The Challenges of Downsizing Homes: How to decide what to keep, sell, or donate

There often comes a point in ones life where they decide downsizing is a good option. Maybe you are looking to reduce cost of living or maybe you just don’t have use for all of the extra rooms anymore. Either way, the process can sometimes be difficult, as reviewing and deliberating on what to keep and what to get rid of can be emotional. These are belongings you’ve likely had more many years and letting go of them forever is not easy. We’ve helped clients with this process in the past and have found a few general guidelines to be helpful:

1) Give Yourself Time: The process of downsizing, if possible, should be done over the course of several months. Once you decide a move is possible, begin to slowly start reviewing your belongings room by room. Do a little each day or a couple of rooms each weekend until you have made it through the lot. If it helps, use small post-it notes to designate keep, sell, donate or trash.

2) Work with a Friend or Professional: Having a friend or a professional organizer assist in the process can be great. They are able to offer neutral viewpoints on whether to keep certain items, ask questions that will help guide you to make decisions, and organize the process in an efficient manner (if working with a professional).

3) Sell vs. Donate: This is a common question. While selling all of the belongings can result in extra money, it can also be a great deal of work. When deciding if the investment in time is worth it consider the following questions. If your answers to these questions are mostly yes, it may make sense for you to organize an estate sale, a garage sale, or sell the items via Craigslist. If not, donation is likely your best option.

  1. Are the items valuable?
  2. Are the items estate sale quality?
  3. Are the items in good to excellent condition?
  4. Are the items useful today? (i.e. selling a VCR probably isn’t worth the effort, but a recently purchased iPhone might be)
  5. Are the items unique or potentially collectables?

4) Think Rationally, Not Emotionally: When reviewing items in your home, attempt to think about each item in a rational way. In addition to remembering the emotional connection you have with the item, also evaluate it’s frequency of use. While it may be something you liked years ago, if it hasn’t been touched since then, it probably isn’t going to be missed if you let it go.

Good luck in your downsizing!

TWOW

Common Questions (and Answers) for a Professional Organizer

When organizing people’s homes we often answer the same questions again and again. While our answers occasionally change based on the situation, we’ve also come up with general strategies and concepts that seem to ring true for most.

1) Should I keep all of the sizes I fluctuate between? This is a common problem. We find that many individuals with overflowing closets are often holding on to wardrobes in several sizes because of frequent weight changes. What we always tell people is that it’s easier to fluctuate between sizes when you have the next size up available to you. If your jeans were getting a bit tight and you had no larger size available, you might be more conscious of eating healthy and working out to make the current jeans fit again.

2) What do I do with the stuff I’m storing for family/friends? The first question to ask is how long have you been storing the items. Next ask yourself if there was a time limit placed on providing the storage and when the last time the owner mentioned the items. If you’ve had clothing from a relative for several years, chances are they don’t need it anymore and would be fine giving it away. If they truly want the items give them a deadline by which to move them and stand by it. Just remember, this is your home, not a storage unit.

3) How do I maintain the organization? This is the most difficult part of organizing for most people. They love the idea of getting organized, but struggle to maintain it after we’ve left. To assist in keeping your home tidy and organized, commit to a daily routine of putting things back where they belong. Each night, before you go to bed walk around the home and conduct a mini-reset. This will help keep things from getting out of control. Labels are also a great idea to ensure things go back to their rightful homes.

4) What papers do I keep and what can be tossed? In general, if you can find a copy of the document somewhere online, shred, recycle or trash the hard copy. For documents that are currently being used, maintain a inbox/outbox system that is reviewed each week for expired/unnecessary items. To determine what documents need to be stored long-term or for tax purposes, review Suze Orman’s Financial Clutter, What to Keep List.

5)  Am I a Hoarder? It is common for individuals using a professional organizer to feel like perhaps they are a Hoarder. The reality is that the amount of collecting or acquisition that it takes to become a Hoarder is significant and most people do not fit the clinical definition. That being said, there are many people with hoarding tendencies. If any of the following statements are true, you may benefit more from a mental health professional, than an organizer.

  • You acquire belongings to fulfill an emotional need
  • You hold onto excessive amounts of items with little or no value (i.e. newspapers, old magazines, trash, etc.)
  • Your belongings have taken over the space you require to live comfortably in your home
  • You are extremely reluctant to part with any belongings, no matter their frequency of use, value, or usefulness
  • The collecting of items has otherwise impaired your life or health

What are some of the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a professional organizer?

TWOW

Time Management: 7 Tricks from the Pros

Time management professionals and gurus each have their own set of strategies and techniques that they recommend. We’ve found that some work better for us at WOW and we’re sharing them with you today.

1. Prioritize: A common problem people face is knowing what’s important and what’s not. When creating your to-do list utilize the time management matrix to the right to determine which items are urgent and important and which can be de-prioritized to the bottom of the list.

2. Do Quick Things Immediately: If you have several tasks on your to-do list that each take 5 minutes, get them all done immediately. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment getting them off of your plate and then you can move on to the larger items.

3. Dedicated Time: If you have a project that needs a significant amount of time and attention, dedicate a specific hour (or 3) to focus on it’s completion. Turn off distractions and commit to it’s completion during this time frame.

4. Time Inventory: If you find chunks of your day frequently going missing, take a few days to note and inventory where your time is being spent, down to the minute. Following the inventory process, evaluate what areas could be used more efficiently and make the necessary changes.

5. Calendar with Buffers: If you are often late, consider building in travel time to your calendar. For example, if an appointment is from 3-4pm and it takes 20 minutes to get there, schedule the appointment on your calendar from 2:40pm-4:20pm. This way you won’t over-extend yourself before or after the obligation.

5. Block-Off Email Time: Email is one of the biggest time-consumers of our day. Instead of checking emails as they come in, schedule specific times during the day to review and respond to emails. And remember, being the person who responds immediately to emails doesn’t always mean you are the most productive.

6. Eliminate the Unnecessary: Sometimes companies and individuals schedule meetings out of routine and not necessarily out of need. Review the meetings, calls, and regular appointments in your life and decide what is adding value. If the meeting is mandatory yet adds little value to your day, consider discussing how to improve or eliminate it with your management.

7. Focus, Focus, Focus: Many people have multiple roles (entrepreneur, employee, mother, wife, etc.) that each have different responsibilities. While multi-tasking can sometimes be effective, most of the time it hurts the overall output quality in one or more areas. Instead of juggling multiple roles, commit to focusing on just one role at a time, as much as possible.

What is your favorite time management trick?

TWOW

Living with Less: How to Regulate the Amount of ‘Stuff’ in Your Home

One of the main ways we become overwhelmed with disorganization is by accumulating more ‘stuff’ than our spaces can accomodate. Over time, even the most conscious consumer can find themselves in excess if they do not take steps to regulate the inflow and outflow of things. In order to assist our readers in managing their personal collections we’ve put together a few rules for regulating the amount of ‘stuff’ in our lives.

1)  Know What You Have: If you are planning a shopping trip to the grocery store or the mall, before you leave, take an inventory of what you have and what you need. This will help you to avoid buying duplicates.

2) No Spend Commitments: Often times, homes will have packed pantries and freezers and still continue to bring in more food each week. Committing to one week of eating only the items in your home will help you eat down the current stock and save you money. This process is great for using food items that may be expiring in the coming months.

3) Borrow & Share: If you just need the use of something once or twice, consider borrowing the item from a friend or family member instead of purchasing it. This trick works great for specialty cookware (i.e. pasta maker), tools, special occasion clothing, and sports equipment.

4) Don’t Be Afraid to Return: One common issue we see in homes with disorganization problems is that they have a lot of never-used items that are in someway wrong. Instead of keeping those items indefinitely, make an effort to return them asap. To help you do this, immediately place the return item in your car with the receipt once you decide it is not needed.

5) One in, One Out: The one in, one out strategy is fantastic for maintaining the right amount of things for your space. The way it works is before you bring something new into your home, you must first let go of something else. By employing this method you’ll be encouraged to eliminate the things you don’t need and also monitor the incoming items.

