Category: Commentaries (Page 5 of 6)

Habits of Organized People

man at coffee shop

From years of keen observation as a professional organizer, I noticed that organized individuals have certain things in common. They all seem to share the same traits that keep their home, business and/or life in order. Of all the traits however, the bottom line trait is that they have a system (or method) in which things are done.

I consider this trait the foundation of being organized. It’s like putting the bottom building blocks in place to create order. And there’s a system for just about anything and everything we do. Here’s some of the things that organized people have a system for.

Organized Traits

  1. They put things away after using it
  2. They have a method in the way they manage paper
  3. They use organizing tools (solutions) for their stuff
  4. They establish certain places (or “homes”) for things to go
  5. They keep like-items together, not scattered around in different places
  6. They manage their tasks and appointments using reminder methods

Each of the above can become a habit, at which time the system takes hold without much thought or effort to it. A good guideline in changing bad habits into good habits is to try a good habit for 7-10 days.

If you fall off the rails on one of those days, start over. There are no “set-backs” in establishing a new habit unless you’ve put yourself on some sort of targeted timeline, so don’t fret over it. Just keep going at it 🙂

 

12 Observations To Find Out If You’ve Taken Clutter Too Far

Usually when someone calls me for help with their home or office organization issues it’s at the disaster point and beyond . However sometimes, the disorganization situation just needs a few simple tweaks here and there, like a closet that’s gone out of control.

At the point of no-visual return is the time that baffles me the most. Because, when it gets real bad a person has to wonder how anyone in that space survived this long, and if they even realized it’s probably been bad for more than a day, or even a week.

So, I came to realize that there is a degree of observation failure and, for this, you may want to look around again as if you’ve never set foot in your place before.

To know when your “untidy mess” becomes serious clutter, here are some sure signs your obnosis (observing the obvious) needs to be re-obnosed.

You know your clutter is bad when …

1. You can’t find a place to sit

sofa clutter

Image source: Flickr

When you want to sit down to relax somewhere, you either have a hard time finding a chair or your couch clutter prevents you from sitting on it, and then you end up spending your relaxing time clearing off a place for you to sit down on.

2. You have to find new entry points to your house

doorway clutter

Image source -woronuik-wordpress

You may find that you are having to enter from your back door because your front door has stuff jammed in front of it blocking entry (and exit). So far you probably didn’t mind such an inconvenience, but the fact that it’s an inconvenience is a clue something is wrong.

3. You can’t find your bills

paper clutter

Image source -bentowa-wordpress.com

You know that your bills are either in the stack on the table, or under the pile of magazines on your sofa, or among the kitchen counter-clutter, or in the bedroom on the dresser with other papers, or maybe even the bathroom … somewhere, anywhere that you last had them in your hands. And, if you’re not set up with automatic bill payments, then you may have experienced a service (or two) getting shut off.

4. You’ve run out of clothes to wear

clothes clutter

Image source: stylist.co.uk

This is most likely due to the fact that you can’t distinguish your clean clothes from the ones that need to be laundered (since they probably got mixed up, or you forgot which pile of clothing was what). And, many of your clothes that were removed from your closet are now in piles around the room, leaving only the ones you don’t like (or can’t wear anymore) hanging up in the closet.

5. You never get to finish a book

book-clutter

Image source: Linkedin

Starting to read a book is easy, but when it comes to finding that book again to finish reading later, it seems to be missing. And, as you look everywhere for it in hopes of finding it, you find something else to do that distracts you from wanting to read in the first place.

6. You can’t cook in your kitchen anymore

kitchen clutter

Image source: flickr

Unless you’re affluent enough to dine out every day, cooking up a meal for yourself may be necessary. And when it’s necessary but you can’t cook among the kitchen mess, or can’t even walk around your kitchen anymore, it becomes a situation.

7. You keep buying stuff you already have

clutter

Image source found on -indiewire

That’s right, you’ve come home from the grocery store with food you already have but didn’t know it because it was hidden in cluttered cabinets. The thing is, you probably wouldn’t even know you already have it since it’s hidden, so it’s not been such a big deal. You’ll eventually find it someday, but it’s too late – you don’t need it right then.

8. You can’t sleep in your bed

clothes clutter

You can’t sleep in your bed anymore because clutter is now resting on your bed.

9. Your kids have taken over

kid clutter

Image source: Today.com

Toys are everywhere and there’s no end in sight since the kids claimed the space and are now able to enjoy it with all their toys around it.

10. Your clutter has a critter infestation

clutter

You find hoards of nasty bug critters lurking within the mounds of food-clutter who found the remnants of your food as tasty as you once did. Or worse, you find remnants of animal feces among your clutter, which clearly indicates that your clutter critters were there and probably still around somewhere.

11. You’ve been injured by clutter

clutter injury

When you’ve had one or more visits to the hospital emergency ward due to clutter injuries (resulting from either fallen clutter or falling over clutter), it is a sure sign that your clutter is a problem. Don’t wait until someone has to come find you under a debris of stuff (like one man did whose hoarder wife was missing for a couple days. True story.).

And lastly …

12. You can’t park your car in the garage

garage clutter

Image source: Evista Bulevard

…because there’s too much stuff in it. But, you knew that.

 

 

A Talk With Matt Paxton of TV Show Hoarders

Matt Paxton: Extreme clutter expert, star of Hoarders: Family Secrets, author “The Secret Lives of Hoarders”

Matt Paxton of Hoarders

As I entered the lobby of the Hilton Universal City, I had a purpose – to meet the man who has been instrumental in changing the lives of so many people. And not just ordinary people, but people with a desolating and life-altering problem: hoarding.

To be fully prepared, I knew my first stop should be the Starbucks stand inside the hotel. I wasn’t standing there more than a few seconds when I saw a cheery-looking fellow approach the stand. I instantly recognized him – it was Matt Paxton. And he was the man I was there to talk to.

The fact that he also arrived at the Starbucks stand before our meeting immediately told me that he was a man who enjoyed good taste, so there was sort of a like-minded-coffee-people bonding that took place as we shook hands.

Matt handed me his book, “The Secret Lives of Hoarders”, a gift I graciously accepted and eager to read. From what I knew of its contents, I was going to hear some juicy behind the scene stories of his interludes with some of the most ghastly hoarding cases in the country.

With drinks at hand, we headed into the elevator and the conversation began to flow before we got into the room and I could set up my recorder and video camera. That’s okay, I told myself, because I was going to take everything in, recorded or not.

Good thing is, I already knew a lot about Matt. I knew he stars in Lifetime’s show “Hoarders: Family Secrets”. I knew he also had starred in the show’s precursor, “Hoarders” when it was on the A&E network. I knew he had a business called Clutter Cleaner where he and his diligent crew of extreme clutter busters have engaged in the lives of over three hundred hoarders nationwide. And I knew that he wrote a book that’s now on the NY best sellers list, that he has a popular podcast show, and that he speaks to numerous attendances about the issues of hoarding and senior relocation.

What I wanted to know more about was the man himself. And that’s exactly what I got.

So, with my video camera in one hand and my ears (and eyes) peeled to his every word (instead of the camera, sorry about that), we began the interview while he tried to finish packing his suitcase for his next rendezvous.

Matt talks about hoarders

Matt Paxton of Hoarders

It isn’t just experience that has given Matt insight into the lives of hoarders. It’s from really getting to know them, and the way he’s achieved that is by talking to them.

For a hoarder, he says, “You’re not allowing family members into your life. You’re loosing part of your actuality, your life, because you are hiding your disorder.”

Matt took notice that the families of a hoarder are typically angry and antagonistic toward them. “They’ve lived with it for 20 years, 30 years. They’ve seen their family money disappear, they’ve seen assets disappear, they’ve seen their loved ones, their sister that they love or their brother that they love, they see him disappear.”

“Hoarding is not who the person is. It’s what they’re dealing with right now, in this pocket of time. Two years from now, hopefully they can start to go back to who they wanna be.”

“When we look at a hoarder right now, especially a hoarder on TV, they may not look that great. But that’s just who they are right now. Ten years ago they were an awesome and really cool lady or a man that had a fascinating job.”

“And they had a husband or a boyfriend or a girlfriend. They were somebody that had a great life, and then some bad stuff happened to them and hoarding kicks in.”

“I try to tell everybody hoarders are not bad people, they’re good people that have had bad things happen and I don’t think family members understood that.”

“Hoarding is just a really shitty truck stop. It’s not who you are for the rest of your life.”

When talking about therapy, Matt recounts how one woman living in filth had turned her life around.

“One lady had 18,000 pounds of poop in her house. She’s getting married. She got her life back together. It’s awesome. She got her therapy, she got regulated on meds, she got good meals every week.”

“All of a sudden some of the social issues that she dealt with that caused the hoarding started to get handled in therapy. But when she was living at home literally in 18,000 pounds of poop, how can you focus on therapy?”

“That’s the stories I want to get out.”

Matt talks about the show Hoarders

Matt Paxton of Hoarders

“I’m very aware that we’re putting a mental disorder on television for entertainment,” says Matt. And while that is the case, he also made it very clear that he only does it if therapy is part of the arrangement.

To Matt, therapy is the most important part of the process in helping a hoarder get their life straightened out. Without that, he believes his help is just a temporary fix and that there is little hope that anything will change for them in the long run.

“For me they gotta be willing to go to therapy, and they gotta be willing to have their family involved. That’s my only criteria. I call it the three F’s – family, faith and friends.  Without that in place, the chances of the house staying clean, not very good.”

“When we started the season, it was either an organizer or a therapist. You didn’t get both, but my issue was that they agreed to pay for therapy for the person after I left. So that was the kicker for me. As long as they paid for therapy, I was willing to do it.”

But aside from the therapy, Matt’s personal success with hoarders on the show begins on a different level.

“It was a lot of do what I say, not what I do. Yeah, a lot of it’s luck, to be honest. And I will tell you the reason I did well on the TV show is I just speak what I think. I talk to the hoarder as an equal.

“I treat them as you’ve seen me on TV. I’ve spent a week with that family already. So when I’m getting angry at a hoarder and I’m saying, ‘Come on man we’ve got this.’ I’m saying that to a friend. And I’m speaking to him like I would speak to grandma or my mom or whoever else I’m working with.”

