Experiment Living with Less

We are all consumers. We live in a society that values possessions. Our world economy relies on us spending our money on stuff. But does that stuff accumulate too fast and take on a life of its own? Do we end up with too much? Does the volume of things make organizing them stressful and difficult? Are you looking for way to get off the hamster wheel?

Experiment living with less. There are several ways we can accomplish this. Here are a few experiments to try.

  • Pack up half of your pots and pans. Date the box and put it in the basement for 3 months. Document how many times you retrieve something from it. Consider donating what doesn’t get retrieved. If you like this experiment do it with linens, toiletries, and kitchen gadgets.
  • Pack up all your CDs and DVDs and seal the box. Only take one out of the box when you really want to listen to it or watch it. After 6 months see how many are still in the box and decide whether you’d like to keep them. If you like this experiment do it with clothes, books, and serving dishes.
  • Establish a maximum number for certain possessions and reduce down to that number. You can find examples of a few numbers I suggest at Organizing with a Maximum Number. If you like this experiment do it with shoes, food storage containers, and coffee mugs.
  • Set up a temporary shopping ban for one month, or longer. Only purchase the absolute essentials, food, toilet paper, medications and the like. Keep a list of all the things you wanted to buy and the items that tempted you. At the end of the month share with me your insights.
  • Play the Minimalist Game. It’s interesting and challenging. When I played with my husband, we learned a lot about our relationship to stuff.stuff to donate

The less we have the less we have to organize and maintain. Try one or more of the experiments listed above and see what results you get. You may be pleasantly surprised and more organized.

©July 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer,  All Rights Reserved

Do you own stagnant things?

Stagnant means lifeless, inactive. Do you have stagnant things in your home? Do you have things that have outlived their usefulness? I think we all do. The longer we live in our spaces the more comfortable we get with our surroundings. It becomes easy to ignore papers that don’t require action, gadgets we tried once, and random things that have become part of our decor.  After a while we don’t see these things any longer. They morph into the background of our homes.

After attending a conference session on Feng Shui I decided to get rid of stagnant things in my home. I’ll list 10 stagnant things I removed my home to help you get motivated to do the same.

  1. An old cardboard display that I had used for a few business presentation more than 5 years ago was recycled with my weekly town recycle.
  2. An open, partially used bottle of carbon, that is used in fish tank filters, was given away by listing it on FreeCycle.
  3. A bag of craft supplies that I hadn’t used in more than 5 years was passed along to other creative people I know.
  4. Unused food in my pantry was donated to my local food bank and Operation Shoebox.
  5. Gardening gloves that I wore only once because they turned my hands orange were tossed.
  6. Our ice maker broke 2 years ago. So I finally donated (to Savers) the scoop we had used for that purpose, but hadn’t used since.
  7. Old makeup was tossed. I haven’t worn make up in years.
  8. A soup ladle that came with a soup delivery when I was sick, but never used, was donated to Savers.
  9. Two spare, never been used, hand-me-down light timers were donated to Habitat for Humanities ReStore.
  10. An open container of Armor All wipes that were given to me a year ago, finally got used up.

These 10 stagnant things may not seem like much, but they have a way of piling up and cluttering our homes. I encourage you to take a good look at your home and reevaluate what’s in your space. If you find stagnant things, get rid of them. You’ll improve the energy of your home (Feng Shui) which will have a positive impact on you.

©June 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Portable safe

What papers need to be kept?

Going paperless sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately, there will always be some papers we need to keep. These papers are often referred to as vital documents. I recommend keeping only one of them, the most recent copy and keeping it in a safe spot. I use a portable fireproof lock box for my important documents.

  • birth certificate
  • marriage license
  • social security card
  • military discharge recordspassport
  • driver’s license copy
  • car registration
  • car ownership documents
  • medical insurance identification card and policy
  • homeowners insurance policy
  • auto insurance policy
  • life insurance policy
  • bank checking account number & routing number
  • bank saving account numbers
  • investment records
  • deeds, titles and licenses
  • family historical information
  • critical addresses and mailing lists
  • tax returns
  • business records required to survive or rebuild
  • will and estate planning documents
  • passport

If you have questions about papers that are not listed above please refer to my blog article titled Paper: what to keep and for how long. If you’d like more guidance, below are some questions you can ask to help you determine what’s worth holding on to.

What is the specific need and use of this paper?
Is this current and up-to-date information?
Did I request this information?
Will this paper help me complete a project I’m working on now?
Are there tax, legal, or insurance reasons to keep this paper?
Is this information important and referred to often?
When have I needed to reference this type of information? How often?
How easily can this information be obtained elsewhere or again if needed?
Will this information be outdated by the time I need it?
What is the worst that will happen if I throw this paper away?
Is doubt and indecision the only reason for keeping this paper?

Paper management can be challenging, but the more often you make decisions the better off  you’ll be.

©May 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®   All rights reserved

3 Reasons Why Containers are Important

Containers are very helpful organizing tools. They come in lots of different shapes and sizes.  A container can be a bin, basket, box, binder, shelf, drawer, tub, tray, rack, jar or bag. When organizing containers serve three basic purposes.

Containers help us hold like things.

File cabinet drawerHow many junk drawers do you have, and what’s inside them? Junk drawers are usually stuffed with a jumbled mess of random things, hence the name. Therefore, my recommendation is two small junk drawers per household, but that’s it. The rest of our drawers, and all the other containers in our home, need to be filled with items that belong together. For example, store all your tools in a tool box. Hold all your mending things in a sewing basket. Corral all your books on a bookcase. Put all your files in a file cabinet.  It’s easier to find things that way and easier to remember where they are. Items that belong together need to be stored together. Other examples of ready-made containers are tie rack, jewelry box, magazine rack, hamper, fishing tackle box, golf bag, shoe rack, toy box, knitting bag, and pot rack. I can list a bunch more, but I think you get the idea.

Containers help us create storage boundaries.

cosmetics organizedContainers create boundaries where there are none. They help us corral small items such as makeup, jewelry, crafts, snacks, and toiletries. Containers help divide drawers into sections. Which is great for organizing our junk drawers, by the way. Some examples are expandable cutlery trays, utensil trays,  jewelry organizers, craft bead bins, and sock organizers. Another way to create storage boundaries where we don’t have any is to use tape, paint or permanent marker. Create pie sections on our lazy Susan’s and label them as granola bars, cereal, oatmeal, etc. Create parking spaces for bikes in the garage by taping off sections and putting names on them. Tape off labeled sections on the floor of a coat closet for shoes and boots. Use the container to help create and maintain storage boundaries.

Containers provide storage guidelines.

photo albums on shelfThe container helps us see when we have enough. They give us a visual indication of when we have reached the container’s maximum capacity. Therefore reducing our chances of over-stuffing. However it’s important to stay within the limits of the container. If we allow items to spill out and create piles of stuff outside the container, we’re not following the storage guidelines. Once this happens we’re tempted to purchase another container and not use our existing container as a guide, but it’s much easier to maintain order when we don’t over-stuff. Practice the one-in-one-out rule when faced with the need to stay within the container limits.

©April 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO  All Rights Reserved

Maximize storage

How to Get More Storage

Adequate, functional storage is something we all want in our homes. However, it can be difficult to obtain. We often have to work with the less than adequate spaces we currently have. So, what is the best way to maximize storage space in our closets, cupboards, basements, and attics?

storage binsReduce what we’re attempting to store. We often fall pry to the idea that we already own it, so we need to hold onto it. I encourage you to question that idea. Think about the current usefulness of the things you’re storing and holding onto, and take the Keep Quiz. Eliminating what is no longer useful will free up valuable storage space. We can reduce in other ways also. For example, limit excess, surplus, and impractical quantities of things. Reduce collections by keeping only your favorites. Reduce seasonal decorations and opt for live plants, wreaths or floral decorations.  Go electronic and keep less paper.

Make full use of the space we have. Small adjustments can greatly improve our existing storage spaces. For example, in a closet, add hooks, shelves, and stack-able shoe bins. Take advantage of vertical space by using tall furniture pieces or by stacking short pieces. Use over the door organizers on cabinet, closet, and bathroom doors. Fill air space and kick space. Maximize storing potential by customizing closets, shelving units, and furniture.

 

Favor versatility. Have items that can do more than one thing instead of several single-use items. Avoid items with one very specific purpose like a bread machine. Instead get a mixer that has a bread kneader attachment. The same applies to furniture. Use furniture that has multiple functions and built-in-storage, like an ottoman with storage and a nightstand with a few drawers.

 

Shopping in bulk storesQuestion what we bring in? When bringing things in ask gatekeeper questions. Take a moment to consider what’s coming in and where it will go. How much storage space will be needed? Is it possible to rent or borrow equipment or tools instead of buying them? Buying in bulk can be a big money saver, but do you have the space to store large quantities? If not ask a friend or neighbor to go in on the purchase with you and split the goods.

Remember the less we have the less we have to organize, maintain and store.

©March 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®  All rights reserved.