Archive for the ‘Baby Boomer’ Category

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. 

 

 

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.   

 

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

Have an organizing question or need help getting organized to move or want to schedule a coaching session? Schedule a free, no obligation phone chat with me using this link. https://calendly.com/letsmakeroom/30min

 

 

I’m a Professional Organizer. Why Am I Keeping These?

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About six months ago, we were getting ready to remodel our basement.  I had to move my collection of record albums to another storage area and as I did so, I thought, “why am I still keeping these?”

I didn’t bother to wait for the answer. Instead, I put them away for safekeeping and walked away.

About two months later, with the remodel complete, I moved the albums back into the storage cabinet and thought, “why am I still keeping these?” This time, it occurred to me that if I took pictures of all the album covers I could check to see if they were available for streaming online, something I would have suggested to my clients.

It took about 30 minutes to snap a picture of all 115 albums, a mix of mostly rock, folk, R&B and some classical.  Then I walked away.

A month ago, I went to put away our outdoor chair cushions for the winter. As I did, I saw the record albums in the cabinet meant for the cushions. We really need the whole space for the cushions, I thought, so I took the records, divided them between four, double-bagged grocery bags, and left them in the basement on the floor.

“When I get rid of these, it will be easy to carry them away.”  Then I walked away.

About a week ago, I went downstairs and spotted the four bags.

“This is ridiculous! I’m an experienced professional organizer. Why am I having so much trouble with this?”

So I started asking myself the kinds of questions  I ask my clients:

  • Do I love these? – I love the music and yes, some of the albums themselves.
  • Would you miss them if they disappeared? –  Not necessarily, as long as I could get the music again.
  • Would you buy the albums again if you saw them? – Definitely not.
  • So what do you want to do?

I immediately went to my phone and created a post to sell the albums on a popular website. Then I created a shareable link that included the photos of all the album covers I had taken two months ago. Within minutes interested buyers responded with offers.

Being able to share the photos right away really helped since buyers could scan the collection before making an offer.

Proud of myself for finally moving forward I told my husband, “Guess what? I posted my albums for sale.” He replied, “are you keeping any?”

Suddenly a swell of emotion came over me. How did I not think of this?

As an organizer, I always ask my clients who have collections they want to sell, which, if any, do they want to keep? Somehow in my eagerness to get the job done, I forgot to ask myself the same question.

Since no one had actually bought the collection yet, I thought, “I’ll set aside the ones worth it to me to frame and hang,” but as I did so I realized I didn’t want to hang any of them.  One by one I quickly went through the four bags of albums.  That’s when the memories started flooding back.

Dancing with my friends to Blondie’s Parallel Lines in college.  Singing to Joni Mitchell’s Blue in my bedroom as a teenager. Recalling the first time I felt the power of Janis Joplin’s gravelly voice on Pearl.  Pining for an old sweetheart while listening to Billie Holiday.  Remembering the very first record I ever played on my parent’s portable record player, Getz/Gilberto. I knew the words to The Girl from Ipanema when I was six.

I put all the albums back in the bags and took the best offer.

The buyer arrived that day  – a 30 something guy who worked as an environmental scientist but had a love of albums and a small hobby-business selling them.  I sat with him while he went through each of them to check their condition. As he did, I heard myself talking like the typical late middle-aged music fan I am, reminiscing about seeing Sly and the Family Stone at Madison Square Garden and how I really wasn’t a huge fan of  The Beatle’s Abbey Road but the cover was so iconic.

These albums were the soundtrack of my life. And that’s when it hit me. “I’m not just selling my albums. I’m giving up part of myself.”

It wasn’t just the albums I was saying goodbye to. It was me, Liz – the way I spelled it then –  the white, middle class, introspective, New York City kid who felt the sounds of Marvin Gaye and Aretha in her bloodstream.  The one who played Fleetwood Mac and Rickie Lee Jones, over and over again in her dorm room or rocked to the sounds of the The Pretenders, The Kinks and Cream in her first apartment.

She was me, the student who stopped one day on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, a freshman at Boston University, and paid the astronomical sum of $10 to a street vendor to buy the album It’s A Beautiful Day with it’s iconic cover of the young mountain girl, her hat and dress pushed by the wind.