“I definitely get accused of being too blunt or too prude but that’s all I know. I talk to them as an equal. And I expect them to do more because they’re my friend and they’re good people. I know the good person that they are so when I’m pushing them, I’m pushing because nobody else will.”

“And they know from my constant interaction with them that I care about them. They know how I talk to them. I knock on the door. And then I take three steps back and I invite them outside. I don’t go in the house, trying to get into their stuff.”

“I get to know them outside away from the mess because the mess isn’t who they are. So I spend as much time as I can, just being with them, just being, not talking about hoarding. I find out what their favorite sports are, what’s their favorite food. Like, who are they as a person? Not the mess – the mess is just what’s going on now.”

“I can’t ask them to get rid of something if I don’t even know what kind of person they are, or what interests them. Like what do they care about? What do they love? What gets them excited? Do they have kids? Do they have friends, a partner, whatever? Why are they doing this? If it’s just because the county’s going to throw them away, we maybe don’t want to do this.”

“I don’t care what they have, but I want to know what their real motivation is because then, if we know that, then I can get them to the finish line. And the finish line is a clean house.”

The popularity of the show “Hoarders” began on A&E network and later moved to the Lifetime channel as “Hoarders: Family Secrets” this year where the network gave the thumbs up to show the real thing and just help people.

“We know probably 80% of the people watch because it makes them feel better about their own lives, just like I watch Biggest Loser. I’ll be watching Biggest Loser and eating popcorn, ‘Hey I’m not so bad, I’m fine. Right?”

“But there’s 20% of the population that watch our show and they get actual tips on how to help their loved ones or they get hope.”

“They find hope that their life can get better. I’m willing to do the show as long as we give therapy to help that 20%.”

Every show starts off with some initial research on the hoarder and in preparing the team.

“You never know what you’re gonna find. So we send the scout out. We get all set up for safety gear. We train all of our guys.”

“From ServiceMaster Restore all the way down to organizers, we give a class the day before we start cleaning to make sure they understand how to communicate properly.”

“I probably spend 20 hours with the family before in preparing for safety before I even walk in the front door. And I’ll spend a day before the cameras roll. I’ll spend about three or four hours just hanging out the house getting to know them.”

“I don’t think many people have spent more time in hoarded homes more than me and my three guys that started my business Clutter Cleaner and the camera crew. I mean they’re in there for five days, ten hours a day, working side by side with hoarders. The hoarder is there the whole time. We don’t film anything unless they’re there.”

“We really get to know them. That’s why you see a lot of things change by the third or fourth day of cleaning. Because that hoarder learned to trust us. And you can’t get trust in the first ten minutes.”

It seems that Hoarders is the last few reality shows that are truly “real” and without scripted or encouraged drama.

“You don’t need to encourage drama with Hoarders. It’s gonna happen. It took us a while to get the camera crews to understand, ‘Dude, just keep the camera’s running. It’ll be good on its own.”

Although each episode is an emotional one for Matt, the rewards outweigh the difficulties. “I’m not here to be famous and make a TV show, I’m here to make sure this person has a better life.”

Matt talks about his company and affiliations

Matt’s company “Clutter Cleaner” had its beginnings in 2006 when he helped his grandmother move from a house she had lived in and accumulated things for 20 years.

“I get paid to help people which is awesome.”

“But my ideal is, it’s not right for us to take the job if the person is not able to do some type of interview. So I find out. If we know they’re unwilling to do therapy, we don’t take the job. Because you’re just setting them up for failure. ”

“My system with ServiceMaster Restore  is we go in and we clean the whole house in like three, four, five days. For a hoarder that needs one hour a day for nine months, we’re not gonna be the solution. We call in a professional organizer.”

“Whether you use a cleaning company like me and ServiceMaster Restore or you use a professional organizer like Dorothy Breininger, you still gotta have a therapy in place on the back end, and that’s really the kick.”

Matt talks about his future goals

“I got the best gig in the world man. I have made a good living off of helping hoarders. So I do feel an obligation to figure out this affordability issue. We’ve helped with awareness and now it’s time to bring affordability.”

“We’re the ugliest of the disorders out there. We’re starting to understand hoarding, but no one’s giving money for it. So right now it’s on families. There are some government that will throw a little aid here, a little aid there.”

“I see the miracles three, four, five years down the road. I’ve got all these hoarding weddings this summer, where all these people eight years later got their life back together and they’re getting married. So I know when I’m looking at this lady and I’ve got to sort through her eight foot of diapers, well that’s just getting me closer to that miracle.”

“I hope to build a very big foundation. I do hope that. I want to build a big national solution that gives everybody awareness and education, and can help me make this cleanup affordable. When that’s done I can retire.”

Watch interview:

 

 

 

 

 

Recycling Stuff To Your Friends As A Cool Whatever Gift

Want to get rid of the stuff you don’t want and make yourself a superstar friend at the same time? Then maybe try re-gifting your stuff.

Also, when you need a gift, there’s also the factor that you may have neglected to go shopping for that birthday gift. Or maybe you’d like to bring something with you for the host at a dinner party. Whatever the occasion, you just need a last minute gift.

