19 Nov 2018

Being Well Organized Benefits Your Estate

Does your will or trust include instructions for how you wish your personal property dealt with after your passing?

I know – not the typical topic you think of around Thanksgiving – but what better time to share with your family and close friends your wishes with what happens with your personal property after you have passed.

Often times we take care of the basics – we set up a will or trust, name the executor(s) and make sure they know the ins and outs of the insurance polices etc. But, have you ever thought about the importance of taking it further so that in a time of grief your loved ones aren’t burdened with your possessions?

Your instructions don’t need to be complex – it can be as simple as a spreadsheet included with your will that outlines which of your possessions is the most meaningful and valuable, why they were or are of significance to you and who you wish to inherit.

You may be telling yourself that your family knows you well enough to know what is meaningful or valuable and there really isn’t a need – but I can tell you differently.

Many times I am hired by the estate or family to deal with the belongings in the house. In these instances there can be time constraints because property may be listed for sale as soon as possible.

It’s easy to look at this type of situation as simply transactional.  But I can tell you that it is anything but.

Imagine a total stranger sorting through your prized possessions with no history or sense of value and dividing them up among your family?

As the professional left to liquidate the assets of someone’s lifetime, it’s sad for me to step in to deal with belongings I have no history and no understanding around. I find myself asking why a family member doesn’t want this? I’ve had many a client that has been burdened with what to do with a relative’s personal possessions.

My call to action for you today is to go beyond having the will and sharing with your family your wishes and desires in terms of your personal possessions. Communicate your wishes and have a plan.

Have a plan so that if a third party like myself must step in we understand what was most important to you and why. Give your family a road map so they can separate the important from the unimportant.

Suddenly inheriting a bunch of someone’s stuff – or the leftover stuff can be the domino that tips over and puts you in an overwhelming situation.

Do you have items at home you hang onto, despite them being ugly or useless, because it is an “heirloom”? Do you suffer guilt about getting rid of heirlooms you can’t use? Do you live in fear of throwing something out because it’s value and significance is unknown?

Take the time now to take control of the history you pass down – share with your family why an item is of value or is significant.

Simply sharing the significance and history may free you to get rid of the item – or will give your family a better context around why you have the item and what they wish to do with it.

Let your family know what is important so in the aftermath of your passing they know and understand why it was important.

Provide a plan so at a time of need, your family doesn’t have to question or wonder what were your wishes.

12 Mar 2018

Tackling The Garage

My uncle once proclaimed that people don’t use their garages for cars in the Pacific Northwest – they use them for storage. His two car garage was a designated storage area. Now days, newer homes have the phenomenon known as the three car garage. Which usually means at least one or two cars may be parked in the garage – and the rest of the space is typically a shop space or mor often than not, that notorious dumping ground for everything and everything that you either don’t know what to do with – or there is an action that needs to happen with the item (small appliances that need fixed, items to donate, things your kids don’t want to throw out – but don’t want in their room any longer, items to return to neighbors, etc.)

To follow on last week’s article about preparing for Spring Cleaning, here are some tips to tackle the garage – after all, you might want to have a yard/garage sale when you complete all your decluttering and cleaning – so the garage is a great place to star so you have space for the sale!

 Maximize your storage by using as much vertical and ceiling space as possible. 

This rule is particularly important if you’re planning to actually park your car here. Make sure that you’ll have room for your car without running into or onto anything. There are lots of wall and ceiling organizers you can purchase. Before you purchase anything, be sure you have observed the next tip (below). Put together a plan for your space and then buy what you need. Remember there are lots of inexpensive ways to create organizers rather than purchasing premade systems. Go with what you like and what fits your budget! If you are going to purchase a premade system purchase the one that meets your needs and pay attention to quality and craftsmanship.

Before reorganizing, try taking everything out of your garage.

This is actually a tip that applies to any organization project. By removing everything first and lLooking at the space you have as a blank canvas can give you a better idea of what you’re working with.

Decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away or recycle.

When you find yourself questioning a particular item, ask yourself :

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I need it?
  • When was the last time I used this?
  • If I donated it, could it be safely used by another person?

Clearing out clutter is incredibly satisfying, and odds are you won’t really miss that fifth spare tennis racket. When in doubt, donate or toss it. Recycle as much as possible (depending on the nature of what you’ve accumulated in your garage remember that there often salvage or reclamation centers in your community that take building materials. Be sure to dispose of paint and other hazardous waste safely (Your local garbage utility or county waste disposal department often have lots of information on where and how to recycle hazardous materials – as well as other materials.

Group like items together so they’re easy to find.

