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My nest is empty, but the stuff remains. Why is decluttering so emotionally fraught?

From The Washington Post
March 4, 2021

 

Last March, when most people were wringing their hands about the shutdown, I felt positively giddy at the prospect of finally getting organized. Time — the rarest of commodities — was now being served up on a silver platter.

So how can it be that, almost a year since the pandemic began, the basement, attic and garage remain as overstuffed as ever? Why can’t I empty my empty nest? I have to confront an uncomfortable truth: It’s not about time; it’s about me.

Although the story about how younger generations have no use for their boomer parents’ stuffhas been well-documented, my lack of progress has nothing to do with dining room tables with seating for 12 or display cabinets. It’s the photo albums, the well-loved baby blankets and the shoe boxes full of letters that have left me paralyzed.

Follow me into my cobwebbed basement, and you’ll find a museum of memorabilia still untouched, despite a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. The bedroom set is a lot easier to shed than the 17-by-20-inch wedding portrait of my mother, who has been gone for 10 years now. It’s too massive and shrine-like to put anywhere else, and yet, how can I just cavalierly toss her in the trash?

Read the rest on The Washington Post.

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Organizing Your Devices

When Bill Gates said in the 80’s that his goal was “a computer on every desk and in every home” he may not have realized how prescient that would be. Fast forward to 2020, when the average U.S. home had approximately 10 connected devices. Think about that—computers, smartphones, tablets, e-readers, smart TVs, digital cameras, game consoles, smart watches, smart home hubs, etc. The list is endless when you add in the potential for smart light switches, garage door openers, speakers, virtual reality devices, GoPros, and wearable technology. Most of us love gadgets–technology has definitely made some parts of life so much easier. But don’t let your tech become your clutter problem. Here are some tips and tricks to keeping your devices organized and accounted for.

Pare Down What You’ve Got

Set aside an hour or two, and have everyone in your household bring out all their tech, plus all related manuals, chargers, cords, etc. Go through your cabinets and “junk” drawers, desk drawers, car consoles, and any other storage places where you’ve kept electronics items. Don’t forget old flash drives and SD cards. Bring it all out! Set aside the items you truly use, along with its chargers/cords/manuals. The rest, put in a discard pile. Anything that no longer works or is missing chargers or plugs? Discard pile.

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7 Common Mistakes Professional Organizers Notice (But Clients Don’t)

Even the most well-intentioned of us make mistakes when it comes to keeping our homes decluttered and organized. We may not notice, but professional organizers sure do! They are the experts, after all, and have the training and experience to recognize the areas of your home or your life that could use some help.

1. Not Decluttering Before Organizing

Organized clutter is still clutter! Before tackling an area of your home for organizing—whether it’s the pantry or your walk-in closet—do some major editing and paring down. You’ll have a good pile of stuff to donate (see #5, though), some to throw away or recycle, and what’s left should be the items you like, will use, and need. Now you can group them, organize them, and decide if you need specific storage solutions for any of them. Organizing unedited items may leave you feeling frustrated and unaccomplished.

2. Buying Organizing and Storage Solutions First

It’s so easy to watch a few episodes of Home Edit or Marie Kondo, then buy a heap of beautiful containers, bins, and shelf dividers. We totally get it—you were inspired! But hold up, because buying all that without first taking measurements, assessing your storage needs, and deciding on what will go where will actually lead to more clutter and time wasted. Edit down the area you are working on first, and then you’ll have a more accurate idea of what you truly need to buy.

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Giving the Gift of Organization

Is there someone special in your life who you feel would benefit from a gift of professional organizing services? It is definitely a thoughtful present that would help someone you care about. It’s one less “thing” they don’t need to store in their home or work space. If it’s something they may not be able to afford or would just not spend that money on themselves, then it would be a boon to their life. It’s a gift of love, really. With that being said, there are a few things to consider before giving this generous gift.

Would They Welcome This Gift?

If your brother and sister-in-law seem up to their eyeballs in clutter since the arrival of baby #2, but they are blissfully exhausted and seem fine with their messy home, gifting them a professional organizing service may actually burst their bubble and embarrass them. You don’t want your intended gift of help to create bad feelings for either of you. Think of it as giving a Weight Watchers membership to an overweight friend who has never said anything about trying to lose weight—ouch. But if they often mention how they wish they could finally finish getting the nursery set up, or get the kitchen organized so they can actually cook, or declutter the living room so it’s a more relaxing family space—then time with a pro organizer may be a great help to them.

