Till Mess Do Us Part…Dating Advice from Your Organizer

Forget long walks on the beach– can you scrub a floor?!

So this is a little weird, huh? An organizer writing about relationships. But seriously, I have experience. Not just my own, but you know I’ve been in a lot of homes. And reading this blog is could save your sanity, so why not read on?

You know the Hallmark films where some guy comes to a small town, meets a beautiful woman who is his total opposite, and they hate each other at first only to fall in love and live happily ever after? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but it may not be as simple as that. Getting married is like a business deal. That sounds a little cold, I know. Maybe you should stop reading, but you won’t because of what brought you here in the first place. Either:
A. Curiosity or
B. Your spouse (or significant other) is messy OR
C. You’re messy and it’s causing trouble in your relationship.

The first & last ones are not as likely. Either way, read on 🙂

So again, a relationship can be seen like a business transaction. “Now Sarah,” you might be saying, “you’re making this sound like an arranged marriage.” Well, kind of. Except what I’m hoping is that you’ll arrange the kind of relationship you need and want for yourself.

And one of the things to consider is a person’s tolerance for mess as compared to your own. See, realistically we all know that when the honeymoon phase is over, it’s really important to be on the same page as far as raising kids or managing money. Moonlit kisses are not what every day is made of, and it’s life’s responsibilities that often wind up making or braking us. In the same way, we need to look at home-making compatibility.

I say this because you’d be surprised at the trouble I see clutter causing in relationships. This isn’t just my personal and professional experience talking. The smarty-pants folks UCLA did a study which found that clutter was responsible for higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, especially in women. It’s easy to deduce what this does to a relationship. In an article in Psychology Today, family therapist Marilyn Wedge notes that clutter is often both a cause and a symptom of problems in a union.

Although there’s more evidence, again, I’m guessing you’ve landed here because you have all the evidence you need. So now, what to do?

If you aren’t yet married or pledged for life:
– It’s a really good idea to talk about who is going to be expected to do what.
-Consider how your tolerance for mess lines up with your future partner. There’s no set perfect level, low or high, It’s just better if it’s similar. I once dated a guy who’s kitchen consistently looked like Cookie Monster ate there. Seriously, I had no idea how it was possible to be that messy…
-If you’re mismatched in this area, consider how much you can compromise. If this is the only “con”, and your partner is otherwise awesome, it may be worth giving in a bit.

If you are already married or attached:
-A housekeeper or organizer is less expensive than counseling or a divorce. Just sayin’.
-Try to figure out what would help the less tidy person. Some people need things to be organized by practicality, and some like things beautiful (color-coded for example).
-If your significant other is just too busy, it could help to try to take some other things off of their plate.
-Look out for the emotional and physical well-being of your partner. Problems in either of these areas can be a cause of physical clutter.
-Remember to compromise and have grace. We all need it.

Senior Downsizing Guide

Senior downsizing has been a buzzword around me lately. The 55+ population is growing but they need to shrink their lifestyles to accommodate their new way of living. Whether they just want a more carefree way of living and plan to travel, want less to take care of, or are moving into a different space that won’t hold everything– decisions have to be made. While we’re often sentimental about our belonging, this process requires some serious thought and it may be worth automating a bit.

I’ve always found guides helpful and so I’ve included one below. A caveat: this has more to do with “stuff” than clothing, so if you’re needing a wardrobe editing guide, you may want to see this list from Dr. Oz. https://s.doctoroz.com/Clean-Out-One-Sheet.jpg
For everything else, see below!

A few other tips:
1. Don’t wait until this has to be done in a crunch. It takes time to go through and let go of things. Trying to get this done over a couple of days may cause relocation stress.
2. If there are a few things you know will be meaningless to anyone else, but they are dear to you and you’d like to keep them, author Margareta Magnusson suggests putting them in a box marked in a way that loved ones know they can feel comfortable disposing of it later. Examples would be letters from a dear friend or past love.
3. Hire an organizer or have a friend help! It’s nice to have company and friendship with this process, and it helps to have an unbiased third party.

