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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 the 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

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

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