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Victory! Purged Clothes Lead to Organized Closet

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Recently I received this wonderful email from a friend and O4L reader. With her permission, I am letting you read over my shoulder. I hope you are encouraged and inspired to make needed changes in your life.

Dear Martha,

Here’s a praise report and some good [news] about how the LORD has given me the needed desire and encouragement to purge and organize my clothes and closet.

I had wanted to lose weight to be healthy and The LORD led me to a ‘diet plan’ that has really made a big difference.  I am down 22 lbs. and have reached my goal with 2 lbs to spare. In the meantime - the lost pounds and inches – meant lots of my clothes needed to go -  He has  given me a new mindset -  that this is the healthy weight for me and I’m making the lifestyle change to stay within two pounds of it.

So I no longer feel the need to save the larger sizes “just in case”. When I lost the first 10- or 11 pounds I gave away some of my ” too big for me but in good shape” clothing to friends and family.  It was a joy to pass things on to others (who were blessed) and to have less “stuff” cluttering up my closet.

Then two days ago – after losing this final 11 lbs - I tried on every piece of clothing I own – summer - winter – all of it and I’m actually purging at least 2/3 of my wardrobe!!

We have always had limited closet space and even though I’m not one to buy tons of clothes -I did save old ones for WAY too long and  I have had to use the  spare bedroom closet to store seasonal clothing.

Both the spare bedroom closet and our closet are so organized now. I  purged every part – old shoes – purses – belts you name it – WOW what a euphoric feeling on all fronts !!!  Also I’ve done what you’ve mentioned and used the summer sales to buy a few ‘nice replacement items’ in the new sizes – but only a few.

I still have to find homes for some of the clothing I think friends might like – but all that is decent and not something specifically thought of for individuals  is boxed up and in my car to be donated.

YOUR message is timely and I’m blessed by God’s grace to make healthy changes which I know are improving our quality of life.   MOVING Forward into a lifestyle of organization.  Thanks for your help and inspiration.

Blessings, Cyndy

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.

Extreme Downsizing… So Tempting!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I had just returned from a week’s vacation in Arizona and was feeling footloose and fancy free. Then I read Sean Ogle’s guest blog on Unclutterer entitled “Less stuff, more adventure”. It brought back memories of my first year of marriage to my Army Lieutenant when we could fit everything we owned – literally!- in the back of a Chevy Vega.

Tiger Balm Garden, Hong Kong

Sean went a step farther and sold the car! Now he is a world traveler living out of a backpack. He was writing from Bangkok, Thailand.

Obviously, Sean is not living in a tent and he must have a bank account he is drawing from. He is making his living with freelance writing and other online ventures. When not punching a computer keypad, he is meeting the Thai people, learning their culture and enjoying the bustle of a very cosmopolitan city.  Read Sean’s article here. Very motivating to lose the stuff that ties us down!

Did you visit the Tiger Balm Garden yet, Sean? Jeff and I were there in 1976, great place to celebrate the Bicentennial. Congrats on taking the steps to follow your dream!

Jill’s Story, Behind the Scenes Coaching on De-Cluttering

Friday, March 12th, 2010

You want to soar, stuff gets in the way

You want to soar, stuff gets in the way (neoliminal/Flickr)

Over the last month or so, Jill and I have been emailing back and forth. She shared that she is finally motivated to let go of all the paper she has been storing with her business.  I hope you will be encouraged by her story. I asked Jill if I could share our email correspondence. She was surprised that I thought she could be of help to someone else, but agreed graciously.  I will post her “Before” pictures soon. Jill has promised to show us her “After” pictures when she gets more work done. I think she has come a very long way already!

Hello Martha:

I have enjoyed reading your 60 tips.  Nice to know that I am on the right track and not as bad as I thought!!!

I have my own business as a graphic designer/marketer/printier and I am a paper hoarder.  I save samples of my work, sayings, books, reference materials, magazines, business journals, catalogs, postcards, etc. I have the thought of “just in case”

In my office, I have 5 file cabinets with 15 drawers, book shelves, cabinets, etc.  with these items stored.  I even have the paper piles on the floor in my office which I can’t seem to get through and is driving me crazy….I know it is a bit of OCD. …but I am trying to plow through.