If you’d like to have a full downloadable word document, click here:

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.


Why You Need An Organizer

What my clients and experience have to say.

 

“I looked at you and knew there was no way to justify keeping those lights I bought to hang in the garage 10 years ago…”brina-blum-612693-unsplash

I’m struggling to write an introduction to this post, because the title is so self-explanatory. In short, sometimes it seems hard for people to try to justify hiring an organizer because some think they should be able to do it for themselves. However, the piles of “stuff” sitting around us usually indicate the contrary. And while it may be possible to do it yourself, sometimes people just need some help. Read on!

  1. Getting started. “I feel so overwhelmed.” Often my client feels paralyzed and doesn’t know where to begin. This is the biggest obstacle we overcome together. After entering a space, an organizer will be able to immediately hone in on a definite starting point and direction for your project.
  2. Community. Why do so many join weight loss programs, health clubs, exercise classes etc? Because there’s accountability, community and support there. Because it’s easier with someone standing by your side. Because you’re not alone. A friend and I were talking about organizing and she said this, “I’m single and sometimes I invite a friend over while I’m cleaning and doing dishes just to have someone to talk to.” There is certainly more joy in feeling that you’re not alone.
  3. Accountability. Piggybacking off of the above, hiring an organizer keeps you on task. This helps you even if you’d like to do some of the work yourself. I often work together with a client and then assign “homework” if they are willing for tasks that are better of done oneself such as paperwork. Knowing that I’ll be coming back is motivating. In fact, just by making the appointment, one client started on much of the work herself before I got there! Having an organizer is essential if you (or your child) struggle with ADHD. We can keep redirecting your focus back to the project on hand.
  4. Experience. Which saves you time and money. I can’t tell you how many clients have previously wasted money on expensive systems that weren’t practical for them. On the other hand, one client asked me, “do you spend all of your free time looking up organizing information?” I smiled 🙂
  5. Impartial decisions. The quote at the top of this article was from a client’s husband. He was on board with her decision to organize the house but didn’t feel he needed me personally. After much of the house had been finished, he was so excited about the results and said, “Ok, I want you to schedule Sarah to come work with me.” We cleaned out the garage and as he mentioned, just having someone there helped him to get real about whether he’d use an item or not.
  6. Resources. Organizers are typically knowledgeable about the best place to obtain or dispose of items. Paper shredding events, paint disposal, places to get the best organizing equipment, new organizing books, apps to help you out–all continuously on our radars.

If you can think of any other great reasons to bring an organizer on board please chime in below!

 

 

What My Clients Teach Me

I’m very fortunate to have worked with and become close to many of my extraordinary clients. Along the way, as I teach them about organizing, they school me as well. I’ve gotten everything from reading recommendations to medical information.

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Often I work with senior citizens, and I’m blessed to be able to tap into their wealth of knowledge.

Recently, I’ve been working with a couple that’s been married so long that the wife couldn’t remember how many years when I asked her. It seems as if, basically, they’ve always been together and she can’t remember what life was like without him. I asked her what the secret was and she smiled and looked thoughtful.

“You need someone who respects who you are and what you do. That you are your own person. My husband was always very good at doing that.” Of course, she said this even as she sat at her usual station at the table, with his space that was almost always occupied right across from her, book open on a stand where he had been reading it. I knew although they knew how to be their own people, they were also one. Interdependence, I thought.

She continued, “and you need to be able to feel free to talk about it when something is bothering you. BUT you don’t yell. You sit next to each other and work it out. That’s it.”

Soon he came in and took his space with a bowl of soup he had poured. He started slurping and carried on a lovely conversation with me himself. I could see why she likes him.

Sometimes, with my clients, I wonder which of us is reaping the greater benefit. Although I went there to organize this couples’ belongings, they taught me to organize heart matters. They certainly seem to have that together.

