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

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

3D Character and question mark

Keep or Not Keep

Helpful Organizer BlogIf you had to guess the dollar amount of new, unopened items in your home, what would you guess? Don’t count food or paper goods. Count surplus items, unopened gifts, new clothing that hasn’t been worn, backup items, unopened craft items, new shoes that haven’t been worn, unopened tech toys, new books that haven’t been read, and any other such items. What would your guess be?

It’s estimated that the dollar amount of new, unopened items in the average American household is $7000.00. Do you believe it? I didn’t until I started counting. So, start counting? What do you come up with? Please share.

There are many reasons we purchase things that we don’t end up using, just like there are many things we hold on to for no valid reason. Making decisions on what to keep or not to keep can be challenging. Are you having trouble making decisions? Is it a struggle for you to get rid of things? I’ve devised a Keep Quiz that will help.  Here are the instructions. Ask yourself the following ten questions. Please answer them honestly, and then follow the rest of the instructions.

  1. Is it practical and will definitely be used?
  2. Does it hold value and significance to me?
  3. Does it fit my lifestyle and is exactly my taste?
  4. Would it be very expensive and time consuming to replace?
  5. Is it a genuine treasure and irreplaceable?
  6. Does it help me live the life I want to live?
  7. Is it one-of-a-kind and unique?
  8. Was it hand-made just for me?
  9. Does it hold tremendous personal value to me?
  10. Does it bring me joy?

If you answer yes to 6 or more of the questions, yeah for you. It’s a keeper. If you answered yes to only 1 or 2 questions, it’s time to let it go. If you answered yes to 3-5 of the questions, give yourself 3 months to use the item. Put a sticky note on the item with the use-by-date. If, in 3 months, it hasn’t been used, let it go. However, if the item is meant for display, put it in a prominent place for 3 months. At the end of 3 months take the Keep Quiz again and see if you get different numbers.

How did you do on the Keep Quiz? Did it prompt you to take some action? I hope so. Please share.

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

Janine with donation box

Determine, Decide, Dispose

Helpful Organizer Blog

How easy is it for you to get rid of stuff? Deciding what is worth keeping and what needs to go, can be difficult. I follow a three step confirming process. These three steps help me confirm what I have, and decide what I need, use, and want. The first step is to determine what I have. The second step is to decide what stays and what goes. The third step is to dispose of stuff. Let me explain how this confirming process works.




The first step is to determine what I have. This means gathering and assessing. I pick a small group of items to work with at a time. Instead of working with all my clothes, I work with just my spring wardrobe. Another example is instead of working with all my books, I only work with my organizing books. This helps reduce the time needed to complete the process, and helps prevent procrastination. Once I’ve chosen which category I want to work with, I gather the items into one location and assess them.

The second step is to decide what stays and what goes. I find it helpful to have criteria for what items stay and what items go. I call them my confirming guidelines, and they help me make decisions.

Examples of confirming guidelines:
1. It has to go if it’s broken, damaged, or missing parts, and you’re not going to fix it or pay to have it fixed within 3 months.
2. It has to go if it hasn’t been used in the past 3 years and won’t be used in the next 3 years.
3. It has to go if it is more than one size too big or too small.
4. It has to go if it’s torn, stained, or moldy, and you’re not going to fix it or pay to have it fixed within 3 months.
5. It has to go if it doesn’t reflect your current lifestyle. (Use 3 year timeline.)
6. It has to go if it’s very similar or identical to another item. Keep three favorites and the rest have to go.
7. It has to go if you’ve already purchased a replacement for it.
8. It has to go if it’s something you don’t like, or something that never worked right or fit right.
9. It has to go if the reason you’re holding onto it is not a good, valid reason. (See blog articles)
10. It has to go if it brings negative thoughts or causes self doubt.

The third step is to dispose of the stuff. It helps to schedule a day for removal, whether it is donations, items to be recycled or items to be given away. Voila! Confirming process complete.

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

paper clutter

Get Rid of Stuff

Helpful Organizer BlogIt’s hard to get rid of stuff. I know. Holding onto stuff is much easier. I know. Gift bags and tissue paper that I’ve received, I’m holding onto because I intend to reuse them. The same applies to the vases from flowers I’ve received. Shopping bags and take out containers have multiplied in my cupboard. Boxes from recent purchases take up valuable space in my closet. Coupons and receipts fill a pocket in my purse. Face creams, lotions, and scrubs that have been rejected, sit in my bathroom cabinet. I’m not even going to mention greeting cards, instruction manuals, catalogues, adapters, or outdated phones and other devices.

Can you relate? Do you have similar items or even bigger items? Unfortunately, stuff accumulates unless we get rid of it. We have to make a conscious effort to remove stuff from our homes, otherwise piles grow and clutter happens. One successful way I’ve found to combat the piles and clutter is to remove more than you bring in, at least one day a week. If you can do two days a week, that’s even better.

You may be asking yourself, what does that look like? Let me share with you how I removed more than I brought in for a day. Here is a list of items that I brought into my house one day last week:

  • prescription with receipt and coupons printed on the receipt
  • 5 pieces of mail
  • one purchase with credit card slip
  • donation receipt

Here is a list of stuff I got rid of that same day:

  • everyday trash
  • everyday recycling
  • returned book to library
  • gave 3 lists of resources to a friend
  • took old TV to dump
  • dropped off 4 pairs of shoes for donation
  • dropped off 5 items of electronic recycling

I brought in a total of 11 items and got rid of a total of 16 items. I must admit, I had the urge to clean out the donations and recycling that had been collecting in my garage, and that’s what made this a successful “get rid of stuff” day. The key is to have at least one “get rid of stuff” day a week. Be consistent. That is what will help combat the piles and clutter.

Another successful way to prevent accumulation is to not bring anything in. Have at least one day a week where nothing comes in. I’m not saying leave things in the garage for a day or hid them for a day. I’m saying make a conscious effort to make no purchases and allow nothing new to enter your home for a day. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?

©November 2016  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All Rights Reserved