Tag Archives: attic

Perspectives on Letting Go

freedom release letting go

Ahh, attachments to our stuff. It’s really all a mental game. If we were truly able to assess our belongings according to our practical needs, we would probably be living with 10% of what we own.

Why is letting go so hard? How do we manage the psychology of releasing things?

Over the years, we’ve seen people find success with one (or a combination) of these three approaches:

Focus on how you can help yourself

Honor the life you want to live. Have a vision of how you want to be in the world and edit your stuff so you can match that and live your best life now. This is about releasing the past and creating your ideal future. You’re honoring yourself by letting that be your focus.

Focus on how you can help other people

Recognize that your excess is a form of abundance. Release your objects so they can serve their purpose in other people’s lives. Release resentment or other negative emotions that the objects bring up in you and put them out into the world to do positive things for other people.

Feng Shui expert Karen Kingston tells a story of a divorced woman had a pair of large, expensive decorative urns from her divorce settlement. They were beautiful but made her think, with bitterness, of her ex-husband.  She was encouraged to sell them and get a lot of money for them instead of having them foster bitterness and resentment and a constant reminder of a painful relationship.

Focus on how you can help the environment

Bringing in less can aid the environment, but disposing of things in a thoughtful way will help offset the environmental impact of consumption. Some people hesitate to clean out a closet or garage because they don’t want it all to go to landfill. Take advantage of living in the San Francisco Bay Area which is filled with easy options for recycling/reuse and responsible disposal.

Stopwaste.org is a quick way to find what is available near you. There are many places that accept e-waste, expired medicines, CFLs, hazardous waste, styrofoam, packing peanuts and air-packs. Partially used art and office supplies can go to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse or S.C.R.A.P., building materials and hardware can go to Urban Ore or a Habitat for Humanity ReStore outlet. Plastic children’s toys, if not donate-able, can be recycled with hard plastic at most urban recycling centers. There are also resources for your unneeded medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, tubing, etc.)

Freecycle, Craigslist, Nextdoor, and other community neighborhood forums are great places to post usable items for free.  These places allow you to find people who want your cast-offs and will take care of the hauling!

If you don’t want to deal with the public, you can pay for a hauler to come. EcoHaul, 1-800-Got Junk, Lugg are companies that advertise responsible disposal of items the remove from your place.

There is no “right” approach. What is that key that will release you from the obligation to hold on to things you don’t need and really don’t even want? Not sure how to get rid of something? Just ask! As Professional Organizers, we’ve got ideas!

Leave a comment

Filed under Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, 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.

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

Easy Solutions for Keeping Kid Keepsakes

kid art - 1

Do you have a unwieldy stack of kid creations in your garage or closet? Do you love to see the creativity in the various objects they create then feel paralyzed by the thought “Now what do I do with it?” Rest easy, you’re not alone. In our decades of organizing, kid art and memorabilia is one of the most common clutter challenges we deal with.

Here are 3 tips to manage the overwhelm:

Show it off before stowing it away

Dedicate a bit of wall and surface space to display the most recent creations. It gives time for everyone to appreciate the items and for attachments to wane a little. When new items come in, it’s time to decide whether the older items really make the cut at true keepsakes.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

They aren’t all keepers. Really. Remember, the goal is to keep a representative sample that catches a snapshot of their life. This includes homework. Routine worksheets and tests aren’t nearly as personal as original writing – kids talking in their own words about their lives in that moment. Also, don’t delude yourself that you’ll “make time to go through it later”. Be honest, you’re life is likely too busy and there’s far better uses of your time.

Use the right containers

Oversize art portfolios (available from craft & art stores) work perfectly for the preschool/early elementary years. Regular size art, homework, awards, cards/letters, and school/sport photos fit perfectly in a plastic file storage box with box bottom hanging files for each school year. Definitely have separate containers for each child. Object art does best in it’s own box, tissue wrapped for protection.

Bonus tip: Go digital! Take pictures of your child’s creations and put them in a system – folders, iphoto albums or sites like Picasa. And there are many apps available to memorialize your kids’ art.

Imagine your grown child coming back home to clear out their things after they’ve launched. They find a discreet amount of their memorabilia – a portfolio and a box – with the special art they created in their childhoods and are able to enjoy the memories and revel in their creativity while not being overwhelmed by dusty heaps of tattered paintings and dog-eared papers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, Memorabilia

Fear Factor: Ghosts from the Past

There you are with the best of intentions, starting to organize your space and suddenly a ghost pops out and scares you away from your project.

This ghost could be evidence of a forgotten task, a memory of a loved one who has passed, papers from a nasty legal battle, or even some article of clothing that has unpleasant memories attached to it. With the passage of time and consistent avoidant actions, our homes can start to feel like haunted houses.

Scary Organizing Challenges

Our clients are usually glad to have us there when these frights occur.

