Sentimental Clutter

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In her book Let Go of Clutter, Harriet Schechter writes about how to let go of sentimental clutter. This kind of clutter is stuff with valid emotional attachments, and logic doesn’t play any part in whether you decide to keep it or not.

Items that make you feel joyful with the memories they bring back, such as love letters and home movies, you’ll want to keep.

We all have items that bring up less than happy feelings, but they are parts of our personal history, so we want to keep them too. The trick is that not all negative emotions are created equal.

What you need to know is: is it sad or is it bad?

Items that make you feel sad, such as condolence cards or pet mementos, are worth keeping in spite of the memories they hold. Even if they make us sad, they give us the warm fuzzies as we remember how much we loved those who aren’t with us now.

Items that make you feel bad should go. These are angry letters, heirlooms from relatives who make you feel bad about yourself, gifts from embittered ex-spouses, etc.

Certainly, into each life a little rain must fall, but that’s no reason to keep a bucket full of it in your closet.

Let the mementos you keep inspire happy memories, or tender ones. Mementos should be reminders of a full, rich life.

Another way to pare down sentimental clutter is by keeping only the “greatest hits.”


Organizing Overwhelm Cure

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6523852953_592dddf0e1_nWhen you feel overwhelmed by an organizing project or task, it’s often because you’re looking at the entire forest and not each individual tree. You can’t see the trees for the forest, to bend a common phrase.

Looking at the big picture is worthwhile, but in order to get down to work and sort through things and organize, you need to focus on each individual tree. The forest will just distract you.

I went through tote bags and handbags with a client recently. She has lots, enough to more than cover her dining table. When we dumped them all out, she backed away from the table, feeling overcome by the sheer quantity. It seemed impossible to her that we could make any order out of it.

But soon we were putting the bags into categories. Slowly, some sense emerged from the pile. As long as she was able to concentrate on each bag, recognize it and identify it, she could be complete and move on to the next.

That last part is key. When you look at the entire forest, your mind darts back and forth and never settles anywhere. All these unmade decisions and unfinished plans! Putting attention on one thing, making a decision and moving on is the way to get through.

Are Personal Trainers Worth the Money?

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You know how to jump rope. You also know how to climb up stairs. There might be a treadmill lurking in your basement that you certainly know how to use.

The question is: Do you?

People need the structure of a gym to get their exercise done, even if they could do it cheaper at home without driving anyplace. Still, plenty of folks pay their gym memberships every month even though they never seem to make it over there.

If they’re smart and serious about getting exercise, they hire a personal trainer.

They’re smart enough to know that they won’t go to the gym unless someone is there waiting for them. They’re serious enough to understand that it’s worth hiring someone to stand there with a stopwatch and make them jump rope.

Knowledge and intention don’t flatten your stomach. Doing the exercise flattens your stomach.

A colleague of mine commented that I shouldn’t be publishing blog posts that spelled out exactly how people can get organized. “You’re giving away the cow!” said she.

Anyone who can get organized simply by reading my blog is perfectly welcome to do so. Yay, you! There are plenty of people who can’t, or don’t, or don’t want to, and those are the ones who want to work with me.

These folks read a post and say “that’s a great idea!” but never make the time to do it. Or they get confused or distracted. Sometimes they understand a concept but don’t see how to relate it to their own situations.

These people hire professional organizers.  They know what they want and they can see that this is the most effective way to get it.

So, unearth that jump rope, or give me a call.

Organizing by the Numbers

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Organizing and decluttering can be overwhelming. Where do you start? The answer is, you just pick a starting place and begin moving forward. Well, how do you do that?

Pick an NumberNumbers
You can pick a number of items, an hour of the day, or minutes to spend. Try the 27-Fling Boogie from the Fly Lady (she recommends crooning "Please Release Me, Let Me Go" as you toss). Or pick any other number of items that must go into the trash in the next few minutes.

 If you've got a backlog of boxes, tell yourself you'll sort whatever's in there until 10 a.m., or 2 p.m. Then you get to stop. You can do more later but in order to preserve your motivation, be true to your own word (i.e., be nice to yourself).

Try choosing a number of minutes to spend. Depending on what you're doing, even 5 minutes here and there will move you toward your goal. Have fun with it; pick a number out of a hat, roll the dice, use today's date or the amount of money that's in your wallet. 

