Sentimental objects are one of the most challenging categories for professional organizers to help clients with. This is especially true with objects related to family history, such as:
Family history documents (letters, journals, diaries, invitations, etc.),
Education related (book reports, college papers, graduation diplomas, etc.),
Civil records about family members (marriage records, immigration records, birth/death certificates, etc.)
Photos, diaries, papers, trophies…these are all critical elements of your family legacy. They tell the story of important family members, and are the fabric of what binds families together. Personally, I am not an advocate of throwing this all away. On the other hand, how can anyone benefit if these materials are stashed away in the attic, basement, or closet?
The first step to any family history project is taking an inventory of what you have. Even if your project is simply tidying your family history boxes, you will be happy you did it. And I promise, your children will thank you!
Take some time to go through each box carefully and understand what is in them. It’s almost always the case we find things we had completely forgotten about. And it’s not at all uncommon to find objects we thought were lost. Once you know what you have, it will be much easier to figure out what to keep, and how to organize it all.
One complaint I hear frequently is that people don’t really know what to do with these materials. They accumulate and accumulate, taking up more room than you ever would have wanted. The fear of the materials being damaged, and frustration that nothing productive is being done with them, causes most people to feel anxious, along with a good measure of guilt.
Organizing family history materials allows us to honor family members and declutter. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of throwing these materials away. BUT, you’ll be surprised how much space is being taken up by duplicates, damaged papers/photos, old frames, and photos of people you don’t know—all of which can all be thrown away.
And watch out for newspaper clippings! Newspaper paper does not last. Not only that, it can damage other materials it comes into contact with.
The advent of online publishing has made printing books in small print runs very affordable. Imagine having a book of all your parents’ correspondence, and giving a copy to each of your children. Or imagine assembling all the civil records about your ancestors so the whole family can have a richer understanding of its roots and history. All you need is a scanner and a little patience. If you don’t have the time, there are many scanning services which can do this for you. The Association of Professional Photo Organizers is also a great place to find someone locally who can do this.
Once scanned, it’s time to select an online book publisher. There are many to choose from. Two of my favorites are Blurb and Mixbook. Mixbook in particular has some great layouts just for family history projects. Be sure to wait for a sale! Both these sites frequently offer significant discounts.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that these books become instant family heirlooms. They make terrific gifts for important birthdays or around the holidays.
If you run into a hiccup while organizing, scanning, or making your book, feel free to give me a call. I’m always happy to answer questions. Good luck with your family history project!
If the answer is yes, you’re certainly in good company. According to recent research, people touch their phones an average of 2,617 times per day. Tally up the hours we’re projected to spend on social media apps over a lifetime and the sum comes to a whopping 5 years and 4 months. (To put that in perspective, it’s 36% more time than any of us spend eating and drinking.) And don’t even get me started on the time we spend on our laptops and tablets.
If we don’t use our devices effectively, everything we’re gaining in convenience is outweighed by the frustration and anxiety it causes, not to mention the lost time. What’s unnecessary? How many clicks does it take you to find something? Are your precious memories and photos backed up? Is your data transparent across family members so that decisions can be made faster and easier? All of these things add up to our daily dose of digital frustration.
Lately, I’ve been working with a lot of clients who feel inefficient when it comes to their devices. It is no surprise that while we all carry around these “necessary evils”, we don’t always use them in the most optimal way.
There’s no denying it, technology is always changing. If you choose to use technology strategically and invest in the proper tools you will undoubtedly save time, feel more productive and be able to unplug! (Now that’s a whole other topic)…
We all have too much paper in our lives. Diane, who is the business manager at RieOrganize! tells the following story:
“I have always had a fairly high tolerance for paper clutter before I reach my limit and, even then, it’s often not a conscious decision to sort through everything – I just start small and then usually keep going. The other day was one of those days. Although I missed being outside on a beautiful day, I opened the windows and just applied myself. The reward? Being able to sit back, that night, and look around at so many cleared off spaces with a sense of calm. AND I reaped the side benefit of finding two things for which I had been searching!”
Mail and other paper is a huge source of clutter for everyone. Every day your mailbox is full of paper, and 90% of it is probably useless to you.
Review the mail you get and look for opportunities to switch to paperless billing or automatic payments. You’ll eliminate the possibility of losing the electric bill in a pile of mail, plus you’ll have one less piece of mail coming to your house in the first place.
It’s important to have a system for processing mail. You know it’s coming every day, so figure out a system where you can sort it right away. Glance through the mail on your way back from the mailbox. Then when you’re in the house, toss junk mail in the recycle bin (or shredder if it includes personal information) and take immediate action on anything else.
Want to stop getting some of that junk mail altogether? Check out this resource from the Federal Trade Commission on ways to opt out of prescreened credit card offers, telemarketing calls, and other direct mail marketing.
WHAT TO KEEP AND WHAT TO TOSS?
You should keep your tax records safe and secure, whether they are stored on paper or electronically. The same is true for any financial or health records you store, especially any document bearing Social Security numbers.
Keep copies of your tax returns and supporting documents for at least seven years. Remember to keep records about property you own for seven years after the year in which you no longer own the property. This time frame allows you to file a claim for adjustment in cases of bad debt deduction or a loss from worthless securities. Always check with your tax advisor for further clarification and updates in tax regulations as they change every year.
Dispose of old tax records properly. Never toss paper tax returns and supporting documents into the trash. Because of the sensitive nature of this data, the loss or theft of these documents could lead to identity theft and have an economic impact. These documents contain the Social Security numbers of you, your spouse and dependents, old W-2 income and bank account information. Therefore, your federal and state tax records, as well as any financial or health records should be shredded before disposal.
Lots of mail looks like it’s official and even says “keep this for your records”, but sometimes you really don’t need to if the same information can be found online. If you bank online, you don’t need to keep the monthly paper statements since you can access them through your online bank account. You should reconcile your account before shredding the statements, but you don’t need to file and store that paper indefinitely. The same can be done for paper bills, but if you took our tip above, you’ve enrolled in autopay and paperless billing and don’t have to worry about paper bills anymore.
Not all of us can be as diligent and apply ourselves as easily as Diane did, so if you need help sorting through your clutter, contact an organizer. For a list of NAPO organizers, click here
Organizing can be tough…scratch that…starting the process of organizing can be tough! In my own personal organizing projects, and those of my clients, I will typically suggest doing one, or all, of the following strategies to make it a bit easier…and less painful too!
Music – Music is a great motivator and can keep you moving and grooving while you are working on your organizing project.
Scavenger Hunt – Doing a scavenger hunt can also be motivating. I often suggest to my clients to do a search throughout their home for empty bins and baskets, or even repurpose said items. This will not only save you money in the process, but time as well. Yes, I love browsing through the aisles of HomeGoods and The Container Store (probably just like you!), but that just delays the inevitable start.
Shopping – If you really want to shop…like really, really…then find something that you love! It could be a storage piece (if the room allows for it), pillow, or piece of artwork, etc., to incorporate into the room or area that you will be organizing. It could be a huge flat screen TV for all I care! It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something that makes you happy and that you’ll enjoy looking at every time that you are in the space!
For one of my next projects at my home, I will be reorganizing my jewelry. While I was doing my holiday shopping, I came upon my IT. Do you ever have one of those moments where you find the perfect thing, for the perfect place, for the perfect price? Well, if you never have experienced that trifecta, I must tell you, it feels AWESOME! My piece is shown in the picture above.
I had tried several methods of organizing my jewelry over the years, but nothing had really stuck. At first, I was using jewelry boxes with velvet lined drawers. Next came the stacker trays with individual spots for earrings, rings, necklaces, etc. I’ve come to the realization lately though, that unless my jewelry is visible, I probably won’t wear it, and that’s no fun!
If you take a closer look at my newfound treasure you will note the 6 hooks for necklaces at the base of the mirror portion. Plus, the piece is tall enough, that longer necklaces won’t puddle and tangle. Additionally, the well at the base is perfect for smaller earrings or a watch or two. I’d also previously found 2 small 3-tiered trays to compliment this piece, for earrings and rings. They are in turquoise, which is my favorite color too!
When I start working on this project, I also plan to let go of and donate any jewelry that I haven’t worn in a long time. Organizing is always easier when you start with less! I also plan to listen to some great music while doing it.
Comment below if you have ever found a trifecta of your own and if it has helped you get organized in your home!
I am the first to admit that I used a Professional Organizing colleague and friend to help me with something I’ve been meaning to do for years. She helped me go through my closets and determine what to keep and what to finally give away.
My reluctance was four-fold:
I finally bit the bullet and hired my friend. It was the best money I’d spent in a while. In four hours, we got through all my clothes closets. I had a ton of clothes and hangers to donate, all of which went to a women’s shelter in Camden, NJ. My closets have room now, I have bunches of hangers I can use for anything new that I buy, I feel free, and I know that these clothes can be used by those not as fortunate as I.
So, what does it say about a Professional Organizer asking for help from a Professional Organizer? Some of you may wonder why I couldn’t do this by myself.
Firstly, I was able to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. We all have strengths, and we all face challenges in our lives. Why not ask for help when needed?
Secondly, what I experienced is exactly what my clients experience, and that was worth its weight in gold. I think I’m a pretty empathetic person, but this solidified it for me. I tried on clothes that I wasn’t sure about, and since my colleague was not emotionally invested in anything (but my parents bought that blouse in Greece for me a zillion years ago) and only had my best interest at heart, I was able to let go of mostly everything. I was bound and determined to get through the closets.
Thirdly, I had a stake in the game. The date was set, and I knew that since I was paying for the service, I was very prepared and determined to get through this project in a timely manner. I compared this to having a personal trainer. Once you pay for something, aren’t you more apt to follow through?
The funny thing about this is after the 4 hours, my colleague asked me if I was going to go through any of the clothes and pull things out that I think I may still want to keep. I laughed, said no, and realized I ask the same question to my clients.
Just because you have room for things, like I did, doesn’t mean you have to keep them, especially if you aren’t using them anymore. Perhaps the time is right for you to ask for help with your organizing projects.
Hello to all my Home Organizer friends!
Some people are intimidated about writing FaceBook posts and newsletters. I am not one of them. I find inspiration for FB posts and newsletters everywhere. For example, whenever one of my network friends posts something on FB or has an article in their newsletter that is relevant to my target market, I forward it to my Virtual Assistant and she posts it with a link their website. This helps build a rapport with my referral partners and gives me a wide variety of topics of interest to my current and prospective clients.
Home Organizers are all inspired by each other. Annette Reyman’s tag line “We get you moved in so you can move on . . . with life!” inspired my tagline “Let me help you catch up so you can keep up.”
I have attached a few photos that I plan to use as part of a future newsletter that will be tied in with my tag line. It will also be used as a FB post and a blog on my website.
The captions will read:
Problem: Samantha is a busy single mom who had never been able to carve out time to get her son’s playroom under control.
Solution: We purged the room of toys and books he had outgrown for four hours. Organizing was a breeze; it only took two hours.
Result: Cameron was thrilled to be able to play with his remote-control toys now that the controls are easy to find. He has taken ownership of his playroom and makes sure his friends and cousins help keep it tidy.
Testimonial: “I learned a different way of thinking. It’s OK to get rid of stuff and not be sad about it. Bobbie educated me with some valuable tips. For example, instead of putting all of my son’s small action figures in one big bucket, she suggested I buy an organizing unit where he can see all the figures and find the ones he wants. He has even categorized them himself!”
– Samantha, Langhorne PA
I also have fun with my FB posts and would like to share a draft for a future post. Perhaps it will inspire you to write something fun of your own.
How Loud is Your Clutter?
Does your clutter whisper, “Psst, I’m over here? I’m getting out of control.” Or does your clutter clear her throat and say “Ahem, over here bud. Pay me some attention.”
Ignore your clutter too long and it will scream out you, “Yo! You can’t ignore me any longer! I’m here, I’m out of control and you need to deal with me NOW!”
If your clutter is verbally abusing you, you need to call me! Let’s schedule a consult and quiet your clutter.