Don’t get organized this year!

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Tranquil Living Room with Dog

Photo by Erica Islas


It’s a new year. A fresh start.  “This is the year I will finally get organized!” You promised yourself you’d do it last year (and the year before).

Alas, it all feels too overwhelming. You don’t know where to start. You don’t have a plan in place. Deep down you know you can’t do it alone.

As a veteran professional organizer, move manager, personal coach and owner of LET’S MAKE ROOM, I know what keeps my clients  “stuck” in their clutter.

5 Tips To Finding Your Real Goal

TIP#1 – Stop setting “get organized” as your goal

That’s like saying, I want to exercise more. Really? What is it that you want from exercise?

To feel better, be more active, get your blood sugar under control? Or perhaps its train for a fitness event like a marathon?

Exercise, like organizing, is part of the process that gets you to your goals but it isn’t the goal itself.

TIP#2 – Set a goal that answers the question, “If everything is organized just the way I want, what would I be able to do that I can’t do now?

Imagine yourself sitting in the area you want organized. It could be your bedroom, your closet, your dining room, your office, or even your garage. What is it that you’d be able to do there that you can’t do now?

Sleep better? Get dressed quickly? Find what you need? Sit, eat, and perhaps even entertain at your dining room table? Pay your taxes on time? Easily pack for your family camping trip and know where to return everything when you return?

In other words, what does “get organized” get you? Make that your goal!

TIP#3 – Think about how you’ll  feel when you accomplish what you really want.  

You will feel more relaxed, less stressed, and energized. You will have more fun, enjoy your life, fight less with your spouse or kids, and spend more quality time with them or alone.

Imagine feeling calm when your home is tidy.  A tidy home not only creates the physical space to help you find what you need.  It also creates the room in your brain to think more clearly and be more mindful.

TIP#4 – Combine your answers to TIP #3 and TIP #4 into a new goal. Here are some examples:

  • I want better quality sleep so I can feel more relaxed and less stressed.
  • Find my clothes quickly and easily so I can feel less rushed in the morning
  • Invite friends over to dinner so I can try out a new recipe, have fun with people I care about feel less isolated.
  • Go on a camping trip with my family or friends and know I have everything I need ahead of time.
  • Feel good giving away the things in my life that no longer serve me and make room for the things I truly love.

Notice, the word organize does not appear in either of these goals. It may be part of the process to get what you want. Or it may not.

Start with the real goal.  Then determine if organizing is part of the process. Is getting decluttered what’s needed? If so, how are you going to do it?

TIP#5 – Understand your talents and challenges and get help if you need it.

Not everyone has the brain neurons, skills, or training needed to organize their lives.

If you’ve tried getting organized year after year, there’s a good reason why you’re not succeeding. And it’s not because you’re lazy, stupid, or crazy!

When it’s time for help

Chronically disorganized people have underlying physical or emotional conditions. These can interfere with the ability to obtain or practice organizing skills.

Consider getting help. Too overwhelmed to do it yourself? Hire a Professional Organizer. Join a support group or a peer group facilitated by a professional organizer. My colleague Sherri Curley from The Practical Sort offers small virtual groups. Check her out!

If clutter is creating emotional stress or a safety hazard for you or a family member, consider professional help from a therapist or mental health agency offering services for those with hoarding disorders.

Consider hiring an organizing coach who specializes in working with those with ADHD.

Chronic disorganization has many causes. Examples include ADHD, unresolved grief, childhood trauma, depression, and anxiety. Growing up with others who were either exceedingly sloppy or tidy can also contribute to chronic disorganization.

Intellect and talent have nothing to do with being organized or disorganized

Some of the most brilliant people alive, and in history, such as artists, presidents, CEOs, musicians, and royalty are chronically disorganized.

Get started!

But let’s say your clutter is just a function of living in your home for 10, 20, or more years. Or you don’t have a lot of clutter, just some trouble spots you’d like to work on but you haven’t had the time to tackle it.

The same 5 tips apply. – Know what your end goal is first. To help, I’ve included a fill-in-the-blank sentence you can use to state your goal.

“I want my _________________________ (Living area, Storage area, Work area. Be specific) more organized so I will be able to _______________________. This is important to me because I will feel ________________________. 

Here are a couple of examples:

I want my whole home decluttered so I will be able to hire movers to pack and move me to my new home. This will enable me to sell my old home and know that I won’t experience the stress of moving that I’ve had many times before.

I want to organize and declutter our rarely used spare room into a home craft area so I can have space to work on the projects that I enjoy without cluttering up our dining room table anymore. This is important to me because I know I won’t have to rush to clear the dining table every time I want to eat or entertain. That will make me feel calmer and more excited about the prospect of having people over.

Happy New Year!

 

Why there is no Miscellaneous Store

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My neighbor, knowing my line of work, left me this cartoon yesterday which of course made me laugh.  It also got me thinking.

I often joke to my clients, you can say “crap” (or other expletives) just don’t say miscellaneous.  A little professional organizer humor. It’s also a reminder that there is no such thing as the Miscellaneous Store.  I’ve never seen a store aisle or store directory labeled as Miscellaneous. 

Amazon and it’s vendors clearly understand that people don’t have time to sort and identify all the little knick-knacks of our lives.  If you search the word miscellaneous on Amazon you’ll find an array of unrelated items that don’t have any apparent connection. Everything from colorful swim shorts to automotive engine parts to a denim tablecloth. There’s even something called a pantry wardrobe, presumably to contain all your “miscellaneous” pantry and wardrobe items.  (Doesn’t everybody keep their canned peas with their pajamas?)

For a professional organizer, miscellaneous is a meaningless word.

There is no way to identify a miscellaneous item – it implies a quantity – for sorting or categorizing.  Where do you donate miscellaneous to? We can’t assign a home to something called miscellaneous if we don’t first identify what it is and how it’s used.  Junk drawers are notorious for containing miscellaneous items but try and find something in a junk drawer  and you’ll probably leave empty-handed.

Miscellaneous is the catchall term for things that we commonly think of as clutter. The stuff (or crap) that we don’t want to spend the time sorting, purging, assigning a home to or containing.

We kid ourselves into thinking, we can always find it, if it’s in the “junk” drawer, but only if you can see what’s there. A junk drawer is nothing more than a cluttered garage in miniature.

When a client hires us to declutter their garage, We often show them how we will do it by using their junk drawer (or some similar storage area) and they get the idea right away! I also learn how they make decisions.

How we organize one thing is how we organize everything

Junk drawers, filled with “miscellaneous” stuff, are the perfect metaphors for how we organize everything.  There’s nothing wrong with this. We have busy lives and not enough time to deal with it all.  It’s okay to pick and choose how we spend our time and what we prioritize.  Something’s gotta give.

So we buy a package of eight batteries when we only need two and the rest have to go somewhere. We put them in the junk drawer along with the rubber bands; half used package of oven bulbs; the small screwdriver; our kiddo’s missing puzzle piece; the pencil sharpener; the sewing kit; the half used bottle of aspirin; and that “part” that came from something else but we don’t remember what but we keep in anyway, just in case.

Then when we can’t find the thing we’re looking for, we go out and get it at the store that sells,  “Miscellaneous Junk Drawer Crap.”

For a quick primer on how to organize a junk drawer, take a look at this video we did a while back.

 

 

Decluttering? How to decide what stays or goes

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If you are in the throws of decluttering, it’s likely you’ll get stuck.  This is because you can’t decide what to keep or go. Just the thought makes the inside of your brain feel like this:

You are probably thinking something along these lines…

  • But my best friend gave it to me  (even though it’s not really me).
  • I spent a lot of money for this five years ago, I can’t just get rid of it!
  • It’s useful but I just don’t have a use for it now. Maybe I should hold onto it, just in case.
  • It may be worth something!
  • But it belonged to my grandmother!
  • I may need it someday.
  • I can’t think about this now, I’ll deal with it later.

This is what really happens when we start to declutter. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about how we think about the stuff.

Decluttering is hard! It’s physical, mental and emotional

Stop beating yourself up for not having done it. The key is knowing what questions to ask yourself when you are considering whether or not to keep something.

Here are a few questions to consider next time you are facing a pile of donatable stuff that you want to declutter. The most important of these is… Do I love it? Always err on keeping something you truly love.  Knowing what you love is a good litmus test for everything else.

  1. If I saw it again in a store, would I buy it?
  2. If it suddenly disappeared would I miss it?
  3. Does it bring up bad memories?
  4. Do I use it now or at least once a year?
  5. If I saw it at a thrift job would I pay a $1 for it? If not, toss it.

So what’s your decision? Keep, Donate or Toss?

What’s your decluttering personality? Stay tuned for my next post.

I am a human being, not a robot

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A client told me recently she wrote a review of us on Google but I never saw it.

Typically, when one of our clients takes the time to post a review, I get notified, usually within 24 hours, so I can reply back in a reasonable time frame. It occurred to me, if her review wasn’t visible, were there other reviews that were “lost?”

I did everything I could to try and resolve the issue by myself.  I reviewed all the FAQ pages and help pages. Nothing worked. My client was kind enough to repost her review but I still could not see it. I realized I would have to speak with a live person at Google who could address my issue. I know some of you are laughing right now or mumbling, “good luck with that!”

The Help page kept circling me back to the same FAQ page with answers that did not address my particular issue. Crazy-making to say the least!

There is nothing more frustrating than needing help, attempting to seek help and not getting help.

A long time ago, an old boss told me I can get things done like “a dog on a bone.”   Eventually, after much digging,  I found a page in Google where I could request a call back. When that the call came in, I was was transferred twice. Each time I had to explain the issue again. Finally, I spoke to someone who took ownership of my concern and explained what he would do for me. He also said he would follow up with an email so I would have his contact information.

Almost immediately, I received his email response.  It included a case number and not surprisingly, it included the usual boilerplate response – “we know how important reviews are to your business, blah, blah, blah. Try this. Try that.” But at least now, I was able to check in periodically, by email, to get a status on what had happened to my missing review.

One of those absurd suggestions was to ask recent clients whether or not they had submitted reviews?

Big companies often request “feedback” after every interaction. I find this incredibly annoying.  As a solo, woman-owned business,  reviews from our clients do more than attract new customers. They help others know what we can do for them.  They create awareness that our type of service even exists. I value them tremendously but I never directly ask for feedback let alone ask for it repeatedly.

At LET’S MAKE ROOM, we wait till the project is done and simply ask if they would consider writing a review. If they say yes, I send them a link. They are not committed to anything.

Customer service has become so much worse. I’ll go out on a limb and say, I don’t think I’m alone here.

Here are the ways I would like to see every customer service interaction play out:

  1. Treat me like a unique human being. I am not a robot.
  2. Acknowledge our relationship. Here are some examples: “I remember, we organized your garage in 2018 so your new car could go fit there. Is it time for a refresher?” Or, “We helped you move into your new home when your kids were just infants, how are they?” Or “I managed your long-distance move. How are you enjoying your new life?”
  3. Say it. Mean it. Do it. Give me a reason to trust you.
  4. Make me glad I’m your customer. Of all the other choices I have, thank me for choosing you!
  5. Exceed my expectations. Go the extra mile.
  6. Treat me like a respected relative. Convince me that you have my back.
  7. Stop apologizing for the inconvenience you caused. It doesn’t help. Take ownership of the issue and fix it.
  8. Respect my time. Don’t assume I will bother to review you just because you did your job.
  9. Make getting in touch with a live human being easy. 

 

 

After 200 hours, I have exciting news to share!

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After two learning-filled years and over 200 hours of coursework and training, I am excited to announce I am now offering my professional services as a personal coach.

