home organization

Moving...a change could be just what you need

Today, as I sit on my patio with my iced coffee listening to the birds, and the cars rushing past ma petite chateau, I am grateful. Grateful that I have all the packing and schlepping behind me, grateful for the end of the myriad of paperwork and intrusion into my personal life, and grateful for the opportunity to begin again in my own little corner of the planet.

Getting here was not easy and not for the faint of heart. But, it was just what I needed.

Have you considered relocating? Downsizing? Upsizing? Right sizing? Do you need to change your living arrangements due to a "change of circumstance?" 

In February, I answered yes to right sizing and making the final move toward my independence. "Let's put the house on the market in June," I said. "Okay," he said.

You may have noticed that today is May 21. My taking it slow and easy plan looked great on paper, but ended up moving at warp speed!

I found a realtor who was aligned with my need to look first before listing the house.  I wanted to be excited about this move. I was leaving the home where I had nurtured and raised my family, and where I had spent years developing a beautiful garden and bird sanctuary. I was leaving this all behind. I could take the memories with me, but not the visual peace of it all. And, this was a final goodbye to my married life.

Off I went to find a little place that I could afford near the new life I have built, where I could find peace, inspiration, and restoration. I found it sooner than expected and then sold the family home just as quickly. Blessings both, I know, along with the lessons learned through all of this.

Here's my checklist of do's and don'ts refined after recently practicing what I teach my clients.

1. Know what you can afford and stick to it. Prequalify for your home loan. Take a hard look at your expenses and budget for rent or for a mortgage.

2. Know what is most important to you. Can you give up an office space for a pretty patio garden?  Bigger kitchen for a smaller than optimal living room? I found, "Loving The House You're In," by Paige Rein, to be insightful and helpful as I navigated my transition to a smaller home.

3. Interview more than one realtor and loan officer/broker and find a good fit for you. They will see the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of your temperament. They will also help to put the bumps and bruises of buying and selling into perspective.

4. Trust your gut. 

5. Start decluttering long before you list your home. In fact, start now even if you aren't  thinking about moving. Get rid of anything and everything that is weighing you down. If you don't use it, need it, or love it, let it go!

                                                        Recycle, repurpose, and share.

                                                        Recycle, repurpose, and share.

6. Not sure what you will need at the other end? Believe me when I say that I appreciate this. There comes a point in  the moving process when you feel exhausted from the endless decision making. What remains will be boxed up and taken to your next home. The down side is that you will need to pick up where you left off at the other end. 

7. To garage sale or not to garage sale, that is the question! If you have items that are probably not going to fit in your new residence, why pay a mover to do the heavy lifting when you are most likely going to let go of the overflow of furniture? A moving sale is win-win. 

8. If you have friends and family who will drop everything to help you, then get on your knees and give thanks! And, don't forget to feed these angels well.

9. Hire movers for the heavy furniture and boxes of books. 

10. Pace yourself or have your chiropractor on speed dial. 

   Set up a work space as soon as possible so that bills and paperwork don't overwhelm you.

   Set up a work space as soon as possible so that bills and paperwork don't overwhelm you.

11. Set up one bathroom and the essentials in the kitchen as soon as possible. You can't go wrong with a stash of chocolate, almonds, and iced cold Lacroix. 

12. Have lots of cleaning supplies on hand.

              Have a few of your favorite things in sight as you are moving in and unpacking.

              Have a few of your favorite things in sight as you are moving in and unpacking.

13. Have I mentioned pets? This is where it gets tricky. I have two cats and a dog. They knew change was brewing and reacted with predictable behaviors. Having a place for pets to feel safe during the transition is paramount to everyone's happiness. Bring blankets and bedding that smell familiar to them.  

14. Enjoy the process of moving in. It may feel good to "get it done," but some decisions need to simmer awhile and that's okay. 

I have unpacked many boxes, cleaned every inch of my new home, helped my daughter paint her room, wallpapered my bedroom for whimsy, planted a little kitchen patio garden, and have clocked many, many, many steps along the way to settling in. 

My pets have adjusted, I have found a beautiful path to walk my dog, and I just saw my first hummingbird. If you know me, you know this is a good omen!

My garage still holds many treasures and a growing donation pile. I brought more than I needed, but I do not regret it. I have found resourceful ways to repurpose some of my favorite things. The rest will be sorted one box at a time.

Moving to a new home is a change that I can live with and that I am embracing whole-heartedly. It is just what I need.

Living With Less...Consider The Cost of Keeping your Stuff

Declutter -  Less-Stress Organizing Solutions

There is value to becoming organized. No doubt! There is a sense of calm, order, and control attached to managing your spaces and to managing how you spend your time. But it DOES take time to find the sweet spot that is just right for you. Organizing is personal.

All of my clients want to get organized.  Most of them accept that there will be disruptions and discomfort during the process. Some of them willingly reduce and remove the stuff that is no longer useful, the stuff that is unnecessary, and the stuff that they no longer love or want in their lives. They are ready for the benefits that come with reducing, sharing, decluttering, and organizing.  

The benefits of living with less in a calm, orderly environment are appealing. Yet some of us are stuck? The process IS uncomfortable, and sometimes costly. Believe me, I can personally relate to reluctantly digging in my heels. Getting to the point of having less comes with angst. We ask our selves, "What if I need it someday? What if I eventually remember what this thing fits and then I no longer have it? What if this thing is worth money and I give it away? What if I could have sold it at a garage sale? What if my kids want it someday? What if I move? What if, what if, what if...?"

What if I told you that there is a cost for keeping your stuff? Small, over crowded spaces are more difficult to clean, limit freedom of movement, and feel stagnant. Upsizing to bigger housing is an expensive option. Storage units are sometimes necessary and useful, but they cost money and are not as easily accessible as having things at your fingertips.

Time spent looking for things buried behind the other stuff that we don't use very often is time that could have been spent doing something else. Keeping every surface covered requires frequent movement of stuff when you begin simple daily activities such as food prep, mail sorting, and bill paying. 

Formal dining rooms become collection rooms, and guest rooms become large, full closets for the overflow of life until we need to use them for their intended purposes and then you know what happens next?! Frantic movement of the stuff to another room. It is endless, it is time consuming, and, it is exhausting!

And yet, we keep things because these items represent hard work, sentimental moments, difficult decisions, and a different space and time in our lives that may no longer exist. And, we are busy! We may feel rushed in our day to day lives, dropping things where we land rather than put them in the same place every day. Time spent searching for keys and wallets is a common theme.

And, as useful as technology can be, there is inherent risk when we spend more time managing our devices than the time we spend connecting to the people around us.

One of the most common complaints that I hear is regarding the inordinate amount of time looking for that one important email that is buried under 6000+ advertisements. Rather than take the time to clear the unwanted, un-needed, and unloved messages that bombard us, and unsubscribe to the messaging that is no longer relevant, we complain and we stress about the ever-growing inbox. 

And, finally, the stress attached to managing too much stuff and too full a calendar eats away at our health and well being. And, to me, that is too high a cost for keeping "stuff."

Creative solutions to these challenges and obstacles are abundant. Feeling motivated and eager to do the work takes energy, patience, and perseverance. Sometimes it takes outside help and sometimes we can do it ourselves. But, we always need to feel confident that we are in charge of the decisions.

I have seen first hand the lightness of being that results from having less both in my experience as an organizer and in my personal life. I have watched an ill client jump up and dance around her garage and tell me how freeing it is to finally let go of the weight of boxes stagnating in her garage. I have listened to a voicemail that moved me to tears from a client who donated her excess to a food bank. She witnessed first hand the most basic of needs right here in our own community and was humbly motivated to do more. 

I remember a point in my own life when I decided that I was going to "fit" into my home. I have moved many times in my life, and became comfortable with keeping things for someday. Although masterful at organizing my stuff, I asked myself the tough questions, "Do I need it, use, it, love it?" I have been in the same house now for 15 years. And, yes, I may have a move in my future. But for now, having less has brought a new level of peacefulness to my life that I cherish. I look around and marvel at the open spaces and the coziness of it all.

There is still more that I will remove, but as I tell friends and clients, the process is like peeling an onion. We take it a layer at a time, wipe away the tears that sometimes result, and then let it sit until we are ready to peel again.

Eventually, we get to the sweet center and wonder what and why we were waiting because we are so happy to be there.

  

Closets, and cupboards, and shelves, oh My!...What to do with15 minutes.

It is raining and cold today, or should I say, "It is cold for Southern California?" We have been known to complain if we cannot wander barefoot in March.

Dare I say, it is a perfect day to tackle a project that you have been avoiding? 

Do you know what lurks behind your closed doors? Those doors hide the yet-to-be-discarded, might-use-it-someday, will-get-to-it-later, someone-dropped-by-and-I-needed-to-hide-it-quickly stuff of life. And those things crowd out what is important to you by making the space tight and less functional. 

These are spaces that can be tackled one shelf, one cupboard, one box, one closet at a time. One rainy day at a time. One, I have 15 minutes and I want to finish something useful in this time, time.

Being the remove the band-aid slowly kinda girl, I am okay with slow and steady wins the race. You have my permission to set a timer, or set a boundary to the physical space that you are going to tackle. Gather bags and boxes for sorting, and begin!

Choose the space that nags at you the most. A sweet reward awaits you.

I suspect you have a closet that fits this parameter. Why? Because, in my experience, and yes, this is anecdotal, closets are a great place to push things and easy to avoid. We all have them, and they tend to fill up as if by magic.

And because they nag at you, decluttering and reorganizing an overstuffed, no longer easy to use closet feels richly rewarding upon completion. It is that simple.

Know for certain the purpose of this space. If a closet is for cold weather gear, then that is all that belongs there. Designating spaces for "like things" makes finding them easier, makes upkeep easier, and makes letting go easier.

You can see that you have 15 red sweaters when you keep your sweaters together in the same space. Maybe you LOVE all 15 and will choose to keep them. Maybe you didn't realize that you have that many. Maybe you just realized that you DO indeed have the sweater your sister insists she loaned to you.

Remove things that no longer fit, that are damaged, that no longer serve a purpose in your current life. Remove what belongs elsewhere. Remove the items that make you cringe. I know you have them. We all do. And remove what doesn't belong in that space. 

Admittedly, the space that has been nagging at me, is my son's closet. I can hear you all laughing. Upon my request that he do some spring cleaning, he begrudgingly agreed to "work on his closet." He had good intentions, and has removed six tee shirts over the past two days. Sigh!

Since he is an adult and it is his room, there are boundaries and limits that he and I have agreed upon. So while I was just delivering laundry to his room today, and listening to the hailstones pelting his window, I spent 15 minutes sorting through the shirts in his closet. That's it. I quickly reviewed two, two foot sections of his closet in 15 minutes. He has already discarded what he no longer wants in that section, at least for now.

And then, like anyone who has ever worked retail, I lined up everything by color, sleeve length, and material weight. The space is calmer and I expect he will remove a few more pieces when he sees how many, many, MANY gray and black tee shirts that he owns. Ultimately, the decisions are his, but will be less overwhelming because I have removed heavy coats to the coat closet, empty coat hangers to the laundry room, and dirty clothes to the hamper. 

Personal Organizer - Residential


As I write, the El Nino rains have resumed. And, since it is my day off, I think I will stay inside and tackle another closet. Happy Monday!



Letting go of clutter...what you might NOT be expecting

We all expect our homes and offices to look cleaner as we purge and declutter the excesses of our lives. The visual impact of order is calming for many people. These people embrace the process of decluttering and clearing the cobwebs.  

But, it can be worrisome and anxiety producing for those of us who are comforted and accustomed to being surrounded by our many belongings, and who have strong attachments to stuff. There is no shame in preferring that someone hold your hand and guide you through the process of letting go. Do what works for you.

Recent work with a client had us working our way through some of the MANY boxes in her garage. After about an hour, she suddenly, and to my surprise and pleasure, became quite animated. She threw her arms wide, began dancing, and shouting, "THIS is SO liberating; it's SO cleansing!"

She had made the decision to let go of some of the stuff that no longer serves a purpose in her life and was experiencing the joy of making space for something else. Together we overcame the fears blocking her path and were able to accomplish a lot in a short time. 

Letting go opens up space mentally and physically for what IS relevant. The value of the stuff of our lives, ebbs and flows. But letting go is not always as easy as it sounds. 

I recently made the painful decision to remove a tree in my backyard. It was too big for the space, had an unstable root system, and sat too close to our house as well as the neighbor's.  With predictions of a wet winter looming this year, taking it out safely without damage to our property made perfect sense. Simple, right?! No longer needed; remove it. Period. 

But, I have looked out my windows at that tree every morning for 13 years. I watched it grow, as my kids grew. Funny how stuff, and trees, can be a metaphor for life. As I begin a new chapter in my life, I am making space for something new and for changes that extend way beyond my garden.

IMG_5481.jpg

What I didn't expect was how good that open space would feel to me. I feel a new serenity and sense of anticipation.  My home feels bigger somehow, and is lighter, literally. And, the empty space where once there lived a tree is now a cozier spot for my hammock. As much as I love birds, I do not miss having 100+ birds perched in the tree over my head as I sip tea and read a book. Need I say more?!

As I prepare to save and publish this piece, it has begun to rain. I can no longer see the mountains in the distance, just the mist and my back yard, full of promise for planting roses, no doubt, and, for daydreaming from my newly discovered quiet place.

Let go of what you no longer need. You may be surprised at what you find.

Getting started...sifting through the stuff of your life gracefully and with kindness!

Sometimes, getting started can feel paralyzing, even for an organizer like myself.  I have honed my skills by implementing ideas, strategies, and systems, with an open mind toward paying attention to what is serving my family well, and what isn't. For me the keys are getting to the heart of what matters and then breaking them down into manageable pieces. 
 

As I move through my home, my schedule, my life, I keep a clear vision of a home and a life of love, joy, beauty, order, harmony and balance. Theses images and feeling are what I value. They influence how I make decisions regarding my environment and schedule.  The process of decluttering, repurposing, and reorganizing ultimately leads me to less stress and more joy.

Through this process, I juggle time, money, energy and changing needs, as anyone does. And, there are times that I feel overwhelmed just like anyone. I have heard it said that a confused mind says, "No!" I can certainly relate to that!

When too much stuff and too full a schedule are competing for our attentions, it is no wonder that we shut down and take detours that lead us further away from our intended goals. When I feel like this, I ask myself what is the one thing that  I can do or change that will make an immediate difference. And, then, I DO it! 

This shift in focus and positive action are often all I need to find the momentum and encouragement to keep going in the direction of what matters.   

One final thought as you begin to sort through the stuff of your life. Do so with self-compassion and the same kindness that you would show a friend, avoiding the harsh judgmental words that question "what took me so long to get here." The point is that you ARE starting. 

To borrow Dinah Maria Mulock Craik's beautiful words, 

"...But pouring them them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; 

certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, 

 keep what is worth keeping, 

and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." 

Garage Sales...the good, the bad, and the ugly

What is it about springtime weather that brings out the declutter bug?

Rather than allow clutter to remain inside the house, I allow it to find its way into the garage for final review. (garages serve as basements/attics in California, don't judge!) That said, the garage needs to be usable and it was groaning from the strain of holding too much stuff!

For several weeks, I have worked my way through the house, inch by inch, drawer by drawer and corner by corner. A growing pile of usable items collected in the far corner awaiting the much advertised annual community garage sale.

I was outside and organized before my first customer arrived and by 10 am. vowed to never, never, NEVER host a garage sale again. Ironically, as I was putting things haphazardly into boxes and bags several very interested buyers appeared and eagerly poked through the bags looking for buried treasure.

My total earnings were $27 and some priceless pearls of wisdom which I will share with you now.

1. Messy is better! People like to treasure hunt.  

2. Smile and set no expectations except to meet some very interesting people.  

3. If you are at all attached your treasures and have found purging and editing your home difficult, DO NOT have a garage sale. You will be tempted to keep things you have not even missed until you see them again on the sale table.      

4. Load the car with the remaining items from your garage sale and head straight to your favorite  charity.      

5. Better yet, schedule home pick up (AMVETS is my favorite) on a regular basis, as you have a bag or two ready to share, to avoid *purger's remorse.


* definition of purger's remorse: regret over the removal of an item from your home and subsequent reintroduction to your home with said item.