Posts Tagged ‘space organizing’

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

The Electronic Option

For some people, participating in an online auction seems intimidating — too “high tech” for their tastes. But auction sites like Yahoo! Auctions and Ebay have made it easy for you to sell your discards from the comfort of your own living room, even if you're not a complete web geek. If you can use the internet, you can sell your items online. Essentially, it's like placing a newspaper ad — only on the web. And instead of having to speak with dozens of people on the phone about your product (describing it and dickering over the price, again and again), it all takes place automatically on the web with very little interaction on your part.

The process is easy. You simply post a description of your product, set a time-limit for how long you would like people to bid on your item, and wait to see what happens. Of course, on occasion, you will receive a question or two from a potential bidder — but these are easily handled with a quick email. Finally, when your bid expires, you receive payment from the buyer and ship out your product. When done correctly, it's as easy as pie! Of course, you can always run into snags — but here are a few suggestions for creating a smooth transaction process.

Your Title And Description

When a potential bidder searches for a specific item or scans through a category (like “sports equipment” or “household goods”), he/she will see your product as nothing more than a title and a hyperlink to your description — you need to catch their eye quickly if you want them to read on. Since your title is generally limited to one line, make it count! If your product is new, say so in the title — and use the acronym NWT (new with tags) for an item has never been used. Include recognizable and respected brand names like “Nike” or “Donna Karan.” With clothing, indicate whether it is “mens,” “womens,” or “kids.” And don't forget the size and color. While this isn't the appropriate place for a lengthy sales pitch, you want to grab a customer's attention on that first pass.

You will also want to make sure you choose an appropriate category for your product. Try to place your items in a home where other similar items live — you will benefit from the fact that shoppers are already searching in that category for related products. If you are having a hard time deciding on a category, ask yourself, “Where would I look for this item if I were trying to buy one?”

Make sure that your description is as detailed as possible. In most instances, you won't have a space limit for describing your product — and the general rule of thumb is the more information, the better. People don't want to have to contact you to see what size something is or if the attachments come with it or if it has any scuff marks. You will save yourself a lot time and effort over the long run by being thorough up front — you will receive fewer “clarification” emails from potential bidders. Remember, the goal in an online auction is not just to make money — it's to make the process as automated as possible. The less you have to be involved after the auction starts, the better!

Another important factor in your success with online auctions is honesty. In today's climate, people are leery of incomplete descriptions because it feels as though the vendor may be trying to pull something over on them. Be honest upfront about the age of the item, its features, and any flaws or damage. Too many people throw the phrase “like new” around indiscriminately. You may be able to pawn a shabby product off on someone the first time — but they will hurt you down the road by ruining your credibility and reputation as a vendor with negative feedback.

Get Visual

When you sell an item at a consignment store or yard sale, potential customers have the benefit of personal interaction with the object — they can see it up close, touch it, handle it, try it out, and examine it thoroughly. However, the internet keeps buyers at a distance. The only method that bidders have to evaluate a piece of merchandise is through your description and any photos you include.

Be sure to take pictures from several different angles — and include “close-ups” of any important features or small parts. If you are selling an item with “minor damage” in an area (such as a scuff or a small stain) take a zoomed-in picture of the damage to show exactly how minor it is. And try to photograph your items on a neutral color background (you can even just sit each object out on a white bedsheet) so the focus is on your product.

One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is leaving the photo out because it seems like too much work. Think about it — if you are searching on Ebay for a food processor and find 25 of them but only 10 have pictures, which ones will you consider buying first? And many shoppers won't even bother looking at a product description unless it says “photo attached.” So taking the few extra minutes to shoot a digital picture or scan a standard photograph mean the difference between a sale and a waste of time.