Don’t worry! LET’S MAKE ROOM’s unique team-based home organizing, household editing and move management services are not going away. In fact, my team has made it possible for me to take my work to the next level.

I am making room for what matters most to me: Serving clients beyond the San Francisco Bay Area who want to find better ways to manage their lives with confidence and competence. (I will also have a new website soon just for my coaching but LET’S MAKE ROOM will still be here.)

So, what does this mean for you? 

Because I continue to manage LET’S MAKE ROOM’s projects, my coaching schedule is limited. However right now I am offering my coaching at a special “friends and family” rate and our first session together is FREE!

Skip to the end of this post to sign up for this no obligation, complimentary engagement session using this link but before you do, I’d like to share a story with you.

I launched LET’S MAKE ROOM in 2009 shortly after I discovered the power getting organized had in my own life. It literally set off a chain reaction in my brain that led me to start my own successful business.

Three years ago, when I turned 60, I realized I wanted to help my clients in a more personal and admittedly, less physical way. I had no idea what to do or where to start. After much internal brain wrangling, I found and sought the help of a wonderful coach named Christine Joseph, with whom I shared a similar background.

With Christine’s provocative questions, support and encouragement, I enrolled in my first coaching class … just to test the waters. As I advanced through the program as well as through my own personal experience as a coaching client, I discovered the value of coaching and the opening for change it gave me.

What is coaching?

Coaching is an extraordinary, co-created relationship between a trained practitioner and an individual (or group) rooted in the science of neurobiology.

With the help of a coach, your self-awareness and wisdom increases.  You see how existing perceptions you hold can stifle or empower you.  Most importantly you receive the gift of being heard, seen and understood.

You learn to be more curious and less self-critical. These new insights give you the power to make different choices in your life.

I like to say in coaching, you go from feeling like a feather in the wind to being the wind itself. Strong, powerful, and impactful. 

The coach-client relationship starts from the assumption that you are the expert about yourself and as your coach I am more like an experienced field guide helping you find your way forward. 

In contrast to psychotherapy, which enhances your ability to function emotionally or mentally, personal coaching focuses on your values, perceptions, goals and potential.  It is assumed that you are inherently able to function in your everyday life or have the ability to do so.

Let’s Chat

I encourage you to learn more about coaching by scheduling a complimentary “engagement” session with me. 

I have lots of resources and even though the engagement session is free, I want it to be worth your time!

Here’s what you can expect during our 45-minute session:

  • Briefly share what’s on your mind – what made you book the session?
  • Learn how we work together and what I will request from you in advance to enhance our coaching relationship.
  • Receive the information you need to decide whether coaching is right for you and if not, where else you could go for help.  (E.g., ADHD coach, a therapist, a career counselor, etc.)

All coaching appointments are virtual, via Zoom or phone. If you’re curious, I want to make the time for you.

I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to those of you who have supported me over these past 14 years running LET’S MAKE ROOM.  Even if you’re not seeking coaching right now, I’d love to hear from you so I can thank you for being a part of my community.

With deep appreciation,

Lis McKinley, M.A., CPO® APC* Candidate
*Accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF)

 

How to declutter a lifetime of stuff

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It’s time to sell your home, or your parents home.  Only problem? It contains 30, 40 or more years worth of stuff.  Your real estate agent says, “I can’t list this house until you declutter!”

Don’t panic.

The good news is that if you live in an area that’s in high demand, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll probably sell your home for a lot more than you or your parents paid for it.

Of course, recent interest rate hikes  mean a smaller pool of buyers. If this means delaying the sale of your home, this could actually be a good thing.  If the house is filled with 30, 40 or more years of stuff, you’re going to need time to get the job done.  You can start planning for the “big downsize” and perhaps by the time you’re ready, interest rates will have flattened or lowered. 

There’s a formula about time and money that’s significant here.

If you just have time, you have options.

If you have both money and some time, you have more options.

No time and no money? Start praying for either.

