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Downsizing in Place, Part 2: Tap Into Your Treasure

Monday, August 9th, 2010

My daughter, Jenny, recently returned from living in Italy and was faced with the task of sorting through boxes from her college years. She had to decide what still held meaning for her and what she was ready to let go.

Making decisions about possessions that represent your life is difficult.  You wonder where to start. What is the reasoning process to use?

Then you can get bogged down with the question, “If I don’t keep it, what should I do with it?” The object represents history, or still has a useful life.

One strategy to use when the task seems overwhelming is to turn the process around. Rather than looking at what to get rid of and how, start by looking for treasures.

Ask yourself:

  1. What can I not bear to live without?
  2. Does anything give an emotional tug that holds good memories?
  3. What feeds my soul because it is of such great beauty?

Set aside these treasured items; these are “the keepers!”

All that remains is to determine what you use on a regular basis or you must keep to stay out of jail. The rest can go. Isn’t that a freeing thought?

Remember, you don’t have to keep inherited items or gifts if they do not hold meaning for you! Let someone else cherish those.

7 Most Effective Organize-O-Metrics

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Perform these exercises once a month to lose 5-7 pounds of excess weight each time. ( As an added side effect, you may lose weight and build stronger bones.)42-15614410

  1. Deep knee bends: Bending knees, keeping back straight, lift one item from the floor.  Place the item in a drawer, cupboard or box nearest to where you will next need it.  Keep a trash can handy for extra balance and to store things that have no further use.  Repeat 20 times.
  2. Lower abdominal tighteners: Equipment – empty laundry basket.  In your main closet, pull in your lower abdomen and hold it.  Taking one item from a hanger, put it on.  If unable to fit over your head, close the front, or fasten waist, place in the laundry basket.  Breathe out as you release your abdominal muscles and commit that piece of clothing to another home.  Repeat 10 times.  ( Reuse filled basket in exercise #3)
  3. Step stool high-stepping: Write on 2 index cards: KEEP and GIVE. Determine the least accessible shelf or cupboard in your kitchen. Using a step stool, remove everything from that space. While performing the exercise, ask yourself two questions about each item you touch:  1) Have I used this within 2 years? If  “No,” put the item in the GIVE  pile. If “Yes,” ask the second question,  2) Do I use it at least once a month? If “No,” put it back where it came from. If “Yes,” find a new home in a more accessible location.  Add the clothes from the laundry basket to the GIVE pile and dispose of everything by donating to a friend, charity, or the trash man.
  4. Hip flexers: Equipment – One or more 25 CD/DVD storage containers. Sit on the floor facing your media center with knees apart. Lean forward and pick up one DVD or CD. Return to the upright position and open the case while taking a deep breath. If the case has the correct disc, close it and set it in the container. If not, remove any disc and place both to the side for now. Breathe out. Repeat until all CD/DVD’s have been removed. Match up any newly discovered pairs and place in the storage container.  Empty cases then are placed behind the loaded cases and lone CD/DVD’s placed in sandwich bags go in front. One final step to finish this exercise strong: flip through each title and let go of those that no longer hold any interest for you.
  5. Lower back stretch: Equipment – a plastic bin labeled MOVE.  Lying on the floor face down near a bed, reach with your left arm to capture the nearest container-escapee from under the bed. Place it in the plastic bin. Repeat four more times, then do the same motion five times with right arm. Continue until the floor under the bed is cleared. Use the items in the container in exercise # 6.
  6. Cool down: Pick one item from the container filled in exercise #5. Decide which person uses that and where. Walk from room to room at a medium pace, depositing each item close to the door of the appropriate room. DO NOT STEP INSIDE THE ROOM! Keep walking until the container is empty.
  7. One last stretch: Crossing one foot over the other, slowly pick up the laundry basket from exercise #3. Change foot position, crossing the other foot in front and slowly pick up the plastic bin from exercise #6. Place in the laundry basket and lift both over your head. Stretching as high as you can, say, “I did it!” Put both containers away until next month.

Now you can go weigh the items in your GIVE pile to see how much weight you lost this month. Congratulations!

Downsizing: The 100 Thing Challenge, Dream or Nightmare?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Well, Dave Bruno’s personal 100 Thing Challenge timed out on his birthday this past November. This is how he described his intent last summer in his blog, aguynameddave:

Goal: By November 12, 2008 I will only have 100 personal things. I will live with only 100 personal things for one full year, until November 12, 2009.

Dave writes that he wants to distance himself from rampant American consumerism. His list of the 100 things he is keeping is an interesting read. Dave is a hiker, surfer, writer, and Christian. I don’t know Dave, but I can tell a lot about him from his list.

In an interview with, Dave explains what prompted this movement.

“Stuff starts to overwhelm you,” says Dave Bruno, 37, an online entrepreneur who looked around his San Diego home one day last summer and realized how much his family’s belongings were weighing him down.

Do you feel the same? Are you ready to downsize? Does the thought of reducing your belongings to only 100 things inspire you or make you break out in a cold sweat? I honestly don’t know if I want to live at quite that level of minimalism. However, I believe that a return to the basics would be a great  side benefit of our recent economic downturn here in the U.S.

Possessions can truly own us as we struggle to clean, maintain, replace, and endlessly upgrade the “stuff.”  Shedding a few extra pounds of belongings can be very freeing! I have experienced that in my own life, and watched the look of joy on client’s faces when they feel that themselves.

So, in the spirit of congratulating Dave on his courageous journey, here are a few suggestions to help us all pare down gradually.

  1. For every new item you bring into your home, determine to lose another item.
  2. Twice a month go through one drawer or cabinet. Separate the stuff you have used within the past year from the unused items. If there is something in the unused pile that you are certain to need in the near future, keep it.  Otherwise gift that entire pile to trash man, friend, relative, or charity.
  3. If you have clothing you don’t really like or is too large/small, give it away.
  4. Think of those collections of things you are keeping “just in case” – cool whip containers, newspapers, magazines, old ribbons and bows, gift boxes, string, rubber bands off the broccoli. Decide on a small number (maybe 1/4 of the number you now have) and dispose of the rest.
  5. Is there a hobby that you have outgrown? Find another enthusiast and make his day.
  6. Do you have possessions that are starved for affection? You have so many other things that you never use that one? Remind yourself, “This thing needs someone to love and care for it!” Be kind to that item and find it a good home where it will be cherished.

Three years ago, my husband and I moved downtown to a condo that is 40% smaller than our old home. The process of letting go of things was not an easy one. We are glad we persisted. Our time spent in maintenance is now minimal. We walk to sporting events, movies, and restaurants (maybe even a casino soon, though I sincerely hope not!) We are thoroughly enjoying getting back to basics!

Perhaps you will be inspired by this quote from a true minimalist. “I had three chairs in my house: one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”  – Henry David Thoreau, the ultimate downsizer.

Last Day of November, Did You Clean Out Toys?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

November is one of two times per year that is perfect to clean out toys; the other is during the month before your child/grandchild’s birthday. That is the tip I shared with the MOMS Club of Dublin S at their October meeting.  Little did I realize my daughter in VA would recruit me to help her pare down toys while I was there this month.

I do admire moms who work outside the home. I think that is the hardest job in the world. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything, so the working mom has to choose who/what to neglect. Usually the choice is: herself.  My daughter, Sarah, is no exception.

That is why I am always glad to be there to help either by playing with my two pre-school grandchildren or doing some of the chores while she was busy with kids. This time Sarah and I had fun together doing some de-cluttering and organizing of toys.  These are the steps we took:

1. First we took all toys out of the family room, off the toy shelves, and dumped them in the middle of the staging area – in this case the formal living room.

2. We gathered trash bags and containers for sorting. Sarah was ahead of the game here because she already had designated containers for: cars/trucks, baby doll stuff, toy kitchen/food, dress ups, musical instruments, books, soft toys, little things (that 1 yr old Ethan can’t have.) In addition there were the categories TOSS (trash), GIVE (consignment), STORE (just in case of baby #3).

3. Then between the two of us we touched each item and sorted it into one of the categories. If I didn’t know what Sarah wanted to do with a particular toy, I would ask her.  She is a decisive person, so this part only took about an hour.

4. Meanwhile we had dusted and cleaned the toy shelves. So after sorting we put the containers back in their home. After the two trash bags went out, and we carried two boxes into the basement, all Sarah had left to do was take things to the consignment store that week.  DONE!

Now there is space for new toys, books, and games from Grandma and Grandpa. What fun!

If you didn’t have time to do this in November, take time during this first week of December. Your toys may be DVD’s, CD’s or video games.  Use the same steps with different categories.  It works!

Crayons… and Convicted of Clutter

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Have you ever had the experience of being convicted by your own words?  I have!

While preparing for my recent “Clear the Clutter!” workshop, I gathered several drawers of “useful junk” from around my house for a sorting exercise.  I decided to use one of the items to demo the use of 5 Key Questions to determine:  Should it stay or should it go?  I grabbed a box of crayons and began to ask:

Click to continue »

Your Trash Can Be Someone’s FREE Treasure

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

As a professional organizer, I want to give several options to clients who are ready to downsize or to just get rid of larger items.  One very effective channel for connecting givers to receivers is Freecycle.  This is a brief description of the organization from their website

The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,801 groups with 6,576,000 members across the globe. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them’s good people). Membership is free.


To participate, find the nearest Freecycle network to you on their website.

Fill out a membership form.

Then begin to post items you want to offer or to respond to offers for free stuff. The postings are via email.

A word to the wise:  Freecycle allows you to receive offers as they are made, in a digest, or to not receive offers on a regular basis. Here in the greater Columbus, OH area, my email filled up quickly.

You can always try the real time posting to get a feel for the process and change it later.  Just be prepared for a deluge of offers.  These can be a blast to read… for a short time!

Got Good Stuff?

Friday, July 17th, 2009

To get an estimate of the value of your things you may want to contact a professional appraiser.  Remember that value is defined as the expected sale price in an arm’s length transaction in a normal market over a reasonable period of time.  For very specific markets, the value may be a personal preference or “in the eyes of the beholder” value.  In settling large estates, it is wise to get an appraiser’s opinion whether you are selling or simply donating larger items to charity.

These are the three top appraisal organizations and their websites:

Of course, there’s always Antiques Roadshow.  I love to watch the show.  They recently found the first $1 million appraisal items!