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Author: Barb BermanClutter Document Management Donating Downsizing Estates Family Paper Seniors & Aging

From Bedlam to Brilliance – Getting Rid of Items Your Parents Kept

No Need to Hold onto Things for the Next Generation

Car trunk full of documents to shred

When I give workshops, I am asked over and over again about what should be saved for children; if you don’t have children, you may be saving these things for friends or other family members. Many parents seem to think their children want what they have, so they hold onto items for when these children will appreciate these things. Items range from baby clothes to games to books to schoolwork to china to sterling silver and include tons of paperwork.

I have a client, with whom I have been working, whose father saved every personal and business record. He had checks from 1949 to the day he died. He had his and his wife’s medical records from the 1960’s (both of whom are now deceased), 8 estates that he had settled, and business records back to the 1960’s (including his stationery and business cards – from long retired positions). While everything was very organized and labeled, sorting through it has been a tremendous burden on his daughter.

Two 4-drawer file cabinets, one 2-drawer file cabinet, 2 desks, book shelves, and chairs had been used to store this paperwork. We are shredding and recycling 98% of these records. My client wants to go through everything to make sure there is nothing of value hidden away. We have talked about why her father would have saved all of this and cannot come to any satisfying conclusion.

Not only is there paperwork, but there are also items from grandparents and other relatives. Again, my client is going through all of this to figure out what she wants to keep and what she wants to donate or sell. Since her brother does not live in the area, she has to go through all these things by herself and save some things for him to go through, including his own items.

If you are saving things for your children/friends/other family members, please ask them if they want anything. If they say no, then either sell, donate, recycle, shred, or trash the items.  There is no reason for you to hang on to this stuff, unless you really want it. If it is packed away and not being used, and no one in your family wants the items, give them away now so someone else may really be able to appreciate them.

Also, keep on top of your paperwork — shred or recycle old records. Settling an estate can take a lot of time. You can significantly speed up the process by getting rid of paperwork and any unused or unwanted items now.

This type of activity will not be one of your more fun things to do, but it sure will save time and heartache in the future. The lesson my client learned from all of this is to purge and continue to get rid of those things now that she no longer needs or wants. What are you going to do now with your unwanted and unnecessary items and paperwork?

Author: Annette ReymanCloset Donating Home Organizing Seasonal

Five Quick Spring Organizing Tips

CrocusesHere are five ways to freshen up your home for spring:

Bedding-blitz  As you prepare to leave colder days behind, get ready to pull out lighter blankets and sheets. Refresh blankets that come out of storage by fluffing them in the dryer with a dryer sheet. Remove heavy blankets and flannels from beds to clean and store. This is also a good time to wash the mattress covers and give the mattresses a flip. Lighter, brighter spring-fresh bedding is sure to brighten everyone’s mood!

Counter-attack  Throw open the kitchen and bathroom windows and take a look at your counters. The fresh air will help energize you while you remove all items and give the counters a good wipe-down. Throw out any trash or items you don’t need and put away anything that has wandered out of its appropriate home. Return to the counter only those things that you absolutely must have out or that make you happy.

Pantry purge  During our winter hibernation we tend to stockpile supplies. Cupboards can become stuffed with soups, cocoas and comfort-snacks. As this happens, other food items get pushed out of sight. Set aside an hour on a nice spring morning to empty out a shelf or two at a time, wipe them down, discard outdated or unwanted food items and reorganize what’s left back onto the shelves.

Sew or go  Do you keep a sewing or ironing pile? If you do, make sure that what is in your pile has not been there longer than 6 months. If it has, it is likely that it may not fit, will be out of style, or will no longer be something that you think would be worth the effort. Now’s the time to sew or go! Pick an evening and an interesting TV show and get the ironing and sewing done. If you’re not going to do it – let it go. It will only sit there and make you feel guilty if you don’t. And, no one wants to feel bad on a sunny day!

Shoe-review  The warmer days of spring and summer will mean a change of shoe style. Take time to gather any and all of your shoes together. Separate cold-weather shoes from warm. Before storing shoes you won’t wear again until fall, try them on. If they don’t fit comfortably or you don’t like them, this is the time to donate or toss them. If any need cleaning or repair, get it done now, before storing. Next, look at their sunny day counterparts and go through the same process. If you find that your favorite sandals are broken or that those cute open toe shoes you bought last summer don’t really fit right, get rid of them. Take note of any shoes you may need to add to your shopping list for replacement to complete your wardrobe. Finally, make sure each member of your household has adequate shoe storage.

Happy Spring!

Author: Kelly GalfandCloset Clothing Consignment Donating Organizing Wardrobe Management

Slam Dunk your Way to a Spring Closet

Whether you follow basketball or not, college ball is an exciting sport and March Madness is the be-all, end-all competition among collegiate teams. I am always inspired by the players’ drive, athleticism, and winning attitude. Borrow this enthusiasm and plan your own decluttering plays for a Spring-ready closet.

Final Four Championship banner

March Madness has become an annual springboard for me to declutter. I love the NCAA’s single-elimination process as a framework for purging my wardrobe.

The tournament always starts in March and concludes in April — as we warm up to Spring. I appreciate the build-up to the ultimate winner; each week there are winners (and losers). Borrow this approach and discover the winners and banish the losers in your closet.
• winners – clothes that are versatile, stylish, and flattering
• losers – anything stained, ill-fitting, or in need of repair

If you like following play-lists, here’s some quantifiable advice to help you keep score on your efforts:

• Trim 16 (Sweet Sixteen) bulky sweaters and jackets from your closet to make room for Spring styles. Scarves are typical accessories that you can rotate each season. Footwear is another category that deserves attention: pack up your heavy, weatherproof boots.

• Remove at least 8 items from your hanging space to create room for bolder colors and lighter-weight outfits. What you remove may end up in off-season storage, or may need to find a new home. Can you find an Elite Eight to donate, thrift, or E-bay?

final four logo white background
• Final Four Here’s where the tournament makes its biggest splash and reminds me to focus on the basics. Make sure you have what you need to enter Spring, well dressed in the appropriate clothes that suit your life and lifestyle. This may mean creating a short shopping list for your foundation pieces, or a to-do list for the winners before they go on court.
• shine your shoes to clean and preserve their leather
• alter any investment pieces so you continue to enjoy them
• dry-clean items that you have enjoyed all season but are packing away until next year

The hardest lesson March Madness teaches is one-and-done. The Final Four teams play two games over three days to determine a national champion. Culling collections down to a single winner is unrealistic (I couldn’t survive with only one pair of black slacks!) Selecting winners — of a reasonable quantity — based on proven criteria is a good play.

Author: Naomi CookClothing Clutter Consignment Donating Wardrobe Management

Strike a Pose (In those new holiday clothes!)

Closet Woes...what to wear?

Look around everywhere you turn is clothing
It’s everywhere that you go [look around]
You try everything you can to escape
The pain of piles that you know [piles that you know]

When all else fails and you long to be
Something better than you are today
I know a place where you can get away
It’s called
The Container Store, and here’s what it’s for, so…

Come on, vogue
Let your body shop to the
muzak [shop to the muzak]
Hey, hey, hey
Come on, vogue
Let your body go with the flow [go with the flow]
You know you can do it!

-By Madonna, and slightly tweaked by me!   

So…the holidays are over now. You’ve probably returned some clothes that you received (perhaps an ugly holiday sweater) but still kept some as well.  Problem though…your closet is packed and there’s no room for even one more thing!

No worries, let’s take it step by step, so you don’t get overwhelmed! Do one step a day if you need.

Step 1 – Grab a trash bag and skim through the shelves and rods, and look for any items you obviously know that you don’t like to wear anymore, even if they fit fine. Put all the items in the bag(s), which you can take to consign (if you have expensive pieces) or donate. Immediately put the bag(s) in the trunk of your car. If they stay nearby, the level of temptation to put things back will be high. That’s why many Professional Organizers will offer to take your bags for you! Well that, plus we are just nice people who like helping others!

Step 2 – Shelf by shelf and with sections of hanging, bring the clothes out and set them on your bed. You are now going to look for items that are stained or ripped and beyond cleaning or repair. Again, if you have some expensive pieces, try your hand at a dry cleaner and a tailor. Otherwise, break out another trash bag and let those items go. Temptation isn’t nearly as high for this bag, right?!

Step 3 – Aside from the clothes that you like to wear left in the closet, there are bound to be many that you still hold onto for nostalgia’s sake or because you want them for when you can fit into them again. Perhaps you’ve heard the statistic that people wear only 20% of their clothing 80% of the time.  Don’t worry…I’m not going to be too hard on you here! Purchase some clear bins (perhaps at The Container Store!) that can sit on the top shelves of your closet. Those clothes will be going in there for now. You’ll still be aware that those items are there, but they won’t be taking up your valuable space. Every few months, or at least in another year, pull the bins down to gauge your feelings about the clothing inside.

Step 4 – Now’s the time for some fun! Put those new clothes on and dance around (perhaps doing the Vogue!) as if it is your own small fashion show, and celebrate the fact that you now have room for these new pieces!

Step 5 – After regaining your composure and your breath (ha ha) you can put your clothing on the many empty hangers that you have made available.

