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Author: Naomi CookBack To School Clutter Education General Goal Setting healthy living Home Office Organizing Productivity Tips

Fall in Love Again…with Zoom

Ah, new relationships!  They can be fun and exciting, right?  You love being together every day, you fall deep into the honeymoon period, and you feel that your partner is the best thing ever…

Hmm…do you remember mid-March, and a certain technology that blew up?  Read the sentence above replacing Zoom with your partner…still works, right! 

Yes, Zoom!  I remember that gut wrenching feeling of being alone when we first learned that much of the world had shut down.  Add living alone to that and it can really throw you for a loop. 

My networking group started moving onto the platform that many of us were just starting to learn about.  Working through kinks, like Zoom bombers, the leaders of our group helped us navigate through our new normal and suddenly I was with my friends again!  It felt SO good! 

I was on every day for a while, either networking, with friends, or with family, going to Zoom birthday parties and gathering for Zoom trivia nights.  On my birthday in May, my friends threw me a surprise Zoom birthday and more friends appeared flash mob style to one of my favorite songs. 

I loved Zoom!  I couldn’t get enough of Zoom, until the day came that I could.  Just like the honeymoon phase in a relationship, my relationship with Zoom peaked, and I reached the level of Zoom Fatigue, which many of us are facing today.

I just didn’t want to be on it anymore and faced that alone feeling again.  I learned to fill my days in different ways, and after a while, as the world was starting to open up a bit, I started new routines with more balance.

Zoom is still a part of my new normal.  I became a part of an accountability group with a few friends, go to a few networking meetings a week and even started virtual organizing with clients.

If you are still in the fog of Zoom Fatigue, here are some things to try to make being on it fun again:

  • Dress up your space – If your dedicated area is small, or cluttered, or right next to your homeschooled child, set up a virtual background on your computer.  Put yourself on the beach and bring your iced coffee with a tropical umbrella.  Put yourself in a snazzy kitchen and put on an apron and throw some flour on your face.  If your computer is not capable of working with virtual backgrounds, like mine is, get a cool shower curtain and hang it up behind you!  Have fun!  Of course, as a Professional Organizer, I must add in that you should take care of said clutter at some point…ha ha!
  • Dress up yourself – You’ll be looking at everyone, and everyone will be looking at you.  Dress up all the way, or just your top half and keep your pajama bottoms on.  Just don’t get up to go across the room without turning your camera off first!  Ladies, put on jewelry and makeup if it makes you feel good.  Guys, keep your facial hair in check. 
  • Stay comfy – Wherever you sit, bring your creature comforts with you.  Bring a pillow to keep your back happy, and your favorite iced or hot beverage, and wear your slippers.  Get a comfy bed for your best furry friend and keep it by your seat.  Just looking at them and petting them will make you stay calm and happy.  Show off your pets on screen, unless you are in a more formal setting, of course! 
  • Stay organized – Of course I had to go here!   You came to read a blog written by Professional Organizers, right?  If you’re working from home, you may be working in different areas at different times, on the sofa, at the kitchen table, on your bed.  Designate a tote or basket to collect all your necessities for when it’s time to get to your Zoom call. 

So, learn to love Zoom again, but try to keep a life balance, and leave the honeymoon period for people, not the latest tech craze.  Wishing you, your family, and your friends, a happy and healthy Fall!

Author: Annette ReymanCloset Clothing Clutter Consignment Donating General healthy living Home Organizing Seasonal Tips

Closet Organizing Tips

In 2015 Forbes reported a Bureau of Labor statistic affirming that, in 1930, the average American woman owned 9 outfits. This, as opposed to a current day figure of about 30 outfits – one for each day of the month.

In 2016 a survey of 1,000 American women was conducted by ClosetMaid. It found that women only really like 10 percent of their wardrobe. It also found that one in ten women are depressed when they open their closet and 40 percent say that they don’t like any of their clothes.

As Americans, we are blessed with an abundance of choices when it comes to clothing and fashion. A broad variety of style, quality and affordability surround us. Yet, we can surmise from these two studies that, in the U.S., we have more clothing than ever before and are less satisfied with what we have. So where does the disconnect lie? How do we get from Point A – the clothing that we own; to Point B – happiness?

Point A – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Point B

Why Are Our Wardrobes So Overwhelming?

There are many explanations centered around the social and psychological motivations behind our large wardrobes and our dissatisfaction. Compulsive shopping, ecological reasoning, “retail therapy”, depression and loss are just a few theories offered.

The anxiety experienced when contemplating and processing the variety and abundance we face upon viewing our overcrowded wardrobes adds a real neurological strain. We end up starting our days stressed-out even before we walk out our front door.

Although it remains important to address the underlying reasons for overwhelmed and overwhelming closets and spaces, professional organizers (unlike therapists) also get the opportunity to directly address the physical issues as well. Addressing spacial congestion is empowering, encouraging a feeling of control over the environment, a feeling that can help ward off anxiety and depression.

What You can Do about Your Overstuffed Closet

Here are three simple tips for actions that you can take today that will make a difference every day.

1.    Remove useless items from your closet.

Start with unused hangers and empty boxes that take up space for absolutely no reason. A dozen empty hangers can take up to a foot of space on your hanging rod – a whole foot! There may be many hiding between crowded garments so be sure to filter through everything. Next, begin at one end and review each garment. Remove all items that can be tossed or donated; toss the trash, then bag and label the rest for “Donation”.

2.    Store seasonal clothing.

Unless you live in a temperate climate where your entire wardrobe is versatile for year-round use, there are very few reasons to keep all of your clothing at hand in your closet all of the time. Separate items you are keeping into two seasonal categories: Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. Keep the current half at hand in your closets and dressers. Store the other half in plastic bins or space bags. Take advantage of the seasonal switch to purge items that you no longer want before storing the rest.

3.    Color Coordinate.

Okay, I will admit that this may sound a little “organizer”-geeky, but try it out before you scoff. Imagine you are looking for your favorite pair of black pants. The ones that fit just right and aren’t too long or too short. Do you have to go in between all your tight spaces in your closet to find them before realizing they are at the cleaners? Not if your closet is color coordinated. You will simply go through the section of black pants. Not there? Then they are in the laundry. Need to put together a quick outfit? Easy to do when your eyes are simply matching colors and not hunting between randomly hung, tightly crammed fabrics.

Take the time to clean out and organize your closet now and you’ll start your day with a feeling of peace and control. Your closet will be the first empowering confidence boost to your day!

Author: Ellen TozziClothing Clutter Consignment Donating Education Efficiency General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Seasonal Time Management Tips Virtual Organizing

Wishful Thinking and Your Clutter

Wishing is a good thing! It creates a vision of what we’d like for the future. Often the vision motivates us into action to make it come true.  But the tricky part about a wish, compared to a goal, is sometimes we want our wish to magically happen without our taking action. Can you relate?

Here are some examples of Wishful Thinking that might be contributing to the clutter in your home:

The clothes you wish you could get into two or three sizes down.

  • You really, really want to lose weight but so far haven’t been too successful. Ask yourself: If I were to lose that weight, would I want to wear clothes from the 1990’s? 
  • Save clothes one size down and a couple of absolute favorites from the lower sizes. And if you do lose the weight – treat yourself to new clothes!

The workout equipment you wish you would use.

  • You purchased some pretty expensive workout equipment and swear you’re going to start using it. But even through the pandemic, when you had time, you didn’t get to it.
  • Let go of the equipment if you aren’t going to use it. There are others who can’t get to the gym who will buy it or take it off your hands. If necessary, pay a junk hauler to take it away. You really will feel better without the reminder of your dreams (ahem … self-discipline) not coming true.

The craft projects you wish you’d have to time to work on.

  • Well, we’ve had time with the Covid-19 quarantine, so I ask, how many projects did you work on?  (Of course, if you were home-schooling or working from home, it probably wasn’t too many.)
  • Decide on two or three crafts that make your heart sing and let go of the ones that you like but don’t love.  Schools and nursing homes might enjoy your cast-offs.

The second home you wish you could buy.

  • Many of us have dreamed of a second home and saved household items and furniture to that end.  Ask yourself if it is realistic to think you’ll be buying another property?
  • If the answer is no, free the space by letting go.

Charitable shops have been closed for some time due to the pandemic, and now that they’re opened, they are inundated with goods. Some people are reluctant to donate to charities for fear their items will be thrown in the trash. I’ve been told by Goodwill workers that they are storing items in trailers, however that statement is unverified. Another option for items you wish to sell or give away for free are websites like Freecycle.org and CraigsList.com, or local pages on Facebook Marketplace. Since summer is here, you can find ways exchange items with social distancing.

Wishful Thinking can be shifted to Realistic Thinking. If you have trouble getting started, consider the help of a professional organizer. Many are doing virtual organizing and can help you shift your thinking so letting go is easier. YOUR WISH FOR A CLUTTER-FREE HOME CAN COME TRUE!

Author: Clemence ScoutenClutter Downsizing Family General Home Keepsakes Organizing Photos Seniors & Aging Tips

Honor your Family History without Drowning in Clutter

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:
 Photographs,
 Newspaper clippings,
 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.)

No one will benefit if family history materials are kept in disorganized cardboard boxes

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?

Where to start?

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.

Organizing these materials will give you peace of mind

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.

Imagine the incredibly meaningful things you can do with family history materials

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!

Author: Brittini SchaferClutter Electronic Organizing Uncategorized

Digital Clutter is Clutter too!

Quick question: Are you reading these words on a phone? 

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.

Digital clutter is similar to physical clutter.

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.

Setting boundaries and investing in the proper tools can help clear common digital cobwebs. 

Think about:

  • Safeguarding your passwords
  • Freshening up your profiles
  • Taking better notes
  • Upgrading your to-do list
  • Going on an app diet
  • Organizing your inbox
  • Unsubscribing from the noise
  • Syncing your social networks
  • Scheduling maintenance
  • And backing-up

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)…

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Author: Rie BroscoClutter Document Management Organizing Paper

MOUNTAINS OF MAIL AND PAPER

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?

Keep:
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:

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.

Toss:
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.

Toss:
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