Stop Losing Your Things with 5 Easy Tips

Between our hectic lives and sometimes hectic physical spaces it’s easy to occasionally lose things. Whether it’s your keys, cell phone, or some other important item, the loss of a belonging can cause serious difficulties in our lives. You can keep this problem from happening with a few small tricks.

1) Everything in it’s Place: The old adage is helpful when it comes to losing things. Designate homes for your belongings and commit to returning them to these locations once you are done with them. As a secondary level of organization, attempt to keep like items with like items. This will assist in at least getting you to the general area in which the item should be located.

2) Launch Pad: A launch pad is an area of your home that houses items that you consistently take with out outside, such as your purse, wallet, keys, and cell phone, etc. Ideally, it should be located near the entrance to the home and have enough space to store the items neatly. When entering the home deposit the items and do not move them again until you leave.

3) Mental Notes: Even when we have the good intention of leaving an item a place we think we’ll remember, it sometimes slips from our memory. Science tells us that if you actively chose to make a mental note when leaving the item somewhere you’ll be more likely to remember the location later. So when you are setting something down, take a moment to say to yourself ‘I’m leaving my phone on the kitchen counter’ or something similar.

4) Out & About: Experts state that the top 4 places for losing things are airports/airplanes, restaurants, public restrooms, and hotels. That being true, we need to be especially aware of our possessions when out and about. To keep from leaving things, commit to a routine of checking for your items before leaving the location. For example, before you leave a hotel room, check the closet, drawers, under the bed, in the bathroom, and around the room. Think of the process as the final step before you can check out and you’ll lessen the chances of leaving that phone charger on the wall.

5) Technology: If these tricks don’t help, resort to technological help. KeyRinger, a sound-enabled locator device, can be attached to keys, remotes, and other items. FindmyiPhone is an app that can be downloaded to an iPhone that allows GPS tracking of missing iPhones.

We hope these tricks help, but remember the most important thing to keep in mind when something has become lost is to stay calm. It’s likely you know where it is, so as long as you remain composed you should be able to locate it.

TWOW

20 Ways to Get Organized in 10 Minutes or Less

Most people would love to be more organized, but have a tough time executing the steps needed to get there. Fortunately, there are quick fixes that overtime can lead to a more organized life. Check out our ideas below and add your own via comments.

  1. Put away the stacks of folded laundry currently living on a chair/floor/dresser top, etc.
  2. Remove wire dry cleaning hangers and put them in your car to return with the next dry cleaning drop off
  3. Throw out expired food
  4. Review a stack of mail and trash, shred, or file the contents
  5. Gather excess travel size personal care products and put them in a bag for donation
  6. Toss single socks whose mates have long been lost
  7. Delete 25 emails from your inbox
  8. Pick one surface to clean, remove all unnecessary items, and return them to their homes
  9. Clean out your purse or wallet
  10. Make a To-Do list
  11. Recycle magazines that are 4 months old or older. If you would like to keep it for specific info, tear out the article and place it in a dedicated magazine binder with plastic sleeves
  12. While at the gas pump, do a sweep of the car and throw out any trash
  13. Add yourself to a ‘do not mail’ list, such as 41Pounds.org
  14. Create 3 file folders on your computer and add appropriate documents from your desktop
  15. Review your kitchen gadget drawer and pick out any duplicates. Place dupes in a bag in your car for donation
  16. Look through your coupon file and recycle anything that’s expired
  17. Select 1-3 pairs of shoes that haven’t been worn in the past year and ready them for donation
  18. Pick 3 file folders that you haven’t touched in a couple of years and review the contents. Try to throw out as much as possible
  19. Throw out expired medications
  20. Add 10 minute blocks to your calendar for future organizing sessions

Good luck!

TWOW

Hobby Gear & Supplies: How Much Is Too Much?

Hobbies are a valuable addition to our lives. They give us something fun and recreational to focus on that isn’t work or other responsibilities. The problem is that many hobbies require significant amounts of gear or supplies. We often meet clients that while in love with the hobbies they participate in, are overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ they have collected to facilitate the hobby. In order to help limit the number of hobby items, we have several recommendations:

1)   Try Before You Buy: Often the instinct is that you cannot try a sport or hobby without first purchasing the necessary gear and supplies. For example, someone who wants to take up cycling may feel the need to get a bike, helmet, appropriate clothing, and anything else they may need before starting out. If the sport isn’t for them, however, this stuff ends up indefinitely taking up space in their garage. Instead of purchasing first, consider renting or borrowing gear to ensure that the hobby is something you’d like to continue long term.

2)   Set Your Limits: Another common hobbyist trend that we see is the personality who seems to enjoy the thrill of the supply acquisition more than the actual hobby. This seems to be particularly true of scrapbookers who often have enormous collections of supplies, with few finished scrapbooks. To keep this from happening, give yourself limits on how much you will buy, how much you will spend, and how often you will shop for hobby supplies. Make the limits firm and stick to them so that you don’t end up with excessive amounts of stuff with little time to use them.

3)   Pay it Forward: For those who fall into the category of large amounts of unused hobby supplies, there are many options for culling it from your home. Play It Again Sports will pay you for your used sports equipment. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the other charities will accept just about anything you’ve got.  A final option is to post about the available stuff on your social media accounts. There’s a good chance someone in your network will be interested and you can rest assured that the stuff is going to good use.

In the end, the most important thing about your hobby is that you’re enjoying yourself; so have a great time!

TWOW

‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg

I’m currently reading a book called ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’. The book discusses the science behind habits and how we can use this knowledge to alter various routines in our lives. Whether it be poor eating, smoking, or the collecting of excess belongings, much of what we do stems from the process of habits.

If you would like to change a habit in your life, the author suggests you start by figuring out the three things that form what is called a ‘Habit Loop’. First is the ‘Cue’. This is a signal, a feeling, or anything else that triggers the desire for habit action. Second is the ‘Routine’, which refers to the actual act. Finally, there is the ‘Reward’, which is obtained by completing the routine. The reward can come in many forms, but essentially is anything that provides satisfaction. Determining each of these items can be difficult as they are not always obvious. For example, if someone wanted to stop eating a sugary snack in the afternoon, they might realize that the cue is a lull in work and the reward is actually a distraction from boredom, not necessarily the snack itself.

Once you have identified the elements of the Habit Loop, you must then attempt to replace either the routine or the reward with something you feel is more appropriate. To expand on the example, if the sugary snack is causing weight gain, but the real reward is a break from boredom, the person may consider taking a walk with a colleague instead of eating. The cue and reward will remain, but the new routine will provide a healthy alternative.

The reason I mention this book is that the understanding of how habit’s work can help us to change the way we manage organization, time management, and general control in our lives. We often see clients that are overwhelmed by disorganization. I suspect that if they closely examined the habits that form the basis for the problem they could make edits to the loop that result in drastic overall routine changes. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to make changes in how they operate and what they do.

Happy Reading!

Paper Clutter Strategies & Maintenance

Paper clutter is typically the most common issue we see in organizing consultations. Between personal information, mail, work documents, and other incoming paper the stacks can quickly become overwhelming. We’ve devised a couple of simple strategies for reducing the amount of paper coming in and living in your home.

Junk Mail: Eliminate junk mail from ever making its way into your home by enlisting a service, such as 41pounds.org. The service takes your name off of junk mail lists and can even minimize catalog delivery.

Mail System: We have discussed in previous posts, the handiness of maintaining a mail processing system. Get a basic file folder container and insert 3 files. The first can be labeled ‘Action Needed’ for important items that need service soon. The second is labeled ‘Upcoming’ and should contain items that may need handling in the coming weeks. The third is ‘Interest’ which may contain coupons or information received for things you may want to consider in the future. Each week, select a day to evaluate the contents of the files and move, file, or trash items as necessary.

Business Cards: Business cards are a big problem for many professionals. The contact information is important, but the storage or entry can be a pain. Try an app such as ScanBizCards which uses OCR technology to digitize the information from a photo taken of any card.

Digital Docs: For more traditional business documents, consider using an online doc development and storage suite, such as Google Docs. Anything you produce or need will be stored online for easy access and updating.

