Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

10 Hidden Costs of Moving

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

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

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

    My favorite moving crew

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

30 Dos and Don’ts for a Do-It-Yourself Move

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Moving BlanketsMaking plans to move doesn’t start the day you start packing.

Whether you are moving, across the street, across the country, or just temporarily while your house is being remodeled, the secret to a stress-free move is all in the preparation.

Here are 15 “Dos” and 15 “Don’ts” to help you, or those you know, plan and prepare to move without breaking the bank or your back.

Do’s

  1. Do get at least two written, onsite estimates and read them carefully. Fees for supplies, materials, 2nd stops or even labor can vary widely from mover to mover.
  2. Do label and if possible, separate items you are Moving (by destination), Selling, Donating or Hauling.
  3. Do consider getting your high value items insured against loss or damage, especially if you are moving more than 50 miles.
  4. Do give yourself plenty of time to purge if you have clutter or are downsizing your home.
  5. Do hire a licensed mover with a long list of references and check their references.
  6. Do plan on being there on move day to direct movers at your old home or new home if you can’t be there.
  7. Do pack heavy items such as books in small boxes, light items such as pillows and lamp shades in large boxes, bulky or odd-sized items such as lamp shades, toys or tools in medium boxes. Fragile items such as crystal and china should go  in extra strong dish-packs.
  8. Do have a plan for unpacking and getting organized at your new home. The average home will take 1-4 weeks to unpack depending upon the amount of items you move. Consider hiring professional organizers if you need it done more quickly.
  9. Do arrange with your movers to disconnect large appliances such as washes and dryers.
  10. Do make a plan for your school aged children on move day  and secure your pets in a safe place.
  11. Do inspect the moving truck after your items are unloaded to be sure it’s fully emptied before movers depart.
  12. Do leave folded clothes in dressers. Most movers will provide wardrobe boxes, free of charge, for your hanging clothes.
  13. Do book your move first thing in the morning.
  14. Do label boxes clearly so movers can get them to the right room in your new home.
  15. Do consider donating or giving away your gently used boxes or see if your movers will take them back.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t assume movers will be available on the day you need to move. Book 4-6 weeks ahead if possible.
  2. Don’t hire movers you haven’t met with or have not been recommended by people you trust.
  3. Don’t forget to pack/purge contents from storage areas, attics, sheds and offsite storage.
  4. Don’t waste time scrounging for boxes and packing supplies. Gently used ones can be found online and less expensive ones at stores like Home Depot. Professional Movers can also deliver boxes/supplies
  5. Don’t leave packing to the last minute. It will add to the cost of your move if your movers were not hired to pack.
  6. Don’t hire a mover solely on price. Experience, knowledge of your community and skill (like moving a grand piano) counts for much more.20150214_101556
  7. Don’t move boxes you haven’t opened since your last move.
  8. Don’t call movers at the last minute with significant changes to your move. It will cost you.
  9. Don’t book a move at the end of a month or in the summer, if possible. These are their busiest times.
  10. Don’t water your plants for two days before you move.
  11. Don’t forget to go back and check all areas of your home before your moving truck leaves.
  12. Don’t forget to complete a change of address form for all your service providers and the US Mail.
  13. Don’t talk to movers when they are moving heavy objects
  14. Don’t forget to tip your movers if they did a good job.
  15. Don’t forget to notify friends, relatives and the post office about your new address.

Confronting our monsters

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At 8:00 this morning, I had my own private celebration. It took place in my head.

An hour earlier I was driving and thinking about how terrifying it must be for some of my clients to do the one thing that scares them the most; To finally confront what’s kept them from moving forward in their lives because they feel overwhelmed and stuck and it’s showing up as piles of papers, boxes and who knows what else, on their desks, on the floor, in their drawers, everywhere.

I was thinking about what it means to do the one thing that scares you the most and to have the courage to do it anyway because you know you have to. Because you know not doing so will have far greater consequences.

For people who are chronically disorganized, the consequence of not facing their fears can be enormous.  For some it’s a loss of control over their lives. For others, it’s isolation. I know people who have lost their children, their spouses and their very security because of their inability to face their fears head on.  I also know people who have shown great courage and have discovered the meaning of making room in their lives.

My fears are about public speaking. And yet, as a small business person I know the value it brings to others in the form of information and sometimes even inspiration. But I do it quite frankly because I have to. Working with people in their homes and in their offices or helping them move is tactical but it’s also very personal. I know that if people see me and feel I am someone they can trust, and recognize I  have the expertise to help them, then they often will remember me when it comes time to organize their offices, or their bedrooms or help them plan and oversee their move to a new home.

The Paper MonsterThis is what I was thinking at seven o’clock this morning, on my way to speak to a group of fifty small business owners and entrepreneurs about how to face their fears, specifically about how to confront their own Paper Monsters.  I did this presentation a few weeks earlier and it had not lived up to my expectations  – perfectionism, my monster, rearing it’s ugly head, yet again –  and now I was getting ready to face him again.  Was I scared? Petrified, which is why at that moment I started thinking about my clients.

“If  they can have the courage to hire me, then I can damn well find the courage to face my fears as well, ” I thought.  And so I did. And it went fine. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. And that’s good enough. But to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. At least for today I can celebrate.

Tomorrow, I do it again.

Organizing Habits You’ll Want To Practice

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I came across these 10 Simple Steps to Staying Organized in Getting Organized Magazine.

Try to commit one or two to memory and start implementing them in your own life.

You can receive a digital version of Getting Organized Magazine, including these great tips by going to this link or copy and paste this URL into your browser:

2012 Summer

1. If you get it out, put it back.

2.  If you open it, shut it.  

3.  If you try it on, hang it up.

4.  If you get it dirty, wash it. 

5.  If you don’t use it, get rid of it.

6.  If it doesn’t fit, donate it.  (my add in….or consign it or sell on ebay if it is a great piece)

7.  If it’s expired, dump it. 

8.  If it’s junk, throw it out.

9.  If it’s a bill, pay it.

10.  If you schedule it, write it down.

What ‘Sandy’ Couldn’t Wash Away

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While I have lived in California for 25 years  I grew up in New York City and still consider myself a “New Yaw-ker.”

Like a lot of people, when I see the images of destruction in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that hit the coastal communities of New York and New Jersey and hear the cries from people who have lost everything, absolutely everything, I still can’t believe it.

As a child, my family lived in an apartment that faced the Hudson River separating Manhattan from New Jersey.  In the 60s and 70s we went through two blackouts and at least three blizzards but this storm was altogether something different.

Yet what strikes me most is the gratitude people express for just having survived, for having their loved ones near by, for having the fortitude to know they will start over.

As an organizing professional I am deeply aware of the nature of people’s attachments to their possessions. I see almost daily how people instill their possessions with meaning.  Yet when they no longer possess it or they leave it behind either by choice or by circumstance, I am always struck by the notion that those things, in and of themselves, have no meaning. They become merely objects that in most cases, have no value other than what they can fetch on an open market. Their meaning along with the memories they evoke are tied to the people who possessed them.

The other day I was emptying a storage closet that belonged to someone I never knew and who had long since abandoned it.  It seemed strange and sad that no one had taken responsibility for the items I found: photographs of family events and babies long since grown;  awards and commemorative plaques honoring the life and work of this person; books and files and several religious figurines.

I took most of the items to Goodwill. What couldn’t be donated was recycled.  Doing so made me think of the thousands upon thousands of items that end up unclaimed every year in rented storage spaces, abandoned homes, even people’s current homes and forgotten storage areas. They become the remnants of their lives.  Items that meant so much one day, and nothing the next.

If tragedy teaches us anything, it teaches us who we really are. When I organize someone’s home or office or help them get organized to move,  I often stress that in the scheme of things they come first, not their stuff.  I am not saying this to judge them or to minimize the value they place in their possessions, rather, I am encouraging them to be as conscious and thoughtful as possible about what they own.

Not everything has to have “meaning” but ideally if it takes up space it should have usefulness or add value to our lives in some way. It should give us joy or be pleasing or practical or purposeful. Just like our homes, that offer us a place of refuge or peace, the items we surround ourselves with offer us something real and tangible.  At the very least they should be a positive reflection of ourselves and something familiar to come home to.

To me that is the true lesson of Hurricane Sandy. That, in a matter of hours, all that was familiar to so many was lost.  They didn’t expect it. They couldn’t plan for it and yet they remain hopeful that their lives as they once knew them to be will one day return.  The rain and the winds and the water may have washed away their homes but it didn’t wash away their spirit.

Would you like to help people impacted by Hurricane SandyDonate now

 

The Basement Chronicles – Part 1

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“It’s time to fix up the basement. My goal: Turn it into a more usable home-gym and place to focus on my physical, mental and spiritual fitness.”

It’s been about a month since I posted that statement and happy to report that I have been using the basement for a home gym.  Before I could, however, I made it my goal to empty out most of the cabinets which were filled with old toys, games and crafts belonging to my now 17-year old step-daughter who gave me the okay.

Many of the toys got donated to a local Alameda County organization called Bananas which helps low income mothers to find childcare and early childhood education.  A few were consigned to a store called, Toy Go Round  – a decision I might re-think because it required two trips to the consignment store (plus another for each time I want to check on the sales of my items).  It also took a good deal of effort, time and paper towel to clean the old toys so they would be sale-able.

Organizing the Basement

Alex, the cat, inspects the toys being ready for sale and donation

I have to confess though it did give me the opportunity to indulge the 9 year-old in me that wanted to hear the sounds of the Barbie train whistle again and open and close all the cabinets in the Barbie Town House.  That train, now featured in the window of the consignment store, is going to make some other little girl’s day.

Next time I’ll let you know about how I set up the gym and what’s left to do.

Are You A Hider or A Piler?

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look at the pictures below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Disorganization is a symptom not a cause

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Question markPeople often say they can’t get things done because they are too disorganized.

The causes of disorganization can be both personal as well as situational. In either case it requires an ability to make effective decisions.

Even with plenty of space, you can still be disorganized. Why? Because getting organized requires taking action and action requires decision making.  Disorganization is often the result of delayed decision making or deficits in decision making. If you find you have difficulty making decisions it may be because:

  1. The task ahead of you is too overwhelming
  2. You are afraid that you’ll lose something or accidentally get rid of something you’ll need later
  3. You group important and non-important items together
  4. You don’t have the time, mental capacity or physical ability to devote to organizing
  5. People around you do not support your organizing goals and may even sabotage them intentionally or otherwise
  6. You don’t have a system for maintaining your changes once you’ve made them. In other words having a S Y S T E M will Save You Space Time Energy and Money
  7. Your space does not efficiently accommodate the stuff you have such as a poorly designed closet or a storage area is inaccessible, broken or filled to capacity
  8. You’re afraid of the consequence of your decision
  9. You’re not really motivated to decide – that is there’s nothing compelling you enough to take an action
  10. Poor health in the moment or on an ongoing basis. This can be temporary such as fatigue or more chronic such as neurological conditions that affect your brain’s ability to distinguish between options.

If you experience these or any other moments of indecisiveness, try one of these ideas to get you unstuck:

  1. Give yourself less options: Instead of focusing on all that you have to do, choose the two that get your attention the most and pick one of them. (Flip a coin if you have to.)
  2. Ask yourself if making the decision will improve your life in any way and if so, how?
  3. Recognize that not everything is important and that some things are more important than others. Imagine you had one hour to leave your home, what would you take with you? What would you leave behind? What do you know you would be able to find again if you had to?
  4. Understand and accept your limitations. Most of us are good at some things but not at everything. Not even dentists can fill their own cavities.
  5. Take the advice of people who have what you want. Don’t listen to people who discourage you if you suspect they don’t have your best interests at heart or if they have something to gain from your staying stuck.
  6. Look for alternatives. If you can’t afford the high-end closet organizing system you dream about, get a design estimate for one anyway, then look for ways you can build or create your own system that will accomplish the same functional goals even if you have to let go of the pretty wood finishes.
  7. Imagine the worst. Go ahead, take yourself through the scenario of what you are really afraid of and then ask yourself, “Is it true?” or “Will this really happen?” If you are convinced it will,  then try a different route.
  8. Get absolutely clear on what’s in it for you.  What would you stand to gain or lose? Is this really that important to you? If not, then it’s not going to motivate you to take action. Find something that you absolutely care about without question.
  9. Do nothing for a while and wait to see if anything changes. Do you feel worse? Are others impacted by your indecision and do their feelings matter to you? Are you stressed by your own inaction? These are the times to ask for help since you know that something has to change but you know you can’t do it alone.
  10. Ask yourself what is this costing me in terms of my time, money or my quality of life? Are you spending your time doing what you want to be doing? Are you able to afford what you need and a few extras too without feelings stressed about the consequences? Does your life feel rich with the things that really matter to you be them friends, family, community, a sense of purpose, fun, health or whatever else makes you happy? If not, then it’s time to make a change.