lugg

Think of this as Uber for movers. On-demand or by schedule you can get 2 guys to load, haul, deliver or move things within a home. A simple to use phone app lets you set your pickup location, add a photo of items to be handled, get an instant quote, and movers can be on their way within 30 minutes. You can also schedule a date & time in the future if needed. Currently only available in SF Bay Area (all counties) and Los Angeles. Drop-off point can be up to 150 miles from pickup.

Examples of when to use:

  • Bringing home furniture from IKEA or another store
  • Taking away boxes of books for donation
  • Taking away a load of junk to the dump
  • Moving furniture between rooms of the house
  • Pickup a craigslist purchase and deliver to your house

These are only 3 of many different ways to declutter and downsize. When you’re ready, help is available!

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Empty Nest, Garage, Moving, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Criticism

birds-communicating

As Valentine’s Day approaches we are reminded of the challenges couples face managing clutter in a shared space. “Clutter” is incredibly subjective. One person’s state of chaos is another’s state of total harmony. Do a quick Google search on “couples and clutter” and dozens of articles and statistics come up. You’re not alone if you’re feeling frustrated.

What to do when your styles and thresholds for clutter don’t match up?

Relationship researcher and expert John Gottman identified 4 key behaviors that undermine relationships and are barriers to communication: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote. In our next 4 posts we are going to illustrate how each one can show up when navigating clutter between couples. First up…Criticism.

Expressing a legitimate complaint is different than launching into a criticism. Criticism uses blame which can backfire and hinder communication. Talk about your feelings using I statements and then express a positive need. What do you feel? What do you need?

The antidote to criticizing is to state your complaint in a gentler way. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Criticism: You never put your clothes away. Why are you so lazy and messy?

Complaint: The laundry on floor is making it hard for me to move through room. You said you would put them away today – what happened?

Example: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Criticism: Who told you you could move my stuff without asking me? You’re such a neat-freak!

Complaint: I’m having trouble finding things after you clean up. I was late today because I couldn’t find my work bag. I want to be part of the process for deciding where my things live. Can we choose a dedicated spot for my things?

Example: Paper Issues

Criticism: PG&E is going to shut off our electricity! Are you so busy that you don’t have time to take care of this simple task?

Complaint: We just got a late notice from PG&E. You are in charge of the bills and this isn’t the first time they didn’t get paid. Can we talk about how to resolve this?

Relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Successful couples learn how to manage and live with differences by honoring and respecting each other.

Our next post is about Conquering Contempt.

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

Get Real With Your Goal Setting

hillsroad

Do you have hopes and dreams for a new project in the new year? Have you been inspired by the Japanese phenom, Marie Kondo and want to spark joy and tidy your life? Do you want to learn a new skill? Or have you been fantasizing about taking a trip to France to learn cooking techniques? The “what” doesn’t so much matter because the steps to make your dream a reality are pretty much the same.

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

S – Specific

Is your goal well-defined? For some “Getting Organized” is their goal. But it isn’t specific enough. Enlisting a coach or friend 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.

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. Instead of “Get organized”….”Clear out the hall closet” or “Create 2 bags of donations from hall closet.”

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. Or an action step could be to write a certain number of pages on your novel. Instead of “thinking about what your novel’s introduction would be, the action might be to write for 15 minutes on a introduction draft.

R – Realistic

Have a realistic game plan. If your specific goal is to lose 25 lbs, then telling yourself you’re going to the gym 5 times a week may not be realistic … especially if you haven’t even been to the gym once! 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.

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. 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 General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

Organize Your Charitable Giving

Giving for Change

It’s end of the year and the charities are out in force with their hands outstretched. Do you succumb to every request?  Or do you give nothing out of overwhelm? Having a strategy will help make this process more satisfying and deserving charities will appreciate you.

Who to give to? 

  • You can sort charities by their mission to focus on the ones that have the most meaning to you or your family.  Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are two organizations that research charities based on their financial health and accountability. A good benchmark for a worthwhile charity is having at least 75% of their income spent on the the non-profit’s mission.  One of our clients recommends Charity Navigator because they provide a rating for each of the 1,600 charities they research and you can do all your donation tracking and giving through them.
  • Ask your friends who they give to.  It can be a very enlightening conversation.
  • Keep a running list of your favorite charities and donations given. This helps at tax time but the bigger purpose is to avoid confusion about what you’ve given and to whom.“Did I give to ‘Children’s Alliance’ or ‘Children’s Allies’?” A spreadsheet or chart can help you track how much you give year-to-year.

How often to give?

Taking control of how often you give helps avoid feeling pressured every time you get a solicitation in the mail.

  • Rotate donations into monthly bills
  • Recurring automatic donation payments have the convenience of knowing you’re supporting your cause without having to remember to do it. Guaranteed monthly donations also help with an organization’s cash flow.
  • Setting aside a time to donate once a quarter or once a year helps you keep perspective.
  • If you are concerned about tax or estate planning considerations, work with a wealth manager, estate-planning lawyer or certified financial planner on your giving strategy.

Do you give a donation and later find yourself inundated with multiple requests from other charities?

Charities have varying privacy policies. According to Charity Navigator, the more small donations you give, the more likely your name will be sold to other organizations.  Charities are more likely to protect the privacy of their larger donors. The reason is; small donations barely cover the cost of processing them.  They can make more money by selling your name. Once you establish your list of favorite charities, just recycle any solicitations that aren’t on your list.

What to do with all the solicitations that flood the mail?

This depends on how complete your list of charities is. If you feel the need to hang onto solicitations to consider “later” create one box or folder to catch them and sift through them regularly to eliminate duplicates.

Does this make giving any easier? If so, then go out there and share the wealth.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Office, organizing, Paper, Strategies