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Author: Kathy LuskusClutter Family General Home Organizing

RECLAIMING SPACE AFTER CHILDREN LEAVE HOME

Even the most organized of us will get to a point after years in the same home where we find ourselves somewhat overwhelmed by the things we’ve collected. Raising children will attract items that represent memories that make us smile, and some that will send us screaming from the attic and basement. Now that you’ve saved all those art projects, sports trophies, posters and various collections of Beanie Babies, Polly Pocket paraphernalia, Matchbox cars, baseball cards, etc. over the years, it’s time to reclaim your space and do some purging. One word of caution here: Don’t purge the baseball cards. You’ll never live it down – believe me!

Funny thing about kids, even after they’ve gone to college or married and moved to another city, they still often feel like your home should serve as a storage locker for the items they no longer need and don’t want to sort through. As a result, 18 years multiplied by the number of children you’ve raised results in – well, you do the math on the clutter.

Sooner or later when you can no longer get into your attic or basement because it’s become a warehouse of memorabilia, it’s time to take control. You might want to use the space to create an office, craft room, exercise room or an organized storage room for other items that are sure to arrive at your doorstep in the coming years. At some point you’ll probably inherit your parents’ furniture and important files and begin to start saving all those photographs, art projects, and hand-made gifts from your grandchildren. Having gone through this transition, I have some things to share in the way of processing what to keep, purge and move along to someone else.

ALLOW TIME

Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete this project. After all, it took many years to amass these things, so it’s probably going to take more than an afternoon.

SERVE NOTICE

A good way to start is to alert your family that you are taking on this project and ask if there’s anything in the storage area that they would like you to pack up and send to them. They may have a short list of things they want you to hold onto for them. You’ll probably find that they can’t remember what’s in the attic and aren’t interested in most of what’s stored up there. If, however, they want to do the sorting and purging themselves, you can agree to use part of the room to be organized as a staging area where you’ll hold the items up to an agreed upon date.

GET HELP

This is not for the faint-hearted, so instead of trying to take this on yourself, ask a friend to work with you who is emotionally detached from your possessions. This is where it’s prudent to engage a professional organizer who is trained in what questions to ask so that you can make good decisions on what to keep and what to do with those things that need to be moved out.

PREPARING THE ATTACK

Before you start, gather some materials to help you work more efficiently.

  • trash bags – dark green for trash, so once something is placed in there you won’t need to see it again.
  • trash bags – white for donations, whether to friends and family members, or charities.
  • permanent black marker – for labeling the white donation bags.
  • boxes/bins – one for each of your family members for items they want to keep.
  • plenty of water and some snacks.

There’s some value in creating a place for items that you want to decide on later, but try to refrain from delaying decision and having to pick up the same item(s) multiple times.

THE PAYOFF

Completing a project like this will give you great satisfaction and probably inspire you to continue your organizing throughout your house. One additional benefit of this exercise is that it helps you to better identify what items are really of value and should be stored for posterity and what is probably not worth keeping as you move forward. That knowledge will help you to better maintain the area that just opened up for your craft room, or whatever purpose you decide for this reclaimed space.

Author: Annette ReymanClutter General Home Organizing

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This June my husband and I were fortunate enough to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  In preparation for this milestone, I decided to organize the last 25 years worth of photos.  Some were already stored in albums.  I must admit, however, that somewhere before the halfway mark of our quarter century the momentum was lost and batches of photographs found their way into drawers, boxes and bags, randomly scattered throughout the house.

True to the saying, a single glance at a photo of an early vacation or one of the kids with a missing tooth was enough to elicit warm memories and funny stories – a thousand words.

Wait, a thousand words?  Too bad they’re not worth a thousand dollars!  It seemed like I had millions of them – and that’s excluding the digitals.

In a recent training on organizing and preserving photos I learned that in situations involving home-evacuation, pictures rank second only to living things (people and pets) for what we want rescued.  If these precious and priceless memories are counted among our dearest and most prized possessions, finding a better way to keep them might be worth the effort.

Thanks to my recent endeavor, I am happy to report that the process for organizing photos is more fun and less painful than I had imagined (mind you, I had avoided this for over a dozen years and what I had imagined was not pretty).  Since my experience was a pleasant one, I would like to share the process that took me and my memories from random chaos to easy-to -find, -use, and -share treasures.  I suggest tackling the task through four steps: Gather, Sort, Scan, and Store.

Gather:

  • a photo-labeling pencil or pen to mark dates on the back of your photos
  • photo-safe storage boxes (or shoe boxes)
  • Index cards for dividers
  • ALL of your printed photos

Sort:

Unless you have a deadline, two hours once or twice a week works well for this step.

  • Mark the date on the envelope
  • Flip through the pictures – throw away any that you don’t want, return duplicates to the envelope and write the date on the backs of the keepers
  • Put the photos and an index card dated by year into one of your storage boxes

Whatever your objective – whether you are looking to create albums for each of your children, vacation or anniversary albums – I found that organizing by year gave me the most flexibility and easiest search-ability later on.

Scan:

There are certainly ways of doing this process yourself.  You could use your home scanner if you have one, bring them in batches to scan at a local store or buy some type of bulk photo scanning machine.  But, if you are facing years of photographs like I was, I highly suggest paying to have them bulk-scanned by a reputable company.  There are several online companies that will accept your boxed photos and send them back to you along with CDs of all the scanned pictures.  I personally used a local company, SaveMyPix.com.  The prices are reasonable, they are timely and reliable and Max, the owner, picked them up and delivered them back to my doorstep.  If you consider that you may wish to keep one to two hundred per year and multiply that by the number of years you are sorting through, bulk-scanning is well worth the money.

Store:

Finally, once you have all your photos on discs, you can decide how you’d like to “store” them.  You may want to choose some to make into digitally-printed photo albums like the kinds offered by companies like Snapfish.com.  Or you might want to organize them by person or event and break them down into multiple CD’s to make as gifts or screen-savers.  You can also upload them to an online storage company to save in case something happens to your own discs.

In the end, I guarantee that the results of your effort will put a smile on your face worthy of a thousand words!

Author: Vali HeistClutter Garage Organizing

Organize that garage!

Garages tend to become the dumping ground during the winter. But the best thing about organizing the garage is that if we do a really good job, it usually stays that way for at least a year. In reality, families use garages as storage facilities rather than a place for the car. That stuff can include obsolete electronics, delayed decisions about where to put something, overflow from the house, and unneeded building supplies. Since the whole family probably uses the garage, bring everyone together and make it a family affair. Let’s break it down:

Start with a clean slate and unclutter

  • Pull everything out onto the driveway if you can. Sweep it out and eliminate the cobwebs.
  • As you pull items out, sort them by categories:
    • lawn and gardening, work bench, sports equipment, dry goods overflow, car accessories, tools and power equipment, paints/solvents, lawn furniture, beach items, camping, etc.
  • Talk to your children about their items and help them eliminate clutter. Consider having a garage sale to sell their unneeded toys.
  • Finish or get rid of the unfinished projects (two years old or more).
  • Find a new home for stuff that shouldn’t be stored in an uninsulated garage (e.g. photographs, items that could melt).
  • Eliminate duplicates and donate unneeded tools, doors, windows, appliances, or anything to build a house to Habitat for Humanity in your area.
  • Take hazardous waste items (e.g. oil-based paint) to local semi-annual cleanups.

Stay in the Zone

  • Divide the garage into zones according to the categories you’ve established.
  • Think “grab and go” and store things where they are convenient.
  • Hang tools where they are most accessible.
  • Keep car accessories close to the cars.
  • Store overflow from the kitchen close to the door near the house.
  • Reposition some zones as the seasons fluctuate: move bikes, beach items and lawn furniture down in spring and move the skis and sleds up high.

Type of storage/system

  • Put big items back first and the rest goes around those items.
  • Think ‘up’: store infrequently used items on high floating shelves or beams.
  • Metal on cement will rust the metal. Rest metal on wood or up on the wall.
  • Studs with no dry wall are great for peg boards. Cut different sizes according to the types of stuff you have.
  • Use open wire epoxy-coated steel shelving: wet things can dry, mesh prevents dust.
  • Consider a garage storage system. Search the Web or go to Lowe’s or Home Depot.
  • Use different colored plastic bins for different zones so it’s easier to put them away.
  • Hang long things vertically so they take up less space. If garden tools don’t have a hole to hang, drill one.
  • Remix things you may already have: Use old drawers/cabinets, shoe bag on the wall to hold small garden tools, old table for work bench, etc.

Finally, if you enter your home through the garage make sure it’s clutter-free and welcoming. Hang a welcome home sign, clean the door, and put a nice door mat in place. You deserve a nice welcome home!

And remember: “Every time you put something back where it belongs, it’s a gift to yourself.”