Storage Units: Good or Evil?

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

My general rule about storage units is this: avoid them at all costs! People rent them and forget ’em and they often turn out to be filled with junk.

Let’s look at why you really might need a storage unit.

There’s a short list of reasons that are acceptable.

  • You are temporarily living in a place that’s too small for your possessions
  • Your temporary living situation will be so short that it doesn’t make sense to move all your stuff in
  • You’ve inherited a large quantity of stuff that will take time to sort through
  • Your home needs repairs due to flood or fire

Notice that all these reasons are valid only because the storage is temporary. There’s no good reason to keep things permanently in storage.

Just as you shouldn’t live beyond your means financially, you shouldn’t live beyond your space means either.

I read this quotation from a storage industry executive: “People turn basements into home theaters or turn garages into family rooms and they need space for storage.” I call that living beyond your space means.

Of course, it’s much more common to fill up the garage with stuff so there’s no room for the car and to fill up the basement too so there’s no room for a workshop or pool table. People also fill up their spare rooms so they aren’t so spare anymore.

Okay, on to bad reasons to have a storage unit:

  • You moved in a hurry and just boxed stuff up and ditched it there
  • You’ve moved a number of times and keep adding to the mystery box collection
  • You inherited stuff 20 years ago and never got around to deciding whether you even like it
  • The stuff that’s in there is not worth a fraction of what it costs to rent the unit
  • You’re storing things for your children to have when they grow up and your kids are babies now
  • Keeping stuff you’re going to sell on eBay someday
  • Saving clothes you’ll fit into someday
  • Hanging on to an exercise machine you’ll use someday

All these reasons involve unmade decisions or hanging onto stuff for future situations that may never come to pass.

They also involve spending money; a lot of it if you keep paying rent year after year.

The year is still young! Make 2012 the year you make those decisions and start living in the present.

Organize your bedroom

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

magazine organizing basketWouldn’t it be delightful to walk into a serene, welcoming bedroom after a hard day’s work? It would invite you to relax and nothing else; nothing to put away, nothing to distract you from chilling out.

The way it is now:

The bed is unmade, clothes are slung over chairs and doorknobs, newspapers and magazine are on the floor, the bureau and nightstand are littered with stuff. People, this is not a room conducive to relaxation!

The good news:

I’m going to give you three quick and dirty tips to get that fancy hotel room feel in your bedroom. This isn’t the full-on, let’s organize overhaul I’d do for a client; you don’t have time for that. It’s just a way to experience how terrific it feels to be in an organized bedroom.

  1. Make the bed! The bed is the biggest piece of furniture in the room. If it’s disheveled, the entire bedroom looks disheveled. If you do only one thing, do this.Simplify your bed making by using a thick quilt or comforter that you can just twitch into place. Warm Things on College Avenue in Oakland always has great deals on comforters and covers.
  2. Hang the clothes. Getting dressed in the morning can be a challenge. To keep cast off clothing under control, install hooks on the back of the closet door, or inside wall. Get big ones, so you can hang a lot on there till you’ve got time to put them properly on hangers.Bonus: get another hamper for your closet if it’s too much trouble to take dirty clothes to your main hamper.
  3. Ditch the paper. Ideally, you want to round up all the newspapers and stick them in the recycling (instead of fooling yourself that you’re going to have time to read them later). Station a big, decorative basket near your bedroom door for that purpose. If you can’t bear to throw them all out, get another container for next to the bed, not on top of the nightstand.Containerizing is one of your best weapons against clutter. Check out local favorite Cost Plus near Jack London Square for baskets galore.

Getting Organized Ebook on Sale Now

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

Woman reading Last week I had a great plan to publish my book one chapter at a time every week for a year. And at some point offer it for sale, after I made more edits, polished it up, changed around some stuff, added new ideas, etc. When I told a friend about this brilliant plan she looked me in the eye and said, why don't you just publish it NOW?

I took a deep breath and realized she was right. Not that I won't make any edits (it's virtually impossible for me not to), but giving myself permission to make edits constantly could mean that it will never be ready for sale. I don't want to be one of those people who writes a book and then sits on it forever. So, herewith, the book is ready! This page will tell you more.

Oh, I still will publish chapters every week, but you can have immediate gratification by purchasing it right now.

Woman reading from cliff1066™'s photostream.

