Thursday, February 14, 2013

There Are No U-Hauls Behind a Hearse

Welcome to my final post on getting rid of your clutter.

You've all heard the phrase, "you can't take it with you".  So what happens to all your stuff once you are gone?  As a professional organizer I can tell you that other people do not love your stuff as much as you do.

Right now I have a client whose aunt passed away eight months ago and left him everything.  He lives in another country.  He did a quick walk through the house when he was here and took what he wanted but everything else is being left for me to dispose of.  Whether it is garbage, or something to be donated or even something to be auctioned off, it will mostly be my decision.  I had never met this man's aunt and I have no idea if the ugly china that I deemed something to donate is something from this lady's grandmother or just some cheap china she picked up from a garage sale.  Maybe it was a gift from her in-laws and she hated it too!

That old top hat that I found, was it this lady's father's or was it just some Halloween costume that her children once wore?  I have no sentimental attachment to anything in her home.  All I know is that it all has to go somewhere because the house is being sold.

Who will look after your stuff if something should suddenly happen to you?  Will you be burdening your already grieving family with a monumental task of cleaning up your stuff?  Will they know what is truly important?

I have a small teacup collection.  There is only about a dozen teacups and none are worth much except one that was made in 1600's and even then it's certainly not worth a fortune.  However, nestled in among the other teacups is one that I received from my grandmother.  I can remember seeing Grandma's collection of cups and her saying that one of these days she was going to write down the names of each of her granddaughters on pieces of paper and drop one into each cup so that when she was gone we could each have one of her cups.  She never did get around to putting those pieces of paper in the cups but they were divided between her granddaughters anyway after she passed away.  Someone going through my teacup collection after I am gone may not know that this may be something worth passing along to my own grandchildren (should I have some someday in the great distant future!).

Family members that are already distraught over losing you can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be sorted through.  At those times they tend to just toss things out randomly because it's easier.  Later, many regret getting rid of certain items that, at the time, they did not even consider keeping.  There were just too many decisions to make.

Start sorting through your stuff now so that, should anything ever happen to you, your family will know that the only things left are treasures.  Consider placing small post-it notes under family heirlooms so that others will know where they came from.  They may still decide to get rid of it but at least they can make an informed decision.

Here is another idea that I love.  If you or a loved one has an unusual collection that you know no one else would want to take over, try placing that collection on a table at the funeral service asking guests to please take one as a remembrance of the dearly departed.  This could be teacups, salt and pepper shakers, those silver spoons that people buy when travelling, a Beanie baby collection or perhaps even a collection of elephant themed items.  I think that this is a great way to honour not only the person but also the love that this person had for whatever it was that they collected.  And no one ends up with 35 stuffed elephants at the end of it all!

As I said at the beginning of the post this is my final post in the series about getting rid of clutter.  My blog posts are going to be quite sporadic for the next few months as I deal with several work related items.  If you follow me on Facebook I will try to link some wonderful articles from some of the great organizing bloggers that I follow.  I will still post occasionally but I know that my free time is going to be quite limited until at least June.  I want to thank everyone who comes to read my blog.  I am always surprised at the number of page views each post gets!  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you joining me here.  You guys are the greatest!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Commercial De-Cluttering

Have you ever heard of the term "commercial cleaning"?  No it's not when you hire someone to come in and clean your whole house!  It's when you get up and clean during the commercials of your favourite television programs.

I have to tell you that I am not a big TV watcher but the one thing that truly helped me get my whole home de-cluttered was that I did a lot of it in front of the television set.  If the junk drawer needed to be cleared out, I would pull the whole drawer out and carry it to in front of the TV and start sorting.

Over 10 years ago Mr. P took over the family plumbing business.  With that came 20 bankers boxes filled with papers from the previous 20 years that company had been in business.  There were 3 filing cabinets filled with papers, 2 tall 5-drawer ones and a small 2-drawer one.  Slowly I began to go through all those papers.  While 99.9% of them could be shredded, I still had to make sure that I kept certain ones for tax purposes.

I would sit myself down in front of the television with a shredder and some recycling bags and I would start to sort.  While the TV show was on I would sort and I would shred during the commercials.  What worked nicely with this is that, by giving the shredder a rest while the program was on, I could continue to shred papers longer because it had time to cool down between uses.

I would do this until I had filled a rather good sized shredder 3 times or until it started to feel warm.  I have to admit that it took a long time to finally get rid of all those papers but it was rather painless since I did it all while watching TV.

There are so many things that can be done while watching TV.  I regularly sort my filing and even file a lot of if because I made sure that my files are portable.  I have emptied a drawer in the bedroom into a laundry basket and sorted through the clothes.  I have taken boxes of odds and ends in the basement and sorted them in front of the TV.  I organized all of our DVDs and other movies while watching some of them.  I've organized my photos and my online photos while watching movies and 3 weeks ago I organized my Pinterest boards while watching a Lord of the Rings marathon with my family.

Now this may not work if you are organizing sentimental items or things that are very difficult for you to let go of, but it works well for those mindless tasks that take a lot of time.

Start with organizing your coffee table so that you have room to work.  Dedicate the first half hour of a program to sorting something and then put things away where they belong during the commercials of the second half hour.

At this point I almost never watch TV without having some other task in front of me.  Being stuck somewhere else in the house organizing or cleaning something while the rest of my family was watching their favourite TV program was not fun.  By bringing my work in front of the TV I was able to spend time with my family and the job I was doing didn't seem so much like work any more.