As you anticipate watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, why not use these last days of 2013 to start your own countdown to the New Year? If clutter’s been an issue, here’s a countdown that will help you shake off the dust of the past so you can embrace the promise of the future. Ready? Here we go:
10! De-clutter your family room – Choose ten catalogues or magazines to recycle.
9! Lighten up your bookshelves – Select nine books to donate to your local library.
8! Make room for your new holiday clothes – Go through your closets and drawers to see what you still love and what still fits. Remove eight articles of clothing to donate to your local Good Will Store.
7! Unburden over-stuffed cupboards – Remove seven old, broken, or mismatched mugs, glasses and plastic cups.
6! Manage a messy ‘junk drawer’ – Recycle or toss six items: old pens, dried up white out, and unknown stray parts that have been there for too long.
5! Streamline your pantry – Remove five food items: throw out any food past its expiration date and find something you could donate to a church or local food bank.
4! Freshen up your sock drawer – Remove four pairs of socks that have holes, worn-out elastic or that you no longer like to wear.
3! Reduce bathroom clutter – Discard three toiletry items that are expired or used up.
2! Clean out your jewelry case – Find two pieces of broken jewelry like mismatched earrings or broken chains, which you can discard or bring to have repaired.
1! Reclaim lost counter space in your kitchen – Remove one large item that you do not use daily such as an appliance or basket that’s serving no useful purpose. Store it away or donate it if you no longer need it.
I raise a glass to you – here’s to a healthy, happy, and organized New Year!
HAVE A TREASURE HUNT
Consider the process of downsizing a treasure hunt. You’ve collected and inherited a plethora of items, now it’s time to select your treasures and let go of the rest.
USE MEMORY TRIGGERS
Ask yourself if you have other items that can serve as better memory triggers. For example, could you let go of brochures or souvenirs from travels because you have photos of the trip? Could you let go of Grandma’s broken sewing machine because you have her pearls? Another great option is to photograph items to preserve your memories, then release what you don’t use or love.
THE HEAD VS. HEART APPROACH
Let your storage space dictate how many of a category you will keep. You might decide that one shelf in your closet is practical to store your vases. If you have more than will fit that space, let go of your least favorite or seldom used ones.
Consider using numbers to help keep you logical, rather than emotional. For example, ask yourself how many of a specific item seems practical to keep. Four black purses seems generous. You have nine. Let go of five of your least favorite ones.
THE JOY FACTOR
Another way numbers help is by using The Joy Factor. Use a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 meaning ‘great joy‘ and 1 meaning ‘not so much’. Now, ask yourself where on the scale an items falls. If you want to downsize in a big way — you might keep only 5’s as these are your treasures.
PLEASE DON’T TOUCH!
Some people find that holding and touching an item greatly increases their attachment. If that’s you, you’ll want to have a friend, family member, or professional organizer help you. Have the other person hold up items so you can say “yay” or “nay.”
Letting go can be hard, but I assure you that the results will be well worth the effort. Living in a clutter-free environment promotes clarity, focus, peace and happiness.
What items do you find hold the most sentimental attachment?
It’s always reassuring to know that my clients take my advice to heart. We joke that when I’m not around to help them get organized, they often ask themselves, “What would Anna say?”
What would I say? I ask a lot of questions that help me determine what’s going on beneath the surface. Then I can focus on the appropriate solution.
“What is good enough?” Perfectionism gets in the way of moving ahead. If you find a system that works for you even a little, go for it! You can always modify and improve as you go along. “Good enough” does not have to be 100%. One client has gained so much insight with this question that she has been able to accomplish more because she spends less time on the details that do not matter, more on what does matter.
“How does that define you?” If it doesn’t define you in a meaningful way, why do you keep it, take care of it, and devote valuable space to it? One client has been able to look at her life’s treasures and been able to really choose what defines her versus being defined by all of her belongings.
“How do you feel when… you are buying your 15th green long sleeve cotton tee shirt?” Increasing self-awareness is the first step in modifying or accepting behaviors. A client with eight of the same type of jacket was amazed when I asked this question — a huge Aha moment!
“Do you notice any patterns here?” What items do you end up donating? What’s hanging in your closet? Are there patterns of excess or waste? When reviewing the items that a client was donating, I asked her this question and the pattern was that most of the items came from a specific store, now she only goes to that store when she needs something basic at the last minute.
“Start anywhere.” When a client doesn’t know where to start, I like to suggest that they just start somewhere, anywhere. You can start right to left, or left to right, sometimes starting with the floor might be the right solution.
“Start with the low hanging fruit.” Many times when looking at a room full of clutter, all you see is the clutter. A client used this approach when looking at her garage full of years of accumulates stuff. When she looked at the large items and the items on the surface, she was able to make immediate decisions. Once these items were removed the process became more manageable.
When we recognize habits that bog us down with extra “stuff” or cause chaos in our lives through disorganization, we are on our way to a more peaceful and productive life!
In my work organizing finances and paper for aging adults and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, certain problems tend to recur. Among them are:
Here are five different web sites I have found useful in addressing these issues:
Better World Books (http://www.betterworldbooks.com/)
Several years ago, I helped close out an estate that included nearly one thousand books. They were heavily concentrated in engineering subjects, and varied in age from 15 to 100 years old. The owner was emphatic that they not simply be recycled or buried in a landfill, and that they should benefit people in need if at all possible. Better World Books provided the way to grant these wishes. This organization is a huge on-line used book store. They accept any size donations of books, and try first to sell them through the web site. Proceeds are used to fund literacy programs around the world, but, even more important to my client, books not sold through the web site are actually shipped to third-world countries that can use them. Only when these two alternatives are exhausted are the books recycled—and never sent to a landfill. Better World’s staff was extremely helpful, and taught me how to inventory and package the books. Better still, they sent a tractor trailer to the site to pick the books up and transport them to the Better World facility, all at no charge to my client or me.
Care Calendar (http://carecalendar.org/)
In the site owners’ own words, “Care Calendar is a web based system to organize meals and other help for families during a time of illness or life changing event, such as the birth of a baby or death of a family member. “ It allows a family, group of friends, or organization to coordinate care for an individual in need by posting and responding to assignments such as meals, visits, rides and errands. Currently, I am using Care Calendar to coordinate care for a frail elderly woman living in her working daughter’s home. I posted the mother’s needs on the web site, and friends and family members have responded to fill every assignment. Care Calendar greatly reduces the need for phone calls and follow-ups, as the site forwards me and the care recipient a list of upcoming assignments and volunteers on a daily basis. The service is offered free of charge, and donations are invited.
Get Human (http://gethuman.com/)
Did you know you can talk to a live human being at Amazon or Ebay? Get Human enabled me to do just that. The site provides free direct-dial contact numbers for over 8,000 businesses, along with other direct contact avenues such as call-backs, live chat and email.
It’s Deductible (http://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/itsdeductible/)
How do you know how much to deduct as a charitable contribution on your taxes when you give away a mountain of things? It’s Deductible, a free online service from the makers of TurboTax software, combs the internet for actual selling prices of commonly-sold items. The site allows the user to create lists of items donated, by charity, by date, and then provides the fair market value for the item. Where prices aren’t available, guidelines on establishing the FMV are provided. At tax time, the lists can be printed out or imported into TurboTax. I have been using this service for myself and for my clients for nearly ten years, and have yet to be challenged by the IRS.
Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare (http://www.medicare.gov/default.aspx, then select Resource Locator/Nursing Home Compare)
Three years ago, this free service quickly allowed me to find nearby nursing homes and compare them on a host of relevant features when my father suddenly became too ill for me to care for him in my home. I found a wealth of excellent advice that enabled me to make a rapid decision with confidence. A similar comparison feature is available for Home Health Care in the same Resource Locator menu.
