Tag Archives: children

Too Easy to Buy, Too Hard to Let Go

shopping - 1

“Getting stuff” can be fun and easy…it’s the “letting go” that can be challenging

We Americans have too much stuff.

This is our observation gleaned from decades spent immersed in the home organizing industry and working with people in their homes. Why is this?

Stuff is cheap. It’s easy to come by things relatively cheaply. Big box stores such as IKEA, Target, WalMart, and Costco always have great deals on household goods and furniture…not to mention the ease of buying with Amazon. The advent of online shopping means goods arrive at our door with one click. Even getting used things is easier than ever with sites such as Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle, MoveLoot and NextDoor.

New things are fun! Our media and culture promote the excitement and promise of re-decorating, having the latest fashions and gadgets. We have acclimated to the idea of rapid change and stimulation. These forces help drive us to think of everyday goods and furniture as almost disposable instead of intended to last for years.

Smaller families mean gifts abound – we see this so often with kids’ toys. With smaller families there are more adults to dote on the kids. Gone are the days where a child gets a few things from their parents and maybe the grandparents. Now we have aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors with few or no kids who want to get in on the fun. It all adds up to too much.

Environmentalism. Even our desire to be green adds to the problem. We are lured into buying things that are cheap…Wow! A couch from IKEA for $119? What a deal! But when that couch gives way or wears out we feel bad for wanting to trash it…sometimes we hold onto broken or worn things, trying not to waste them by sending them to the landfill. But then our garage turns into a trash receptacle.

What to do about it?

Curtail the shopping. Make a game out of shopping at Costco and only buying 5 things you really need. Begin with the end in mind and – before you buy – imagine what you’ll do with the item when it wears out or you’ve outgrown it.

Request non-tangible or consumable gifts from extended family and give those yourself. Providing savings bonds, promises of outings, shows or more elaborate vacations…even contributions to a car fund…can provide long-term satisfaction to both the giver and the receiver.

Think “Environment” before you buy. Buy for quality and endurance. Will that item be valued by your children when they’re ready to start their own families? Will there be a market for this item in the future?

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.” – Bryant H. McGill

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Living With A Cluttered Valentine

courtesy of Donna Smallin Cooper of Organized Greetings

Cartoon courtesy of Donna Smallin Kuper of Organized Greetings

Do you and your sweetheart have wildly different ideas about what clutter is? Do you find yourself fed-up and frustrated by their organizing “style”? Do you feel like they’re trying to take over the world one surface at a time or leave things out just to piss you off?

Stress between couples over clutter is very common. Here are a few Valentine’s Day tips to manage the stress with your loved one.

What doesn’t work:

  • Purging behind their back
  • Nagging
  • Storing empty boxes on surfaces to prevent their things from landing there
  • Surprising them with a gift certificate from Crime Scene Cleaners
  • Deciding that if they can be cluttered, you do them one better and be messy yourself

What does work:

  • Realize that it’s not about right vs. wrong… it’s about compromising BOTH your styles because you’ve chosen to share space together.
  • Agree to de-clutter together. Set a shared goal that you both agree will improve the quality of the home. Make a game plan and work together to implement it.
  • Give each person a dedicated space (a room or a portion of a room) that they can control completely.
  • Take responsibility for managing your own clutter before trying to “fix” your partner.
  • Get objective outside help: use an organizing book, online resources, a couples therapist or a professional organizer.

What easy-to-tackle project could you and your Valentine take on that would create a little more space at home?

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Strategies

5 Tips for Designing an IKEA Armoire

Here's one kind of "closet" that can be made using the PAX system from IKEA.

Here’s one kind of “closet” that can be made using the PAX system from IKEA. The final product had sliding glass doors. In 2016, this unit cost about $1,700

An armoire is a free-standing closet. If you have minimal closet space or just need more closed storage, an armoire can be a lifesaver. IKEA’s PAX product line is one of the most customizable; it allows you to design the exact kind of storage that you need. Here are 5 useful tips for designing an IKEA PAX armoire:

TIP: Before starting to plan, take an accurate inventory of your clothes. How much hanging space do you need? Are most of your clothes short-hanging (less than 40”) or do you have long robes, gowns or slacks hanging with clips? What kind of folded clothes do you have? Socks, underwear, jammies? Are you going to store shoes in the system or not? At this point you don’t need to know HOW you’re storing everything but you need to know exactly WHAT you’re trying to store.

TIP: Be mindful of prime real estate. When designing your system, know that the prime area of storage is the zone from forehead to hip height. Plan to stow most-used items in this zone.

TIP: You can design the closet yourself using the online planning tool. This tool enables you to drag and drop all the components and features. Is it user friendly? Hmm…you have to be fairly computer-savvy to use it. You can also get help from an IKEA staff person in the store. Some of the staff actually have knowledge of how to build your system.

TIP: These are modular units, but the very first decision you make is what kind of doors you want to use; sliding doors or doors that open out. This is because the basic frame is different for these different door styles. Also, you need to choose the best height for your PAX system. It comes in 2 different heights. Generally, you want to maximize your vertical storage (the taller option) if your room can accommodate it.

