If you’re like about 50% of Americans, you’ll receive unwanted gifts this holiday season. 39% of you will keep those unwanted gifts, and at least 7% of you knowingly gift unwanted gifts! As an organizer, I’ve seen firsthand how the backlog of unwanted gifts creates a great burden of guilt, unnecessary use of precious storage space, not to mention the largely unseen burden on the environment.Read More
If forced to group my clients into just two categories, they would look like this:
A. People who struggle with documents (old and/or new) and to-dos.
B. People who struggle with letting go of articles, tear-outs, magazines, and newspapers.
Both groups come up against a myriad of reasons as to why things are they way they are. Their paper load may ebb and flow, but the needle doesn’t move enough, if at all. They may have spent many hours toiling away at the piles, only to find reasons to keep each paper or magazine that passes through their hands.
Recently though, one client who falls firmly into category “B” nailed why letting go of articles (some from the early 1990s) is such a challenge: “But it’s good information!” Such a succinct reason elicited a succinct reply from a sometimes loquacious organizer.
My reply: “Just because it’s good information doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever.”
In her case, a fair amount of her articles are on interior design. She’s starting to realize that, especially with a major renovation recently behind her, many of the images won’t be useful. She’s had some for so long that they’re dated or the design resources no longer exist. These realizations have caused a lot to go, but many stacks of folders containing magazine tear-outs remain.
Ever since I uttered “Just because it’s good information doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever” a few sessions ago, I’ve asked her to make this her mantra. She’s simmering on it and I just know those recycling bags are going to fill faster and faster - they already did in that session alone. When I’m there, I’m not shy about repeating it out loud. Given that interior design is of such interest to her, she’s realizing that the stacks of old design articles (and articles on other topics such as wellness and retirement) do not fit into her aesthetic that has been so finely honed by this decades-long passion. The articles on beauty are, well…not beautiful.
For years now I’ve told some clients that they can keep something if they have a good reason to - not just any reason - but a good reason. Note that I reserve this for the folks who I know want a strong force in the face of their clutter. (Some just want a gentle nudge.) This has evolved this year into addressing the double-edged sword of “good information.” We live in a time where we are drowning in good information. We buy it. It comes in the mail. We find it online. It lands in our inboxes. I find myself repeating this mantra to myself when I delete good information from my inbox. When great newsletters and invites to juicy webinars pile up in my email, I sometimes just delete delete delete. It’s a fleeting pain.
How good is the information if you’re buried in it? How good is it if you are so overwhelmed by it that you never make time to absorb it, let alone sit in a clutter-free room to enjoy it? How good is it if piles of it are unsightly in your closet, on your floor, or on your desk? How good does it have to be to keep it amidst the barrage of newer, better information that will sure come at you later today? How good is it if you never make time to process it into something that positively affects your life?
I can think of at least three other clients who have been assigned this same mantra since. Will you adopt it next time you hold some “good information” in your hands?
Who’s that crazy person with 6 lists on their refrigerator door? A professional organizer who is about to go to Bali for 3 weeks. I found this video on my phone while organizing photos from our August trip. The closer we got to our trip date, the faster the lists multiplied, though each became essential.Read More
A few weeks ago I shared one of the better, more honest, articles on organizing I had read in a long time. I declutter homes for a living. I hate free stuff. was written for The Washington Post by fellow DC organizer Nicole Anzia.Read More
It’s a joy and a challenge to work with a whip smart client who has tried it all and looks to me for some out-of-the-ordinary advice. I knew she and I would be working on her email last week. She didn’t want someone else to tell her to create more email folders and just reply to things on time.Read More
I declutter homes for a living. I hate free stuff. is one of those articles that leaves me screaming inside “I should have written this!” I didn’t though, so am very happy that DC organizer Nicole Anzia did.Read More
Last week I was organizing with my client in Houston, continuing a system that really excited her from my last visit. Monica has a spacious, beautiful home that, to the casual visitor, looks pretty organized. Lurking behind closed doors though were three rooms that had become repositories for clutter.Read More
In cleaning out my own Evernote this week I found a gem of an article that can no longer be found online (another reason why saving articles to Evernote is superior to bookmarks!).
This one happens to be a tear-out that I photographed while working with a client to thin her newspaper clippings.Read More
If you are a fan of The Onion’s humor and/or have grown children you must take a moment to enjoy Father Still has Complicated Series of File Folders with Grown Son’s Name on Them. This was shared with me by a client who has two grown children, and we started working together when they were still in high school!Read More
“Inertia” is a word I use often when talking about organizing. Even if relatively little progress is made in the beginning stages of a project, I always want the client to know how darn important it is that they’ve broken the inertia. It’s a point that usually gives someone pause.Read More
Not surprisingly, Bali was magical in so many different ways. From the views that were more than human eyes can take in, to the traditional healer who all but wiped out years of back pain, to the steady drip of raw and fresh food, we felt so appreciative for each beautiful moment.Read More
I’ve been waiting to write that subject line not just all year, but since the last time I was in Bali in 2002! I had the great pleasure of studying abroad in Bali for four months in 2000, and returned the following two years for a month each.Read More
It’s not often that I see an approach to organizing that is totally novel, but it happened when I worked in LA last fall. I helped a client organize a home office that was adjacent to her master bedroom. As I was frittering away with supplies in the office, she was slowly covering her bed and bedroom floor in at least a dozen piles of paper, each no more than a couple inches thick.Read More
“I’ll get rid of it once I learn how to wipe it clean” is something I hear every time I encounter a laptop, phone, iPad, or any other device that’s been discarded to the bottom of a drawer or back of a closet. Thankfully, Apple just made it infinitely easier to do this by announcing their buyback program for all Apple computers and devices.Read More
At the end of every year I compile a list of things I learned about organizing in the previous twelve months. 6 Things I Learned About Organizing in 2017 listed #5 as “Be explicit.” It was last year that I realized I had become much better at this, and that this is what the majority of my clients need from me.Read More
The one sentiment I hear from clients more than any other is “I should be able to do to this on my own, but for some reason I don’t. If you weren’t here, this would never get done, and with you it’s so much more fun!”Read More
File this under “How did I not know this existed?” This past week a client of mine showed me where he keeps 2 very important record books for his business. The data is also recorded digitally, but since he’s been generating project numbers by hand since the early days of his company, there’s a lot of nostalgia on those pages.Read More
Last week I was walking through Trader Joe’s when I stopped in my tracks upon sight of an exotic, elusive ingredient - freeze dried raspberries. "Huh", I thought, "I know I’ve been wanting to find these, but for the life of me I can’t remember why."Read More
To make a long story short, due to an HVAC install gone bad, we came home one night to a torrential downpour in our downstairs bedroom. The rug and hardwood were under an inch of water and it was rising fast. Thanks to Evernote, I was able to search “Rock Creek Gardens Emergency” which brought up the very page of my community’s 90+ page PDF handbook that I keep in Evernote.Read More