6) Scheduled Purging: It’s easy to get distracted and push organizing projects to the bottom of our to-do lists, but if you commit to a regular purge you’ll begin to develop a more clutter-free existence. We recommend setting aside a Saturday once per quarter to complete a full-home round up of all un-used, broken, and unnecessary items.

Good Luck!

TWOW

9 Things to Review & Do in 2013

A New Year means that certain items in your life may require attention. We’ve put together a list of the most common tasks to complete or review as soon as possible.

1) Prescriptions: Review prescriptions and toss any that have expired. Make note of the ones that are in need of refill and contact your doctor to process the order before it becomes urgent.

2) Documents: Take a look at your passport, driver’s license and any other documents that expire to determine if they require a renewal in 2013.

3) Annual Appointments: Schedule annual appointments for doctors, dentists, optometrists, and accountants.

4) Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Change the batteries on the detectors and mark on the calendar when the next change will occur.

5) Pantry & Fridge Contents: Review the food in your pantry and fridge for expired goods. Purge anything that’s expired and make note of the items that have upcoming expirations so that you can use them soon.

6) Filters: Change the filters in your HVAC unit and mark on your calendar the next swap out date.

7) Credit Report: Get a free annual copy of your credit report and review the past year’s changes.

8) Policies: Review any policies that may require updates or renewal in the new year, such as insurance and product warranties.

9) Taxes: Take a look at your income tax withholding from last year and determine if your personal situation has changed in a way that affects your number (i.e. marriage, divorce, children, etc.)

Good luck!

TWOW

5 Steps to Help You Actually Start & Complete that Project

We all have projects and tasks that we’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Those items at the bottom of our to-do lists that for one reason or another we’ve procrastinated getting done. Perhaps it’s an organizing project or maybe it’s finally getting to that filing from last year. No matter the task, we’ve outlined some basic steps to help get you started.

1) Review the Project: Although you may have a general idea of what needs to be done, it helps to get a fresh look at the scope of the project. Determine how long it will take, what you need to complete it, and how you will work.

2) Make a Plan: Once you have a basic idea of what needs to be done, it helps to have a specific agenda or outline of how you will work. For example, if the project is to organize your filing cabinets, decide ahead of time, how many years of documents you will keep, what types of docs will be trashed vs. kept vs. shredded, and if you will need input from others during the process.

3)  Schedule the Time: Putting an allotment of time on the calendar is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure completion of a project. If the task will require several chunks of time, schedule the entire process. Don’t forget to leave yourself enough time before and after to keep distractions from creeping in.

4) Gather What You Need: Before you start the project, gather the necessary tools, supplies, and information. This will keep you from using the excuse of not having what you need to put the project on hold mid-process.

5) Focus on Completion: Once you finally get into the actual work, commit to seeing it through to the end, or the pre-determined stopping point. It’s easy to get distracted or frustrated with things, but if you mentally commit to a goal you’ll find it easier to see it through. We also find that a timer set in brief, but effective time intervals can help.

We hope this 5 step process helps to inspire you to get some of those bigger projects started this year. As always, if you need a little extra help, The Well-Organized Woman is happy to assist.

TWOW

5 Ways to Make Your New Years Resolution Stick

Over 60% of Americans that make New Years resolutions will keep them through January. After that, the number continues to decline as the months go by. There are many reasons as to why so many resolutions are not maintained, but there are ways in which to improve your chances of achieving the goal.

1) Make it Positive: Resolutions that involve denying yourself something, such as diets, can be difficult. Instead, make the goal something positive, such as attending a fitness class 3 times per week for the year. This type of resolution can help you obtain the ultimate goal of weight-loss, but it will seem less restrictive in the process.

2) Be Specific: The most essential part of developing a goal is to outline in specifics what the goal is and how you will achieve it. For example, if your resolution is to read more, perhaps you could make a goal to complete one book every two weeks, at minimum. Create a calendar and keep yourself accountable to noting when the next reading deadline is and you’ll have greater chances of finishing the goal. 