According to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), more than half of Americans are  overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have. Most Americans have no idea what to do with it or find it too complicated to deal with so they let it build up, taking over their homes and offices.

Time Only

More time means you can chip away at the process of decluttering your home.  It could take weeks, months or even years depending upon how much stuff you have and your habit (or lack thereof) of decluttering over time. With a plan, however, it can be done.

If it all feels too overwhelming, you can always hire an organizing coach to help you come up with a plan you can execute alone or with help.  You can also hire a solo professional organizer to work with you over time. Just don’t expect one organizer to get your home decluttered in a week if you haven’t done anything in years!

Money and a little time

If you have less time to spare but expect a good return on the investment you made in your home, there is a relatively quick way you can get rid of years of clutter.  This is a good option if you are pressed to get your home on the market soon. Keep in mind, this is the more costly option.  Think of it as the price you pay for keeping years and years worth of stuff you didn’t need, never used, never purged or kept “just in case.”

This solution involves hiring a professional organizing company that offers a team-based or crew-based approach to getting your home decluttered. When you go this route you are multiplying the hands-on help and expertise you could get from one professional organizer. 

Think of this as the pre-remodel phase of getting your home readied for sale. I call it the “pre-model.”  How long does it take? It depends on how large and how cluttered your home is AND how quickly you can make decisions and how much energy you have.

What organizers can and can’t do

What organizers can’t do is tell you what to keep. This is not their job. That is your decision. You still have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. That being said, most good organizers make this process easier by pre-sorting and supporting or even humoring you to help you make decisions along the way. 

If you’re in mid-life, you may have enough energy to make decisions, with the help of a great team, for several hours.  Seniors and those with cognitive conditions can take longer or only have enough energy to make decisions for a shorter time.  A qualified professional organizing company will take this into account when planning your project.

When you hire a company that can thoroughly and efficiently get your home downsized, this doesn’t mean you can go off to Tahiti while they work. It means that the organizers will take care of most if not all of the physical and logistical demands of getting your home downsized and decluttered.

This could include everything from arranging for haulers, scheduling charity pick ups. selling your unwanted items, purchasing supplies, ordering dumpsters, arranging for document shredding and re-organizing all your retained items until the movers come. It also means sorting and containing everything you don’t want or need from donated items to trash.

What will help you? 

Keep only what you enjoy, what you use or would seriously miss if it disappeared. Your new home may be half the size or your current home. Remember you are doing this for a reason. No object is more important than you are.   

 

13 Confessions of a Professional Organizer

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Secret


When I tell people I’m a professional organizer, they almost always ask, “is your house immaculate?”

In the early years of my career as a professional organizer, I dodged the question because I didn’t want others to think I wasn’t perfectly organized.

Over time I came to realize that there is no such thing.

When it comes to having a fulfilling, organized life, perfection will get in the way every time.   I don’t want to be model of perfection.   More importantly,  I don’t want my clients to expect that of themselves.

Having a home that you enjoy, where you can spend time relaxing, enjoying time with family and friends, pursuing your interests and taking care of the business of your life, is far more important than having a perfectly organized life. There is no such thing. Life is messy.

The question about how organized I am in real life prompted me to think about other truths  about my personal approach to organization.

So here are 13 confessions about me as professional organizer that may surprise you:

    1. My house is not organized perfectly. It’s tidy and I can generally, though not always, find what I’m looking for.  My home is not a Pinterest post or a cover of Architectural Digest.  My style is to organize for my real life, not a fantasy life that I could never achieve let alone maintain.
    2. I don’t have an opinion about what my clients keep, donate or toss. The only time I do care is when I see them make decisions that seem contrary to their goals.  In that case I will ask their permission to gently point it out.
    3. The papers I keep are contained in three places in my home. One is a small file box. Another is an old suitcase that belonged to my mother. The third is a single file drawer. My paper supplies are kept in a drawer and on a shelf.
    4. I rarely scan anything. The only exception when I need to scan or upload a document to share.
    5. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist. I have no short term memory.