Home office clutter management

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

home office in the living roomIf you’re not lucky enough to have a separate room for your home office, you’ll make do on the dining table, or setting up a desk in a corner of the living room.

This poses a special challenge because any clutter you leave on your desk is also now in the common living area for all to see. If you live with others this can be, well, a problem.

A former client of mine had her desk in what would’ve been the kitchen dining nook. She needed lots of stuff out and around her when she worked, but her partner was less than thrilled to come home and make dinner in a cluttered office.

Like many creative types, my client balked at being orderly and cleaning up.

It went against her desire for inspiration and freedom and felt confining. Yet she wanted to keep harmony in the household so was open to looking at it a new way.

I came up with the idea of expanding and contracting. When she started her work day, she expanded. Stacks of paper came out and the extra leaf of her desk went up to allow her to spread out. Everything she might need was at hand for her to be productive.

At the end of her workday, she contracted the home office.

The leaf went down, making the desktop smaller. Piles went back into drawers and cabinets. The keyboard tray slid back under the desk. The taboret rolled under the desk. The home office disappeared.

The image of contraction was an effective metaphor. It didn’t have to do with tidying. It felt like an organic response to her shift in focus from work to personal time. The work area contracted so that the kitchen could expand and she and her partner could enjoy preparing food together.

If you avoid cleaning up, can you think of a metaphor that would inspire you?

In the photo above, the shelves are open and could look cluttered if anything was on them. A simple solution would be to install bamboo roll up shades. That was, all the shelves could be opened at once for easy home office productivity, instead of having a set of doors on each one. And the rolled down shade would create a streamlined look after hours.

Christine Arylo on self love, success and clutter

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

COVERmebeforewe
Creating an organized space makes it easier for you to lay your hands on the things you need and helps you be more effective because you now have time for the important stuff. It's also an essential part of taking care of the most valuable person in your life, yourself. Christine Arylo, coach and author of the new book, Choosing ME Before WE, graciously took some time from her book promotion schedule (you can hear her speak on June 2nd at 7pm in Oakland at Great Good Place for Books) to do an interview for my blog.

Christine is also an inspirational catalyst who uses the power of self-love to help people liberate themselves into the life they really want… or as she likes to say “Dare to Live and Love YOU!” 

Clutter Coach:
Sometimes clutter results from not deciding where to put things, or just not spending the time to put them away. It's a common problem. But what if you're using clutter as an excuse not to move forward in your life, or to insulate you from discomfort?

Christine_Chair_Cropped Christine:
The clutter we surround ourselves with is the symptom, it’s not the disease itself. The clutter is the outcome of something deeper going on within ourselves, and often times it’s protecting us from something we don’t want to be with… or it’s slowing us down from actually getting what we really want in life. If you have a clutter filled life, you have to stop and ask yourself, “What is behind this clutter? What is it a symptom of? What inside of me am I not willing to be with or look at?” And then attack that problem. The clutter will clear itself up from there. If you only attack the clutter without addressing the underlying issue, the clutter will just keep coming back.

Clutter Coach:
It can be scary to commit to a goal like getting organized if it's a big shift from where you are now. Who will you be once you're organized? Will you lose your creativity? How do you deal with the identity issues that come up with any major change, no matter how positive?

Christine:
One simple fact: structure actually creates more freedom not less. When you have form and structure in your life – such as getting organized – you create more space and that creates more freedom, not less. And within freedom, you are inherently more yourself, not less.  This lifetime is about letting go of all the ‘stuff’ that isn’t really who we are – fears, society expectations, bad training, ego, obligations, etc. – so that we can be free to be who we really are. If you can keep that perspective, that your life is a series of steps that brings you closer to your truest essence, it’s a lot easier to take each change one step at a time, stopping to integrate what you’ve learned about yourself along the way.

Clutter Coach:
Habits can be ruts we get into that prevent us from seeing what's really going on, or they can be welcome time-savers that allow us to focus on the important stuff. How can we become aware of our habits so we can evaluate them clearly and choose the positive ones?

