finish line

Reaching the Finish Line

Helpful Organizer BlogDuring my class on Conquering Clutter With Confidence we discuss reaching the finish line. In order to do this, we first discuss what it means to reach the finish line. It means doing things from start to finish, and knowing when that finish line has been crossed. For example, in my house, the finish line has been crossed, while doing dishes, when there are no dirty dishes left unwashed, and the sink and counters have been wiped clean. In your family, when is the finish line crossed while doing dishes? What about the laundry? When is it reached with new purchases or gifts that have been received? Where does the receipt go, and what do you do with the box? What happens to the gift bag, tag, and tissue paper? Establishing when the finish line has been crossed will help reduce clutter.finish

Reaching the finish line also means completing the organizing process and reclaiming order. Putting things away and picking up after ourselves are important parts of reaching the finish line. It is what helps us maintain order, and is best accomplished with practice. For example, upon returning home after being out, I spend time putting things away. My keys and coat go on their hooks, my shoes go on the mat, and my pocketbook goes on the desk. Practicing reaching the finish line with this daily organizing routine helps me maintain order. Other daily organizing routines that can benefit from practice are dressing for the day, processing the mail, undressing at night, project clean up, and picking up toys.

In your home, do you want to reduce clutter and maintain order? You can by reaching the finish line. What finish line is waiting for you to cross it? Will you know when you’ve crossed it? Also, take a closer look at your daily organizing routines. Can you improve them with practice? If you think you’d be more successful with a little help from me, please ask.


©December 2017  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

clutter in basement

Where Does Clutter Come From?

Helpful Organizer BlogWhat does clutter look like to you? Is it piles of mail on the counter? Maybe it’s stacks of papers on the desk? Could it be that every drawer is a junk drawer? Perhaps it’s the layers of stuff that are hiding the dinning room table? Or maybe, it’s the garage that cars can’t fit into? Although clutter looks different for everyone, it is usually a result of two things, indecision and inaction.

Clutter, as indecision, looks like this:  We bring the mail in on Monday, and can’t decide what to do with something. So we put it to the side to decide on later. On Tuesday, the same things happens, and then the same thing happens on Wednesday. It keeps happening until there is a mountain of mail that we don’t know what to do with.paper clutter

Clutter, as indecision, also looks like this:  We just received a new coffee maker as a gift. The old one is still good, so we put it in the basement for now, with the intention of making a decision on it later. Next thing we know, 5 years has gone by and the coffee maker is still in the basement along with a bunch of other stuff that is waiting to be decided upon.

Clutter, as inaction, looks like this:  When getting dressed in the morning the zipper breaks on the pants we want to wear. No time to deal with them now, so they get tossed on the bench at the end of the bed. At then end of the long day, we undress. To tired to deal with the dirty clothes, so they get tossed on the bench. Before we know it there is a pile of clothes on the bench.

Clutter, as inaction, also looks like this:  We bring home the groceries, but we’re having trouble fitting them into the pantry, because it is already stuffed with food. We know some of that food may be old, outdated, or expired, but we haven’t taken the time to weed it out. So the new groceries gets left out on the counter or kitchen floor.

clock for organizingNo matter what clutter looks like for you, one of the best ways to combat it is to schedule time to make decisions and take action. However, making decisions and taking action requires discipline, brain power, physical stamina, and emotional effort. That is why it’s best to devote some time daily to dealing with clutter. Instead of trying to squeeze it in, schedule time to attack it.

Another way to combat clutter is to continually weed out what we don’t want, need, or use so that it doesn’t get in the way of what is useful and important. A helpful way to do this is to have an exit strategy for the items we’re getting rid of. There are many places to donate, recycle, or re-purpose. If you need some suggestions, please ask me.


©November 2017  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®   All Rights Reserved

storage units

Storage Units – Good or Bad Solution

Helpful Organizer BlogWould you consider your home to be an average American home? Do you think you have just as much stuff as your neighbors? Do you rent any storage units? Would you believe that there are 300,000 items in the average American home? (Becoming Minimalist) That’s a large number of possessions to have, store, maintain, and organize.

Where are people keeping all their stuff? Two of the most common options are in their own homes, or in a rented, off-site storage facility. Actually, the average American home has converted 3 or more spaces into make-shift storage units. (SpareFoot) On the other hand, the self storage industry is a booming business, reaching an annual revenue of 22 billion dollars in 2016. (Statistic Brain Research Institute)$22billion According to an LA Times article, there are 51,000 storage facilities in America, which is more than four times the number of McDonald’s.

Before considering another option, let’s ask the question, “Are storage units a good or bad solution?” Do they just allow us to acquire and hold onto more stuff, or do they serve a helpful role in storing our belongings ? In my opinion, I think there are two legitimate reasons for using storage units.

