Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thoughts on "Valerizing"

This week I've been considering the idea that the ability to organize is in a person's DNA, an integral part of their genetic code.  Either you have it, or you don't.  

The title of this post is what one of my clients said she calls my style of organizing..."Valorizing".  I wonder if we'll see this added to the lexicon for 2015?

I love this!  Yes, I am an organizer and as far back as I can remember I've been doing it my entire life, driving my family crazy by decluttering and reorganizing, and now it's my profession.  

So, the question begs to be asked, who did I inherit it from?

I'm fairly certain I got it from my Dad.  Here's why....after looking at before & after photos of drawers on my website, My Dad recently wrote,

"Organizing drawers may be in your DNA from me.  When I was small there was a big drawer in the living room my mother had a lot of small things in like pencils, papers, finger nail files, rubber bands, etc.  I decided this needed to be organized.  Boy did she get mad.  She said it was perfectly fine before and now she can't find anything."

Everything in it's place.
Unfortunately for my Dad, he violated one of the cardinal rules of organizing.  You've got to get everyone on board, or at the very least, give them an orientation afterwards.

Also, all I ever needed to know about organizing a basement I learned from my Dad.  He put everything in large cardboard boxes by category and then labeled them with a thick black magic marker in capital letters.  If you can read, you can quickly find everything you need in his basement.
It's going to be cinch to help him move.

People tend to ask me lots of questions when they find out I'm a professional organizer. Often these people readily admit that they don't have the "organizer gene" but they are also reluctant to ask for help, much less paying someone.

I find this interesting.  We will readily pay for help in other areas of our life...automobile repair, home remodeling, marriage counseling, medical, dental, psychological, accounting, taxes, catering, landscaping, etc. for things that require skills outside our wheelhouse.   

Organizing falls into this category too.  If you don't possess the skill and your disorganization is causing stress, taking up precious time, an energy drain, and probably wasting money, why not ask for help?

Last week my husband picked up this little gem of a book for me at a Goodwill lie. It probably was donated from someone who bought it to get more organized!

Note the "DIS" in the title
The author has a page devoted to "Lessons from the Silverware Drawer".  If you are a person who thinks they do not posess the organization gene, take heart, go look at your silverware drawer.  All the forks are together, they are always returned to this same place after use, they are not kept anywhere else, and everyone in your home is in agreement about this.  
These are the 4 core principles of organizing!

But, let's not rest in that success for too long because the author also challenges us to find the following objects within our home.  

Be honest, can you quickly locate the following or does it take some racking of the brain, digging through a pile, file or maybe even clearing a path?

1.  Birth certificate
2.  Safety pin
3.  Your checkbook
4.  The receipt for your computer
5.  An extension cord
6.  Your 2009 tax returns

I'm using this fun test with the people I talk to about organizing.  It's a quick way for them to see just how organized they are....or not!

So, were you able to find all 6 items quickly?
Time:  1 minute, 52 seconds

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Now, Where Did I Put That Manual?

This morning, a friend called to ask if I'd check on her house, as she was away.  A strange noise was heard emenating from somewhere within, and concerned neighbors had called. When I arrived, I found nothing amiss but I did notice the furnace was flashing a series of letters and numbers so I called her back to locate the manual so that I could look up the code.

Here's the fun!  She was able to tell me right where to go to find it.

Consider for just one moment...where do you keep your manuals?  

If you are like most people, they are scattered in various places throughout your home.  

My clients tell me that this is one of the best benefits of getting organized.  They have been able to locate their manuals! (and thus have saved themselves a lot of time and aggravation, not to mention money.)

The furnace is an easy one.  Put your manual in the holder that many manufacturers built in, just for the purpose.  Then it's a cinch to locate the manual and also to look up the type of air filters you need. If you're smart, write the name and number of the installer (or whoever you like to call for repairs) on the cover of the manual.  Then you are all set in case of an emergency.  September is National Preparedness Month after all!

