Declutter and Thrive

How to Get Your Partner On Board for Professional Organizing

We often hear “How do I get my spouse to buy into hiring a professional organizer?” They have a variety of concerns, such as the time it will take, or the cost, or having to get rid of their stuff. They could be embarrassed to have someone see their cluttered home. It’s possible they consider asking for help a weakness. They don’t understand that it is an investment that will lower their stress levels or give them more free time. He or she may also ask, “Why can’t we just do this ourselves?”

What Are the Health Benefits of an Organized Home?

A home that is free of clutter and has organized spaces is beneficial to one’s mental and physical health. The Mayo Clinic details how an organized home brings down stress levels and helps you focus, among other benefits. It’s also easier to maintain: the average American home contains 300,000 items! Consider being able to actually park your car in the garage. Or looking for something in your kitchen and finding it in five seconds instead of 30 minutes, or never. Imagine coming home and feeling calm and content in your environment, instead of anxious and stressed out about the clutter lining the hallways or all over the living room.

Have You Hired Experts Before?

Have you hired pros to install an in-ground sprinkler system, do your taxes, tutor your children, or design your website? This wouldn’t be any different. Hiring a professional organizer means you’ve hired an expert to declutter and organize your home, to help you set up systems to manage and maintain your organized home, and to mentor you on these skills. This expert will work with you in your home, and the service is completely customized to your needs, your lifestyle, and your goals. Also consider that a professional organizer can accomplish in three hours what would take you 9-12 hours.

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How to Live Big in a Small Family Home

Living Large in a Small Space

Fitting a whole family into a small home can be a tough challenge, but not as much if you think ahead. Careful planning is the key to organizing and using free space efficiently. But where should you start? First, think about the needs and necessities of each family member. You (and maybe your partner) need a working area. Your kids need a space to study and play (think of pets here, too). Once you’ve made a list of all the space everyone needs to live comfortably, it’s time to think of some maneuvers to make this plan a reality. Here is a list of useful tips and tricks for your family to live bigger in a smaller home.

Go for the stars

One of the most important rules of efficient space usage is to think vertically. Use the space you have from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. If you look up in a room and see open space, keep that idea in mind and go for it. This is especially useful for rooms that are overcrowded with furniture. Organizing a home office or a living room in such a manner is easy—use plenty of shelves and hanging elements for all the books, souvenirs, and other décor accents you have. As for the kids’ rooms, you need to consider that they can’t reach very high shelves on their own. For their safety, you don’t want them climbing high shelves either. Provide them with a stool or a ladder. You could also use the higher shelves to store items they rarely use (or something that you can’t store anywhere else in the house).

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Tips and Tricks for Organizing Your Garden Shed

Many of us like gardening, but don’t enjoy opening up the long-unused garden shed after a wet Pacific Northwest winter. Looking at the cobwebs and damp leaves that have settled in, there is always that goal: “This year, I’m going to organize this place!” And then you dive in to the gardening tasks, you enjoy the blooms and the growth from spring through fall, and by the time you realize it’s almost winter again, the shed is still in disarray. Not this year! We’ve got a great list of tips and tricks to help you whip your garden shed into shape. Come this time next year, you’ll open up your post-winter shed, see and find everything you need, and love gardening even more. Green thumbs at the ready…set…go!

Small Tools

Your hand tools deserve better than being tossed into a sack and set in a corner. Storing them dirty and thrown about will cause them to rust and lose their edges quicker. If you invest in high-quality hand tools, you’ll want them to last many years. A trough or big clay pot filled with sand will keep your tools clean and sharp; wipe them with a rag before sticking them in the sand. If you are going to store them in a toolbox, wipe them down and line them up so the edges aren’t banging into one another. Add charcoal briquettes in a cloth bag—these will absorb any moisture. Of course we can’t forget the classic pegboard storage solution—so many ways to do it!

Serious DYI-ers will not recoil from this weekend project: build a potting bench! It includes a pegboard for your hand tools, as well as places for pots, soil, etc. Not a handy sort? Just order one online.

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50 of Marie Kondo’s Most Inspiring Quotes for Decluttering

Clutter comes in many different shapes and forms and is a very personal assessment. One person’s cluttered bedroom might mean someone else’s dream situation. It really doesn’t matter what clutter you have and the scale of that clutter—as long as you understand what clutter means to you and how you want to go about getting it sorted once and for all.

The first and most important step is actually just realizing that you have a clutter issue and are willing to change it. As you are reading this we’re assuming you are ready to take on the challenge. Bravo for taking the first step! Whether you’ve realized that you have an issue with clutter in your garage, your kitchen drawer, your entire house—or you’re looking for a digital declutter—look no further than Marie Kondo and her iconic organizing and tidying techniques.

You haven’t heard of Marie Kondo and her KonMari method before? Well, she’s pretty much the queen of organizing and she’s changing people’s lives through the magic of tidying up. Sounds too good to be true, right? If her bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or her popular series on Netflix is anything to go by, she certainly practices what she preaches and has shown that her methods really do work.

To help get you started on your decluttering journey, check out this infographic by JD Williams. Designed to help motivate you and your tidying, the infographic shares Marie Kondo’s most iconic quotes from her Magic of Tidying Up book. You can use the infographic as a starting point to help get you inspired for a big clear-out. Or use it to  Marie’s top tips as a bit of a checklist. Good luck!

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Self-Care Ideas for Mother’s Day and Beyond

The term “self-care” hit the mainstream a few years ago, though it still means different things to different people. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as, “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness.” A clinician on Psychology Today refers to it as, “a huge part of what’s missing in the life of someone who’s busy and stressed”. But one of my favorite statements about self-care is from a New York Times piece that boldly declares, “Self-care is for anyone who wants it.” As a mom, I definitely want it! And with Mother’s Day coming up, there are so many ways to give yourself the self-care you need, want, and absolutely deserve. Go on, treat yourself.

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How to Optimize Your Workspace for Productivity and Ergonomics

There is such a strong emphasis nowadays on health and well-being. It’s the beginning of the year, and everyone is scrambling to keep their New Year’s resolutions. Aside from exercising and eating clean, it’s also important to ensure you’re working in a comfortable, functional environment. If you want to get the best work out of yourself, treating yourself as a top priority is an excellent incentive. Since so many of us now work from home full-time or at least a couple days a week, having a home office that is is comfortable and ergonomic is essential to your productivity and creativity. These tips on optimizing your workspace will be a boost to your productivity.

Choosing the Right Furniture

Setting up an efficient, clutter-free, ergonomic home office is an excellent way to start. A great office can have a far-reaching impact on your productivity at home. Many successful companies—such as Google and Seattle City Light—have mastered the creation of ergonomic, enriched workspaces that free their employees to think creatively.

Your home office belongs to you alone, so make it a personal, unique fit! Choosing the right furniture is important and makes a big difference. Make sure your furniture is comfortable and functional. Don’t hesitate to customize the style and color to your taste as well.

Finding Your Favorite Chair

If your job is desk-based or sedentary, you likely spend a lot of time on your chair. For example, sitting for 5 hours a day every working week means that you’re on your chair for almost 50 days a year. Being seated for extended periods can have negative effects on your body, so it’s important to take breaks and keep moving regularly.

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Don’t Delay Any Longer: Get Started on Your Taxes Today

Hear that tap-tap-tapping noise? It’s the sound of calculators and keyboards, as Americans are working on filing their taxes this spring! The deadline to file your 2018 taxes is midnight on April 15, 2019. That’s just around the corner. Don’t hold off any longer—the time to file is now. According to the IRS, 20-25% of Americans wait until the final two weeks before the deadline to prepare their documents and file. The sooner you file, the less likely you will need to file an extension or pay a fine.

Here are seven reasons to get started on your taxes today:

  1. By the end of February most financial institutions have mailed out their respective tax documents. You should have all your documents gathered and organized. If you think you are still missing something (e.g., a document, form, or receipt), call the appropriate person to get that item sent to you right away. Tip: an email with the attached file is much quicker than the U.S. Mail.
  2. This is the first tax cut year under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which overhauled the code that doubled the standard deduction. Give yourself some time to make sure you file accordingly, because this new code may affect your exemptions and deductions, and thus, your refund. CNBC outlines these changes.
  3. Tax preparation professionals are now smack in the middle of the tax-filing season. As soon as you have all your documents, submit them to your tax professional. Don’t procrastinate on this; even CPAs have to get extensions if they can’t file your taxes in time.
  4. There is a penalty for not filing your taxes by the deadline. This penalty is harsher and different from the penalty for failure to pay what you owe by the deadline. You should file taxes on time even if you are unable to pay all the taxes you owe by the due date.
  5. Get ahead of the fraudsters! The IRS advises filing as early as possible, to keep identity thieves from using your information to file a return in your name, and then claim your refund.
  6. Don’t forget that tax refunds are your money! Why wait any longer than necessary to claim it? You’ll feel much better knowing it’s in your bank account, and not the government’s coffers.
  7. Filing your tax return now and checking that off your to-do list is one more way to lighten your load. No more thinking about taxes for at least another 9 months!
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What to Save and What to Shred: Paper Retention Guidelines

Even with many day-to-day tasks moving online, there will still–and always be–paper. The average American receives almost 50,000 pieces of mail in their lifetime, and 30% of it is junk. No wonder so many of us have piles of paper items that can quickly accumulate if not taken care of. You want to tackle the stacks of paper on your desk, but you’re not quite sure how to start? Our guidelines will help you know what to save, what to recycle, and what to shred.

