Squatters or Residents: Why it can be so difficult to let things go

If you’ve been around for a while you’ve noticed that I like a good analogy. I find it easier for people to understand what you are saying if they have a category to put it in. As with any analogy, sometimes you can’t carry them over one-to-one but the spirit is what we’re going for. When helping people see that they get to choose what stays in their homes and what leaves their homes this might be a good way for you to think about it.

Are the items in your home Squatters or Residents?

A few months ago my family got a notice that there had been squatters on property near ours. No one knew them, they had just set up a temporary home and were living on property that didn’t belong to them without having any permission. We wouldn’t have even known they were there since they had set up camp in a location that we didn’t see. To our knowledge they weren’t doing any harm. But it is illegal so they had to go. As residents in the area, those who own property and houses, we belong there. We have a known purpose, are paying to be there, and are active in the community.

Items as Residents
This part is simple. The items in your home that belong there as residents have purpose, are beautiful or functional. You have chosen for them to take up space in your space. You know what they are, where they are, and how you use them.

Items as Squatters
You probably have a lot of stuff in your house that you don’t even know is there. It’s living in the back of cabinets behind another pile of things. It’s living under the bed or in a box that has started to fall apart. It’s in the bottom of your purse or sock drawer.

But, it’s not doing any harm, right? Well, maybe not that you know of. But what if what you don’t know is there is actually something you could use and have been looking for. Harm might be a strong term or it might not be.

A few ways these squatter-items can bring harm.
1. Taking up valuable space that can be used for things you know and find useful or beautiful.
2. Taking up space in your mind or time in your thought process that can be spent on something else.
3. If it is something you could use but you don’t know it’s there, it is now time, money, and energy being spent looking for it or repurchasing it.

Are the things in your house squatters or residents? Do you know these items? Do they belong there? Do they serve a good purpose for you, your family, and the way you want your household to run?

You are the home owner so you get to decide if something is truly a squatter or resident. But until then, those items you don’t see and don’t know are there… they are just squatting on your property.

I hope you had fun with this analogy and that these terms helped you make a connection with letting go of things that don’t belong in your home.

Not Your Usual Suspects

During the month of April I ran a series on social media using #covidcleanout in which I posted a different area to focus on cleaning, decluttering, or organizing each weekday. They were not meant as a challenge but prompts for those who were looking to get some things done and just couldn’t figure out where to work next.

Instead of a month of prompts, I decided to do a list for you of things that you might not think to do or things that don’t get done very often. I divided them into categories for you. To clean, to repair, to change, and miscellaneous.

To Clean
trash cans – Bag up the trash and get right on in there. Sometimes a good garden hose can do the trick and sometimes you need to scrub it.
gutters – I did mine six weeks ago and they need cleaning out again already.
pots/pans – A little Bar Keeper’s Friend or something similar helps to shine up most pots and pans. Be sure to read all instructions for safety.
vacuum – If you have any hair in your home you’ll want to clean it out of your vacuum head. Grab a screw driver and some scissors because you might need to do some disassembling.
furniture – Vacuum, shampoo, spot clean.
walls & cabinets – A simple damp wipe will do most times.
ceiling fans – Whether you use a pillow case, a duster, or a vacuum, now is a great time to clean your ceiling fan blades and lights. While you’re at it, switch the direction for the summer.
oven – A lemon half and some baking soda make a quick and easy cleaner for an oven.
dishwasher – Get those crevices where gunk can build up.
washer and dryer – More crevices, get in there and clean them out.
your email – Create filters, unsubscribe, and delete, delete, delete.

To Repair
rug pulls – A needle and thread are going to be your best friend. Thread those pulls back into the rug if you can. Cut only if you can’t figure out a better way.
jewelry – Untangle knots with the help of a sewing needle, find a video to help you repair what you can DIY, and take the rest to the jeweler for professional help especially on those prized pieces.
clothes, throw pillows, bags, furniture, stuffed animals – replace buttons, tie up loose threads, repair holes, replace accessories and zippers
shoes – Re-glue soles, replace broken or worn out shoe laces, give a good shine, and take the others to the cobbler that you aren’t able to do on your own.

To Change
rekey your lockbox – It might be time to update that code for your lockbox. Make it memorable and give the new code to people who need it.
switch fan direction for summer – Counterclockwise for summer, pushing air down.
air filters, water filters, vacuum filters, any filters – Be sure to check on your not-often-changed filters to see if it’s time to change them.
smoke detector batteries – It’s a good idea to check these once a month and change them once or twice a year. A good time to do that is when we change the clocks. Go ahead and give your detectors a check.

trim and repot plants – Making sure to check the specific plants you are caring for, give them the proper care for this time of year.
tighten screws in door handles, drawer pulls, and face plates – Believe it or not, those screws that were perfectly tight when you installed them can loosen with use. Grab a screw driver and tighten them up.
level oven – I’ve lived at my home for years with an uneven oven. I think I tried to level it at one point but I couldn’t get it to work. So this might just be me. 😉
secure drawer liners and inserts – Drawer liners that do not have an adhesive can bunch up causing more frustration that they are worth. Be sure to secure them so that they can provide maximum protection and beauty.
shred – Plug up that shredder and go to town!
make a tax guide for 2020 based on 2019 tax filing – The IRS gave us an extension this year. Take some of that time to make a list of things that you need to keep up with for your 2020 taxes so that you aren’t scrambling next March to gather all your documents.
touch up paint – Grab your touch up paint and touch up!

What are some unusual things that you did with your free time during the pandemic?*

*I fully recognize that there were plenty of people who have the same amount of time or less time during the pandemic. Also, time does not equal capacity.

Covid Cleanout

Hey, hey!

While we are staying home for the good of our friends, family, and neighbors let’s take some time to clean out our spaces. That can look like whatever you want it to look like.

Need to declutter?

Need to actually clean?

Need to reorganize?

Need some structure?

I’ve got you covered. For each weekday (M-F) in the month of April I will post a graphic like this one on Little Red Stool Organizing’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. It will simply be an area in your home as a suggested area to work in. In the caption of the post I will list a few simple spaces within that area if you need a smaller space. Leave a comment on Facebook or DM me on Instagram with a photo of your finished spaces! #covidcleanout

Let’s cheer each other on and have some fun in our very own spaces!

Here is the complete list, as promised, complete with dates.

April 1 – home office
April 2 – linen closet
April 3 – coat closet

April 6 – master bath
April 7 – master bed
April 8 – master closet
April 9 – entryway
April 10 – junk drawer

April 13 – guest/kid bath
April 14 – guest/kid closet
April 15 – guest/kid room
April 16 – dining room
April 17 – garage

April 20 – play room
April 21 – sunroom/porch
April 22 – family room/den
April 23 – car
April 24 – attic/basement

April 27 – pantry
April 28 – fridge/freezer
April 29 – kitchen
April 30 – laundry

How to Clean Your Entire House, Top to Bottom

UPDATED: I wrote this article before the pandemic of COVID-19, coronavirus, was upon us. This article is by no means meant to sanitize or disinfect but how to clean your house.

Spring cleaning is upon us! That’s the time of year when we do the baseboards, back splashes, and grout cleaning. We get into the cracks, corners, and crevices where things have been sitting but we haven’t had time to get to them.

Instead of giving you a major list of all the spaces that could possibly be in your home, I’m going to give you a quick list of how to tackle your house for the times you aren’t doing those deep cleans. Doing your weekly cleans will help to minimize the amount you have to do in those deep cleans too!

A while back I came across someone who cleaned differently than I did. You see, I was going into each room and cleaning it then going to the next room and cleaning it. She was cleaning the entire house all at once. She cleaned by surface instead of by room. Cleaning the entire house instead of room by room has been a much more effective use of my time. It seemed so counter-intuitive when I started as I used to always clean room by room. You are working top to bottom: think “ceiling to floor” as well as “top floor to bottom floor.” Then you are working left to right: starting in a corner of the house and working left to right or clockwise depending on the layout of your home.

Here’s what it looks like in my home.

Step 1: TIDY
Put all things away, including dishes. This can happen more easily if you have a mostly tidy home. Go ahead and do the dishes first. Then the stack on the stairs, on the table, and by the door. If you are keeping up with these things daily it shouldn’t take much time at all.

Step 2: DUST
Using whatever tool you’d like, dust your home starting in one room working around from left to right. Be sure to pick up those knick knacks to get the tops of shelves and the mantle. Less knick knacks, less picking up and less dusting.

A quick spray, a thorough wipe, and on to the next mirror until all the mirrors in the home are cleaned. (This is not sponsored but I love a good Norwex glass cloth. Just use water and wipe. Beautiful!)

Let the kitchen be first, clear the countertops, spray the counters and sink, wipe, and replace items to the counter. Move on to the bathrooms doing the same: clear, spray, wipe, replace.

Start with putting cleaner on each of these surfaces in the entire home. By the time you get to the end you are ready to clean the first surface you put cleaner on. Don’t be afraid to use some good elbow grease to be sure to get those hard places. The more often you clean these areas, the easier they are to clean.

I’m a fan of sweeping hardwood, laminate, and tile. There is just something about moving a broom across a floor that I love. And the lines a vacuum makes on carpet? Yes, please! A good rule of thumb here is for every person that lives in your home, that is how many times a week you should sweep and vacuum. Just you? Easy, once a week. You and a roommate? Twice a week should do it. You, a spouse, 2 kids, and a dog? 5 times a week. At that point, a once over every day would be a good habit to build.

Step 7: MOP
Find the best product for the type of floor that you will be mopping, get a good mop, and go to town! This is another area of the home that is easier the more often you do it. And remember to spot mop when there are big spills.

Step 8: FINISH
The last step to any project is to finish. That might sound silly but one reason people find themselves disorganized is that they simply do not finish what they started. So how do you do finish cleaning your house after it’s all cleaned? Put all your cleaning supplies away – cleaning solutions, brushes, vacuum, mop, etc. Throw your dirty rags in the wash. Take out your trash. Replace any furniture that you moved along the way.

I hope this simple 8 step process helps you to get through cleaning your home in a more efficient way. It sure has helped me.

What other tips would you suggest?

What’s a Walkabout?

Years ago I asked my client to take the things we had put in a specific box to their homes around the house. They were items that we found in one area that she wanted to keep but that didn’t belong in that area.

As she picked up the box she said, “I’m off on my walkabout.” And the term was officially coined. I’ve changed it to also be used as a noun, and thus, the walkabout bin/bag/box was born.

As you may have gathered, then, a walkabout is a bag that is used to hold any item that you want to keep but that doesn’t belong in the area you are working in.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are working in your pantry. You’ve pulled everything out, have sorted like with like, and are making decisions on what you want to keep, toss, and donate. You pick up your son’s favorite toy car (that he’s been looking for for weeks, by the way). YES, you are keeping that toy but NO it doesn’t belong in the pantry. So this play toy goes into the walkabout bag. Then you find an important receipt, a hair tie, and that other flip flop. All things you decide you want to keep, but not in the pantry. Into the walkabout bag they go.

After you have gone through all of the contents of your pantry, it’s time to do your walkabout, taking each of those items to their appropriate home. Sometimes these items will go into a pile until you can deal with those areas (you can’t actually do it all at the same time) and that’s perfectly fine. The goal here is to stay on task and finish the pantry.

The walkabout bag prevents the “I got nothing done today” distractions that come from taking each individual item where it belongs each time you find something that you want to keep but belongs somewhere else in the house. (Even that sentence got me distracted – haha!) Again, the goal is to stay on task. When one area is done, you can move on to the next!

Go tackle a drawer or two with your trusty Walkabout bag by your side!