Tricks are good! Another fun way to get your tasks done is to write them on index cards and then pick random cards when you're ready to work.

Do you have any fun ways to get yourself to organize when you don't really want to?

Number 1254 from 416style's photostream

Unclutter that table

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unclutter that table

I forgot my sunglasses this morning. What a drag! I hate when that happens.

As I was driving, I saw my front entry table in my mind’s eye and I knew what happened.

I had let it pile up with things, so the sunglasses didn’t call my attention. Usually, this table hold my purse, keys, sunglasses and a small box containing dog poop bags, extra keys, business cards and other occasional necessities.

This morning, there was a brochure I wanted to read, a handful of receipts to look over, some items I dumped out of a tote bag to put away and a handful of napkins from take out food. The sunglasses were under there somewhere. They weren’t even totally hidden, but in the visual chaos of the table, I didn’t see them.

Those extraneous items popped up in two days. That’s how fast a spot can get cluttered to the point where bad things happen, like forgetting your sunglasses. Or wasting time feeling around for the keys.

So, now you know! My front hall table isn’t always perfectly organized. The good news is that I can get it back in shape quickly.

Here’s how:

  1. Read the brochure. There’s something I want to research so I note it on my to do list. Then I toss the brochure
  2. Look at the receipts. They’re mostly from my trip to LA which was partly for business, so I’ll put them with my business receipts. The rest are for groceries and other purchases. They go in the recycling.
  3. The tote bag stuff is pens (to the container on my desk), a lipstick (to the box in my bathroom storage area), an empty keyring (to the table top box where I keep keys) and a handkerchief (to the laundry. I have a collection of vintage hankies; love them!)
  4. Handful of napkins: dirty ones go in the trash and the rest go into my glove compartment because, like everyone else I know, I eat in my car.

That took less than five minutes. You can spend more time than that just looking for your keys.

Get Organized in the New Year

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Fireworks You may already know that "getting organized" is consistently one of the top five new year's resolutions. Maybe it's been on yours. It ranks up there with losing weight, quitting smoking and spending more time with family.

Most people end up not following through with their resolutions. The ones who do have this in common: they got support. They joined Weight Watchers, for example.

Support is necessary because we're creatures of habit. Making positive changes in your life is much easier when you don't try to do it all by yourself. Having help can be the difference between achieving a goal that's dear to you and resigning yourself to failure next year, again.

If getting organized is on your list of resolutions, I'm here to help you. You can have more ease, more space and more time in your life.

Call me at 510-768-7913 or email me at claire AT (substitute an ampersand for "AT").


The Tyranny of "Free"

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These days we are bedeviled with two tempting sources of free stuff: Craig’s List and Freecycle.  A visit to either site can feel like finding ten bucks in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in awhile. Every day you’ve got a new opportunity to win the jackpot.

So, what’s the problem?

People have a more convoluted relationship with free stuff than they do with stuff they buy. Buying something involves a decision to spend money. If you don’t buy the item, you have the money to use for something else. Also, if you don’t buy the item, someone else will.

When something is free, you have to think of reasons not to acquire it since there’s no money involved. You could even look at it as saving money if the item in question is something you now don’t have to buy.  Even if you don’t need that thing in the foreseeable future, you might, so there’s no reason not to take it. It’s free!

Free stuff is hard to turn down.

Once these treasures are brought home, they tend to stay there. Now you’re responsible for them and they start to grow on you. You care about them as much as you do the stuff you paid good money for, sometimes even more because you got such amazing value for no money at all.

I’m not a minimalist and I certainly believe in the redemptive power of shopping. The trick is to make sure you buy things you need and/or love, rather than acquiring for its own sake. Another good strategy is to keeping moving things out of your life to make more room for new ones to come in.

Try to resist the freebies unless you either love them or need them.

7 Things to Look For in a Professional Organizer

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Working with an organizer can be immensely helpful to get you to your organizing goals faster, just as hiring a personal trainer keeps you on track with getting in shape.

It can be a little intimidating to think of hiring a stranger to come inside your home, so I wrote this list of things to consider.

  1. Trust is vital. You’ll be sharing with your organizer parts of your life that you’re embarrassed about or even ashamed of. The organizer should make you feel comfortable and supported. Good organizers adhere to a code of ethics and promise confidentiality and respect.
  2. A good organizer offers an objective viewpoint. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s pretty darned hard to get perspective on your own situation. Your organizer should be able to make a nonjudgmental assessment that focuses on how things are now, how you want to change them and how that will happen, rather than mistakes you made or skills you lack.
  3. Look for an organizer who understands your unique situation. You are the one who chooses the goals you want to work toward. A capable organizer will ask questions to assess what’s going on with you and help refine your goals, but not make assumptions about what you want. Whether an organizer is a good fit for you should be determined by how easily you can communicate.
  4. Pay attention to personality and temperament. An upbeat, high energy organizer may be ideal for you to stay motivated and charged up. Or that organizer might make you feel anxious and tired. You’ll be spending hours at a time with your organizer, so make sure you click.
  5. A good organizer listens actively, taking in not only what you say but how you say it and how you feel. As I mentioned above, getting organized can bring up some uncomfortable feelings. You don’t need to let it all hang out, but an organizer can help you better if she knows what you’re feeling.
  6. Creative problem solving is an essential skill. People who seek out organizers often have tried to get organized by reading books, but find the programs too hard to follow, or just not suited to them. A good organizer uses her professional experience and understanding of the client to develop solutions that are tailor made for each one.
  7. Don’t forget to find out if the organizer can work with your schedule! If you can only devote time to organizing on the weekends, a Monday-Friday organizer can’t help you. You’ll get better results if you commit time to your organizing project. If you work full time, squeezing in sessions on weekday evenings isn’t ideal. The time and energy you put into the project will pay you back generously with a sustainable organized space.

Did I leave anything out? What would you look for?

Top Ten Reasons that Getting Organized Brings Happiness

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At this time of year, there's a lot of talk about happiness. The holidays can be stressful so there are plenty of magazine articles about how to be happier in spite of them. 

Livingroom Studies have shown that getting organized is one of the top ten or even top five of popular new year's resolutions. If you don't like making resolutions because they're too discouraging, check out my post on creating realistic ones.

And now, here's why you should make that resolution:
  1. It makes your life easier
  2. It lifts stress and worry
  3. You’ve accomplished a goal that’s been on your list for years
  4. It’s positive self care that you deserve
  5. It smoothes out family relations
  6. You feel proud to invite people into your home or office
  7. You can help others more easily because you can find that item you want to give them 
  8. It creates a pleasing and serene physical space 
  9. Your mind is decluttered so you can think about the important things in your life
  10. Your pace of life isn’t so hectic, so you actually have “free time” 

Now that you're inspired, why not contact me for a free half hour phone consultation? Use the "Email Me" link on the left side to start. Remember, I can help you via telephone if you're not in my area, so don't hesitate to contact me. Make it a great new year! 

Zen living room from Wonderlane's photostream

Spend Money, Save Money AND Time

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Greetings! My website is getting a makeover so don’t be alarmed if it keeps changing its look for a bit, till it settles into the perfect style.

Is using 1-800-Got-Junk expensive?* Yes and no. Yes, it cost my client about $500. That seems like a lot of dough to get rid of all that old crap in your garage. It’s just some recycling and throwing a lot of stuff in the trash, right?

So, here’s why you might answer “no,” based on my client’s experience.

  • His garage was packed to the rafters. That meant that just sorting through it all involved lots of heavy lifting.
  • Lots of stuff also meant filling up the entire driveway, so once the project was underway it couldn’t be left for “later.”
  • There was so much recycling that my client had to either take it himself to the recycling center or dole it out to his bin over a 2 month period (and find a place to store it in the meantime; i.e., putting it back in the garage. Ick.)
  • He could also opt to visit the dump himself with the non-recylables but, lacking a large truck, it would’ve taken him a ridiculous number of trips, each of which costs money.
  • The most compelling reason; there was no need to put on gloves and a mask to deal with boxes that rats had been living in, a task that’s not only unsavory but hazardous to your health.

Did I convince you?

The bottom line is that keeping stuff around that you’re not actively using means you will have to spend lots of time and energy at some point to deal with it.

  1. You can do it yourself and have all the fun and excitement mentioned above.
  2. You can hire me and pay me to sort things that you aren’t even going to keep.
  3. Or you can get smart and recognize that junk is junk and the sooner it’s gone, the better.

You may have guessed that this is a cautionary tale. It’s quite possible to avoid having this happen to you, and it involves working with me. Surprise! Find out more by clicking here.

*Note: I’m not advertising this particular service, but my client’s experience was with them and they did a great job.