    6. I can’t fold a fitted sheet like Martha Stewart. (Believe me I’ve tried dozens of times).  However,  I can make it tidy in a linen closet.
    7. If it’s trash, I don’t feel bad about tossing it.  I do my best to donate or recycle it but the world is not set up yet for zero waste and that’s not my fault. I appreciate sites such as Stopwaste.org when I want to recycle something less typical.
    8. I don’t watch TV shows about organizing or hoarding.
    9. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I don’t decant into containers.  If you want everything in your kitchen, pantry or home to be labeled in pretty, matching ceramic containers, as organizers we are happy to do it.
    10. We don’t have a garage. The previous owners of our home took it down to put in another room. We use it as a TV and exercise area. It has a large storage cabinet we use for holiday supplies, camping, memorabilia, sporting goods and games. Behind it is where I store all my supplies for work. My car is parked in a driveway.
    11. I never liked the term “professional organizer.” Unfortunately they haven’t come up with anything better.
    12. My team organizes better than I do but I know what works and I am great at managing projects, people and getting things done.
    13. When I cook, my kitchen becomes a disaster. I am not an “organized cook.” I guess that’s because I’m focused on the food itself, not on the dish that didn’t get washed, the counter that didn’t get wiped or the container of cream that didn’t get put away. My husband is an incredibly organized cook.

Free Yourself of Paper Clutter Fear

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Ripping apart fear

Most people would rather have a root canal than organize their paper. I have yet to find anyone who likes to organize their paper clutter.

Bills, documents, notes on old legal pads, mysterious receipts, birthday cards from people you do and don’t remember, even something pleasurable such as photos of your family can feel like an insurmountable chore to organize.

Plowing through piles or bins of paper is different from other types of organizing. It requires a whole different set of decisions and brain skills and unlike organizing 3-dimensional objects such as your clothes or dishes, paper is often fraught with all kinds of meaning – most typically fear and anxiety and to a lesser degree, sentiment and confusion.

Paper doesn’t have the same qualities that other objects have in our lives. It’s not pretty or shiny or useful, except in its blank (note pads) or decorative (wrapping paper) form.  Organizing paper won’t make it more possible for you to entertain, unless it’s covering your dining room table.

Face it, for most people, organizing paper is boring.

Complicating the process is age. The older we get, the harder it is to focus on the task of organizing paper.  It takes all kinds of executive functioning skills that get harder as we age. It’s more than just a matter of know what to keep and what to toss.

The moment we look at our paper piles, our brains become Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.  “I can’t think about it now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Paper organizing requires careful review. You can look at a piece of clothing and know it’s a piece of clothing. With paper you have to study it. Is it a bill? A statement? An insurance policy? Is it something important? Do I need to act on it? Will I need it later?

With paper, you are already exhausted by the time you figure out what it is.

It’s no wonder that even in the age of going “paperless” we still have so much paper.

During my career as a professional organizer, move manager and now organizer coach, I have encountered virtually every type of paper and document that exists.  I have also written extensively on the process of organizing your paper. But it doesn’t matter how well its sorted into tidy little piles. If you don’t or can’t make a decision about it, it probably won’t get put away.

Here’s the good news about paper organizing.

In most cases, if you never organize your paper, nothing really bad will happen. The sky won’t fall. You won’t go to jail. Your children won’t be hurt. You won’t get sick, at least not from the paper. Will it cost you? Maybe, if you forget to pay a bill, or don’t do your taxes or forget your daughter’s birthday (God forbid!). Even if you forget to pay your electricity bill, don’t worry, you’ll get another reminder, and another.

Would it be inconvenient or possibly stressful to forget to pay your electricity bill? Yes, but it’s not life threatening unless you are on life support and if so, organizing your paper is not going to be top of mind.

The worst part about paper clutter is that it’s often a reflection of our state of mind  The more clutter, the more we realize we’re feeling confused, overwhelmed or neglectful. This creates more anxiety and confusion and the cycle repeats.

It’s better to have a system for managing your mail, paying your bills, filing important documents or knowing what you should shred to protect your identity. These are all habits and elements of life that make us feel calmer, lighter and in control of our lives. But if you don’t already have these habits, and are not inclined to learn them now, you can still feel less stressed about your paper clutter.

Here are some ways you can manage your guilt or alleviate your anxiety about your paper piles.

  1. You know all those saved letters and greeting cards you’ve kept over the years? You’re not likely to ever look at them unless you’re moving or downsizing your home and probably not even then.  If you never look at them again, it’s not a problem. Your adult children will have to at some point but that’s another story.
  2. If you overlook a bill, you’ll get another. Don’t sweat it.
  3. You don’t have to support every charity that keeps mailing you solicitations for donations. This is true especially if you have a limited income.  Seniors are their favorite customers since they count on you forgetting that you donated last month or last year. When you get them in the mail, toss them.
  4. If you feel strongly about supporting your favorite charity allocate no more than 1% of your total income and divide that up between your five favorite charities.  Let’s say you earn $75,000 a year. 75,000 x 1% = 750. 750/5=150. Donate no more than $150 to your favorite charities.
  5. If you didn’t order something from that catalog when you got it, you probably won’t. Recycle it.
  6. Keep your family photos. Even if you never look at them.  They don’t take up that much space.
  7. If you have more than a grocery bags worth of documents to be shredded, take them to be shredded. It’s not worth your time to do it yourself.
  8. Stop ripping up envelopes with your name and address – unless doing so gives you satisfaction. Your name and address are public information. An identity thief can’t hurt you with just your name and address.
  9. If you see your complete social security number on anything, shred it!
  10. Keep a bin near where you open your mail. That way all the junk can get tossed right away.

  11. Empty your mailbox daily. A stuffed mailbox is a sign that something is wrong in your home.
  12. The IRS will never call you. Open anything that comes from them.
  13. Stop saving investment statements. They are obsolete from the moment you get them.
  14. If you can easily find it in your email or online, you don’t need to keep the paper copy.
  15. If you have more than 1 or 2 boxes of unsorted paper that you have not looked at in more than six months, you probably won’t.
  16. There is an 80 percent chance that anything you file you will never look at again.
  17. If you want to find something really important, chances are you can request a copy, unless of course it’s a love letter or your 6th grade report card.
  18. Don’t spend your retirement years going through your files unless you really want to.
  19. If you have paper on nearly every surface in your home, including floors, near your stove or on your bed, then it’s time to call in a professional, for your safety.
  20. If you have any reason to believe you’ve been a victim of fraud or if you suspect someone has access to your credit information without your consent, contact all three credit reporting agencies immediately and submit a fraud alert.

Experian:1-888-397-3742

Equifax: 1-866-640-2273

Transunion: 1-800-813-5604

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Bags and boxes are not furniture

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If you have household items or unsorted paper on your floor in boxes or bags, chances are you have a clutter problem.  That’s because bags and boxes are not furniture, not permanently anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, bags and boxes have their place in organizing. I use them all the time to carry out donated items, to contain trash or recycling or to pick up my groceries.  It’s fine to keep a small supply but they are “temporary” containers, not permanent fixtures.

As a professional organizer, coach and move manager, boxed and bagged “clutter” is a common problem for many of my clients.

I’m not talking about items you have stored in a closet, garage or attic. These too may need to be “gone through” – usually when you’re planning to move or sell your home.

It’s sometimes an issue of time management, motivation or other more pressing priorities.  Conditions such as ADD, anxiety or depression can also make it difficult to focus on the task at hand.

 Whatever the reason, bags and boxes usually signify a “holding” place for your stuff, instead of a “home.”

