Before and Afters

Here are some before and afters of an office/homeschooling office and closet I did with a lovely homeowner this week. Well, almost afters. There are still a couple of small organizing systems to install here. However, this much was done just by getting rid of a couple of things, rearranging, and by repurposing a few storage bins that were phased out elsewhere in the house.

So without further ado, here we have the before:

 

And after!

 

Is This the Worst You’ve Ever Seen?

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This is by far the most frequently asked question posed to an organizer. And so, to put your mind at ease before I head over to your house, the answer is a resounding “no”.

Think about it for a minute: people who are already organized don’t need organizers. Therefore, to begin with, you can know for certain that 100% of homes we see have some degree of clutter. It’s what we’re here for. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a job. And we’ve seen some pretty amazing things. Organizing guru, Marie Kondo, writes in her book of one client who had collected 60 toothbrushes, and another who had a stash of 20,000 swabs.

You see your mess, we see an awesome challenge. I went to a consult the other day and found myself waist deep (quite literally) in toys in a play area. The owner was originally reluctant to contact me, but standing there, I was like a kid in a candy store. My mind was coming up with plans and spinning with creativity. Excitement was building at the thought of how much peace this project will bring to the homeowners and their kids. This is what organizers love to do. Tame chaos. Don’t be afraid to call–let the fun begin!

Organizing Your Finances-For Free!

Money

You may have heard the saying, “Mind your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

Unfortunately, after having some extremely tough times earlier in life, dealing with finances is something that has the tendency to make me nervous–even when things are going well. As a result, I would rather not look at them at all. Isn’t this what disorganization is often about? Whether it’s your bank account or your closet, something has tampered with your emotions in a way that creates a tendency to avoid or ignore. But also similar to other kinds of organizational issues, once you tidy up your finances, it can result in significant peace.

Hands down, the best tool I’ve found for doing this is Mint. Created by Quicken, Mint, is a great tool that can help you get a handle on your money. And best of all- it’s free!

You start by entering in all of your account info from every kind of financial instrument you have. Checking accounts, savings, investment accounts, credit cards, Paypal account– almost anything you can think of. You might be wondering if this is secure, and although nothing is 100% guaranteed in this life, according to my research, Mint does seem to be quite safe. Even if someone is able to log into your account, they can’t actually do anything to your accounts or see your account numbers.

As you spend, Mint keeps track of how much you typically spend in each category. Examples are: food, clothing, gas, insurance, etc. This is an extremely handy feature, because you can use this info to easily create a monthly budget right there.The budget is easily changed if you notice that you need more or less in a certain category.

Mint and I have a weekly standing date on Sunday afternoons. I go thru my transactions to make sure everything looks right, get a handle on how much I’ve spent so far during the month,  what bills have already gone thru, and how much I have left to spend according to how much total income I expect to get for the month. Since I’m self employed and pay taxes quarterly, I can also make a budget for the amount of taxes I estimate I’ll have to pay, and Mint will set aside a certain amount monthly and consider it “spent” so there are no surprises when tax time rolls around. It’s also a lot easier to know how much I need to pay taxes on; all I have to do is have the program filter to show me the “Income” category for a given time frame.

One last benefit of Mint is that you can take it with you anywhere. Depending on the kind of phone you have, you’ll likely be able to download the app.

So, take away some of the stress surrounding your finances. Try Mint or a similar financial tool and be organized in every area of your life.

*Full disclosure: I didn’t get paid for this recommendation, but I wish I had. Are you out there Mint? Give me a call 😉

Let’s Talk Senior Downsizing- What to Keep and What to Share

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A large majority of those who wish to simplify fall into the senior category. It’s easier to maintain a smaller home, and gives them time to travel and pursue other interests. I also get many questions from realtors and families about helping to sort through a seniors items to prepare for a change in living arrangements.
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult for families to discern what might be valuable as opposed to what needs to be donated. Here’s a handy guide for some of the most common items found in a mature household:

 

 

  • Antique China: As beautiful as it may be, unfortunately, china is rarely worth much. The younger generations are rarely interested in it. It can’t be thrown in the dishwasher and the metal that’s many times found on it makes it unfit for microwave use. I’ve been told by antique dealers that they get daily calls from people wanting to get rid of theirs, and it’s hard for them to move out of their stores.
    What to do with it: If you have a nice and relatively complete set, try taking some good pictures and try putting it on Craigslist for $50-100. Be prepared to keep renewing the listing over several weeks before you snag any interest. If it doesn’t sell, you may try selling it piece by piece on eBay for those looking to complete a set. However, unless you have some rarer pieces such as vegetable dishes, the time spent listing so many pieces added to the eBay fees may not be worth it.
    Bottom Line: As beautiful as it looks, people rarely want old china. If you can’t sell it on Craigslist and don’t have a family member that wants it, the best bet is to donate it.

