Tag Archives: family

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

5 Tips for Helping Your Parents Downsize

mom-daughter

Are your parents ready to move? Maybe one is thinking about moving but the other isn’t ready? Are you worried about their safety and think they should be thinking about moving but they don’t seem interested at all?

Assess the situation and be realistic. Deciding to downsize is process with many layers and chapters. Where are your parents in that process?

  1. Not ready. Can’t see themselves leaving home
  2. Considering the possibility, but not convinced
  3. Ready but don’t know where or how
  4. Ready and have a plan

Assuming your folks ARE ready to move and are just getting started, here are some tips for helping you successfully help them:

  • Your pace may not be their pace. Be respectful and mindful of where your parents are at in the process of being ready to move. You’ll only be able to go as fast as they are capable and willing to. Understanding their resistances rather than fighting them will enable you to better tailor your message to their ears.
  • Help assess their immediate needs. Are they or you considering moving because of a need around safety, health, hygiene, housekeeping, meals, or social life? Help identify solutions to challenges in these areas while they are still at home if possible.
  • Don’t let your attachments hold them bac Can’t believe they are wanting to get rid of the special quilt Aunt Mary made? Then you take it!
  • Don’t take sides. When one person in the couple wants to move but the other doesn’ Generally, unless health and safety are at risk, there are many pros and cons to moving – all subject to a particular person’s perspective. Remember that the negotiation process between couples is complicated and not so much about right and wrongs as it is about finding a set of solutions that both can live with.
  • Offer to find resources. Downsizing and moving can require a lot of research and using different vendors – offer to research and coordinate potential resources that may be needed during the process. This can allow your parent to focus on the work of sorting and decision making.
    • Estate sale folk, auction houses, online auctions: who is in the area? How do they work and what percentage do they take? What happens to the things not sold?
    • Thrift stores – which ones will come pickup from the house? Which ones require staging things outside? Who will take what?
    • Hazardous waste – how to get rid of leftover cleaners and chemicals in your area? (stopwaste.org) Are free pickups offered for seniors in your area?
    • Free city bulky waste pickups – most cities offer at least 1 per year but all have different rules about how to schedule them, what can be picked up, and how items have to be organized at the curb.
    • Movers & packers – find out rates, ranges, and availability. Check reviews and call references
    • Professional moving/organizing help – Sometimes an extra hand is needed to make the move happen. NASMM.org and NAPO.net both offer search pages to find professionally trained help in your area.

Additional resources you may find useful:

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Filed under Bay Area Services, children, Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, Perspective

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

Couples and Clutter: Conquering Stonewalling

gull-talk

Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore stonewalling and its antidote.

The other 3 culprits we’ve looked at are criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. Stonewalling happens when a person gets so overwhelmed – flooded – by the negativity of an interaction that they shut down. Rather than continue to confront the situation, they disengage completely- becoming unreachable.

Stonewalling is a reaction to escalating negativity. Stonewalling includes not making eye contact, not responding verbally or physically; giving someone the cold shoulder. The shutting down and turning away is a natural protective response to feeling flooded.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Partner 1: You never put your clothes away. I’m so sick of having to walk around your stuff all the time. Why do you have to be so messy all the time? (Criticism)

Partner 2: “I’m not the one who leaves my shoes all over the place. You’re always blaming me for everything” (Defensiveness)

Partner 1: “I can’t believe I’m married to someone who lives like this. You’ve been a mess ever since I met you! What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get it together?” (Contempt)

Partner 2: Turns away, picks up their laptop and starts doing some project even as Partner 1 continues to try and talk to them. Everything about their body language says, “I don’t hear you and I’m not listening to you.” (Stonewalling)

Antidotes: Timeouts and Self-Soothing Activities

It is important to remove oneself from the interaction, take a timeout and do some self care in order to calm the flooding response. It helps for the overwhelmed person to state, “I’m overwhelmed, I need a timeout.” Take a walk, listening to music, going into a quiet room – anything that lets your body reset and allow you to come back to the interaction with a calmer perspective.

The combination and interplay of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are destructive to genuine communication and problem solving. Building awareness of these patterns can lead to healthy interactions and…eventually, to harmoniously organized homes.

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, Perspective

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Defensiveness

agreement

Here’s more on the topic of helping couples manage clutter in a shared space using the wisdom of relationship researcher, John Gottman. This time we explore defensiveness and its antidote.

In our post about criticism, we addressed how blaming inhibits a couple’s communication and ability to work together to create a home that supports them both. Next up was contempt, which takes criticism to the next level. Defensiveness is the third common behavior, which sabotages relationships.

When one is faced with criticism and/or contempt, defensiveness is a natural reaction but rarely works to resolve the issues being discussed. More often, defensiveness escalates the conflict because it is actually a form of blaming.

Here’s an Example:

One person likes to park their car in the garage. The other person is working on a project and because of the weather, is staging the items in the parking spot.

Partner 1:

You left your stuff all over the garage and I can’t pull the car in! You’re such a slob.

Partner 2:

Well if I had some space in the house to work, this wouldn’t be an issue! Can’t I do anything without you harping at me?

Note that Partner 1 is launching into the exchange with criticism and contempt, and Partner 2 immediately responds with defensiveness and adds some criticism for good measure.

Antidote:

Partner 1:

I tried to park the car in the garage today and found it blocked up. I was frustrated because I had to park outside in the rain.

Partner 2:

I’m sorry, I forgot that you would be coming home before I cleared it out. I could have let you know that I might not have been finished before you got home.

The antidote for defensiveness is taking responsibility for your own actions. Resist the urge to blame outside forces or your partner and think about what you can own yourself. What set you up for the miscommunication? What do you want to apologize for?

Here are some ways to communicate that sidestep defensiveness:

  • I’ve been overwhelmed lately and I’m sorry that I was so negative
  • I’ve not asked for what I needed and I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you
  • I’ve been overly critical lately and I’m sorry I was really grumpy

Defensiveness, criticism and contempt rarely show up alone, often they work together as a tag team, dragging down the good intentions of having a productive conversation. Next up we explore the final culprit which interferes with creating a comfortable and organized home, stonewalling.

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, organizing, Perspective