Tag Archives: gifts

Gift Guilt

Unwanted gifts can clutter our homes. How can we deal with the guilt of passing on things we don't want or can't use?

Unwanted gifts can clutter our homes. How can we deal with the guilt of passing on things we don’t want or can’t use?

The hand knit sweater from Aunt Martha that you’d never be caught dead in…the set of candles from a co-worker that you know you’ll never use…the dishtowels from your sister that she’ll probably notice if you don’t put out…

Now that the holidays are over, take preventative measures right away – don’t let unwanted gifts clutter up your closets and drawers!

It’s The Thought That Counts

  • A gift is a show of kindness or love to you, not a contract you must honor
  • You can receive and keep the good intention of a gift independent of the item given

The Closer The Giver, The Stronger The Stick

Post-Its® Gifts: from acquaintances or people you know you won’t see or will never be in your house.

  • Sending an unwanted item back out into the world allows it to be used and appreciated by someone who chooses it purposefully

Scotch Tape® Gifts: the gifts from friends we like a lot. They may never know you got rid of the item but you will and that alone makes you feel bad.

  • If someone really cares about you they would want you to surround yourself with things you love
  • When possible, be honest with friends and family about what you don’t like; it helps them know you better

 Duct Tape® Gifts: the stickiest. Usually from vey close relatives and friends, AND there’s a good chance they will notice if a particular gift isn’t in use.

  • Remember, your feeling about the gift is not a reflection of how you feel about them or how much you appreciate that they gifted you
  • If they bring up the gift in question, reinforce your appreciation of their generosity or sentiment while remembering that it is truly is up to you what fills your home

Look through your unwanted gifts and think about how sticky the attachments are. Lighten your gift guilt by focusing on the least sticky items. Picture them being happily used…by someone else!

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

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

Best Organizing Gift for the College Grad

Graduation JoyEven millennials need a paper system.

New grads today are totally hooked in to the digital world but there are still pieces of paper and information that need to be stored or managed. And they can’t always keep their birth certificate in your family file system.

In our experience, we find these documents unsorted, piled in a heap of the young professionals we have worked with.

Until digital pink slips and birth certificates are made legal, there has to be a place to store some of these things.

The categories we see most useful are:

Automobile Records

– Are pink slips electronic yet? And I don’t know about you, but my mechanic still gives me reports, warranties and receipts in paper format

Career and School Documents

-Things like diplomas (if they aren’t framed and displayed) transcripts, letters of reference are easy to find if there is a specific place for them

Health

– Insurance card copies, benefits package information can get lost without a home

Housing

– Lease/Rental contracts and Renters Insurance docs would live in this category

Financial

– Bank statements, investment records, Tax receipts

Project/Action Files

– These are the most valuable for gathering research, pictures and other information in discreet categories. Though this category can be made completely digital by scanning and using online apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Asana, etc. … likely there will be some physical vestiges of a project that need a place to land

Vital Documents

– This file could house things like a passport, a birth certificate, a baptism or marriage certificate

 

Vital Records  - 1

For a gift, procure a desktop file or file tote…The Container Store has trendy looking file systems. Paper files work best in a hanging file system with plastic tabs to delineate categories, but file folders arranged alphabetically can work just as well…and are easy to maintain. Also, we’ve mentioned Freedom Filer® in past posts, but a few choice categories from that system would set them up for life.

Desktop File

This is one among many choices of desktop files available from the Container Store®

 

 

Even if your kid’s paper life is light now, you’re giving them a structure that will help them manage their establish skills they’ll need for a lifetime. Eventually, all documents will be electronically submitted and legally binding, but during this time, we are straddling the two worlds. A simple system for storing important information is helpful.

Oh, and, by the way, it will make the gift more exciting if you put a $100 bill in their “Financial” section or seed their “Vital Documents” file with the title to the new car you are giving them for graduation.

 

 

 

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Empty Nest, Office, School

5 Organizing Gifts

Stuck on what get that special someone for a gift this holiday season? Here are a few of our favorite organizing gifts in no particular order:

 

Purse Organizers

These handy bags are ideal for the organized person who likes to use different purses and bags. It sits inside a satchel, keeping items separate and lifts out easily to transfer contents to another tote. They come in a variety of colors that appeal to both women and men.

