Tag Archives: family

Lessons Learned from an Organizing Guru

joy of being clutter free

An expert in organizational design, Peter Walsh is a television & radio personality as well as the author of numerous New York Times best-sellers.

Peter has brought organizing into the public eye from his beginnings in the popular organization and design series Clean Sweep (Discovery’s TLC Network), on to his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show where he was dubbed the “Get Your Life Organized Guy” and now leading his own series, Extreme Clutter. He’s also appeared and continues to appear on hundreds of national TV programs and in thousands of publications across the world.

Recently Katherine had the pleasure of attending a talk by Peter and came away with lots of gems we’d like to share:

Clutter is anything that gets between you and your best life (the life you want to live). This means clutter is different for everyone. You must decide what is getting in the way.

Stuff has power.  We have brought it into our homes. Our society says that Stuff should give us something.  We are invested in the promises sold to us with Stuff. We believe owning the item will fulfill the promise. Fear of letting things go is related to fear of letting go of this promise – which was false to begin with!

Our instincts know that too much stuff sucks the life out of a space and robs us emotionally, spiritually, socially and even financially. Often, we feel the burden of the clutter, but don’t connect it to the accumulation of too much stuff.

If you’re feeling that weight and instinct it’s time to reflect: “Does the stuff I own create a path to the life we want?” If you don’t create the home you want, no one else will.

Start With Your Vision. When you first moved in, what was your dream?  What did you want from this home? What is the feeling you want to have when you open the front door?When deciding whether to keep something ask yourself, “Does this move me closer or farther away from the vision I have for my home?”

Stop using the word “later” – later is the best friend of clutter

Use this rule of thumb: Don’t put it down, put it away

Kids need limits and routines…we all need limits and routines

When dealing with memory clutter: pick only the treasures, the peak of the peak…treat them with the honor and respect they deserve…the rest of the “memory clutter” will fade away, they will not be needed if you have preserved a few choice items.

The role of a professional organizer is to be your advocate in helping realize the vision you have for your own life and space.

Being organized can change your life at a fundamental level. Peter reported that every time he decluttered a space where children were living, when they come back into the space, they danced!

 

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Filed under children, Decluttering, downsizing, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

Pacing Yourself During the Holidays

If you regularly have a lot going on in life the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load…where can the kids participate or invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping are examples. Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out? Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a December that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself what could you do to avoid those pitfalls?

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

Lose the Psychic Weight of Clutter

psychic weight (1)

Do you have a room in home that when you walk into it you just say, “Ughh!”?

These are spaces that are enough out of sight and out of mind that they are the perfect spots to accumulate years of random items. Attics, basements, garages, guest room closets, dining buffet bottom drawers … every home has them!

So why bother? For the most part they don’t affect daily life – the few times a year you have to retrieve something from them is a hassle but rarely hassle enough to raise the daunting task of cleaning out the space to the top of your to-do list.

These spaces may seem benign…not a problem, no worry…but they actually do have quite a presence. Spaces that trigger guilt, shame, inertia, and paralysis contain psychic weight. We know this from the decades of working with clients. Our clients almost universally describe the feeling of clearing out old clutter as having had a huge weight lifted from their backs. They had become used to living with the problem and hadn’t realized just how much of a mental burden putting off dealing with the clutter was. Feeling the relief of the cleared, organized spaces made it crystal clear what a weight they had been carrying in the background of their consciousness.

Observe and measure how you feel in each room of your home. The spaces can be as simple as a drawer, a cabinet or an entire room. Identify where you are being drained:

  • Where do you find yourself sighing?
  • Is there an area of your home that you completely avoid?
  • What space triggers a sense of feeling trapped?
  • When you want to use a space that’s cluttered, is it a complete hassle to reclaim it?
  • Would you be embarrassed for someone else to see the space?
  • Does the thought of dealing with it make you want to take a nap … or go on a trip?

Take stock of how much mental weight you are carrying around. Where is your extra weight hiding?  Wouldn’t it feel great to be relieved of the heavy feelings of those spaces?

If you’re inspired to get started, choose a small project or part of a room that you can get through in about an hour. Getting to experience that wonderful sense of relief that comes from making progress will fuel your motivation to go further. If you get stuck, reach out!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Seniors, Strategies

The Chaos of Business Card Collections

We’ve all been guilty of it – hanging onto business cards that somehow end up on dresser tops, stashed in drawers, or floating around on counters. We sort of know we probably don’t need them but there’s a nagging sense of importance about them that makes them seem valuable. So, we neaten the pile or shove them back in the drawer and forget about them for a while.

Why are you keeping them?

Managing clutter is all about making conscious choices.  The first step to getting a handle on those stacks is to take a clear look at your motivations for hanging onto them:

  • You may want to use that person’s services
  • Something you want to do someday
  • Somebody you want to network with
  • Neighborhood services
  • Cards of services you use regularly
  • Nostalgia – cards of family members, cards of your past careers
  • Cards whose designs you like

Figuring out why you’re keeping them helps you get clarity on how relevant the info actually is. That informs whether you really want to continue to keep them and how you store them. Part of what makes business cards a less precious resource than we think is there are so many ways other ways to find services and people – Facebook, Yelp, list serves, LinkedIn, Google… put in bits of information into a search tool and have that person show up.

After you do a serious purge of the stacks its time to decide how to store the keepers.

Store for easy retrieval

Ways to store them

  • Electronically – scan or enter into your favorite digital address book tool
  • In a mini-file box
  • Rubber-banded in a drawer or on a shelf
  • In a rolodex
  • Binder sleeves designed for business cards
  • File in a resource section of your filing system (can attach card to larger piece of paper)

Make them useful

If you are keeping cards, it can also be helpful to jot a few notes of relevant info to help you remember why you have the card.  Write on back (have a sharpie close by):

  • Next actions/promises you made to them
    • Where you met them
    • Your follow-up plan
  • Interesting fact about the person (their dog’s name, for example)
  • What you have in common with them
  • Who you both know
  • Key words (name and date of event, category of contact)

business card boxes - 1

It’s perfectly fine to hang onto cards you may not actually need or use — so long as the stacks of cards don’t stress you out and don’t impact your usable space. If they impact your peace of mind or are getting in the way – take action to clear the clutter.

When you browse through your business card hoard, what is the wackiest card you find?

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Office, organizing, Paper, Products, Strategies

A Perspective on Moving from a Coach

artful coaching on moving

Our favorite personal coach, Sydney Metrick of Artful Coaching has just gone through the experience of downsizing and had some valuable insights to share.

How long does it take to accumulate more stuff than you need? I’m a person who detests clutter not only for aesthetic reasons, but because I think better when things are neat and organized. Yet, it appears I have waaaay more stuff than I need or would ever use.

Stuff seems to fall into six categories:

  1. The things I use regularly and actually need
  2. Items I acquired because they were interesting and I might enjoy them
  3. The “someday” items that are clothed with good intentions
  4. Gifts
  5. Memorabilia
  6. Mystery items

Because I’m moving, drastic downsizing is mandatory. Going through two decades of books, clothes, art, and extensive miscellaneous stuff, I’ve learned two really important things. The first thing is that only the stuff in category #1 is worth packing and taking, like insurance papers, my computer, clothing, and shoes. The second insight came about from looking through everything in categories #2-#6. That is, looking through them is enough. It’s kind of like a review and letting go. It was nice to take those little trips down memory lane, but bottom line, living in the past is not for me. Would I truly miss a wooden cigar box, or a meditation candle I received one holiday? Did I really care about the glass that acknowledged Peter and Jennifer’s wedding? And what exactly are the little brushes for anyway that were in the box with printer ink?

So, in addition to scheduling time to go through everything, I also had to pack and label the things I’m keeping, and arrange for everything else to be sold, donated, given away, or shredded. It was a lot. But I thought how moving is such a great motivator. Going through all those things was fun, interesting, informative, and useful.

Wondering how this might work for you if you’re not moving? Consider the “gift of the month” exercise. Pick a drawer, shelf, box or whatever, that you haven’t gone through for quite a while (or ever). Set aside an hour or so one day that you’ll devote to emptying and looking at everything in that space. Put back only what really makes sense and discard the rest. What’s the gift? Well, it may be that you find something you’d been looking for or had forgotten. Or you have the gift of a newly decluttered and organized space.

Be Sociable!

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Sydney Metrick of Artful Coaching – Coaching for ADHD and other non-linear thinkers since 1998.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, Decluttering, downsizing, Guest Experts, Moving, Perspective, Strategies

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!

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

Tackle Messy Build-Up With Your Kids This Summer

organizing crafts

Everyone with kids knows that they typically come with lots of STUFF. And somehow it keeps coming in…if you have more than one kid the challenge is even greater.

This buildup is natural. More than any other time of life, the very nature of childhood is about growth and change. Your child’s abilities, interests, and sizes are constantly evolving  – and all the toys, clothes, learning materials change along with them. And young ones are magnets for toys and gifts from relatives.

This means if you aren’t keeping a constant vigil on moving out outgrown items (and how many of us are, really?) you’ve likely got some backlog of unused and unneeded kid stuff.

If your kids have a little more time at home during the summer, take advantage of that to do some weeding.

Break It Down

You’ll have a better chance at success if you focus their attention onto one category of stuff at a time. A general request to “clean out the playroom” isn’t going to get them very far. But a specific request to gather up all the DVDs and choose the ones they love to watch is much easier to get follow through on.

If you divide up the project into categories you’re teaching an important skill about grouping “like items” together.

Put out a big bag or box and have the kids weed some or all of these groups:

  • Board games
  • Clothes that don’t fit (can even break this down by type – tops, pants, jackets)
  • Sports equipment
  • Craft supplies
  • Art projects/ drawings
  • Books
  • DVDs, video games
  • Electronics
  • Toys (you can break this category down by type – electronic, stuffies, dolls)

Create a System and Motivate

Sometimes it’s easier to decide what to keep, rather than what to let go of. Clearly labeling 3 bags or boxes – KEEP, MAYBE, DONATE/SELL can help. Let your family know it’s like going shopping for things they love within our own collection. This helps kids get in touch with making conscious choices about what they really use and like.

Motivation strategies to get them going:

  • Help them visualize the end result – more space to play with their favorite items
  • Use a timer to bound the work
  • Offer incentives or rewards – a movie night after clearing out unwanted DVDs for example.
  • Create a contest or game around who can purge the most 

Enlist Help

If you’re paying for a babysitter or childcare, enlist their help to tackle 1 category a day. Even as little as ½ hour each week spent on weeding will go a long way to staying ahead of the next influx of new gifts or purchases!

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Filed under artwork, children, Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies