Sentimental objects are one of the most challenging categories for professional organizers to help clients with. This is especially true with objects related to family history, such as:
Family history documents (letters, journals, diaries, invitations, etc.),
Education related (book reports, college papers, graduation diplomas, etc.),
Civil records about family members (marriage records, immigration records, birth/death certificates, etc.)
Photos, diaries, papers, trophies…these are all critical elements of your family legacy. They tell the story of important family members, and are the fabric of what binds families together. Personally, I am not an advocate of throwing this all away. On the other hand, how can anyone benefit if these materials are stashed away in the attic, basement, or closet?
The first step to any family history project is taking an inventory of what you have. Even if your project is simply tidying your family history boxes, you will be happy you did it. And I promise, your children will thank you!
Take some time to go through each box carefully and understand what is in them. It’s almost always the case we find things we had completely forgotten about. And it’s not at all uncommon to find objects we thought were lost. Once you know what you have, it will be much easier to figure out what to keep, and how to organize it all.
One complaint I hear frequently is that people don’t really know what to do with these materials. They accumulate and accumulate, taking up more room than you ever would have wanted. The fear of the materials being damaged, and frustration that nothing productive is being done with them, causes most people to feel anxious, along with a good measure of guilt.
Organizing family history materials allows us to honor family members and declutter. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of throwing these materials away. BUT, you’ll be surprised how much space is being taken up by duplicates, damaged papers/photos, old frames, and photos of people you don’t know—all of which can all be thrown away.
And watch out for newspaper clippings! Newspaper paper does not last. Not only that, it can damage other materials it comes into contact with.
The advent of online publishing has made printing books in small print runs very affordable. Imagine having a book of all your parents’ correspondence, and giving a copy to each of your children. Or imagine assembling all the civil records about your ancestors so the whole family can have a richer understanding of its roots and history. All you need is a scanner and a little patience. If you don’t have the time, there are many scanning services which can do this for you. The Association of Professional Photo Organizers is also a great place to find someone locally who can do this.
Once scanned, it’s time to select an online book publisher. There are many to choose from. Two of my favorites are Blurb and Mixbook. Mixbook in particular has some great layouts just for family history projects. Be sure to wait for a sale! Both these sites frequently offer significant discounts.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that these books become instant family heirlooms. They make terrific gifts for important birthdays or around the holidays.
If you run into a hiccup while organizing, scanning, or making your book, feel free to give me a call. I’m always happy to answer questions. Good luck with your family history project!
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?
As an auction professional, I regularly have the opportunity to work with Professional Organizers and Senior Move Managers. These professionals provide a wonderful service helping client’s de-clutter their homes for a variety of reasons including preparation for sale, down-sizing & moving to a smaller living space or simply organizing their lives.
During the de-cluttering process, there is often a need to sell personal property and in some cases a great deal of property. Since auctions are a simple, efficient and often productive approach to selling, we can often help the same client. This is the wonderful connection between us.
I developed a passion for auctions as a child from my father. He loved auctions and would take me on his Saturday auction adventures to pretend he was helping my mother. He loved to buy at auction and mom did not appreciate clutter, so you can imagine the action at our home.
These auctions often had big crowds of people and enthusiastic bidding. It was exciting! I would hear energized bidders looking for a bargain. However, I was attracted to selling at auction as the price just went one direction. I have not come across another business negotiation where the price only goes higher. I loved the excitement of the auction environment as a child and still do today. However, the environment has changed.
I have heard these questions in recent years as we help clients looking to sell their property. A great many of these clients were at auctions forty, fifty or more years ago buying much of their art, furniture, antiques, decorative items and collections. They would often spend an entire day at the auction and there would be hundreds of people in attendance. They would see friends and enjoy the camaraderie.
I was reminded of the feeling when recently watching an old movie “North by Northwest”. There is a fascinating auction scene Alfred Hitchcock used in the story line. It showed bidding and activity at a high end auction over fifty years ago. The auction gallery was filled. People were sitting in every available seat and others were standing. There were no large screens displaying the auction item and no bidding by telephone or internet. There were no computers supporting the auction process at all. What a major difference!
Large screens, phone bidding and internet platforms have expanded the range and number of bidders dramatically. However, it does not look like it to auction buyers from many years ago turned into auction sellers as their lives have changed.
When asked where is everybody? Where are the bidders? I point out the number of ways the auctioneer is accepting bids beyond those from the smaller than they expected bidders attending in person.
I look toward the computers handing the bidding for each of the multiple
internet bidding platforms and explain each computer represents far more bidders than when you purchased in the crowded auctions many years ago. I look toward the staff members handling phone bidding and point out those strong bidders as well. There are also bids left with the office and on our web-site. I explain there is a larger geographic area represented and there are bidders watching the auction from not only our region but from the entire United States and around the world. I point out they have been able to see each item in a gallery of pictures for a month before the auction.
Once the auctioneer starts taking bids from the bidders in all these different ways (including from bidders in person like Alfred Hitchcock portrayed), it begins to make sense. Bidding at auction is even more exciting as it comes in so many ways from so many places!
“Where did all this stuff come from anyway? How did it all fit in here in the first place? I can’t believe how long this is taking and how many boxes we have! AAAaahhhh!!!!”
Well, it’s true. When we pull everything out of its storage space, we can see the volume of what we really have. And, for those things that haven’t been seen or touched in years: much of it is astonishing.
“Cans of hairspray? Wait. I haven’t bought hairspray in a can in at least 2…uh, 5…oh, I don’t know – better throw that out. How did these shoes get back here? Man, they’re dusty. And sort of misshapen. Well, okay very misshapen. Nevermind. Out! And, wait. Do we really have 6 new containers of black pepper? Six? I had no idea. This will last us forever!”
You are moving into a new home. Whether larger or smaller than your last, it’s an opportunity to get organized – right from the start! Here are 6 spaces to set up when you move in so you can get and stay organized:
Spice Storage: There are so many options for organizing spices that there is really no reason you need to fight to find what you need, have bottles and jars falling out onto you as you reach behind, or repurchase multiples of what you already have.
Pantry: DIY or go the extra mile and get pro-installation. A pantry organizing system will be a delight to your family today and a great selling point tomorrow.
Under Sinks: Either in the kitchen or bathrooms, under sink storage will make ALL the difference. Enjoy the control and say goodbye to yucky under-sink messes!
Shoes: The struggle is real. First decide where you want to store them (By the entryway? In a closet? Under the bed? In the garage?) Then, reign them in.
Bedroom Closets: If you are renting a home, you may want to save money and purchase some temporary solutions that you can take with you when you move out. For homeowners, installing built-ins is the way to go.
Storage Area: Before you go building columns and walls of heavy boxes stacked one atop another; stop and think. This is what got you into the last mess of storage chaos. Is there room for some shelving? Is there ceiling or wall space to be taken advantage of?
Is it possible to live in a small area? You bet it is!
Most of us know people living in small houses or apartments, going to college and living in a dorm for the first time, or moving from a big home to a smaller one. Even if you don’t, you may have experienced one of these situations yourself at some point.
Did you feel challenged trying to fit everything in your new space? Does the person you know feel challenged trying to do the same thing?
If you follow these five (5) tips, it really is easier than you think:
1. Divide the space into specific areas for each activity (e.g., bill paying, watching TV, hobbies, laundry, reading, or studying). Furniture and rugs can be used to separate the different activities. For instance, your bedroom may have to act as an office plus a place to sleep and get dressed. Use a desk and file cabinet in one area of the room and the bed, bureau, and night stand in another. Keep the items in their specified areas; do not let them wander into the other activity areas.
2. Use milk crates on shelves that allow of extra space between them and the ceiling. Position the milk crate so the opening faces out. This way you’ll be able to store things both inside the milk crate and on top of it. It acts as a second shelf.
3. Use over-the-door storage units or command strips to hang things on the back of doors, in closets or on walls. You can hang items in or on them to get the items off your bed, chair, table, or desk. Don’t let them end up on the floor. The best part about command strips is that they do not damage the walls.
4. Use wall shelves to take advantage of vertical space. You can use your walls from floor to ceiling for storage.
5. Take advantage of the space under your bed. Use clear plastic bins that are specifically designed for under the bed. Measure the amount of clearance you have between the floor and the bed frame to make sure the bin fits. An option that affords you more storage space is raising the bed.
Just think, when living in a smaller area, you’ll have less to take care of. That frees up your time to do the things you want to do!
Is your book collection organized so you can find just the right book you’re in the mood to read? Excellent! Or like many folks, are books scattered around the house? Do you even know what books you have? Do you regularly purge unwanted books or let them continue to occupy valuable space and collect dust?
Now is a great time to organize your books. Here are 11 tips.
My largest book organizing project was 17 years ago with my first client. In his library he had between 1,000 and 2,000 books. They were out of order. There were duplicates and triplicates. His library was completely nonfunctional. It took time, but after donating many of them and organizing the rest according to my client’s preferences, that massive job got done. My client was thrilled to have a functional library that looked great too!
For my personal collection, I mix it up. Fiction books are arranged in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Books in other categories (such as organizing, business and design) are separated by category but not in any order. Some books are vertical. Some are horizontal. Small framed photos and pieces of art add to the overall look. I donate books that no longer interest me. My book collection is functional and attractive. With a little time and effort, yours can be too.
Downsizing and organizing your books is worth doing. Then, when planning your next vacation, you can quickly grab the ones you want to read – much better than wasting time searching around the house or wasting money buying more at the airport.
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