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:
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?
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:
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:
Take these three small steps and enter Fall confidently prepared to harvest the rewards of the season.
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?
How do the rascals get in?
Where in the house do the critters live?
How can one prevent them from coming in?
What’s the best way to get rid of mice?
What’s the best way to safely clean up after the critters?
As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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.
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:
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:
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 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!