Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sorting Your Stuff

Welcome back to my series on clearing out your clutter.  Today I am going to give you some questions to ask yourself as you deal with each item in your home.  But before I do that, you will need to have the proper supplies in front of you in order to make the process of de-cluttering easier.

You will need 3 containers in front of you - one for donations, one for trash and one for things that need to be put away somewhere else in the house.  If it's paper that you are de-cluttering then you will need a container for recycled paper, one for documents that need to be shredded, one for paper that needs to be filed and a spot for an Action File (those papers that require you to do something).

These containers can vary with whatever you have on hand.  Obviously a trash bag for trash and you could use a box or a clear plastic bag for donations.  One tip that I have is to never use a trash bag for anything but trash.  It is just too easy for donations to be mistaken for garbage and set out at the curb (trust me on this!).  Personally I use two pop-up leaf bags to hold a trash bag and a clear plastic bag for donations.  I bought them at Lee Valley.  Laundry baskets are great for your put-away pile.  They are easy to carry from room to room as you put items away.

You will notice that there is no container for items you are not sure about.  I don't believe in a "maybe pile".  Think of the term OHIO (Only Handle It Once).  It's too easy to make a maybe pile that you never get to later.  You are wasting your valuable time going over things again and again.  Make a firm decision, even if it takes you a little longer.

Another thing that I am not a big fan of is yard sales.  I find that they are a lot of work for the amount of money that you actually make.  However, if you insist on having a yard sale then the best time to price your items is while you are sorting them.  Nothing will make you put that yard sale off more than a garage full of items waiting to be priced by you.  By having a pen and some stickers in front of you you can save some time and sanity.

Now here is a list of questions that you can ask yourself as you decide whether or not an item is worth keeping.

I love these questions, especially the last one.  Here are a couple more questions you could ask yourself.
Does it have a home? - Everything in your house should have a home.  If it doesn't then you either need to make a home for it if it is important or it needs to go.
Would this mean anything to my children if I died tomorrow? - This question was suggested by a reader and I love it.  Especially for those whose children are older and may be faced with handling all of your stuff some day.

Next week I am going to share with you the number one tip that I have for finding the time to de-clutter your home.  It made a huge difference for me and I hope that it helps you too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time To Dream

Welcome to my series about how to get rid of your clutter.

For today's task I want you to dream.  I want you to really think about how you want to use the spaces in   your home.  For instance, if you are planning on de-cluttering the living room, stop and think about what activities you see you and your family doing in this room.  Will you entertain friends and family in here?  Is this where your children play most of the time?  Will the kids do homework in here?  Is this room mostly for watching TV?

By knowing how you intend to use the room it will help you decide what stays in that room and what has to go.  You may find that it just doesn't work having the kids do their homework in there because the TV is too big of a distraction.  Perhaps moving the desk elsewhere will open up a spot for more seating for when you entertain.

How about the dining room?  When you were shopping for your dining room table (or kitchen table if you don't have a dining room) did you purchase this table with the idea of it holding old bills, junk mail, craft supplies, 3 dead batteries and a couple of broken candles?  Or did you envision warm gatherings of friends and family all enjoying fabulous food that you cooked from scratch?

Figuring out how you want to use the space is the first step in de-cluttering.  It is also one of the most crucial.  It's surprising how many people miss this step completely but if you don't know what your goal is, how do you know when you reach it?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Don't Buy Stuff.

This is the first post in my series on getting rid of your clutter.  My first rule is to don't buy more stuff!

There is actually two parts to this.  The first one is quite simple; don't spend all week purging items from your home if you are only going to spend all weekend shopping and filling it up again.

Now I understand that this rule is not as easy as it sounds.  When my boys were young I was a stay-at-home mom and I couldn't wait to get out of my cluttered house on the weekends with Mr. P and the boys.  Many a weekend was spent wandering around a shopping mall buying things we really didn't need.  Those things only exacerbated the clutter problem in my home.  It became a vicious circle where the more my home was cluttered the more I wanted to go shopping to escape.  The more I shopped the more cluttered my home became.  I realized I needed to find other things to do with the family and I needed to make my home a place that I wanted to spend time in.

By de-cluttering your home you can actually make that circle work in reverse.  When you start getting rid of all those things that you spent your time buying you begin to realize how much money you were actually wasting.  It makes you be more particular about what you bring into your home.

Your home also becomes more inviting.  You will actually want to spend time there when you don't have to look around at all the work that you still have to do.

And for all you bargain hunters out there, it's not a bargain if you don't really need it.  I know people who, when they find a $75 sweater on sale for $25, they will buy 4 of them in different colours.  They will proudly tell me that they saved $200.   They don't see it the other way around, that they actually wasted $100 on sweaters that won't even fit into their already overcrowded closet and in a couple of colours that don't even look good on them.

The second part of this Don't Buy Stuff post is about containers.  Don't run out to buy a bunch of organizing containers because you are planning on de-cluttering your home.  Buying containers is part of the process but it actually comes next to last on the de-cluttering how-to list.  You need to know how much stuff you have to house and where it needs to be stored before you should buy any containers.  Otherwise the containers themselves will end up as clutter.  And many times you will find that you have perfectly good containers already in your home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Too Much Stuff!

Yesterday I held an informal poll on my Facebook page asking my followers to click "like" if they thought they had too much stuff.  It was one of the most liked posts on my page ever!

Clearly too many of us are living with clutter.  We have bigger homes than ever before and yet we have less space for our things.  Expensive cars are left parked in the laneway to make room to store inexpensive junk in the garage.  To say the self-storage industry is booming would be an understatement.

The United States alone now has over 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space.  That's more than 7 square feet for every man, woman and child.  There are 7 times more storage facilities than there are Starbucks in the country.  "Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators", says Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions.  "Because once they're in, nobody likes to spend all day moving stuff out of storage.  As long as they can afford it, and feel psychologically that they can afford it, they leave that stuff in there forever."

And it's not just the stuff that's hidden away in storage facilities.  Many people could be considered tidy packrats.  Mr. P's grandparents emigrated from Holland in the late 1940's.  They were in Holland during the war and learned to "waste not, want not".  Every little thing was kept "just in case" and yet, Oma kept an immaculate home.  It wasn't until we went through the closets, basement, garage and various out-buildings that we became aware of just how much stuff was saved.  Their clutter was hidden away where no one could see it.

Even if your stuff is out in the open or hidden away, you can get rid of it.  It's not going to be easy and it's not going to happen overnight but it will be so worth it!  It has been scientifically proven that people living in clutter and disarray also have increased stress.  My next few blog posts will geared to showing you how you can get rid of the clutter for good.  Our homes should be a place of refuge from the outside world not yet another thing that causes you more stress.

"Cockroaches may or may not last through a nuclear winter, but that old crib will survive forever hidden behind your furnace." - Thane Burnett, writer for the Toronto Sun

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

20 Free Organizing Solutions

At the beginning of a new year one of the things at the top many people's list is to get organized.  But after the spending of the holidays and with these tough economic times it can be hard to afford all those fancy organizing systems.

Here are 20 free (or almost free) organizing systems that you can use to help you get your home more organized.

1. Use egg cartons to hold fragile Christmas ornaments.

2. Use empty Altoid tins to help organize a junk drawer.

3. Soda can tabs can double you hanging space in the closet.

4.  Place an old tennis ball over a hook in the closet to keep shirts and sweaters from getting hook marks.

5. Turn an old wipes box into a car emergency kit.

6.  Cover an empty soda can box to organize bags in the kitchen.

7.  Old lotion bottle as a charging station.

8.  Use old CD cases to store cables.

9.  Use a cereal box and toilet paper roll as a mini homework centre.

10.  Stick magnets to the back of a cereal box and place on the fridge to hold menus or mail.

Source - Pinterest

11.  Cover a plain box with pretty duct tape for nicer looking storage.

12.  Use old cereal boxes as drawer divider.

13.  Turn a shoe box into a charging station.

14.  Use a Command hook and a paper shopping bag with handles to keep garbage contained in the car.

15.  Another use for an empty cereal box is to use it as a mail centre.

16.  Save space in your purse by punching a hole through gift and store rebate cards and adding them to a key ring or binder ring.

17.  Use an old VHS cover as a picture frame with hidden storage.

18.  Use old shoe boxes as drawer dividers.

19.  Cover tin cans with fabric and attach them to the inside of the bathroom vanity to hold brushes or your curling iron.

20.  I love stair baskets to place items in while they wait to be taken up or down the stairs.  Click on the link for instructions on how to make one out of a cardboard box.

One of the first rules of getting organized is to "shop from home".  Take a look around you to see if you can re-purpose something in your home.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Did You Accomplish In 2012?

As each new year rolls around many of us take the time to look back on the past year and reflect on what we would like to change in the coming year.  If you are anything like me, most of that reflection is negative.  I should have exercised more, I should have cooked healthier meals, I should have invited friends over more often, etc.  But maybe we need to look back and see just how much we actually accomplished in a year.

As you decide what you want to do differently this year, take a look at what you got right last year.  Try making an Accomplished List.  What did you get done last year?

2012 was a big year for me.  Here are some of the things that I accomplished:

1.  I quit my job as a waitress and started my own Professional Organizing business, Power Home Solutions.  I took several courses in order to become a member of Professional Organizers in Canada and have made many friends by attending chapter meetings where I learn something new each and every time.

2. I started a blog!  This was also huge for me, especially if you understand how very computer illiterate I really am.  My friend Ana was amazing at helping me navigate my way through blogger.  I could not have done it without her!

3. I got a large portion of my own house organized.  My kitchen, bedroom, TV room, laundry room, J's room, mudroom and office are now organized.  In J's room we also drywalled over the existing plaster and painted the entire room.

4. I set up an entire new accounting system for Mr. P's plumbing business.  It had been so long since we last updated our software that the old files would not just transfer over.  It all had to be done manually and was an incredible amount of work.

5. I was able to be available to friends and family when they needed me.  I was able to take some to doctor's appointments, move my mother-in-law into her new home and been someone to lean on during the loss of a loved one.

6. I have become more active in my community volunteering my time and taking on certain issues with my local government.

All in all, it was actually a pretty good year!

What did you accomplish in 2012?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Be One Of The 8% Who Keeps Their Resolution

Above is a list of the top ten New Year's resolutions.  Number one is to "lose weight" and number two is to "get organized".

For years my resolution was to lose weight and after failing at that so many times I decided that I would try and get organized instead.  But it got me wondering, why is it that these two things are numbers one and two each and every year?  It could be because only 8% of people actually stick to their resolution for the entire year.  Many don't even last the first month!

If you think about it, losing weight and getting organized are kind of similar.  They both require discipline, motivation and certain lifestyle changes in order to make them happen.  They also have a tendency to elicit unrealistic expectations (I am going to look like Cindy Crawford when I'm done or my house is going to look like Martha Stewart lives here.)  And if results cannot be seen immediately people become frustrated and quite often give up.

Another problem with these two resolutions is that they are too vague.  A goal must be specific, time-limited, actionable, measurable and reasonable.  How will you know when you've lost enough weight or when you are organized enough?

Drastic lifestyle changes almost never work.  Instead of making a New Year's resolution try making a New Week resolution.  Every Monday make one small change that will help you accomplish your goal. For instance, if your resolution is to lose weight try committing to drinking 2 extra glasses of water each day.  At the end of the week you would continue with that habit and then add another like exercising for 15 minutes each day.

If your resolution is to get more organized then make the commitment to putting your purse away every day instead of leaving it on the kitchen table.  Try that for a week and then add in 15 minutes of decluttering every day.  Keep the changes small and each of these small accomplishments will add up to huge rewards at the end of the year.

Don't forget to evaluate how you did at the end of the week.  Did you only put your purse away twice?  Why?  Perhaps the closet is too far away from the entrance.  Maybe you need to place a hook closer to the door.  Was drinking that water too difficult because you hate the way water tastes?  Try adding some lemon or a little fruit juice to make it go down easier.  Maybe the goal was too big and only adding one glass of water a day is more doable.

Please don't think that you failed when you find that you did not accomplish the goal you set out for the week!  Think of it as a learning experience.  Ask yourself why it didn't work and try to come up with a solution.

"It's not about perfect.  It's about effort.  When you bring that effort every single day that's where transformation happens.  That's how change occurs." - Jillian Michaels

Did you make any New Year's resolutions?