You can personalize a gift to someone special by adding something that you know they would like or use. There are probably many things around your house you have tucked away, or that you purchased at the grocery store that could be included in a gift basket. A bar of soap, for example, is not a gift by itself, but mixed in with other items can make a splendid gift mixture.

To show you how simple and quick this can be, I personally went around my house and gathered stuff to make some gift baskets, of sorts. Here’s what I came up with in a short time for each one (without any basket stuffing or ribbon and bows!):

The Cook’s Gift Basket

gift-basket-for-a-cook

I simply gathered up some kitchen items I had excess of (like cooking utensils, measuring cups, kitchen towels, etc.) and displayed them in a stainless steal colander.  To give it lift, I crunched up a red kitchen hand towel inside.

Coffee Lover Gift Basket

coffee-lover-gift-basket

Oh, this was fun since I’m a coffee lover myself! Using one of my old mixing bowls, I stuffed bags of coffee, an extra French Coffee Press that was gifted to me, and a coffee mug inside and was able to create this basket.

Movie Lover Gift Basket

movie-lover-gift-basket

Too simple for words – a dollar store popcorn container was my holder for a jar of popcorn, a bottle of root beer, and 2 movie tickets. If I had a big popcorn bowl container, I would have been able to stuff more inside!

Chocolate Lover Gift Basket

chocolate-lover-gift-basket

My house has no shortage of chocolate, so I threw a bunch of stuff in this basket – chocolate cocoa, chocolate syrup, chocolate coffee, chocolate cake mix, cacao nibs, and some bars of chocolate bars.

House-warming Gift Basket

housewarming-gift-basket

Anything goes for this type of gift basket, so I put a wine glass inside with a small bottle of wine, some trail mix, box of tea, a few snack bars, and some candles.

New Job Congratulations Gift Basket

congratulations-gift-basket

Going through my abundant office supply stash, I was able to toss in some pens, scissors, stapler with staples, note pads, notebook, and my very cool fancy high-heel-shoe-pen holder hanging outside the basket (clearly for a woman!).

Filmmaker Premiere Gift Basket

filmmaker-gift-basket

Okay, not a common type gift basket, but hey, I had the stuff lying around, so why not?

Hey, it’s okay to Pin these photos to your Pinterest boards and share the love!

 

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Getting Organized

It seemed inevitable that someday I’d have to inform you about some of the pitfalls of getting organized. Even some doctors will eventually reveal how to stay healthy so you don’t get sick and have to call on them for help.

This type of information puts many types of professionals out of business, but it does become an ethical duty to inform. So, in view of my ethical duty, I wanted to share my observations and findings with you.

What Professional Organizers May Not Tell You

The top ten pitfalls of “When you are organized ….

1. Your family and friends may visit more often and stay longer.

Now that your place is nice and organized, you’ll notice that people stay longer when they come to visit. They might even like your place so much that they want to throw special event parties at your house. That could mean you’ll end up planning more gatherings at your house instead of planning more to-do lists.

movie-scene-because-i-said-so

Movie scene from Because I Said So

2. You will find things faster and end up saving time.

And we all know that saving time means that all the time you used to spend wasting it gives you more hours in the day. Then you’re faced with figuring out what to do with all that extra time you end up with (since you’re no longer searching for stuff). It might mean that you have more time for the kids or spouse, so you should know about this phenomena.

movie-scene-Adele-Dazee

Movie scene from Adele Dazee

3. Your surplus of food in the cabinets will be diminished.

All that food once hidden in your cupboards will now be found more easily and you won’t end up buying more of something you already have. This could mean fewer trips to the grocery store, or even less food than you’re normally used to keeping around. And it could mean trying to cook up all the surplus of food you had lying around before it actually goes bad.

movie-cool-hand-luke

Movie scene from Cool Hand Luke

4. You’ll have less clothing.

That’s right. After you go through your clothes and get rid of ones you don’t like or don’t / can’t wear anymore, you won’t have the abundance you once had. But don’t worry – your closet will begin to look like it has space in it for more clothing. This should give you the satisfaction that you are now able to buy more if you continue to use the “Buy one, get rid of one” clothing rule.

movie-bridesmaids

Movie scene from Bridesmaids

5. You’ll end up in control.

Being more in control of your life has its plus points and minus points. One plus is that you can have more predictability in things around you. A minus is that you won’t get eaten up with issues that arise due to lack of control.

movie-jurassic-world-in-control

Movie scene from Jurassic World

6. You will no longer have your usual excuses.

All those usual excuses you’ve had for lateness or forgotten appointments because you didn’t write it down are obsolete once you’re organized and you’ll need to invent or have other reasons. Others will expect more of you and the days when people used to rely on the fact you would be late or not show up at all are gone.

Those expectations got you off the hook on numerous occasions, but not once you’re organized. They will probably count on you to be there when you say you’ll be there.

movie-her

Movie scene from Her

7. You will accomplish more than you bargained for.

As if you didn’t feel you were busy enough throughout your day, now you’ll end up doing more since you’re getting more things actually done out of all that busy-ness. That’s because you’ll be dealing with being more efficient which leads to being more productive and doing more than you were before.

Procrastination may still exist in your life, but not to the extent it used to be. Those lists you’ve been used to staying stagnant will start to have things crossed off, giving the appearance that you’re getting things done you once had good intentions of getting done.

movie-be-cool

Movie scene from Be Cool

8. Your plans may go off without a hitch.

Surprise hitches often come about because you were not prepared, and these type of surprises become less frequent in numbers when you’re organized. This goes for in-expected guests who were actually expected.

movie-eating-raoul

Movie scene from Eating Raoul

9. You could end up spending less money.

Those days of fruitless spending on things you already have may end up being more fruitful because you’re not wasting money on fruitless things. What I mean is, you’ll save money by not spending it on things you couldn’t find before, like another ream of paper, or more pens, or cleaning supplies, etc., things like that.

movie-the-office

Movie scene from The Office

10. Your lowered stress level changes your sleep habits.

Being stressed over disorganization and disorder is now a thing of the past and you could find yourself over-sleeping.

sleeping-in-bed-with-dog

Well, that’s about it. Or, at least all I could think of at the moment. I’d love to hear more from you of any pitfalls I missed. It helps other readers and may shed more light on what it’s really like to be organized.

30 Things To Remove In Your Home Sparing No Mercy

Let’s face it, there’s a time for everything to come into our life and a time for everything to go out of our life. It’s the cycle of stuff, so feel free to spare no mercy.

1. Old herbs and spices

(which actually has a shelf-life that’s been kept a big secret since very few people seen to know)

old herbs and spices

The thing here is, herbs and spices expire. The good part is, they actually last a long time, like 1-2 years. The bad part is, you’ve had these a very long time, most likely. And although these don’t spoil, they do lose their flavor and strength. So if you’re going to the trouble to give a gourmet touch to your food, this won’t be the way to do it.

2. Expired fridge food

(that got lost and forgotten behind other and newer food because you can’t see it anymore)

fridge-food

Depending on the food item, you’re looking at anywhere from a few days to a week, excluding condiments (which also expire, but not so fast). The shelf life of fridge food at StillTasty.com has guidelines you can check out if you want to be armed with information about the life of what you’re eating from your fridge. I’m sure some of you don’t want to know however, so you can skip this point.

3. Expired cupboard food

(that got lost and forgotten behind all the newer stuff shoved in there)

expired cupboard food

I think you’ve all known this but I’ll say it anyway – packaged food doesn’t live forever. FoxNews covered this topic on when does food go bad and you can hear for yourself (or not).

4. Old vitamins and medications

(which you don’t take anyway or they probably wouldn’t be old)

expired vitamins

They say you can judge your age by how much dust is on your vitamin bottle caps. Now, you won’t find expiration dates on these bottles because the FDA doesn’t make them do that. But they do lose their potency, so what would be the point in taking them (which you’re not anyway).

5. Old cleaning supplies

(that you obviously don’t use to clean with or they wouldn’t be old)

cleaning-supplies

According to Good Housekeeping.com, ” Keeping cleaners beyond their recommended shelf lives can cause them to lose some efficacy while degrading plastic containers can alter their formulas.” In their article you’ll find how long to keep these type of products around, which range anywhere from 6 months to a little over a year or two.

My guess is, some of you don’t even remember buying the product, or that you now have hardwood floors instead of carpet and don’t need carpet cleaner anymore, and so forth.

6. Old makeup

(which is old after it expires, but no one told you that. Or told you that expired makeup is bad for your skin and eyes)

makeup

The problem is, makeup can do some damage to your face when it expires and all those nasty bacteria thingys start formulating in the product. It manifests on your skin with irritations and bumps, which totally defeats the purpose of trying to make ourselves look better!

7. Ugly unworn clothing

(which you’ll never ever wear again and not sure what you were thinking when you bought it – other than it was probably on sale.)

ugly-clothing

There is no scientific fact I can provide you with here. It’s just plain common law – if it’s ugly, don’t wear it and if you’re not wearing it, don’t keep it. Kappish?

8. Clothing that doesn’t fit

(which you’ve been saving for the day you loose enough weight to fit in them again, even though it will no longer be in fashion most likely)

clothing that doesn't fit

Be real is all I can say. And when you do lose the weight, you don’t want old clothing anyway since you’ll be celebrating in the small size section of the retail store.

9. Single socks

(that lost its mate while being sucked into the dryer’s black hole. Sad)

single socks

It’s such a tragedy but this sort of thing happens to most all of us at one time or another. And for some, it happens with each wash cycle, and my heart goes out to them. Take them out of the drawer and give them final burial please.

10. Disgusting worn out shoes

(that you just forgot to be thrown away, right?)

worn out shoes

But you can always turn them into a nifty shoe planter:

worn-shoe-planter

11. Accounting records dating back to the 1900’s

(which you kept just in case you wanted to refer to it someday, I’m sure)

old papers

That’s right, we’re in the 2000’s now, in the year 2015 to be exact. Boomers, it’s time to let go! The general rule is to keep tax related papers seven years (according to Nolo.com), so you can safely move supporting tax return papers earlier than 2005 into the trash can. The “keep forever” retention rule applies to your actual tax return documents, so don’t be tossing those, okay?

12. Junk mail

(that you’ve kept in case there was something important in them. Face it, there never is)

junk-mail

Essentially, all you’ll find in the junk mail you’ve been keeping around is expired shit. Period.

13. Expired coupons

(which you saved to save money, of course)

expired coupons

Why? Don’t answer, just toss.

14. Old celebrity gossip magazine issues

(which is out-dated every week when celebrities change partners)

celebrity gossip magazines

That’s right, the last issue of People magazine is old news this week. Drop it off at your nearest hair salon.

15. Wire hangers

(that went out in the day “Mommy Dearest” entered our TV screens)

mommy dearest on wire hangers

Personally, I was terrified to ever use wire hangers again after seeing this movie. But the fact is, I see her point. This clothing invention that is supposed to hang clothes in your closet causes more anxiety and messy closets than any invention I’ve ever come across. I’m sure a lot of you can relate with trying to pull one of those out of your closet, am I right?

16. Broken stuff

(that you had perfect intentions to fix on the “some day” which has never come yet and never will)

broken-dish

Another fact you need to face is that, if you didn’t fix it within a day or so after it broke, you probably won’t be doing so in your busy near future.

17. Antique technology

(that became antique when a newer model came on the market soon after you bought it)

old-mac computer

But then again, people are getting creative with their old macs, since they can’t seem to get rid of them:

old-mac-planters

18. Electronic adapter cords

(which no longer go with anything that you know of)

adapter-cords

Pictured above is a drawer of adapter cords. But there are probably more than a drawer-full of adapters you’ve kept around which belong to devices you no longer have – and don’t even know it because you have no idea what device the adapter goes to.

19. Broken electronics

(that no longer work and will never work again because you don’t have time or inclination to fix it. Besides you probably replaced it already.)

broken-cassette-player

While a lot of you have tossed your broken electronics and already replaced with a new one, I suppose the only reason you kept the broken one is in case your new one breaks down? Just a guess.

20. Gadgets you can’t name

(because you don’t know what it is, what it is for, or what it does)

gadget

I have no idea what that is, nor do you probably. But there are many of these kinds of gadgets found in kitchen drawers and, when I ask what it’s for, the answer is always the same – “I dunno.”

21. Spare parts

(that you no longer know what it’s a spare part for)

spare-parts

I come across these all the time working with people and it’s always the same story – it goes with something. Good luck on ever finding that something it goes with.

22. Old keys

(that once opened something but you no longer know what it opens)

old keys

I’m sure that among all those keys you’ve kept around, that some of them could be used to break into your old house you used to live in ten years ago. But since you probably don’t carry those evil intentions around, the only thing you are opening is the drawer they are kept in.

23. Old user manuals

(of items you no longer have)

old-manual

If you have this, or anything like it, bless your heart for keeping it. But there’s a time to say good-bye to stuff, and this may be the time.

24. Old batteries

(that won’t charge anything)

old-batteries

I should have said “expired batteries” because they do expire and rendered useless after time. Apparently, batteries generate energy and uses a chemical reaction contained inside the battery cell, whether it is being used or not (according to LifeScience). So if you want to charge up one of your devices, these old batteries won’t help you.

25. Mis-matched dish-ware and glasses

(which makes kitchen cabinets an eye sore and entertaining un-stylish)

mismatched-dishes

Okay, even if you don’t entertain guests for dinner, get rid of them. They are now just loners in a world of plenty.

26. Used-up pots and pans

(where the only surface left is scratched)

pots-pans

There’s a fact I’d like to bring up here, is that scratched Teflon pots and pans are dangerous. The Teflon breaks up and seeps into your food, and that can’t be a good thing. I’m sure Martha Stewart agrees.

27. Plastic containers without lids

(rendering the container completely useless thereafter)

containers-without-lids

You’ll be pleased to know there are no lurking dangers of containers without lids (or lids without containers). Although they won’t harm you in any way, they will eventually do a hostile take-over of your cabinet space. So, you’ve been warned.

28. Leftover pet paraphernalia

(for pets you no longer have)

pet-toys

I didn’t want to include this subject point, but there have been a lot of people I’ve worked with that still have dog leashes and dog toys for dogs long gone and don’t have intentions of getting another dog. Same for fish stuff – fish long gone yet tons of aquarium stuff stored away. Either get a new pet or start playing with the toys yourself to make use of them.

29. Old water kept stored in plastic bottles

(for your emergency prep kit, however dangerous when stored in heated sources)

water-bottles

Bottled water is considered a “shelf stable” product, so it does have a shelf life, although the FDA has not determined what that shelf life is for it. At room temperatures, it can last a long time, but in heated temperatures, not so long and not so good since unknown chemicals seep in from the plastic. The unknown health risks of drinking warm water tells me to advise you to use precaution.

The only thing they would be a good use for is for though is if you need an emergency bath.

30. Old paint

(stored in case you might ever need to do touch-ups – however these will never match the color again)

old-paint

Paint cans are not labeled with expiration dates, but someday they won’t do you any good. According to HomeGuides, “Painting a room with bad latex paint can cause it to have an offensive odor that becomes progressively stronger. Bad latex paint also can leave a visibly rough finish on the painted surface and may quickly begin to peel.”

So, unless you want to mask your own odor with offensive paint odor, go buy new paint for touch-ups.

 

 

 

Taking The Stress Out Of the Stress of Moving

stress-free moving

Almost every time someone contacts me to help them with moving, there is a degree of stress in their communication about the move. Understandably so. There is a lot to do. And often times, there doesn’t seem like enough time to do it all.

After all, moving involves a lot of preparation – arrangements with a moving company (or moving transportation), deciding what you will be taking with you to the new place, deciding if you will need to have a moving sale, organizing and holding a moving sale (if you decide you’re going to do that) and then of course packing up the entire house.

This doesn’t include all the preparations you need to do at your new place, but we won’t get into that just yet. And it also doesn’t include selling your existing home before the move if you’re selling, or the task of having to find a new place to live.

Each one of those projects can carry stress with it if you let it. That’s right, I said if you let it.

Stress can be taken out of anything and there are various methods of doing so. Yoga, meditation, pills (which I absolutely do NOT recommend), and other sundry stress remedies. However, as a professional organizer who has worked with people in stress for 21 years, I’m going to throw in my own method.

Focus. Yes, focus. And don’t focus on a problem either. Instead, put your focus on tackling one thing at a time. List all tasks / projects into a project list but focus your energy on just one of those tasks at any given time.

One of the reasons a professional organizer helps remove stress from a person’s life is because an organizer steps in to help take care of all the things that are stressing the person out. Even so, a person can still experience stress because they are still focused on all the problems that a move is creating for them. I get them to use my method of focusing and it sure makes a difference.

One of my friends was planning a move and was completely stressed out. First she had limited time to find a new place (before her lease was up), then after finding a place, she faced extreme downsizing. And of course packing up everything was left to a last minute rush because she didn’t have time to pack while she was working long hours.

It was during the last minute rush when she called me in for help. Seeing how stressed she was, I had her focus. I gave her instructions to carry on her demanding work and I would take care of everything else. You should have seen her face light up.

So, I see my job as more than organizing. It is helping people get stress-free. And although that typically comes after I organize for them, to make that happen during the process is just as important.

Anyway, if I’m not around, just remember, focus.

The Trust Factor Of Home Organizers

Home Organizer

Going into the home of someone we don’t know to provide a service to them is what a professional organizer does. Clients don’t come to us, we go to them. And a home is a person’s private place, unlike walking into their place of work or business.

My profession is unique because essentially I’m in the kind of business that gets into other people’s business – like they way they live. I often see what other people never get to see and find out about things they never shared with anyone.

I’ve walked into homes where I was the first “outsider” to step foot in it for years since they were too embarrassed to have any guests over. This included their own children. Granted, most of those cases had extreme clutter, but some places were not so bad. And the places I felt were not so bad, the person felt it was bad enough to them because of their standard of living.

So it’s my job to make them feel comfortable in their own home when I’m in it essentially. After all, they entrusted me to come into their home when they wouldn’t let anyone else in, or were too ashamed to allow people see it, especially an outsider like me.

Some people will even make an attempt beforehand to put things in order before I come to put things in order for them. But I always ask them not to. The reason is that I need to see the whole picture to get to the bottom of the problem. If things have been tidying up in an area, I won’t know that things ever get tossed and accumulated in that area. And then I won’t be able to assess a solution that can resolve an issue I don’t see.

Aside from me getting into other people’s business, I’m also in the business of help. And as such, when I walk into a a person’s home, I’m are there to provide help, not criticism.

When I walk into a person’s home, I bring with me my skills, knowledge and experience. And this how I can commence in the process of changing their life. I can’t change a person’s life effectively if I bring hostility toward their environment and become critical of the way they live or how they do the things they do that got them in a such a mess. This doesn’t help them.

It’s really comes down to my outlook and attitude when I’m in a person’s home. I don’t see the room as a disorganized mess. I see how the room can be made better. I don’t delve into how terrible a condition that a person is living in. I visualize a place of sanctuary for them. I think people pick up on my attitude and even start visualizing the space becoming what they want it to be. This motivates them even more.

Most all those organizing shows I’ve seen on TV upset me because I see the professional organizer become critical, even hostile toward a person they are there to help. Some of the remarks I’ve heard them make prompted me to change the channel or turn off the TV even.

Maybe it’s all about the drama. A show has to have drama. When I was doing a particular organizing segment on TV, the producer wanted me to berate the girl I was organizing to make it more entertaining. I said I wouldn’t scold her since it wasn’t my nature to do that sort of thing. With all the producer’s prompting and suggestions on what I could say, I ended up being playful with the girl I was organizing and even made her laugh. To me, that was entertaining enough. The show aired but I was never asked to come back.

Bottom line is, it’s my job to build trust with a person when I’m in their home. The same applies to being at their place of work, but even more so in their private space among their private belongings and private papers. And the best way I know how to accomplish that trust is to be a professional. That means to act in such a way that they feel comfortable enough to tell and show me their deepest, darkest organizing problems. It doesn’t mean to be critical of them or their space.

And this is how I have spent 21 years making a difference in people’s lives. Feels good.

 

 

Home Garage Sales With A Professional Organizer

garage sale

It’s that time of year when people want to do a little home clearance and get rid of things that don’t matter to them anymore. Garage or yard sales help accomplish this and helps in making some extra cash with their unwanted items.

I have two garage sales I’m helping to organize and help at for clients this month and I’m truly looking forward to it. Why? It could be it’s because I love going to garage sales and I get first dibs on buying their unwanted stuff!

Seriously though, I do love this kind of work and have gotten pretty good at pricing items to sell at garage sales too. I’ve been to these kind of sales where people don’t know how to price their things and think that their old sofa will sell for $400 or something when, in fact, no one going to a garage sale is going to pay that sticker price when they can get a new sofa at that price.

People want a bargain and that’s why they go to garage sales, so pricing stuff accordingly is important. However, you can place a higher value on something, but just be prepared to be bargained down from that asking price.

Organizing a garage sale often entails a lot of prep work, especially going through your stuff and sorting out what you want to sell.

Here’s some tips on how to plan and organize a garage sale:

  • Sort through stuff. Go through the house, room by room, and set aside items you no longer want or value. Make sure to go through any cabinets or closet areas in each room to pull out things to sell.
  • Categorize stuff. Collect up those items and sort into boxes or bins by “like items” – home decor, art, kitchen wares, small appliances, books, electronics, clothing, accessories, etc.
  • Price stuff. Everything should have a price tag on it. Make your own price labels or purchase price stickers.
  • Pre-sale items. If you’re planning to list any items for pre-sale on CraigsList, make a list of those items (with details of brand/ model, measurements, etc.) and price it. If it’s furniture items, be sure to measure them. Also, take photos of the items you are selling on CraigsList.
  • Post a notice. Post a garage sale notice on CraigsList a week before the sale. List any special items (with photos) you are selling.
  • Get display materials. Try to get some folding display tables to use for your sale items. Shelves also work nicely, too. And for clothing, use a clothing rod of some kind to hang clothes on because clothing sells better when they are hung.
  • Enlist helpers for sale day. Make arrangements with family and/or friends (and your professional organizer!) to help out on the day of the sale. This is NOT something you want to do alone! Depending on how large the sale is, I suggest a minimum of 3 people.
  • Get signs. Get or make garage sale signs – plenty of them. You’ll need to post these signs around your neighborhood to draw people to your sale. Post these the day before (or morning of) the sale. And be sure to have pins and clear packing tape with you!
  • Get cash and coins. You are now a retailer and will need some starting cash to give change when someone makes a purchase. You can go to bank and get a roll of quarters, some one, five and ten dollar bills.
  • Have a cash box. Be sure to also have something to keep money in – any kind of cash box of some sort will do. If you don’t have that, you can use an envelope. Keep this in a spot where someone is always on duty at the cash station. I also think it’s also a good idea to wear a waist pocket-purse to collect money when you’re away from the cash box mingling with customers.
  • Have a calculator. You’ll need to add up purchase items and it’s just easier to have a calculator on hand. Smartphones have calculator apps on them and can also be used instead.
  • Have bags on hand. This is optional but I find that it is nice and convenient if you have bags for customers who purchase multiple items and need to bag it.
  • Get a pocket apron. This is also optional although it does help if you don’t have a waist-purse, and it also signifies that you are a seller to crowds of people looking around. I find these at the dollar stores in either crafts, gardening or tool areas.

On the morning of the sale I bring the sale items out of the garage to display. Creating a welcoming display of things draws a crowd, especially people driving by, so make it look as nice as possible. You don’t want create clutter on your driveway or front lawn areas!

You’ll also need a cashier station of some sort where someone can sit and handle purchases and be the cash box security person. This should be sitting away from the sale area, but not far of course. And having chairs for helpers to sit on when things quiet down is a must!

Now you’re ready for the crowds of people to buy your unwanted stuff! Have fun!

A Room Makeover With A Professional Organizer

Bringing in a professional organizer to help clear the clutter in a home or office is a typical job in this profession. But bringing in a professional organizer who knows interior decorating is a major plus for those who want to change more than their cluttered room.

One of the reasons I like to refer to myself as an Organization Lifestylist is because I do both organizing and decorating to fit a person’s lifestyle, as well as help individuals make lifestyle changes.

There was one client who wanted to change the look of her home to fit her lifestyle and love for medieval times. Her favorite time of year was going to Renaissance Medieval & Pirate Faire and would get all decked out in costume whenever she attended. It was her love for Medieval times that finally drove her to do a home makeover reflecting her taste and lifestyle.

She called the right person when she called me. I happen to love medieval things – from its Gothic chandeliers to the old world furniture. Decorating this place was the most fun I’ve ever had, and I was most pleased to find them an authentic looking Middle Age wood-carved throne fit for a king.

old world front door

image from thestylesaloniste.com

The only thing I couldn’t find was a desk with hutch shelving, so I designed one myself and had it made for them. After all, it wasn’t going to do them any good if everything fit into the theme except for the office area, now would it?

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that anyone can decide to change their surrounding to fit their lifestyle or taste. If you don’t know your taste, maybe an eclectic mix of things would make you smile.

The end result should always be that your home surroundings smile at you and make you feel happy in it. If it isn’t doing that right now, it’s time to think about what can be done to make it so.

 

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