Here’s to you and a happy and clutter-free New Year!

Author: Anna SicalidesDocument Management Donating Family Filing General Goal Setting Home Office Organizing Productivity Receipts Tax Prep

I Love the End of the Year!

I look at the last week of the year as a super productive week since I am not scheduled to work, and I can spend time getting myself ready for the new year. I want to be as organized as possible before January 5, 2015, which is my first day back to work! Below is a list of suggestions that may help you start your new year off a bit more organized.

Donations Donation-Tips 1
-If you want to maximize your donations for the 2014 tax year, take one more look through your closets, bookshelves, cabinets, attics, basements and garages to pull anything out that needs to be donated. Children’s toys and books are usually a gold mine for most donation establishments.
-After the holidays, as you integrate your new gifts, take stock of your duplicates, triplicates or otherwise unwanted things that can be better utilized by others.
-Keep in mind that you shouldn’t wait until December 31 to drop off your donations, because if the center hits their capacity level, they may stop accepting donations.
-Some donation centers will pick up your unwanted goods as long as you are on their schedule. Some donation center choices are GreenDrop, Vietnam Veterans of America, The Salvation Army, and Impact Thrift Stores.
-Make your final online cash donations as soon as possible since you don’t want to get stuck with slow or crashing websites at the last minute.

Files Files
-Assuming that you have them, the end of the year is a great time to purge your old files and create new ones.  If you need help creating a filing system, a professional organizer can help. You can go to the ‘Find an Organizer’ tab at the top of this page.
-Go through your 2014 bills, pull them out of their files, and clip or band them together if you are going to need them for your taxes. If you don’t need them for your taxes, I would suggest shredding anything that has personal information or account numbers. Most of my clients shred their department store bills and hold onto some of their utility bills for another year (I think they just want the security of having them…just in case).
– A filing cabinet or file box are both great choices to keep your files organized and accessible.
-If you scan your bills and receipts, remember to create new files on your computer.

Hopefully, there is something here that will help you start 2015 off with a little more organization in your world.

Author: Carole WeinstockClutter Consignment Donating Downsizing General Organizing Room Transformation

More or Less, Finding Freedom

Simplify in word collageTypically in our society, we acquire items, things, and stuff.  We use our valuable time to acquire these so called treasures. It may have felt good to collect and accumulate. Yet, when it’s out of control it appears as clutter and usually those feelings change. Overwhelm shows up. That’s the signal, the “red flag”, that it is time to take some action. One action could be evaluating and accessing  the reasons you have what you have. We are not talking about items that serve a purpose, are useful, and make your life better.

Are you holding on dearly to the “stuff” that:

1. Represents “Who” I am, or “Who” I was, or “Who” I want to become

Do you like any of these “Who’s”? Sometimes they don’t align with who you are presently,  or they are reminders of the past, or even reminders of in-completions. If you don’t feel energized or happy with them, then why keep them around?

2. I may need this someday

Future thinking that could keep you up to your eyeballs in excess stuff. It could be said this indicates a lack of trust in the future. Our thoughts can create our reality. If unconsciously your thoughts are coming from a place of lack, you will create that. What do I mean? If you trust that you will have all you need , you will have it!

3. I got this as a gift

Just because your favorite person bought this doesn’t justify saving space for it if you don’t need, want, or like it. Re-gifting or donating gives it a new life from gathering dust or buried in a pile. Using places for unwanted items takes away your precious space.

4. Family relics that have been passed on to me

So maybe you have inherited these things that have no meaning or sentimental value to you. If you feel you want to memorialize the people, choose a few items and get creative. Make a shadow box or a special area to display them. If you will have joy and feel happy seeing these items in your home, then that’s what counts!

5. I feel secure having this/ Can’t have empty space

No matter how many possessions you acquire the need for more will occur. Remember to keep what makes you happy, and give away what you don’t like. If you don’t like empty space, look at why. Also keep in mind that no matter how much you have, keep these areas safe and accessible. This is your home and a place to retreat to from the outside world.

6. It cost so much/got it for free

It’s all relative to how you look at value. Whether you spent more on an item or got it for free it comes down to how you view this. When looking at an item in this category to purge or keep, check out if your beliefs or values around the money are holding you back from making the decision. This awareness may open you up to making a decision based on what you like regardless of the cost.

Looking at these categories and evaluating brings self awareness and conscious choices. This awareness can lead you to taking another step; recognizing what’s behind your decision making. If you choose to recognize these things it might set you free. One being mental clarity and then giving yourself the freedom to make a choice. The choice of physically letting items go that you don’t really want, or keeping what you truly treasure!