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.
While we’ve been sheltering-in-place and social-distancing, I’ve been thinking about all the traveling I’ve done. Whether it’s a quick overnight or weekend trip or something longer, like 2 – 3 weeks, I’ve been remembering my wallet and how it gets filled with all sorts of paper not related to anything I needed to carry with me.
My wallet has been filled with receipts, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, etc. Were all these extraneous things necessary to stuff into my wallet? For me, this was the best place to keep all these items temporarily until I got home, when I could empty my wallet, file what I needed to keep in their respective “homes”, and discard the rest (I sure didn’t need to keep a candy wrapper). Do many of you have things like this in your wallet all the time?
How much you can fit in your wallet is really a metaphor for how much you can fit in your surroundings. Are you ready to “Empty Your Wallet” (and I don’t mean emptying it of money)? I’m talking about your wallet representing how light you would feel if you emptied your life of all the extraneous things that don’t need to be kept in it. What is actually important to you? What do you really need, not want, to keep in your life to make it seem less weighty? The 4 benefits of having an “empty wallet” are:
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” Napoleon Hill
Now is Your Time to “Empty Your Wallet”
While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!
I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.
With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to “Stress-baking is a real thing!”
My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:
This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus.
I don’t know about you, but I am:
• losing a sense of what day it is
• not as productive as I was before Covid-19
• feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy
So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:
Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:
I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!
First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have contracted this virus. We wish you a speedy recovery. For the rest of us, we face several weeks of home confinement. I don’t know about you but when I stay home for longer than one day, I tend to become lethargic and unmotivated. This time I’m determined not to let that happen. Here’s my plan of action:
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!
I remember when my mother used to nag me to make my bed. I remember her saying, “you can go when your bed is made.” I would come up with a hundred reasons why it was a pointless task but perhaps there was a method to her motherly madness.
We spend approximately one-third of our lives in our bedrooms. And, it has been proven that the appearance of our bedroom has an overall affect on our mood and our productivity.
Our bed is the most dominant feature in our room. A made bed creates a positive vibe and immediately gives us a feeling of accomplishment. According to the National Sleep Foundation survey, a made bed also contributes to healthier sleep habits and better rest. In addition to increased productivity, bed makers also enjoy lower stress levels, improved moods and tidier homes.
Admiral William McRaven spoke about the transformative power of the daily bed making habit at the University of Texas commencement in 2014. It has since gone viral with over 10 million views and has been referred to by some of the worlds best thought leaders. He states “If you want to make a difference in the world, start by making your bed.” He said in part, “if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making our bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” I just love this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jflUvxQLkgs
Since his commencement speech, Admiral McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little
Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World , a
#1 New York Times Bestseller.
Thanks mom, I suppose you had a point. Having an organized living space makes all the difference. I make my bed ever morning…and this small task has made the rest of my day feel infinitely more together.
I hope you will agree!