Here are some common ghouls to watch out for and ways to banish them:

  • Clothes in a size you wish you were. The hope of someday fitting back into those “skinny jeans” can be a very strong attachment. If you absolutely can’t bear to let the dream clothes go, at least make sure they aren’t taking up high value space in your closet or dresser. Put them in a tub, labeled, into a low-use space like basement/attic/garage.
    • Now, if you’ve encountered the tub again while clearing out one those spaces it’s time for a real heart-to-heart talk with yourself. If weight loss is a goal, keeping the clothes isn’t what is motivating you to take action. If you take action and meet your weight goal it will be a nice treat to update your wardrobe with some new items rather than pull out those jeans from a decade ago which likely won’t still be in style anyway.
  • Gifts you weren’t thrilled about.  What do you do with items you’ve been given, but just don’t have a use for or actually don’t match your taste? We’ve written a blog post about this topic, but the main thing to remember is that the giver cares about YOU and their best selves wouldn’t want you to hold onto something that didn’t make you happy. Let it go, pass it on, give it to a charity who can find a good home for it…but don’t let it collect dust in the darker reaches of your prime storage closet or spare room or attic.
  • Things you’ve inherited from family or friends who have passed. These items can sometimes feel heavy and burdensome. Like the unwanted gifts, they are attached to a person or past and can’t just be tossed in a cavalier manner. This is where taking time to process them will provide benefits.
    • Determine their value, their importance to you, what they represent and how best to preserve that memory, if that is what you choose.
    • If they have historical value, can they be donated to the local history society or museum?
    • If they have monetary value, can they be sold with the proceeds going to a coveted family cause?
    • Are they holding memories of a precious family experience? Is there a way to recreate the memory of the family experience without having to store a 2-ton piano that is too expensive to make useable or wouldn’t get played?
    • Sometimes inherited items are best dealt with in layers – focus on dispersing the items you and others have the least attachments to; this will at least make more room for the things you choose to keep.

So, if you have encountered some ghosts, take heart and get help if you need to. There is a way to process these frights, reclaim your past and take care of unfinished business.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Closets, Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Memorabilia, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Fear Factor: Gross and Scary Spaces

Halloween conjures up images of ghosts, death and hidden fears. The hidden (or not so hidden) fears of many of our clients is what holds them back from tackling organizing projects.

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll cover the most common fears and how best to banish them…or at least make them manageable!

Fear #1: The “Ick” Factor

cobweb 1

Could you offer your attic/basement/garage as a haunted house for Halloween? The dark corners, dangerous obstacles, cobwebs (& spiders!), even foul evidence of other furry critters visits. Let’s face it – not many of us relish the thought of digging through the “ick” necessary to get some storage spaces de-cluttered. Often though, the fear of the ick outweighs the actual reality of what you’ll encounter.

  • Work in a well-lit space. If the space doesn’t have it’s own good lighting add in some temporary clamp-style work lights so you can actually see into the corners and what you’re dealing with (though that may scare you more).
  • Come armed with safety and cleaning supplies. The arsenal: disposable plastic gloves or kitchen dish gloves, dust masks, heavy duty garbage bags, broom, dustpan.
  • Don’t fear the beasts. If rodent droppings are present it’s important to NOT sweep them up dry. Vacuum them up and/or spray the area with a light bleach-water solution then wipe them up and throw away. If you’re lucky enough that the creature causing the mess has also chosen to expire in your space, kitchen tongs wrapped in paper towels make a nice way to transfer the body into your heavy duty trash bag. If you don’t find the critter you may need to set traps or call in a professional exterminator.
  • Be ready to unload. Once you get going, lot’s of scary things are going to be released from your space: hazardous waste, dead compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries, scrap metal, re-useable hardware and building supplies. Have some dedicated boxes or bags ready and do your research ahead of time to know where to take different kinds of items (your local organizer will know all the spots, just ask!). Make space in your car ahead of time so the boxes don’t sit around for months.

Next up…tackling those scary, complex papers that make the bottom of your stomach drop!

1 Comment

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

Clutter = Gratitude?

Toy clutter is just one component of a too full house

Toy clutter is just one component of a too-full house

As kids move forward through life they leave in their wake a plethora of disposed, outgrown, and cast-off objects:

  • Too small clothes and toys
  • Sport and hobby equipment from past interests
  • Art and school memorabilia

Often we see these things cluttering up closets, rooms, garages and attics. We see families struggling with feelings of overwhelm trying to stay abreast of the flow of incoming kid stuff. We see these objects triggering feelings of nostalgia and sadness  in older parents whose kids have moved on to their own lives.

Next time you’re tripping over last season’s soccer cleats, take time to be grateful for what has been and what is to come.

How do you hold in tandem the perspective that all that kid clutter is a pain to deal with but is also a sign of abundance, a trail of a rich life?

Although the negative effects of clutter are evident, there is another perspective as well.  The whole reason for our “stuff” is to facilitate our lives.  These things are evidence of a rich and varied life – active family members, interest in the outside world, and an engagement in the learning process, for example. They are signs of the ability to provide for our families.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, take time to acknowledge the gifts that come with the clutter.  And, then ask your grown kids to take some of the stuff out of their old bedrooms.

Leave a comment

Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Memorabilia, Perspective