Monday, August 31, 2009


Today I wanted to share one of my favorite resources for relocating the items I clear out of my clients' personal spaces:

The group's home page explains their purpose better than I could, so here it is:
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,800 groups with 7,200,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who
are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about
reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated
by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free.

Freecycle is easy to use. Just go to and put the name of your hometown in the search box. The site will bring up a list of close matches and you select your city. If your city doesn't come up, consider starting a group. Odds are, someone besides you could use the service in your area.

Each group has a different application process. Mine uses Yahoo!, so I just sign in with my Yahoo! ID.

Be sure to read the guidelines set forth in your particular group. They will be helpful in knowing how to post the items you no longer want and how to reply to posts for items you want (best to do more of the former than the latter if you're trying to declutter).

One of my favorite things about Freecycle is that no matter what item you have, there's likely to be someone who wants or needs it. I have given away clothes, toys, kitchen items, puzzles, decorations and even broken items. If you have been to my website and looked at my photo albums, you might be interested to know that everything taken out of closet A was given away on Freecycle and was gone within hours.

Go check out Freecycle and let me know you're favorite feature of the site.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Working with a Professional Organizer

For those of you who have never worked with a professional organizer, I thought I would lay out the process I use in case it would be helpful to you in your own projects.

1. Assess. When I come into your home I will be getting my first glimpse of the project area and other areas of your home. When I set an appointment with you, I will ask you to leave your house as it would normally look and not do any "special" cleaning just because I am coming over. This is because I can get a good feel for your organizational style and whether or not the project area seems to be an exception to your normal organizing routine or if there is a pattern in your home. It is important for you to understand that I am NOT making judgments about you. Trust me, no matter how disorganized or cluttered you think your house is, I've seen worse. You can't shock me. I will also ask you if I can take some "before" photos of the area.

When we get to the project area I will begin asking questions that might seem completely unrelated to the project at hand. I am trying to determine your organizational style so I'll know what will work for you and what will not work for you. I am also trying to determine your eventual goal for the area. Believe it or not, sometimes what a person says they want is not what they actually want at all. There are sometimes so many emotional and psychological attachments to the objects in the room that they cannot begin to verbalize that they truly want. While these might not be apparent to either me or my client at the beginning of the process, most eventually reveal themselves and the goal of the space can change. That is okay.

2. Sort. This is the longest step in the process. We first mark out three areas for items to go into: trash (items that will be thrown away that day), keep (items that will need a home in the space or the house), and give away (items that are in good enough shape to be donated -- resources for that in a future post). Perhaps you don't want the hassle of giving items away. No problem. We simply eliminate that area.

Depending on the size of the space, we might sort the entire space or do it in a methodical area-by-area sweep. I will ask you to make decisions fairly quickly and to go with your gut instinct. I will not bully you, but I will encourage you to think about why you are keeping an item by asking you questions about the item. Does this item have sentimental value? If this item were lost or stolen, how would you feel about it being gone? Could this item go to help someone else and be more useful than it is to me?

All items that are going to be thrown away we put immediately into trash bags. When the trash bag is full we remove it from the house or business. By doing this we eliminate the ability to change your mind. Often your first decision is what you want before second thoughts come in to play. I'm not saying we would never dig back through the trash bags if you truly had second thoughts.

All items to be given away are also put in trash bags and removed to another area when they are full. When we are finished collecting these items, we will deal with getting them to their new owner ASAP as there is no point in simply moving the items around your house if you do not want or need them anymore.

All items that are going to be kept go into their designated area out in the open, and we will try to group like items together. In this way, you can see if you have multiples of an item and make a decision accordingly.
3. Make a home. Once we have decided what will be kept and what will be thrown or given away, we should have one group of items that will stay in this area or in your home. These items will need a place they will go and always return to when they are not being used. This is why I like to call this area their home. During this step I will ask more questions to make sure that the homes we are picking for your items is logical to YOU. It doesn't matter if it is logical to me because if it doesn't make sense to you, you will not put the item back in its home. This step can sometimes take a while and sometimes go rather quickly depending on the project.

