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20 Projects You Can Do in 20 Minutes

Have any summer projects?

My husband is a teacher and always takes on summer projects. Well, if you ask him, I’m sure he’d say I provide him with a list of summer ‘honey do’ projects. If I’m being honest, I’ll admit, he’s right. I think summer is a great time to work on projects especially if you have more free-time on your hands.

20 Projects You Can Do in 20 Minutes

Set the timer for 20 minutes and get busy!

Devoting 20 minutes to any one of the projects on this list will help you create more order in your life.

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®

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

book case

Why We Hold Onto Things?

Helpful Organizer BlogA common discussion I have with  my clients when we’re working together is why they are holding onto something. The more information I can gather about the item in question the easier it is for me to understand “the WHY”. What I’ve discovered over the past 10 years in assisting my clients is that although there are several reasons we hold onto things, those reasons fall into one of three basic categories, the past, the future, or both.

We hold onto things from the past, because they were significant and important to us in our past. They help us remember and honor a past event or memory. Some examples may be a bride’s maid dress that was worn at a friend’s wedding, paper products from a child’s birthday party, or Dad’s wood carving tools.

We hold onto things for the future, because we think they will be significant or important to us in our future or the future of someone close to us. Some examples may be furniture our children will use in college, papers that have resources we think we’ll need in the future, or dishes our children will use in their first apartment.

A combination of the two is when we hold onto things from the past for the future. For example I have two cool swivel chairs in my living room that were originally in my grandparent’s front parlor. They were saved and used by other family members before I inherited them, and I plan on passing them along to another family member in the future. Another example is my old photographs and scrapbooks. I enjoy sharing them and reminiscing about past events, holidays, and special occasions. It also makes me smile to think that they will bring joy when shared in the future.

As you may be able to tell, things that have an impact on both the past and the future, are usually the most sentimental items, and thus the one’s we cling to. If this is what my client and I discover in our conversation about an item, then it’s usually a keeper. Otherwise we discuss some qualifying questions to determine whether it’s worth holding onto.

  • How much joy and happiness does it bring you?
  • What amount of regret or disappointment would you feel if you let it go?
  • How would you feel about keeping part of it or a token amount?
  • Who values and treasures this and in what way?
  • Where does it reside – on prominent display or hidden away?
  • When is it used, shared, and enjoyed?
  • Why do you want to keep it?

Whether it’s a keeper or not, answering the above questions help establish some objectivity to the sentimental attachment we me feel about our things.

Want more help letting go? Here are three blogs that offer more assistance.

  1. Clutter Excuses
  2. Keep quiz
  3. More Clutter Excuses

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