one dollar bills

No One Needs a Lifetime Supply of Anything!

Helpful Organizer BlogWhen I heard this phrase, “No one needs a lifetime supply of anything!” I laughed. I understand that the phrase is an exaggeration, but it is also true. Excessive shopping and stockpiling can create real issues. There is value in having a well stocked pantry, and it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, but when do we have enough? We are constantly being encouraged to buy, and the message that more is better is pushed on us. It is often difficult to know when we have enough and when we have too much.

When I asked a group of business women the question, “What does more stuff equal?” I was thinking they would answer that more stuff equals more to organize and maintain, but the resounding answer was, “More Stress!” These women clearly understood that more is not always better, but do they live that way? The average American household has 300,000 things in it. How many of those things get used regularly or frequently? How much time is wasted taking care of all the things we own?

I’d like to propose an experiment. In order to become more mindful consumers, establish a self imposed shopping ban for one month. Buy only essentials, such as food, medications, and toiletries for a month. Purchase what is needed, but no surplus, excess, or impulse buys. If you’re up for a tougher challenge, extend your shopping ban to include take-out food and eating out for the month. Notice what happens. How does it feel? Is it difficult or easy to shop less and spend less? Please share your experience with me.

My husband and I imposed the tough shopping ban for one month and found that shopping less was fairly easy, but we are lazy cooks. When we’re tired or our pantry is bare, we succumb to the temptation to eat out or get take out. We decided to work on this. We are trying new recipes, experimenting with new food and ingredients, and visiting the grocery store more often. We’re still working on this, but I’m happy with our progress so far.

Here are some additional ideas on how we can become more mindful consumers.

  • Buy multi-use and multi-purpose items. Examples: all purpose cleaners, multi-season jacket, furniture that serves a dual purpose.
  • Value quality over quantity to prevent the need for frequent replacement. (Example: better quality clothing, furniture, footwear, kitchen items)
  • Be a “cart” user when shopping on-line. Put items in cart and let them sit for a minimum of 2 weeks and then reevaluate before purchasing.
  • Be resourceful and use what we have. (Example: Use something completely to prevent waste. Eat left overs. Re-purpose items.)
  • Use up items from the pantry or fridge to show one empty shelf before replenishing.
  • Experiment with the power of ONE – Only one of each item and only one product open at a time. No back up items or duplicates.
  • Practice 1 in 1 out guideline.
  • Use gatekeeper questions.
  • Establish shopping guidelines.

©December 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Less Possessions

Helpful Organizer BlogAs the holiday season approaches I’d like to encourage us all to find greater pursuits in life than material possessions. Instead of spending time shopping and acquiring more stuff, please consider these alternatives.

  • Value people, wellness, and kindness over possessions. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, food bank, homeless shelter, or nursing home. Donate gently used coats, hats, gloves and warm clothing to charities like Cradles to Crayons and Salvation Army. One amazing charity that I donate to is a local program called Clothes to Go. (Contact me for details.)
  • Define ourselves by what we do, how we think, and who we love, rather than what we buy and own. Make it a priority to spend quality time with family and friends. Volunteer our time or resources to those in our family, neighborhood, and community that need help. One way that I’ve been giving back to the community is by delivering Meals On Wheels every Wednesday morning. It’s very rewarding.
  • Once we’ve covered our basic needs, our happiness has very little to do with the amount of stuff we own. So, share the wealth with those who could use some help, especially our veterans. A worthwhile program in which I’ve participated is organized by Soldiers’ Angels.
  • Value experiences over material possessions. Spend time cooking healthy meals as a family. Start a holiday tradition to hike or walk after the family feast. Play games together. Share photos and family stories with loved ones.
  • Embrace the JOMO = joy of missing out. Limit technology overload by establishing email, text, and screen blackout times. Live in the moment and savor it.
  • Be grateful and express your gratitude. Share what you’re thankful for in a gratitude journal.
  • Purchase consumable products and intangible things instead of something that takes up space. Ideas can be found on my clutter-free gift idea list.

©November 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All Rights Reserved

Define Minimalism

Helpful Organizer BlogHow would you define minimalism? I asked this question at the beginning of a presentation I gave recently at Brown University in Providence, RI. The answers I received were varied, but most of them included the concepts of intentionally having less stuff, and living a meaningful life with less material possessions. This was consistent with what I found while doing research for this presentation, and reading how established minimalists defined minimalism. I found three definitions that I could easily relate to, one by Joshua Becker, one by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, and one by Miss Minimalist, Francine Jay.

Joshua & Ryan define minimalism

Miss Minimalist defines minimalism

After reading these definitions I was inspired to come up with my own personal definition of minimalism. This is what I came up with:

Minimalism is a lifestyle choice in which we focus on:
…minimizing consumption by shopping less, buying less, using less.
…embracing limits through reducing, reusing, recycling.
…protecting our environment and natural resources with voluntary simplicity.
…finding greater pursuits in life than material possessions.

This definition became the outline for my presentation on embracing minimalism. It also inspired me to adopt a more of a minimalist lifestyle. I’ll be sharing my ideas, tips, and experiences on aspiring to be a minimalist in future blog articles. I hope you stay tuned and get inspired as well. If you’re interested in having me share my presentation on embracing minimalism, please contact me.