 

  • Antique Glassware: Similar to the china above, antique glassware is sometimes a little hard to unload. The exception would be some colored glass such as Vaseline glass (sort of a yellowy green color) or unique bar ware which is sometimes in more demand.
    What to do with it: Check your piece on eBay to see if anything similar has sold and for how much. Then you can decide if it’s worth your time to list it.
    ***Please check out my note on this below
    Bottom Line: You should probably donate these items unless you have a particularly exceptional piece.

 

  • Coin Collection: Coins may be worth having a look into, and many seniors have them.
    What to do with it: If you come across some old coins, take them directly to a dealer if you can find one in your area. However, don’t be too quick to sell them to said dealer. If there’s one that they seem especially interested in, pay attention. They have to make a living, and may try to offer you a low number so they can flip it to an end buyer. Make a note of that coin and do a little research on eBay using my tip below.
    Bottom Line: Don’t toss coins until you do a little investigating.

 

  • Silverware and other silver items: Many people are excited to see silver, but it may not be what you think. Much old silver is only plated, and solid silver cutlery has fallen out of favor due to the extensive care it needs.
    What to do with it: If you find silver pieces, take them to a reputable gold buyer in your area. They can tell you if the pieces are plated or solid silver, and possibly offer you a scrap metal price if you have the latter and just don’t have the time to deal with it. Another option is to offer it on Craigslist to see if there’s someone in your area who makes spoon jewelry and similar items. (Or learn how to make it yourself! These items are becoming quite popular on Etsy!)
    Bottom line: If no one in the family is interested in using it, take it to have it evaluated. Most likely it should be donated. I’ve seen even beautiful plated tea serving sets go for $12 on eBay. Unless you have solid silver that can be scrapped or repurposed, it’s probably not worth your time.

 

  • Antique Dolls: Dolls should always be checked into. Some are worth thousands, even in what looks like poor condition. The market has been a bit down lately, but it’s still worth a little investigating.
    What to do with it: Check the back of the head and doll for markings. Then do a little Googling and sleuthing on eBay (again look below). You might even want to find a local dealer who can tell you about your doll. Again, don’t sell to a dealer unless you’ve first done a little investigation yourself.
    Bottom line: Never get rid of a doll until you check it out.

 

  • Quilt: People get excited when they see an antique quilt. (Much of this could be due to the mind-blowing appraisals that some have received on Antiques Roadshow!) However, unfortunately many quilts sell for next to nothing on eBay, so prices for these can be all over the board.
    What to do with it: If you’re so inclined, you can check on eBay for similar sales, or you may be fortunate enough to have a member of the American Quilter’s Society nearby. They can likely appraise your quilt, but it might cost you.
    Bottom Line: You might want to do a little investigating, especially if you think you may have something exceptional. Just be aware that most quilts will not be enough to send your firstborn to college.

 

***And now a little note about checking on eBay: When you look at the current listings on eBay, please remember that sellers can list items for any price they want, even if they chose it at random. For instance, maybe I love my Granny’s old teapot and I think it’s so beautiful that I decide to list it for $1000. That does not mean that it’s worth that much, nor does it mean that it will sell for that much. Too many times, I talk to people on a high because they saw their same whatchamacalit on a listing for $100,000, but that’s not a realistic number.

To try to get an idea of how much people might actually pay for your item, check out the listings that have actually resulted in a sale. To do this, type the name of your item into the search bar. Once the listings come up, scroll down the page until you see the “Show Only” list along the left-hand side. Choose “Sold Listings”. This will give you a much more realistic idea of what someone might be willing to pay.

Hopefully this list will help you to get sorting through your family history. Please note that these are just some general rules and there can always be exceptions. If you’re not sure, take your item to a local dealer to have it checked out.