  • Storage units are a good idea when they help us through transitions in life. Some of those transitions may be when we’re selling a house, moving long distance, or cleaning out an estate.
  • Storage units are a good idea when they are used as temporary holding place for belongings. Some situations when a temporary holding place is needed may be when we’re dealing with a flooded basement, undergoing home renovations, or making decisions on inherited belongings.

Unfortunately, most storage units start off as temporary but become long-term. So, is there another option? I think there is. Live with less stuff. It’s estimated that we use 20% of what we own, 80% of the time (Pareto Principle). That leaves plenty of room for editing and reducing. I know it can be difficult to make decisions on what to keep or not keep, so here are some helpful suggestions:Live with less = less stress



©October 2017  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All Rights Reserved



When is Enough?

Helpful Organizer BlogHave you ever ask yourself, “When do I have enough?” Is enough when every drawer and cupboard in our homes are stuffed to the max? Is enough when we can’t possible fit another thing in our closets? Is enough when we can’t see the walls in the kid’s playroom because the toys are stacked to the ceiling? It’s an interesting question, and I know the answer is different for everyone.

So, I challenge you to go through your personal possessions, and the rooms in your home, and ask yourself, “Do I have enough?” Open your closet and ask yourself, “Do I have enough shoes? Handbags?” Pull out your kitchen drawer and ask yourself, “Do I have enough gadgets?” Look at your bookcase and ask yourself, “Do I have enough books?” Open your desk drawer and ask yourself, “Do I have enough technology? Office supplies?” What answers did you come up with?

Deciding when you have enough maybe something new to you. It may be something you’ve never really thought of before. If that is the case here are a few guidelines that can help you.books

  1. Use containers as your guide. For example allow yourself one bin of handbags. When the bin is full, and you can still close it, you have enough handbags. This guide can also be used for toys, DVDs, decorations, games, and craft supplies.
  2. Pick a maximum number and use that as your guide. So, pick a number that will signify when you have enough of something, and only keep that number. For example keep only 2 sets of towels per person. This guide can also be used for bed sheets, coffee mugs, eye glasses, water bottles, and umbrellas.
  3. Use organizing products as your guide. For example allow yourself one shoe rack. When the shoe rack is full, you have enough shoes. This guide can also be used for books, tools, jewelry, cosmetics, and kitchen utensils.
  4. Use a date as your guide by creating your own expiration date. For example give yourself 3 months to use a recipe by putting an expiration date on the recipes when it’s received or printed. This guide can also be used for magazines, unmatched socks, catalogues, and things waiting to be repaired.

Setting up guidelines will help you know when you have enough, but what then? What do you do with the extra and surplus? I practice the one in, one out rule. This means if something new pushes me beyond the “enough” mark, something old has to go. For example if I get a new pair of shoes, then an old pair has to be donated. This also helps when I’m shopping, because now I’ve gotten in the habit of asking myself, “If I buy this, what will I let go?” This  requires time and practice, I know, but I’d like to hear your progress on finding your ENOUGH.

Another helpful organizing tip can be read in my blog about exit strategies.

©September 2017  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Pocketbook Editing

Organizing tipHow often do you go through your pocketbook and get rid of all that can be tossed? Do you wait until you find yourself sifting through a crumpled mess of old receipts and candy wrappers? Do you hold off until your arm gets sore from hefting all that loose change that’s fallen to the bottom of your bag? Or, do you simply switch your wallet and cell phone to a different pocketbook when the mess gets too cumbersome to deal with?

What about the kid’s backpacks? How often do you sort through those? What about the fridge, medicine cabinet, or pantry? What about your closet, dresser, or nightstand? I’m not going to mention mail, files, coupons, recipes, or other paper. That’s a whole new topic.

Taking time to sort through and get rid of stuff helps us stay organized. By editing the contents of our pocketbooks (and all those other areas mentioned or not mentioned) we perform an important step in the organizing process, the discard and remove step. By removing what is not wanted, needed, or used, we’re able to spend less time searching for stuff. We’re also able to easily notice when something needs to be replaced, mended, or renewed.

One important factor to consider is the frequency in which we edit. If it takes a week for those receipts to become a crumpled mess, then weekly edits need to take place. If not the mess becomes very frustrating. To help reduce our stress with a disorganized, overstuffed pocketbook (or other area) timely edits are necessary. What would you consider timely? Once a week? Every other week? Once a month?

Whatever time frame you use, consistency in editing is another important factor. Creating the habit of going through your pocketbook every week (or whatever time frame you use) helps you stay organized. It also helps reduce your stress and frustration, and helps your ability to find what you want when you need it. Worthwhile benefits. Wouldn’t you agree?

©July 2017  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved