One Thing Organizers Find in Every House

You’d be surprised…

Long passed away pets, old love letters, and unmentionables, which is why I won’t mention them. Organizers get up close and personal, and we see a lot of things. Pretty much nothing phases us. Unlike a magazine page or Pinterest pin, you actually live in your home and there is evidence of that. We’re all mostly the same and you are totally not being judged in any way.

However, there is something that I come across repeatedly and I want to address it: organizing and/or cleaning supplies. Storage bins and baskets of all sizes, printed out materials about organizing, cleaning liquids of all kinds– often unused or still in packages. One realistic client joked to me as we kept finding these items, “Don’t you love seeing our pitiful attempts at organization?” Again, I don’t judge.

I see these items as a realization that something needed to be done about the mess. However, it also reveals a bigger issue. The thinking that an organizational system or program alone will fix the problem.

For organizational systems to work, there are two other parts that need to be in place.

  1. A reasonable amount of items. You must first edit your clutter. Just buying containers to corral it in new and fancy ways won’t cut it.
  2. Implementation. Let’s face it, these products don’t use themselves. Sometimes you need an organizer to motivate you to tidy up and keep you on track. (Click this to see Why You Need an Organizer!)

My client last night had a binder full with an organizing program she had purchased…we found it underneath the mountain of stuff on her desk. But good for her! She realized she needed help to get the ball rolling and contacted me, and together we had tackled that mess in no time. We recruit professionals of all kinds for their various specialties– maybe an organizer should be your next call!

(PS BONUS! One other thing we always find is a serious overage of pens and pencils. We accept this as a fact of life. I don’t know where they come from exactly but they multiply like bunnies! Don’t worry, everyone has this problem.)

Working with a Professional Organizer: What to Expect

NO we are not afraid of the Skittles that have been buried under your files for 5 years, and no, this is NOT the worst we’ve ever seen.

Organizers recognize that our clients come to us in various states of vulnerability and that it’s difficult to open up your life to someone. Trust that you are in good hands. Let’s take a look at what it’s like to work with an organizer and hopefully this will banish any worry.

To start with: The session usually begins by establishing a way to sort items. This often includes boxes or bags labeled TRASH, DONATE, OTHER ROOM and others depending on your situation. Your professional will help you decide.

The items you’re deciding to keep will start to be grouped together as well. These categories often develop as your organizer starts to see patterns and gets an idea of what you use regularly and how/where you use it. You will be asked several questions pertaining to this as you chat along the way. If you ever used one of those little shape sorters as a kid– you can totally do this!

Expect your organizer to begin to feel like a good friend. Personal, warm, and sometimes overly honest– totally helpful. They’ll keep you on track and maybe remind you to take breaks.

At this point things might look messy: FEAR NOT! Depending on whether your organizer has decided everything needs to be pulled out to get a good look at it or how many little piles of do-dads you have, stuff may be everywhere. Sometimes this feels a little overwhelming to the client. But just like so many things, things often get worse before they can get better. At this point, things are about to wrap up!

(Sometimes this process will take more than one session. If so, things will be tidied enough to make your place livable until next time. If you’re willing, homework might be assigned such as sorting paperwork or other things you can do on your own before your organizer returns.)

Ahhh….now that we’ve edited your belongings, things can be put back in a way that makes sense. Your organizer will ask more questions about what and where things make sense to you in order to come up with a system that is easier to use and maintain. Now that you have less “stuff”, there should be a place for everything. Sometimes organizational items will need to be purchased, but often I find that we free up usable storage bins in the process that can be used in the end.

At this point, many organizers will talk to you about a plan to keep your space tidy or get some dates on your calendar so you’ll remember to revisit the area for maintenance. You might also schedule to work on the next space with your professional.

This is where you’ll feel spectacular! Basically everyone reports feeling great after this process and the science backs it up. You’ve made a clean sweep of the clutter that’s been causing you stress, and now it’s time to enjoy your space again.

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!

 

 

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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Letting it Go- an organizer’s confession

Something has really been bothering me. Getting under my skin. I can’t believe I’ve put up with it this long. It’s a real irritant, and I’m going to take care of it as soon as I finish this post. What is it? Well, I hope you take a good look at the picture below because it’s soon to be gone. Not the picture but the contents.