“Prophetic,” I thought.  The band was from San Francisco, the place I would find myself moving to almost ten years later.

Back in my basement, I watched as each vinyl record passed through the buyers hands as he inspected them.  After we agreed on a price, he asked me, quite generously, if there was anything I wanted to keep?  Should I have said, “Yes! I want it all back. The years and the time?” I didn’t.

Instead, I picked up the last record he’d looked at, It’s A Beautiful Day. He hadn’t heard of it until I started hum-singing the band’s most famous track, “White Bird” the song about a bird trapped in a golden cage, on a winter’s day, in the rain. Then, of course, I had to tell him the story of how I bought it.

 

 

 

Moving? Get Cash for Your Stuff in an Online Auction

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Moving? Get Cash for Your Stuff

Are you downsizing to move and have household items and furniture you don’t need?

Did you know you can sell your items in an online auction sale, all in one day (in most cases), and earn back money to help offset the cost of your move?  The whole process takes about two weeks from start to pick up day, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to move or get your house on the market.

I recently organized one of these sales, for a client in Oakland, CA, through a company called Max Sold.

How Do Online Auction Sales Work?  

The key to it being successful and worth your time is taking the time to organize and group like items together in what are called “Lots.” 

Lots are an array of related items that can attract several buyers, thus driving their price up through online bidding.

Even less popular items will sell, thus saving you the hassle and cost of taking them to a local charity or saving you money in hauling fees. Think of it as creating a one-stop-shop of your home’s unwanted contents.

It’s not just your furniture you can offer for sale.  You can sell just about anything – appliances, baby items, books, unused cosmetics, craft supplies, home decor, office supplies, unused toiletries, tools, even used cleaning products and supplies!

How to Prepare for an Online Estate Sale

Getting ready to sell your items in an online auction or estate sale takes a little bit of planning at the front end to make sure your pick-up day is smooth sailing. This is how it works:

Decide What You’re Selling

  • Set aside items you are keeping in a separate room, such as your bedroom or another spare room or storage area if you have one.
  • Declutter all trash inside and outside your home. You can also arrange for a free bulk pick-up if your city offers one.
  • Recycle or remove anything damaged, broken, stained, ripped, overly worn, or opened, such as toiletries, and dispose of hazardous waste.
  • Donate usable items that don’t typically sell or cannot be included, like regular clothing (designer or luxury items are fine), and donate unexpired, unopened food such as dry and canned goods to a local food bank. In general, regulated items such as car seats or adult-only items such as weapons cannot be sold through conventional online sales.

Group Items Into Lots

  • Group what is left – like with like – in “Lots.” Single items of furniture or a large appliance can be sold as one Lot.
  • Organize items to be camera-ready — in other words, all visible when photographed.
  • Place smaller items on furniture and other surfaces and plan to sell those things first.
  • Separate unique or valuable items and group these with less valuable but similar items to encourage bidding
  • Photograph each lot several times using the selling platform and include a brief item description, condition description, and assign a pick-up time. Small items usually go first, larger items on top of furniture next, and larger furniture items and appliances last.
  • Review and edit your catalog before it goes live. Give your buyers at least seven days to review your sale.

Prepare for Pick Up

  • During the current Covid-19 pandemic, make sure your home is well ventilated and that you are wearing a mask. It will make it easier to sort and organize items and keep you and buyers safe when they go to pick up their items in your home.
  • Aim for a weekend pick-up day for buyer convenience. This means giving yourself at least ten days from posting date to pick-up date.
  • Get help for pick-up day since you will need to keep track of buyers and their items.  Consider hiring a professional organizer with this type of estate sale experience to manage all or part of the process for you.
  • Plan for and make arrangements for items not picked up by the end of your pick-up day. You can also offer them as free items to other buyers. With luck and the right planning, you won’t have too many “leftovers.”
  • Get paid. When your pick-up event is over, submit a pick-up report to report any issues. Fourteen business days later, you will get your payment by check or direct deposit, depending upon what you choose.  Keep in mind that the platform you use will take a percentage of your sales in exchange for using their platform. Typically this is a 70/30 split, with you getting 70% of the proceeds and the platform getting 30%.

