Tag Archives: professional organizer

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Criticism

birds-communicating

As Valentine’s Day approaches we are reminded of the challenges couples face managing clutter in a shared space. “Clutter” is incredibly subjective. One person’s state of chaos is another’s state of total harmony. Do a quick Google search on “couples and clutter” and dozens of articles and statistics come up. You’re not alone if you’re feeling frustrated.

What to do when your styles and thresholds for clutter don’t match up?

Relationship researcher and expert John Gottman identified 4 key behaviors that undermine relationships and are barriers to communication: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote. In our next 4 posts we are going to illustrate how each one can show up when navigating clutter between couples. First up…Criticism.

Expressing a legitimate complaint is different than launching into a criticism. Criticism uses blame which can backfire and hinder communication. Talk about your feelings using I statements and then express a positive need. What do you feel? What do you need?

The antidote to criticizing is to state your complaint in a gentler way. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Criticism: You never put your clothes away. Why are you so lazy and messy?

Complaint: The laundry on floor is making it hard for me to move through room. You said you would put them away today – what happened?

Example: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Criticism: Who told you you could move my stuff without asking me? You’re such a neat-freak!

Complaint: I’m having trouble finding things after you clean up. I was late today because I couldn’t find my work bag. I want to be part of the process for deciding where my things live. Can we choose a dedicated spot for my things?

Example: Paper Issues

Criticism: PG&E is going to shut off our electricity! Are you so busy that you don’t have time to take care of this simple task?

Complaint: We just got a late notice from PG&E. You are in charge of the bills and this isn’t the first time they didn’t get paid. Can we talk about how to resolve this?

Relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Successful couples learn how to manage and live with differences by honoring and respecting each other.

Our next post is about Conquering Contempt.

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

Organize Your Passwords-Revisited

password-post-it

With all the cyber security breaches these days prudent password management is vital. Here is a refresh of a previous post about passwords.

Does keeping track of your online passwords make you want to pull your hair out? Having an organized system for password management reduces that frustration.

Just as people have to choose between digital and paper calendars these days, there are both digital and paper ways to manage your password information. Different methods have different advantages.

Digital

Managing your passwords digitally offers many conveniences but introduces security risks. While not nearly a comprehensive list – and not a specific endorsement — here are some options:

  • Maintain a list or spreadsheet on your computer…not named “passwords.” File could be stored in the cloud (Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive) to access across devices. You can password protect this document for an added layer of security.
  • Use Facebook, twitter or Google to log in
  • Use password management software such as 1Password, LastPass or KeePass. These typically work by storing all your individual logins under one main “master” password.
  • If you use a Mac, you’re most likely familiar with Keychain, which comes with OSX. Basically, it’s a password manager that uses your OSX admin password as the master password.

Paper

Some people don’t want their passwords stored anywhere in their computer. Storing them on paper prevents electronic hacking but it also limits your access to them when you are not home near the list. You also need to think about how to keep the list secure at home.

There are many options for managing passwords in paper form:

  • A small address book is an easy way to list passwords alphabetically by site name. Small address books are also easily hidden.
  • Some people keep a paper file in their file cabinet labeled “password”… you could make it a bit more secure by naming that file something random but unique to you like “junkdrawer” or “Rumpelstiltskin.”
  • An alphabetized index card box or business card box makes a handy place to drop in the post-its and scraps of paper you write passwords on.
  • To keep lists more secure, rather than writing down the actual password your list can be prompts that only you know. For example, if your password is some non sequitur like bootPolandgelato5, your prompt may be “footwear – country – food – number”. Or “147Guccigreen3970” could be prompted with “childhood address – favorite designer –color – past phone number.”

Password Strength

Regardless of what organizing tool you use to keep track of passwords, if you aren’t relying on software to generate secure passwords for you here are some tips for creating strong passwords:

  • Ideally use a mix letters, characters, numbers, and capitals
  • String together words to make a phrase. For example “I love ice cream” could become 1L0v31c3Cr3@m if you replace all the vowels with numbers or characters and capitalize the first letter of each word.
  • String together unrelated words as in the example of Boot, Poland, Gelato, and 5 becoming “bootPolandgelato5”

There isn’t one right solution or answer; ultimately it’s a personal style and risk management choice we all have to make. Whatever system you choose, pick one and stick to it.

What one smart step can you take to make your digital life more convenient AND secure?