Did I mention that all of the above sites do what they do for free? If you or someone you care for is facing worsening illness, down-sizing or simple frustration contacting businesses, give one of these sites a try. I’m confident they’ll help you as they’ve helped me and my clients.
I went to see The Lorax with my niece and we really enjoyed the movie, including dancing to the song at the end of the movie after everyone had left! The environmental theme revolved around saving the trees so I told my niece that I would take her to IHOP for pancakes since they are offering free tree seeds as a promo for The Lorax. I’m hoping that Universal Studios keeps with the green theme of the movie and doesn’t decide to flood the market with Lorax theme-based stuff: toys, plush animals, games, etc. However, there’s probably not much chance of that happening.
The main theme of the story however revolved around the word ‘UNLESS’. The Lorax said, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” At my previous employer, there were a lot of built-in opportunities to “care a whole awful lot” such as volunteering, raising funds for various charities, and hold clothing and food drives. It felt like we were making a difference in the lives of people on an almost daily basis. Now that I have my own business, I look for ways to volunteer in my own community.
My former college roommate and I spent one Saturday morning with our fellow alumni from Shippensburg University volunteering at the Reading Berks Food Bank. We packaged boxes for elderly clients of the food bank. A few months ago I spent a morning working with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity by laying a floor in one of the offices at the Blind Association in Reading. I had never laid a floor before so that was really fun!
If you are cleaning out the kitchen and pantry, donate your unexpired dry goods and canned food to the food banks in your area. If you are cleaning out the bathroom and linen closet of toiletries, make-up, linens, and personal products, donate your excess personal items to emergency shelters, women’s shelters, elderly organizations or any other agency that could use your unneeded items. Go to the website for the agencies in your area and find their wish lists for the most needed items.
Ok, we’ve all heard that we should keep our bodies active in order to lose weight. We’ve also heard that we should keep our brains stimulated so we can keep our minds sharp and therefore, remember where we left our keys! But how does “use it or lose it” relate to clothes? Well, I will tell you now!
Clothes are tied to sentiment, self expression and comfort, so it’s no wonder why closets can become overloaded. Sentiment, for clothing we wore at meaningful events in our lives and also times when we were a couple sizes smaller! Self expression, for clothing we buy to show off our different sides. And comfort, for those days you just can’t deal with constricting buttons and zippers! Often though, these items don’t fall into your everyday wardrobe. Did you know that there is actually a statistic created for that? You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time. So what can you do with that 80 percent that is rarely worn? Here are some options:
1) Consign …for formal gowns or cocktail dresses (yes, those bridesmaid dresses too!) that you don’t know if and when you will wear again. Interview some consignment shops and let someone else appreciate and enjoy them for their special occasions!
2) Host a clothing swap…for friends that have been eyeing items in your closet. Beware of taking in more than you have put out and aim to use those items in your day to day 20 percent.
3) Donate…if there are items that you know you will never wear again (maybe they’ve fallen on the floor and got pushed to the far corner!), or haven’t worn in a year. Give them a gentle wash and bring them to your favorite charity collection site.
But maybe you’re not wearing some clothes because they are missing buttons, have ripped seams or you are just plain tired of them. Here are some options for these dilemmas:
1) Head to a tailor…for items with the quality to last and take them in to repair seams. If you are missing a button, look to the stash of buttons that come with the shirts you buy – that’s what they are there for! I store all mine in a small decorative box.
2) Head to a low cost retailer…for items that you’re bored with. Look for accessories like belts and broaches that can enliven and refresh what you own. You can follow the color trends without having to buy clothes. Plus accessories are much smaller and easier to store!
3) Head to an art center…for shirts that have faded or just can’t be fixed. They make great smocks for kids!
Now, with all that done, how is your closet looking? Have you gotten to 70/30? 60/40?
Take it one day at a time and know you are not alone! Strive to make your closet a place that you can enjoy going to, filled with items that make you happy, are flattering, and reflect your personality. Then go out into the world, smile, and know that you look fabulous!