Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Do you want more business cards or more business?

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It’s one of the first things we do as business owners. Create our business cards: 10 billion of them according to the Statistics Brain Research Institute. We’re so excited to have them; we give them out to as many people as possible. We’re not only giving them away, We’re collecting them too.  Which is why about 88% of them are thrown away.

That leaves a mere 1.2 billion of other people’s business cards that end up somewhere other than our recycle bins. Have you checked your desk drawer lately?

Practically every client I meet has a stack (or several stacks) of business cards stashed in their home or office. “When was the last time you looked at them?” I ask. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe never?”

So why do we keep so many business cards if we don’t ever do anything with them? It’s the same reason why we hold on to lots of stuff, not just business cards. We fear losing it because we might use it or need it…some day. Or we just don’t get around to going through them.

So there they sit, in decision-limbo. Hundreds, even thousands of cards, taking up valuable storage space and most importantly leaving potential business revenue on the table, or in this case in the drawer.

Think about it. If you don’t do anything with that business card, isn’t it just clutter?

Still not convinced? Consider this: The next time you need to hire anyone for anything, where would you go to get a recommendation? I’m guessing it’s not to that stack of dusty cards you’ve kept buried all these years.

There are only three circumstances I would recommend holding on to a business card:

  • When you have hired them or expect to in the immediate future
  • When you want them to hire you, (or at least refer you) in which case you should have a plan for capturing them in your customer database or for marketing purposes
  • When you want to take your first exchange with them to the next step, such as asking them out for coffee or on a date. Seriously!

So here’s my unforgettable tip for what to do with all business cards. For each card you have or have collected, ask yourself:

Do I plan to hire them?

Do I want them to hire (or refer) me?

Do I want to get to know them better?

 If you answer no, then let them go.

Just wait until they can’t see you do it. They’ll never know.

Your home’s “Most Wanted” space-thieves

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Clutter wants your home. It steals space from the most important living areas of your home or office so you are forced to find other “homes” for the things you truly value, need and use more frequently.

I think of clutter as a thief, stealing space so that you are unable to use it for whatever you had intended.  Here are some typical “space-thieves” and a few ideas for what you can do to deter them from stealing space in your home.

Food Storage Containers
Cardboard Boxes
Bags (paper and reusable)
Books
Magazines
Clothing
Linens, blankets and towels
Paper, paper and more paper
Cleaning agents and supplies
Holiday decor
Cords, cables and old electronics
Your adult children’s stuff from when they were kids

  1. Food storage containers
    Only keep containers with lids.  Keep no more than 5 for each size. If they smell or are broken, toss them​. The largest sets of food storage containers I see contain about 40 pieces. If you have more than that, you probably have too many.
  2. Cardboard boxes & shopping bags
    Toss (recycle) boxes that don’t have lids, and only keep the lidded kind, eg., banker boxes, for storing paper records (or if you are planning to move or remodel within the next 6 months). Don’t keep boxes for storing items other than paper records. Use bins that can do a better job of protecting what’s inside them from the elements. As for shopping bags, if you live in a state that requires using reusable bags, pick out your favorites but only keep the durable ones. No more than 10-15 grocery size. Keep them nested together and store a supply of them in your car or by your front door for when you go shopping. For paper shopping bags, keep only as much as will fit in one bag of equal size. Eg., About 10 paper shopping bags (doubled or not) will fit into a single paper grocery bag. The same for smaller “gift” or “lunch-size” bags. Don’t keep any without handles. Recycle them.
  3. Books & magazines
    Refer to my blog: How to let go of books with less tears. As for magazines, keep only those you are likely to refer to again such as collectible “special” issues or those you need for work or for reference.  Toss any “newsstand” type magazines that are older than three months, especially if you haven’t read them.
  4. Clothing
    Donate what you don’t love, have never used or worn (unless it has a sentimental attachment). Don’t keep anything that hasn’t fit you in a year, chances are by the time it does, it won’t be your style anyway. Toss or recycle anything that is ripped or stained. If you wouldn’t buy it, why would someone else?
  5. Linens, blankets and towels
    Toss (or recycle) anything that’s torn, stained or worn or has moth or beetle holes. Check out this link for tips on protecting your woolen items. Keep a maximum of 2 sets of sheets for warm and cold seasons. Consider donating unwanted linens or blankets to a homeless or women’s shelter. Unwanted towels are always appreciated by a local animal shelter or humane society.
  6. Paper, paper and more paper
    I have written extensively about this in previous blogs, but in short, toss anything that doesn’t pertain to you personally, doesn’t require you to do anything, is unlikely you will ever look at again AND you haven’t seen in ten or more years.
  7. Cleaning agents & supplies
    If you don’t clean (or have someone to clean for you) all the cleaning supplies in the world will never get your home clean. Also, if your surfaces are covered, no amount of cleaning agents will help until you get the stuff out of the way. Toss cleaning supply containers if they are almost empty, toxic items should be safely disposed of according to your county’s regulations. Don’t keep any items that are designed for surfaces that don’t exist in your home. For example, don’t keep a cleaner for blinds if your windows no longer have them.  Eliminate redundant products. Also, don’t keep a cleaning tool that has too many parts or is cumbersome to use. It will only discourage you from cleaning.
  8. Holiday decor
    Decking the halls even once a year can be very time consuming. If you haven’t used your “easter” decorations in over a year, or you no longer celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at home, get rid of the green hats and plastic shamrocks.  Toss broken, never used or cheap-looking supplies. Don’t keep wrapping paper remnants. If you inadvertently bought an item that you don’t like, don’t keep it for next year. Toss, recycle or donate it now!
  9. Cords, cables and old electronics
    For cords and cables, put a label on them as soon as you get them. Otherwise, keep only those you can match to an existing device. Look for electronic recyclers or free recycling events in your area for items you no longer use. Keep cables and cords separate from other electronic devices such as headsets or earbuds.
  10. Your adult children’s stuff from when they were kids​
    Give them one year from the day they’ve moved out to go through them unless you need to move yourself. Remind them at 3 month, one month and one week intervals that you want them to have what’s important to them. Trust me they want a lot less than you think and you will be far more sentimental about their stuff than they will be but they still should have an opportunity to decide what they wish to retain.  If they are far away, take photos or make a list and ask them to decide by a certain date.

11 Common Organizing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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  1. Starting with paper. Unless your only clutter problem is paper, don’t use paper as your starting point. You want to be able to see results quickly, to stay motivated and paper organizing takes more time with less visible results.
  2. Believing that the perfect container (or shelf, or storage system) will solve your organizing problem. Going out and buying furniture, containers or other organizing products should happen near the end of the organizing process, after you’ve purged what you no longer love, use or need. Otherwise you can end up with the wrong solution or more clutter masking as bins, boxes and containers.
  3. Using your vacation time to declutter. Decluttering is hard work. Why would you spend your hard earned vacation time to work again? Instead, set aside a time where you would normally take care of household tasks, a weekend morning for example or during the week if your schedule permits.
  4. Stopping to decide the “perfect” recipient for an unwanted item. When it comes to organizing, perfection is definitely the enemy of progress. If you decide you don’t want something just put it aside in a “giveaway” or “donate” pile and keep going. If you don’t have someone specific in mind for that “gift” then either keep it for yourself or donate it.
  5. Keeping things just because someone important to you gave it to you as a gift. Guilt is not an organizing system. If you don’t love it, would never use it or wouldn’t buy it for yourself, don’t keep it. Keeping an item that takes up valuable space in your home simply because it came as a gift, does not honor the relationship you have.
  6. Diving in without preparing first.  Have a plan.  Set a time limit – organizing can be tiring and dehydrating – and gather your supplies before you begin.  I suggest starting small. You can make great progress and feel accomplished in as little as 10 minutes.
  7. Confusing organizing with decluttering. Decluttering happens when you have more stuff than you have space. It’s a real estate issue. Decluttering is one step in the organizing process. Before tossing anything, it helps first to group like items together to help you decide on how much you need. Knowing what you have and how much space it takes up will help you decide how to contain it and where it should “live” in your home.
  8. Keeping something just because it’s “useful” or because you may use it some day Almost anything is usable: Empty toilet paper rolls, plastic shopping bags, old jars or containers without lids are all “useful” but that doesn’t mean you are obligated to use them.
  9. Being unwilling to let it go because it cost you so much when you bought it. Unless you know it has current market value, in which case you can decide whether or not to sell it, then keeping it will never get you that money back. Decide if it’s worth your time to learn it’s real value. Otherwise give it new life somewhere else.
  10. Making your stuff more important than the people in your life, yourself included.  Almost everything is replaceable except the people you love or who love you. If your stuff is pushing you or your loved ones further away, perhaps it’s time to consider the help of professionals. Most of all, if what it takes to keep you safe, secure and healthy means your family must separate you from your things,  keep in mind what their intentions are and find a way to forgive them.
  11. Not knowing what to consider to help you make decisions. Clutter is the result of deferred decisions.  Consider asking yourself any of these questions when you feel stuck in indecision.
  • Do I love it or does it bring me joy?
  • Is it something I use, or plan to use in the next 12 months?
  • If it disappeared, would I miss it?
  • If I saw it in a store would I buy it?
  • Does it evoke positive memories or negative emotions.?
  • Is it mine to decide about?
  • Have I made this item more important than me or my family?​​
Photo courtesy of East Bay Times

Moving Doesn’t Have To Be Scary

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Editor’s Note: Judy Dang, a San Francisco Bay Area Writer and Designer with a particular knack for making spaces look beautiful, surprised me today with this wonderful blog that highlights the work we do at LET’S MAKE ROOM. I thought it was worth re-posting. Also, the image posted here was created by Judy herself. To learn more about Judy (who, by the way, has partnered with me on several organizing projects), visit her site at http://www.judydang.com/

Moving shouldn't be scary

Original artwork by Judy Dang

New home? Downsizing? Moving in with a partner? Changing jobs? Don’t be afraid of a move.

Hiring a move manager who orchestrates the entire process takes the fear and stress away. There are so many details to think about, it can be overwhelming: new schools, new job, new neighborhood.
We may feel that we should be able to do it on our own or that it costs too much but when you consider the hours prepping, packing and unpacking, it’s well worth it.
Wouldn’t you rather spend that time enjoying your new place than unpacking boxes week after week?
My 4 Tips to Reduce Move Stress

  1. Keep your calendar clear around the time of the move, both before and after
  2. Get plenty of sleep
  3. Focus on the positives of why you’re moving
  4. Hire Let’s Make Room to manage your move!

Let’s Make Room is a SF Bay Area move management company that has your best interest at heart. Lis McKinley and her team of expert organizers makes sure every detail is handled efficiently. And they can have you moved in and unpacked in 2-3 days! Think back to your last move and how much time it took on your own. Weeks? Months?
For your next move, call Lis and she’ll take care of everything for you!

Happy Halloween!

20 Tips For a Smooth Home Move From an Expert Move Organizer

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movingMoving day can be a disaster day if you’re not prepared.  Here are 20 tips I’m sharing as an experienced move manager, which if you follow, will make you wonder why moving is on the list of top 20 life stressors, when for you it was a smooth move.

  1. Decide when you want or need to move before you schedule movers. If possible, be flexible as summer, the end of the month and weekends tend to be the busiest for movers.
  2. Get mover recommendations from friends, neighbors, and other professionals you know.
  3. Prepare a list of questions to ask your preferred move estimator when he/she arrives to do an estimate.
  4. Decide what you are moving before the estimator comes to your home and if possible label items that are not part of the move ahead of time.
  5. Clear out all the clutter from your home, especially from basements, garages, attics, sheds and patios prior to move day.
  6. Be prepared to provide all your contact information, including all phone numbers and an email address, if you have one.
  7. Be available on pack and move day or hire a Professional Move Manager to make sure everything gets done, according to your wishes, and nothing gets left behind.
  8. Take the crew through every part of your home when they arrive including outside patio and storage areas so they know what to expect and can properly safeguard your home ahead of time.
  9. Learn the names of your moving crew or at least the name of the lead so you can communicate with them as needed on move day.
  10. Be prepared for your move! If your home is not 75% packed within a week of your move, consider getting packing help from your movers to help you get ready.
  11. Have items clearly labeled in large letters on items that require special handling.
  12. Know your area’s parking regulations ahead of your move. If parking is difficult on your street, contact your local transportation office to secure temporary parking permits. Otherwise, you may be liable for parking tickets.
  13. Stay out of your mover’s way for your safety and theirs. They are moving quickly and sometimes carrying large loads at one time.
  14. Don’t remove framed items from your walls. Let your movers do this for you and there will be less chance of damage.
  15. Don’t pack your hanging clothing. Your movers will provide wardrobe boxes and pack them for you.
  16. Have a floor plan ready for your new home so you can direct your movers to place your furniture, as you want it. Rearranging of furniture after it’s been moved may cost you extra.
  17. Do not water your plants for three days prior to your move.
  18. Don’t expect your movers to transport liquids, firearms, and hazardous or flammable items such as propane tanks or household chemicals.
  19. Do a final walk through of your old home and your new home before the movers leave to ensure everything is done. Check hard to reach places like high shelves and attics. Don’t sign off on any paperwork until you’re satisfied.
  20. If you are completely satisfied with your movers, tipping them is a great way to show your appreciation. In general, tip at a rate of $3-$4 per hour worked. The lead should get a bit more.

 

3 Short Answers to Solve Your Office Organizing Problem

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Editor’s Note: This is an introduction to the system I created to help people who struggle with too much paper. White desktop computer on Tidy Desk

Believe it or not, there are only three kinds of paper.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first novel, your 2009 taxes or a bubble gum wrapper. The key to organizing paper is to remember these three types and know the difference between them. They are:

Paper you Act on

Paper you Contain

Paper you Toss.

Most people get stuck in paper clutter for three reasons.

  1. They don’t have a system for organizing and managing it
  2. They are afraid of accidentally tossing something important so they hold on to it “just in case.”
  3. They hold on to it with the intention of doing something with it “someday” but never do.

Unless you take some kind of comfort from having a lot of paper around you, I’m going to assume you would prefer to have less.

The ACT system is actually quite simple. It just takes a little practice. The key to it is remembering that the goal of the system is to minimize the amount of paper you actually keep. If that’s not your goal, then consider what value all that paper has in your life now?

The ACT system is an acronym for Action, Contain, Toss.

Paper you act on is either a task or a project that’s worth your time to complete.

Paper you contain will likely be referred to again, or you are required to keep. (Everything else is optional!)

Paper that has no value to you should be tossed or safely disposed of.

Here’s how to use the ACT system to organize your paper:

For every piece of paper that comes across your desk, whether it be a business card, a magazine, a contract, a pad of paper, an invitation, notes to yourself, etc., you should ask yourself these three questions in successive order:

  1. Is there an IMPORTANT Action I need to take with this piece of paper that is worth my time? (Reading and filing don’t count.)  If your answer is no, then before you toss it, ask the next question:
  1. Is it LIKELY I will need to refer back to this piece of paper again and would it be difficult to find it elsewhere? If yes keep and Contain it. Otherwise, go on to the next question:
  1. Does it display any personal or confidential information that I would not want others to see? If not, then you can Toss it.  Otherwise shred it.

The key to taming your paper monster is making the ACT system a regular habit.

  • Spend a few minutes each week sorting your incoming paper, mail and other documents according to the ACT system
  • Take action on those tasks and projects that you decide are worth your time
  • Contain only what you are likely to refer to again and can’t find elsewhere
  • Minimize the amount of paper you keep – what may have been important last year may not be now. It’s okay to let it go.
  • Maximize the amount of paper you toss – and protect your identity as you go. If you’re not sure, ask a professional.
  • Make peace with your paper piles by incorporating desktop containers, files and other organizing products that fit your own personality and style.

For more help on how to get organized at home, call us to schedule a visit.

 

The most important 12 questions to ask a mover before you hire them

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1. Are you available on the day I need to move?

Don’t assume that all movers will be available the day you need to move. If you’re flexible try to pick a move date in the beginning or middle of the week, as weekends tend to get booked first.

2. Will you do a visual, written estimate?

A written estimate, based on an onsite visit to your home, is the best way to know ahead of time what you will be charged.

3. Do you provide full packing services?

This is especially important if you are moving fragile, high value items. If you cannot afford full packing, then opt for partial packing for these items.

4. How do you charge for moving and packing?

Local moves (under 50 miles) are typically charged by the hour. Long distance moves are charged by weight, with each line item costing a percentage of the overall weight. Weights are estimated during a visual estimate — which is why it’s so important to do a visual estimate.

5. How long has your company been in business?

Operating a trustworthy moving and storage company is much more than a couple of strong guys with a truck. Knowing a company’s history and track record are important factors in deciding whether or not you can trust them to move your home safely and for the price you expected.

6. Can you provide references from two recent moves comparable to mine?

Great moving companies will be busy and will more than likely have customers who can speak about their experience. When you call the reference, be sure to ask, “Was there anything they could have done better?”

7. What licensing and insurance do you have and can you provide documentation?

While the federal government regulates all interstate (long distance) movers, not all states require local movers to be regulated by the state in which they operate. You can verify what states require this, through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

8. What other charges should I expect?

With long distance moves, expect extra charges such as origin and destination fees, which are typically administrative charges for obtaining and paying the local moving crews as well as fees for extra stops or shuttle trucks. You will also be charged for moving supplies such as boxes and moving paper but moving blankets and wardrobe boxes are typically provided free of charge as long as they are returned.

9. How will you protect my home during the move

Before a single item is moved, your movers will ask to do a walkthrough with you. When they do this they will notice what areas, such as wood floors, carpeting, bannisters or door jams may need protection before items are moved. Be sure to ask for their “Certificate of Liability Insurance.”

10. Do you offer insurance in case something gets lost or damaged?

Federal regulations only require movers to offer basic protection coverage at a rate of .60 per pound. This means your $5,000 crystal vase will be insured at the same rate as your frying pan. Consider additional Full Value Replacement or FVR coverage. You can get this either through your mover or through your home insurance agent.

11. Are your movers employees of the company?

If they are not, you could be liable if they hurt themselves on your property. The best moving companies also have a great support staff to address any of your move related questions or concerns before, during and after your move.

12. If I have a problem or question after hours or after my movers leave, whom do I call and how will it be resolved?

No matter how good your moving company, it’s always good to be prepared for the unexpected. Know ahead of time who you can call and when, should something go wrong. Have this information handy before moving day and be sure to document any damages in writing or in photographs.

Overly Attached to Too Much

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Editor’s Note: A great summary from my colleague Judy Dang about why some people have problems letting go. Even though the study’s focus is people who live with “Hoarding” behavior, I believe most can relate to at least some of the reasons.

NAPOHoardingArticleThumbnail

How Clutter Affects Your Mood

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Editor’s Note: This month I am pleased to publish the following article from, guest blogger and freelance writer, Jessica Kane.

How Clutter Affects Your Moodclutter 3 (1)

Not only does clutter look bad, but it also negatively affects your mood, and even your health. Consider some of the ways that clutter impacts how you feel, and how it affects others as well.

It Can Make You Feel Depressed and Overwhelmed

Anyone who comes home after a fast-paced day at work to an untidy space will feel more overwhelmed than normal. If the clutter is allowed to pile up higher and higher, it may seem impossible to clear it up alone, which complicates the problem for the person who has to deal with it. Chaotic surroundings are also an eyesore that affects everyone, and it can even cause feelings of despondency and depression. A work zone in disarray can be very uncomfortable and bothersome to coworkers, managers, and customers, and those who live with you or come to visit may also develop a bad mood when exposed to clutter.

It Stresses You Out

According to Psychology Today, clutter is an uncommonly recognized cause of stress that has a significant impact on one’s life. In fact, a messy room constantly sends signals to your brain to take action, whether you act upon those feelings or not. If you leave clutter to gather, it creates a sense of anxiety, urgency, and the need to get something done. Ultimately, clutter creates psychological pressure and continually disrupts inner harmony.

It Breaks Your Concentration

If you are trying to focus on finishing a project or even cooking a meal, any mess can get in the way of your concentration. If you are too busy looking around an unkempt room or searching for tools you need, it will be a lot harder to focus on any task that you have to do. It is also more difficult to study or think creatively in a messy area. This simple science applies whether or not the clutter is in a room in your home, or right at your desk.

It Affects Your Health

In theory, clutter can be defined a tons of unorganized objects scattered in an area. If these objects are particularly dirty or hazardous, then the clutter can make you ill, and even become life-threatening. According to Web MD, dust, dirt, animal dander, mold and other allergens circulate in the air and can cause allergic and asthmatic reactions. If clutter is allowed to continually stress you out in various ways, you may develop psychological conditions that require treatment.

Clutter causes both mental and physical stress, but is an issue that can easily be fixed by taking the time to properly organize and clean the area in question. Don’t be tempted to allow the clutter to pile up and create a problem for you now, and in the future. Fight back by organizing every area that is unbalanced, one piece at a time.

 

Is it time to move?

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Sometimes circumstances such as a remodel, a growing family, changes in your health or a job change, require you to move out of your home entirely or even partially. House in Box_1024

If one or more of the following scenarios matches your current situation, then it may make the most sense for you to move:

  • You are planning to remodel a significant portion of your home.
  • Your family has outgrown your existing home
  • You have more home then you need and don’t or can’t keep up with regular maintenance
  • You or your spouse just got a new job in a different state
  • It would cost you more to invest in your home to meet your current needs then it would to move
  • Property values in your neighborhood are on the decline
  • You have decided your current home and lifestyle no longer suit you.
  • You have ruled out a remodel for financial or other reasons
  • You want, or need to resize, downsize or minimize your home and it’s contents

While moving is almost always stressful, at LET’S MAKE ROOM we make it easier.  We can get all your unwanted items sold, donated or hauled.  We arrange for and direct your movers on pack and move day (even if you can’t be there) and we will even unpack, organize and set up everything in your new home* after the movers leave. Contact us to learn more.
* SF/Bay Area only or elsewhere by request