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.
It is that time of year. Holiday cards are stuffing your mailbox and overloading the systems you usually have in place. These cards are emotionally charged so it helps to establish some rules to handle the influx at this already busy time. Use the five D’s to keep from getting overwhelmed.
Designate a drop spot for the cards as they arrive. I like to use a pretty bowl or basket. I separate them from the other mail and do not open them until I have time to sit down and really enjoy them. This system ensures that none will be misplaced around the house.
When I open the cards I try to immediately make a decision about which I want to hold on to for display, reuse for crafts, archive, or leave in the bowl to save. Ask yourself these questions to help make your rules: Do you only want to keep cards from certain families? Only photo cards? Only cards from relatives? Only the top ten of the year? Only your own cards? (TIP: If you are keeping your own cards a good rule of thumb is to keep a copy for each child. If you have 5 children, keep 5 cards) Keeping all of your cards is just a way to not decide. Making decisions on this small batch of emotional items is good practice for bigger jobs – like your photos. If tackling holiday cards is difficult for you, photos are probably even more of a challenge.
Displaying is generally for current cards. There are many different ways to display holiday cards, from clothespins to mantles and garlands to wall sconces! I usually display cards of the people closest to my family and me. A bonus is that when those families join us for holiday celebrations it makes them happy to see their card on display. Check out our Pinterest for more ideas on displaying your cards, you can buy or DIY.
Take down your display at the end of the season and decide how you want to document/archive your cards. Most of what I choose to display each year is what I end up archiving and documenting later on. Once you decide which cards to keep from past years, think about how to save them. Is it okay to just put favorite cards in a shoebox or does it have to be something more aesthetic? I have found that a nice photo box works well for me. I like to save certain cards to look at each year when we pull out our decorations. Also, this year I will be making a scrapbook of my family’s cards over the last 25 years using Shutterfly. I will share my scrapbook link once the project is complete!
This last ‘D’ is an option if you want to get more out of the cards you are not displaying or documenting by reusing them. The front of non-photo cards make great thank you notes if you cleanly separate the front flap. Most people do not write in that area so the back should be blank. Now just find an envelope of the right size or use it as a postcard! My daughter is really great at this! These front flaps can also be cut into smaller pieces and used as gift tags. This is something my sister does. She often writes heartfelt notes on these and attaches them to a satin ribbon as gift wrapping. Whatever is left over can be recycled.
It is that time of year again where ghouls and gluttony rule. The time any vague notion of nutritional plans are thrown out the window and are replaced with pillowcases full of candy and sugar. A glint of greed glows In the eyes of otherwise mannerly children. Parents begin to actually steal from their children when their backs are turned and the lights are out and some existing behaviors exasperated by all that goo sky rocket!
The alternatives? Can you bear to be the neighbor that is passing out granola bars? Would any fruit or homemade treat land in the trash in today’s suspicious world? It is a vicious cycle.
It makes me ask the question, what makes Halloween fun? Is it really the actual candy or is it the costumes, the interaction with friends and neighbors, the décor. Is it the feeling of just going door to door and be given a gift and coming home and just looking at all that candy!
Can you change what you distribute?
- A toy – Not a plastic throw away. Something that might have longevity. One mom went through her son’s old beanie babies and action figures and set aside the best ones for Halloween.
- Art Supplies – A little water color set , play-dough, markers, sketchbooks
- Books – Activity books, little easy readers, comics, notepads
- Coupons – McDonald’s and Wendy’s have them and I know they are still fast food but it at least its not plain sugar.
- Money – How about a bowl of change! I always wondered if you offered the money alternative, how many kids would go for gold!
If you can’t commit 100% maybe you can at least start with providing a choice. Offer an alternative bowl, make it attractive and see what happens. I would love to hear from you and I would love to hear more ideas!
What was your most favorite Halloween costume you ever wore? Was it one you bought or one you put together creatively? Sometimes the best memories are made when you just make do because the pressure is off and it’s time to have fun. Often when your creativity shines through, the costume becomes a real show stopper and the added bonus is no one will have the the same one as you!
The most eco-friendly suggestion is to use what you have or do a “costume swap”. You can organize this with friends, neighbors, or even schools. There is even a National Costume Swap day on October 13th and a website, www.greenhalloween.org that facilitates setting up your own swap. Also be sure to look at consignment and thrift shops. They often have costumes that are in perfect condition and ready to go at bargain prices.
There is plenty of time to let your creative juices roll this Halloween and empower your kids to find fun and easy ways to get ready for their big night in a EEK-o-Friendly way!
Welcome to May! With May comes many things, but one in particular is Garage sales! I was asked to talk to the crew from the KDKA Radio morning show early this morning about garage sales and I wanted to share a few more tips with you here. Whether you’re shopping or selling, here are a few things to help you along the way.
If you are looking for sales in your neighborhood good places to start are The Pittsburgh Post Gazette classifieds, the Pennysaver newspaper, and Craigslist. You can also search sites such as Oodle, which syndicates its garage sale listings with a handful of other social networking websites and newspapers, as well as Garage Sales Tracker’s Pittsburgh area garage sales section.
If you are already on the road then no need to worry since there are smartphone applications for finding a local sale. A service called Garage Sale App is available for 99 cents. The app mines data from Craigslist to show you what local sales are in your area. If you want a free app then Garage Sales Tracker also has a free app you can use to map out which sales in the area you want to go to that day and the best route. Another fantastic app is iGarageSale where you can search sales for specific items. It’s available on both iPhone and Android smartphones.
Now that you know how to find all of the sales, here are some tips for holding your own garage sale:
- Determine when to have the sale. Summertime and spring are naturally the best times, and being an early bird pays off!
- If you have a lot of stuff, you may want to break the sale down into 2 days.
- Advertising is very important. Utilize the resources mentioned above as well as signage that you can pick up at any local hardware store. Or you can design your own sign. Just make sure you include the address, put the arrows in the right direction, and mention the date of the sale and time.
- Be prepared with supplies, such as balloons on the mail box, proper change, tables, and tags for pricing.
- Placing the person in charge of the cashbox in the back of the sale makes people walk through the whole sale, and increases the chance that they may buy something else as they make their way through.
- Make price tags big and place them on the TOP of the items.
Most of all, Have FUN!
Did you miss Leslie’s feature on Monday, December 5th on Pittsburgh Today Live? Well you can now watch it here.
Leslie discusses over-shopping and suggests ways to identify why you over-shop and how to control it.
After attending a presentaion given by David Mazza, with the Pennsylvania Resources Council I learned about many new resources for recycling in Pittsburgh. These will all be added to the searchable database on the www.mckeeos.com website. One very interesting point he made that I wanted to share was about recycling plastics. Many local communities have moved to single stream recycling and have opened up their collections to taking plastics from numbers 1-7. David explained that there still is not a market for the higher numbered plastics. The theory is that by opening it up to “all” plastics recycling centers will probbly get more lower number plastics. With that information, consumers should still stay away from the higher number plastics like 5-7 because hey will probably be disgarded like other regular trash.
OK-I am on a GREEN kick! I just think it is so important and I see it as something that will actually become mandatory in our lifetime! So I often think about what is my “green responsibility” as an organizer. Simplifying what clients bring into their homes and finding great resources for the items they no longer want are really at the core of what we do. Organizing is a very green profession overall! I want to formalize a green component to what i already do by adding a green piece to my initial consultation.
Clients I see are usually overwhelmed. They are either recycling already or so overwhelmed they feel like that can’t add one other thing to their to do list! If they are already doing it, I would like to praise their efforts and make sure they have all the local resources they need. i also want to make sure their system is as simple as possible so that they will be able to keep it up without turning their homes into recycling centers by collecting but not having routines in place to get the items out to the places that process them. If they are not recycling at all I want to address that and try to build that component into any organizational system I suggest or put in place. I want to address he all or nothing thinking and get started in some small way.
So if YOU are reading this and needed a little nudge to get started! It is time to take that little step!
The idea of GREEN SHOPPING is really LESS SHOPPING! After putting your thinking through that “filter” if you still decide that you need to buy something-consider these rules of thumb. First, buy quality, lasting products that are not single use. Invest in a great mop or broom instead of a Swifter. Purchase things that are made to last. Consider how they are made and the materials used. I would much rather purchase salad serving pieces made from bamboo than plastic. Heghten your awareness of what is made from recycled materials and it the item can be recycled in the end as well. Look for items that use less packaging and bring your own bags to the store. Is the item biodregradable. A well made wooden toy always seems to be a better choice to me than a plastic one. It is well crafted, often unique and will biodegrade. Buying locally is also key to lessen the environmental costs of shipping and to infuse your local economy.
Again, awareness is key and all or nothing perfectionistic thinking will hold you back. Keep an open mind to green ideas and don’t become overwhelmed with doing too much. Take one step at a time towards lasting, powerful change!
Awareness is the key here. Just tune into ways to recycle things in a simple way. I am in homes all the time that have phenomenal recycling programs yet they don’t recycle. These people are not lazy, they are stuck. They don’t have the perfect place to store items for the week. They don’t have a system in place so they become paralyzed. Ignorance is not bliss in this instance! It is time to be responsible for the items you bring into your home. This doesn’t mean PERFECT. It just means that you need to start somewhere. In my community it is pretty easy. All cans and bottles and glass go in the same container, so we keep one under the sink and take it outside as needed. Paper is a little harder. I have to admit that it took me awhile to get with the program. When I decided to start I simply put a basket under a table in the hall by my kitchen and we simply started with newspapers. We take the basket to a PAPER RETRIEVER when it gets full. YES, there are days that is looks a little sloppy-but for the most part we just take it on our way to other errands and it really feels good! Our trash is truly less than half of what it used to be.
So educate yourself and just start somewhere! You will be glad you did and you can rest easier know that you are doing your part to help the environment and ultimately our global economy.