Personal Docs: A simple trick for keeping personal documents under control is to immediately upon opening, shred or trash anything that is not necessary to keep. When deciding what to keep and what to shred, consider if the document could be obtained easily online if needed. Utility, credit card, and even medical bills are all stored online and thus physical copies are rarely needed.

Paperless Billing: Take advantage of online billpay, paperless statements, and email communications as much as possible to further curb paper in your home.

Tax Docs: For documents pertaining to taxes, use a well-labeled storage system, such as the ones recommended here. Only save items in category labeled folders for the first year and then move everything into a single folder labeled by the year following your tax filing. All tax documents can be shredded or trashed after 7 years, but for a list of what to keep and what to toss, check out Suze Orman’s recommendations.

Upside Down Sorting: When attempting a paper sort, flip the pile upside down to start with the oldest, and likely most unnecessary, documents first.

To File or Not to File: Before filing something, ask yourself when was the last time you accessed something similar from the filing cabinet. If the answer is never, you probably don’t need to file it.

We know that paper can be a hassle, but if you stay on top of it soon after it enters your home it will never become unmanageable.

Good Luck!
TWOW

Hoarders: Strategies for Clearing, Organizing, & Maintaining

A recent study came out detailing the biochemical differences between the brains of hoarders and those of normal functioning people. Brain scans of those diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with hoarding tendencies showed abnormally high levels of activity in the region of the brain tied to decision-making processes. When OCD participants were presented with objects that belonged to them and were asked to consider giving them away brain activity spiked. This important research shows that for some people there truly are physiological barriers to purging and collecting personal belongings.

In our work we often come across clients who are likely borderline hoarders if not clinically diagnosed. Many times, these people are referred by friends and family of the client when their own efforts at controlling the ever-growing collection fail. Their homes are generally rendered unusable by the amount of stuff and often the lives of those living in the environment are suffering because of it. The approach to working with these types of clients is different than with most. If you are someone helping a loved one deal with the effects of hoarding we recommend several strategies.

1) Like-with-Like: Gather all similar items throughout the house and count the total number. For example, if there are 100 boxes of soap, discuss with the hoarder how many they think they can part with and still have enough. Perhaps 50 can be culled. The resulting number may still seem excessive, but for them it is a crucial step in the process of downsizing the collection.

2) Start with the Easy: It may seem to you that everything is trash, but to the hoarder each item has meaning and need. There are usually, however, certain items that they are more willing to give up than others. Identifying things like clothing that will never fit again, expired medications or food, and dead plants will help them to get in the mood for purging.

3) Timing: Although hoarding TV shows often depict large amounts of stuff being thrown away in one day, the reality is this type of strategy can be physically and mentally debilitating for a hoarder. Instead, plan to work slowly through the collection letting go of things in a gradual process. It may take weeks or months to get to a point of liveability, but the long-term sustainability of this strategy is greater.

4) Everything Has It’s Place: Often hoarders will acquire so many things that the belongings start to live in odd places, such as laundry detergents in the hallway. Once you clear much of the stuff out of the home, label appropriate ‘homes’ for items. Discuss with the hoarder that if a certain type of item lives in a certain drawer that if the drawer is full, they must not purchase another until there is space.

5) Maintenance: As a strategy for long-term maintenance of the clean and organized home, work with the hoarder to commit to a goal of one-in, one-out. Every time a new item comes into the home, they must donate, trash, gift, or otherwise cull something already in the home. For the first few donation experiences, it’s best to leave the hoarder at home. After the process is more fully underway consider bringing them with and discussing with donation staff what the items will do for those receive them. The understanding that their stuff is going to a much more needed situation can lessen the stress of the process for hoarders.

6) Therapy: The physical process of getting rid of things is important, but the best thing you can do to maintain the new order to to encourage the hoarder to get therapeutic help. A trained mental health specialist, experienced in hoarder compulsions, can do much to work through the underlying reasons for hoarding and stop further collections from developing.

We know that having a Compulsive Hoarder in your life can be difficult, but just remember that they are not a lost cause. And if you need help, professional organizers and therapists can be a good place to start.

Good Luck!
TWOW

How & Where to Get Rid of Stuff

We are often asked what’s the best way to get rid of things being culled from the home. While some of the decision is personal preference, there are certain items that are best suited for specific removal strategies. Below we discuss the various options, along with the pros and cons of each.

Clothing Consignment Stores: Although it would be great if everyone could make money off of their excess clothing by consigning, the reality is these stores are extremely picky with what they take. The types of items that are best suited for consignment are new or like-new, in good condition, nicer brands, and most importantly, in-season. If you have winter clothes that you are looking to cull from your closet in the summer, this is not the place to take them. A tip we recently heard for successful consignment is to only do one trip per season. This way you can more easily track your sales and store time limits.

Specialty Stores: Places like Once Upon A Child are excellent options for donating specialty items such as baby products. They will pay you on the spot for your wares and you can feel good about passing along the things your family no longer uses. Play It Again Sports is also an excellent option for offloading old sports gear.

Donation Shops: GoodWill, Salvation Army, and other donation shops will take just about everything you’d like to give them. Although there is no cash payout, the tax deduction can be helpful.

Ebay: This site is most effective for items of slightly higher value that are new or in good condition. Managing the process can be tedious and learning the strategies of becoming a good seller can also be a challenge. However, there is excellent money to be made off of certain types of items.

Garage Sale: Yard sales are best conducted when there is a large amount of stuff to sell all at once. The process requires significant preparation and organization, but it is a good way to offload a variety of items. Keep in mind that prices should reflect severe discounts as your shoppers will expect to see bargains. For more garage sale tips, check out our past post.

Estate Sale: This type of sale is most appropriate for households will extensive collections of valuables. Most often they are conducted by professional estate sale planners who manage the pricing, sale, and delivery of purchased goods to the buyers. Estate sales are most common following the passing of loved ones, but they can also be great options for downsizing and long-distance relocations.

Craigslist & Freecycle: Craigslist.org offers the ability to sell or give away anything you could possibly imagine. Increase your sale odds by being descriptive in your posting and including photos. If possible, get original manufacturer information from other online sources and include in your ad for increased legitimacy. Freecycle.org is another option for giving your belongings away for free.

Recycling Center: If the stuff you are looking to remove from your home is simply not donation or sale worthy, recycling centers will gladly take the items for repurposing. In GA, the North Fulton Recycling Center accepts dropoffs of things like paint, batteries, electronics, books, clothing, ink cartridges, and most everything else you can think of.

No matter what method you chose, we commend you for your efforts to minimize personal belongings.

Good Luck!
TWOW

Our Favorite Multifunction Products

Last week our guest blogger, Lisa, gave us some great tips for utilizing furniture and spaces in multiple functions. We love the idea of minimizing the amount of ‘stuff’ in our lives, so this week we’re going to highlight some of our favorite products that have multiple uses.

Dirty Jobs Complete Cleaner: Although many people think cleaning and organizing are similar tasks, here at WOW we dislike cleaning just as much as the next person. That’s why we loved sampling the new Dirty Jobs Complete Cleaner. The product, available at Walmart, was inspired by the Discovery Channel show and really works wonders. The best part is that unlike single-specialty cleaners, this works just about anywhere. Use it in the laundry, the bathroom, on upholstery, or the carpets; it will get the job done.

Food Processor: We love kitchen appliances, but sometimes they can be space hogs. Food processors, however, combine the functions of blender, chopper, cutting board, specialty knives, mortar, cheese grater, and more. If you are low on storage space in your kitchen, consider switching to this multifunction appliance as your go-to tool.

Ice Cube Tray: This everyday item, that many people no longer use, due to integrated ice makers are great for organized storage. Use them for earrings and rings, small junk drawer items, cuff links, hair accessories, sewing materials, crafting supplies, etc.

Dryer Sheets: Instead of tossing out your used dryer sheets, use them to freshen up other areas of the home. Rub them on the inside of smelly shoes to reduce odor, place them in the bottom of your underwear drawer or under your car seat for added freshness, or run them along a couch to pick up animal hair. The new ones will work best, but even the old ones can be put to good use.