The Simplify Experts Paper Retention Schedule:

  1. All tax returns are to be kept; receipts need to be kept for the last 7 years of returns only.
  2. Bank statements only have to be kept for 3 years unless a key component in your 7 years of tax receipts.
  3. Financial Brokerage accounts – keep the current year statements. At the end of year, save only year-end and tax related forms. Trade confirmations need to be kept to prove the original price of the stock when purchased until sold. Keep trade confirmations in a labeled manila folder with your tax receipts.
  4. Keep all medical billing statements and prescription receipts for the year should you incur large medical expenses for that year and have enough to claim a tax deduction. If you did not meet the medical claim amount for your income, than shred all medical billing at year-end.
  5. You only need a couple months worth of utilities unless you run a business out of your home and are writing off a portion of those expenses to your business.
  6. If you believe you will be doing a wealth of improvements to your home for the life of your home, keep all home improvement receipts for capital gains tax when you sell the home.
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Lighten Your Load by Cleaning Out Your Purse

Me, handing my purse to my husband: “Honey, could you hold my purse for a sec?”

Husband, taking it: “Whoa! What’s in here, bricks?!”

Sound familiar?

Whether your purse of choice is a cool designer number or a small canvas tote, we all tend to use it as a place to stash everything we “need” on the go. The problem is it’s too easy to forget all the items we’ve been putting in there. Then when it comes time to find your keys, a pen, or “that coupon I’m going to use one of these days,” it’s like digging elbow-deep into a mystery grab bag.

Here is our guide to cleaning out your purse—and then keeping it organized.

First, Clean It Out

  1. Take out everything and lay the items out on a table. Make sure to check every single compartment and pocket, inside and outside—even ones you rarely use.
  2. Get rid of all garbage—wrappers, lists, receipts you don’t need, pens that don’t work, dried-up lip balm, a broken and non-repairable bracelet, old kids’ items, etc.
  3. Group together multiples. Do you really need more than one pen, or more than one pair of sunglasses? Likely not. Keep one of each essential item, then put the rest away (but don’t throw it in your junk drawer, natch).
  4. Do you have containers in your purse, such as a cosmetic bag or first-aid kit? Clean those out as well. Throw out that old cracked compact, or the Disney Princess band-aids your now-teenager does not need.
  5. Get rid of seasonal items. Do you really need an umbrella or a wool hat in there when it’s July? Or your seasonal allergy medications when it’s the off-season? How about the heavy set of keys to your in-laws’ cabin that you only visit in November?
  6. Now start returning items to your purse, while evaluating how often you truly use each item. Things like your wallet, keys, phone—of course. But items like a flashlight, hand cream, a granola bar—maybe not? In other words, get rid of the “just in case” items.

 

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5 Things I Love About Marie Kondo’s New Netflix Show

As a professional home organizer, watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the new original series on Netflix, is a bit like a chef watching Top Chef, or like a real estate agent watching House Hunters on HGTV. It’s fascinating to see the different strategies and methods that Marie Kondo employs. At Simplify Experts we have organizing processes that are tried and true. Many are very similar to what Kondo teaches, but in small ways Kondo has a different take on how she goes about tidying. There are lots of ways to skin a cat, as they say; so instead of comparing organizing strategies, I’d love to share 5 reasons why I love the show.

Authenticity

The couples, families, and individuals on this show are real and authentic. They are young couples with small children, retirees, downsizers, widows, and couples just starting out. They share their real feelings about their families, their homes, their hopes and worries. They share honestly how clutter impacts their lives and how they would like their lives to change. They speak honestly about the hard work it takes to complete the tidying process. They share how they feel once they’ve decluttered and organized. They cry. They laugh. Their homes look like the homes of real people everywhere. They are like so many of the clients we’ve worked with.

No Judgement

This show does a great job of showing the empathy professional organizers have for their clients. Marie Kondo has a little ritual in which she says, “hello” to each new home. While we don’t share that practice, we are definitely honored to be invited into our

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