Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sell or donate? What you should know before you downsize

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Vintage Items Store

 

 

When you’re downsizing your home in preparation for moving, the first question you may ask yourself is, “Can I make some money on the stuff I already own?”

Much of what you own and no longer want can probably be donated as long as it’s still usable but if it pains you to donate items to charity because of the time, money and energy you spent acquiring them in the first place, here are some questions that can help break your paralysis around the dilemma of sell or donate?

Is it valuable?  

Sometimes the easiest way to find out is to do a little internet research on sites that sell similar items to see if any have sold recently and for how much? Be careful to check sold listings not just items for sale.  If there is a glut of similar items on the site, chances are they are waning in popularity.  You can check online auction sites such as e-bay, Etsy, Amazon or Shopify.  Another option is to get a formal appraisal but since this often is fee-based, consider it for items that you know have high value such as fine jewelry, furs or collectible art but not sure how much.

Is it an antique?

Just because something is old, does not mean it necessarily has value. Value is determined by how much a particular item demands in the marketplace now. Just because you love it, or your parents spent a fortune on it, doesn’t mean it has value in today’s market. One notable category for this is antique furniture, unless it was manufactured in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Mid-century modern furniture is particularly popular for the millennial generation of new buyers, those in their twenties and thirties now or those born in the twenty years after 1980.  Consider the fact that today’s young couples probably have no interest in either your grandmother’s china (unless it’s microwave and dishwasher safe), that early-19th century loveseat you bought at auction or those fabulous matching suits you wore during your career in the 80s and 90s.

Is it in excellent condition?

If it’s worn,  torn, stained, faded, damaged, needs more than a minor repair to make it functional or has a strange odor, chances are it won’t sell. But it could still be donated. Consider that oversized sectional sofa you have that’s just a few years old.  If the fabric looks new and it’s free of damage, it still probably won’t be easy to sell unless you do so through a community sale site such as on Craigslist or NextDoor and even then you should expect to get no more than 15%-20% of your original cost. (Remember someone also has to pay to have it transported out of your home.)

Is it a collectible item? 

Now here is the good news.  Vintage items such as art, jewelry, toys, used sporting goods, clothing and even some vintage office supplies are in demand now. Recently a client of mine was getting rid of an old banana-seat bicycle she’d kept.  Despite some metal rust and obvious wear, she was able to sell that bike for about $1,000!

Vintage is the new antique!

There are stores popping up all over now that carry a wide range of unique items that look like they were taken from a barn or a small town general store. Things like signage, county fair items, old store fixtures, barber shop poles and library card catalog drawers are finding buyers who feel nostalgic but don’t want their homes to resemble their grandparent’s homes.

If it’s clothing, is it less than 2 years old or more than 40 years old and in very good to excellent condition?

Resale of gently used designer and brand name clothing and accessories has become a big business. Sites like Thred Up and The Real Real have tapped into this market and so have brick and mortar consignment and thrift shops. But what if you have a basement or closet overstuffed with clothing you don’t want anymore that is more than two years old and maybe not quite “vintage?”  In general, consignment businesses are looking for items they know their customers want now! Don’t even think about bringing in that designer linen blouse if it’s still early spring.  Also, you probably won’t find a buyer for those unopened bags of clothes you ordered from online sites, unless they are designer brands, not just popular labels. If it’s a luxury item, such as a fur coat, you may be better off donating it as long as you have an appraisal or receipt that can testify to its current value.

Do I have time to do the legwork of selling?

This, more than any of the other five questions, should be the one you consider first. I left it for last because most people don’t even consider the value of their time when it comes to selling their household goods.  Also, if you are planning to move in less than a month, your selling ship has probably sailed. Y0u have much more urgent things to attend to especially if you are moving into a smaller home. Selling takes time. Time to research the value of your items to price them; Time to photograph or transport items (either by car or by mail) to buying-sites; Time to respond to inquiries or be available to show prospective buyers your items if you plan to sell them locally. When your move is imminent — that is in less than 30 days — time is not what you have an abundance of and you need that time to plan your move, hire your movers,  downsize what you can, pack, settle your accounts, plan your travel, meet with realtors, bankers, loan officers, etc.  If you have the time, then use it wisely.

Focus on the items that you know have value – think vintage collectibles or luxury items that would appeal to someone who is looking for what you have.

Donate it!

If you decide to donate, don’t let finding the perfect recipient for each item get in the way of your generosity. Find charities that you can drop off items to easily and do a internet search for charities that do truck pick ups nearby of furniture or larger quantities of donated items.  Keep in mind that charities that do truck pick ups, like Salvation Army, may need as much as 3-4 weeks notice. They also have the discretion to refuse your items if they are not in usable condition. Be sure to have a Plan B if this happens such as arranging for a hauler or recycler who will dispose of your items responsibly.

In short, if you are moving or selling your home, and want to minimize your stress,  try not to let the small decisions get in the way of the big ones!

 

 

This will make you more organized

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Less_Is_MoreHave you dreamed of having a tidy, organized home or resolved every year to be more organized? There are literally thousands of books, magazines, articles and blogs (mine included) that will offer you all types of tips and ideas for how to live a more uncluttered, organized life. If I were to narrow it down to one, very simple idea it would be this: Less stuff. Here’s just a handful of reasons why having less will actually give you more!

  • Less to distract you
  • Less to remind you of bad memories
  • Less things you can’t find when you need them
  • Less money spent on duplicates
  • Less time spent getting organized and more time being and feeling organized
  • Less arguing with your family because of clutter
  • Less to pack when you want to remodel or move
  • Less to unpack after you’ve moved
  • Less storage needed (and less money spent on outside storage)
  • Less chance you’ll overlook an important bill or task
  • Less chance you’ll misplace something important
  • Less stress on your family
  • Less loneliness when you’re too embarrassed to entertain at home
  • Less of what is cluttering your life!

I could probably go on and on because the benefits of having less of what you don’t love or need far outweighs the burden too much unnecessary stuff often brings.

It’s not about “minimalism” unless that’s your thing. It’s about choosing, every day, to love what you have and only keep what you need and use!

Just because something “can be used” doesn’t mean you should keep it. When was the last time you used it? What is the likelihood that you will use it? If you haven’t by now, chances are you won’t.

Do a web search for “donate stuff near me” and you will find a great list of charities eager for unwanted items in your community.

Jason Klare @jmklare with Everything but the House (EBTH) says it best:

Sometimes saying no to owning things can feel even better than saying yes to buying them in the first place. “

 

 

 

8 household items that can make you money

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The folks at EVERYTHING BUT THE HOUSE (EBTH) had this great slide show I wanted to share that shows 8 pretty common household items you may have that could earn you money. Keep them in mind next time you get on your next decluttering binge.

Healing the world, one pot-lid at a time

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Organized Kitchen From Above

To some people the idea of hiring a professional to help them organize their cluttered kitchen seems frivolous. After all, there are so many other truly tragic problems in the world.  Hunger. Disease. Poverty.  How could finding the best way to store a dozen pot lids compare to the problems of millions of people around the world struggling every day just to make ends meet?

When I think about the work I do as a professional organizer it reminds me that healing is also about controlling what my clients can control and recognizing that change even when personal and local can still have an impact.

It never ceases to gratify me when my clients express how much the transformation of their spaces  – whether it is their kitchens, offices, garages or bedrooms – has made them feel happier, calmer and more energized to tackle other challenge of their lives. Some have confided that the work we’ve done together made them happier in their relationships with their spouses, their children and their bosses.

Many of my clients do help solve the problems of the world. They include emergency room nurses, physicians, mothers, fathers and therapists of all types.  I think this is because the caretakers of the world are often the ones, not surprisingly, who are in the most need of  my help not because they are so disorganized but because they give their time over to the care of others and in so doing, have pushed their own well-being down their list of priorities.

So when a caretaker asks for my help, I know I’m doing more than just organizing their pots and pans, I’m making their lives just a little easier, a little less stressful, a little more peaceful.  It’s not brain surgery but it does make a difference.

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.