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See, that pile of stuff has been sitting in my corner for weeks since I’ve set it aside (the blue bin on the bottom is full as well). I went through my belongings, mostly my closet, and had pulled some things for removal. I don’t often keep things for that long, but there were some pieces that could have sold, so I listed them online. Unfortunately, with the current season upon us, not many used things are selling– only new.

And as it sits there day after day, in my apartment which already feels tighter than usual due to the addition of the Christmas tree, it has eaten away at the peace in my subconscious. Honestly, even the picture was so ugly to me that I had to edit it quite a bit. So today, I’m taking it down to the thrift store and I’m also getting rid of some other belongings I’ve pulled from elsewhere. Am I missing out on money I could have made? (This is often an argument we have with ourselves) Although the items seem somewhat valuable to me, I guess not really. Remember, no one has been interested.

Finally, I think about what this is costing me: emotional equity and space. It has to go.

Now my mind will be free to look on the beauty of my holiday decorations and not on piles of junk.

 

How Much is Your Clutter Costing You?

Hint: It’s way too much.

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My second passion besides organization is frugal living. Or maybe it’s my first.

As an organizer, I’m aware of many different kinds of costs associated with clutter, but I began to wonder exactly how much time & money it translates into. I did some digging. It was shocking… I’ll get right to it.

 

Financial Costs

On average, you’re paying about $15 per sq foot of your home per year according to AARP. So, that big bouncy ball from the dollar store that’s been sitting in the corner for 5 years has now cost you $75. Multiply that by everything in your home that’s not regularly used. Woah.

Enter storage units. There are 5 times more storage facilities in the US than there are Starbucks! Let that sink in. According to Forbes, Americans spend more than
$24 BILLION a year for storage. AARP mentioned one widow who rented storage space for three years after she “downsized”. In all she paid over $11,000 to store $1,000 worth of items before paring it down.

A few more:
-late fees for late or unpaid bills you’ve lost
-throwing out food, make-up, and other things that spoil because we couldn’t find them
-REPURCHASING things you know you have but can’t locate

Cost of Time

It’s been reported that over a lifetime, the average person wastes between 1/2 and one year looking for misplaced items.

Additionally, the National Soap and Detergent Association (who knew?!) estimates that decluttering eliminates 40% of all house work. How ’bout that?

Emotional Costs

I can’t say enough here. I’ve experienced:

-Children with ADHD that simply can’t concentrate in their spaces and are overwhelmed
-Spouses who argue and rant about the messes, marriages strained
-Higher stress levels in all family members due to feeling enclosed and lost items

Here is a link to a study that shows how clutter leads to higher cortisol levels and depression rates and lower marital satisfaction. I’ve seen it first hand.

There’s simply a mental angst to spending so much time and money on a home and not being able to move around in it. Lifehack mentions loss of focus and productivity.

 

The Final Verdict?

Many people believe that getting rid of things will be a waste of resources. The truth? It’s costing you more time, money and emotional equity to keep them. Start your organizational journey today!

 

 

A Clutter-Free Christmas

Jingle bells, evergreens, and the spirit of giving which leads to…stuff!
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This not only is this a good time of year to consider getting rid of some things to make room, but it’s also a good idea to think about how to eliminate more clutter before it starts.

And so I present to you some ideas for gifts that only take up space in your heart and memory 🙂 If you have time, check out all the categories. Although I’ve tried to create categories, some ideas can be used for other loved ones in your life. Also, many of these experiences can be found on sites such as Groupon, so check out your local deals there.

Click here to view as a handy Word Document instead: NoClutterChristmas or fast forward to the end for some printables.

 

For Kids & Families

-movie gift cards
-tickets to a play or other show
(Cirque du Soliel anyone?)
-museum passes
-zoo membership or “experiences”
(for instance, some offer a chance to meet the penguins!)
-Audible or Amazon Prime Membership
-sporting event tickets
-rodeo tickets
-indoor trampoline park gift card
-certificate for paddle boarding lessons
-a segway tour or scavenger hunt in your local area
-an escape room experience
-museum membership
-indoor rock climbing
-gift card to an unusual restaurant
-festival entry
-a “coupon” for a staycation at a local hotel with grandparents (make sure it has an indoor pool!)
-gift card for bowling/laser tag/arcade
-a seasonal pass for an activity such as ice skating
-party at a fun place (for instance, Hammond’s Candy Factory near me has a fun experience)
-whale watching tour

