declutter browsing by tag


7 Big Mistakes that Keep Us Stuck in Chaos

Monday, April 4th, 2011
  1. Begin with a gigantic organizing project.
    “Yeah! The bigger chunk I bite off, the sooner I will be done!”
    This is a perfect way to ensure failure and disillusionment. Instead, start small to ensure immediate success. Choose one area – a drawer, counter top – that you see daily.
  2. Dive in without any thought of HOW to proceed.
    “I’m going to organize this space if it takes me all day!”
    With no plan, at the end of the day you will have simply rearranged a mess and made a bigger one. Use an organizing strategy that will walk you through the process one step at a time. You can use the steps on my blog post Clearing the Clutter or find an organizing book you like for a guide.1
  3. Jump around from one area to another.
    “It’s too boring to stand still in one place for too long.”
    This is what gets us into a mess in the first place – lots of unfinished projects and the latest organizing products waiting to be used. Determine that you will finish organizing one area completely according to your plan. Actually finishing what you start is a great boost to confidence and momentum!
  4. Put off distribution of giveaways.
    “At least the stuff is in a box or bag. It can sit there for a while.”
    Your goal is to have an orderly, usable space. Once you have identified things to let go, get them out of there within 2 weeks at the latest.
  5. Pile, stack, stuff items into their assigned home.
    “If it fits, it’s all good.”
    Container, container, container. When you have a place to put belongings/supplies that is customized to hold certain items, you will be much more likely to keep up your newly organized system. Find containers that are appropriate, label if necessary, so you automatically know what goes where.
  6. Organize large spaces back to back.
    “I’m on a roll, gotta keep going.”
    Psychologists say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. When you make changes in your environment, it may take you a while to get used to your new configuration. Choosing a room or area every other month will give you a fighting chance at maintaining your new organization.
  7. Go it alone.
    “I want to be totally independent and rely solely upon my own efforts.”
    Accountability helps. First, announce to a friend or family member that you plan to organize (choose an area) this month. Ask that person to quiz you by a certain date to see if you have started. It’s amazing how much more motivated you are if someone knows your intention.

Better yet, organize with a friend. Help with his/her project and then work together on yours. Both tasks will go twice as fast and be much more fun together.

If your job seems too overwhelming, contact a professional organizer who knows where to start and can keep you on task.
Lastly, don’t forget to build rewards into your organizing efforts. Celebrate each victory with an activity or purchase that holds special meaning for you. You did a great job!
Remember though, if you bring one new thing into your renovated space, let another go.

  1. For example: Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern, Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home and Life by Laura Leist, or Organize with Confidence by Elizabeth Hagen []

Book Review: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Doesn’t that title alone make you want to read this book? If not, the cover art and lay-flat binding will up your pucker power. I am glad to say that book’s contents do not disappoint. This book will be an encouraging gift for a friend (or yourself!) this year.

Tsh Oxenreider (not misspelled) has given us powerful arguments to simplify life by letting go of “stuff”, using time wisely, and being a good steward of our finances.

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living is divided into two parts. The first section explores what simple living is and is not. Unlike many simplicity gurus, Tsh does not promote her preferences as absolutes, but recognizes that family makeup and background make each unit unique. As a result, she challenges us to develop a family purpose statement. Life choices, Tsh asserts, will easily flow from your defined purpose.

Then in Part 2, we roll up our sleeves together and spend 10 days de-cluttering our home. Each chapter gives specifics for cleaning and organizing different rooms. The appendix includes homemade cleaning recipes, home management worksheets, and a Pros and Cons discussion of common “green” questions.

Tsh is the creator of the popular blog and a world traveler with her husband and three young children.

Ins and Outs of Personal Storage

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Every person, and by extension every household, is different. Duh! We all know that, right?

But, have you ever caught yourself thinking, “Why don’t they just do it the RIGHT way?” That right way being what works for you.

This thought pattern is exactly what an organizer has to guard against! There is no one size fits all solution to clutter, storage, or containing stuff.

That is why it is essential to work with a client within the framework of his/her habits and preferences. After the owner decides what to give away or toss, the choice remains – how to contain and store the keepers.

Thankfully, we have more choices than ever on furnishings and storage units. Conversely, with so many options, it can be difficult to make a decision.

