Wednesday, June 27

Success Stories for 6-27

Enjoy these two messages from group members. Look for the riddle in the first message and enjoy the before/after photos from Fiona's post. Karen

I am having so much fun cleaning up! I tell you everyone should have to downsize , clean up a place to sell it and clear out their house every few years. Even though I wasn't home most of last week yesterday I cleaned out a kitchen drawer that was totally stuffed with a little of everything under the sun. I can't tell you how many pens there were, pencils that never get used, rubber bands, used get the picture. And, true confessions, I even bought some organizing containers on Friday but they didn't fit and I didn't let that stop me. After throwing a lot of it away, I was determined that I could find containers in my house to put the items in and in a surprisingly little amount of searching I did. Now it has a container for pens; one for scotch tape, masking tape and correction tape; one for my egg timer, note paper, small calculator and a couple misc. items; and one for chip clips and clothes pins. The open space has scissors and in the back behind the containers are marking pens that I hardly ever need.

Then I cleared out something that had 949 items in it but it made no visible difference after I cleared it out. This is kind of like a riddle, huh? Can you guess what it was?? ...................... My email in-box. I am sooo bad about letting that accumulate. I have decided to get it down under 50 and not let it get over that.

Well, my last entry was quite awhile ago when I cleared off the "big" stuff on my desk. Only trouble was I never got around to clearing the accumulating "little" stuff. A quick analysis of "how did it get this way" yielded an easy answer--When anyone in the house "tidies up" it goes on my desk. The mail that was on the kitchen table. The invitation that needs an RSVP. The dry cleaner receipt for picking up the comforter. You get the picture.

To add to this difficulty, we are considering re-vamping our home office into a children's room. Additionally, we have a small home in general, so there are many things that simply don't have "homes". This will be quite a big task. I needed reinforcements. A friend came over to provide "an intervention". She spent 3 hours with me and if you would have asked me if we would have gotten the amount of work done in that time period, I would have said there was no way. In fact, we did so much work, it would have taken me days to do it. Probably more considering I didn't do it by myself.

Like Karen said, it is difficult to make some decisions. For example, my bridal bouquet, which I love, has not aged well. I followed all of the directions my florist told me to, and it just didn't work. It was falling apart and started to mold! Instead of looking at the bouquet and reminiscing, I would look at it and think, "what did I do wrong?" having been so disappointed. Having my friend, Pat here, helped me to decide, it REALLY was not looking well. I have many treasured photos of me holding that bouquet, and those photos elicit a much more positive (and healthy) response! This started me thinking about other things that I was holding on to that didn't have mold that was visible, but that it was almost a symbolic mold. Something that didn't truly represent what it did some time ago. I threw the bouquet away and I have had no regrets, and I am not sure I would have been able to do that without my friend spurring me on!

I think the small bites philosophy is good and works in most cases. I needed a bigger push though to jump start the process. If you feel like you might need some help from a friend, here are some things to consider:

Establish clear goals up front discuss any philosophy differences. For example, do you want to work horizontally or vertically? Do you want to start with an area that is out of sight or within sight? Active listening is important. My friend started out by listening. I went through the whole house, explaining where I felt I needed more space and she simply listened. No suggestions - those would come later. Confidentiality. Especially in a home office, you are bound to come across things that are, well, considered personal. Neither of us would have been comfortable purging my tax file together! So things that were either too personal or too time consuming were set aside as a homework activity for me to accomplish later.
My friend went through things in the office that could be easily sorted and didn't require much decision making. Paperclips went with paper clips, post-its with notepads, etc. When she came across things that she felt might be potential tossables, she would ask me about them. For instance, the dried-out rubber bands I hadn't used in so long. This also enabled me to do my own separate sorting while she was doing this, so we got twice as much done. Karen asked me what was the most helpful way that my friend helped me. After considering this for a moment, it was just the fact that she was there. It made the time go quicker and she is a master of the raised eyebrow method! For instance, since I work in the schools, I end up receiving a lot of freebie tote bags. She pulled out 9 bags from the closet --all empty and taking up lots of space in a pile in the closet. She said, "Wow, these are a lot of bags!" I said, "Well, I don't think I could get rid of ALL of them." and she said, "No, you might not want to get rid of ALL of them." And then we got started. First we started with discarding the ones without zippers. Then closer inspection revealed that a few of the bags were not "pocket worthy". We got rid of ALL the freebie bags and only kept 2 bags which were high quality totes. These went inside one another and took up much less space.

