20/20 in 2020

The new year is coming and if you are a numbers nerd like me you are stoked that it’s 2020. So much fun with that number. One being 20/20. Not only am I a numbers nerd I also wear contacts/glasses. For me I’ve been striving for 20/20 vision since I was in middle school. And, y’all, the glasses back then took up your whole face. Top it off with a frizzy perm and butt-cut and you’ve got middle school me. And middle-age me wishes I had lasik.

We aren’t talking lasik here today but I do want you to be thinking about the new year. How can you have 20/20 “vision” when thinking about your house in the new year?

I’ve recently talked with one of the participants of the Fall session of The Minimalism Game with Little Red Stool Organizing (#LRSOMG19) who went directly to the 30/30 program. As she was decluttering with #LRSOMG19 she finally saw what a mess her house was and how much clutter she had just sitting around.

What a beautiful moment! To be able to see what’s been there all along and want to do something about it. Maybe your family and friends have seen it for years, maybe you’ve seen it but haven’t been willing to deal with it. Maybe this year is your year to do something about it.

If that’s you, let’s figure out how to get you moving forward to the end with that 20/20 vision. One of your first steps can be to contact a professional organizer. I happen to be one of those! There are many others all across the world too so chances are if you aren’t near me, there is another one near you.

If a friend or family member came to mind right away as you’ve been reading this, maybe you’d like to get them started with a gift card. If you would like to do this, please be kind in your approach. Having a lot of things in your home is a deeper issue than having a lot of things and many times it is incredibly sensitive. On the other hand, maybe your friend or family member is more than ready! I can think of no better gift than one that will help someone move forward in peace and freedom in their homes!

Lights in the Attic

One of my favorite books as a teen was a book of Shel Silverstein’s poetry called A Light in the Attic. In fact, with all the books that I’ve gotten rid of, this one remains.

There are so many poems in it that I really enjoy – why I kept the book, of course. Here’s one that I’ve been thinking about recently.

Signals, from A Light in the Attic, poem and drawing by Shel Silverstein

Sometimes things come easily to us – the light is red or green. Other times things seem out of our reach – “the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots” – and we just don’t know what to do. But you may be feeling that this project is more like the blue light with orange and lavender spots than a red or green light. Let me walk you though an attic project here and give you a little more direction.

NOW is a great time to tackle the attic. Or garage. Or basement. Or wherever it is that you store your holiday decorations. Get it, “lights” in the attic! Since you are decorating now anyway, go ahead and get it allllllll out of the attic (we’ll stick with “attic” for simplicity’s sake in this article). Before you get it all out, set aside some time, find a friend or family member, and clear some good working space.

1. Select the space you are going to work in. For this article, we’re choosing attic, holiday decor.

BONUS TIP: Take a before photo. Trust me, you’ll be encouraged when you look at the before and after side-by-side.

2. Empty the space you selected. Here we left the Christmas trees and wreaths. We did go through each item to make sure they were staying.

BONUS TIP: Tap a nail into the wall to hang wreaths. This makes the best use of the vertical space while also preserving the shape of the wreaths and signs.

3. All of the things that you took out has to have a place to go. We were sure to clear this room to make space for everything.

BONUS TIP: A table can be helpful to stay on task. Go through only the things on the table. As they have been decided on they will go into “keep”, “trash”, or “donate” piles and off of the table. Pull the next box up to the table and continue the process.

4. As you empty boxes, set them aside for future use. You may bring them in as needed to hold donations or as a temporary holding place for decorations you are keeping.

BONUS TIP: Now is the time of year that you can buy ornament storage kits in store. If you are reading this article in an off season, you can make your own ornament storage with cardboard and scissors.

5. When you know exactly what you have that you are keeping, put them all together, like with like if you haven’t already. Then find the appropriate bin and add a label. For example, lights with lights, balls with balls, garland with garland.

BONUS TIP: If you have different rooms or trees, store those items together. For example, all the den items together and all the porch items in another bin, each labeled appropriately.

6. Put all the decorations back, like with like. We found Fall decorations that are in here too.

BONUS TIP: Put the holidays in chronological order to make them easier to find.

As usual, be sure that everything that didn’t go back to the attic goes to its new home. The trash in the trash can and donations in the car and to the donation location.

Thanks for coming along for that attic project! It’s always so much fun to work with clients and see their progress. If you are overwhelmed with the thought of doing such a large space, get in touch and we’ll get you on the calendar.

Happy decluttering and decorating!

In-patient Procedure

When I talk about decluttering with clients it’s often like speaking a different language. In order to help get on the same page I try to use analogies that they can relate to. With my client who was a life-long swimmer I used a swim training analogy. With my clients who have young children I use some parenting analogies.

I do have a few analogies that are pretty universal even if not from a personal experience perspective. One that I’d like to share with you today is the in-patient analogy.

There are 2 different types of surgeries. In-patient and out-patient. You are probably familiar enough with which is which but just for kicks I’ll write it out for you. In-patient surgeries are those that you pop over to the doctor’s office and have a little procedure done and then go about your day with minimal recovery time or pain. Out-patience surgeries are usually more complicated, requiring a hospital stay, and a more lengthy recovery time and usually more pain associated with it as well.

Bringing it around to our decluttering and organizing, I tell my clients that I want them to feel like we’ve done an in-patient procedure, not an out-patient surgery. Yes, I want them to feel like we’ve done something, there should be a noticeable difference in the spaces we work in and in their own minds as well. They might feel tired when we are done and a need a little retraining with where things go. What I don’t want is for them to feel like we’ve cut out a major organ and that they feel like they will never recover.

You might be wondering, then, what happens when a house really needs to be free of a lot of stuff, like A LOT of stuff. It truly depends on the frame of mind of the owner of all that stuff. Some clients have a mind change that they can get rid of a lot of things and it not make them feel like major surgery. Then there are those who need to go in stages. We will actually go through the entire area/home once and then again later once their decluttering muscles and confidence have been strengthened.

Some of my favorite moments with clients who have entire homes to go through are when we get to an areas we have already done and to see the freedom soar when then see that they only need 1/2 of what they thought they needed before. Doing 2 in-patient procedures instead of 1 out-patient major surgery had a more lasting effect and was less pain to boot!

When you look at your house, do you get overwhelmed and think it needs to be all done at once? Think of a way that you can do a once over and then revisit it again in a few months. Need some help with how to do that, get in touch with me or another professional organizer. It’s what we love to do!

Kids’ Toys – Throw Them All Away?

This is a re-write/edited version of a previous post.

I was watching a conversation happen on someone else’s social media account that was started with a seemingly simple question: “How can I best organize my kids’ toys?” I rarely respond to these because these aren’t the best spaces to have such opposite-of-simple questions. I’ve written recently about why I prefer working side-by-side with my clients and here is another reason: every family is different.

My answer to the toy question can only come after you answer more questions about the size of your home, the priorities of your parenting, and the personalities of your children, just to name a few.

What do I want to tell most people who ask this question? What one mass answer would I give? Throw away all the toys.

Okay, not really. But it would certainly benefit your family if your children had less toys. And depending on how many your house currently has, a lot less toys. They might even be telling you that in not as many words.

Do your kids melt-down a lot at your home? Do they constantly say that they are bored? Are there boxes of toys that haven’t seen the light of day in months or years? This could be your children saying, “there is too much stuff in here!”

I’m not the expert on why that happens but I can give you a chunk of questions to help you decide which of the toys in the mountain can leave.

Children’s toys can multiply so quickly. Between birthdays, holidays, and the generosity of family and friends, a room in your home can go from a mild mannered play room to an all out toy storeā€¦ just not as organized. Below are 10 questions to ask to help you decide what toys to keep and what toys to box up or get out of the house altogether.

I’ve found that asking the same question in a different way can make all of the difference.

Questions to help you think of what to keep out and around your home

  1. What toys do your kids go to first thing? (a book, a doll, a car, etc.)
  2. What do they spend extended amounts of time playing with? (manga-tiles, coloring, reading)
  3. What would they cry real, lasting tears about losing? (a lovey vs. 1 of 30 matchbox cars)
  4. What toys do you see as a grower of imagination and learning and growth as a functioning member of society? (legos, musical instruments, craft/science supplies)
  5. What toys meet your family’s mission statement? (if you don’t have family mission statement, take some time to come up with one)

Questions to help you think of what to get out of your home (or box up for soonish or sentimental)

  1. Are there duplicate toys that serve the same purpose? (I’m talking about 2 xylophones here, not 2 stuffed animals.)
  2. What toys have the kids outgrown? (teething rings, bouncy seats)
  3. What toys do they not play with? (they just aren’t into horses)
  4. What toys are too complicated for their age? (100 piece puzzle for a 3 year old)
  5. What toys drive you crazy? (the singing remote, anyone?)

Remember, this is your house (that you share with your family) so think about what you want to keep up with and what you enjoy and what serves the greater purpose of your family and growth of your children.

Did You Get Your Money’s Worth?

I was working with a client recently (I could start every article this way as most of my inspiration comes from people like you and me)…

I was working with a client recently who got me thinking more deeply about how we view money, belongings, and what things are worth.

We were going through a pile of clothing. The clothes had been in bags stored away for at least a year. The owner of said clothes has more than enough clothing in her closet and dresser to keep her clothed with plenty to spare without the clothes that we just pulled from these storage bags. As we went through the clothes she kept wanting to keep piece after piece. Now, I do want to say that I fully recognize that letting go of your belongings is difficult and clothes are near the top of the list. This is why I prefer to work side-by-side with my clients to walk them through, hear their thoughts, and encourage them to reach their goals in decluttering.

As we were decluttering we were talking about our weekend’s activities. This client and one of her children went to see a movie. The movie was on their family’s must-see list because it was a part of a series that they enjoyed. It likely wasn’t on anyone else’s must-see list, however. I’m sure the movie itself was fine but I haven’t heard anyone else talking about it and they themselves didn’t rave over it. For this family, it was money well spent to have that time together.


Stick with me, I’m going to pull these two seemingly unrelated stories together.

If they only saw the movie and didn’t purchase any concessions they spent at least $20, and that’s if they went a matinee. That is money that they spent for an experience. It was spent and the only thing they brought home from that $20 is a fun memory, no tangible items.

We might expect to pay $20 for a movie and feel like we got our money’s worth (well, at least the going rate). That same $20 spent on a shirt? We think the shirt needs to last our entire lifetime. So let’s change how we think about things.

movie theater

Since it might be a stretch to compare movie prices (entertainment) to a shirt (clothing) let’s change to comparing other items that are meant to entertain. Let’s think DVDs, CDs, books, games (all kinds), and sports equipment to name a few.

So now when you are going through your belongings you can ask yourself, “Did I get my money’s worth?” And if you have used the item even one time the answer is probably “yes” if we use the movie ticket way of thinking.

You might still decide to keep the item because it is beautiful to you or it is functional but at least you have now thought through it a little more clearly.

And for another day, think in this same way when deciding to purchase something or not.