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How to find a new home for your old sofa

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Imagine you are moving (or remodeling) and you’ve decided not to keep your sofa or couch.

By the way a sofa is typically larger than a couch, seating four or more people whereas a couch is generally smaller, seating three or less. Now you know!

What do you do with your sofa (or couch) if you no longer want it?

As a relocation specialist and professional organizer, I see this come up with practically every home I downsize and every move I manage.

The answer will always depend on its condition and where you live. There are many potential solutions but you will first need to ask yourself these four questions about your used sofa:

  1. Is it practically new – less than four years old or an antique –  and in great condition? You may be able to sell or consign it.
  2. Is it four or more years old and in very good condition and definitely still usable without stains, tears or fading? You still may be able to sell it or donate it or offer it for free to someone in your community.
  3. Is it torn, ripped, stained or faded or in need of cleaning?  You may be able to arrange to have it picked up by your local waste management company’s bulk pick up service and depending upon how its manufactured it may (or may not) be recycled by them.
  4. Are you very concerned about it ending up in landfill? You may be able to recycle it but be prepared to pay for that. Recyclers generally won’t pick it up unless you are disposing of a large quantity – think dumpster – of items. On top of that you will probably have to pay recycling fees.

The biggest challenge in finding new homes or disposing of sofas and other large furniture typically comes down to time and transportation.

Time comes into play because scheduling a truck pick up of your gently used, usable or discarded item(s) must be done in advance, since many charities book as much as six weeks in advance.

If you are planning to move to relocate or remodel, be sure to add “sell/donate furniture” to your to-do list at least two months ahead of your move.

Why a so long? Let’s say you scheduled a charity to pick up your sofa. All charities will leave it up to the discretion of the driver as to whether or not to take your sofa. If they reject it when they arrive, you may then only have two weeks or so to find another solution before your move date. Chances are that means you will either have to schedule a hauler, which can be costly, a bulk pick up (if your city/county offers such a service) which also requires advance notice or find a way to move and transport it yourself; Rarely an option for most people in the midst of a move, especially if you are a senior or live alone.

 TIP: Plan ahead and read on to know your options.  By the way, these options apply to other large items of furniture as well.

Sell/Consign – For items that are practically new and in pristine or “gently used” condition, constructed from real materials (not particle board or composite wood) and of course, in demand, such as mid-century, some antiques, high-end contemporary and designer brands. you can try both local and on-line estate sellers.

TIP: Do a web-search for “Estate sellers near me” or “Furniture consignment stores near me” These searches will bring up both local as well as online options (The RealReal.com sells high quality pre-owned sofas to buyers throughout the U.S. Be sure to inquire about their policies and procedures for viewing and selling your items.)

Private Sale – For sofas that are in good condition but may be older or in less demand, or not acceptable to estate sellers or consignment services, try online selling sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, LetGo, OfferUp or Trove. Plan well in advance to post your item on these sites as you are competing with many others who are selling similar items.

If your item doesn’t sell within three weeks of your move, consider other options. Keep in mind, you will also have to deal directly with the buyer and he/she will likely need to enter your home to collect and pay for the items. Some online sites will process payments for you and take a commission. For neighborhood sites, I recommend requiring cash only.

If you live alone, make sure to have someone there with you. If you are disabled or not particularly strong, you will need to let the buyer know to come with help. Carefully consider your personal safety before selling anything to a private buyer.

Donation – As Baby Boomers age and downsize, there is a glut of items being donated. So much so that charities can be much pickier about what they take. Most charities train their drivers to carefully inspect items. Pick up is always at the driver’s discretion. This can be a huge issue if you have a hard deadline to meet to be out of your home.

TIP: If you are remodeling, ask your contractors if they would move your sofa for you to the street for hauling.

Most charities will want to see photos of your sofa. Be sure to send them good quality photos, at least three, including front, side and back views and be absolutely candid about your item’s condition. Also, inform the charity about access to the item including outside and inside stairs, long hallways or whether or not there is an elevator.