3) Reinforce Yourself: If you’re working towards a goal, it helps to have reinforcement to encourage you. This can come in many forms, such as positive support from friends or family or perhaps a reward of a shopping spree after a benchmark has been met. When setting your goal timeline, add in benchmarks of when you will receive said reward and you’ll have something to look forward to while you are working.

4) Automate: The best way to achieve a goal is to remove yourself as the active participant. For instance, if your goal is to save more money this year, set up at automatic savings transfer to your savings account each payday. Without even thinking about it, you’ll have more money saved by the end of the year.

5) Be Realistic: Goals that are attainable are easier to work towards. Select resolutions that you have a high likelihood of achieving, such as losing 15lbs instead of 50lbs or attempting to have a more organized calendar instead of having a more organized life. Once you obtain the initial goal you can re-plan for future improvements.

We wish you luck in acheiving your New Years Resolutions and a Happy New Year!

TWOW

Last-Minute Holiday Preparations List

With Christmas just a few days away, many of us are rushing to make last-minute preparations. While it’s unlikely we’ll forget to purchase wrapping paper, there are other tasks that may fall through the cracks. To mitigate this potential problem, we’ve created the following list of overlooked holiday to-do’s.

  • Surprise Guests: Purchase a few extra gift cards or bottles of wine for unexpected holiday guests
  • Holiday Tips: Prepare and deliver your holiday gratuities/gifts for service personnel (baby sitters, maids, teachers, postal service person, etc.)
  • Stockings: Buy stocking stuffers
  • Thanks: Purchase thank-you cards for holiday gifts received
  • Overnight Guests: Clean and prepare your home for out-of-town guests
  • Charity: Send all charitable donations before the end of the year for inclusion in 2012 taxes
  • New Years Eve: Make reservations for NYE events or meals
  • Batteries: Purchase a few packs of batteries in varying sizes
  • Groceries: Review your holiday meal menus and determine what still needs to be gotten off of the grocery list
  • Receipts: Organize all holiday gift purchase receipts before the gift-exchange in case someone needs to return something. A new app called Topanga is also a great tool for keeping track of your holiday (and other) purchase information, returns, price details, coordinating products, and warranties.
We also encourage you to check out our downloadable and printable Holiday Planner eBook for more tips of preparing for the holidays in an organized fashion. The ebook is available for purchase ($2.99) via Lulu.com:  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/HolidayPlanner

We wish you a very happy and organized holiday season!

TWOW

Guest Post: Harmonize Your Home for the Holidays in a Hurry

As the holidays draw near, it seems we’re all getting busier by the day and more stressed by the hour.

Still need to rearrange furniture to make room for the tree?

Maybe you’ve worn grooves into the linoleum from pacing around the kitchen in anticipation of that dinner party you’re going to host?

Whatever your situation, you might think it’s too late to get your home into Santa-style shape.

You would be wrong.

Here are five steps for de-cluttering your home in time for the holiday festivities.

1. Focus on the main rooms. Pick the rooms where your family and visitors are likely to linger, mingle or dine. Concentrate on the dining room, living room, main bathroom and coat closet, for example, before you worry about the kids’ bedrooms, the tool shed out back or the canning cellar under the stairs (shout-out to my family back in Appalachia). Remember — you can always go through other rooms once you’ve handled the main ones, but if you’re pressed for time, don’t set unrealistic goals. Concentrate on the important, the reasonable, the achievable. Once you’ve picked your targets, make sure you take on just one room at a time.

2. Out with the old. It helps to organize and arrange what you want to keep by removing the items you don’t. Gather boxes and label them “donate,” “junk,” and “maybe.” Then, start filling the boxes. Use the “maybe” container for the things you know you should toss – like that decorative “glam rock” rudolph statue you thought was a good idea back in December of ’86 – but don’t have the heart to let go. It’ll help get the ball rolling without causing hesitation or regret since you can make those tough decisions later.

3. Think big. Once you’ve cleared out the clutter that has to go, look at the furniture and larger items in the room. Rearrange before you do anything else. For example, if you need to move the couch to fit the tree into its proper corner, or if you have to slide a random floor cabinet from the dining room to clear space for a kid’s table, do that now.

4. Details matter. Now that you’ve handled the big, space-hogging furniture, take a second look at the room. Notice dirt or dust one the floor where the couch used to be? Are there any stray DVDs, books, papers or other eye-sore-type clutter laying around? If so, sweep the dirt and put the movies back where they belong. If they don’t have a proper place, create one. You can always hide a stack of DVDs under an end table with a floor-length table cloth. Get creative and hide any unsightly clutter that you can’t get rid of. Just resist the urge to bury your husband’s full-size Christmas Story leg lamp in the backyard. Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a peaceful time. Avoid inciting World War III.

5. Teach and preach. This is probably the most important step. If you don’t tell your kids or spouse where things go, they won’t know how to put things back. Stay on top of everyone and let them know that clutter and messy rooms won’t be tolerated (until after the holidays, at the very least).

Bonus Tip: Get your family to help. By “get,” of course, I mean force, threaten, bribe or anything else you can do to get them to chip in. Let them know that you are NOT going to do this alone. The more they help, the more likely they’ll be to stay on top of the upkeep afterward.

Once you’ve finished, sit back and soak it all in. After all, the holidays only come once a year (thank God).

 ——

This post was generously was written by Dan Reidmiller, Creative Director for College Hunks Hauling Junk. College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving is a national junk-removal, labor services and moving company, with franchises serving 45 markets in 25 states, including areas such as Central PA, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Northern NJ, Tampa Bay, Washington DC and now Miami.

 

10 Strategies for Organized Gift Wrapping

The wrapping of holiday gifts is often believed to be one of the more tedious tasks of the season. If you have a lot of wrapping to complete this season and are looking for ways to organize and streamline the process, use one of our simple tips.

1) Wrapping Party: Make wrapping fun, by inviting a friend or two to join you. They can bring over their gifts and as a group you can get the task completed while enjoying some quality time with each other.

2) Enlist Help: If you have older children who are capable of wrapping, consider assigning each family member another member’s gifts to wrap. This way each person is only responsible for one set of gifts to wrap. This will help to lessen the burden on you.

3) Gift Bags: We know they aren’t the prettiest of wrapping options, but gift bags are both quick and reusable, thus saving time and money. These are also helpful when little ones want to assist in the wrapping process.

4) Wrapping Services: If you truly do not have time to wrap, get help from a professional. We wrap many of our client’s gifts each year and even offer a discount on holiday service packages. Contact us for details.

5) Sending Gifts: When purchasing gifts that will be shipped to their final destination, attempt to buy online and select the gift wrapping option. Often times, the cost to ship through the online shop is cheaper than if you were to buy locally and ship yourself, leaving you with extra money for the gift wrap option.

6) Supplies: Before starting a wrapping session, check your supplies and make sure that you have ample amounts of tape, paper, decorative accessories, and a good pair of scissors.

7) Wrapping Paper Tips: Keep the presents organized by assigning each person in the family a specific wrapping paper design. Using this strategy helps to keep clear which packages are for which person and can also save you money on gift tags.

8) Little-by-Little: While some people prefer to get all wrapping done at once, others do not have a large chunk of time to commit. If you fall into this category, commit to wrapping one to two presents per day until the holiday arrives.

9) Keep It Simple: Martha Stewart-esque packages are lovely to give and receive, but that level of decorative creativity is not for everyone. Make wrapping easy by choosing a single type of decorative element for this year’s gifts. For example, this year you could use only ribbon or printed tape or bows, but not all.

10) Odd-Shaped Items: When you’ve got something with an unusual shape, don’t worry about attempting to wrap it. Simply get an oversized bow and hide the item until the present opening session begins.

For more wrapping tips and other holiday organization strategies, check out our printable ebook, Holiday Planner: A Comprehensive Organizing Guide for the Holiday Season on Lulu.com.

TWOW

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