As a professional organizer, I use the word simplify in my daily vocabulary. We’ve all heard the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”. But what not everyone recognizes is that ‘simplify’ is just a more palatable synonym for ‘reduce’. I’m, quite frankly, in the business of reducing. It’s no mistake that ‘reduce’ comes first in the mantra. Our culture often obsesses about the end game, but recycling is actually the last step. The goal is to acquire less, creatively reuse what makes sense and recycle what you can. The good news is there are many resources locally and nationally to help!
Shop with the idea of ENOUGH in mind. When you know what ‘enough’ is, your inventory of possessions stays consistent. Whether it’s in your pantry or your closet, keeping a consistent inventory of items is key to staying organized. Take this mindset with you to the grocery store and the mall and watch how decision-making changes. Do I really need this? Where will I put it? And how will I pay for it? Are three questions that change the way things flow into your life. Thinking outside the box is made easy with great alternatives to purchasing new items. Instead of buying a new second car check out a car-share program. Instead of getting a new dress for a one-time event, try renting instead. It is as simple as using your local library or Netflix instead spending a beautiful inside organizing your books and DVDs.
One of the biggest barriers for people who are ready to simplify their lives is the idea that there needs to be infrastructure to accommodate an organized lifestyle. In reality a significant amount of change can be made without any fancy new bins, cubbies or built in storage. This is because everyone has things to get rid of, but many people try to find a place to put them instead. There are simple tricks to identify what is excess. One of my favorites is to hang all of my clothes in the ‘wrong direction’ at the start of a new season, then as I wear items, turn the hanger back to the ‘right direction’ when I hang them again. If by the end of the season I have not worn something, as proven by the hanger position, I get rid of it. You can adapt this trick to work with lots of aspects of your life: books, holiday decorations, cleaning supplies, files, dishes, and sports equipment. This is a way to prove to yourself that it is unused and ready to be let go.
It has never been easier to resell, repurpose and reuse items. With eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle at your disposal, and even services that sell your items for you, cashing in on clutter is painless. Pickups can now be scheduled online for the Vets, Salvation Army and Goodwill. These well-known locations are only the tip of the iceberg. Sites like Earth911 pull together multiple resources so its one stop shopping to find the best home for your items. These outlets coupled with the resurgence of the DIY trend, popular on sites like Pinterest and Etsy, make this a great time to give your unwanted stuff new life!
It is possible to get stuck if you don’t know what to do with the items that you have already decided to get rid of. No one wants their home to look like a recycling center because they are paralyzed by all the rules. A green organizer knows the rules and helps you check with your local municipality to see what can be recycled. They also have resources for collections of special items. Some companies like ours take items to a warehouse where they are delivered to or picked up by proper companies.
Green organizers not only help you decide what to get rid and how to do it responsibly, they set up systems that work as long term solutions. When you want to get organized, think green! Reach out to an expert that can help you in making the right decisions about your stuff, your space, and your planet.
We look forward to spring for many reasons; warmer weather, longer days, blooming trees and flowers, spring break, free Rita’s Italian Ice (for those of you Pittsburghers out there)… the list goes on. You might notice that the phenomenon of spring cleaning did not make that list. The human instinct to migrate outdoors to attend to our neglected homesteads as the weather gets warmer gets a bad rap, but as you might imagine, I am a fan of this time of year. I am here to tell you how you can make spring cleaning more fun and less stressful!
Once the snow melts and the ice thaws you might notice some areas of the house that need attention. It can be overwhelming! At my house we created a preventative maintenance schedule so that we can stay on track instead of waiting to address problems until they are hemorrhaging. There are good checklists on House Master if you do not already have one.
Changing seasons offer a great opportunity to downsize. Did not touch your skis all winter? Still have not worn that fur coat or those winter boots that you have been trying to for years? Have the kids become teens and grown out of their sleds or other winter equipment? Use the seasons as a test. If you went all winter without using something, you probably will not use it next winter either! You can apply this to things that are not seasonal. For example, go through your pantry, donate the staples that you never use.
Make it FUN!
I know, I know, you do not think ‘fun’ and ‘spring cleaning’ should be in the same sentence. I always had the most fun with spring cleaning when my children were younger and always excited to help with projects like painting or gardening because they were also learning along the way. Re-frame spring cleaning as family bonding time instead of chore time. Introduce incentives. My kids participated in everything from dusting races to competitions on who could pull a bigger pile of weeds!
However, if you have an empty nest like I do now, you can still spice up your spring cleaning. If you are tackling the whole house, tuning all of the radios in the house to your favorite station so that you sing along as you take trips up and down the stairs is always nice. It is also satisfying to stick with one room or area until it is finished. The size is more manageable so the satisfaction you get from completing that space reassures you that your punch list is doable.
At the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show last week, one of the most popular aspects of our booth was the compact ironing board! You can see it this KDKA Pittsburgh Today Live segment. This was partially because it discretely folded up into a drawer and also because some of our visitors unsure what it was. This inspired me to do a little bit of research on ironing.
Turns out that Less than 29.7% of Americans still iron their clothes on a regular basis. This makes sense now that most fabrics have polyester and cotton components. This blend was created to reduce the need to iron and the term ‘permanent press’ was born. This switch towards ironless fabrics was somewhat commemorated by the game, Monopoly, getting rid of their iron token this year. It was a croundsourced decision hosted on facebook. Fans chose to replace the iron with a cat.
I also found a statistic that 40% of Americans who do iron, iron in their underwear. This makes perfect sense. It suggests that ironing is an afterthought and no longer a common household chore. However, most of us still dedicate valuable wall space to an ironing board hanger or mount.
If you are still ironing, why use valuable wall space for an unaesthetic ironing board? Check out some of our ideas for ironing board storage alternatives on Pinterest.
We often find clients who have too much spice in there lives! Oftentimes people want to cook more but are having trouble making time. They over-buy in case they ever get the opportunity there will not be any barriers, they will have everything they need. Some people identify providing with having everything they can possibly think of on hand. It is their way of showing their love. These people purchase spices (and other items) “just in case”. Others have inventory issues. Either, they do not know or cannot see what they have. This is a vicious cycle because spices tend to get lost behind other spices. No matter what the root of the problem is, keeping spices in an appropriate place and for the right amount of time can make a difference.
Seven Day Challenge
If you want to find out which of your spices are actually active, try this trick. Turn all your spices upside down and go through a week of your normal cooking habits. When you use a spice, return it to the cabinet right side up and at the end of the week it will be easy to see what you actually use! Active spices can go on a more available shelf or in a spice drawer. A good rule of thumb is to keep the number of active spices to what can fit in the front row of your spice area.
As an professional organizer, I get this comment all the time. “You are so organized, you probably alphabetize your spices”. Truth be told, I have one shelf that is grab and go for active spices and then another shelf for less used favorites, which are sorted by size and are generally in alphabetical order. Alphabetizing the spices helps me because often times the labels are covered by other spices but when they are in order I have a better idea of where to reach. This is not necessarily for everyone but works well when not all of your spices can be fully displayed.
Stadium Seating Please
Keeping things visual is key. That is why I put all the small jars together, in front of the larger jars. It’s just easier to see. My husband measured and cut a small piece of scrap wood so I could elevate the back row and see it better. I do not recommend any of the shelf extenders that stack spices three deep because I find that I knock items off the shelf when I try to get to the back row. I will admit that I do get joy from buying the same brand when I can so the shelf looks tidy.
Keeping It Fresh
Spices last for a few years before they start to loose their kick, but they will never spoil. If your spices are on the outs, I buy smaller jars for things I use less of and resist the urge to buy large amounts to save money by thinking of quality first. Storage of large spice containers can be a problem. To increase their shelf life, do not store spices directly next to heat because they will lose their freshness faster.
Check out my Pinterest for ideas!
What is going to make 2012 different? We are always striving to be faster, stronger and bigger, but what does that really look like. One of the most popular resolutions is to get organized and that doesn’t always translate into MORE. Efficiency is a great goal but prioritizing might be a better one. Knowing what is important in your time and stuff will make every day seem easier. That is a gift that only you can give yourself. So, how do you get there? What do you let go of? Here are three strategies that may help you.
Top 10 List
What are the all the things you are involved in? What are your roles? List them all; pick the Top Ten and let go of the rest, even temporarily so you get caught up on the issues that are bothering you. You may be surprised when you miss an activity that had been routine and not important, you might find yourself secretly celebrating. This is a great strategy for getting on track when you are going through a major life transition. Step back and minimize while you get through it!
What is it that only I can do?
Another great tip that really works for entrupenuers is to really write down all the “jobs” you do and then highlight the jobs that only YOU can do. Go one step further and mark those that you actually like to do. For me this has really illuminated all kinds of little things that have kept me from the bigger things. It was easy to let go by finding people to do those very specific jobs that I no longer need to attend to. It is fun to think of the year ahead with out those items on my To Do List.
Know you 3 MIT’s Daily
MIT’s are your Most Important Things. If you could write just 3 MIT’s down for the next day when you are leaving your desk or at the end of each day, and were able to start each day ready to accomplish just those 3 things, I suspect it would be life changing. I know we all have HUGE To Do lists, and making a master list does help get it all down, but I am talking about having a top 3 every day that are non-negotiable! This will take away the feeling of being overwhelmed and will help you know what enough looks like. Knowing this can help you stop just working and working and working until you just “hit the wall”.
So I hope these help you to see your New Year through the lens of doing what is important and knowing what “enough” is. This will bring simplicity and order to your 2012!
Reminder! Our very own Leslie McKee will be featured during Pittsburgh Today Live with Kristine Sorensen Monday, December 5th between 9 -10am. Leslie will be discussing over-shopping as it pertains to the holiday, how it effects you daily, and how to deal with it.
Look for tips on how to identify over-shopping habits and watch for information about how to gain control of your shopping habits.
WHY IS OVER-SHOPPING A PROBLEM?
- Our economic growth is dependent upon selling goods to people whose needs are already met!
- Studies show that the more we acquire after our basic needs are met, the less fulfilling those acquisitions are. Therefore the tendency is to buy more to get the same feeling.
- Studies show that the more someone believes material things bring true happiness, the more likely that person is to suffer from depression, stress and anxiety. College students report 70% feel being VERY wealthy will mean they will be happy. This sets the stage for widespread discontent.
- It is proven that too many choices leave us feeling befuddled and over stimulated yet- 5.8 % of US adults are over shoppers. That is 17 million people.
- 3 out of 5 Americans who carry credits cards carry credit card debt. One half owe more than 6,600 and 13% owe over 25k.
- Our country is reporting negative personal savings which happened in 1932,1933 during the great depression.
We have come across an interesting challenge that we have seen on a few other sites. It’s called The Closet Hanger Challenge! We believe Oprah mentioned this first but we just think it’s such a smart and FUN way to clear out some of the extra!
Here’s the challenge:
Jan 1st, take no more than 2 minutes and turn all of the hangers in your closet backwards. As you wear the clothing, when you return it to your closet hang the hanger the right way again. Reassess your hangers on June 1st. If there are items still on backwards hangers, it might be time to consider donating that item.
See how easy this is? We hope you come back on June 1st to tell us how you did!
We have organized the cabinets in the kitchen and under the sink so in keeping with our holiday preparation posts let’s tackle the kitchen pantry next.
TASKS: KITCHEN PANTRY
-Go on a scavenger hunt and remove all expired food and items you just don’t use. If you are uncertain, ask yourself if you will eat it in the next two weeks. If the answer is yes, write it down and make a plan to use it. If the answer is no, consider getting rid of it.
-How far did you have to search to find your food? Unless your kitchen is very small, food outside of the kitchen is usually neglected and takes up valuable space. Try to keep your food where it will be used – inside of the kitchen.
-Get real about what you are actually using. Give up on he liver pâté or death defying hot sauce that came in a gift basket years ago. It is okay to let those items go and use what you love and know.
NEW WAY TO THINK
Now that you have gotten rid of the food that expired before the invention of Google, you can enjoy a sigh of relief knowing that you have just made health a priority for you and your family. Further commit by jotting down ways to use the odd ingredients you said you would use in the next two weeks. Still have a lot of good food? It might be time to have an eat down! Often we wait for special occasions to use things. See how much space you can create by making today special! Try to make your next few shopping trips consist of only perishables. Get creative and have fun. Let the family know what you are trying to do and get their ideas! Are there categories that you tend to over-buy, like packaged snacks that come in handy on crazy mornings? Take a minute to really decide what is enough in those categories. Perhaps re-purpose those as snacks that you can bring to soccer practice for the whole team to enjoy.
Take some time to connect to what kind of cook you want to be. Does that picture include farmers’ markets, fresh produce, less processed, less packaged, healthy dinners shared with your family? Interestingly, the pantry in that picture will keep itself organized as you simply replace old and bad items with more fresh items.
The only thing in your way is making this transition a priority. Having a pantry that reflects what you value is a great start.
Since our last task was in the kitchen let’s take a closer look at the rest of the kitchen storage areas. The good news is these cabinets make sense. The cabinets by the stove are usually the right size for pots and pans, the glasses usually fit above in a cabinet near the sink, and silverware easily fits in the drawer. It is like a blue print for how to organize the space. Your job is so much easier if you just follow that blueprint and try to only keep what fits.
TASKS: KITCHEN CABINET
- Create zones for glassware, regular dishes, pots and pans, bake ware and finally serving pieces by deciding what cabinets are best suited for each zone. This will depend on their location in the kitchen. Decide what each cabinet is going to be and what you would like to fit into it. Remember the heavier things work best in lower or corner cabinets if they are big enough and glasses should be near the sink. Also consider how you like to load and unload the dishwasher when making these decisions too.
- Choose a zone and within it look for sets and try to downsize the “orphans and strays”, taking it all out, wiping it down and replacing only what you love the most and what fits.
- Move methodically through the rest of the cabinets and drawers.
- Make the dishes fit in one cabinet, keep only the pots and pans that fit in their cabinet. If you find you have a full set of pots but only use 3 or 4? Listen to that. That one tricky platter or corn pot that gets in the way? Set it aside and come back to it in the end when you can fit it in where there is space.
- Serving ware can be hard because they are usually odd shapes and cabinets are often not deep enough for them. Special occasion silverware can also be bulky and has the tendency to take over the silverware drawer. Keep storage in mind when purchasing too, do you have a place to put it? Are these items more trouble than they are worth or do they bring down the functionality of the kitchen?
- The platter that your grandmother used might have to be stored out of the kitchen. Minimize in the kitchen by storing stuff elsewhere but don’t do too much of this and try to keep it to one area outside of the kitchen. Like a space in the pantry or on a specific shelf in the basement.
- Are your cabinets overflowing? Rethink it, do I need a dozen? Probably not. back ups like extra settings end up overwhelming spaces that are designed to work within a reasonable range.
- Be hard on the “just in case” and single vs multiple use items. What is your hardest working piece? Keep it! What haven’t you used in over a year? Donate it!
- Really consider how some items are more trouble than they’re worth. They might be bringing down the functionality of the kitchen. Make a sensible decision about them.
- A good rule of thumb is to keep ¾ of your counter tops exposed. Simply remove anything that does not have to do with cooking and dining. Start at one end and work your way around the kitchen, making decisions as you go.
A NEW WAY TO THINK
Get in the zone. Typically, kitchens are designed with zones in mind. The only thing in your way from optimally utilizing the design is either too much stuff or too many over sized items. Try to keep over sized serving pieces and specialty cooking equipment in other storage areas. Visualize or sketch out some zones where similar items can go (baking, cooking, serving).
Resist purchasing single function and single use items. Kitchen gadgets will not increase the amount of time you spend cooking. They create clutter and chaos in a kitchen. Instead of buying a gigantic platter, buy a few interesting matching ones that look nice together, give you versatility, and store easily.
When you know what you need and keep what you use fairly consistently, the kitchen becomes an easy space to keep cleaned and organized.
Here’s to creating a kitchen that works!
This is twice as high as the percentage of people diagnosed with OCD. This statistic is interesting because it conflicts with the idea that HOARDING is a subset of OCD. Studies are being done to differentiate the two and see how often several co-morbid conditions come into play in hoarding situations. In fact 92% of individuals that hoard have been diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders. The issue is further complicated because 85% of hoarders report having a first degree relative who demonstrates a hoarding behavior. This condition makes it hard to discern what is genetic and what is learned.
After attending the NSGCD Conference in Austin in September it became evident that organizers are leading the way to find tools and strategies to help these clients. They have developed rating scales that can be used by other professionals like therapists, emergency personnel and family members to easily designate where hoarders are on a spectrum of the disorder. NSGCD has developed training and certifications specifically on hoarding to help professionals help their clients.
One of the pitfalls of working with hoarders is not understanding how they think. You can see them burying themselves alive and often they are only concerned with the smallest minutia. This obsession with detail is common and to ignore it creates an immediate lack of trust in you and in the process. Success means taking time to build the foundation, make small changes and build upon them.
Their pain in letting go is real.
Their beliefs are real.
Their inability to see or define clutter is real.
It is our job to be a partner and make lasting behavior change. Anyone can toss items in a dumpster; we are here to make a difference in thinking and behavior.