Below are some resources on minimalism that I’d like to share. I hope they encourage you to make changes in your life, like they have encouraged me.

  1. Joshua Becker’s website, books, and blog
  2. Joshua Fields Millburn’s & Ryan Nicodemus’ website, books, and blog
  3. Francine Jay’s website, books, and blog
  4. Courtney Carver’s website, books, and blog
  5. Patrick Rhone’s website, books, and blog
  6. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  7. Becoming a Minimalist: Your Guide to Living a Great Life With Less Through Minimalism by Kimberly Wilson
  8. Minimalism: How Living on Less Means Living More Life by Addison Fenn
  9. The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life by Leo Bubauta
  10. You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel

©October 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All Rights Reserved

photo albums on shelf

Letting Go

Helpful Organizer BlogLetting go of things can be stressful and difficult, especially if they hold some sentimental value. We tend to hold onto things that remind us of precious people and moments from our past. A few years ago I was helping a client organize her bedroom, and we came across some dried, brittle, dusty, yellowed flowers in a vase. She explained that it was her dried wedding bouquet, and she wanted to keep it. I asked her to pause for a moment and tell me objectively what she saw. She did. I then asked to tell me about other mementos she had from her wedding day. When she was finished she understood what I was getting at and said “I think I can let the flowers go.” She understood that although her wedding flowers were an important part of her wedding day, now they were just dust collectors. Since she had other more meaningful mementos from her wedding day, as well as photos of the flowers when they were vibrant and beautiful, she could let go of the brittle, dusty, yellowed version. By taking a moment to look and think objectively we can all make better choices about letting go.

Here are 7 options for letting go that will help you keep the memories but not the stuff.

  1. Keep only the best of photographs, artwork & hand-made crafts to bring greater value to the memory.
    • Set limits (container limit or quantity limit)
    • Set criteria (most meaningful, most representative of personality)
    • Go digital with photos, memorabilia, artwork
    • Share and send photos to family/friends
  2. Keep part of a set or collection: china, glass items, collectables, furniture, nick-knacks & tchotchkes, holiday decorations & decor to bring ease to maintenance.
    • Get items appraised to understand valueplanters made from recycled goblets
    • Set limits (keep half, the best 3, most memorable)
    • Establish a specific place for display or specific use
    • Reduce what you keep (just signatures on greeting cards, every 5th year of journals)
  3. Get creative, re-purpose or reuse to bring new life to items.
    • Re-purpose dishes and stemware as planters or jewelry holders
    • Re-purpose china to make jewelry or mosaic art pieces
    • Reuse fabric from items to make quilts, pillows, teddy bears, mittens, bags, Christmas stockings or other items
    • Use paper items to make place-mats, wrapping paper, greeting cards
  4. Take photos and videos to preserve visually and digitally.
    • Create digital scrapbooks to share the memories and storiesChristmas stocking made from old quilt
    • Use as a screen saver on computer or phone
    • Consolidate images into collages
  5. Share and document story of item to preserve memory.
    • Use on-line digital options to share stories and photos
    • Share stories and memories of items verbally at family gatherings
    • Star in a video sharing stories and memories of family heirlooms
  6. Find worthy recipient to ease guilty feelings.
    • Search on line for specific worthwhile charities
    • Ask family, friends, and social media connections for willing recipients
    • Accept that we may not be able to find the perfect recipient and let it go believing the next owner will cherish it
  7. Experiment and practice letting go.

©September 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®

Live with less = less stress

The Joy of Less

Helpful Organizer BlogDuring the past 10 years I’ve been in business, I’ve worked with over 1450* individuals to help them organize, downsize, and de-clutter. Although every project is different, with its own unique goals, the outcome is always achieved by getting rid of some stuff. The process of organizing includes removing what we no longer need, use, or want.3 steps to organizing process By removing stuff we free ourselves from the burden of having more than we can successfully maintain. By reducing the amount of material possessions we own, we have less to organize, clean, and stress about. Having less allows us to spend more time on what is important to us. Spending more time on what we enjoy improves the quality of our lives. The conclusion is we find the joy of less.

Through the years, I’ve witnessed how my clients’ lives improve with less stuff, and I’ve also seen first-hand how having less stuff has improved my life. My husband and I have participated in the Minimalist Game twice, May 2016 and June 2017. Each time we were successful in completing the game and getting rid of 930 things. We decided not to play the game this year, but we are continuing our efforts to have less, buy less, and reduce often. To us, having less means we have enough and aren’t overstuffed or overwhelmed by our things. Having less means we appreciate what we do have and really see the value in it. Instead of being overabundant with material possessions, we are working on being abundant in love, friendship, happiness, kindness, and gratitude. We are continuing to work on finding the joy of less.

Has this motivated you to see what having less will look like to you? What it will feel like? Will it bring you joy? One way to find out is to let go of all that you no longer need, use, or want, and experience the outcome. Keep me posted, I’d really enjoy hearing your story.

* This number includes hands-on paying clients as well as organizing students and presentation attendees.

©July 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved