Declutter and Thrive

Decluttering is bad for the planet. Here’s how to do it sustainably.

by Susan Shain
from Mic Media
August 19, 2021

Picture your neighborhood garbage truck. Got it in your mind? Now picture 29,000 of them, lined up end to end, stretching from Sacramento to San Jose, California. Then, finally, picture all those trucks, brimming with trash and dumping it all in a landfill, every single day.

In the United States, that’s not hyperbole; it’s reality. Every year, we send nearly 150 million tons of waste to the landfill — an amount equal to roughly 2.5 pounds of trash per person, per day. In 2018, that included 9 million tons of clothing and shoes, 9.6 million tons of furniture, and 1.6 million tons of small appliances. That’s bad news for the planet, considering landfills account for 12% of global emissions of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas responsible for at least a quarter of today’s global warming.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t contribute to landfills! I donate my unwanted things!”, you should know that indiscriminate donating is sometimes the opposite of helpful. Thrift stores run by the National Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, for example, are only able to sell or give away about half of what they receive, says CEO Dave Barringer. While the remainder is sold to secondary vendors, like online booksellers and overseas clothing markets (which, side note, can be problematic), roughly 5% of St. Vinnies’s donations still end up in landfills.

Though 5% might not sound like much, consider the fact that the four largest U.S. thrift chains — St. Vinnies, Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and Deseret Industries — receive approximately 4 billion pounds of clothing each year, according to Barringer. Clearly, being more thoughtful about what we donate — not to mention what we consume and recycle — could have a positive impact on the environment.

Read the rest on Mic Media.

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Pandemic Habits to Keep

Last month we went over some pandemic habits to say goodbye to, like too much takeout and screen time. However, there are even more habits and routines we’ve changed or added that actually bring healthy, positive, and uplifting vibes to our lives. We may have turned the corner on the pandemic (and fingers crossed that it stays that way!), but some things are too good to let go of. Let’s focus on pandemic habits we should definitely keep!

Walking, walking, and more walking!

Remember in early lockdown when there was nowhere to go and everyone started walking outside? It was actually quite wonderful! Our neighborhood streets, normally quiet, became busy with people walking, saying “Hello” from a distance, and talking to others from their porches. I’d have meet-ups with friends to walk, and with the streets empty we could walk six feet apart in the middle of the road. My husband liked to pop in his AirPods, find his latest favorite podcast, and walk for miles. If COVID got you taking a walk regularly, there’s absolutely no reason to stop this awesome practice. No wonder The Guardian calls 2020 “The Year of the Walker”!

Supporting local businesses

My local community groups were big on supporting local mom-and-pop shops instead of the big retail giants—we sure didn’t want them to disappear during the pandemic. While many places unfortunately still had to shutter, many more stayed afloat and are now feeling a resurgence. Yay! Restaurants, book stores, boutiques, pet shops, food trucks, clothing and gift shops, cafés, etc.—it’s so terrific to see these businesses return to almost-normal and begin to thrive again. Let’s keep up this local support!

Hygiene

One of the things I found so odd (and alarming, honestly) at the beginning of the pandemic was all the imploring for people to wash hands regularly; why was this a new thing?! In any case, in the past year colds and the flu almost disappeared. With social distancing, mask-wearing, and tons of sanitizing, the basic illnesses truly diminished; this may change as the world is opening up and the COVID-safety measures start to go away. I, for one, plan to keep up the hygiene practices—lots of hand-washing and sanitizers—even post-pandemic. I love not getting sick! And as they have been doing in Asia, I will start wearing a mask when I’m feeling under the weather, to keep others from catching whatever bug I’ve got.

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It’s Dad’s Turn: Our Garage Power Day Promotion Is For You!

It’s been a challenging year, and that special dad in your life deserves something more than new grilling tongs or a gift card for Father’s Day. What dad wouldn’t love to have his garage or shed pared down and superbly organized? Imagine having your home and garden tools, sports equipment, camping gear, storage bins, miscellaneous boxes, and car supplies ergonomically and efficiently organized, categorized, and labeled—he can find anything in a snap! Could he actually start parking the car in the garage again? We can help make this a possibility.

We want to honor Dads with our Garage Power Day promotion: Two organizers for 4 hours—8 hours of total organizing—at a 20% discount. We’ve never done a promo like this before…and it won’t last long…so don’t delay!

When you buy 8 hours of Hands-On Professional Organizing
We will gift you 20% off

The value of this package is $720
Purchase today for only $575

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Goodwill Doesn’t Want Your Broken Toaster

from NPR.org
May 6, 2021
by Todd Bookman

Cars begin lining up outside the Goodwill donation center in Seabrook, N.H., around 10 a.m. most mornings.

Well-intended patrons are here with truckloads full of treasures.

