Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What If?

When I work with my client's I find my time with them a learning experience for me and hopefully for them. But really it is about me. A few weeks ago I worked with a stage 4 breast cancer survivor and I learned so much about grace and dignity. This week my client was a person who had fire and caused them to be displaced for 9 months. It really makes my issues in life pale in comparison.

When I work with my clients we have long conversations for three hours. We get to the heart of their issues. I really discover who they are and what makes them want to keep some things and get rid of other things. But when you are affected by a fire, that really makes you sit back and take a minute to think. What I leaned is they had minutes to get out of their home. They didn't get the time to think about what to grab. So being organized is key!

I remember being at a friend's home when their neighbors house started on fire. The neighbor brought her kids over and went back in the home for the birds. I was shocked, I was sitting there trying to comfort the kids and I was taught you don't go back into a burning building. Ask a firefighter and they will agree. Fires can be burning in the attic and you may not know that your roof is about to collapse. Let them do their job.

So I want you to imagine your house right now and think about the important things in your home. People and pets are at the top of the list and then probably photos and home videos would be next. But I learned some things about recovery from a fire as well as any natural disaster.

1. Have great insurance coverage. I am a firm believer in having a personal relationship with your insurance agent. I have had good luck in finding agents that care about me and my family {thanks Robin!} You don't need to be a number, find an agent that knows you by name and can explain your policy in layman's terms.

2. Take a video. Most of us have smartphones and how long would it take to walk around your house and take a video? Open drawers and closets. Walk around narrating as you go. What an easy way to take an inventory of your house and its contents. Update this after major purchases or once a year. The beauty of smart phones is you can sync your phone so your photos and videos is saved in the cloud. If you are someone who does not think you are comfortable doing this video, find someone who is. It isn't hard and remember chances are nobody is going to see it. This is for your peace of mind!

3. Take pictures. Take that smartphone out and start taking photos of those important family photos that are irreplaceable. Of course scanning or saving in the cloud all of your photos is the ideal, but I am a realist. Take 30 minutes on the weekend and walk around your house and pull those important pictures and snap a good photo in good light. I do this for throw back Thursday (#tbt) where people post a photo from the past to social media. I am methodically working through my photos and sharing them on social media. I have found that taking the pictures in natural light is best. Take a photo by a window and try not to get a glare. You can now crop the photo and make it look like it was a jpg emailed to you.

4. Put irreplaceable documents in a fireproof/waterproof safe. I have all our passports and social security cards in ours. Perhaps my kids birth certificates are there. This is something I need to check. But I will tell you almost every client I work with does not have this simple item that costs under $100 yet creates priceless peace of mind! Believe me you will not be disappointed. Figure out what should go in this safe. This is an activity that will take you less than 30 minutes {I hope} to gather all those documents around your home!

Now this list is not to be all doom and gloom but rather to have you be proactive! Take action and let life happen knowing that you are prepared.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When You Have More Than a Junk Drawer

While conversing with the gentleman on the plane seated next to me last week he recognized me and we began the discussion of his concern of his parents being possible hoarders. He read my article on hoarding and it reminded him of his parents. He described them as not having a junk drawer, but rather a junk room. This got me thinking as I am a recovered junk closet girl myself. How do we create the problem of  having more than a junk drawer?

I know how my junk closet started; company was coming over. I simply took everything on my kitchen counter and piled it, neatly, in my walk in closet in my bedroom. Company kept coming over and my piles grew larger and larger. Never did I take the time to go through the piles. It began to be an embarrassment. I could take three large steps in my closet. First step goes to the left about two feet in. Then I go with the right and turn my body slightly to keep balance. Finally I take the last step in to grab the pair of pants hanging at the back of the closet.

How serious of a problem was my junk closet? Let's just say I broke my toe in it. True story! I walked into a piece of office equipment used to punch two holes in the top of a document. I was a lawyer then and clearly it was a sign from the universe that this occupation was bad for my physical health! Heck it took a broken toe to get me to slow down, for a day.

One day my dear husband had enough with the junk closet and took everything out one pile at a time. He played the role of MS. Simplicity very well. He didn't overwhelm me with everything at once. And he was there to support me and push me forward. It worked and the junk closet has stayed away....for the most part!