About Max Sold

Max Sold will help you sell items in the following categories through an online auction sale:

  • Appliances
  • Art and posters
  • Baby Items (except regulated items such as baby seats)
  • Bed and Bath
  • Books (except those considered promoting intolerance, racism or pornography)
  • Business and Industrial
  • Collectibles and Coins
  • Computers and Electronics
  • Crafts and Hobbies
  • Entertainment and Media
  • Fashion and Accessories
  • Furniture
  • Garage and Tools
  • Gift Certificates and Coupons
  • Health and Beauty
  • Home Decor
  • Household Supplies & Cleaning
  • Jewelry and Watches
  • Kitchen and Housewares
  • Lighting
  • Music and Instruments
  • School and Office Supplies

 

For more information about how to sell your items through an online auction sale, visit Max Sold’s estate sales page or contact LET’S MAKE ROOM.

Get Decluttered Now! Take Action on Your Home Organizing Goals

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Clear Clutter: restructure, harmony, energy, free, mindful, intention, purpose, habits, balance, feng shui, release, simplify, detach, space, downsize, organize, storage, let go, clarity, attachment, give away, reduce, useful, keep, emotional, memories, recycle, decide, unload, donate, future

Stuck at home. You’ve had your morning coffee, read the gloomy newspaper or scanned your social media apps. You have something pressing to do but avoid it and mindlessly start shuffling papers on your desk.

You wander around aimlessly, straightening pictures, moving a pile of books from one surface to another,  throwing out an obvious piece of trash. You know you’re barely making a dent but somehow it seems important in the moment.

You look around your home and feel the familiar pang of shame that comes from knowing your house is more than a “bit of a mess.” Books and knick-knacks piled two-deep on shelves. Your cabinets and drawers packed full with a lifetime of items that meant something to you once but now you can’t even remember where half of them came from.

Almost every surface covered with the residue of the week.

Don’t Go It Alone!

You look around at the 20 or 30 years of accumulated stuff. You wonder if you have the resources to hire a professional organizer who would somehow magically transform your home into a picture straight out of Real Simple Magazine. You know this is impossible now. Money is tight and you’ve just paid your property taxes or your son’s tuition or an unexpected medical bill from a procedure you had last year before something called Covid-19 stole your “normal” life.

Momentarily the thought disappears as your alarm reminds you it’s time for your weekly Zoom call.

During the meeting you happen to mention your desire to get decluttered and curiously ask if anyone else is feeling the same. All at once, hands shoot up in the air.  You let out a sigh of relief and recognition. You are not alone in this struggle and that’s when it hits you.  “Why not start a clutter support group?”

This is exactly what happened to C.J. Hayden, a business coach, trainer and author of six books including, the bestselling, Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches.

The idea came to C.J. during a recent Zoom meeting she was conducting with her clients – mostly other self-employed people.  C.J. casually mentioned she’d like to be more organized and asked if anyone else was experiencing the same thing.

“Half the hands in the room shot up” C.J. told me recently by phone. She then posed the question to the group, “Maybe we should form a pod? That’s how it started. It was totally spontaneous.”

Support Group of Women

Within a few days C.J. had come up with a group structure — action oriented, not just a support group – a name, The Decluttering Divas and a schedule. They meet virtually once a week on Monday mornings and keep their computer’s microphones and cameras turned on so everyone else in the group can “get the visceral sounds of decluttering.”  C.J. gets the group going but it is strictly peer-support that keeps everyone on task.

Tame Your Inner Critic

Perhaps the biggest value of the group has been the way it helps silence everyone’s inner critic, including C.J’s.

“She tells me this is too big a job and I’ll never be able to complete it. But I keep telling her that as long as I break it down into manageable chunks, and have support, I really can.”