Christine:
Notice what continually works well and what doesn't. Then look for the patterns that cause those results. That is where you will find your habits. Obviously, if your habits are producing good results, keep doing them. For the habits that create unpleasant or unwanted results, it’s time to create a new habit, so you need to cut a new internal rut. Literally, you have to retrain your brain to act differently, to follow a different pathway. It takes time but if you treat it like building a new muscle, it can be a lot of fun. The following four step process is one that I use with all my clients and with myself:

  1. Awareness:  You see the truth of your behavior and the outcome it produces. You take responsibility and commit to change.
  2. Reflection:  You still do the habit, but afterwards, you look back and say, “Oh, I did that again. Here is what happened. Next time, I would like to do …”
  3. Change in the Moment:  You notice the habit while you are doing it and you interrupt it, choosing instead to do something new.
  4. Integration: The old habit has been replaced with a new habit, and you no longer have to think about it.

Clutter Coach:
How can becoming accepting and loving of ourselves help us battle that sneaky little demon, perfectionism?

Christine:
Success begets success, so when you feel good about yourself you will naturally create more things that result in you feeling good about yourself.  Perfectionism never leads to success, only distress, so it’s a habit you want to give up for sure! You can do that by doing two things. 1. Set realistic expectations for yourself that you can meet. 2. When you meet them, celebrate! The more you acknowledge your small wins the more they will add up to big wins. Before I go to bed each night I actually say out loud at least 5 successes I had that day. It sounds so simple, and it really does make a difference.

Clutter Coach:
What's your personal favorite organizing trick?

Christine:
If it doesn't have a place to go, find it a home. I notice that
whether it’s my email box or my desk, what causes clutter more than
anything are those things that are homeless. So I immediately create a
place for them to go – whether it’s a new email folder on my computer
or in my filing cabinet.

If you find yourself living among clutter, working harder not smarter, or running around like an energizer bunny gone mad, your life is running you, instead of you living it. Don't feel bad, you’re not alone – we’ve been conditioned to live that way. But do be smart and realize that you need to learn some new habits, skills and super powers to deal with the realities of the 21st century. Also be smart enough to find people and resources that can guide you – none of us can do it alone!

About Christine Arylo
A new kind of self-love expert, Christine Arylo, inspirational catalyst, traded in twelve years of creating powerful images for brands like Visa and Gap, to inspire people to bust through their limiting self-images and self-expectations. As an author, speaker, and coach, Arylo is an expert at helping people to get the success and happiness they want by living and loving their most real and wise selves first. She is the author of Choosing ME Before WE, Every Woman’s Guide to Life and Love, and the founder of the international Madly in Love with ME™ movement. She has appeared on national television and syndicated radio shows across the country, and her opinions have been featured in places like the San Francisco Chronicle, Glam.com and Daily Om.

Racing Against Time

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

Newspaper "Try as you will, you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It's an incessant strain to keep pace… And still you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment… Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more."

A quotation from last week's newspaper? No. This ran in the Atlantic Journal on June 16, 1833.

The moral of the story is that the speed of life constantly accelerates. Always has. There were no "good old days." Whatever systems and coping mechanisms you have in place now may not work in five years, or even next year.

Expect change. Embrace it. You can't predict what the change will be, but you can certainly predict that change will occur. Keep your systems simple and flexible. Check in to make sure they're still sufficient and don't be afraid to revamp them. That's how you stay ahead in the race.

Antique newspaper from pareerica's photostream.

Nag Me, Please

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

Nagging is just another form of reminding, isn’t it? How you feel about the subject dictates whether you think of a reminder as a nag or as a helpful productivity tool.

There are lots of ways to nag yourself; put books by the door that you have to kick out of the way if you’re not going to pick them up (and return them to the library), stick Post-Its on the mirror where they block your view, leave things out where they’ll visually bug you till you do something about them.

And now there’s HassleMe. This service lets you compose your own nagging emails and then sends them to you on an irregular schedule. Since you won’t be expecting them, you can’t tune them out quite as well as your own homegrown nags.

I could also see using this service for non-nagging purposes, such as sending myself encouraging notes. Or to remind myself  of things I actually want to do, but tend to forget about.

Thanks to this Mashable post for enlightening me about HassleMe and 99 other nifty productivity tools.

Time Management is You Management

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

Here are some helpful hints from Jan Hayner for managing your time, courtesy of the Clutter Control Freak Blog (sponsored by Stacks and Stacks, which has some fab organizing products).
Time mgmt pie

These hints are especially helpful for those of you who have a hard time saying no. This means scheduling things during lunch so that you have no break time (not to mention no lunch) and otherwise feeling compelled to fill up your entire schedule with requests from others.