There are those out there who have junk rooms. I have seen them. It is the one room of the house where the door stays closed. The rest of the house is organized and looks like a picture out of a magazine. But behind that one door is chaos. Piles of gifts for the next holiday. Items that need to be returned to the store. Pictures that need to find a home. Clothes that no longer fit. Dishes for when Johnny moves into his first apartment. Box of memories of some long forgotten job. The guest room has been transformed into a junk room before our very eyes. It is like a magic trick! Nobody knows how it happens, but it just does.

So what do you do if you have more than a junk drawer? Do what I do with my clients with great success.

1. Set aside three hours. More than three hours is too much as it can get exhausting both emotionally and physically.

2. Make it a distraction free zone. Turn off the phone and turn up the music. Get rid of the kids and animals and perhaps the spouse.

3. Invite a helper. Often a family member is NOT a good idea. Family members can become too judgmental. A best friend who you are not embarrassed to show the mess to is best. Sometimes a glass of wine helps as you laugh over what you unearth.

4. Grab garbage bags: I use black ones for trash and white for donations. It helps keep it straight in my mind at the end as the bags leave the house. Sometime boxes are needed for fragile items.

5. Have the helper bring you one small pile at a time. If you were to look at the room all at once you become overwhelmed. Sit at a table or on the floor in another room and start sorting your items into like piles. Pictures go in one pile. Gifts go in another. Items that need to be returned to the store in another. You get the idea. I liken it to playing a game of cards, try to find the matches. Put like with like.

6. Have the helper start removing items and putting them away. Trash bags can be hauled to the garbage. Recycling can be put away. Donations can be loaded into the car. The items need to be cleared as you near the end of the three hours as you don't want to spend another three hours putting everything away.

7. If it looks like you are keeping everything have the helper start giving you some tough love. I have been to client's homes when all they wanted me to do was swirl their stuff around and make it neat. When you have too much stuff there is not magic to make it look less cluttered. The trick is to get rid of your stuff. A good rule of thumb is to get rid of half of it. Yes I said half. Remember this is a junk room where you are just putting stuff in that doesn't have a home. What if the home for the stuff is in someone else's home? Just have it leave yours.

8. Call in reinforcements. If you have done the steps as outlined above and it has not worked it may be time to call in for help. That is the point that you pick up the phone and give me a call. I become the helper and we laugh and have a good time and we talk about that time when I broke my toe.

Start to imagine the room being a useable space once again. Guests can sleep in it. The door can remain open. You can walk in and not break a toe! For those of you that don't have a junk room, do you have a junk garage or perhaps a junk rental storage unit. I think it is a daily challenge to stay junk free, but once you get to the sweet spot you stay motivated to stay there. Keep moving forward with one bag leaving your home at a time!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The 20/20 Rule of Stuff

I am a rule follower and a rule breaker. None of this middle of the road for me! I am either all in or all out! So give me a rule to follow that resonates with my heart and I will run with it. When I heard the Minimalists speak at a conference I attended in Los Angles a few weeks ago, the cute one talked about his 20/20 rule he lives by. The rule is simple: if you can replace something for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes you can get rid of it.

Now why is this a simple rule? When I work with my clients they have baggage associated with so many of their items. They hold a book in their hand and can't seem to part with it. They hold a kitchen utensil in their hand and it appears that they are making life and death decisions.

Now I know we all have things that we could apply this rule to. This rule is to help you get rid of just a few more items. Right away I am thinking of my spice cabinet. I have over 60 spices all neatly organized, and yes they are in alphabetical order! But some of them I know I have had past their expiration date. Have you ever tried to look at the expiration date on spices? I need special super power eye sight to decipher what it is. But I can honestly tell you in the last year I have added just four new spices, oregano, curry, pumpkin pie spice and red pepper flakes. All the rest I can be sure are past their prime. With this rule I can safely purge all my spices knowing that my local grocery store can provide them to me for under $20 and in less than 20 minutes.

Obviously this rule is not to be applied to everything. I want you to think about applying this rule to things that you don't use on a daily basis. Here are some areas that I could be tackled rather easily.

Books: Some of us love our books more than our children and we will not part with them. While others are ready to start parting with them. Remember we have great resources like public libraries and swapping with friends to meet our 20/20 rule. Knowing that these free resources are nearby can give comfort in the shedding of the books.

Cleaning supplies: I am a one trick pony with cleaning supplies, but if you looked under my sink you wouldn't think so. Keep the ones you use and donate the ones that you are no longer using. Am I really going to use that Murphy's Oil Soap on my cabinets this year? Probably not and it is safe to go and the 20/20 rule applies.

Makeup: I try to keep my makeup collection pared down to the basics, but every once in awhile a shocking shade of pink lipstick finds its way in. I recently put this certain lipstick on and my friend looked at me and said "no" rather firmly. So I guess a woman of a certain age can't pull it off. I remember thinking how much I paid for that lipstick. The cost is not going to make it look better on my lips. People are not going to look at me and say, "Wow she must be wearing some expensive lipstick!" More likely they are going to think, "Wow that is obnoxious!" Thank you, as I can buy a cheaper lipstick that looks better on me.

Garage bits and pieces: I know when I go looking in the garage for something I am often shocked at what I find. My husband holds onto the oddest things. But he recently did a huge garage purge and there is nothing much left in it. He would save the leftover screws from the deck that he built six years ago. I didn't know why he was holding onto these things and neither did he. Luckily I am married to a man who is ready to part with these things.

This week take a walk around your house searching for the items you are no longer using that can work with the 20/20 rule. Have fun looking at your items with a fresh set of lenses!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do You Love It Enough To Dust It?

Spring cleaning is in the air and I have the measuring stick to prove it, more and more people are coming up to me and telling me that they are sick of all the clutter in their homes and are ready for action. As I was leaving a coffee shop last week someone came up to me and proudly told me how many car loads of stuff she donated. She also didn't stop with her own stuff but went to her sisters as well! She said she asked her sister one simple question over and over again, "do you love it enough to dust it?"

Our home is filled with these so called tchotchkes, knickknacks and trinkets. Some were gifts and some were souvenirs we bought on vacation. Some may have been from a time when we collected certain objects....like that "I love clowns" phase of the 1970's. You are past the phase but some people are not aware and you are still receiving clown related items as gifts.

When the time to dust comes around {some never dust} we are mindless in the exercise and just pick it up and dust, without questioning our love of the object.

Not everyone is ready to attack their homes with a ruthless minimalist attitude. Many are stuck in that place called procrastination. Many are stuck in that place of perfectionism. But what we all have in common is we need that little push to get us started.

So this week the push is walking around your house asking "do I love it enough to dust it?" Just to be clear, this does not mean people in your home.

Certain areas of our home are where the act of dusting are focused. The living room, family room and bedrooms seem to attract the most clutter. These are the places where dusting is king. Walk around picking up each object and ask if you love it enough to dust it. Have a box with you as you walk around.

The key is to pick up each object and handle it. Roll it around in your hand. Look at it closely. Does it spark joy? If not, place it in the box.

Don't forget plants, both living and fake. I can't tell you how many dusty plants I have seen. These too need to be dusted. Do you love them enough to dust them? If not, find a better home for them.

What about the furniture? Do you move your furniture away from the wall and vacuum up the dust underneath it? That heavy oak grandfather clock that hasn't worked since 1962. If you don't love it enough to dust it, it is ok to get rid of it.

Oh and that piano that nobody plays? Yes you can get rid of it. I thought for a minute about my future grandchildren coming to visit me and play the piano for me. I thought for two minutes about my family gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols, yeah that wasn't going to happen in this lifetime. It was easy to get rid of it once I put myself back into reality.

Give yourself 30 minutes this week to start the process of asking the question. You may surprise yourself and soon have a carload and be searching for me in a local coffee shop to tell me your success!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From Hoarding To Hope : A Book Review

I just returned from a three day intense NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) conference in Los Angeles where I was surrounded by the best and brightest in the industry. For many years I was the only member of NAPO in the state of North Dakota which forced me to make connections with other organizers outside the state. One such connection I made was with Geralin Thomas when she spoke at the Home Builders show a few years ago. Geralin has appeared on the Today Show and A&E's Hoarders as well as national magazines. What I like about her is she is down to earth, knowledgeable and kind when working with clients as well as people she meets in Fargo.

When I saw that she had released her book I headed right over to Amazon and ordered it. I read it on the plane flying to Los Angeles and was surprised to realize that she wrote in the same style that she is as a person, down to earth, knowledgeable and kind.

Hoarding is a secret that is kept from close friends and families. I know I have hoarders in my life but I have never been invited into their home, for obvious reasons. But what my hope is by talking about hoarding we start to realize that this is a disorder now diagnosed with it's own category by the mental health professionals in the DSM-5.

Often when I get the call from clients they start by saying one of two things, "I think I am a hoarder" or "I am not as bad as a hoarder." What the show Hoarders has done is open the secret world of hoarding. We now have a yardstick to measure our clutter in our own homes. What I don't want hoarding to become is a stereotype. There is not a one fits all person who is a hoarder.

Geralin concluded many chapters with a major aha moment for me. I usually have a highlighter with me when I am reading a book to underline those light bulb phrases, but this time I was without one. However I can tell you exactly where in the book I read them, as they were that impactful.

"When you address the origin of a hoarding disorder, you begin the healing process."  One of the first questions I ask when someone calls me who thinks they are a hoarder is "are you receiving mental health care?" To me this is the first step in the process. Hoarding is not as simple as uncluttering in a single session. Instead it often goes back to their childhood or a traumatic event in their most recent past. Understanding how the hoarding began is essential.

"When damaged relationships are repaired, those who hoard can begin to build the support network they need to be successful in moving from hoarding to hope." Often what happens to hoarders is they become isolated and live a life where family has become frustrated and given up on them. Spouses become angry, children become embarrassed. If you are one of those loved ones, becoming knowledgeable about hoarding is essential.

Not only was the book full of real life interviews with hoarders but it also had the science to back it up with the leading mental health experts in the field contributing. Their input is important as well to help lead people into understanding this is a serious disorder and one that should not be taken lightly. Getting a grasp on the connection with OCD and PTSD is essential. Realizing what hoarding is not, is as important as understanding what it is.

The book is an essential reference guide for both families affected with a hoarding individual as well as the hoarders themselves. I personally do not work with hoarders as I do not have the training, however I am a resource in our community and can help guide a family in the right direction. It is time to stop having this be a hidden disorder and start talking about it publicly in a loving and supportive way.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Travel Tips

If you know me personally, you know that I love to travel. I am frugal with my travels and try to look for good deals wherever I go. I look at ways to maximize my travel budget and my time. Because of this I have been able to take some fantastic trips for less money then people would expect.

Here are my top tips to make travel easier:

Be flexible. When flying take the earliest flight as possible. The reason I do this is so that most flights these days are overbooked. The airlines are always looking for volunteers to take later flights. I usually go up to the gate agent upon arrival and say if this flight is overbooked I am willing to take another flight. They love knowing that they have people who have flexibility that they can call on. Because of this my son, husband and I each received an $800 voucher that we then used for our next vacation. I figured out we made about $200 an hour each for our wait. To me it was worth it.

Have power back up. I had a recent flight that was going to take 9 hours. I was concerned about my cell phone running out of power before I could recharge it. I like listening to music when I fly and knowing that I would have a long flight and no music had me a little concerned. I went to my local electronics store and explained my dilemma. They introduced me to a product called "mophie" that is an external power source. The one that I purchased can charge my phone 2.5 times. There are ones that can do more but the price goes up. I am now carrying this with me in my purse as it is the size of a five credit cards stacked up plus it gives me great peace of mind.

Pack snacks. Because I often try to give up my seat I have the very real possibility of being stuck in an airport with limited food choices. Making sure that I have a protein rich snack ready as well as a refillable water bottle helps make the possibility of long layovers much more manageable on my waistline and my pocketbook.

Travel App. My current favorite app is Trip It where I forward all of my flight and reservations by forwarding the confirmation emails to the app. Everything is organized in one app. I can easily check which car rental company I rented from as I am always looking for the one with the best deal and I am not loyal to one company and can become confused. When traveling with friends I see them fumbling to find the hotel location, where I already have it on my app along with a map.

Baby wipes. Too often I leave my bottle of hand sanitizer at home as it is over 3oz. and it gets confiscated by the TSA. But a travel size package of baby wipes is a great way to wipe down the tray that is a germ magnet as well as wipe down my hands after they are covered in who knows what.

Look outside of traditional hotels. I have used VRBO in the past and my college aged son recently turned me onto Airbnb. I have two upcoming trips with using this latest travel site. My first one is next week and my husband and I are renting a house boat on Lake Union in Seattle. To say I am excited about this experience is an understatement. The cost is less than a traditional hotel. But what it allows is for us to experience the area like a resident and not a tourist. You stay in their home and often the home owner leaves. They leave tips about the area and often a great parking spot for your rental car.

A good roller bag. The difference between a good roller bag and a bad one can mean you missing a connecting flight when you have to do the dash between terminals. I like ones with four wheels that I can rest my purse on and still have good mobility. I also have one that can fit under the seat in front of me so that if there is not room in the overhead I can always put it at my feet. Depending on the size of planes I fly determines which roller bag I pack.

My hope is that you make your travel experience a bit your simplified and stress free allowing you the ability to afford to travel more.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

5 Things that Can Leave Your Home Right Now

When people start the process of organizing they are overwhelmed. This time of year the pressure is even more as the weather turns nicer and wThey simply don't know where to start. The trick is to start and the organizing bug will bite you and you will keep going! When clients hire me I call myself the snowball effect. I am there to get them started. I am that small snowball on the top of a hill. By the end of our session we are gaining size and momentum. It is my hope to leave them with the skills and motivation to continue that push towards organizing.

But what can you do now on your own to get your own snowball effect going? Start with some simple organizing tasks that will get you going in the right direction.

1. Travel samples: Gather all those travel size bottle that you snag from hotels. Start using them this week or donate them to a homeless or women's shelter. We take them with us thinking we will use them, but we never do, just collecting more. I had a cute bar of Mickey Mouse soap from a Disney vacation 10 years ago. True story! I have also seen drop boxes at airports for travel samples that they give to our soldiers.

2. Linens: When was the last time you went through your linens:? Chances are you have sheets for a bed you no longer own. Or a bunch of flat sheets with no fitted ones to match. I own one set of sheets for each of my beds. I wash them and put them back on the bed. No folding or storing required! When my kids were little I did have more than one set for those middle of the night accidents. Clear out some space and keep your favorites!

3. Electronic cords: We all have random cords in junk drawers or hidden in boxes of the cell phone they came in 5 years ago. Cords are one of those items we are afraid to get rid of for fear of "needing" it someday. Gather all of them and figure out once and for all if you need them. You may need to ask others in the house. Place them all in a box and start sorting and pass the box around until everyone has pulled out what they need. Label what you use so you know that each cord is for. Recycle what you don't use of don't have a clue what it is used for.

4. Product manuals: I can not tell you how many people think they need to keep product manual. Information for most anything can be found online. Do keep manuals for appliances that would stay with your home if you were to sell it. So go ahead and get rid of the rest!

5. Unread Magazines and Newspapers: We all have a pile of unread items that we hope to read "someday." But sadly someday never comes and the pile becomes larger and larger. Start to set boundaries with unread items. Select a date such as newspapers only three days old, or the latest issue of a magazine only. You will get in the habit of making time to read or unsubscribing. I had one magazine subscription to ironically "Real Simple." I never read it. If I did have time to read it I read the online version instead. Some of my clients have rules where they have to read the magazine within a week and then drop it off at their gym or doctors office.

Spring is the time that we all feel the need to get our homes and lives organized. Instead of wondering where to start, just start. My goal for you this week is to start organizing in small ways in order to gain momentum. Start with these five simple tasks and see if you catch organizing fever this spring!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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