TIP: You can save money by going full DIY including pulling all the pieces from the warehouse and assembling yourself (2 people required) or you can get IKEA to help as much as you want. With your design, the IKEA staff can gather the components, deliver it to your house and install it.

* Note: If you are going to purchase their installation, it is important to know that you are responsible for removing the baseboards in the area you want the armoire installed so the IKEA installers can attach it to the wall.

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Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, General Organizing, Living Room, organizing, Products, Storage

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.

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

Purging Toys With Your Kids

toy jumble

Is your child’s play area overwhelming?

US children make up just 3.1% of the global kid population, but American families buy 40% of the world’s toys. Time Magazine, 3-23-15

When parents recognize the limits of their space and try to get the kids involved in purging, they often can’t get past the kids’ resistance to letting go — suddenly everything is precious. Here are some suggestions to keep the kids involved but meet the goal having your stuff fit comfortably in your space.

Let kids help, not lead. Involving kids in the decision making process helps them learn about limits but YOU need to stay at the helm. If you defer to your kids to lead the project it will rarely progress. If it’s an overwhelming situation it’s just fine, and often appropriate, to pull rank and make purging decisions without their input.

Have-to-Have vs. Nice-to-Have. Kids always approach the purging decision from the perspective of “do I like/want this?” When you have more toys than will comfortably fit in your space, “like/want” can be a first layer of purging but there will need to be a second layer of tough choices that is solely about space constraints.

Narrow the focus of decisions. For example, “We have room to keep 10 (pick a number) board games, pick out your 10 favorite” or “We have room to keep one box of little cars/planes/vehicles; here’s a box, fill it up with your favorites”. This way you are leading the process and setting boundaries on the volume but the child gets to make choices. Choosing one specific category to work on prevents overwhelm and distractions. It’s much easier to decide favorite puzzles, for example, if you’re looking at all of them at one time instead of randomly as you come across them.

Set specific timeline goals. For example, pick one category of toys per week to purge. Sample categories:

  • Balls, bats, small sport equipment
  • Action figures, character toys
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Electronic games
  • Large environment toys – play kitchen, activity centers
  • Building toys
  • Art supplies: (easiest to do these separately) markers, crayons, pencils, paints, stamping, stickers, etc.

As a last resort. If you’re not quite ready to let something go, it OK to pack it up and move it to a garage or closet in “limbo” until a little more time passes and the attachments lessen. Date the box and commit to revisiting these items.

Let’s be clear – toys are all about WANT, not about NEED. When faced with an overflowing playroom we like to remind parents of the Little House on the Prairie story where the kids were thrilled to get a small doll made from a used sock each year. For centuries kids were perfectly content to entertain themselves with their imaginations and their natural environment. Our modern culture has shifted to pressure parents into providing an endless variety of “stuff.”

As we approach the gift-giving season, it’s the perfect time to re-assess the old and make room for the new. With fewer toys there is less clutter and less cleanup. It’s much easier to hold kids accountable for picking up when toys can be put away easily. The biggest bonus – more time to actually play with the toys you keep!

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Filed under Bedroom, children, Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, organizing

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.

 

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

Organizing Games and Puzzles

Game Storage - Before

Is your game collection in a jumble?

Fall brings to mind thoughts of being cozy inside, playing games with the family. Having a nice assortment of games to choose from is a great resource for entertainment. If that collection is a disaster of crowded, hard to pullout broken boxes and missing pieces it defeats the purpose of having easy access to the fun.

Here are some tips for keeping your collection inviting and accessible:

Fresh start. Make a fresh start by pulling out ALL the games & puzzles you own. Cull out any that are no longer age appropriate or no longer played. It can be nice to keep a few around for younger visitors.

Repair boxes. Those well-loved games often end up with torn corners and worn boxes; pieces can get lost. Clear packing tape works best to repair ragged boards and box corners.

Bag up loose parts. If you have a game that routinely loses pieces or ends up not fitting back in the box properly you can use ziploc bags to contain game parts. If you need to store games on their sides instead of flat, bagging the parts inside prevents chaos when you open it.

Younger kids’ board puzzles that aren’t boxed often take up a lot of space and have to be stored flat. Quart and gallon size ziplocs work well to hold those pieces separate from the boards. You can also use rigid clear plastic storage envelopes found at office supplies stores. Label the bags with the puzzles’ names and store them and the boards vertically instead of flat for easier access.

Sort and store by size. Stack games that are similarly shaped. Square boxes separate from rectangular boxes. Try not to stack more than 3-4 games for easier access.

Card games, dice games and small games do best stored all together in a shoebox sized box which then can be stored with other games. Be sure to label the box!

If you have enough room, it’s also nice to separate young children’s games from the rest of the family’s so they can always access them easily.

Weed regularly. Ages and interests will keep changing over time so every year or so go back through the list above and keep your game area refreshed and relevant.

Investing a little time in organizing your game area pays back big rewards for family time. Kids can see what their choices are, get games out for themselves and start playing right away. It’s also easier for them to put them away themselves!

Game Storage - after

Here games are stored vertically. We’ve used an open basket to contain playing cards and small parts.

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Filed under children, Closets, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, organizing