Toothpaste: It can be a bit odd to consider using something you put in your mouth each day for other purposes, but toothpaste has a variety of household functions. It can fill in small holes in your walls, soothe bug bites, polish chrome and silver, remove crayon coloring from walls, and reduce blemishes, among other things.

These are just a few interesting multi-purpose products. What are your favorite tricks for making the most out of your belongings?

TWOW

Guest Post: Creative Ways To Contain That Clutter

If there is one thing that every house has in common, it’s clutter! Living a full life comes with stuff along the way. So how do you keep all that stuff from living all over your countertops, end tables, and living room couch? With a little creative organization!

  1. File it away. Many of us use filing cabinets in our professional lives to keep track of customer information, invoices, and receipts. Why limit this incredibly handy device to your workspace? A filing cabinet is the best way to keep your physical records organized, especially if you have a family or own a home. Stow a binder for everyone’s medical information inside your cabinet, with a sheet in the front of your children’s binders where you can record important milestones like crawling and walking. Alternatively, try scanning in important paperwork and saving it in specific folders on your home computer. Getting all the bills, receipts, and records off your countertops is an essential first step to moving on to more exciting organizational projects.
  2. Make your furniture play double duty. From now on, your furniture doesn’t get to just serve one function.  That inexpensive armoire that you bought to house your daughter’s baby clothes? As she grows and changes, so does the armoire! In elementary school the armoire could serve as an art station or hobby closet, and when she goes on to high school, the armoire might morph into a computer desk. Similarly, a chest or trunk can serve as both storage space and a coffee table, a standing bookcase holds trinkets and books plus acts as a room divider, and baker’s racks can be used for storage in the bathroom and bedrooms as well as the kitchen.
  3. Climb the walls. Too many times we only think of organization as going in one direction – horizontal. But if you start to look at your walls as potential storage area, you’ll realize that your house is brimming with places to keep all that clutter! Some simple hooks in each room can be used for coats, play clothes, and sports uniforms. A sturdy rope hanging from eyehooks on the wall can be used to display artwork, special photos, important correspondence, and other lightweight items. And mounting shelves or cubbies is a great alternative to keeping them on the ground where they take up valuable floor space.

This post was generously written by guest blogger, Lisa. She is a mother and organization enthusiast who relies on her storage units in Colorado Springs and storage units in McAllen to keep her life clutter free. As a writer at Self Storage Deals, Lisa advocates labeling as the best way to stay organized around the house.

Preparing for House Guests: A Checklist

Summer is often a time of year when we receive visitors from out of town. Although the visits can be great experiences, the preparation can sometimes be overwhelming. In order to assist in getting ready for house guests, we’ve put together a checklist of items to execute prior to their arrival.

Lodging:

  • Clean the entire house and yard
  • If you’re using a blow up mattress, test it ahead of time for leaks and pump issues
  • Launder the linens on the guest bed
  • Leave an extra blanket and a couple of extra pillows in the room in case of specific sleep style preferences
  • Clear out space in the closet and/or dresser for the guests to unpack their things

Eating:

  • Determine which meals will be had at home and buy appropriate amounts of food. Do not forget to accommodate for food allergies, preferences, and diets
  • If no major meals are to be eaten at home, at least purchase snacks and beverages
  • Make reservations for dining out ahead of time to ensure your desired restaurants do not book up

Bathing:

  • Clean and set-aside a fresh towel for each guest. If you have several colors, consider giving one color to each guest so they can easily identify which is theirs in the bathroom.
  • Ensure that the bathroom to be used by the guests is well-stocked with soap, shampoo, conditioner, and toilet paper. If you have extra travel sizes on hand from previous hotel stays, feel free to set these out in a bowl on the counter. It’s a great way to offload them.

Miscellaneous:

  • Find or have a spare key made in case you are separated from your guests
  • If you have an alarm system or special entry procedures within your building, write them down for your guests
  • If there is a small child among your guests, ask the parent what childproofing should be done ahead of time
  • Plan a rough agenda for the trip and have several activity options to present for your guest’s choosing
  • Write down the internet password for your guests

Take care of these items ahead of time and the visit can be dedicated to having fun with your guests instead of scrambling to prepare.

TWOW

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