The group shares another bond – that of facing the many challenges of life as baby-boomers.  Several of the group’s members juggle their lives and their businesses, often with competing responsibilities for aging parents, adult children and the self-imposed pressure of changing attitudes towards the things they own. For some, decluttering runs into direct conflict with their parent’s depression-era views of save everything

In C.J.’s case, that meant, among other things, coming across a collection of old hair accessories and incredulously wondering why she had kept them. “The last time I had hair long enough to wear hair ornaments was probably in the mid-90s!”

Join A Worldwide Movement

It turns out Decluttering Divas is not alone. A search of other decluttering groups on the popular Meetup.com website found 71 groups consisting of nearly 18,000 members in 62 cities across 16 countries around the world.

While it’s unlikely the Covid-19 pandemic, with more and more people being sequestered at home, lead to the phenomena of worldwide clutter groups, as well as popular topics such as minimalism, online selling, tiny houses, and home editing, it’s probably one of it’s few silver linings.  Even C.J.s group has one participant from the United Kingdom.

The reasons people join a decluttering group are as varied as their stuff.  In “Decluttering Divas,” one member was dealing with the clutter left behind by her parents who lived with her for many years but who have since moved on to retirement communities or passed away.

Another is an artist who wanted more time for her art and hobbies and was getting too distracted by her clutter.

For C.J. herself it came down to being able to be more productive at work as a busy entrepreneur who travels extensively as well as to be able to relax at home.

Even her husband, without prompting, caught the decluttering bug.

“One day I came out of my meeting and found a bunch of cups and glasses on the counter. He decided it was time to clear out a kitchen cabinet.”  Together they got rid of most of them, offering them for free to neighbors through the popular site, Nextdoor.com

Applying what you already know to get organized

While not a professional organizer herself, C.J. had worked with a few in the past, and had read several books about organizing and several of her clients are professional organizers.  Along the way, she’s learned techniques and strategies for decluttering but it’s been her coaching and group facilitation experience that turned her casual question into a satisfying reality.

When the group first met, C.J. posed three “focusing questions” to ensure each member had a real action-oriented purpose for being there.

The focusing questions asked members to set and share a specific and attainable goal, explain why they had chosen that goal and set a deadline for completing the goal. Members who could not set a realistic deadline were asked to scale back their goals until they could.

To keep it “manageable,” there are a total of 8 people in the group though other peer-lead groups around the country, according to MeetUp.com show as many as 600 members.

During meetings, members of the group share their goals and even post before and after pics. Offline the group shares or exchanges resources such as where and how to get rid of things, especially useful during the current health restrictions when many charities are not accepting or limiting their donation services.

Members even share links to organizing products they see online such as containers and bins.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the group has been the fact each member understands what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by clutter and want to help each other.

“Having this group has meant I have support, camaraderie, and benevolent peer pressure from being surrounded by others on the same path.”

 

Lis McKinley is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Move Management Specialist and Owner of LET’S MAKE ROOM, LLC based in Oakland, California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcome heirloom guilt and still keep the memories

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Heirloom china set

I have three rules I ask my clients to agree to when I start an organizing or downsizing project with them.

Rule #1: I only work with the owner of the decision when it comes to deciding what is kept vs. not kept (sold, donated, tossed).

Rule #2: The owner of the decision cannot be overruled unless they explicitly delegate their decision to someone else.

Rule #3: If you were given items from family or friends, whether you wanted them or not, you and only you are the owner of the decision.

Most of us know when a gift is given. Usually it’s done with the receiver in mind.

Sometimes things are given (or kept) because the giver and receiver don’t know what else to do; They don’t want it but they can’t just toss it.

When the giver does this it’s called re-gifting.
When the receiver keeps it, but doesn’t really want it, it’s called…stuck.

“I can’t just give away my grandma’s china to anyone! I would feel terrible. Maybe my daughter or granddaughter will take it off my hands.”

Problem solved. I don’t have to feel guilty…you can!

Love Grandma but not her stuff

But what good is a gift given – or kept – out of guilt? How does that honor grandma’s memory?

Things are just things until we impose an external value onto them.

Even an item that’s worth something does not make it valuable to the owner unless they feel connected to it in some way – emotionally, aesthetically, practically.

“I loved Grandma and remember her using this china. I would like to have it because it reminds me of her.”

But what if you loved Grandma but her china is simply not your style? It doesn’t fit the way you live because every piece has to be hand-washed or you don’t have room for it in your tiny home?

Keep in mind there is likely someone somewhere who will enjoy it for what it is, even without the sentimental attachment.

Three decision-making questions

As the owner of the decision, you get to decide.  Here’s an easy way to make a guilt-free decision.

Grab the box of china, take another good look at it and ask yourself these three questions:

Question #1. “Would I buy this for myself if I saw it in a store or thrift shop?”  If no, you probably don’t want it but still feel attached in some way. Go to question #2.

Question #2. “Are there any individual pieces I can use that I like?”

­The soup tureen repurposed as a vase. A single teacup and saucer to enjoy a morning cup of tea?

Keeping one or two pieces from the set will make it easier to give away the rest. Alternately, you could take a picture of it and preserve the memory that way.

Don’t worry about breaking up the set unless it is super valuable and chances are it isn’t. If you want to check the value, you can look up the pattern on Replacements Ltd.

Question #3. Is there some place or someone nearby who would take it?  If you are working with a professional organizer, they will be super helpful here.

Consider thrift shops, antique stores, school auctions, a church rummage sale or swap meet. There are also traditional charities like Goodwill, Salvation Army or Out of the Closet. You could also post it online – check out Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle.

Still not sure, do a Google search, “donate china set near me” (Keep in mind some places may still be closed due to the current Covid health emergency, so call first. )

While this generally takes longer you get the satisfaction of giving it directly to someone who wants it. Just don’t look for the “perfect” solution. Perfection is a convenient ploy for procrastinators.

Once you’ve decided, let it go as soon as you can. You’ll feel so much freer for having done so and trust me, Grandma won’t mind.

 

Lis McKinley
Owner
LET’S MAKE ROOM, LLC

 

 

 

Downsizing for retirement: how to let go when your heart says no

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Lis Golden McKinley, M.A.
Certified Professional Organizer
Owner, LET’S MAKE ROOM, LLC

Older_man_holding_Teddy_Bear

 

It’s time. You’ve set aside the day, taken off work, brought in the garbage bags and the packing boxes. No more excuses. It’s you versus the clutter. This time you intend to win because you’ve decided to put your house up for sale.

The late comedian George Carlin used to say,

“Your house is just a place for your stuff. If you didn’t have so much G-D stuff, you wouldn’t need a house!?”

But what happens when your stuff is too connected to memories? Carlin joked no one wants that stuff either but guess what they do!

When I say stuff, I don’t only mean furniture and household items. I mean the sentimental stuff you’ve buried in your closet or shoved into the back of an attic or basement. Stuff like your son’s grade school artwork, even though he’s in college now. Grandpa’s set of World War II history books. The two crocheted baby blankets grandma made for your kids.

Keep them for the grandkids!” You protest and back into the closet it goes. Except you have way too much in your closet already. So instead you pay hundreds of dollars a month to store stuff you can’t bear to part with at the local public storage.

That’s when it hits you. It’s not only your house you have to downsize, but your storage unit too.

Exasperated, you slump down in your arm chair and wonder, “how am I going to do this?” and pour yourself another glass of wine.

As Baby Boomers get older – and by the way, I’m one of them — they start thinking about their health and the desire to simplify their lives.

75% of people who want to downsize their lives say they can’t. The reason? They have too much stuff, according to research conducted by Kansas University.

The number one reason baby boomers can’t declutter is they are often sentimentally attached to what they own. There are just too many painful decisions that have to be made about what to keep or go. “No thanks,” they utter, “I’d rather have a root canal.”

The good news is you don’t have to throw the baby-doll out with the bathwater. Instead, you can actually feel good about letting go. Less regret, guilt or incurring the wrath of your family.

It is important to remember that not everything you are sentimental about has to go. Instead, the key is taking the time to curate your collection of sentimental items and giving away what you don’t want to the right people (or places).

Curating is about deciding what is going to be part of your permanent collection and what isn’t and where it can go. It also includes saying goodbye, with gratitude, to the things that have served out their purpose and forgiving yourself for doing the best you can to dispose of them responsibly.

As a Certified Professional Organizer and Move Manager based in Oakland, California, I have helped hundreds of clients achieve their own vision of a more simple and organized life for retirement.

Part of this process always involves making decisions about the items we most commonly get attached to: Books, clothing, photographs, sentimental cards and letters, memories – both ours and our kids.

When it’s time to curate these items, I find it useful to think about them in three ways:

  • Say goodbye with gratitude
  • Keep for my new life
  • Give to others

Say goodbye with gratitude

This collection contains items that are damaged beyond repair or are not worth your time or money to repair.

You can appreciate what they were in their original form and know that their time has come to an end. Anything that still makes you sad to let go of, you can take a picture of. That way you will still have the memory of the item.

Keep for my new life

This collection contains your favorites. Items you love so much you would use or display again. The ones that you would remember and miss if they disappeared. Better yet, they are the ones that fit into your new, simplified lifestyle. These are the best of the best!

Give to others (or giving items new life elsewhere)

This collection contains both high quality and useable quality items you don’t want. They could be of a high enough quality you could sell or consign them, or special enough that you would prefer to give them to a particular person or organization. In other words your decision to let them go is contingent on them getting to the right recipient or organization. This collection also includes useable quality items that could be donated to charities such as Goodwill, Salvation Army or Out of the Closet

If they are not sellable but the recipient is important to you, do an online search by type in your area. For example “Senior center thrift shop near me.”  There’s a wonderful place in San Francisco called SCRAP that accepts donations of all types of craft and teaching materials (though they are closed temporarily due to Covid-19). Here are a few other examples of unique places to donate your higher quality items. (Due to Covid-19 some of these will be temporarily closed. Check before going.)

  • Senior center thrift shop
  • Church, school or charity auction
  • Thrift shop for a charity you support such as cancer research
  • Local animal shelter
  • Children’s thrift shop for low income moms
  • Re-use/repurpose non-profits

There are also online websites such as Nextdoor.com where you can post your unwanted items. Be careful not to post your personal information. Instead ask people to direct message you if they want your item.

Use “Say goodbye with gratitude,” “Keep for my new life” and “Give to others” with other types of sentimental items you have. Here are few tips for downsizing other sentimental household items:

Books
(If you are downsizing and you have an excess and need space)

First decide on the greatest number of bookshelves you will keep so you will know how much you need to downsize.

Keep books you still refer to or hold special memories or can’t find online.

Donate duplicate books, books you’ve never read, are not likely to read or don’t hold interest for you. Also donate books from a previous chapter of your life.  Someone is bound to appreciate them.  Take them to your local library or college. Most Goodwill stores will also accept books for donation but not text books.

Recycle any that have mold. Mold travels and will contaminate other books.

Sentimental Cards and Letters
(If you have more than will fit into a banker box or small suitcase)

These are often the hardest to let go. Keep the ones that express a personal sentiment to you, not a generic greeting. You can also photograph these and let the physical card go.

Toys and Childhood Memorabilia
(Yours or your adult children)

This is the stuff you’ve tossed in a “keep” box but never looked at except when you’ve moved. It could be anything from rocks you collected, to tickets stubs, to small medals you received as a kid to souvenirs from family trips.

They best represent the “memories” of your childhood. It’s likely none of it is valuable, unless it’s in its original packaging and in pristine condition. If you’re not sure, you can always check sites like Etsy or Ebay.

First sort those into two piles – usable quality and higher quality. As you come across anything that that you don’t want but are afraid of forgetting, take a picture of it! That way you will always have the memory.

If the items are small, you can display them in a large fishbowl, brandy snifter or inside a shadow box. I’ve seen these for just about out every imaginable collectible: medals, matchboxes, toy cars, record albums, sports memorabilia even old postcards.

Check out some “memorabilia storage” ideas on Pinterest or Etsy If you’re not up to this, ask someone in your family who has a talent for crafts or art to do it for you. What a perfect birthday or Christmas present!