Senior downsizing can be an emotional experience– if you find yourself needing more help, and you’re in the Denver area, feel free to give me a call. I’d be happy to help you with your project.china-cups-1320060-1279x852

One Thing Organized People Do Every Day

I remember being overwhelmed every time I’d get my thick textbooks for the new college semester.  How was I going to learn all that in just a few months?! I’d always have to remind myself that it was page by page, chapter by chapter–not all in one day.

Similarly, when looking at the vast amount of tasks which need to be accomplished in the coming days, weeks, or months, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes, it causes a certain amount of paralysis as we’re tempted to give up altogether. To just check facebook and check out of life.

However, only one day can be lived at a time no matter who you are and there’s a good way to keep on track without feeling overwhelmed: Make a note of needed tasks (mine’s usually mental), prioritize them, and then list just a few that you will accomplish for the day.

You can do it in the morning, but I prefer to do it the evening. Many times I’ll write it on my bathroom mirror as I mentioned in a previous post. Sometimes, I’ll put a reminder on my phone. Many times I’ll think of what I need to do the next day while I’m in bed and I’ll send an email to myself from my phone so that it will be at the forefront in the morning. (I sleep so deeply that it takes me awhile to wake up. I usually check my emails inCheckMark the morning as the fog is lifting.)

I’ve checked into quite a few tidy lives and it seems that I’m far from the only one who does this. Better to get a few tasks actually accomplished every day than to have several irons in the fire all at once and nothing ever getting finished properly. It feels good to get some things out of the way every day. Try it for a week and see if you like it!

The 15 Minute Clean-Up

What would your house look like if you cleaned it for an extra few hours a week? It may be hard to even imagine this. It probably seems like you don’t have an extra two or three hours on your hands. What about 15 minutes? What if I told you that 15 minutes changed my world? And in the amount of time it will take you to look over this blog, yours can change too. Read on!

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Once upon a  time, my house was regularly a disaster. Certain people in my house were…less than tidy. Ok here’s the truth: sometimes it seems like people go thru the house tossing items over their shoulders like Hansel & Gretel as they go. It’s like they’re afraid they won’t find their way back to their room or something and so they need a trail.

Enter the 15 minute clean-up. One day I just set a timer and asked everyone to pitch in and just keep going until the timer went off. When I first started out, I made a short list of things that could be done. After awhile, it was easy for everyone to find something to do. 15 minutes may not seem like a lot, but if you multiply it by 4, 5, or 6 members of the family,  all of the sudden, you have an hour’s worth of work done. If you do this just two or three times a week, quite a bit of work will get done. If you somehow manage to find time every day, your place will be spotless!

Here’s a list of possibilities:

  • Sort thru that stack of papers that has piled up
  • Dust the living room furniture
  • Put dishes in the dishwasher (or take them out)
  • Clear a room of toys
  • Go thru a small collection of things to see what could be disposed of
  • Vacuum the main areas of the house
  • Vacuum or wash the kitchen floor
  • Put away clean laundry (or put a new load in)
  • Small children can pair socks
  • Wipe kitchen counters or table
  • Wipe inside of fridge
  • Strip beds and put sheets in washer
  • Clean microwave
  • Wipe down bathroom counter and clean mirror
  • Clean a half bath
  • General picking up–this is what usually needs done the most. Just make sure things get put back in their right places!

These are just a few ideas. If you have more–please list them in the comments below.

Using Unconventional Systems (a before and after story)

Contrary to popular belief, organizing doesn’t have to be expensive. Let’s use a recent closet project for a budget-friendly example. Here before you is a teenager’s closet fresh from a recent move.

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Unfortunately, the balance of the closet was almost equally as full. There were books covering the bottom of the floor, and boxes still packed up on the top shelf. The biggest issue on this side was that there was no room for the shoes which were among the pile, and hard to find. Sometimes, when you first move, it’s hard to figure out how to fit things into your new space.

After finding a place on a nearby bookshelf for the aforementioned books,  and arranging things more efficiently, there was more room overall in the closet.  We were able to give the shoes their own little home, and repurposed some unused milk crates and the previously packed boxes turned on their sides for a makeshift shoe organizer. If desired, a “legit” organizer can be purchased later, or these boxes could even be wrapped in some cool paper or duct tape for the young occupant’s use.

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Using milk crates or boxes is a good way to create an extra shelf on an existing closet shelf as well so that double the shoes, purses, or whatever, can fit up there. So, forget that cliche saying. Think “inside the box”instead.