For Couples

-certificate for a professional organizer 🙂
-gift card for Home Depot or The Container Store
-concert tickets
-a glass blowing lesson
-sushi-rolling class
-a Top Golf gift card (it’s fun even for non-golfers!)
-a night’s stay at a local getaway
-horseback riding certificate
-wine tasting experience
-ski passes
-dance lessons
-a murder mystery dinner
-helicopter or hot air balloon experience
-local sleigh ride (or if you’re in Colorado like me, try a dog sledding experience for two!)
-something that can be easily cooked:
    Omahasteaks.com order or
    a Hello Fresh gift card
-indoor sky diving experience
-a sip and paint evening
-comedy show tickets
-Netflix subscription for a year

For Him

-rounds of golf
-luxury car driving experience
-auto race or monster truck tickets
-fire arm/shooting range voucher, membership, or lessons
-tickets to an auto show
-martial arts classes
-carwash gift card
-flying lessons
-deep sea fishing experience
-arrange dinner with an old friend
-sailing lessons
-season passes for a sports team
-ziplining certificate
-landscaping or lawn care services
-gift card to a local restaurant reviewed by a Food Network celeb
-fencing classes
-maker faire tickets
-beer tasting or festival tickets
-anything that can be consumed, such as:
    -unusual meat jerky @
    mountainamericajerky.com/
    -fancy BBQ sauces
    -backpacking food for outdoor
    trips
-ask his buddy to help you plan a trip according to his interests
-certificate for a full service haircut and shave

For Her

-photography lessons
-tickets to the symphony (go with her!)
-spa/massage certificate
-foreign language lessons or software
-coupons for time out with friends
-get together with her friends to plan a night out
-if she’s interested in family history, order a DNA test kit or subscription to ancestry.com
-send her and her mom or sister on a trip (maybe to the Magnolia Market in Waco?)
-classes at the local craft store
-AAA membership
-car detailing certificate
-night at a fancy bed and breakfast or hotel
-certificate to have nails and/or hair done
-fancy food tasting
-trip to a local holiday light display (we have nice ones at our zoo and botanical gardens)
-house cleaning voucher (careful with this one– know your woman!)
-the new mattress she’s been asking for
-SPEND TIME WITH HER 🙂

And finally, some handy printables: (same list, different format)

 

Organizing Receipts

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As my regular readers know, I dislike papers. Teeny tiny papers that I can’t figure out where to put, but think maybe I should keep are the worst! Yep, we’re talking about receipts!

In case you missed this when we talked about organizing papers, take a little time today to organize your receipts. I like to organize mine by month, similar to this. However, another way to go about it is to keep them in categories, like so. Either way, these are both good systems to help corral the paper clutter and make sure your receipts are easily found when you need to reconcile with your bank, return and item, or make a budget.

Day Thirteen: Toy Box Editing

If I didn’t have this, would I buy it again?

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I can’t remember where I first saw that question in regards to purging items, but it really stuck with me. It seems to me one of the areas this can be most helpful to consider is the toy box.

With Christmas coming up, it’s a good time to go thru toys before more items come in. First you’ll have to decide whether you kids should be around or not (you know them better than I do!). Then, it’s time to tackle the toys.

It can be hard to part with toys (for parents and kids alike!) but it’s good to consider the fact that when there’s too many, it’s overwhelming. Additionally, most of the time they can’t be utilized to the fullest because a lot of mess means there are lost or misplaced parts, etc. Marie Kondo, organizing expert and author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up states, “When we are overloaded with books or other objects, our ability to receive and appreciate new information is dulled.”

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that this is necessary, follow the steps below or check out this handy chart for a decluttered play area.

  1. Set aside a few favorites or things that are often used. These will stay and are non-negotiable until your child grows out of them.
  2. Anything that’s broken or missing an unreasonable amount of pieces needs to go.
  3. Anything that hasn’t been played with in awhile needs to be shown to the door as well.
  4. Everything that remains needs to be sorted so that all the pieces are together, etc.
  5. Search Pinterest to explore some ideas for toy storage that would work for you if you don’t already have a good system. Ikea has a great series of systems for this but there are plenty of other options.

The discarded toys need to be thrown out if they’re mangled. Anything usable could be donated, passed on to a friend or relative, or taken to a children’s consignment store like Once Upon a Child.

Day Thirteen: DONE!