Posts Tagged ‘cleaning out’

A Faster Way To Get Kids Organized

Contrary to popular belief children were not put on this planet to perpetuate chaos — hell-bent on undoing your housework and leaving piles of clutter trailing behind them. Kids actually thrive on order, but it's not something they can easily maintain until you teach them how — and children have short attention spans, so you can't expect a 6-year-old to stay focused as long as an adult might. You'll get a better response (and your children will experience a greater sense of achievement) if you ask your kids to complete just one small task at a time — something concrete and specific.  With the right action plan, there will be no misunderstanding about what you expect from your offspring, and your kids will soon be picking up after themselves without you even asking! Have your kids:

  • sit down with you to draw up a chore chart for the week
  • help prepare a week's worth of packed lunch “basics” (veggies, cookies, crackers, fruit, etc.)
  • collect up all their scattered pairs of shoes and coats to put away in their closets
  • go around the house, gathering their stray toys from each room into a basket
  • put away any games or toys as soon as play time is over
  • sort their dirty clothes into “whites,” “colors,” and “darks” on laundry day
  • put away their newly cleaned laundry
  • clean out all the broken crayons and used-up paint in their art supplies
  • go through their school supplies and clean out anything they no longer use in class
  • label each of their drawers with a picture of what's stored inside (shirts, pants, undies, socks, etc.)
  • sort their craft paraphernalia into separate tubs (for beads, glitter, markers, construction paper, etc.)
  • pull out any toys that are too childish for them to donate
  • try on last year's school clothes and get rid of what no longer fits
  • go through their art papers and pick only those favorites to hang or put in a scrapbook
  • go through their school papers and pick only those favorites to keep as memorabilia
  • choose their school outfits for the next week
  • gather up everything they need for school the next day and sit it by the front door
  • group their books together by author or type (coloring, picture, story, etc.)
  • put all their CDs, DVDs, and software discs back in the correct cases
  • sort their sports equipment into containers according to the game and label with pictures

See how easy that was? Wink

Examine Your Wardrobe

One source of the problem could be wardrobe clutter. If the clothes you love are hidden in a sea of outfits you never wear, it's going to slow you down in the morning — and having too many options makes it harder to decide what to wear. So the first step is to trim down to only those items you love, wear all the time, and really enjoy.

Start by pulling out everything that no longer fits and asking yourself when you plan to be that size again. You may feel tremendous pressure to be a stick insect,but those too-small clothes only make you feel bad about yourself. And I'm not talking about “someday” —  if you're going to keep something that doesn't fit, you need to have a reasonable goal set for yourself (wishful thinking only creates more clutter). If it isn't going to happen within the next couple of months, it might be time to let go of that size 6 clothing and accept yourself as a beautiful and confident size 10! Also imagine the day that you do shrink back down to the size you were in college — are those outfits still going to be in style, still going to be your style? Probably not.

Now take a look at what's left (accessories, shoes, hats, purses, and jewelry included). I'll bet that your closet still contains some outfits that simply never see the light of day. When it's time to answer the burning question of “what am I going to wear today?” you tend to pass these skirts and pants and blouses over again and again. Why? Well, there's obviously something about them that just doesn't click with you Maybe you hate the color of that lime green jacket, or that skirt is annoying because it always rides up when you sit down, or those shoes pinch after you've had them on for more than an hour, or that pleated pair of pants just makes you feel fat. That's fine — lose them. Life is too short to wear clothes you hate. Everything you own should be flattering, comfortable, and make you feel fabulous. If not, why keep it in your closet?

Finally, some items in your wardrobe are currently unwearable because they require “service.” You might have a pair of pants that needs hemmed or a blouse whose seam has come undone or a pair of shoes whose heels have come loose — set up a “repair/alteration” basket for these injured souls. If you have clothes that need to be professionally cleaned (especially those with stains that require special treatment — like that favorite suit that got a spill on it at a networking lunch, and you haven't been able to wear it since), set up a basket for “dry cleaning”. Then before the week is through, tote your baskets to ONE location that offers both services — get everything taken care of at the same time, and start off next week fresh with a closet full of functional clothes.

Discover Your Natural Beauty

It's easy in this country to become a slave to the cosmetics industry. Advertising tries its best to convince us that if we don't have a 16-step skincare routine, spend an hour a day creating the perfect hairstyle, and engage in a weekly full-body home spa treatment, we're unattractive and poorly groomed. Don't buy into the lie! If all you do in the morning is wash your face, put on some moisturizer, and brush your teeth, you will survive just fine — I promise!

Ladies, let's have a serious heart-to-heart talk here. When it comes to cosmetics, you have to pick your battles — you don't need to look like Tammy Faye every time you walk out of the house. For me, the only two real priorities are lipstick and mascara (my lashes are so blonde they practically disappear). I personally haven't owned blush or foundation or lip liner in years — and I somehow manage to make do with only one shade of  eyeshadow, one eyeliner pencil, and one tube of lipstick. My entire makeup and skincare collection will fit into a single toiletry bag, and I save time and money to boot. To me, that is simplicity.

The problem is that everyone is trying to achieve the current most popular style, but most of us just aren't built to look like Hollywood's hottest celebrities. I learned this lesson early on as a child in the 70's, when I found out that Farrah Faucett's blue eyeshadow and lip gloss and “wings” just didn't translate as well to my curly hair and freckled face (it was a devastating discovery, and it was then that I decided to go my own way in terms of fashion!) I know, I know — we always want what we don't have, and modern technology gives us the ability to change our looks on a whim. Folks with straight hair fry their locks with hot rollers and a curling iron, those with kinky hair use gels and blow dryers to flatten their waves, fair-skinned folks spray on fake tans while darker women use creams to lighten their skin — they say that beauty is 50% illusion, but the other 50%is an investment of time, effort, and money! Some people spend hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) attempting to look a way that God never intended. I guess, if that's how you want to use up your precious life energy, it's your choice — but I have better things to do with my day!

I'm one of those folks who can get ready, from jumping in the shower to walking out the door, in about 15 minutes. This wasn't always the case, but over the years, I've decided that I just don't want to waste half my day in the bathroom — I would rather be out there experiencing the world than constantly “preparing” for experiencing the world. The trick to a quick and easy morning routine is finding a style that flatters your natural features with as little effort as possible. It was a great day when I stopped fighting my hair and finallygot the right haircut — now, all I do is put in a little gel, comb itinto place, and let it dry (bye-bye hair dryer!) It also helps if you can stop jumping at every “fad” when it strikes. Just because everyone else is wearing pink lipstick this season, that doesn't mean it will suit you — find your own color palette and you will always be in style, you'll spend less money, and you'll have less clutter on your vanity. Sure it's fine to have a few funky items in your arsenal for playing dress-up — but if you'reputting together a “special occasion” look 7 days a week, you might beworking too hard!

Making Mornings Easier

Finally, take a look at your AM routine and see where you can plan in advance, so your morning isn't quite so hectic. For example, figuring out what you want to wear the next day and laying out your clothes the night before will help you get ready much faster (especially if you tend to hem and haw, taking forever to decide on an outfit.) Don't forget your shoes, purse, jewelry etc. — the accessories can take as much time as the clothes for some people! Then get all of your “take-with-you” paraphernalia together, including paperwork, car keys, briefcase, umbrella, etc. — whatever you need to take with you to work or school. And if you bring your lunch or a snack from home, pack it the night before, put it in the fridge, and leave yourself a sticky-note on the front door, so you don't forget it. Just the bit of time you invest in advance will help you experience less stress the next day.

Another important step folks forget is to review their calendar or planner the night before, so there are no nasty surprises the next day. I can't tell you how many times I either had an early appointment (usually with the dentist) that I forgot, or thought I had a crack-of-dawn meeting  (that I didn't) and bounded out of bed believing I was late (which will totally throw your day off) — until I learned to look at my damned calendar every night! You will sleep better and get up more refreshed in the morning if you go to bed knowing exactly what appointments and to-do's and projects you have ahead of you in the morning.

And if you're the sort of person who runs late because you try to do too much before you leave the house, set some boundaries. Maybe you don't NEED to check your email first thing in the morning — can it wait until you get home? It's not vital that your house be completely spic and span before you head out to work — I'm pretty sure those couple of breakfast dishes in the sink will be just fine, even if you don't wash them until this afternoon. If you want to get more done in the morning, set your alarm an hour earlier and be productive to your heart's content. But also set an alarm telling you when you need to stop and walk out the door — productive stops being efficient when it makes you late for work!

A Faster Way To Clean Out

Cleaning out is often exhausting work — especially for those who haven't done it in a while. It's easy to walk into a room filled with clutter and become completely overloaded by the task at hand. You try to empty the whole space at once, don't even come close to finishing it all, and end up feeling like a failure  — will you ever be able to see the floor again? Rather than overdoing it (and subsequently paralyzing yourself with frustration and despair), why not set yourself up for success — by tackling just one small pile at a time? If you simply make use of those odd free moments (say, two or three times a day, every day for a week) — you will make a bigger dent in the mess than if you devoted your entire Saturday to sifting and sorting and cleaning out!

  • start a box of items to donate — every time you find something you don't need, toss it in
  • check your desk for dried up pens and markers and throw them out
  • sort through your Tupperware and remove any bowl or lid that's missing it's mate
  • try on clothes you haven't worn in the past year and get rid of anything that doesn't fit
  • gather up a pile of library books / rented videos and return them from whence they came
  • look through your shelves and pull books you'll never read again to donate to the library
  • clean the trash out of your junk drawer
  • remove the extra empty hangers out of your closet and take them to your dry cleaner
  • get rid of old or yucky makeup in your cosmetic drawer
  • put all those purchases you've been meaning to return in a box and schedule an errand day
  • pull out any torn / worn underwear and socks — either turn into rags or discard
  • toss empty bottles of household cleaners, car care items, and gardening chemicals in the garage
  • go through your magazines / catalogs and toss all but the most recent issue
  • throw out expired food from your refrigerator and pantry
  • sort through your recipes and toss those you're never going to get around to making
  • when you unpack your holiday decorations, discard broken ornaments, lights, candles, etc.
  • create a pile of borrowed items to give back to your friends and family
  • clean out batteries and light bulbs that no longer work
  • toss expired items, empty bottles, and used-up grooming supplies in your medicine cabinet
  • put all your “donates” in the car and drive them to the nearest charity drop-off point — now!

See how easy that was? Wink

When You Have Too Much Of A Good Thing

As much as we love our keepsakes and mementos, any collection can become overwhelming if it isn't kept in check. One of my clients actually considered building on an extra room to house dozens of antique cups — until she realized it was a choice between the renovation and her son's college tuition! Another client spent hundreds of dollars a month on storage units, because she couldn't bear to part with any of her children's clothes or toys. When your collection takes over your life, it's time to seriously re-evaluate your priorities! The trick is to establish a set of rules for sorting, storing, purging and protecting your mementos. It's important that you take care of your keepsakes — after all, your treasured memories deserve some respect!

The key to a memorable collection is that you must be discerning about your “favorites” — resist the urge to own EVERY colored glass bottle or miniature carousel horse on the planet! Perhaps you can select a few representative samples from your collection, display them beautifully, and discard (or at least pack away) the rest. Take some time to examine your treasures, asking yourself which ones really mean something to you. You may find that a once beloved collection has lost its appeal. If you no longer feel the need to own they physical items but don't want to forget the joy behind your collection, take pictures or shoot a video tape for posterity — then you can feel free to let go of the past without completely discarding years of memories.

The Discriminating Collector

Collecting, like everything in life, should be about quality, not just quantity. Determining in advance how many of something you are “allowed” to keepwill help you maintain a sense of balance with your collection. You maydecide to establish a physical limit for your belongings — you willkeep no more than 10 ceramic frogs (numerical limit), you won't buyany more shoes than will fit on this one shelf (spatial limit), etc. Or youmight function better with an in/out ratio — gettingrid of one magazine every time you bring a new one home. Either way,you are creating a very specific method for keeping your collection atan acceptable size, and you'll feel less pressure to keep constantly expanding. You never need worry about losing control again!

Once you've trimmed your collection down to the best of the best, you need a storage solution that won't get in the way of daily life. Start by selecting a space that is accessible, but not part of your active everyday storage. If you clearly separate mementos from those items you use regularly, they are less likely to get damaged or lost — and you won't be tripping over them every time you turn around. You may use any kind of container, but one with a lid will keep out dirt and dust. I happen to prefer a cedar chest, because it insures that no creepy-crawlies will decide to munch on my keepsakes. Insect infestation is a particularly important concern if you've got old clothing or dried flowers in the mix. You may want to have that baby blanket or wedding gown professionally cleaned and sealed before you pack it away. And be very careful about storing priceless treasures in your garage, attic, or basement — unprotected areas where delicate items could be damaged by moisture or extremes in temperature. If it might melt, freeze, warp, fade, or crack, think “climate control.”  Finally, be careful about the kind of packaging you use — acid-free tissue paper is a better choice than newsprint (which can leave an ink residue behind), bubble wrap (which contains harmful chemicals that might damage photos or fabric), or packing peanuts (which can melt over time).

The Most Common Collecting Challenge

Even people who don't consider themselves “collectors” usually have a huge pile of family photos that they have inherited or accumulated over the years (and possibly across several generations). Going through years of backlogged pictures and putting them in order can either be a nightmare or a fun trip down memory lane — depending on how you approach it. Whether you plan to scan your pics into the computer and store them digitally, or just get everything stored neatly in boxes or albums, you want to make sure that you follow a few basic rules for organizing photographs.

Before you do anything, go wash your hands. The oils on your fingers can permanently damage your snapshots. Now it's time to sort — the goal is to separate the good from the bad (remember that even Ansel Adams threw away his crappy pictures!) If it's underdeveloped, fuzzy, too bright, or you're making a goofy face, you can toss it. You won't go to hell. While we're at it, let's talk duplicates — why do you need 6 sets of prints from the company picnic? Keep one and give the rest to the other people in the picture.

The easiest way to begin is to sort your snapshots by date. You can get a general idea of the time period by the film grain (black and white, sepia, full-color) and the paper on which the photo is printed (white edging is older than no edging, textured paper is older than smooth). Other clues can be found within the pictures themselves. Are those hotpants from the 1960's?  Didn't your brother have that awful mullet haircut his senior year in high school? Cousin Julie's pregnant, so that must have been 2006. This picture must have been from the family reunion because everyone's together at the lake. Separate your snapshots into piles according to the time period and the occasion. Then, label each photo on the back with a crayon or special grease pencil — a sharp pencil or pen will damage the picture. And don't forget to label the negatives, as well.

Once your pictures are in chronological order, you're ready to store them away. Always use acid-free pages, mylar/polypropylene pockets, or an acid free box — never magnetic pages, which will eventually destroy your snapshots. You will probably want to put some identifying labels on the pages or box dividers as you go along, so have a pen and some stickers handy. Keep your negatives in the original packaging, labeled in chronological order, in a photo box — or you may buy special negative sleeves that fit into a ring-binder. And keep in mind that both photographs and negatives are easily damaged by moisture and heat. The attic or basement probably is not the best place for them. You may opt to keep your negatives in a fire safe or safety deposit box, in case your photos are destroyed. After this point, be sure to keep some extra photo albums and blank pages on hand, and reward yourself for organizing your pictures and negatives as soon as you bring them home.

A Not-So-Fine Line

This is what Nate had to say — “Here's the difference between a collector, which I consider myself, and a hoarder: A collector has no shame involved. It doesn't keep you from having people over. It doesn't impede anything in your life. In fact, it enhances it, because it's so fun to keep looking for the collection.”

My response is “maybe.” My mother considered herself a “collector,” but that didn't make my life any easier when I had to clean out her house after she died. Perhaps the difference has less to do with shame and more to do with focus.

I think true collectors focus in on one or two things they love to accumulate, while hoarders keep lots of everything — collectors seem to have more of a plan or a goal when they acquire something, while hoarders do not — collectors also care about what will happen to their collections (passing them on to someone who will value them), and hoarders definitely don't. It seems as though everyone in the organizing community has a different take on hoarding. There's even talk of making it an officially classifiable mental illness. Check out the proposed DSM-5 criteria:

  • persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions (this difficulty is due to strong urges to save items and/or distress associated with discarding)
  • the symptoms result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible — if all living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities)
  • the symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others)
  • the hoarding symptoms are not due to a general medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease)
  • the hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., hoarding due to obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, decreased energy in major depressive disorder, delusions in schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, cognitive deficits in dementia, restricted interests in autism spectrum disorder, food storing in Prader-Willi syndrome)
  • specify if “with excessive acquisition” if symptoms are accompanied by excessive collecting or buying or stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space

That defines the behavior, but it doesn't look at the reasons behind it. So I asked my colleagues to share their thoughts about where hoarding came from — I've summarized and paraphrased their responses:

  • “hoarders tend to define themselves by the objects they own, while collectors do not”
  • “collectors tend to keep their collection in a way that keeps themselves and those items 'safe,' while hoarders do not take safety into account”
  • “hoarding is just collecting that has gotten out of control”
  • “collections are confined and contained, while hoarding occurs in random piles that eventually end up taking over”
  • “collections are organized — hoarding is when there is so much that it can not be located”
  • “collectors see the world as full of abundance and celebrate that — hoarders experienced lack in their life and feel they need to keep everything because they might need it someday”
  • “hoarders feel they are less of a person without their things — collector keep themselves separate from their things”
  • “hoarders accumulate items to boost their self-esteem, while collectors create something that can be admired and possibly have financial value”
  • “collectors have a healthy emotional attachment to their stuff (it makes them feel good), but hoarders have an unhealthy attachment (it makes them feel bad”
  • “collecting improves quality of life, but hoarding deteriorates quality of life (income, relationships, peace of mind)”
  • “collectors choose one or two categories of items to collect (carousel horses, hummels, first editions, etc.), while hoarders keep anything and everything”
  • “collectors become attached to things of value — hoarders become attached to what is essentially trash (newspapers, recyclables, string, used aluminum foil, butter tubs, spoiled food, etc.)”
  • “collectors accumulate out of love, hoarders accumulate out of fear”
  • “collectors choose to collect, while hoarders are driven by compulsion”
  • “hoarders often hide their accumulations away, while collectors display theirs with pride”
  • “collectors look for unique additions to their collection, but hoarders will accumulate numerous identical or duplicate items”
  • “collectors enjoy sharing their collections with others — hoarders find that eventually their obsession with 'stuff' alienates their friends and family”
  • “collectors get a positive sense of satisfaction when they add to their collection — hoarders are simply trying to alleviate negative feelings (anxiety, inadequacy, worry, pain, etc.)”
  • “collectors recognize when their collections have become unmanageable and do something about it — hoarders live in denial”
  • “collectors still insist on a functional living and working space, while hoarders are willing to sacrifice this for their 'stuff'”
  • “collectors only add new items when they feel it will enhance the collection — hoarders can't resist the urge to constantly acquire more”
  • “hoarders refuse to part with anything they own, while collectors are often willing to sell portions of their collection if the right price/buyer comes along”
  • “hoarders can't tell the difference between what is valuable and what is not — collectors understand very clearly the value of the items they own”
  • “collectors honor their collections, while hoarders have a less respectful relationship with their 'stuff'”
  •  “collectors will stop collecting when they feel they have enough, but hoarders never feel they have enough”
  • “collectors will get rid of a collection if they tire of it — hoarders feel compelled to continue accumulating even when doing so loses its joy”
  • “collectors can draw healthy boundaries around their collecting activities, while hoarders are obsessed”
  • “collectors create conscious themes with their collections, while hoarders experience an uncontrollable pile-up of random things”
  • “hoarders value things over relationships, while collectors keep their things in perspective as secondary to the people in their lives”
  • “collectors can trade or sell their collectibles — the things hoarders accumulate are only valuable to them”
  • “collectors pay very close attention to their collections, while hoarders often allow their 'stuff' to languish unused and serving no purpose for years”
  • “collectors take very good care of their things — hoarders let their belongings rot and decay and go bad”
  • “collectors take into account their space restraints and are constantly making room for new items, while hoarders just pile more on top of what is already there”

What do you think — where should we draw the line between collecting and hoarding?