I recently had a charity reject my client’s sofa because the driver and his assistant did not want to transport the item down a long flight of stairs.

TIP: Do a web search for “charities that offer truck pickup near me” to locate charities that offer free truck pick up of your donated furniture and household items.

Charities are looking for items that are sellable so don’t expect them to take anything that is damaged, in need of cleaning or repair.  To locate a charity that offers free truck pickup, check out http://donationtown.org/ but be prepared to enter your contact information on their website. You can also contact charities directly such as Salvation Army (SATruck.org), Habitat for Humanity Restores (San Francisco Bay Area only) or Out of The Closet.

One other option for donating your older but good quality sofa is to make it available for free to people in your community through sites such as Freecycle, Nextdoor or through the “free stuff” tab on Craigslist. If you can spare the time, having someone come and get your old sofa is in fact money in your pocket. Why? Because unless you have strong kids who are available exactly when you need them to help, you may end up paying for the labor it would cost you to have your sofa moved curbside for the bulk pickup: An unexpected expense and logistics issue often overlooked in crunch time.

Recycling/Disposal – You know that old sofa you’ve had for 20 years, the one that is covered in an old blanket because underneath your pets destroyed it? This is the sofa that no one wants but you will still need to dispose. In Oakland, California where I live, both the City and the County offer, free curbside bulk pick up. This is the last available free option for large old sofas and other large household debris that can’t be simply tossed in the trash.

TIP: Call your local waste management company to see if they offer bulk pick up service. You will still need to get your old sofa to your curb. If you live alone, or are a senior, you may have to hire a helper.

I recently used an online app called Lugg to help a client who needed to get her sofa and other items on the curb for bulk pick up. They are a platform for movers, haulers and helpers, for when you need a little or a lot of muscle.

In Oakland, the local waste management company will sort items and if they can be all or partially recycled they will be, I am told. But if you are very concerned about the footprint you leave on the environment, there may still be other options for keeping your sofa (or at least most of it) out of the landfill but it will most likely cost you.

Check out a website called, Earth911.com to find a recycling facility near you.  It may not be free and you will either have to arrange to transport your sofa yourself to a local recycler or pay to have it hauled.

The bottom line is no matter which option you choose, plan ahead. You want to have a Plan B (donate) and possibly even a Plan C (haul) if your original Plan A, to sell or give away your sofa falls through. Trust me, the last thing you (or your real estate agent) want to see the day you move is the ugly, torn, pet-stained sofa, you couldn’t get rid of still in your empty home.

Garage or junk drawer: Getting it organized is the same process.

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Whenever I meet with a new client I show them how we organize a large space by organizing a small space. This is because it’s the same process,  just on a smaller scale. Often I start with a junk drawer but no matter the size of the space, as long as you are organizing physical items (not paper) the process is the same.

  1. Gather the contents by emptying it onto a flat surface such as a table or bed.  Dust out the drawer if needed.
  2. Sort items by type, such as pens with pens, tools with tools, paper with paper. Don’t throw anything away until you are done. Just focus on sorting. This should take just a few minutes. Don’t skip this step. It’s the most important!
  3. Purge what you don’t use, need or love.  Start with obvious trash and move on from there. Usable items can be donated. Loose bits of paper can be reviewed and recycled or shredded as needed.
  4. Decide what belongs back in the junk drawer or somewhere else in your home.   Wait till you’re done before moving these items into other rooms, otherwise you’ll lose your momentum.
  5. Contain like items with small containers or a a drawer organizer.  This will make it easy to find and return items when you’re done using them.

It’s also important to start with the right tools such as bags or boxes for the items you no longer use, need or love. Want to see how it’s done?

Check out my video.