4. Label/Group. During this step we will round up any loose ends. We will make binders or files for papers you need to keep. We will put small items in containers. We will make labels if you want them.

5. Wrap up. This is the shortest step of the process, but it is the most rewarding to me. During this time, you and I will step back and look at the finished project. I will ask you if you are satisfied with the result and we will discuss what you liked and what you didn't like so I can continue polishing the process for the next client. At this time I will ask you if I can take some "after" photos of the area. If you agree, I will also ask you if you would mind signing a photo release so I can use the photos during the course of my business. The release states that I will not use the photos in any way that someone might be able to identify you. I will ask if you are satisfied with my work. If the answer is yes, I will ask you to please write me a short letter of recommendation so new clients can see that you were pleased with my work. We will settle the bill and part ways.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quick Tip - Entryway

I am going to reveal my number one secret to keeping clutter out of your house, and the best part is - it will only cost you $1 (or less if you're resourceful).

Here are the steps:
1. Drive over to your local dollar store with a $1 bill and a dime (for tax).
2. Go inside and go to the container section.
3. Pick out a smallish trash can.
4. Pay for the trash can and ask them to put it in a bag for you. Ignore the strange look the clerk gives you.
5. Take trash can home.
6. Place just inside your front door where you set everything down when you come in and use the bag for the first trash liner.

Simple enough, right?

What? You want to know how this is going to keep clutter out of your house? Oh, okay.

Every time you bring a piece of paper in the front door - newspaper, mail, permission slip, and on and on - stand over the trash can while you open it. Any slip of paper you don't need, throw it away right away. This includes the fliers that come in your credit card envelopes, advertisements for stores you don't shop at, unsolicited mail .... By doing this, the piles of paper can't ever form and you never have to spend time sorting them out later.

I also see the beauty in doing this outside over your garbage cans, but not all of us (me included) is going to stand out in the heat or cold to sort out papers.

Pretty neat $1 trick, isn't it?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

That Ahhh Feeling

Since it is my business to do so, I read nearly every article on organizing I come across. You never know when you'll find some wonderful pearl of a tip three-quarters of the way through a re-hash of tried and true techniques. In fact, I keep a file of article clippings in which I found some great new piece of information to do my job more effectively. (My favorite so far: Using the space above a doorway for more storage by installing a shelf there. Genius.)

It was during my usual perusing of articles that I ran across something that sums up why I started my business in the first place : the ahhhh factor.

When I walk into a room where everything is in its "home" and I know I'm not going to have to move something to be able to sit down or that I can go to any item instantly, I just want to sigh a nice, long ahhhhh....

It makes me feel good whether it's my own home or someone else's, and it makes me feel twice as good to know that I can give someone else that ahhhh feeling. In fact, nothing makes me feel so good as to have someone tell me that they feel serene when they walk into an area after I've worked with it.

The nice thing is, you can get this ahhhh feeling without organizing an entire room. Try cleaning out one of your junk drawers and organizing the items you decide to keep. Then every time you open that drawer, even if the rest of that room is not to your liking you feel that little ahhhh...

Leave me a comment and tell me about your ahhhh feelings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Being Organized Does Not Equal Pretty

After a recent experience it occurred to me that many of you think being organized has to look like this:

While it would be nice if all of your things fit neatly in their own see-through bins and shelves, I feel it is important to point out that you can be organized without a house that looks like this.

In my mind, if someone can name any object and you can go quickly to its place to retrieve it and put it back just as easily then you're probably already well organized. Think to yourself, can you find:


veterinary records for your pets?

your birth certificate?

a muffin tin?

your car keys?

If you answered yes to all of the above, congratulations are in order -- you are already organized despite your house not looking like the latest organization column in Woman's Day or Family Circle.

Sometimes organizing looks like this:

and you just go with it.