“We hope everyone brings great things that help our programs, but we know some people make some questionable judgments about what is good to donate,” explains Heather Steeves, spokesperson for the 30 Goodwill locations in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

She holds up “a lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart.”

There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.

Along with simply being gross, these items cost Goodwill money.

“All this trash adds up to more than $1 million a year in a trash bill, and it’s been growing every year for the past five years,” says Steeves. And that’s just for the 30 stores she oversees.

Read the rest on NPR.org.

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An Invitation to Weary Moms

Moms, we see you. We see you carrying the load of house manager, businesswoman, cook, cleaner, parent, motivator, and teacher. We see and feel the fatigue and toll this last 13 months of COVID has taken. We also feel the ray of hope that the vaccine has created. (Woohoo, the Simplify Experts team is now fully vaccinated!)

We want to honor Moms by gifting two hours of professional organizing for Mom’s Day. We have never offered anything like this before…and it won’t last long—so don’t delay!

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Why Hire A Professional Organizer to Help With a Move or Remodel?

We are truly proud that Simplify Experts has helped thousands of clients across the Puget Sound with their home decluttering and organizing needs over the past 14 years. Many don’t realize, however, the large number of clients we have also helped with their moving and remodeling needs. It’s true! Professional organizers can help make this major life event less stressful, more streamlined, and yes, more cost-effective! A recent survey showed moving as the top stressor in life events, with 43% saying they’d never do it again. Still not sure why you should hire a professional organizer with your move or remodel? Read on, and you may have a change of tune.

Declutter and downsize before you pack…and save money.

Moving companies generally charge by weight. They give a cost estimate using formulas to calculate the total volume of your furnishings and household items, including everything in your closets, shelves, and cabinets. If you pack it all up, have the movers take it, and then unpack, declutter, and downsize at your new home, you will have paid the movers to move things you ended up getting rid of. With one client, our organizers took about 40 black garbage bags and a dozen large boxes to the donation center, and left a good-sized mountain of random junk on the porch for a hauler to take away. Imagine if they had had the movers take all that to their new home!

We help you get rid of the big things, too.

We help you declutter and downsize much more than just books, clothing, kids’ stuff, and household items. If you are moving to a bigger or smaller home, chances are your furniture and decor needs will be changing, too. That old disassembled antique crib in the garage? Your Chippendale mahogany dining set that doesn’t go with your new, modern condo? Several pieces from your original art collection that need a new home? We can help you consign or donate these items so you have several less things to worry about.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing Your Photos

Remember when we used film in our cameras? (Kids now: “How retro!”) We had a finite number of photos to take: 24 or 36. There was work to be done before you could see those pictures. A trip to the Fotomat or Pay & Save, then later, Costco, to drop off the film. Days later, you’d go again to pick up the photos and the negatives. I recall being so excited to see the pictures from a family vacation, or birthday party, or holiday! Out of that 24- or 36-roll, you’d get a handful of really good ones (or at least, good enough for the photo album). The rest went back in the envelope and got put in the shoebox with the other photo envelopes.

With digital cameras and smartphones having bigger and bigger storage capacities, the infinite nature of photographing anything is now standard for most people. A child’s birthday party could have a few hundred photos; a long trip abroad could have over a thousand! The advantage is you can re-take photos several times to get it just right; the disadvantage is you end up with an enormous amount to cull through later. How to begin organizing your thousands of printed and digital photos? Use these five steps to help ease this task.

1. What Are Your Goals?

Before you begin, decide on what your photo goals are. A few examples:

  • Organize my old printed photos and create photo albums.
  • Combine all my digital photos into one storage drive.
  • Scan my printed photos and combine them with the digital ones.
  • Label my photo storage system so I can find what I need quickly.
  • Cull my digital photos and create a storage file system plus a backup.

When you have decided what it is you’re looking to achieve, it will be easier to work on your photos with these goals in mind. 

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Organize Your Financial Documents

Even though we are in the Digital Age, paper remains a constant in our lives. While junk emails have replaced junk snail mail (trees happy, inboxes…not so much), one of the major paper generators of all is personal finances. Last summer my husband and I sold and then bought a home—the amount of paper those two transactions took was mind-boggling. We all have bank records, loans, credit cards, and utilities…and that is just the beginning. So much of our money-related information enters our homes as paper! Organizing paperwork can definitely be overwhelming. Let these guidelines help you get your financial documents in order.

Review what documents you have.

Before you can organize your documents, go through them and see what you have. Organize them into categories, such as To File, To Shred, To Read, To Pay, and Needs Action. You may discover unpaid bills, receipts for tax deductions, and all sorts of other paperwork you didn’t realize was in that big stack. If you’re uncertain about what to keep and what to shred, refer to our thorough guide on paper retention.

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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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