 Purse Perfector®

InBag handbag organizerInBag® Handbag Organizer

 

Label Maker

Labeling containers makes knowing where to put things back clear and easy. Don’t forget to include batteries and label tape! Label tapes come in ¼”, ½”, and ¾” widths. The 3/4″ width tape is our favorite for large containers…and the tapes come in a variety of colors!

 

         Brother P-Touch®

Charging Station

There are many different styles and sizes of these. They can really help to minimize device and cable counter clutter. Consider purchasing short charging cables that stay with the station and save the long ones for travel.

 

Griffin® PowerDock-5

Bedside Organizer

These are a handy way to keep nightstand clutter down. They’re also available for couches!

Richard’s GearBox

 

Clip and Keep Sofa Organizer

BONUS! Stocking Stuffers

 

gift-GuardYourIDPLUS brand GuardYourID Roller: An easy way to get more paper clutter into recycling instead of keeping a pile for shredding…

 

Post-Its® Super Sticky Pads are fun for the whole family!

Belkin® Cable Ties are handy little chaos-tamers

We hope this helps stimulate your brainstorming while shopping for the best gifts for your friends and family.

Next week, we’ll showcase some consummable presents we think are pretty special.

What are your favorite practical holiday gift ideas?

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Filed under Decluttering, Holidays, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Clutter Purging Questions

Should you keep it?  Ask yourself these questions...

Should you keep it?
Ask yourself these questions…

Are you overloaded with too much stuff? If you want to pare down but find yourself struggling to let go of items, ask yourself the following questions:

Have I used it in the last year?

Part of an item’s value comes from it’s utility to you. How often you use it a great indicator of how valuable an item really is in your life. If you haven’t needed or wanted to use it in at least a year, consider moving it out to make use for something more valuable.

Do I value this item? Does it have personal meaning?

It’s fine to hold onto items just because they add beauty to your space or you’re sentimental about them. But beware! If those items crowd out things of utility and you can’t function easily it’s time to pare down the collection.

Is it the best reminder of the person who gave it to me?

Gift guilt is a common cause of clutter. We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s the thought that counts” but it can be hard to put into practice. If the gift giver cares about you they wouldn’t want you to have something you really don’t like or that creates clutter in your closets or cabinets. Honor the giver and yourself by moving the item out into the hands of someone else who will use it and enjoy it.

Is it something I can get on loan from somewhere else?

Information, tools, and specialty kitchen appliances…we often see valuable space taken up with items that are only needed once in awhile. Consider using lending and sharing resources to “have” these items without storing them full-time in your space. Sharing builds community when you rely on others and they rely on you.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I didn’t have it?

If you’re still struggling after asking the previous questions, re-set your perspective by thinking about the worst-case scenario if this item wasn’t in your life. Could you live with those consequences?

The stuff we have in our homes is there to facilitate a healthy, active life. Take a fresh look around and don’t let unnecessary attachments keep you from creating space and homes for the items that truly your support your life.

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Filed under General Organizing, Memorabilia, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

10 Magical Organizing Solutions

Make a Wish, Your Dreams Could Come True

Make a Wish, Your Dreams Could Come True

In the magical spirit of the holidays, we’ve created a list that would guarantee an organized life forever!

  1. A gift list that writes itself with what everyone really wants
  2. An elf to put clothes and shoes in order every day before bedtime
  3. A time warp button to use will to create extra time in the day when needed
  4. Magnetized desk accessories and supplies that jump back to their homes when the magnet is activated.
  5. A mailbox force field that automatically rejects and recycles junk mail
  6. A giving fairy to donate unneeded items to the perfect charity when they most need it
  7. A gratitude enchantment so that every thought to do something nice for someone automatically gets done
  8. A dust vacuum that sucks up all the dust before it lands on furniture and knick-knacks – wait, is there already something like this?  An air purifier?
  9. Magical file folders and paper that file themselves and then self-destruct when expired
  10. An enchanted microphone that translates parents’ commands and instructions into something children welcome and retain

Enjoy the last bits of 2013 and make sure to add these items to your family’s gift list!

Look forward to lots more tips and advice in 2014!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, Perspective