Cleaning out Your Clothes

By Janine Adams

Cleaning out the clothes closet is difficult for many people. Clothes can represent so much — like music, they can do a great job of capturing a feeling about an occasion or part of life. They also can represent hopes. You hope to wear that size again. Or you hope to have an occasion to wear that evening gown.

The trouble with hanging on to clothes that you don’t or can’t wear is that an overcrowded closet makes it so difficult to care for the clothes you do wear. It’s hard to put clothes away if they’re packed in too tight. They also get wrinkled. And it’s much harder to see what you have.

I was just perusing an issue of O Magazine, whose theme is “De-Clutter Your Life!” In one of the articles, Oprah Winfrey goes through her closet trying to decide what to keep and what to let go of, with the help of the magazine’s creative director, Adam Glassman. What struck me about the article was that even Oprah, who has an almost unimaginable about of money, had a difficult time letting go of stuff. At one point in her life she had a very limited wardrobe because of budget. “Even now, wasting money on clothes makes me crazy,” she admits in the article.

After insisting on saving some beautiful items (she calls a pair of boots she’s never worn “closet jewelry”), Oprah agrees to let go of trendy items she doesn’t wear. It appears that Adam’s suggestion that the discarded clothing be auctioned off on Ebay to raise funds for OWLA, Oprah’s leadership academy for South African girls, makes it easier for her to let go.

I see this in my clients; if they know the article of clothing will be loved by someone else, they’re more able to let it go. They’d like to give stuff to me, but my policy is not to accept items that my clients are letting go of. (It prevents the appearance of conflict of interest and helps keep my home clutter-free.)

So next time you’re trying to weed out your closet, remember that Oprah found it difficult. You can imagine how beautiful the clothes she was discarding were, but she did it.

As an aside, my friend, the organizer extraordinaire Geralin Thomas helped me weed and organize my closet on a visit in 2009. She convinced me to arrange my clothes by color, something I resisted. I felt it was hyper-organized and would be too complicated for me. Boy, was I wrong. I love having my clothes sorted by color. (I organize them by category first, then by color. All blouses are together, in color order, all jackets, pants, etc.) Not only is it beautiful, but it makes it very easy to find what I need and to put individual items away.

And the less densely populated the rods, the more I enjoy my color-coded closet.

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.

The Cost of Keeping Stuff

By Janine Adams

I gave a talk this week called Letting Go of the Tough Stuff. One of the points I made in that talk is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Many clients don’t like to part with items they don’t use or love because those items cost a lot to buy. Or they feel the item is worth something and they can’t just give it away, but selling it feels too complicated or labor-intenstive, so it gets put off.

When I’m working with a client with a big clutter problem they’re trying to resolve, I like to point out that there’s a cost associated with keeping those items. When you’re dealing with a lot of clutter, keeping stuff you don’t use or love can have the following costs:

  • physical cost. If you can’t dust because of the clutter, it can affect your health. If you can’t let in a repair person or get to the furnace to service it, your house might be paying a physical cost as well.
  • monetary cost. If you’re paying your bills late because you can’t find them amidst the paper, you’re probably paying higher interest rates on top of late fees. If you’re buying duplicates of things because you can’t find the ones you have, that’s costing you money. And if you’re paying for storage? That’s a quite literal example of how keeping your stuff can have a monetary cost.
  • An emotional cost. For many people, major clutter leads to guilt, shame and self-recrimination. Every time you look around you feel bad. If you’re hanging on to items that remind you of a bad time in your life (relics of a divorce for example), there’s an emotional cost as well.

Next time you’re tempted to keep something because it cost a lot, think about the costs of keeping it. Letting go of items you don’t use or love can be very freeing!

You can get more advice on letting go by purchasing my Organizing Guide,Saying Goodbye to the Stuff that’s Holding You Back.

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.

Manage Time by Managing Priorities

By Janine Adams

Time management isn’t about managing time. It’s about managing priorities. We all have the same amount of time in a day to deal with. How we use it is an indication of our priorities.

If you’re not accomplishing as much in a day as you’d like, take stock of how you’re actually spending your day. Are you at least getting the important stuff—the stuff that reflects your values and goals—done? If not, time to examine your priorities in relation to how you spend your time.

These aren’t earth-shattering revelations, I understand. But sometimes it’s important to take a step back and take stock of how things are going. Personally, I have some catching up—and some priority management—to do. (Mark Forster, whose Do It Tomorrow time-management system I’m in the process of implementing, calls it “going through the audit procedure.”)

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been so busy with clients I’ve not had as much desk time as usual, so I’m falling behind on tasks. The great satisfaction I’ve been feeling over really accomplishing what I set out to do has been starting to evaporate.

Time to hunker in, see what’s going awry, and manage my priorities. While I have a lot that I need and want to get done, I can say with all honesty that right now, taking a little time to relax is a high priority!

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.

 

Get Started with a Professional Organizer

By Janine Adams

If you’re reading an organizing blog, chances are pretty good that you fall into one of three camps:

  • You’re a professional organizer
  • You’d like to work with a professional organizer
  • You’re a fairly organized DIYer looking for ideas

This post is for those of you who fall into the second category. If you’d like to work with a professional organizer, I’d love to provide you with some advice to optimize that experience, should it come to pass.

Choosing an organizer

  • Check out your choices thoroughly. You can find professional organizers at the website of National Association of Professional Organizers and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. Choose some local organizers and read websites, look at testimonials and before and after pictures. Call any organizers you’re interested in who don’t have websites.
  • Ask around. If you know folks who have worked with organizers, quiz them on their experience
  • Know what you’re looking for. Do you want an organizer who tells you what to do (some people do)? Or one who involves you in the process of coming up with solutions?
  • Trust your gut. If an organizer’s website or telephone manner resonate with you, that’s a good reason to pick her (or him).
  • Don’t bargain shop. This is a field where fees are usually commensurate with training and experience. If you’re challenged by chronic disorganization, for example, you’d be wise to select an organizer with training and experience in working with chronically disorganized clients. And you may well pay more for that.

Working with an organizer

  • Resist the temptation to clean up for your organizer. If your home is messy, you may feel embarrassed. Try to set that aside so that the organizer can see the natural state of your home in order to help you best. Mess and piles can provide clues.
  • Be honest. Try not to anticipate what the organizer wants to hear. Instead, just answer all questions honestly, even if you’re a little embarrassed. Your organizer can help you best if you’re honest in everything you tell her.
  • Be realistic. How long have you been dealing with disorder in your life? Probably quite some time. Unfortunately, organizers don’t have magic wands, so we can’t fix things instantly. Recognize that this is a process that might take awhile.
  • Be prepared to learn new behaviors. If you’re dealing with a lot of clutter, the first step might be decluttering. But after that, you’re more than likely going to need to change your habits and create new routines to ensure that the clutter doesn’t come back. If you don’t change your behavior, the order that you and your organizer create might be temporary.
  • Do your homework. If you and your organizer agree that you’ll do homework, try to accomplish it. If you don’t it’s usually not a big deal. But being honest and realistic about the prospect of what you can accomplish between appointments can help your organizer better plan the next session.
  • Trust your gut (again). If you’re not clicking with your organizer, don’t be afraid to talk with her about it. This is intimate work and it’s essential that you have a trusting relationship and work well together. If you don’t feel it’s working with the organizer, perhaps the two of you can come up with a solution. If no solution is in sight, perhaps you can ask her for a referral.
  • Keep your appointments. If you book an appointment with an organizer, try to keep that commitment. She’s set aside time for you and scheduled around that appointment. Last-minute cancellations can be costly for the organizer. And they’re costly for you, too, since you can’t get help if you don’t keep appointments.
  • Expect backsliding. Most clients experience some backsliding, when life gets in the way and newly learned behaviors fall by the wayside. If you backslide, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or your organizer isn’t effective. It just means you need to renew your efforts. Or perhaps tweak our systems.
  • Be brave. It can be scary to let someone into your house for the first time in ages. It can also be scary to admit to your organizer that you haven’t done your homework or that you’ve not been able to maintain the order you created together. But organizers, by and large, are compassionate and non-judgmental people. Getting past the fear can help put you on the path to an orderly life.

When you hire a professional organizer, you’re making a time and financial commitment to getting organized. Often, you’re making an emotional commitment as well. That can be very powerful!

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.

Your Home Inventory Portfolio

By Jennifer Morehead

I put together a home inventory because I wanted to know the value of the stuff in my home. I thought, if I can log into a website and see the exact value of my investment portfolio, why can’t I do the same for my home inventory portfolio?

In our household we keep track of insurance, investments, bank accounts, you name it. But in the past we weren’t diligent about recording information for the things in our home. And when you add up all of your stuff it equals, on average, 70% of the value of your home. Considering that the average U.S. home price is nearly $275,000, that’s coming close to $200,000. Can you believe that nearly $200,000 usually goes unaccounted for in most households?

I talked to different claims adjusters, and combined with surveys I did on home inventories, it seems that approximately 12% of the population has made a home inventory.

The process we created on Lockboxer is easy to follow. You take a few pictures of each room and closet in your house, upload your pictures, and then our website makes it easy to “grab” details about your stuff. It only takes an hour on the site once you’ve taken your pictures.

I have talked previously about how I would like to run my household like the floor of a successful retail store with old inventory being sold at a discount and new inventory continuously coming in. It all starts with a home inventory portfolio that is accurate and up-to-date.

Think of how you can manage ‘poor-performing assets’ like the couch in your basement that is only losing value. On Lockboxer, you can choose to make an informed decision about how and when to sell it or donate it, instead of rushing out the door on Dec. 31 frantically looking for a drop-off donation location.

I realize that I’m talking about stuff like it has no sentimental value. I am likening my stuff to lifeless stocks and bonds. But to be honest, most of the stuff in my home doesn’t have a lot of sentimental value. Maybe that’s just me or maybe it’s the current state of our society where you can pick something up at a store and there wasn’t a lot of hand-craftsmanship that went into it. At any rate, I hold certain items very dear but for the most part, I’m happy to have a home inventory portfolio that lets me effectively manage the stuff in my home.