Remind yourself that others need not be in charge of your schedule. Even if it seems that they do, it never hurts to ask, “Can we meet at 10 instead of 3 pm? That would work better for me.” Or “I’ve got 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon. If that’s not enough time, can we schedule it for later in the week?” Controlling your time doesn’t mean being self-centered and rigid.

Hoarding vs. Cluttering

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

Hoarding is not the same thing as having too much clutter. I just watched an interesting
video profiling four hoarders called Possessed by Martin Hampton. The cases
are presented in escalating order of severity and the last one is a little hard
to watch because of the extreme level of dust and dirt.

One of the
more confounding things about hoarding is that hoarders don’t know why they keep
stuff when they know it’s useless trash. Even if they are willing to get rid of
things, in most cases, the problem comes right back. The woman in the film described her own thinking as “warped” (the other three subjects are men).

Four qualities that
all the hoarders in the film shared are:

  • On some level, they like
    clutter
  • They have strong emotional
    ties to inanimate objects
  • They have an overpowering need to
    own things
  • They are adamant that no one else can touch their things

People who just have too much clutter don’t have these same issues. A comfortable and cozy cluttered room means one with lots of knickknacks and pictures, furniture with throws on it, etc. It doesn’t mean a room with full shopping bags and used food containers on the floor. For most people, ties to inanimate objects refers to souvenirs, old teddy bears and heirlooms. It doesn’t refer to chipped coffee mugs or empty toilet paper tubes.

You may have a shopping problem, but a hoarder will buy 300 mobile phones in a year (that’s an example from the movie). You also may not want others pawing your stuff, but it doesn’t mean you’ll have an anxiety attack if they do, or rummage through the garbage to rescue anything someone else throws away that’s yours.

In case you’re worried that you or someone you know is a hoarder, ask these questions:*

  • Are any exits to the home blocked?
  • Is the bedroom or bathroom not fully usable due to clutter, i.e., items stored in shower stall?
  • Is there large-item clutter outdoors, such as sofas and TV sets?
  • Are there poorly maintained pet areas, i.e., pet waste not cleaned up?
  • Have hallways been narrowed due to boxes and clutter?

I don’t accept clients with this issue because I don’t have the skills to handle them. (Update 7/2014: I do work with people into Level 3 on the scale. Generally, when people reach out to me and are motivated to get help, I can help them.) To find professionals who do, contact the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (hoarding is an activity associated with chronic disorganization). This site also provides an eye-opening *Clutter Hoarding Scale with specific examples of what the home of a hoarder looks like.

Idea > Decision > Action

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinby feather

For many people, it’s easier and more fun to think up new ideas than to take action on the ones they already thought of. Buckling down and focusing on one idea and making it happen can make them antsy.

Sometimes the project you take on is very large and there are so many things to address that you’re tempted to start them all at once. When it comes to organizing, this can get you into trouble.

The process is this: have an idea, make a decision, take the action.

For example, the idea could be “organize the bottom shelf,” the decision is “only have notebooks, pads and file folders there,” and the action is getting those items into the spot and finding other homes for anything that doesn’t fit those categories.

Here’s what happens when you leave off the action part.

My client, Annie,* is a big picture kind of gal. She’s very good with coming up with ideas and making decisions. The action part, not so much. She’d rather move on to the top shelf, or the counter above the shelves, or the table on the other side of the room.

She had numerous shopping bags with things sorted into them. Some of them were marked, some not. There were also piles and collections of items on which decisions had been made. This is definitely progress, but it’s not enough.

We needed to spend some time moving the physical stuff around.

For Annie, this was the tedious, low priority part. But not doing it was impeding our progress. It was like having puzzle pieces all over the floor and knowing exactly where each one went, but not assembling them into a completed picture.

Is this a sticking point for you? Look around and see if you’ve collected some piles of decisions that need a nudge to get to the next step. If taking the action seems dreary and monotonous, approach it like washing the dishes. It’s a chore that needs doing and you don’t really need to like it.

The good news is that you’ll stir up some good energy by moving things along. You’ll also see some inspiring progress when you see the results of all that decision making!

* Not her real name. In fact, whenever I write about my clients, I’m usually combining events and compositing people.