Office in your bedroom? Don’t lose sleep over it

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Desk as bedside table

How to keep your office organized when it’s is in your bedroom

You are finally in bed after a long day. You cover yourself with a blanket; feel the warm comfort of your pillow beneath your head and the soft, cool sheets against your tired body. You begin to relax into a night of slumber when you are suddenly startled by the pinging sounds of your computer sending notifications about tomorrow’s busy day. You get up and turn down the volume and get back in bed. That’s when you notice the pile of papers strewn across your desk, in varying heights and reminding you of a slew of unfinished tasks, unpaid bills and projects still yet to be started. You shut your light out, hoping in darkness you will forget the site of all that you have left undone. All of a sudden you see the blinking of all your devices in random rhythms, your router, your modem, your phone.  Your room lights up with a blue blinking glow. You cover your face with a pillow and somehow manage to fall into an exhausted sleep.

In general, I don’t think a bedroom is a great place for your office. Your bedroom should be a place of respite, relaxation and most of all sleep. Yet sometimes, there is no choice. Space is at a premium. You share a home or an apartment and there is no other available space to work.

This doesn’t mean you should lose sleep when your office is in your bedroom. Here are some ways you can minimize those distractions without sacrificing your personal productivity.

  • Hide your desk. Space permitting, hide your desk behind a free-standing, decorative folding screen or room divider. You can buy them online or in most home decor stores. When it’s time to leave work, simply pull the screen around your desk.
  • Shut out and shut down. Turn off or block digital noise and distractions. If you can’t hide your electronic equipment, things like your modem, router, or fax/printer behind or under your desk, place a small piece of dark blue painter’s tape over the lights that blink. Painter’s tape will not harm your equipment and can be easily removed or re-placed. This is especially recommended if you use a guest room for your office. You don’t want your guests losing sleep from all the pings and blinking lights.
  • Re-purpose and reposition. If your room is configured for it, why not turn your desk into a combination bedside table-workspace. That way, you are no longer looking at the desk from your bed. You’ll need a lamp on your desk anyway, so why not make it your bedside lamp. You can also leave a little room nearest your bed for a book or notepad, a place to put your reading glasses, a small plant or decorative item, and a clock or device with an alarm.  In other words, all the things you would need nearby while you’re working.
  • Clear the decks. Surfaces are notorious clutter catchers. No matter what size the surface, they have a way of getting covered with things. Just like you have a home, everything in your home should have a home. Take the time each day to survey what you have on your desk or work surface and decide 1) Can I toss it? 2) Does it need to live on my desk? 3) where else could it live in my home?  Then toss it, move it or take it back to where it lives. No more homeless items!
  • Create vertical storage. Install simple bracket or wall-shelves above your desk area for less frequently used items, books, or reference materials. Use decorative boxes in like colors to contain surplus office supplies. Get these all off your desk and on to a shelf to free up space for working, creating and being more productive.
  • Equalize your workspace. Before leaving your desk for bed, take 60 seconds to put loose items in drawers, loose papers in a stack or contain them in a shallow box (e.g. an “in-box”). Review your calendar and most important to-dos for the next day. Then shut off your computer (or put it in “sleep mode”) along with all other unnecessary electronics. You’ll save money on your electric bill and may even get a few more Zs tonight.

 

If you can breathe, you can learn to be more organized

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Take A Deep Breath

 

While I was in Mexico on vacation recently, I read this wonderful book by Kimber Simpkins, a writer and Berkeley-based yoga teacher, entitled Full: How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul.

I was pleasantly surprised to come to a part in her book when she recounts a day organizing a closet and specifically addresses the ideas of space, fulfillment, emptiness and forgiveness, all relevant to the work I do as a professional organizer.

“One Monday, morning,” Simpkins begins, “I cleaned, cleared out debris, organized, and straightened, all to make room for a different fullness to come in.”  

She continues, comparing the process to her yoga practice, and more specifically, to the idea of breathing.

“Just like us humans…to inhale, we exhale completely first, creating emptiness, a vacuum, and then we fill that space once again with the breath.”

Like yoga, or even conscious breathing, organizing is a practice, one that develops over time, practiced over and over, until it becomes habit. Like breathing.

Creating the physical space in your life invites other things, perhaps previously undiscovered things, realizations and new habits – to emerge.

Once space is emptied, it is only then we have the “space” in our minds to consider what that space should contain again.

We bring conscious intention to those decisions and in doing so to our outer and inner lives as a whole.