Pricing And Payment

Web auctions usually offer a couple of different options for pricing your product. You may choose the traditional auction format — where you set a starting price, allow people to bid in discrete increments ($1, $5, $10, etc.), and ship to the highest bidder when the auction ends. However, if you have a product that is worth a considerable amount, you may want to set a reserve price — a minimum amount that you are willing to accept for your merchandise (if the reserve is not met, you aren't obligated to sell.) Or you can offer customers the option to simply buy your product for a set price at the start of bidding. The bidder could either go through the normal auction process and risk losing out to another buyer — or could choose the “buy now” option and simply pay you a pre-set price for your item. This makes life a lot easier for a bidder who knows what he or she wants and is willing to forgo a potential bargain to get it. And it allows you to get a fair price from a determined buyer.

Once you've decided on a price, the next worry is how will you get paid for your sale? This is the one issue that intimidates potential sellers more than any other — you can hear dozens of horror stories on the web about sellers who were cheated out of their payments by accepting rubber checks or fraudulent credit cards through services like PayPal. So what do you do? The safest way to sell online is via an escrow account — a third party company that will receive a cash payment from your buyer, hold it until your product has been safely delivered, and then pay you. However, you need to be on the lookout for the latest internet scam — phony escrow services. The best route to take is to use one of the escrow companies recommended by the online auction service. These companies have earned a solid reputation and should be completely above-board. But if you have any doubts, check them out with the BBB first.


Another area that you need to think through ahead of time is how you will ship your product. It's best if you select a shipping method that will allow you to send an item anywhere in the country for one price. If this isn't an option (and your auction service doesn't offer real-time shipping calculations), find out how much it would cost to ship it to the farthest point from you in your country (ex: if you live in New York, find the price of shipping to California). That way, you can list the shipping price in your description and know that you are covered, regardless of where the winning bidder lives. It is completely acceptable to indicate that shipping charges may be higher for bidders outside of your country.

Also be sure to indicate the shipping method in your description. And let the buyer know if insurance is included in the shipping price, or if they will be expected to pay extra for it. Quite often, vendors make insurance optional, but it's a nice service to your customers to include it in the shipping price. It will also save you untold headaches and disputes later if your package fails to arrive at its intended destination or is damaged.

One Final Note

Selling online is not a guaranteed proposition — just as holding a yard sale or listing your items in the newspaper is not guaranteed. Check up front with the auction service to see if you will be charged a fee simply for listing your item, regardless of the outcome of the auction. Also ask about any commissions charged by the site — find out if those fees are based on your earnings or are applicable even if your product doesn't sell. And be sure to find out what protections the auction service offers you in the case of a dishonest buyer. Know your rights and responsibilities before you ever sign on.

Finally, start off small — don't invest a lot of time and money in “collecting” items that you think will sell online. Use this as a way to get rid of your own unwanted items — and if it turns out successfully, you may have a home-based business on your hands!

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

Advertising Your Sale

Many people don't realize that you can't just put a pile of junk in your yard, slap up a bunch of signs, and hold a yard sale — many areas have specific rules and regulations about the size, location, traffic flow, and advertising of sales. To be on the safe side, you should call your city or county government for a listing of local yard sale regulations BEFORE you get too deep into your preparations. In particular, be sure to find out about “signage” rules governing the size, shape, and placement of billboards or signs. Also ask whether or not you need to obtain a permit to hold a yard sale in your area. You don't want the cops shutting you down mid-sale because you didn't follow the rules!

Whether you live on a main road or in the middle of nowhere, it'simportant to put out directional signs for your sale. You never knowhow many “casual” shoppers you will attract who were simply driving byand saw your advertisement. Put posterboard signs at major intersections andalong your road — and always include an easy to read streetaddress, hours of operation, and  an arrow pointing folks in the right direction. You may alsowant to put up fliers in local stores, laundromats, and churches. These give you a bit more space to list major items ofinterest.

Most dedicated “yard-salers” check the newspaper listings to plan their route of attack — so you definitely need to be included in the lineup. Call your local paper for prices and deadlines, and don't forget to check with “free” and community papers as well. When placing your ad, include the date, time, address, and directions (if you live in a hard-to-find area). You may also want to make note of any expensive or unique or high-demand merchandise you will be offering. Plan to run your ad at least one day before and the day of your sale — much more than that really isn't necessary. And keep in mind that advertising is usually priced by the letter or the word. Don't list every type of item you plan to sell — folks know that yard sales have books and household items and clothes.

Involving Other People

The bigger the offerings, the more customers you will attract. Many times a multi-family, neighborhood, or group yard sale is larger than the sum of its parts.  Put together a fundraiser for your church, scout troop, school, or community organization. Or ask your friends, neighbors, and family to join in, suggesting that you all pool your items together into one large sale. If the profits aren't going into a common pot, have each participant mark his or her items with a different colored pen or different type of sticker or their initials by the price — so that you can distinguish whose item is whose. Keep track of each person's sales in a notebook, with a running list of items sold (or just the price) under each name.

It can be very difficult (almost impossible) to run a yard salecompletely on your own — so don't be afraid to ask for someassistance. Recruit several helpers — friends or family — and bribethem with pizza and sodas at the end of the sale. You should have atleast 2 people signed on to stay the length of the sale, or more ifthey can only help you throughout part of the day. You may needextra assistants right at the start of the first day when things arebusiest, fewer later on. Most importantly, educate your helpers about your pricing and willingness tonegotiate so they can assist customers without having to ask for yourinput. And finally, make arrangements ahead of time for a charity topick up your leftovers at the end of your sale.

Gathering Your Supplies

What will you need to run your sale? “Display” items (tables, racks, table cloths, hangers, etc.) — “checkout” items (cash box, extra bags, tissue/newspaper, etc.) — and “try-before-you-buy” items (extension cords, batteries, bulbs). Then turn your attention to the money — there is nothing more frustrating than running out of change in the first hour. Be sure to get enough to last you through the day — that means at least $20 in coins, $50 in ones, and $40 in fives. Also create a list of minimum prices you will accept for each item — so when a shopper asks your friend who is helping out if they will take $10 for your lawnmower, they can handle the situation without having to find you.

Setting Up

The best way to get ready for a yard sale is to sort your merchandiseas you clean out (rather than creating a pile of discards and having togo through it a second time later on). While you're purging your home, divide items into meaningfulcategories (such as kitchen, books, kids, clothes) and have a largebox or trash bag set aside for each category. Check each object to see whether or not it works, if it's missing any parts — then clean andrepair anything that needs a little TLC. You will also want to price items as you go and labelthem with a description (when applicable).

But you have to remember that planning a yard sale layout involves more than just laying out all of your merchandise on the lawn. The first goal is to make sure that nothing is blocking your traffic flow — you don't want a sales area so clogged with people that no one can get around or see what you have on display. Secondly, be sure to display like items and complementary items together. It will be easier for people to shop if you set up “departments,” with all the household items are on this table and all the books are together in these boxes. Put any valuable items that you don't want to “wander off” in a closed case or right at the checkout table. Finally, make sure everything is clearly visible. Some shoppers like to dig, but most people “glance” their way through a yard sale — scanning tables and floor displays for something that catches their eye.

The simplest way to avoid confusion and conflict during your sale is todecide how you plan to run it — ahead of time. Determine the length ofyour sale — the number of days and hours each day. Also decide if youwill accept personal checks or put items “on hold” for people who saythey are coming back later. And finally, make up your mind in advanceif you will allow early birds or let people in your home (to use thebathroom or phone). Most importantly, once you have put a policy inplace, stick with it!

Leading Up To The Sale

The week before the sale is the time to get ready. Put up fliers in public areas around town and place your newspaper ad. Gather your supplies, get change, and confirm times with your “helpers”. You should be done pricing and organizing your merchandise by now — but if not, finish any last-minute labeling. A day or two before the sale, put up directional signs around your neighborhood. But don't do it too soon or you risk your signs being blown down or rained on. Block off any areas you don't want shoppers to enter — especially if you plan to hold your sale in your garage, basement, or interior of your home. And finally, get a good night's sleep — you'll need it!
On the day of the sale, you will want to start setting up 1-2 hours before your sale is scheduled to start. When the shoppers arrive, put one person in charge of cash box — never let them leave it unguarded. And most of all, have fun — let your kids sell snacks and play some peppy music! Just think of what a load is being lifted — and how much extra cash you'll have at the end!

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?