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Filed under Decluttering, Office, Paper, Strategies, Technology

Assess Your Home for a Fresh Perspective

Getting Perspective - 1

Get a Fresh Perspective on Your Clutter

Clients call, ready to make some changes in their home and excited about the process – “Let’s get started!” Before diving right in, it can be helpful to spend some time making a plan of attack. To create lasting solutions, you have to know what problems you’re trying to solve and why they are happening in the first place.

Assessment Goals

  • Identify what’s not working. One person’s idea of chaos is another’s idea of serenity.
  • What are we aiming for? What is the vision you have for your space? Understanding a person’s goal for how the space would ideally look and function helps define the work to be done.
  • What’s most urgent? Understanding how the problem areas relate to each other (or don’t), and how each affects daily living helps set priorities for the hands-on work.
  • What is causing the clutter? Understanding the cause helps guide the appropriate solution.

Organizing Concepts

Often, clutter begins because one of the following concepts isn’t being used:

Friends with Friends. Keep “like” items together.

Real Estate Value. Don’t let low-use items clog up prime real estate; make conscious choices about where things live.

Container As Limiter. Consciously limiting a collection to its container prevents overflow.

Habits vs. Systems. Sometimes items that are sitting out and creating clutter actually do have homes. An assessment will identify the routines that need to be implemented.

Function & Feel. How does the space function? Can the furniture be arranged to allow for more flow? Is there enough light in the space? Is the space conducive to focused work or free form play? Can décor provide a draw to a certain area?

Assessment Benefits

  • You get a sense of the scope of your project … and help setting priorities
  • You get an objective perspective of your space…seeing it through another’s eyes
  • You get trained in the basic organizing principles
  • You get creative options that you may not have thought of on your own
  • You’ll find out that you’re not alone in the struggle to get and stay organized…and you’ll get the benefits of other clients who have come before

Because everything changes over time, organizing is a life-long process. For the most part, your project will have a beginning and an end but don’t forget you’ll need to occasionally re-assess in order to keep your systems current with your life. Give your self the gift of an assessment.  It could change your perspective for life!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, 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

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

Cleaning Out Your Garage for Fun and Profit

Use the opportunity of a garage sale to purge your closet

Use the opportunity of a garage sale to purge your closet

Summer is a great time to consider clearing out the debris from your garage and making room!  A garage sale is a great way to make some extra cash and clear out lots of unneeded/unwanted items.

Pros

  • Clear out needed space & make some money!
  • Opportunity to connect and socialize with neighbors and your community
  • Feel good seeing your objects go directly to new owners

Cons

  • Several hours work to gather items, prepare and hang signs, hold the sale, clean up
  • May not make much money
  • Will likely have leftovers that you’ll have to donate or dispose

Preparation

  • Enlist friends and family to help out – they can add their items into the sale to make the sale more varied and appealing to buyers
  • For multi-family sales decide ahead of time how you’ll track who made what
  • Stock a fanny pack or cash box with at least $20 in small bills to make change for early shoppers
  • Make clear, simple signs (with arrows!) and post at major intersections near the sale
  • Post the sale online on www.Craigslist.com, www.WeekendTreasure.com, www.NextDoor.com or other local event listings, 1-2 days ahead of time—include pictures of what you have to sell, if you can.
  • Don’t bother trying to sell worn-out or dirty items, but you could have a “FREE” box for items that aren’t saleable.

Pricing Tips

  • When setting your prices be clear about your goal for the sale – maximize the $$ made or just move out stuff? Price accordingly!
  • Pre-pricing takes time but can save some effort during the sale and make things easier for customers
  • Save big expensive items for craigslist, people shopping garage sales are looking for deals and usually not carrying a lot of cash.

Curb Appeal

  • Place large items out front
  • Group like items together as much as possible
  • Use folding tables to make browsing easier
  • Hang shirts/dresses/jackets if possible
  • Create a container of small $.25 items and label it clearly – this can keep kids busy while parents shop

Deal With The Leftovers

  • Advertise on your local FreeCycle.com or Craigslist that everything past 3 pm on your last day of the sale will be free and sitting in the driveway or at the curb
  • Have some empty grocery bags or boxes ready for clean-up time to immediately create donation bags
  • Pre-schedule a donation pick-up from a local charity for the week following the sale (www.DonationTown.org)
Garage after the sale

Imagine the possibilities!

Does all this overwhelm you?  Hire an organizer or just call 1-800-Got-Junk!

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Filed under Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies