Posts Tagged ‘Home Organizing’

5 Great Reasons to Downsize Your Home

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Moving is expensive (and stressful)

The American Moving and Storage Association states that the average cost of an interstate household move is about $4,300 (distance of 1,225 miles) and the average cost of an intrastate move is about $2,300 (4 movers at $200 per hour). Both average moving costs are for 7,400 pounds. If you live in places like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York or Washington DC, the costs are even higher. Since movers typically charge based on volume or weight, it follows that the less you have the less it will cost.  This is just one great reason to downsize your home.  Here are four more great reasons to downsize your home, moving or not:

  1. You can create new memories. If you are holding onto stuff because you are afraid you won’t remember it, it may be time to curate what you own so you can make room for new experiences. Try photographing the things you want to remember but can’t or don’t want to take with you. Have them made into something special such as a memory quilt or photo album. If it’s your work you want to remember, perhaps others want to remember it too. Look into making a legacy donation or creating a special archive in your name.
  2. You won’t burden your kids. The saddest and most difficult task most children face is the death of their parents. Imagine how much more painful it would be if, on top of their grief, they also have to face the daunting task of emptying your home. Make it easier for them and start downsizing now. Let them remember and know you from what was important to you, not from the stuff that wasn’t.
  3. You’ll realize what’s really important.  When you make room for what really matters in your life, you discover what’s important and what isn’t. Do you really need 50 plastic food storage containers? Do you really wear 500 pairs of shoes? Do you really use that collection of rusted auto parts? Someone can use them but you don’t have to.
  4. You get to start fresh. If relocating to a smaller home means downsizing the stuff in your existing home, try to imagine your life in your new home. Perhaps you’ll finally have the lifestyle you’ve been dreaming about. Gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve made great choices about your health and wellbeing. Instead of being burdened by your stuff, you’re having fun enjoying your life!

 

3 hogs taking up space in your home (and they’re not your family)

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Are you moving, getting ready for a remodel or simply want more room in your home with less clutter? Here are three common space hogs and what you can do about them.

  1. Other people’s stuff. Did you agree to store things for your kids, relatives or friends for a few months but now those months have become years? Tell your kids or your Aunt Sadie you are moving or remodeling (even if you aren’t) and kindly ask them to arrange to get their items since you will need the space yourself. Set a firm deadline – a month is reasonable in most cases – and ask for their permission to sell or donate them — at your discretion — by a certain date if they don’t respond by that date.  That way you’ve done your due-diligence.

  2. Boxes from your last move (and likely the one before) that never got unpacked. Remember those boxes? I’m guessing you don’t but apparently they were so important that you bothered to move them at all. Chances are they contain one of the following:  Old papers, memorabilia, holiday supplies, stuff belonging to your parents (or kids)  that you just couldn’t face, or all those items that you don’t use but couldn’t throw away at the time.

    If you are moving, are you really going to pay to have those boxes moved again?!

    Here’s what to do about them starting with old papers: Unless you ran a small business, and they contain your tax records for the past seven years, get rid of them. Arrange to have a local shredding company pick them up  or take them there yourself but don’t waste your time shredding them. Memorabilia: We keep memories for just this moment. No one else cares about these memories except you. If you want to leave a legacy for your children, don’t make it those boxes that have gathered dust in your garage or attic. Holiday supplies: Unless you used them last year, donate them to a charity that accepts art supplies. Stuff that belonged to your parents (or kids) that you coudn’t face: Refer to #1 above.

  3. Magazines and old mail.  There are certain magazines I love to read but once I’ve read them, they get recycled. Except in rare cases such as vintage out-of-print magazines, most collectors and charities don’t take old magazines.  If you want to get rid of them, gather them up in small book boxes (so you can lift them) and carry them to your home’s recycling area. Most municipal recyclers won’t charge for paper recycling.  As for old mail, you have three options: 1) pay to have it all shred. Depending upon how much you have, this could be costly but it will be the most timesaving approach and insure your identity will be safe.  2) Have a sorting party. Invite two or more people to help you sort your piles into keep, shred or toss. Keep includes “vital records” such as original birth and death certificates or personal memories that can’t easily be replaced. Shred includes any document, opened or not, from a banking or financial institution if it’s not obvious junk mail. Don’t waste time opening them if you’re not sure. Toss is everything else. 3) Hire a professional organizer or productivity specialist that specializes in residential or home office organizing. They can advise you about what to keep and help you sort and dispose of your unwanted paper safely.

What to do with your stuff when later becomes now

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When it comes to the stuff in our homes, I believe a  continuum exists between two points  –  keep everything and save nothing. Most people fall somewhere in between.  Yes, there are extremes at both ends – those with a tendency to acquire an excessive amount and those with an equally extreme tendency to rid themselves of anything of value, sentimental or otherwise. But for most people, myself included, we all have sentimental attachments.

The other day I was wandering through my home and thinking about what I absolutely had to keep if I ever had to make the choice. As a professional organizer, it’s an exercise I practice regularly as a way to empathize with my clients.

It turned out the things I really felt strongly about were the items I have the most sentimental attachment to.  None of it was furniture, thankfully.  Mostly letters from my parents and close friends that could never be replaced. Photographs (the paper kind) from my childhood and “keepsakes” that I don’t need but that don’t take up much space either. I also have some written work that would be difficult to replace unless I took the time to scan it and for me, that’s not worth my time.

My husband has a box of important stuff related to his daughter, my step-daughter. And of course, I have a small  “treasure box” of memorabilia from our life together.

The only time I know I would go through this stuff is if I were moving or downsizing. Otherwise it stays hidden, for the most part.   But what does it mean not to have these things? Would it feel like my life had ended? What happens when you keep things with the intention of looking at them later and then find later is now?

Even if it comes unexpectedly, now should be when you get to re-read the letters, sort through the photos, recall the memories and maybe even tell the stories.  But now is often competing with time itself. The house has to be sold. The move has to happen. The remodel is about to start.  Sometimes, sadly, the owner of these things is no longer around for the task.

As an organizer, this is the most poignant part of my work; When I realize the meaning of that photo, award or stuffed animal toy only exists because of the person who imparted that meaning.  When it belongs to someone else, you can impart your own meaning, but then you are left with the same dilemma: Keep it or let it go?

I find it’s useful to consider the truth of these questions when later suddenly becomes now.

  • Would my life really be over if I let these things go or would I just feel that way?
  • Is everything meaningful or could I pick out just the things that are most important to me?
  • By keeping everything, am I placing a significant burden on my family to deal with later?
  • Am I keeping everything as an excuse to avoid creating new memories?
  • If this or that item should disappear would I miss it or attempt to replace it if I could?
  • Would taking a picture of it allow me to let it go if I had to?
  • Is there anyone who I know for certain who would want it (be careful with this one since you don’t want to obligate someone to take something they really don’t want).
  • Do I really love it or am I keeping it to satisfy someone else’s (perceived) need – such as when you keep it not because you like it but because it was a gift from someone you care about.

Life is like walking through a wonderful art museum. You get to admire and spend a little time with the art work that resonates the most with you. You may even be able to take pictures or buy postcards. But at the end of the day, you don’t get to keep what you saw. You do however get to remember how you felt.

The little red moving truck that could (and did)

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My client, Olivia, and I were standing in the family room of her mother’s home knee deep in moving boxes and overstuffed yard bags, packing items she had decided to get rid of when I came across a small plastic grocery bag.

Olivia (not her real name) and I had been working together for several sessions and by now we’d become well acquainted with one another. I have been exceedingly lucky and grateful to have worked with many wonderful people since launching LET’S MAKE ROOM,  Olivia is one of them.

She found me through a local consignment store where she had gone to sell some items belonging to her mother who had recently died after a long illness. Olivia had spent the last seven years seeing to her mother’s care at the home she shared with her with a single-minded devotion that spoke to the kind of person I was just beginning to know.

A woman of enormous grace and compassion, Olivia had given every ounce of her being to the care of her mother so that by the time she was ultimately relieved of this responsibility, she had little left, mentally or physically, to tackle the next phase she had set out to accomplish – making a home for herself in the home that had once been her mother’s.

She told the owner of the local consignment shop about her plight, about the overwhelming work ahead of her and that was how she first learned of me.

At our first meeting, Olivia stated her objectives: Empty the house of items she felt others would enjoy more than she wanted to keep them as quickly as possible to make room for the life she needed to continue on her own.

We agreed on a plan. I would work with her to help choose what items would go, pack everything up and arrange to have it all picked up by a local estate liquidation service.  The job involved the sorting, packing and organizing of well over 100 boxes and bags of items once belonging to her mother as well as other household items. I arranged for the service, a company called Remoovit, to pick up everything including furniture Olivia no longer wanted. We were just a few days away from having the estate liquidator’s 25′ truck arrive and we were nearing the end of the process when I found a small white grocery bag tucked into a box of toys in her family room closet.

I opened the bag and poured the contents on to the large folding table we were using as a workstation. We both stopped and looked at the still unrecognizable items, about a dozen brightly colored pieces of wood.  Then I realized there was something else inside the bag. I pulled it out.  “It’s a puzzle!”

Our attention immediately shifted to these colorful shapes on the table and together, just like two children, we excitedly began arranging the pieces. It took a minute or two and then there it was: An adorable red truck with big black wheels slightly overloaded with an array of items in different colors. We burst into loud shrieks of laughter as the irony hit us simultaneously.  It was the future. At least the immediate future. What had once been a child’s toy, most likely hers or her mother’s, saved and long hidden from view, had now become real. “I’m going to have it framed,” she said.

As an organizer who has seen far too many unrealized projects become clutter, I felt obligated to press her on this decision – “It it worth your time and money?”

“Absolutely,” she replied.

A few days passed. The estate liquidator’s truck came and went, filled with the boxes we had packed on their way to new and as yet unknown owners.  I moved on to other projects and other clients until one day about a week later I got a call from Olivia.

“Can you come over? I have something for you.”

I arrived at her house curious about what she had for me. Perhaps she had neglected to include an item she wanted sold or donated? I walked into her living room and she handed me a package wrapped in brown paper. I unwrapped it and there, behind glass, beautifully framed and mounted, with the words “LET’S MAKE ROOM’ engraved on a little metal plaque below, was the little red pickup truck.

“I made it for you,” Olivia said with a wide grin. I looked up at her. My eyes widened and then of course, began to tear up. “Thank you,” was all I could say. It was the best endorsement of my work I’ve ever received.

It hangs in my home office. When I look at it, I think of Olivia and the gift she gave me just by working with her: the realization of and how much I love what I do.

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.

 

Ten Reasons to Declutter Before You Sell Your Home

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Most Real Estate professionals will tell you to declutter your home before selling it. But why? Here are 10 reasons why removing clutter will make your home more attractive and thus more valuable to prospective buyers.

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Woman Tossing Clothes from Closet

  1. An uncluttered home looks more spacious and space is what most home buyers are looking for.
  2. A prospective buyer wants to imagine themselves in your home, not feel like an intruder. That’s why removing all personal items such as family photos, knickknacks, religious items, art work with a political theme, and excess furniture is so important.
  3. A cluttered home gives an impression that the house has not been well maintained, raising a prospective buyers suspicions of “unseen” damage.
  4. Clutter is a potential liability. If someone trips on your clutter, falls and injures themselves, you could be liable.
  5. Storage space, such as cabinets and closets that are partially empty convey the impression that the house has good storage available – a big selling point for most people.
  6. Older or worn furniture items, even if they may be important to you, can make a house seem dated and old.
  7. Clutter conveys a dirty home, even if you’re a tidy person.  If you’re not, by all means get it professionally cleaned!
  8. Too much stuff, makes it difficult to focus on a home’s best features.

  9. Don’t assume buyers will want to use your home the same way you do.  If you have a room set up as an office, take the advice of your Real Estate agent if they suggest staging it differently.
  10. Less clutter means less stuff for you to pack up and move, which will lower your cost of moving, and less stuff to unpack or clutter up your new home.

For more moving and organizing tips, visit us on Facebook.

The One Resolution You Can Keep

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If you were born between 1947 and 1964, when it comes to organizing your home, my guess is you are less Do-It-Yourselfer and more Do-It-For-ME.

new_years_resolution_listGetting more organized is a common New Year’s resolution but I believe when people say they want to “get” organized, what they really mean, is they want to “be” organized.

When you live in your home for 20, 30 or more years, raising a family or even taking care of aging parents, you’re going to have a lot of stuff. This is just reality for most people in their 50s and 60s. This doesn’t mean you are a “hoarder” – you’re just like everyone else. It’s just the idea of finally dealing with all that accumulated stuff is overwhelming and chances are you would rather spend time doing something you enjoy and that’s worth a lot!

If you’re a homeowner in your 50s or 60s  at some point you’re going to  grapple with the problem of downsizing while you can still be involved. Otherwise you’ll end up passing off the problem to your children or even to friends if you don’t have family or family nearby.

Downsizing your home is like saving for retirement. The earlier you start thinking about it, the better.

I had a client tell me recently she didn’t know what she would do if she had to downsize her home by herself.  She recently decided to move to save money for her retirement. The problem was that in order to move to a new home she had to sell her current home but her realtor wouldn’t even consider listing it until she dealt with all her stuff.

It took a crew of four professional organizers and less than two weeks to get everything sorted, donated, hauled and ready for her movers, including long forgotten items belonging to her parents in her attic and garage. When we were almost done, she told her realtor she wanted to “test the waters” to see if there was any interest in her home. Much to her delight, it sold the first day it was listed.

If your roof needed replacing would you do it yourself?

Home improvement projects, especially large organizing projects that involve whole homes or highly cluttered spaces like garages, are no different in many ways from a home remodel. It takes a plan, skill and muscle. And whatever you do, don’t just move or store what you no longer want. This will only cost you more in moving or storage charges in the long run.

Get it done, done well and done fast and you can actually check this one off your list of New Year’s resolutions.

 

 

 

10 Hidden Costs of Moving

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Benjamin Franklin hiding in grassDo you know what it will cost you to move your home? If you call a mover for a quote, don’t be surprised when the final cost far exceeds what you were quoted over the phone.

The cost of moving, especially if you are moving out-of-state and even just across town, can easily add up. Moving is stressful enough. Don’t be sticker-shocked.  Here’s what you need to know when hiring a professional mover:

  1. Get an onsite estimate – not just a quote over the phone.  Most established movers will provide a one-hour window of time during which you can expect to meet with their estimator.  Even if you are just moving across town it is worth your time to schedule an onsite estimate.  Quotes over the phone are typically under-estimated because they don’t include other hidden costs such as “long carries” – an extra charge for when a mover has to walk a long way between their truck and your front door. They also don’t include extra charges for stairs or fuel surcharges.
  2. Review and compare the estimates carefully. Long Distance moves are estimated based on weight. Local moves are estimated based on time.  Tariff’s for long distance moves are set by law but estimates can still vary if a company over-estimates the weight of your items. Get at least two estimates but three are ideal. I recently had a client who received two estimates that were roughly the same but a third was significantly higher. Compare extra fees such as the cost of boxes, labor time, fuel surcharges and even sales tax. Other fees for disconnection of appliances and crating are generally extra.   Since some of these extra fees are often based as a percentage of the weight – having an accurate weight is important.StarStickyNote
  3. Decide what you are moving ahead of time. Take the time before you meet with movers to decide  what furniture you are moving.  Don’t schedule the estimate until you’ve done this because the estimate will depend on either the quantity of items you are moving (for local moves) or the weight (for long distance moves).  Go through your house room-by-room and don’t forget your storage areas – garage, basement, attic, shed – as well as your patio or terrace. Place a bright colored label or sticky-note on every piece of furniture and large item you are moving. Don’t worry about deciding what you want to do with the things you are not taking. Just focus on the things you want. Don’t forget large lamps, speakers, artwork, fixtures, shelving units or exercise equipment.  Here’s another reason to do an onsite estimate:  A couple I know relied on a phone estimate but because they had so much stuff, as a result the movers had to return for another run since they estimated the move (by phone) for a smaller truck size. It ended up costing them almost double what they were quoted.
  4. Opt for added insurance. This is the most frequently overlooked cost of moving and yet for a relatively small amount it can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, particularly if you are moving a long distance.  By law all professional movers must offer “Basic Coverage” which currently only insures your possessions at a rate of .60 per pound. This means that from an insurance standpoint, your valuable crystal china bowl will be valued at the same rate as your frying pan if they weigh roughly the same amount.  Insurance is especially important if you are moving high value items such as original artwork, expensive electronics, fragile fixtures, antiques or valuable china.  Make sure your movers provide “actual value” or “full replacement value” insurance options to you before hiring them. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars extra for insurance and compare quotes across movers. Even if your furniture is not high value, consider the cost of replacing it. You’ll still need furniture in your new home even if it’s furniture you’ve owned for years.  Moving trucks have been known to break down. If your household goods need to be moved from one truck to another, mid-stream, during a rain storm, you’ll want to know your possessions are insured. (This is what happened to me on one of my three, cross country moves. Fortunately I had full replacement value insurance that covered my losses completely).
  5. Decide whether you will pack or whether you want the movers to pack for you. The cost of having professional movers pack is roughly the same as what they charge for labor time which can add to the cost but it may make sense if you are pressed for time, need to work or be at your new home or are physically unable (or unwilling) to pack your whole house.  It also makes sense from a liability standpoint. If you pack a box and one of the movers accidentally drops it, they are not liable for the damage to the contents if it’s determined by the insurance adjustor that it was packed inadequately.  If you can afford it, take advantage of your mover’s professional packing services , especially for your high value or fragile items.  You can always save money on labor time if you pack your non-fragile items such as books, office supplies, kitchen items, linens, nicknacks yourself.
  6. Don’t pack your clothes. Most professional movers will move your dresser or wardrobes, clothes and all, if you just leave them there. Be sure to remove any fragile items however as these could be damaged during transport. Also, you don’t need to pack your hanging clothing as most professional movers will pack these for you, typically at no extra charge.
  7. Ask for discounts. Several professional movers will offer a variety of discounts. One company I worked with recently offered a senior discount which covered the cost of the “fuel surcharge.”  Others have discount arrangements with real estate companies or other businesses.  Ask your employer or real estate agent for a recommendation.
  8. Be ready to move! In general, local movers charge by the hour. Don’t wait till moving day to finish your packing or to defrost your refrigerator if you were planning on taking it with you. This will cost you!  If you are moving long distance,  this will add to the stress of your move day if you are not ready when the movers arrive or if you schedule something else to occur on moving day.  Don’t water your plants on move day or pack wet laundry – movers wont take them.
  9. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you get two estimates and one is higher from your preferred mover, let them know you want to work with them. If they want your business, they will try to work with you. Know who the local agent/represen
    Moving Crew from Shamrock Movers

    My favorite moving crew

    tative is for your moving company and keep their number handy in case of any problems.  The estimator is the sales person but it’s the local agent/owner that has the authority to correct any problems.

  10. Tips are permitted. While it’s not expected, the move experience you have often comes down to the driver and the moving crew.  Generally these people operate on a thin margin. They are not getting the money you pay the moving company but they work the hardest. Set aside some extra cash to tip your movers and drivers for good service. I recommend tipping movers $3-$4 for each hour they worked and tip the driver/lead a little bit more.

If you would like other tips on how to have a stress-free move, call us! We’re not movers but we can manage every step of your move, including unpacking and home-setup,  so you can step back into your new home like you’ve been there forever.

 

 

 

 

 

The Yoga of Organizing

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My friend and Yogini extraordinaire, Deborah Saliby, called me on Sunday asking for my advice.

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Deborah Saliby, Yoga for Health

Deborah has been teaching Yoga for more than thirty years.  There are a lot of Yoga teachers out there but relatively few hold the special certification that she does in Iyengar training. The certification signifies that she has undergone extensive training as an instructor in a particular method of Hatha Yoga called Iyengar, named for B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the foremost Yoga teachers in the world.

Whenever I have a question about Yoga, I call Deborah.  The moment I feel like my body, mind and spirit are crying out for a little restoration, Deborah is the first person I think of.  On Sunday, however, after her class, Deborah’s mind and spirit were crying out for a different kind of restoration, in her home.  I am grateful she called me.

“I want to organize three closets in my house,” she told me,
“but I’m not sure where to start.” She asked if I would mind sharing some of my professional organizing tips.  “Of course,” I told her. I enjoy it when anyone calls me with a specific organizing question. To me if you are willing to ask the question, you are definitely in the mindset to get organized.

As a professional organizer,  the most common questions I get involve the how and where of organizing, as in “how do I do this?” or “where do I start?”  Typically this follows an extended period of gradual awareness which eventually transforms into “I really wish my (fill in the blank) was more organized. But it’s not until the defining moment when the thought, “today is the day I’m going to do something about it,” that change can occur.

For my friend Deborah that moment came after she got home from teaching one of the many Yoga classes she leads in Berkeley, California.

“So where do you want to start?” I asked. “I don’t know, she said. So I probed a little more. “Which of your closets bugs you the most, that is, which has the most impact on your daily life? “My bedroom closet where I keep all my clothes,” she said, with a little giggle, “you know how much I love to shop?”

“Okay,” I said. “So why do you want to do this at all?” She explained to me that she wanted to hold a sidewalk sale. “Yes,” I said, “that’s good, but why do you want to get organized?” I asked again. “Because I can’t stand looking at the mess in my closet anymore. I know I have a lot of nice things in there that I don’t want anymore and half the time I can’t find what I’m looking for. I’m wasting time and I want to be able to wear what I love.”

Deborah understood what was bothering her about her closet but even more she knew what organizing it would mean to her (not to anyone else) and she was motivated. Plus she had the added incentive of making a little extra money. I told her, “Yeah, you could sell all the clothes you don’t want anymore and with the money you make go out and buy new ones.”  We both laughed.

I offered Deborah a step-by-step plan to get all three of her closets organized.  I shared some strategies for how to overcome some predictable obstacles such as what to do with items that had more “emotional value” than “wear-value.”  I took her through exactly what I would do with her if I were physically doing the work with her and then I asked her if she had any questions. “Nope, I’ve got it.”

Before we hung up I told her to feel free to call me when she was done with the first closet.  Even though Deborah was doing this for herself, I wanted her to know that I was interested in hearing about her progress.

The next day, Deborah did call. She sounded really happy.  She told me how she had followed my plan including emptying the entire closet first, sorting items by category, parting with what she no longer used, wore, or loved and got rid of things that brought in bad “mojo.”  She reorganized the items she kept by type and color and put aside those things she plans to include in her sidewalk sale.  In total it took her two hours. I was impressed.

“How do you feel now?” I asked her, “Great! Just walking past my closet makes me happy.”Neat Closet

I offered Deborah some final tips about items she was still undecided about and suggested some ways to contain items on the shelves using what she already had around her house, before saying goodbye.

After we hung up I went in to my living room and took a big breath and stretched.  Thank you for that, Deborah.

Have a question about organizing? Getting ready to move or start a home renovation project and need to get things packed, donated and organized? Call or email me. I promise you’ll come away with something you can use.

As I told Deborah, I love to be a catalyst for change.

Are You A Hider or A Piler?

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Is your stuff – paper, possessions, or supplies – out in the open where you can see it?
Do you forget, ignore or lose what you can’t see?
For you, is out of sight is out of mind?’

On the other hand do you prefer to have everything you own tucked away  – in a drawer, cabinet, or closet?
Do you feel unsettled, anxious or out-of-control when things are not stored, stowed or put away?
Do people always remark at how tidy your home looks?

If the first example sounds more like you, consider yourself a Piler.  On the other hand, if the second example resonates more strongly with you, you are probably a Hider.

The terms Hider and Piler represent two types on an organizing continuum. Generally people fall somewhere along the continuum preferring one kind of organizing habit over another. These are not absolutes. Understanding your – and others – preferred type can help you learn ways to be and stay organized as well as to help you better understand the habits of others. For couples, its common for one partner to be a Hider and the other a Piler. Understanding your partner’s style and how they think about organizing will help keep the peace at home.

The most important thing to know is that both Hiders and Pilers can be equally organized or disorganized.

Take a look at the pictures below:

The column on the left represents two versions of a Piler organizing style: An organized Piler, as represented by the store that sells beads and other jewelry making s

upplies and a disorganized Piler  as illustrated by the photo of the cluttered office.

The column on the right represents two versions of a Hider organizing stye – an organized Hider as  represented by the physician’s examination room and a disorganized Hider as exemplified by the cluttered drawer.

Organizing styles can be dictated by function – such as the need for safe and sanitary conditions as in a doctor’s office or the need for customers to find what they are looking for quickly and easily as in the bead store example. For most people, however, organizing styles emerge from our individual personalities, learned habits or in some cases, physical or emotional conditions.

It’s helpful to think of Hider and Piler as preferences, rather than extremes, with most people falling somewhere between them but leaning towards one or another at varying degrees.

While I have not conducted a scientific study about organizing preferences, in my experience as a professional organizer, I have found that Hiders and Pilers also share some other characteristics.

For example, Pilers, because they like items out where they can seem them, may not benefit as much from conventional organizing methods.  An example of this is a standard two-drawer file cabinet.  A better solution for a Piler is an open file drawer on wheels that allows them to see and file their papers and then stow them away as needed.

Many of my clients who I would consider Pilers are artists, creative types or visual learners. They are stimulated by various forms of color, design, objects, and words. A Piler who does not feel comfortable expressing himself in a particular environment may find substitutes for filling the space in other ways.

An example of this are artists who earn income in an office setting. To compensate for the design of a standard office cubicle – with things like closed, overhead bins – artists and other Pilers often fill their surfaces with paper, piles or other bulky supplies. When I notice a client doing this, once we’ve worked together on organizing the paper,  I often recommend they find objects, artwork or photographs to fill the space (in lieu of the paper) that inspire them.

Conversely, a Hider may feel torn between her need for order and the desire to consume, purchase or own items of perceived value.  From the outside, everything looks fine, even beautiful. Until you open a drawer, cabinet or closet.  Then suddenly everything spills out in a jumble.   This is what I call the “Jack-in-the-box” phenomenon.

Typically hiders call me when their clutter starts creeping out from the drawers, cabinets and closets because they’ve run out of room.  I often recommend to Hiders that they examine their beliefs about what they value so that they can begin to edit down what they have.  I also remind them that storage areas are valuable ‘real estate.’ If they want to cut down on the clutter-creep they are either going to have to maximize the real estate, through editing, or else be at risk of spending more to house thier stuff. The worst case scenario is when people buy bigger homes or invest in expensive storage units to accommodate items they don’t use, want or need.

A hider can also lean towards the other extreme, purging themselves of all but the minimum necessities, sometimes prematurely, maintaining a tidy space albeit a bit sterile or overly staged.

In the fall I will be conducting an online seminar about Hiders and Pilers. If you are interested or want more information, email me at Lis@letsmakeroom.com.