Here are 10 easy steps to manage the bags and boxes of stuff in your home:
  1. If you have both unsorted paper and physical items, start with the physical items. You will see results quicker and feel motivated to continue.
  2. Sort the items on a clear surface, such as a card table, counter or ironing board if that’s the only surface available.
  3. As soon as the box is empty, break it down and place it by your recycling bin to see space right away. It’s important that you see see results right away to stay motivated. 
  4. Now it’s time to make decisions. Look at each item by category and decide if you are using it now or whether it’s something you love. If you wouldn’t buy it in a store, don’t love it, haven’t used it, or it brings up negative emotions, let it go. If it feels good to keep it for yourself, then keep it.
  5. Most clean and usable items can be donated to conventional charities such as Goodwill, Salvation Army or a local thrift shop.  Be sure to check days and times they accept donations. Since COVID, many charities have limited their donation drop off times or require appointments.
  6. Don’t spend a lot of time on where you donate your items. This is a form of procrastination.  Some haulers now will take items for donation.  Two of my favorites in the San Francisco Bay Area are NixxitJunk.com and Remoov.
  7. If you have high value items consider consignment, or online platforms to sell them. Do whatever is easiest or makes the best use of your time.
  8. If you plan to use your empty boxes for donations, be sure you can carry them. You are better off using a double paper-bag or reusable shopping bag for donated items.
  9. Now the fun part: Look at what you kept and decide where it should live in your home. Like you live in your home everything in your home should have a home. An item’s home gets determined first by asking, What room would I look for this? Consider also, where  will it be contained?  For example, a certain piece of furniture, a specific closet, drawer or a type of  bin?  Don’t worry if these areas are already cluttered themselves. Get them closer to home!
  10. Do this for each item you’ve decided to keep before moving on to the next bag or box.
Did you get through at least one bag or box? Did you toss or recycle them to make more room for you? Good job!

Aim to do one bag or box as often as you can and before you know it, your floors will be clear of clutter and you’ll feel great!

Too much stuff to do it yourself? Having difficulty focusing or feeling overwhelmed? Consider hiring a professional organizer to help you.
 
Find one in your area at the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals or NAPO.net and search by your zip code.

Pretend you don’t own it: Edit your to dos and get more done

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Editor’s Note: I am reprinting* this post, by permission of its author, Greg McKeown, best-selling author, public speaker and founder and CEO of McKeown, Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency based in California.  I met Greg many years ago at a talk he gave to the members of the local chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. I have been following his writing, podcasts and talks about “Essentialism” ever since. You can learn more about Greg’s work or subscribe to his newsletter at https://gregmckeown.com/


Essentialism Graphic

Have you ever continued to invest time and energy into a failing project instead of cutting your losses?

We all find it difficult to uncommit from nonessential projects and distractions – even if it’s a losing proposition.

But why?

One reason is that we tend to overvalue things that belong to us.

I’m sure you can think of things in your life that seem to be more valuable the moment you think about giving them away.

Psychologists call this the endowment effect. And unfortunately, it applies to our activities and commitments as well (that project at work or the hobby you’ve invested in but are only sort of enjoy). 

Working hand-in-hand with the endowment effect is something called loss aversion.

This is the idea that we perceive the pain of losing something as more significant than the joy of gaining something else (1).

Loss aversion makes us afraid to uncommit because we fear losing an opportunity, a relationship, or prestige. Left unchecked, this fear of loss can blind us to what we can gain by exploring new and better opportunities.

But despite its difficulty, we can overcome the endowment effect and loss aversion.

A 1-Minute Strategy to Help You Uncommit

I’ve used this simple strategy, suggested by the BBC’s Tom Stafford, to evaluate how much I really value something.

  1. Pretend you don’t own it.
    • Instead of asking how much you value something, ask, “How much would I pay to obtain this?”
    • When it comes to non material things, ask, “How hard would I work to get involved if I wasn’t already involved?” (2).

*published by permission of Greg McKeown


(1) https://www.uzh.ch/cmsssl/suz/dam/jcr:00000000-64a0-5b1c-0000-00003b7ec704/10.05-kahneman-tversky-79.pdf
(2) https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20120717-why-we-love-to-hoard