Here is my Serious question:  How do you deal with samples, catalogs, etc.?  I have had them on file for their information and use as photos of an item, like a magnet, shirt, signage, etc.  Do I input all of the info about the catalog/company in a database and pitch the catalogs?  Keep them?  ETC?  I was just trying to make room in my files for other info and to reduce the weight on my floor!

Help!  I could really use your advice.  Thank you so much.


Hi Jill!

I am so glad you found the report helpful.  Yay! You have systems in place already!

It sounds like you have a filing system for your work-related papers. Before I answer your question of  “How do you deal with samples, catalogs, etc?” I want to get a little clarification:

  1. How often do you use what is in the files in your present projects?
  2. Are you able to find what you need when you go to look for it?
  3. Do you replace the old catalogs with the latest version when it comes?

In principle, you probably use only 20% of what you have.  The only trick will be to figure out what that percentage represents in your mix.

I may be able to get some hints from your answers to the questions.

You are brave to ask the questions, Jill.  Kudos!

Martha Clouse
Professional Organizer and Speaker

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Benefits of Downsizing BEFORE You Have to Move

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Coconut Postcard

Should I keep Aunt Agatha’s prized gravy boat and platter? What will I do with the coconut postcard (written ON a coconut!) my dad sent from Hawaii? Something has to go!

Usually the term downsizing is used in terms of moving to a smaller dwelling. That move forces home owners to reduce the contents of their current house.   You may face selling the home you have lived in for 5, 10, 20, 30 or more years. That is why I suggest that folks start early weeding out possessions they don’t use or absolutely love.

I like to think about downsizing the amount of belongings in a home as a worthy goal even when no move is pending. Very few folks (in North America especially) keep only those things they use or find beautiful. The extra stuff becomes physical, visual, and mental clutter. Clearing our homes of these distractions can only add to our quality of life.

So, when to begin downsizing? Ideally now, but certainly during the period 6 months to 1 year before an expected move.

Downsizing BEFORE you have to move offers great benefits!

  • You save $$$.  Moving companies typically charge by weight. The cost of rental trucks is based on volume needed.  Moving less means less money spent on the move itself.
  • You save time by not packing & unpacking extra stuff. You don’t move what you don’t need or truly love.
  • You have the luxury of making decisions before the time crunch of moving. Retirement, job change, illness, or moving ailing parents can force a move you weren’t expecting.
  • You are able to donate/recycle rather than throw things in the trash. How do you find out your neighbors are moving? There is a huge pile of good stuff on their curb and people are getting out of their cars to check it out. Don’t advertise that your house will soon be empty.
  • By downsizing early, you gain space and enjoy living clutter-free.
    Have you prepared for a move and enjoyed for 2-3 months the changes you wish you had made 5 years earlier?
  • As you de-personalize and de-clutter room by room for a pending move, you are able to paint and make necessary repairs. You will be ready to put your home on the market quickly when the time is right.

Any time is the right time to reduce the amount of things that own your time and occupy your thoughts. Shedding possessions that require maintenance and repair and take up precious space in your life can be quite freeing! Start downsizing now and you will be ready for that move… whenever.

How Do You Get Kids to Take Their Stuff?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This is the question I was asked at a recent GO Month presentation. The topic was Downsizing BEFORE You Have to Move.

The short answer – Set a Deadline! I give anyone reading this permission to make me the bad guy. Say, “My professional organizer is making me do it!”

Watch this short video for a true story about kids and their stuff from premier New Zealand organizer, Wendy Davie.

My mom saved stuff for her four children in her basement for 30+ years. When she was ready to move into a retirement center, she set the deadline for us to take our stuff or else.  Clothes from the 70′s were mildewed.  Hundreds of science fiction paperbacks were carted off (and pitched later.) There was no reason for her to have stored those things all that time.

Be tough! Set a deadline. If the stuff is important, children will take it.  If not, donate the things so someone else can use it.

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!