This is why I love what I do!

Lis

 

Don’t do this to your children!

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Organizing Cartoon

You may think your children and grandchildren are interested in your life, and they are, but they will never want, nor have the time, to sort through your collection of old newspaper clippings, war memorabilia, beany-babies and logo t-shirts, unless this is the legacy you leave them.

Yes, your life has meaning. Yes, you want to be remembered after you go, but do you really want your kids to have to spend days, weeks and perhaps months, sifting through the things you cared so much about you stored them in your basement?

Unless they have already expressed an interest in these items, or they are archivists (or writers maybe), don’t assume they will find your life to be as fascinating as you think it is or was.

If you really want to pass on some of your life’s possessions, take the time now to curate what you own. In other words, downsize and decluttter that garage, attic, basement and external storage unit of all the stuff you’ve been “saving” for your kids that they can’t really use and definitely don’t want.

Unless you had a notable career where your life’s work may be of interest to the general public or as part of a special collection, don’t assume your children are so enamored of you that they will establish a museum in your honor.

They really don’t want your grandmother’s 12-piece china set, especially if it can’t go in the dishwasher!

If you have been storing their childhood toys, clothing, art and schoolwork, ask them if they still want them and set a deadline for collecting them. You are not a public storage facility.  If they are grown, it’s time for them to claim their stuff or get rid of it themselves.

Still feeling attached to little Katie’s first drawing? Take a picture of it. Then donate what’s still usable — good quality clothing and gently used items that you would imagine buying yourself in their current condition — and recycle or dispose of the rest.

As a veteran professional organizer who has literally seen it all, please take my advice:

If you want to leave them a legacy, leave them with the gratitude they will have for you for not having to put their own lives on hold to deal with all your stuff when they already have plenty of their own.

It may sound odd or morbid, but if they are adults, take the time now to ask them what they really want of yours after you go. If that’s a conversation that seems impossible, then ask them to send you a list of what they want or alternately, write a list of what household items you want each of them to have. Consider including the list as part of your Will. Most of all, give them permission to say “thanks but no thanks.”

After my mother passed three years ago, my sister and I spent several weeks clearing out her home. I kept relatively little in part because my mother lived in New York and I’m in California and it costs a lot to ship items. Fortunately my sister and I didn’t want a lot of the same things.  When we did, we negotiated.  It was hard enough finding new “homes” for the usable items we didn’t want, let alone arguing over them, in the midst of our grief.

Whatever issues or conflicts exist between your children now, will be that much worse after you go.  Do you really want your legacy to be your kids fighting over who gets your collection of vintage Santa Claus statues?

Don’t do this to your children!

 

 

How to take the stress out of moving

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How many times have you moved?

 

Moving is one of life’s most stressful and time-consuming events. As a professional organizer and move manager I believe it doesn’t have to be.

Imagine you had a trusted professional to plan your move, vet and then hire great movers you can trust and direct them on pack and move day according to your specific needs.

Imagine you had expert help to figure out where everything will go; All your unwanted items sold or donated; Your old home, empty and ready to be staged for sale, rental or remodeling – even if you can’t be there!

Now imagine that before the moving van pulls away, a team of caring and careful organizing specialists are already busy unpacking and setting up your kitchen, baths, bedrooms and storage areas – logically and aesthetically – according to your wishes so you can start enjoying life in your new home instead of living out of boxes for weeks!

If you ever thought,  “I can’t do this again,” this is what we do at LET’S MAKE ROOM (in addition to helping you organize your home and office when you’re not moving).

This month I’ve made it possible for you to know exactly what you need to do to plan for a less stressful move using this convenient checklist  based on everything I’ve learned as a veteran professional organizer and move manager.  Download your copy and use it to help plan your next move.

You deserve it!

 

This will make you more organized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

8 household items that can make you money

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

Healing the world, one pot-lid at a time

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Organized Kitchen From Above

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want more business cards or more business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I plan to hire them?

Do I want them to hire (or refer) me?

Do I want to get to know them better?

 If you answer no, then let them go.

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