Tag Archives: storage

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

Realize Your Dream of a Custom Closet

ElfaSale

It’s that time of year again! Your closets are bursting, drawers are overflowing, and this is the year you are finally getting organized! You’re in luck, the elfa® shelving sale at the Container Store® is underway!

Why do we love elfa® closet systems?

  • Esthetically pleasing
  • Completely changeable
  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to install

CLEAN LINES, VARIETY OF LOOKS

There are several different finish options for your closet system – a ventilated wire shelf in white or platinum with optional wood edging, solid shelves in many different veneers…the variety means their systems fit lots of different tastes. See examples of the different styles on their best-selling solutions page.

PRICED TO FIT ANY BUDGET

Closet pricing can vary from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand depending on the size and complexity of the design.

  • A standard 6’ closet outfitted with one clothes rod and two 6’ shelves prices out at less than $200 (during the sale!) — mind you, that doesn’t include their fantastic drawers or gliding shoe shelves
  • “Décor” edging and shelving, drawers, shoe shelves, tie racks, hooks, bins, and other accessories will add to the cost
  • The ventilated and solid melamine shelving are the most economical
shoe and purse after

Here we installed a shelving system over an existing built-in dresser

 

NOT JUST FOR CLOSETS

The variety and adaptability of this shelving makes it perfect for many spaces – they also have free-standing elfa® units if you don’t have available wall space:

  • Garage, basement & attic are great places for shelving
  • Create a wall-mounted desk with shelves above
  • Kitchen pantry

COULD IT BE ANY EASIER TO INSTALL?

The design of the system makes installation super simple.

  • The whole system hangs from a single bar they call a top track. Once you get that installed securely, there is no further need for tools or the help of your handyman
  • It usually takes about an hour to install a basic 6’ closet
  • We must say that the Container Store’s® installers are friendly and quick.  They can handle demolition of the existing closet and can handle any adjustments needed for unexpected glitches in the planning process
  • If one is only installing a single closet system, the installers are a little pricey (they have a $180 minimum) so take advantage of this sale – installation is also discounted

BUT WAIT! Closet design isn’t the starting point.

How each closet functions is an integral part of how a whole house stays organized. Before you invest in a makeover of any one closet be sure that you’re storing what you really need and that you’re storing it in the appropriate location…should your boxes of photos and memorabilia really live in the master bedroom closet?

We offer closet and storage assessments to advise on how to maximize space. If you want help figuring out the best closet solutions for your needs, contact us!

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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

The Best Wedding Gift Ever

Your child is getting married or graduating or having a baby…what is the most thoughtful gift you could give them that would last a lifetime? A filing system!

Now, a filing system may sound like the most boring, uninspired gift you could possibly give someone but bear with us while we explain…

A good basic filing system is an essential part of an organized life. Despite the promises of a paperless world, we constantly see people overwhelmed and confused by piles of paper in their homes. Often the problem starts at one of these of these major life events where suddenly the amount and types of paper coming in multiplies exponentially.

For a new graduate, having a central place to manage personal records, job history, and tax documents starts to teach them about leading an adult life.

For couples getting married, having a central place where all important insurance, ownership, certificates, account & tax documents are kept minimizes stress and will help them manage a life that will become increasingly more complicated.

For new parents, having a central place to keep health records, school paperwork, parenting resources, and sports/camp info prevents the stress and inefficiency of searching the house for needed documents. Providing a dedicated box for memorabilia/artwork is a great addition to a filing system.

You can easily set up a basic system in a portable file box, small or large, using categories you create or a kit such as Freedom Filer. The box doesn’t have to be their permanent container; they may already have a filing cabinet or one may be needed once all their papers are gathered.

Basic categories include:

  • Career
  • Health
  • Insurance
  • Finances
  • Personal
  • Resources
  • Vital Documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
  • Taxes

Give your loved ones a head start on the challenges of paper management. A gift certificate to a professional organizer to help them integrate their papers into the system and further customize would be icing on the cake!

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Filed under Decluttering, Empty Nest, Paper, paper organizing, Products, professional organizer, School, Storage, Strategies, Wedding

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