Thankful.

Organizing Advice for Creative Types

Know what you get when you mix all the colors together? An icky brown.

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After having several clients who are artistically inclined, I’ve learned a few things. The most important being that the artistic mind is so busy creating wonderful things, that eliminating clutter is often not considered amidst creative bursts– it seems unimportant in the moment. However, there comes a time when the artist or musician deems it important; when creativity suddenly feels limited due to untidiness that causes stress and may even be keeping them from finding what they need to make the art they love.

If this is you, I want to first say: Please, let go of the guilt. I see this often, and we need to realize we each are made with different gifts. You bless my life with beauty and song, and I’ll bless yours with organizing it so you can continue with your gifts. Please feel comfortable enlisting the help of a friend or organizer.

Secondly, I want to change the way you see your life and space, and I believe this shift will help you in your efforts. Please consider:

  1. An artist starts with a clean brush and blank canvas. A tattoo artist typically begins with bare skin. A musician begins with a bare staff. Similarly, it helps to keep your space tidy, because…
  2. You love beautiful things. Beautiful music and beautiful colors…why should your eyes be forced to look at anything less than beautiful and pleasing in your every day life?
  3. You know that art and music can be created in a messy, jumbled up way, with dark colors or dark melancholy notes. AND you know that those things are purposely used to elicit a certain response in your audience. A messy room does this to your subconscious. It will wear away at you over time if you don’t change your tune.
  4. You can’t use your favorite brush or colored pencil set if you can’t find it. And looking for things takes time when you could be productive.
  5. Space is finite. A canvas and a sheet of music both have edges and you don’t go beyond those. Similarly, once you’ve filled a space, there’s no where to go but to overlap.
  6. There is a point where art becomes gaudy. A few colors or chords delicately balanced make something wonderful. But mix too many together and you either get icky brown or in the case of music, a song becomes noise. Too many paint layers on a canvas, or writing a notes on top of a totally different song in another key– neither of those would produce a pleasing result.

In short, I hope I’ve made you see your life and your spaces as another outlet for your creativity. Living art, living in art. Time to create a beautiful life.

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Clearing Your Inbox

Do you still get emails from dating sites when you’ve been married for 10 years? (and you swear you’ve unsubscribed!) Did you enter an obscure contest and now you’re getting daily ads for melon ballers?

HOW CAN YOU CLEAR ALL THE SPAM?!
I’ll tell you 🙂

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Try any of these methods (the best is last!):

1. Instead of throwing those emails in the garbage, remember to actually mark them as spam. Good email clients such as Gmail are good at learning what you don’t want. (And speaking of Gmail, consider switching if you’re with someone else. In my experience, you’ll get less spam that you haven’t signed up for with them as compared with some others)

2. Many email clients offer a large unsubscribe button or link at the top of the email now, instead of scrolling to the bottom to search for it. Still, this takes some time if you need to unsubscribe from several lists. So up next is my favorite!

3. Try Unsubscriber or Unroll.me
You can click your way to an uncluttered inbox as these services will do the work to go thru the steps to unsubscribe you. These add up to a real time savings!

Reclaiming My Time- App Usage

I’ve wanted to do this for awhile. And yet, I didn’t…

But I’ve recently heard that the average person will spend about 4 years of their life on a smartphone.

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If there’s one thing I hate to waste– it’s my time. But ignorance is bliss, and as long as I wasn’t aware of how much time was slipping thru my fingers, maybe it wouldn’t bother me.

There have been apps out for awhile that could keep track of how much I was watching funny videos or browsing facebook, but did I really want to know? Did I really want to stop?

Truth is, for all of my shortcomings, I’m a pretty productive person. But I couldn’t help but wonder how many moments I was missing out on. How much time that my loved ones saw my face only in the blue light of a screen.

And so, the journey begins. This morning I downloaded an app simply named “App Usage”. It will keep track of my comings, goings…and lingerings on my phone. Wonder what wonderful activities and people this will make time for? Oh I’ll still have downtime. But now hopefully it will be spent in better ways 🙂

Wish me luck!

