When a loved one passes…what to keep

β€œThe past beats inside me like a second heart.”
― John Banville, The Sea

Something I see often is the anguish of a relative who feels burdened by the volume of things left to them by a loved one, and yet they belabor over the decision whether to part with them. The feeling is a sort of longing, but it seems to be mixed with guilt, as if getting rid of something is somehow an act of betrayal. Or losing the person even more, if that was possible.

To begin with, if this is you, you can turn the tide right now by taking a good look at your belongings and getting rid of anything that doesn’t mean much to you. This will help anyone who inherits your world.

And to those trying to decide what to keep, let me offer this guide:

Can you use it?
Really, if you keep something but it stays in a box for the next 30 years, you really don’t have it. Try to keep things that can be used, displayed and enjoyed to keep your loved one’s memory alive and in front of you.

Some examples of things I’ve kept:
-an old avocado green GE clock that hung on grandma’s kitchen wall for years. It finds a place in my every home, and it’s currently telling time in my laundry room.
-a sewing box from my other grandma. It too was a green color, but a yucky one. I painted it white and display it, and use it. I kept her tomato pincushion in there, some lace, and some other findings that remind me of her, always sewing something.
-jewelry pieces that have been passed down from various family members. Not only do I keep them, but I wear them, and feel close to my loved ones.

Next up: was it quintessentially “them”?
There’s no need to keep the kleenex cozy from the back bedroom just because it was in their house. Think of the things that really defined them. A favorite book from their collection with their notes in it, maybe. Grandpa’s gardening spade. Poetry they wrote.

What about pictures?
If you don’t know who the people are, find a relative who might and ask them to explain the pictures or write names and maybe approximate dates on the backs. If they don’t know either, there’s no use in keeping them.

A final word, your relatives would not want to be a burden. Keep a few things that add to your life, and let go of the guilt of letting go of everything else. Additionally, sometimes it’s hard at first. Give yourself permission to hold onto things for a little while, but also give yourself permission to pass them on later.

Just how tiny IS a tiny house?

“Living smaller is a relief.” ~Margareta Magnusson

Americans are downsizing. Well some are. Others aren’t “supersizing” to begin with. I’ve seen my profession grow alongside an overall trend towards having less. This also includes the tiny home movement, which has captivated the US.

So I headed down to see Ryan McCue, Scott Updegraff, and Hero the dog at Tiny Home Connection in Lakewood, Colorado to learn about these mini dwellings. Here’s what I found out!

What happens at Tiny Home Connection?
If you’d like to build your own Tiny Home, you can come put it together on their property. While there, you can get expert advice with their consulting services if needed. If you need some of the work done for you, they’ll hook you up! Maybe you just want it built for you? Of course!

How big small is the average tiny home?
The original tiny homes are just over 200 sq. ft. However, the guys have found that the sweet spot for most people is between 400 and 600 sq. ft. Hey– that’s bigger than my first apartment!

Who is moving into these units?
Older adults who have decided that the Joneses have too much and they don’t care to keep up with them. People who want freedom of time (taking care of a big house takes work!) and freedom in their finances (read this article to see how much a big home costs to store your stuff!)
Also, Millennials who have decided to depart from the spending habits of the previous generations. Many are graduating college with a lot of debt and don’t want more. Surveys show that they’d rather spend the money they have on experiences instead of material items. Without much “stuff” they are also better able to be more transient. Basically, people who want “the simple life” according to Ryan.

Why a tiny house?
Besides freedom of time and money as mentioned above, there’s also closeness. Families build a bond due to living in close proximity with one another.

Are you interested yet? If so, give the boys a ring or check out their site or Facebook page. Also, they are planning meetups in the future so maybe you want to get on their list to come find out more! (I can’t give any deets yet, but it sounds like they plan to have some cool stuff going on down there!)

If you’re not quite sold on the idea of a tiny house yet, check out this article on “smaller houses” from Forbes. And if you just like the idea of living simply wherever your at, give me a call πŸ™‚


The Tale of Two Waters and A Wise Woman

Learning to let things flow through your life.

I’m working with a wonderfully creative woman right now. In her late 80’s, no one can say she’s wasted her time. She’s excelled at about every form of art there is, and currently she is learning to paint– one thing she is determined to do before she “goes on”, as she puts it. We’ve also come across many books on short stories because writing is another new endeavor.

To make room for her current creativity, we’re letting go of some of the past. Not important things, no. Those things are displayed all around. Instead we’re sorting thru partially finished quilts and other projects. Some, she is delighted to find, and we store them in sight to be completed later. Others, she looks at realistically and declares that there’s not enough time so they have no chance of being finished by her hands. Also, materials such as fabrics she has stopped using, go now as she favors hand-dyed cloths over the usual cottons. How she decides which ones stay and which go is mysterious to me, but she definitely knows, and I package them up to be passed to someone who will be elated to have them. The items will go to other crafters and artists, some to be made for charities.

I smile at her. “You know how to allow things to flow through your life: Two bodies of water in the Middle East, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, are connected, but vastly different. The Jordan has water that flows in and then out of it. It’s teaming with life and the banks are fertile. But at the end, it empties into the Dead Sea. Nothing flows out of the Dead Sea. It’s stagnant, and nothing can live in there. But you are like like the Jordan.”

All of these things will be passed on to someone who will use them, and she’ll be here, living out her creativity in the space we’ve now opened up. It’s a colorful life πŸ™‚

Am I going to MARIE KONDO you?!

Well, I mean…did you want me to?

Recently I was chatting with a client who hadn’t heard the buzz from the new show. When I mentioned that the thrift stores are being overwhelmed due to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, she questioned me about it. I told her about how the adorable little Japanese organizer bounces into a house, encouraging the inhabitants to keep only things that “spark joy”. Clothes that are kept are folded origami style, real small, and tucked away. Everything else goes, but not until you thank items for their service.

“She has a rule, no more than 30 books,” I remarked casually. My client snapped to attention, “well you know that wouldn’t work for me.” Yes, yes I did. Which is why I’d never expect that of her.

So, if you’re thinking that by the time I’m finished with you, your place will be as bare as the picture above, the answer would be: that’s up to you! While working with clients, I go with the natural flow of things. And while I may be a non-bias party that can help decide if you should get rid of something, you’re always the final word. Sometimes I’ll ask questions to help you decide. I won’t argue with clients about something they want to keep, not even an old tattered shirt, especially if they’ve been doing great with the editing process. My client above has purged all sorts of things and has ample room to keep books.

And while the KonMari method is great for some, it may not be for others. So, the question is: what do we need to do to make you feel comfortable in your space?

Need more TIME? Multiply it.


“You cannot solve today’s time management problems,
with yesterday’s time management thinking. What we’ve noticed, is the emergence of a new type of thinker, somebody that we refer to, as a multiplier.”

– Rory Vaden

Have you ever watched a Ted Talk? If not, you should consider it. People from about every field and walk of life share their thoughts on the most interesting subjects. I like to listen to them while I’m in the shower or working by myself. The effect is kind of like one big motivational meme. Something that sparks thinking and encourages you to do great things.

One that I remembered and returned to recently was a talk by self-discipline expert, Rory Vaden, about time. He highlights the fact that prioritizing and other efforts by time management gurus, although helpful, do not– cannot– create more time. We are all always lamenting the fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day. And so, Rory talks about time multipliers. The link for the talk is below, but I’m going to post a few highlights here.

The main idea is that time multipliers judge tasks not only on how important they are, but how long they will be important. Vaden labels this measure, significance. This judgement on how significant something is leads the multiplier to then take action.

One can then decide which things to say “no” to today to make time tomorrow. And as Vader points out, any time you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to everything else anyways. So, multipliers don’t struggle to say “no”. Anything that isn’t going to be significant to you tomorrow, or in the long run comes into question. I recently made a decision to cut out something that I realized was a time investment in an organization that wouldn’t be significant to me in the long run. That’s multiplying time. I can instead invest in something that will have benefits in my “now” and in the future.

The biggest takeaway from the talk is that multipliers invest time today in a way that makes tasks easier and less time consuming tomorrow. The example used is automating bill pay. Taking the time today to set that up in order to save time every month. That yields a better return on your time investment than just paying the bills today.

As Mr. Vader says, “The way that wealthy people think about money is exactly the same way that multipliers think about time. And they give themselves the permission to invest–invest the time and energy to automate the process.”

So, if by now you’re interested in learning how to grow in your productivity, check out the full Ted Talk below! (Then get busy with your math! πŸ˜€ )


Coffee + Client= LOVE

This isn’t just any cup of coffee. See that tag? My client made it for me and it’s one item we don’t get rid of. In many ways, they’re family, and after every organizing session, my coffee tag goes back in the cupboard for next time.

This is the second time I’m organizing this entire home, as the floors are being replaced and everything shuffled. I know every inch of it after working here over time, but more importantly I know the hearts inside and they know mine. You see, the work I do isn’t about “the stuff.” That’s just what leads people to call me. But it’s the souls I enjoy working with.

Clients often admit that they’re worried at first that they’ll be judged for their dirt. But as today’s client mentioned, I don’t judge as I’m there to help them make their own decisions.

Oftentimes, I’m a sounding board for issues. Many times I’m asked for advice on topics totally unrelated to organizing. Sometimes, people just need someone…there. There while they let go of an ex or a family member. There when they get excited about a system. There to help them organize for a new job, a new school, a new adventure.

And so to my clients: I love you! Thanks for the deep talks, the new viewpoints of the world, the laughs–for sharing yourselves. Thanks for the coffee ❀

The Eyelashes: Pawning Off Purchase Mistakes

We keep things out of guilt– we paid a lot for something we didn’t use and now feel the need to punish ourselves by staring at it, apparently. Let me tell you about the magnetic eyelashes…

To begin with, I’m not proud of this story. Many of you may know that I’m an extremely frugal person, and I pride myself in the fact that I’m immune to advertising. Usually.

What nobody knows, except for Mom, is that I’ve always disliked my puny eyelashes. However, the idea of someone like myself putting glue anywhere near my eyes is a scary one, so I’ve never tried fakes. Enter an ad on Facebook with long luscious lashes attached by little magnets. You put one layer on top and they snap! into place with another layer on the bottom! Easy peasy, right?! I paid a ridiculous amount (I’m ashamed!) to have said eyelashes sent to my door, and waited excitedly to get them.

The day they came was a busy one, but I had about 10 minutes between tasks that day, in which I expected to be able to hastily snap! these on. I pulled the box out of the envelope it was sent in and read it. I was warned that these were for external use only, and if I were to accidentally ingest or inhale them, I should seek medical attention. I wondered what sort of mishap could cause one to inhale a row of eyelashes. It also said not to use if you have a pacemaker. I imagined a women wheeled into the ER with a stopped heart, an eyelash stuck to her chest…

Inside the box I found four spidery looking things encased in a sparkly silver magnetic compact. I pulled them out and prepared to look glamorous.

First, they clicked together but had only caught the tips of my own lashes, and so were hanging off. Next, they clipped too much to the left and then to the right, looking like a typewriter pushed all the way to one side. My hands shook, and several times they fell onto my cheek. I was starting to see how one might wind up sucked into a nostril. Over and over…I became so frustrated that I put them back in the magnetic spider trap. They looked up at me, innocently. I promised myself I’d conquer them another day.

That day came a few weeks later when I, with resolve, again stood in front of my mirror. I had a military ball coming up, and I wanted to get the hang of this so I could wear them. After much trial and mostly error, they snap! went right into place on my left eyelid. I was so excited, and yet I noticed that they impaired my vision somewhat, hanging low like one of those hippie beaded curtains in my field of vision. Also, I could see through my naked eye that the look really wasn’t me and seemed a bit fake. Which they were. Still, I felt triumphant!!!

I called up Mom on a video chat. She looked at me puzzled thru the phone. “…and what made you think you should do this?” she wondered.

“Well, you know my eyelashes are so puny. I thought these would be good for the ball. Not me, eh?”

“I know I couldn’t be in the same room with you without laughing.” …She was right. I probably couldn’t either. I imagined myself trying to carry on conversations when I couldn’t even see. I admitted defeat and a monetary loss.

Not long after, I was at coffee with a lovely friend of mine. A friend with class. A friend who could probably pull the look off. I told her about how I had been beaten by those magnetic black widows and instead of laughing at me, she told me she’d love to try them. Fast forward to another coffee date today, accompanied by a live piano player– it felt like being in a movie and snap! she was about to sport lashes like Marilyn Monroe. I passed them off to her and told her I’d like to see pics.

And so, this is where the organizing advice comes in: Often we keep things because we hate that we’ve wasted money on them. However, if you let something hang around the house, you’ve spent money, now you’ve spent emotional currency on it (stress!), and eventually you’ll wind up getting rid of it anyways. What can you do instead? Admit to the loss ASAP, get real with yourself, and pass it on to someone who will use it. This is especially important with things that might expire. For instance, I had a client who had ordered some costly supplements and then found they weren’t the right thing. She forgot to send them back on time, felt guilty for having wasted the money, and so they sat in the box until we found them– a couple of years after the expiration date.

If something like this happens to you, quickly scout out someone that can use your item. Then at least it won’t feel like a total loss. And you won’t have your failure staring at you…literally.


The Tie Between Clutter and Cash

“I just don’t feel like buying as much,” my client told me today. After editing her entire belongings last winter, she had contacted me again recently. Not because her home had become cluttered again, but because they were redoing the floors in the entire house and they needed help moving things around.

I was told that as we put things back, she’d like to get rid of even more now. I was told that it was such a relief to have a tidy house that she was more careful about purchasing things because she didn’t want to clutter it again. It had been stifling before. I was told that her daughter with ADHD had continued to keep her room clean after I left, not because she liked cleaning per se, but because she notices a significant improvement in her mental health. People experience such an improvement in their overall wellness once things have been decluttered and organized that often they push to keep it so.

You may have heard about the new show on Netflix, Tidying Up, with Organizing Guru, Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and Spark Joy. Apparently, Goodwill is seeing a surge in donations and so I imagine that people all over are catching on. I read an article today entitled, Is Clutter Also Making You Bad With Money? where the author, Charlotte Cowles, experienced just the phenomenon I mentioned above after following the show’s advice, tidying up, and paring down. And while I’m not specifically recommending this show or Marie’s methods, it is certainly interesting to see the effects and how they parallel the comments I get from my clients. Going thru the purging process definitely makes you think twice before bringing something else in your home that you might be dealing with later.

If you’d like, read here and enjoy πŸ™‚

Organize Your Physical Therapy Schedule

Stretch, grunt, and repeat.

So, you’ve been told to do PT and currently you’re doing good just to remember to wake up in the mornings. But your body is depending on you, so how are you going to stick to therapy?

I’m currently entering back into PT myself, now for a shoulder issue, and I’m planning to use the same method I’ve used before as it’s pretty simple and effective.

First, print out a blank calendar like the one above (found here at Fresh Calendars). Then, slide it into a plastic page protector and stick it on the wall with some tape or poster putty. You’ll want to put it somewhere that you’ll be forced to see it. I like to hang mine on the wall in my bedroom, visible just past my nightstand so I’m facing it if I go to turn out the light…that way I’d feel guilty about going to bed without doing my exercises!

Every day when you do your exercises, take a dry erase marker and cross off the day or draw a smiley face πŸ™‚ The ability to erase this and start over helps if you need to go for more than a month.

Hoping you heal up well!