The most important consideration--document short term and long term goals while your friend is still there to support you! I still have lots more work to do, but I have a clear action plan, which makes me feel like I can actually take action!

Happy Decluttering! Fiona

Friday, June 15

Ideas--Thrifty Ways to Keep Your Stuff in Place

Ideas—Thrifty Ways to Keep Your Stuff in Place

In our last message we discussed the importance of decluttering prior to purchasing containers and other tools for storage. A wise lady, Marla Cilley, says, “You can’t organize clutter!”—and she’s so right.

After you’ve pared down the items in a particular area of your home, perhaps your kitchen or bathroom, you might have some ideas for arranging the things you use quite frequently. For example, I use my skin care products twice a day, and my make-up once daily. The tools I use for styling my hair are only brought out every other day. It doesn’t make sense to clump it all together, since the routine isn’t the same in the AM and PM, or from day to day. Stuffing the whole mess under the sink only makes retrieval more confusing, especially in the morning when I’m usually in a hurry.

One solution is to “zone” the items for each job. My hair dryer, flat iron, big mirror and styling brush go in a free bag (PINK!) I got from a favorite store. That remains perched on top of the toilet tank. The skin care products go in a cloth tote bag, kept under the sink. Since the tote bag has a small diameter I had to eliminate some items which were not frequently used; now I find that I don’t really use them at all, so they’re gone. If you’ve ever lived in a dorm or gone to camp this is probably very familiar to you; it’s a classier version of using a bucket to carry your shampoo, soap and other supplies to/from the communal bathroom.

Make-up is kept in a shallow, rectangular zippered bag. The shape of the bag and its light interior makes it easy to locate some of the smaller tubes and brushes. Several items were deleted from this kit over time, since I didn’t use them at all. This involved a bit of remorse, since my sister-in-law gives me oodles of samples from high-end cosmetic companies. I use the expensive face creams and potions on my hands and try to give the cosmetics away before I even break the seals, since my skin is a little choosy. Vitamins, in a Sunday-Saturday pill container, are kept in this, too. This small kit is kept under the sink, as well.

In the mornings I pull out the tote bag and make-up kit and take things out as I need them. If it’s a “hair day” the toilet topper comes over to the counter as well. Although it takes me forever to get ready in the morning, it only takes me 30 SECONDS to put everything back where it belongs (I’ve timed myself recently)! A huge reason that this system works for me is that every item is in a familiar place, each time it’s used. If you’ve ever cooked in someone else’s kitchen, you’ll recall how much longer it took you to prepare a familiar dish. When the supplies are not where you expect them to be, it takes longer. Add up all those little seconds of searching for what you need and the job drags on and on.

Select one area where you perform a routine, daily task. The kitchen and bathrooms are good targets. Think about what you use on a regular basis and pare down the items. Then, locate a bag or container that you already have around the house and use it to store the items between uses. Limit this to just one area and see how it works—once you become used to the system does it save you time and frustration? Refine your system if needed and use what you learn to tackle another spot in your home or office.

If you’re not able to find a suitable container around the house then take a half gallon size orange juice jug or milk jug and cut a large opening in it (see photo for example). Keep the handle attached so it’s easy to carry. You’ll find that this works well for keeping short or tall items and will help you determine whether or not the size is adequate for your needs. I keep clippers and attachments in one of these cheap storage containers and have no plans of “upgrading” it, since it’s stored under the bathroom sink and hardly ever sees the light of day.

If you want a shorter container, cut off the top of the plastic jug so that you’re left with a 3” high bowl. These make great containers for hair clips & kids’ crayons.

Write and let me know what area of your home you decide to streamline for speeding up daily tasks.

Friday, June 8

Before you head out to the store--Declutter

Necessary Things—Before you head to the store for more storage bins, declutter.

We’ll save our last installment of “Analyze This” for a later post. Let’s choose a small area that needs decluttering in our homes or work spaces.
The goal of this mini task is to see how crucial it is to declutter prior to heading out to the store for organizing supplies and containers.

I’ve included two pictures of notorious areas in my kitchen—the “whatever” shelves above my small coffeepot counter, near the back door, and my pots & pans shelves. I can tell you where everything is in these two areas, but they look awful and have looked like this for many, many years. It’s much easier for me to streamline an office or my bathroom but, for some reason, I always put off tidying up these two spots.

Think of a spot like this in your home or office. Walk over and open up the cabinet door, desk drawer or maybe the pantry door and give it a good look-over. Now, think about what nifty organizing containers, bins, office supplies you’ve seen that would really work great to streamline this one space. Write down your ideas and tuck the note in your pocket.

Let’s get to work on the one spot—for me that would mean taking out the pots and pans from the two shelves and putting them on the floor or countertop. No, no, no—I’m NOT going to get out the copper cleaner and shine the bottoms of those Revere ware pans, that’s for another session in the way distant future. Next, I’ll throw away the torn up, flimsy shelf paper and wipe down the shelves with a damp rag.

While I’m waiting for the shelves to dry I’ll retrieve the wallpaper I bought at Goodwill over 3 years ago to use for this very purpose. I’ll cut out the paper to generally fit the shelves and I won’t do what I have done before; that is, cut out every notch to exactly match the interior dimensions of the cabinet. Flashback: When I used to help my mom do this, we always nailed thumbtacks to the shelf edges through the thin shelf paper, to make sure the paper didn’t “creep” over time. These days I use heavy paper, or discount Contact paper with the backing left on it.

Now comes the thinking part. I sure do use the three sizes of my Revere frying pans, so I’ll put them on the lower shelf where they’re easy to pull out. The pressure cooker is a great size for pasta, but I don’t use it often, so it goes on the higher shelf that I have to twist a bit to reach. Boy, those Teflon-coated fry pans have seen better days and why do I need three of the same size? Take off the handle and the worst one will make a great dog-food bowl (remember, I live in the country)!

Putting rubber bands around the foil and plastic wrap cartons keeps the stuff from unraveling, plus it prevents me from slicing my fingers on the serrated cutting edges. Why did I keep this odd size of parchment paper—was I planning to use it for a 4” x 5” cookie sheet??? What should I do with the bag of coffee beans; we don’t have a grinder or other machine that would work. I’ve tried giving them away but my friends don’t have grinders either. Well, they’ll make great compost for my perennials.

When everything is back in place I’m wondering, what did I leave out? There’s extra room now on the shelves. Plus, in a few minutes I’ll have happier perennials and the dogs will be overjoyed to eat tonight from a clean bowl.

Let me retrieve my “What I need to buy to organize my shelves list.” Hmmm…rack to place inside cabinet door to hold lids, risers to create extra room, door pocket to hold foil and other wraps. What was I thinking? By decluttering first I saved myself time, gas money, and extras on my VISA bill.

Try this task in a small area of your home or work space and see what you learn from it. If, after you declutter, you decide that you need some extra tools for organizing, then you can go out and buy them to use right away. Your job will be finished. It’ll be like adding frosting to homemade banana muffins; the muffins are delicious without it, but sometimes the frosting makes them better.

Let us know what small area you decided to tackle, and your insights along the way.