ADHD and ORGANIZATION

How can four little letters lined up in a tidy row make neatness so difficult? Yet tidiness is one thing that brings clarity and peace to every mind.

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

 

And even if we pitch the letters, what about the fact that we all start cleaning one space and wind up lost in another and then another, forgetting the original intent? Staying on task when organizing can prove difficult, so here are some tips to get it done!

  1. Set a timer- work on one task for about 15 min and don’t leave it until you hear the alarm! Then set a new goal, working in small increments. Almost anyone can keep focus for that amount of time, and the timer will keep you accountable. If you have a family, also consider regular 15 minute clean ups.
  2. Break it down! Similar to making small sections of time, break down your home into small spaces. Edit one cabinet, one storage bin, only one toy box at a time. Then move on to another type of task until the next day or so. Small victories and achievable goals will encourage you to go on!
  3. In keeping with the above, always keep boxes nearby clearly marked for “donate”, “trash”, or “somewhere else”. This will keep you from walking away from the project every few seconds– those items can be dealt with afterwords.
  4. Do it now! If after you’ve  tidied, you have things to donate, return, ship to a family member, etc, do it ASAP! Better yet- organize a donation in advance! This will keep leftover items from hanging around while forgotten or put back into circulation.
  5. Treat your ADHD: Some studies point to a link between shopping/impulse buying and ADHD. Many of my clients find that they simply lose desire to fill time this way once treated. Also, think of organizing as a form of treatment.
  6. Recruit a tidy friend or a professional organizer- why? Because they will help to keep you on task and everything seems more doable when you have help!

I notice a vast difference in those with attention issues once things are tidied up. Not only does the novelty make them feel happier, but putting things where they are easily located greatly reduces stress, and brings focus. Look thru the lenses of an organizer– life could be a completely different experience 🙂

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Cutting Out Christmas Clutter

Ah-the most wonderful time of the year! But, unfortunately, all the “decking” of the halls, Black Friday and Cyber-Mondaying, and general merry-making leads to stress due to clutter, both mental and physical.

Photo Credit Andrew Neel

 

So here is your Official Guide to Holiday Sanity:

  • Buy experiences for gifts: this is an especially useful suggestion for grandparents who tend to overbuy and contribute to unwanted clutter. Suggestions could be tickets to a sporting event or show, yearly passes to the zoo, museum or state parks, or even one-time experiences such as a sailboat-navigating lesson.
  • Better stocking stuffers! Resist the urge to buy cheap, breakable toys that will be jammed into junk drawers. Instead, purchase card games (or a plain deck of cards with printed instructions for several new games), ornaments that can be hung, or things that will be used up such as holiday scented hand sanitizers, fun school supplies, and creamy body wash for dry winter skin. If you’re like me and don’t like to fill stockings with a too many sweets, instead opt for some nuts, or exciting new flavors of gum.
  • Out with the old, in with the new: January brings a lot of downtime with cold evenings that begin early. It’s a good time to make room for all the the new items received by donating unwanted items. This could also be done just before Christmas to keep kids busy on winter break– and they may be more easily convinced to edit their belongings for those who might need them.
  • Reconsider your decorations: Once you’ve pulled out your decorations and decided what to use this year, look at what’s left. If you haven’t used it in awhile, it’s broken, or the lights are out– now is the time to get rid of it. If it’s a family heirloom, consider sending it to a member of the family who will appreciate and use it.
  • Pare it down: If Christmas has become too complicated for you, it’s time to rethink. Accept only doable commitments, bow out of the rest. Shop online when possible. If you’re having guests, plan meals that can be thrown into the crockpot while you visit, and look up some breakfast recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and popped in the oven in the morning such as this overnight french toast dish.

 

Simplify so you can enjoy the holiday– take it down to just one partridge in a pear tree 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash