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Author: Barb BermanClutter Downsizing Organizing Productivity Project Management Time Management

Do You Have an Extra 15 Minutes? It is Amazing What You Can Do!

There are times, I am sure, when you have an extra 15 minutes where you just want to sit, relax, and take a few deep breaths. There is certainly nothing wrong with self-care. However, self-care can also take on another form where you want to use those extra 15 minutes to get something done in your home or office. 

In my world, of course, it has to do with de-cluttering and organizing. There have been a couple of times recently where I took that 15 minutes with a client and myself to do just that.

A client of mine moved into assisted living several months ago. During one of our sessions, as I was helping her unpack and organize, I had some extra time. I went through one of her end table drawers in the living room and was able to recycle and trash 95% of what was in the drawer – old catalogs, old address labels, etc. Now, I could make room for other items that were important for her to have nearby in her new life.

In my own life, I love to travel. I always have travel articles and catalogues that I keep in an antique rice holder box (pictured above). When I started going through my collection, I was amazed at what I could recycle – articles and catalogs that went back to 2016. Since the box never looked like it was totally overflowing, I just kept putting more articles and catalogs in it. As with my client, I was able to recycle 95% of what I had stored.

This led me to think what we can all do in 15 minutes to maintain our organizational systems. Maintenance and persistence always seem to be a huge challenge in the organizing world. Developing a system or process is 1 part of the project. Another part is maintaining or tweaking what you’ve already developed.

Consider what you can do in 15 minutes. You never know what you’ll find unless you go through these areas:

  • Go through a junk drawer in your kitchen, bathroom, and/or bedroom and recycle, trash, shred, or donate.
  • Go through a section of your closet or a dresser drawer when you buy something new and recycle, trash, shred, or donate something old.
  • Go through a section of your closet or a dresser drawer when you haven’t bought something new and recycle, trash, shred, or donate.
  • Go through a file drawer, if you have paper files, and recycle or shred things you no longer need to keep.
  • Go through some bookshelves and box up books you’ve already read or have no intention of reading and donate to a local library.
  • Go through your medicine cabinet and dispose of medicines properly – do not flush down the toilet.
  • Go through your makeup and discard what is old.
  • Go through your spices and discard what is old.

On any given day, we all make choices in our lives as to what to do with our time. With those extra 15 minutes that you have, you could sit back and relax or go through an area of your home or office to see what you no longer need. What is your choice today?

Author: Annette ReymanBack To School Clutter Education Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Productivity Time Management Tips

Take Some “Me” Time – Now

Ahhhh, can you hear it? Stop. Listen closely. Is that the sound of an empty house? Oh my goodness! Are you actually at home – alone? That’s right folks. The kids are back to school and that morning cup of coffee hasn’t tasted this good in almost longer than you can remember.

Thank you Fall for showing up – right in time to save us from completely losing any semblance of sanity! While you sit for an extra 5 minutes, enjoying the sound of silence and taking another sip-o’-joe, you may begin to look around.

What you are looking at is the aftermath of summer:

  • Collections of odd paraphernalia from summer crafts
  • Flotsam and jetsam of beach and pool excursions (Wait. Whose towels are those?)
  • Outgrown and short-lived children’s summer clothing and shoes
  • Vacation pamphlets and souvenirs

Amidst everyone else’s debris, there are some of your own items that need attention, yet it’s hard to know which and where they are. Here are 3 suggestions from a Professional Organizer and mom of three grown children:

  1. Pamper yourself. You made it through the summer. You planned and chaperoned and hosted and entertained. And now that everyone is back to their normal routines, start your autumn out by putting a date on the calendar for you. Get a massage. A manicure. Go out to lunch. Take time to get yourself settled down and focused for the season ahead.
  2. Make a List. The start of a new season comes with a host of tasks, commitments and appointments. Go through each area of responsibility in your mind and write it ALL down on your list. Doing this type of “brain dump” will help you capture everything while you are able to quietly focus. Getting it onto paper and out of your head will also relieve stress and help with better sleep. So, before you jump in and start running from one new event to the next, have an extra sip of coffee and take 10 minutes to write down a list of everything that needs your time and attention:
    1. Home – are there any service people that you need to call – plumber? electrician? roofer?
    2. Car – is there an inspection due? Do you need to replace your windshield wipers? Is an oil change needed?
    3. Medical – do you or any other family member need a doctor or dentist appointment?
    4. Organizations – do you belong to any organizations that require your attention; PTA? Church? School? Club?
  3. Clear your space. An organized space will help with clearing not just your environment but also your head. Organize an entire room or just one work area. Set things up the way you want them to be and allow your environment to support your productivity.

Take these three small steps and enter Fall confidently prepared to harvest the rewards of the season.

Author: Ellen TozziClutter Education General Hoarding Organizing Safety Seasonal Tips

EEEK! A MOUSE!

As autumn approaches, mice look for warm homes with food and water in which to hunker down for the winter. Don’t let one of those homes be yours! At a recent NAPO-GPC* meeting, pest expert Dr. Dion Lerman shared tips on how to prevent, eliminate and clean up after those little rodents.  Here are answers to questions you might not have known you had:

Are mice a health concern?

  • Mice are a health concern because they contribute to allergies and asthma
  • 83% of all homes contain mice allergens; 95% of low-income homes
  • The allergens are found in their urine

How do the rascals get in?

  • Under doors if there is a gap that is ¼” high (if a pencil can fit under a door, a mouse can fit)
  • Through holes in the exterior of the house (if a hole is the size of a dime, a mouse can fit)
  • Inside in corners, floors, closets, basements, openings around pipes, etc.

Where in the house do the critters live?

  • Mice generally nest 30 to 50 feet from food and water
  • They can live in wall voids, cabinets, under sinks, attics, basements, sheds … you name it
  • You can detect them by their droppings (or by the behavior of your pets)

How can one prevent them from coming in?

  • Install door sweeps on doors with gaps
  • Stuff openings with steel wool or copper pot-scrubbers as tightly as possible and seal with silicone caulk
  • Eliminate accessible food and water
  • Keep the home clean and decluttered
  • Use plastic bins with snap lids for storage (bins containerize items and makes clean up easier, should they enter)

What’s the best way to get rid of mice?

  • Use snap traps with peanut butter as bate
  • If successful, wear rubber/nitrile gloves, put dead mouse in resealable bag, then in plastic grocery bag and put in trash.  Disinfect surrounding area and trap if you want to reuse it.
  • Do NOT use poison in the house!  Avoid sticky pads.

What’s the best way to safely clean up after the critters?

  • Wear rubber/nitrile gloves, mist mouse droppings and urine with a 1:10 solution of water and bleach; let soak for five minutes
  • Wipe up with paper towels and dispose of them
  • Wipe again with a disinfectant or bleach solution

As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Author: Darla PompilioCloset Clothing Clutter healthy living Organizing Productivity Time Management

Cultivate Your Space to Change Your Life

People hire organizers because they feel their lives are out of control and they are unable to get organized on their own. Frequently the problem is simply having too much stuff to organize. Often the weight of too many possessions can wear us down. When our space is cluttered and dis-organized it can impact every facet of our lives.

When the burden of too much clutter is lifted from our shoulders, we can feel physically lighter, more energetic and less stressed. This relief can lead to increased work productivity, greater enthusiasm and better relationships.

The question we need to ponder is why do we purchase so much in the first place?  There are a number of explanations for this compulsion. Often, we simply want to possess the latest and greatest stuff because we think it’s fun to own!   We live in a consumer culture and we often validate ourselves by what and how much we can accumulate. Consumerism and materialism are promoted by advertisers in print and on TV and computers in the form of commercials. According to Annie Leonard who wrote, “The Story of Stuff”, the two main activities Americans engage in are watching TV and shopping. We are bombarded by advertising and are exposed to approximately 3,000 ads per day. We see more ads in a day then people saw in a year 50 years ago. Couple that with the fact that the average house size has doubled since the 1970’s and it becomes easy to see why we accumulate so much “stuff”.

Sadly, in order to maintain our lifestyles of consumption, many people are working 50+ hours per week. We work until we are exhausted and depleted and then we shop to make us feel better. We return home too tired to do much else than watch TV and the cycle begins anew!

Is this the way we really want to lead our lives? If so, fine. If not, then it’s time to rethink our goals and blithely step off that hamster wheel of consumption and examine saner options.

Author: Yasmin GoodmanClutter Hoarding Organizing Safety

Benchmarks for Safer, Healthier Homes. Harm Reduction, A New Approach for Hoarding Behavior.

There are a staggering number of people in the U.S. suffering from hoarding behavior. Individuals engage in excessive accumulating or have difficulty letting go of items, sometimes so severe that it interferes with normal activities of daily life. Rooms are no longer usable for their intended purpose, we see dining rooms cluttered with belongings not meals or tubs holding clothes not bathwater. Statistics estimate that 15 million people are dealing with this issue. In Philadelphia, the estimate is 31,000 -77,000.

A cleanout is the method most municipalities use to deal with hoarding. Reducing the volume of clutter to safer levels is thought to alleviate the problem and support the person. The reality is, without treatment and support for the individual, the rate of recidivism after a cleanout is nearly 100%.   With the high cost of cleanouts and low rate of return, cities are beginning to pay attention to research findings.

Thanks to the research of doctors Frost, Steketee, Tompkin and Tolin, we are now understanding that cleanouts are “stuff-centered” and don’t address the issues buried below the surface. Simply removing clutter without addressing the underlying issues illuminates the reasons for high recidivism rates after cleanouts.  This research is stimulating new intervention models. Being “people-centered” is the common theme. They each involve the person with hoarding behavior as key to the solution. Given that 92% of individuals diagnosed with Hoarding Disorder also have another co-occurring disorder, there is no one set solution.

The work is personalized and takes keen listening skills, creativity, flexibility, patience, and lots of compassion.  Instead of focusing solely on the volume of clutter, a spotlight shines on the safety and well-being of the individual while working to reframe old thoughts and beliefs to reduce the dependence on acquiring and saving. There is no magic pill. Everyone involved understands this disorder has deep roots; the process takes time and relapses are as common as seen with over eating or drinking.

One of the new models is Harm Reduction (HR). Its goal is to reduce the risks associated with hoarding. Instead of talking about the “stuff” to get rid of, it asks the question, “How do we keep you safe in your home and maintain clear access for emergency staff and equipment if the need ever arises?” The (HR) process provides a support person that works with the individual identifying key health and safety concerns in the home. They also serve to document goals to alleviate the issues. From this information, they design and implement a strategy to address these issues over time.

One such organization that has adopted this (HR) model is the Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force (PHTF). The Task Force is a coalition of organizations that seek to improve outcomes for people who hoard while balancing the rights of the individual with the health and safety needs of the community. PHTF is introducing service providers to this model as a way to circumvent the costly and catastrophic consequences often seen with cleanouts and instead, create favorable long lasting results.  

Consulting with its members from Licensing and Inspections and the Fire Department, PHTF has come up with 8 Benchmarks to follow to create healthier, safer homes. These benchmarks provide specific measureable goals that support, guide, and unify everyone involved. They address potential hazards regarding fire, tripping, limited access in or out of the home for the individual, emergency personnel and their equipment, avalanches, health issues and infestation. The benchmarks are as follows:

Say good bye to cleanouts! Addressing these benchmarks sets people on a path towards a healthy and safe home.

Author: Ellen TozziClutter Donating Organizing Uncategorized

Let It Go! Let It Go! Let It Go!

When I help clients decide what items to cull, I often sing a ditty to the tune of ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Oh, the house is getting cluttered
And it makes me want to shudder
And since it’s on overflow
I’ll let it go, let it go, let it go.

Doesn’t sound professional? Well, it helps clients to have fun when making tough decisions about letting go of items that trigger memories. As professional organizers, we help our clients reframe the way they look at their items so they can become clear on what they want to keep and what they want to let go.

Marie Kondo’s books and Tidying Up Netflix series have inspired people to declutter and organize their homes. One of KonMari’s catch phrases is ‘DOES IT SPARK JOY?’ I like that concept because it implies joy ignites energy. Of course, we need to keep items that don’t necessarily spark joy (can you say ‘income tax returns?) so let’s examine some other questions to ask yourself:

DO I USE IT? – DO I LOVE IT? – DO I NEED IT? (those darn taxes again)

Sometimes even these questions aren’t enough to make clear, confident decisions. We may need to delve deeper to examine the ”keep vs. don’t keep” tug of war going on inside us. Here are some other reframing questions to ask yourself:

  • If I didn’t already own it would I buy it?
  • If I moved into a studio apartment, is it a treasure I’d take?
  • Is it the memories that spark joy rather than the item itself? If so, photograph it and then let it go.

For clothing:

  • Does it enhance my figure or the image I’m going for?
  • Do I feel good in it?
  • If I lose weight, will I want to wear a 15 year-old item?

For books: Ask not if you like the book but ….

  • Will I read it or refer to it again?
  • If I want to reread will I download it and read it digitally?
  • Do I have the space for this many books?

For information:

  • If I wanted this information would I Google it or look in my file drawer/pile?
  • Will I remember I saved the information?
  • Will the info expire by the time I reference it again?

If when you’re culling items and feel stuck, feel free to sing my take on ‘Let It Go’ or make up your own words to Frozen’s version. Keep the process fun as you strengthen your decision-making and letting-go muscles!