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


Gatekeeper Questions

Helpful Organizer BlogDo you love to shop, hunt for bargains, and practice retail therapy? If so, you are not alone. For many, shopping is their favorite pastime. It’s easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy with friends. It’s thrilling to find great deals, and see how much we’ve saved. It’s fun to purchase gifts, and surprise loved ones. It’s so convenient to shop online and have things delivered right to our door. But how often do we stop and think before buying something? Do we really need a life-time-supply of dog chews? How much extra are we spending each year to get the “free shipping”? Is it worth getting two free if we can’t even use up one before it goes bad? How much of what we buy is extra, surplus, or wasted?

I’ve found a successful way to help me stop and think before I buy. I’ve compiled a list of gatekeeper questions that allow me to pause and ask myself, “Why buy this?”. These questions are called gatekeeper questions because we control the gates to our properties. We all have the power to prevent a purchase from entering our homes. When shopping ask these questions (to the item) before committing to buy.

  • iron gateWhy are we buying you? Need? Want? Impulse? Obligation? Fundraiser?
  • What value will you add to our household?
  • Are you a practical, useful item or are you just for show?
  • Do we already own something just like you? If so, why do we need another?
  • Are you a replacement purchase? If so, what will we do with the old item?
  • Will you make life easier or are you going to be more trouble than you’re worth?
  • Where do we have a place for you?
  • Are you well made and worth your price tag?
  • Will you make our space feel crowded, cluttered, or overstuffed?
  • Will we want to keep you forever or at least a very long time? If not, how hard will it be to get rid of you?
  • Are you a gift for someone? Will you be a pleasure to them or a burden to them?
  • What will happen if we don’t buy you today?
  • How will we feel if we don’t buy you?
  • How often will we think about you, if we don’t buy you today?

This gatekeeper system requires some practice and discipline, but it helps me feel more prepared to make a mindful purchasing decision. Hopefully you will find it helpful as well. Try it and let me know what you think?

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


What is Clutter?

Helpful Organizer BlogI was very fortunate to have the opportunity to give a presentation on Conquering Clutter with Confidence at the 2018 Conference for NERSC (New England Resident Service Coordinators). I was excited to share my knowledge and expertise with this group. I started my presentation with the question, What is clutter? I shared the dictionary definition and my definition.

  • Dictionary definition: To litter or pile in a disordered manner; A confused or disordered state or collection; A disorderly heap or assemblageclutter
  • My definition: Clutter is a jumbled mess of miscellaneous stuff that has accumulated as a result of indecision and inaction.

After explaining my definition I was ready to move on, but was stopped with a few questions. One was, “What is the difference between hoarding and clutter and when is the line crossed?” I explained about the clutter-hoarding scale which is a tool used specifically for this purpose, and there is an image rating that is helpful to view. I also mentioned that I do not have the skill set to work with level 4 or 5 hoarders because the situation calls for more intervention and support than I can provide.

A second question was, “I have 3 sets of Christmas dishes, and my husband calls them clutter; are they?” To answer this I had to ask a few clarifying questions. Are the dishes scattered about in a jumbled mess? Her answer was no. Are they being used and serving a specific purpose? Her answer was yes. Are they causing you stress or frustration? Her answer was no for me, but yes for my husband. I told her that in my opinion, based on her answers to my questions, her Christmas dishes were not clutter. She gave an excited yelp and said she couldn’t wait to tell her husband. However, I was compelled to add that 3 sets of Christmas dishes may be a bit excessive, and if her answers to any of the 3 questions changes in the future, then their label would in fact be changed to clutter. I also pointed out that each individual views their own personal possessions differently than another person’s possessions. It is easy to misunderstand the value someone places on their own things. So think twice before tossing out someone’s stuff (“clutter”).

book caseA third question was asked, “What is the difference between a collection and clutter?” The dictionary definition of a collection is a group of objects or works to be seen, studied, or kept together. A collection is a group of items that someone is proud to share and display. Would you be proud to share and display your clutter? A collection holds monetary and sentimental value where as clutter is usually unimportant, random stuff. A collection is intentionally collected, but clutter is a mess that has accumulated as a result of not deciding what to do with things and not taking action with those things.

After thoroughly answering the question, what is clutter we discussed several clutter conquering solutions. Would you like some solutions? They can be found in the following articles.

Keep Clutter at Bay

Reaching the Finish Line

Organizing Small Spaces

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

Downsizing Action Plan

Helpful Organizer BlogOne of my most popular workshop topics is downsizing. People want help with where to start and how to progress through the difficult task of letting go. They’re looking for guidance on how to make decisions about sentimental items and all the other things that have been accumulating in their homes. They’re hoping to get rid of stuff so their children won’t have to deal with it all. Therefore, I’ve devised a 7 Step Downsizing Action Plan that I share and discuss in my workshops. Here it is.

Step 1 – Prepare
Get ready for the transition by taking a close look at your options and where you are headed. Psych yourself up to make decisions about your next home and material possessions. Share the news with everyone and ask for help from family and friends, or seek professional assistance.

Step 2 – Write it down
Plan to work 8 hours for every year you’ve lived in your current home. Schedule 2 or 3 hours at a time and work for 20 minutes followed by a 5 minute break.

Step 3 – Get started
If you have a far off deadline (more than 8 months), start by removing items that you don’t want, use, or need. These items will include things that have been stored for others, unfinished fix-it projects, old hobbies, duplicate items, surplus stuff, items of which there are excessive quantity, broken things, expired items, outdated stuff, and damaged goods.
If you have a near deadline, divide items into 6 different categories and tag them. (I use colored painter’s tape to tag items.) The 6 categories are keep, recycle, toss, donate, give or return, and sell.

Step 4 – Reduce
Set limits by taping off cabinets, closets, storage areas, and rooms in your current home that won’t be available in your new home. Work to empty those areas of their contents.

Ask “W” Questions to help you make decisions:
Who? Who will use and maintain this item? Who gave it to you and is that relevant?
What? What purpose does this item serve? What would the giver tell you to do?
Where? Where do you want to make room for this item?
When? When is this item used, appreciated, viewed, treasured? When is it maintained?
Why? Why would you need this item in our new home? Why are you holding onto it?

Step 5 – Address Sentimental Items
Consider the cost of clinging to sentimental items. It takes a lot of money to pack, move, ship, insure, store, and maintain our belongings. Concentrate on keeping the memories, but not the stuff, by preserving them with words and photos. Do this with digital scrapbooks, videos, and a gratitude journal. Instead of having them gather dust in the attic, treasure them by highlighting the best and letting go of the rest.  Re-purposing them or use them in a different way so they sever a current need or look for a way that items can bring joy to others.

Step 6 – Establish Exit Strategy
An exit strategy is physically removing stuff by giving, donating, selling, or recycling what you no longer want, need, or use.
Give options:  Ask people you know if they want what you’re discarding. Ask family, friends, neighbors, club members, church members, past co-workers, and others. Put items on the curb with a free sign. Use Freecycle or Buy Nothing.
Donation options:  Give to charities, non-profits, religious organizations, Boy/Girl Scouts, senior centers, schools, camps, day-cares, shelters, libraries, theater groups, historical societies, and food banks.
Selling options:  Look into antique dealers, auctions, estate sales, consignment shops, on-line sites, newspapers, garage sales, estate liquidation.
Removal Companies:  Consider junk trucks, dumpsters, all-in-one clean out, complete house clean out companies.

Step 7 – Thrive in Smaller Space with Less Stuff
Here are a few tips for creating and maintaining order in smaller spaces. I hope they help you enjoy your new downsized, simplified lifestyle.

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

tiny house key

Organizing Small Spaces

Helpful Organizer BlogMy house is small by today’s standards, but it’s a perfect fit for me and my husband. I love my tiny house, but organizing small spaces can be challenging. There is no room for excess and storage is limited. Little messes can appear to take over an entire room and a small amounts of clutter can seem like a mountain of clutter. So when working to facilitate and maintain order in my tiny home I rely on organizing systems and habits. Here are some tips that I use to help me organize my tiny home.

  1. Reclaim order everyday. Chart of Organizng FlowOrganizing is like laundry and dishes. It’s an ongoing cycle of order followed by natural disorder followed by the important step of reclaiming order. Schedule 15 minutes a day to reclaim order by picking up and putting things away.
  2. Be choosy and selective. Keep treasures and things you love but get rid of the rest. If everything is special, nothing is special; so keep only what’s really important to you. When you do bring things in, ask; Can this server multiple functions? Is it a duplicate of something I already have? Do I have room for it? Where will it go? It also helps to practice the one in, one out guideline.
  3. Be consistent with placement. Have a specific spot for your keys, handbag, mail, etc. and put them in that spot every time you set them down (again, and again, and again). Consistency is key. Establish a home for on-going projects and things you leave out as reminders. Don’t let items touch the floor unless that is where they belong (shoes).
  4. Have a 5 minute return-home-routine. Allow 5 minutes when returning home to organize what’s coming in. Have a do-it-now attitude.
  5. Be a decision maker. Give yourself time to decide what to do with unused, outdated, and unwanted stuff. Schedule time to edit and reduce. Weekly, monthly, seasonally, and yearly reducing prevents clutter buildup and disorganization. Get rid of duplicates and items that do similar things? Live for your current lifestyle. Remove or fix broken & damaged items immediately. Give up the fear of getting rid of something. Purge paper daily.
  6. Be a giver. If you’re not using it, or you don’t want, or need it, ask yourself, “Why not let someone else benefit from it?”. A giving person is greatly appreciated by charities, the less fortunate, and the needy. Establish and use a donation bin.
  7. Be creative with storage & utilize space wisely. Make full use of the space you have. Use furniture that has multiple functions like a small dresser for a night stand or end table, an ottoman that has built-in-storage, a bench at the end of the bed with built-in-storage that can be used as a chair. Use under the bed storage, organizers that attache to the back of a door door pocket organizerand cupboard. Make adjustments to cabinets to create more functional spaces. Customize closet with shelves and product that help you maximize it’s storing potential. Store like with like to keep track of how much you have.

I hope these tips will help you organize your small spaces or tiny home.

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