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7 Habits to Break in the New Year

“New year, new me!”, goes the saying. That is a daunting task indeed. Besides, I like me, and I don’t necessarily want to change me to a new one! However, I do know that I’ve got some habits—as we all do—that hinder me from being my best self. Habits that may interfere with my sleep and my productivity; that may contribute to a cluttered home; and that keep me from being as active as I’d like. Even habits that don’t bode well for my financial well-being or my physical and mental health. So let’s change that saying to, “New year, better me!” Let’s start with these 7 habits to break in the new year.

1. Tossing mail on kitchen counter

You get home, get the mail, and put it on the kitchen counter. Sometimes it may take days to get to it, and now you’ve got a pile taking up counter space. Break this habit by setting up a system to handle mail. Whether it’s a mail organizer or a few file folders, set up a situation so you can come in, quickly go through the mail in hand, and place items in their proper categories such as “To Pay,” “To File,” and “To Recycle/Shred”.

2. Constantly checking your phone

How many times a day do you think you look at your phone? You may think, “Oh, maybe about 15,” but the reality is probably at least 10 times that. Check your iPhone or Android data to find out. Then go through your phone and change settings so that only the very important apps will send you notifications or alerts. These steps from CNBC can help you with even more detail on how to lower your phone pick-ups. This will be better for your productivity, your social life, and your sense of self!

3. Sitting all day

So many of us are now working from home, which means a lot of hours spent videoconferencing with coworkers and clients. No bueno! Hours of sitting can seriously take a toll on your health, both physical and mental. Get up every 45-60 minutes, even if it’s just to get the mail (natch, don’t toss it on the counter) or use the restroom. If you’ve got a longer break, walk around the block. If you find it tough to take these breaks you might consider a standing desk.

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Turning Your Home Into a Self-Care Sanctuary

Self-care is so important right now. It’s only mid-January and for Pacific Northwesterners, we know that means a few more months of cold, wet greydom. Understandably, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is much more common in our hemisphere. Where can you get self-care if your budget is limited or you aren’t feeling ready to go to the gym or spa, or to travel? The answer is closer than you think: Home. This infographic has 15 easy ways to turn your home into a self-care sanctuary. Print it out and let it to inspire you to create a home that is conducive to self-care.

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What to Declutter After the Holidays

Hello, January! The holiday stuff has been put away (or has it?), the amount of baking and cooking has returned to normal, and everyone is back to work and school. There are plenty of decluttering opportunities post-holiday, so pick a weekend, do a little work to clear out your home, and start the year off with an energetic bang! We’ve got some terrific ideas on what to declutter and refresh.

Holiday Items

If you actually haven’t put these away yet, here is your chance to declutter these used-once-a-year goods. The bonus is you can declutter while you are putting them away. I do this every year, and it always makes the holiday storage boxes a bit roomier even if I’ve bought a few more decorative items. Start with the lights: get rid of any strings that don’t light up or have worn, brittle, or frayed cords. Next, give each decorative piece 30-seconds of your time. Does it have worn or broken parts, or faded or chipped spots? Do you still love it? Does it still have meaning for you? Does it seem outdated or out of place? Your answers to these questions will let you decide if you are keeping or donating the item. I usually donate my still-usable items to someone in my neighborhood or city Facebook Group—there are a lot of people out there who are happy to use your holiday items. Finally, take down all those sweet holiday cards and recycle them, or send them to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children for their recycled card program.

Winter Wear

We still have almost three months left of winter weather, and now is an appropriate time to declutter your outerwear and accessories. Bring out all the winter wear for everyone in your household. Go through each item for each person—hats, scarves, coats, gloves, long underwear, socks, boots, etc. Check items for tears or untreatable stains, for fit and comfort, and for style and desirability. If you have two items that are almost identical in style, material, and purpose, consider keeping only one. Donate coats in good condition to One Warm Coat, which has several locations around Puget Sound.