If you wouldn’t pay to have the items repurposed into something new, chances are you don’t love it enough to keep it. You can always take a picture of it if you’re scared of losing the memory. If it’s a small quantity of items you are keeping, give them a home in a small treasure box. I always think of a the little cigar box the character Scout kept under her bed from the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Giving away sentimental items to the right place or person is what makes it possible for you to let them go

Don’t use your kids as a reason to keep stuff that you don’t have room for in your new home. If possible, ask them to come and get it by a certain date. If they live far away or don’t care, let them know your plan to donate whatever is usable. Keep your favorites, the ones you consider “heirlooms” and limit them to no more than will fit into a small bin or box. Your kids won’t miss the rest and neither will you.

A final note about trash, landfill and forgiveness

It’s likely you will have to throw out more than you intended. Recycle as much as you can but accept the limitations of what is and is not recyclable in your community.

When you bought it 30 or 40 years ago, you weren’t thinking about whether it was recyclable. You needed it and it served its purpose. Again, dispose of it with gratitude. If it has to go to landfill, forgive yourself. Know that you have learned to be a more responsible citizen and consumer. Now you can enjoy and maintain your simple and spacious new life with the things you love the most.

 

 

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How Home Organizing Brings Your Family Together

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Family Closet

Editor’s Note:

Nanette is a home organizer who works with me as an associate of LET’S MAKE ROOM. We haven’t worked or seen each other in more than two months.  She and her husband, two adult children and their dog are sheltering-in-place during the Covid-19 health emergency.

Yesterday she shared a personal story with me of using this time to attend to her own home organizing projects. She is looking ahead to a time after her kids have moved on, when she may be ready to sell her home. Having worked with me for years, Nanette knows how the task of downsizing for a move can be daunting so she recently decided to take on a couple of her own projects.

Nanette’s story illustrates just how personally satisfying it can be to embark on a home organizing project, any time, but especially now, when families have the benefit of being home together more than usual. Here is her story:


The “shelter-in-place” order was the perfect opportunity to organize our cluttered storage closet. My 24-year-old daughter and 20-year old-son have been here with us and my husband is working from home.

The closet held toys, keepsakes, books, table linens, photos and homeless items.

With everyone home I could get their input on what they wanted to keep and what could I could donate.

I began by emptying the closet and sorting items by owner – me, my husband, daughter and son. I asked each to sort their items into two piles; “keep” or “donate.”  Each accomplished the task in their own unique way.

Our daughter sorted through her items alone and needed no help in her decision making. She donated all her collectible dolls, which she never liked, even though I had saved them for her. She kept the toys and keepsakes she felt connected to and that were usable or could be displayed.

At first, our 20-year old son said, “Mom you decide because I don’t know what I should keep.”

I got him started by sorting his bins and asked him first to decide on the big items. I am glad I did as I didn’t expect him to keep the miniature baseball bats. I then took the smaller items and sorted ‘like with like’ and asked him to keep what he wanted.

He grabbed toys he said he remembered playing with and he combed through looking for all the extra parts.

When done, my son told me sorting items into smaller categories helped him make decisions.

After dinner that evening, while we all still were at the table, our son picked up a box of his medals and sorted them. He selected the medals he wanted to keep and shared the rationale for keeping each medal.

After completing the task our daughter said she had kept all her medals and she later sorted hers as well.

The stack of beautiful table linens that I have never used, got donated. While beautiful and given to me by family members, they are not something I ever used. The matching napkins I kept as I do use linen napkins.

The silver items, all blackened from sitting in storage, unused, got sorted. My husband’s silver baby cup got cleaned and moved into the cabinet. The tarnished candelabra went into the Halloween bin. The utensils got polished and moved into the kitchen. Everything we kept now had a home.Everything else we donated. (Actually stored until the donation sites can open).

My husband did not want to make decisions right away so I put the items he had not made decisions about on his desk. He will make a decision at some point but I decided not to store the items until he committed.

My husband painted the closet and installed movable-shelves, replacing our fixed wood shelves.

I reused the smaller bins and stored the frequently-used items on the upper shelves.

I rolled my table runners and put them into a basket on the floor which opened up shelving.

I ordered a wrapping station to mount on a side wall.

I have more space to use for new items that come into our home and I love being able to find what I need.

Now I have a great functioning storage closet.