Two universal principles in organizing are:

  • Assign a home to every object/paper
  • Store items close to where they are most used

With these general principles in mind, there are a few questions that can help you think through where and how you will store your treasures:

  1. Where do I typically use this item?
  2. When and how often do I use it?
  3. Do I want this item stored with or near similar items I often use with it? [example: wrapping paper, scissors, tape, and ribbon]
  4. How essential is it that I have easy access to this item?
  5. What is problematic about where I currently keep this item?
  6. Even if my current storage system for this item is not ideal, what was the appeal about having it in this spot?

These questions will pinpoint your current habits. You will find it much easier to maintain a storage system that is customized for YOU!

Clear the Clutter!

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Does your indoor space need help now that cool weather is here?
Do you want to find what you need, when you need it, so you
are free to do what you love?
Are you yearning for a calm retreat at the end of a hectic day?

Join us for a new round of the popular “Clear the Clutter!” event at the Westerville Senior Center

~ Discover the underlying causes of clutter

~ Use LIFETM method to declutter and organize

~ Learn 5 questions to decide:  does it stay or go?

~ Share in one organizer’s favorite storage tools

~ Be equipped with resource guide for further help

FREE workshop.

Help! I Can’t Organize, There’s Not Enough Space!

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In a recent consumer survey1 when asked, “What would you say is the biggest challenge to improving your home’s organization?” These were the answers:

  • 32.9% – Lack of space in the home
  • 27.3% – finding the time
  • 25.2% – too much stuff
  • 6.7% – not sure what product to use
  • 2.7% – products at local retailer don’t meet my need
  • 5.1% – other

Lack of space is #1. For real? When you don’t have places to put all your belongings, the problem can either be:

To illustrate the difference, imagine you have a good-sized kitchen. Your cabinets hold what you need to prepare and serve food. Then you decide you want more than one set of dishes. You decide one set for each season would be perfect. Suddenly, the cabinet space seems to have shrunk. You have too much stuff for the given space.

On the other hand, the galley of a small ship will have actual limited space to store kitchen-related items. Now you must critically evaluate the necessity of each item before you award a place in the tight storage available.

Where does your stuff to space quotient fall? How you would answer this question:

Have you truly pared down belongings to those items you use and love?

How much of what you are trying to cram into your living or working space are items you…

… have not used in last 2 years
… don’t really like but are keeping because they were gifts
… think you might need someday
… have no specific purpose in mind for
… would pitch if you had time to sort through

If you have quite a few things that fit into these categories, they do not pass the USE IT, LOVE IT OR LOSE IT test. It is time for a purging party.

The second question to ask yourself is:

Are you effectively using every square foot of the space you do have?

There are a few tricks that interior designers and professional organizers alike use to maximize storage in a truly small space.
These include:

  • going vertical
  • finding unused air
  • using dual-purpose furnishings

Read more in my post “Small Space Solutions” and listen in to Kelly Galea’s tips on Sept 8th, see events above.

The first step in any problem solving sequence is to properly identify exactly what the problem is. Hopefully, from this article you have pinpointed whether your problem is too much stuff or an actual limited space situation. Now you are in a position to take corrective action.

  1. Storage Consumer Survey. Homeworld Business Magazine 10/01/2008
    Statistic by/from Homeworld Forecast Consumer Survey conducted by NPD Group []

7 Top Causes of Clutter

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Do you remember learning in school that scientists once thought maggots were springing to life from inorganic matter—specifically from dead animal carcasses? I was not a science fan, but thinking about that was so gross it stuck in my head.

In time, of course, the discovery came that flies were laying eggs which then hatched and fed on the carrion. Maggots are the larva stage of flies. This is a prime example of Cause and Effect.

Credit: easyflow/Flickr

Clutter is rather like the maggots. (Does your clutter gross you out at times, too?) Clutter is not a cause; Clutter does not spring into existence. Rather there are underlying causes that create the effect—Clutter shows up.

These are seven top causes of clutter. Perhaps the suggested changes in thinking and behavior can help you rid your life of excess clutter.

  1. Keeping things around “just in case.” Our fear is that as soon as we get rid of something, the situation will arise where we need it.
    Cure: Only keep those things for which you have a specific use in mind. Ask yourself: will it be hard replace this item if/when you need it? Finally, set a number limit on common items you will keep (margarine tubs for example.)
  2. Feeling guilty about getting rid of something was given to you, part of an inheritance, or was expensive.
    Cure: The correct response to a gift is to express gratitude. If you do not love or use that item, try to find someone else who would appreciate it. Remember, ownership continues to cost us time and money in maintenance and repair while the stuff clutters our space. Cut your losses early and gain freedom to fill that void with activities or belongings that bring you joy.
  3. Storing supplies or unfinished projects that were important to you in the past, but do not have the same meaning now.
    Cure: Recognize and applaud your personal growth. Ask, “Do these things reflect the person I was or who I am now?” Take pictures or make a shadow box of memories that are especially important and let the other things go.
  4. Being afraid that out of sight will be out of mind. You keep bills, letters to write, and invitations lying on surfaces or in a “safe” place. Soon these are covered by the next layer of items too important to miss!
    Cure: Set up email reminders to pay bills, or automate minimum balance payments online so you won’t pay late fees. You can always pay more mid-cycle if you decide to. Establish a true home and faithfully file those invitations, concert tickets, and permission slips in that spot so you always know where to look.
  5. Waiting for an object to come back in style or become a valuable heirloom.
    Cure: Find out if the item is increasing in value by looking at similar items on eBay or Google. Get an appraisal from a local auction house. Then make an informed decision about whether to hang onto it any longer. Try to find someone with a related interest who would be thrilled to receive it as a gift.
  6. Assigning feelings to things that remind you of loved ones and landmarks from your past, sometimes to your own hurt.
    Cure: First, only keep the things that have good memories. Take photos of large objects and let someone who needs them benefit. Make a “Special Memories” scrapbook and record where they came from and what you remember so later generations will know their meaning. Of course, “if something has a great deal of sentimental value and you absolutely cannot part with it, don’t!” says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer.
  7. Having difficulty getting motivated to de-clutter. This is a very real phenomenon called “delayed discounting,” according to Dr. Daniel Hommer, chief of brain imaging at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
    Cure: Dr. Homme says, “If it takes a long time to reach a goal, you value that goal less than if you could reach it quickly – making it harder to get started.” Set small goals and find some victory early. Organize a drawer, one shelf, or a square yard of floor space. Reward yourself for completing each small task with a colorful organizing container.

Clutter happens for a reason.  Try to look beyond the mess itself to what is causing the build up of belongings in that particular spot.

Chunk down a large de-cluttering problem into several small areas and organize one every other week. Clean or dust that area while you are at it. In a year, you will clean and organize 26 small spaces! What a difference that can make in your outlook and confidence level!

Are Good Things Crowding Out THE BEST?

Friday, March 5th, 2010

“But, this is still good.”

Meaning : I can’t part with it while it has utility. I invested money and energy into this.

Sadly, the gaggle of what is only “good” – whether that is information, possessions, intentions, pursuits, or desires – disguises and crowds out THE BEST until we can’t distinguish what THE BEST is anymore.

Does that statement sound too philosophical to be practical? Think about clothing in your closet or dresser as an example. How many are clothes you used to love that either don’t fit, are too ragged/faded from use, need alterations or repair, or are simply out of style? Odds are you will never wear them again, but they are “too good to give/throw away!”

When you look for something to wear, those leftovers are in the way, confusing your choices and slowing you down. What if you kept only the clothes that you wear constantly and make you feel great about yourself? You could shop your closet much more effectively and be more confident in your appearance every day.

Credit: Supagroova/flickr

Credit: Supagroova/flickr

Now think of that area in your life that is bugging you and seems overwhelming. In the same way, is there physical or mental clutter that is blocking your progress and success? These questions may help clarify your thinking:

What represents THE BEST for you in this area? Hint: What do you want to see in 10 years?

What things and attitudes do not support THE BEST for you? Will you have the courage to let go?

What three actions can you take to pursue THE BEST? Pick one. Start doing that today.

Is there someone who has experience in this area from whom you can learn? Don’t think you have to do it all yourself. Surround yourself with a supportive team. Trade time with a friend who can help you with something you aren’t good at and vice versa. Call in an expert to get you started.

Don’t let what is good rob you of THE BEST!