By Adriane Weinberg, An Organized Approach, (215) 540 9401
Let’s admit it. We Americans have Too Much Stuff. And we don’t get rid of nearly enough. Reasons from clients include: it feels impersonal donating things to unknown people or they’re saving stuff for their kids (hey, your kids don’t want it). What if there were a way to give things away that feels good? There is! Buy Nothing groups.
The purpose of Buy Nothing Groups is to give away unwanted items, or request items that are wanted, for free. It’s based on the ancient practice of gift economies where people share and pool resources. The Buy Nothing Project started as a social experiment by two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, in July 2013.
Groups are hyper-local and found on Facebook, which was chosen because it’s a free, widely used platform. The rules are simple. From their website, “Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. No hate speech. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, we’re strictly a gift economy.” Easy enough.
These ladies couldn’t have imagined that their little experiment would become a worldwide movement with 1.3 million users in 28 countries and 6,000 volunteers!
For more information or to find a Facebook group in your area, visit https://buynothingproject.org/. Rebecca and Liesl are currently crowdfunding to create a social media platform and app (https://www.soop.app/) to enhance “the power of shared abundance.” Their recently published book, The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More and Living Generously, shows people how to be a smarter shopper and get rid of things without adding to landfills.
On a related note, Buy Nothing Day is the Friday after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday. It’s an international day of protest against overconsumption. This year, it’s Friday, November 27, if you’d like to participate.
I’m not anti-stuff. In fact, I have lots of stuff. My house isn’t cluttered, there’s ample space and I can find anything in seconds. For several years, a few years ago, I avoided shopping because I have what I need and much of what I want. I have enough. I don’t buy much anymore, unlike when I was acquiring things in my 20s, 30s and 40s. As a professional organizer, I know it’s about moderation and space. Everyone should do what feels right for their situation.
Many people lost jobs due to COVID-19. Buy Nothing Groups are a great way to save money. Or help neighbors save money by gifting things to them. Maybe you’ll be inspired to check out a Buy Nothing group.
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?
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.
Here are three simple tips for actions that you can take today that will make a difference every day.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
The workout equipment you wish you would use.
The craft projects you wish you’d have to time to work on.
The second home you wish you could buy.
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!
Spring is finally springing up all around us, daffodils are blooming and the forsythia is blossoming into that amazing yellow color.
Easter and Passover are a time of new beginnings. April is also the month we celebrate the earth. Earth Day began in Philadelphia in 1970 (Belmont Plateau anyone?). In the organizing and productivity industry, we consider every day Earth Day! When we work with clients on a home organizing project, we teach our clients about recycling. There is so much that we recycle to help preserve our earth. Here are some of the resources that we use to locate the most appropriate place to donate and recycle in our area:
However currently there is an abundance of stuff that people are getting rid of, they are very picky, so what you try to consign has to be in very good condition.
Depending on what you have there is usually an auction house or specialty sale that items can go to. When you sell at auction houses and consignment shops there is a fee usually between 30% and 50%.
While I was going through items in a kitchen pantry with one of my clients, she commented on how easy it was to organize in the kitchen. When I asked why, she said that if food is expired it takes the decision out of her hands about whether to get rid of it or not. However, with the rest of the stuff in the home, she has to make the decision whether it has ‘expired’ or not. Deciding on the life cycle of your belongings is not easy, but when your spaces become too crowded or you can’t find your keys for the third time in one week, it’s time to take action.
The life cycle concept is one way to work through the backlog of the accumulated clutter in the home and as a strategy to constantly weed out stuff. Our stuff has a life cycle that begins with it being most useful, most beautiful and most beloved. Over time our stuff becomes less useful (obsolete technology; items that wear out or break), less beautiful (fashion trends or our tastes change), and less beloved (reminders of past periods in our family’s life that may not be so important).
When you think about all of the items you bring in to your home on a weekly or monthly basis, it boggles the mind. But if you don’t take out as much as you bring in, over time you will begin to feel like your stuff is taking over. If some of your belongings are starting to become CRAP (Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure), it’s time to consider whether those belongings are part of your family’s present and/or future. Keeping items from the past that no value or meaning to the present day leaves less room for additional items (or opportunities) for the future. For example, as your children grow, do you hold on to the toys they used to love, even though they don’t want them anymore?
Finally, if you are keeping items because you think they might be worth a lot of money, there are ways to find out. One way is to look on Ebay. Is anyone selling the item now? Has anyone sold that item in the last two weeks and for how much? Reputable auctioneers are also good resources for evaluating antiques and collectibles. Mass produced goods from 1960 or later have less of a chance to increase in value. But remember, regardless of what items may have been worth in the past; items are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them today.
When your clutter starts to take over your home, reevaluate whether the life cycle of those items is over or not. Someone else may be able to give your unneeded items a whole new life.
Clutter Quote: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher
Do you ever open your closet and think, “I have nothing to wear!”? Do you ever feel like you have certain “go-tos” and you ignore the rest of your closet? Do you keep things because they might come back into style?
Imagine a different scenario. Imagine a closet filled with only those clothes that ‘spark joy,’ clothes that make you feel confident and amazing, clothes that are comfortable and cared for. In just five hours, it can!
The New York Times bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo, teaches you how. As a member of the first class of KonMari consultant trainees, I love spreading the KonMari idea of #organizetheworld. Please see below my own take on how you can tackle the clothing category using the KonMari method, step by step.
Find a time in your schedule when you can get five hours, distraction free. No kids. No husbands. No phones. This is YOUR time.
Pile every item of clothing on the bed.
Take a ‘before’ picture!
Divide the clothes into broad categories like: Tops, Bottoms, Skirts, Pajamas, etc. Don’t worry about deciding what to keep yet. Focus on sorting, not discarding.
Now this is where the magic really comes in. You are going to take each and every item of clothing in your hand and ask yourself: Does this spark joy? Pay attention to how the garment makes you feel. Does it give you a jolt of happiness? Do you love wearing it? Or do you frown, think about feeling frumpy, or have a bad memory?
A few tips:
Put all of your donations and items to sell right in the car! While you have them sorted, you can even enter the donations into an app like It’s Deductible or onto a printed Goodwill checklist. You can save thousands at tax time with donations!
Put all of the clothing that sparks joy back into the closet and folded in their drawers. To learn how to do Marie Kondo’s special folding method, visit this video. Think about using all that extra space in your closet to display your favorite items. I put my favorite books and my grandmother’s milk glass on the top shelf of my closet, where all of my bulky sweaters used to fall over onto each other. Some people hang artwork inside the doors or display wedding photos.
A few tips:
Now sit back, take that after photo, and enjoy! After just five hours and six steps, you’ve created a closet that gives you joy, easy mornings and a boost of confidence.
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