Gear up for a spring cleaning! 30 Days of Decluttering

Sneak preview! A 30 day decluttering plan– let’s do this!

Your house is cluttered. How do I know? Because most houses are. Even mine sometimes! Besides, you’re here aren’t you?

This is pretty straightforward. I have a printable chart for you if you’d like it, and every day in April, I’ll be addressing one space here on the blog. However, you don’t have to do them in any particular order. I encourage you to look at the tasks and circle the spaces that are driving you the most crazy first.

Feel free to print!

BUT! I do not recommend doing extra large or tedious jobs at the beginning. For instance, save the filing cabinet until later. It’s best to pick things like your pantry, car or your mail stack to begin with. Why? Because they are good short term goals that will make you feel better immediately and encourage you to keep going! In fact, I’ve organized these in order of typical impact– that is, the areas that will improve our every day lives quickly are towards the beginning. Cross them off as you go; it’ll feel GREAT! If you have before and afters, I’d love to see them! Please post to facebook.com/simplysarahorganizing/

One note: as you go thru these, you’ll find random photos, batteries, non-working electronics, and things that should be filed EVERYWHERE! Save these somewhere until you get around to those areas so you don’t get sidetracked. Also: if you’d like, spread this out and do one a week! Just go forward. Even small steps are progress.


I’m only human…confessions of an organizer

I briefly wondered how moisturizing chicken grease was before putting the tender down to wash my hands…

Recently, I listened to a Ted talk about motivation. The speaker had talked to a friend who was known to get up and run every single day for years without fail. When questioned about how he disciplined himself, the simple reply was, “I’m a runner, so I run.”

It seems there is some sort of misplaced awe around people who organize, as if we are super disciplined. The truth is, it’s more inherent. Built-in. I’m an organizer, so I organize.

What this does not mean is that I’m perfect. While naturally I may be put together a little more often than normal, sometimes I’m flying by the seat of my pants. Recently, when getting ready to meet a client, I was running a bit behind, so I made a lunch to eat while getting ready. As I went to put on my make-up, I looked down and I briefly wondered how moisturizing chicken grease was before putting the tender down to wash my hands. Ew.

When I arrived, I had to muse on how different my life probably is as opposed to how people might expect. It’s important for me to highlight this because one of the things people often seem to worry about is being judged by an organizer. Often, clients find themselves trying to explain or justify why they’ve kept something. Most everyone asks the question, “is this the worst you’ve ever seen?” when I first walk in the door. It takes awhile for some to realize I’m not inwardly shuddering at their humanness. I’m just like you, and I’m there to help. Relax πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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.

Massage and Total Wellness- Cathy Speaks Lewis

I have a “frozen shoulder”, and it’s not just because I’m in the middle of a Colorado winter. Unfortunately, for whatever reason I wound up with pain and limited motion. Of course, with my job, limited motion isn’t really an option. So, off to physical therapy I go, and I’ve also been visiting my friend, Cathy, at BodySpeaks Massage. She’s no run-of-the-mill massage therapist. This gal has some serious skills and training in various areas– and with my condition I wouldn’t dare let anyone else touch me!

Talking to Cathy, I’ve realized that our professions are quite intertwined. People often come to me because something has happened that’s derailed their lives: emotionally or physically. They are looking for permission to let go. Looking for relief. Looking to set things right again. People see Cathy for the same things. She’s able to work with the body and mind to help repair them and sometimes put them back in sync. At BodySpeaks, she even does “Trauma Touch Therapy”. Although the concept is difficult to understand with words, I’d argue that everything she does includes trauma touch therapy– last time I received a massage, I was surprised as I stood up to get dressed and tears came to my eyes and one small, quick sobb to my chest. Although I hadn’t fully realized it, this ailment has been wearing away at me along with some other stresses and it felt good to let it go. I’m not usually emotional, so massage is a good way to release some things. I asked her to explain, which I will include below, but before I turn it over to her, I want to include the link to her site in case you’d like to experience this instead of just reading about it.

https://bodyspeaks.massagetherapy.com/

And now, Cathy!

So what is it that you do?

So often when I try to explain that I do so much more than massage, this is the question with which I am presented.
Well, here goes a try. You can book a 30, 60, 90, or 120 minute session, with each session I include a 15 minute grace period. I do this because our work can vary for what your body needs that particular day. I discourage tips as I consider myself a health care professional. Your gratitude is the best gratuity!

I use a variety of bodywork modalities to assist you along your healing journey. Swedish massage is my favorite modality for relaxing and rejuvenating the whole body. Deep tissue or neuromuscular therapy can be used to assist with releasing tight muscles and fascia. I use manual lymphatic drainage to gently move buildup of excess lymph and edema. Cranial Sacral Therapy is used to calm and realign the central nervous system and address restrictions in the body. We can choose reflexology to support and balance all of the structures and organs in the body through a relaxing massage of the feet and hands. Trauma Touch TherapyTM is a wonderful modality that addresses trauma in the body in a safe and comfortable way. I also have specialized training to work with medically frail clients and clients in all stages of cancer and most chronic health disorders. You can even add aromatherapy, energy work, hot/cold stone therapy, or Bach Flower EssencesTM to your session upon request. I use these techniques alone and in combination to personalize your session every time.
It’s so much more than massage. You get all of my advanced training along with my nurturing and caring touch. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

What is Truma Touch therapy?

Trauma Touch is an innate, simple, organic therapy that allows a client to fully experience sensation, and the accompanying emotions and thoughts, while being completely present. Although the therapy is simple and innate, it is something that has been lost to many people due to the traumas we endure. When a trauma is endured the mind and body will tend to separate, split, or fragment in order to protect the individual from feeling the full impact of the trauma. This is by design a safety mechanism however it can become the default rather than only happening when needed. Having clients practice sensing into their bodies while remaining present gives them access to putting the mind and body back together, to fully feeling and sensing. This in turn has the client take ownership of their bodies and minds, and give access to a richer human experience.

How do we actually do that? That one is harder to explain in my opinion. First we establish boundaries, a sense of safety, and a sense of connection. The work can’t progress without at least a semblance of these things. Next we begin to explore sensation while keeping the client present, in the here and now. We practice this in many ways, those are the tools we use such as breath, movement, touch, art, etc. Through practice the client becomes more comfortable with being in their bodies, truly listening to their bodies. Although this sounds incredibly simple, it is not. It is a leap of faith that the pain experienced before will not happen again, that inevitably they will survive allowing themselves to feel/sense. Once this begins to happen then we can explore areas of the body that need attention and see what they need. We can also then rely on the body as a deep source of wisdom and a connection to know what β€œfeels” right for our lives. Clients begin to inquire on their own, where is that in the body, where do I feel that? Then they can move to, does this feel right in my body? Or what does my body need? The answers usually become quite clear. Often insights about why or how these struggles have impacted us also show up. This can help us with having a voice to communicate those feelings and sensations and what we need and want from others.

The most difficult, and yet one of the best, parts of the work is it’s organic nature. There is no ABC or 123 to this work. There are things we must do such as establishing relationship, and tracking clients and ourselves to maintain presence, but beyond those things we are listening to the body. We are watching for the clues it gives us to where it wants to go. We are seeing what tools fit this particular client best, always remaining open to their ideas. We are continuously getting out of our own way, letting go of agenda and ego. It is humbling beyond belief. It is also the most rewarding work I have ever done.

If by now you’re convinced, get in contact with Cathy today! She’s conveniently located in the heart of Denver. Thanks for sharing, Cathy πŸ™‚

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:

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.

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 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 ❀