You will save yourself time and energy by placing like items together – put gardening supplies in one area, pet supplies in another, if you store bulk food products be sure they are stored well away from extreme heat and cold or anything that could contaminate or damage the items. Things will stay much neater because you aren’t ransacking the place to find things.

Decide which area of the garage is going to be used for what purpose. 

Think carefully about what you want your garage to be used for, and the best possible way that this space can be divided up. Are you parking a car in the garage? Are there specific traffic patterns to keep clear? Deciding areas also will help determine if there are things that should be relocated to another area or room in the house.

Label absolutely everything. 

Within reason of course. But labeling things increases the likelihood that others will put the item back where it was found. If you hang tools on a peg board put a label below the hook for each item so that it is easy to put things back. Some people trace the item with an outline. I prefer labels so that things can be changed and updated.

26 Feb 2018

It’s Time For Spring Cleaning

Despite the fact we were besieged by a late winter snow storm last week – the signs of spring are popping up everywhere. Now is the perfect time to get your spring cleaning game plan prepared. It’s an excellent opportunity to get things organized and start the season with a fresh clean slate. Below are some tips and tricks I’ve come across in my internet and Pinterest searching. Hopefully they will give you a little extra push as you prepare your plan.

Let It Go

In the much touted words of Elsa in Frozen, Let it go! As you start sorting through closets and cupboards as yourself Have you worn it or used it in the last year? Are you really going to wear it again? Do you think you really will ever use it? If the answer is ‘no’, it’s time to let go. If it is a more expensive item consider using a consignment service or retailer – sometimes getting a little bit of money for something makes it easier to part with it!

Check The Quality

When sorting through clothing and linens does it have holes, stains, or any visible signs of wear? Unless it’s an original that really makes a statement, a vintage item, or something with sentimental value, any worn out clothes should be donated or recycled.

One Use Wonder

Have you ever used it? This may sound silly, but I find that a lot of times people will hold onto things simply because they were gifts or an item used for very specific task. As you sort things really ask yourself if you will ever have use for it again. If you bought it for a specific task – and now can’t remember what that task was maybe you need to let it go.Again, if it’s in good shape and worth some money, consignment or sale through an internet site are a good option.

Check For Wear

Is it worn out, warped, or scratched? Unless it’s a prized family possession, anything that’s in bad shape should be recycled or thrown out.

Tech Purge

Do you really need to hold onto your old cell phone? Electronics can be tricky because people are usually reluctant to throw out older electronics, especially if they still contain personal information. I use the same approach here as anything else – when was the last time I used it? Is it something I replaced with a newer version? And be sure to weed through all those chargers, cords and cables – if you no longer have the device get rid of the accessories. If you are concerned about security or retrieval of data there are usually organizations that will take used electronics and either refurbish them for others to use or safely recycle them. Now days its pretty commonplace to easily migrate data from old phones or devices to new ones. Once successfully done consider donating the item to a responsible organization for disposal or refurbishment.

Reorganize Your Drawers

Take everything out of the space and clean it top to bottom, then add back in only the things you want to keep being sure to group like items or items used together close to each other.
Always put heavy items closest to the floor or bottom cabinets. Your items in the kitchen should be closest to the space where you use it. Get rid of anything you don’t use.

Don’t Wait

Don’t play the waiting game – Don’t keep clothes that you used to fit into, while waiting to lose weight. They will be outdated and your style will have most likely changed. If you have a newer item discard the old one – you’re not gaining anything by waiting for the old one to die.

05 Feb 2018

To Do List 101

Keeping a “To Do” list is an essential element for successful organization. It doesn’t matter whether you create and keep a digital list using an app on your phone or tablet, a fancy software program on your computer or use pen and paper. As with any tool however, the key to its successful implementation is using it daily so that it becomes habit and part of your routine. The following are tips to help you create and use a “To Do” list effectively.


Short and Sweet

For daily “To Do” lists, you typically want to limit the number of items on the list to between eight and ten or less. Think of your daily “To Do” list as the priority items. You can keep a “Master To Do List” to keep track of everything in one place where you have prioritized the list, set start and completion dates, etc. But there will be things that pop up daily that are short term and you can prioritize those onto your daily list. There may even be individual elements of larger projects and tasks that ft into your daily schedule. The idea behind keeping your daily list short is that you don’t overwhelm yourself and more than likely by the end of the day you will have crossed most of them off – giving you a sense of accomplishment which motivates you to keep forging ahead.


If NeceSSARY Keep Separate Lists

For some people it may be better to keep work and home lists separate. You will know what is most appropriate for you. If you choose to keep only one daily “To Do” list – consider segmenting the list – several tasks for work, several tasks for home, etc. Only use separate lists if helps you prioritize tasks for each day by the role you are in when completing them. If you find with multiple lists you find that one list consistently gets done, but the other just sits, then maybe one list is better for you.



Once you’ve listed everything you need to accomplish for the day, number the items in order of priority. Do the most important items first and you’ll feel the biggest sense of achievement. I typically try to tackle the most difficult or biggest tasks first – doing so gives me a much greater sense of accomplishment and it also means things after that are usually easier to complete and get done faster. Place the lower priority items lower on the list. By putting the more difficult tasks first, you also lessen the chances of having the same items perpetually on your list. Most importantly remember to be flexible. You never know what each day will bring – what was the top priority may no longer be the most critical thing to complete. I typically find I am more successful if I prepare the next day’s list(s) at the close of the current day when I’m reviewing what I’ve completed. Again, if you have a sense of accomplishment it motivates you to succeed. And finally, don’t make yourself feel guilty if you don’t complete every item on your list. Things will come up and priorities will change.


Set a time limit

Wherever possible set a time limit for items on the list. If you are keeping a master list and break down larger tasks by the smaller individual elements you ensure that you don’t do something out of order that will cost you valuable time. For daily lists it may be as simple as how long you think it should take to complete and you can prioritize what part of the day you want to work on it and complete.


Evaluate and adjust

Remember, a “To Do” list is a working document. Some days you will easily breeze through the list – other days you may find what you started with has been completely thrown out or reprioritized within the first minutes of the day. Things will always be changing. Some items may become no longer important or unnecessary. Being flexible is critical to your success.


Keep it with You

I’ve talked before about keeping a notebook with you that you keep track of everything throughout the day. If you enter your list(s) in the same notebook and that notebook is always with you it is much easier to refer to things, see which things are needing to be reprioritized etc. Don’t create extra work for yourself by having little pieces of paper all over your desk. If you are better using an app or a digital method for tracking then do so. Having everything in one location also gives you a visual record of the work you have done. You likely will be surprised to see how much you are really getting accomplished daily!


Hopefully you find these tips useful and they will ensure you are effectively using your “To Do” list.

29 Jan 2018

Are You Paralyzed By Sentiment?

Dealing with sentimental items can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome when it comes to decluttering and getting organized. Even as a professional organizer this is one of the biggest challenges I personally face. But, are those items overwhelming you and keeping you from having a better organized home? Business and ultimately life? Taking the time and putting forth the effort and decluttering sentimental items can have a huge positive impact on our homes and lives.

We have emotional connections to our sentimental items. It can be hard to decide which items are truly special, and which are adding clutter and burdening you. But, by being selective you elevate those items you keep and make them that much more special.

I often tell clients that being organized doesn’t mean you are a minimalist and certainly you should not take the approach if it serves no purpose or function it shouldn’t be in your home. But you can’t keep everything and if you find yourself overwhelmed and surrounded by too much stuff it’s time to lighten the load and give yourself some breathing room. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you overcome the sentimental paralysis and move forward with your decluttering.

These tips will not only make decluttering sentimental items easier. But they also let you feel good about it during the decluttering process and afterwards as well!

Dive in!

When we know something is going to be hard sometimes we avoid and procrastinate doing it. The project starts to loom over us and can grow into a bigger, scarier job in our minds the longer we put it off.

Sometimes the best way to tackle a big project is just dive right in and get started. If you are like me, once you get going you realize it isn’t as hard as we thought. Taking the first step and starting can be the hardest step. Once you get going you build momentum, motivation and confidence to keep going.

Give yourself time and/or space

You need to be in the right frame of mind for decluttering especially if you are dealing with sentimental items. Don’t procrastinate decluttering sentimental items indefinitely but cut yourself some slack if it isn’t working today. Move on to something else and dive back in again tomorrow.

Most of us can’t declutter our homes in one single swoop of decluttering. It often takes two or three rounds of decluttering. Each time you are willing and able to let go of more and more. And that’s ok too. Declutter as ruthlessly as you feel able to today. In six months you might feel able to be even more ruthless.

For clients who are often struggling I suggest they box up the items they are unsure about. Put a date on the box and put it in the attic or a storage space out of sight. Put a reminder on your calendar to come back and review that box of items. There is no absolute time frame – do what is comfortable for you. It could be a month, six months even a year. If you find you haven’t even thought about those items in that period of time it often makes them easier to let go.

Your memories are in your mind and your heart

Remember, your memories and special moments aren’t contained in the object. They are in your mind and your heart. You’ll always have the memories, no matter if you keep the item or not.

Reminding yourself that the object is just a representation of the memory or special moment, not the memory itself, is enough to help you let.

It’s ok to keep some sentimental items, within reason

Decluttering your home doesn’t mean you have to get rid of every single sentimental item you have. It’s ok to keep the sentimental items that you value and are meaningful to you.