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Establish Social Distancing Boundaries with Friends Before You Gather

From Martha Stewart
August 6, 2020

 

Nail down a few ground rules ahead of time to ensure everyone is comfortable.

Clarifying your stance on social distancing has become an increasingly common—and potentially uncomfortable—conversation, especially as small gatherings resume across the country. Here, Daniel Post Senning, the great-great grandson of Emily Post and a modern etiquette expert, offers a few straightforward guidelines for keeping yourself safe and your friendships intact during this uncertain time.

 

Set your boundaries.

Good etiquette always means being clear about what you can and can’t do, says Post Senning, and that’s true whether you’re responding no to a birthday invitation or gently letting a dinner party host know in advance that you’re allergic to nuts. “In the world of etiquette, there’s something really generous about letting people know what your boundaries are,” he says. And whether you’re discussing your switch to a vegan diet, your son’s need to leave his soccer game early, or your preference for socializing while wearing a mask, you shouldn’t put off having that conversation. “The more work you can do ahead of time, the better,” says Post Senning. “You want to make your expectations explicit in a time when we don’t have the structure of our social expectations to lean on. We are navigating new information, and not everybody is making the same choices. The more you can communicate, the better. The earlier those conversations happen, the better. The more open and candid they are, the better.”

 

Read the rest on Martha Stewart.

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Meaningful, Mindful Gift Ideas for This Holiday Season

It’s been a challenging year for most of us, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that 2021 can’t come soon enough! We’ve dealt with lockdowns and quarantine, working and schooling remotely, sourdough starters and jigsaw puzzles. There’s also video conferencing fatigue, canceled travel plans, and too much takeout. How do we close out the year in a relevant way that helps us stay connected with and supportive of loved ones? With the December holidays just around the corner, we’ve been thinking about gifts for friends and family that will help do just that. Here are some ideas for meaningful, mindful gifts for this holiday season.

Self Care – Think about the recipient’s idea of self care, and put together a package as unique as they are. Is it interior decor magazines and chai tea? Yoga and facials? Red wine and chocolate? Long walks and audio books? Self care—any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health—is different for each person, so tailor your gifts accordingly.

Gift Cards to Local Businesses – Gift cards to local “mom & pop” shops and restaurants are a terrific way to give a gift while supporting a small business that needs the customers. No matter where your special person lives, there are surely fabulous places they love to patronize.

A Fun and Unique Subscription – How about a monthly succulent, date night, or Japanese snacks box? CrateJoy and My Subscription Addiction have amazing lists of fun, imaginative, and unique subscriptions for everyone on your list. A year of surprises would be fantastic for anyone!

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8 Great Reasons to Downsize Your Home

Is your home still meeting your needs? For most people as they start their adult lives and possibly their families, they start upsizing to larger homes with bonus rooms and big backyards. What happens when the kids move out or your lifestyle changes? The word “downsize” may bring to mind recently retired folks who’ve decided to sell their big family home and opt for a sparkly new condo somewhere sunny, and with a pool a few steps away. While that is definitely one of the ways to do it, there are many more reasons to downsize. You don’t even have to be retired!

1. More Cashflow

The housing market in the Greater Seattle Area has been booming for years, and downsizing is definitely one way to create more cashflow. You could free up more cash with a lower or even no mortgage. With a smaller home you’ll also have lower utility bills and homeowner’s insurance; you may even save more with no more HOA dues or yard maintenance costs. It’s also a viable way to consolidate a lot of debt—and lower financial anxiety. For example, sell your home and with the profits, pay off your home equity loan, college loan, and credit card, then pay off most or all of your mortgage. If you’ve been in your home for at least 10 years and it’s value has gone up significantly, you can use that equity to your advantage.

2. Freedom

A smaller home is much easier to maintain. With our eldest launched, one in college, and one in high school, we no longer needed such a big house and yard. We downsized to a smaller but still spacious home with almost no yard, and with the house being brand new, there is nothing it needs in terms of updating or remodeling. Less to clean and keep up = more time for leisure! I’ve got a friend who is loving the freedom of her downsize from a single-family house to a condo in a doorman building. She calls it a “lock and go” setup because she literally turns one key and she can travel and work remotely from anywhere in the world.

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