The trick is to keep the number of those items within reason. Remember, if you have too many special items, it diminishes their specialness because they get lost in each other. Choosing the ones that are really special and important allows you to showcase, value and enjoy them more.

Set a limit appropriate for your home and life to help you be more objective while decluttering sentimental items. Limits will help you keep only the most important items. For example, maybe give yourself two plastic tote bins to hold sentimental items. Then only keep what fits in the totes.

Find a way to use or repurpose items

Even better than storing sentimental items is to find ways to use them or repurpose them. Then you can enjoy and appreciate them every day.

Rather than storing sentimental items in a box, display them or use to decorate your home. These items will add your personality and character to your home. You display things that are meaningful to you. Things that share a story about your life and family. Another great way to appreciate your sentimental items is to use them! Instead of storing them away, why not use them and appreciate them every time you do.

Be selective as you choose items to display or repurpose. Only choose the most special items.

Take a picture

If you have sentimental items you want to remember, but don’t necessarily want to keep, take pictures of them. Then let the items go. Often pictures of sentimental items are enough to preserve the memories associated with the items, without keeping the items.

Your home should be a living space for your present life

Reminding yourself to make your home a living space for your present life, not a storage space for your past is a good mantra when decluttering sentimental items. If your home is overwhelmed with sentimental items from your past, it’s hard to have room for living and creating new memories!

Why are you saving it?

Ask yourself why you are saving an item. What is your purpose for keeping it? Is it because it is something you love and holds a lot of meaning for you? Does it remind you of a special moment? Is it for your kids when they’re adults? We all have different reasons for holding on to sentimental items. If you don’t have a clear reason to keep it, you probably don’t need it or value it as much as you thought.

If it’s something you’re saving for your kids, do you think they will actually want it? Would you want it if your parents brought it to you? Sometimes we save things for our kids, but they don’t or won’t want them. Be honest with yourself.

How does the item make you feel?

Think about how each item makes you feel. If it holds negative feelings for you, do you really want to keep it?

Is it really sentimental to you, or are there other reasons you’re keeping it?

Sometimes we keep items and think they are sentimental to us, but it’s actually guilt or a sense of obligation that make us feel like we should keep them.

Do you feel guilty getting rid of it? Maybe it was a gift and you feel guilty getting rid of it, even though you don’t use or love it. Remember, a gift is given to show love. You accept the gift and express your appreciation to the giver. After that, it’s up to you what you decide to do with it. If it’s not something you use or love, don’t let feelings of guilt make you keep it. Maybe it’s a family heirloom or something we feel expected to keep. Remember, if it’s not something you value and holds meaning for you, don’t let it take up your time and space by keeping it. If someone makes you feel obligated to keep an item, tell them you’re decluttering and don’t want to keep it. Let them know they are free to take it if they would like, otherwise you’re getting rid of it.

There are always exceptions

Be ruthless while decluttering, but also give yourself some latitude and don’t be hard on yourself. Decluttering sentimental items is hard work, both emotionally and mentally. You’ll probably be riding an emotional roller coaster at times. Some items will be hard to let go of, even when you know you need to let them go.Keep at it, but take a break when you need to.

Also, remind yourself there might be sentimental items that are exceptions to the above tips and tricks. Maybe it’s something so special you could never bear to get rid of it. Or it’s something associated with a loss that is still too fresh or raw to declutter or be objective about.

Decluttering is a process and a journey to give you more time, space and freedom. Don’t be hard on yourself. Show yourself kindness. And know that every step in this journey, even the small steps, are making progress.

23 Jan 2018

Simple Organizing Goals

You hear it all the time – set goals, have a plan – if you are going to get organized you need to know where you are starting, where you are headed and what you want when you have finished. This week’s blog is simple and to the point – we are walking you through the steps to setting goals, so you make progress and can be successful in getting organized.

No matter how many rooms or how much clutter you have to get through, starting with specific goals will help you create a plan that will reduce any frustration as you go. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started decluttering your home:

  • Write down or make a map of all the rooms and ‘clutter hot-spots’ you want to tackle.
  • Give each space a grade based on the severity of the clutter. For example, on a scale of 1 – 3 (3 being the most cluttered), a particularly messy room or closet would get a 3. This will help you prioritize your time.
  • Do one room or one space at a time.
  • Set completion dates for each phase of your cleanup. Be sure to pick dates that are realistically attainable, so you don’t get frustrated. If you make it into a declutter challenge for yourself, it may feel a bit more like a game.
  • In addition to completion dates, you should plan time to work on specific areas when you expect decluttering those spaces to take longer than a few hours, such as a basement or a garage.