If you have an older furnace, like we do.  Tape a clear plastic folder to the furnace itself and slip in the manual.  Instead of tape, I used my latest obsession.

Is there such a thing as a vintage furnace?
For all other manuals, they should be sorted into categories, then either filed in your filing cabinet in these hanging pocket files...
Office Depot
Or sorted into clear plastic sleeves, placed into binders and set on a bookshelf.  

Be sure to label them! This is an especially handy way to store them if you have many of the same type of items or own a very large house with lots of different items.

Categories can include:

  • Appliances (dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, airconditioner, microwave, air purifier, dehumidifier, humidifier, TV, washer & dryer, portable heater)
  • Household (furniture, cookware, clothing)
  • Outdoor (lawn furniture, gas grill, lawnmower, weedwhip, camping equipment)
  • Technology  (computer, printer, camera, video recorder, watch, cell phone, gps, thermostat, watch) 
  • Tools (power tools, hand tools, crafting/sewing equipment)

Once you gather all of your manuals in one place, it will be easy to determine the categories, but be sure to check that you actually still own the item!

What about warranties?

Personally speaking, I keep each warranty clipped to it's corresponding manual.  That way, if the item breaks, I locate the manual and I can easily see if it's still covered.  

If you're really organized, you can log in warranty expiration dates on a separate calendar as you make purchases. (I love Google Calendar for this, as it allows you to create as many calendars as you want that are then linked together)  Then you can easily see if a warranty expiration date is coming up to return something that hasn't worked out as planned.  

We had a defective printer that we returned 3 times and the company replaced it 3 times for free over the course of 3 years as we kept a close eye on the warranty expiration date for each subsequent printer.

Whenever you go to look up a manual, take a moment to rifle through the pile to see if you still own the items there.  If not, they are easy to pull out and toss.  And, if you decide to sell an item, you can quickly locate the manual that goes with it.  The new owner will thank you heartily.

When you're all done, check to be sure you have all the manuals you need.  Don't despair if  you find you're missing one.  Remember in this digital age, you can always go online and find it to print out.  I have a Singer sewing machine circa 1958 and guess what?  I found the manual online!

So what happened with the furnace?  

It was flashing an operating code not an error code and now all is well.  

Did you just check to see where your furnace manual is?

Are you one of the brave who throws out all manuals, knowing you can access them online if needed?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Where's The Tape?

Have you heard this question asked at your house lately?  Chances are you have, and not only tape, but scissors, the stapler, a favorite pen, (just ask my husband!) and more!  

Today's subject is desk drawers.  The place where these necessary items for daily life are most likely to be found.

This shows the contents of a typical desk.  Spread out like this, you can see lots of items that if not organized, can quickly shift into chaos.

I see lots of tape piled here!

Desk drawer #1

Desk drawer #2

Realize that these drawers are pulled out and sitting on top of the desk.

When they are actually in the desk, the contents are even more crammed and inaccessible.

Drawer #1

                                                                                                       Drawer #2

The first step is to pull everything out and sort into categories.  Then decisions are made as to what to keep in the desk drawers.  In this case, not everything is going to fit!  Anything broken or unusable is thrown out.  

Items to toss include:  old contact lens cases, old phone cases, phonebooks, movie tickets/event stubs, expired coupons, ink-less markers, broken crayons, broken sunglasses, old hair accessories, broken flashlights, dead batteries, address labels to previous home, and last year's calendar.

If there are many of the same items, decide that some are going to be kept and stored elsewhere (or donate them!).  Restocking post-it notes can be easy.

The desk owner had this handy piece of furniture for the overflow items.  We labeled all the drawers! It seems like these drawers were tailor made for labeling.  I may be overly excited about labeling things.

When it comes to labels, use names that make sense to you.
 You'll want to be able to find the thing you're looking for!
Next, we set up a "practice" system using any old containers (plastic food storage?) we can find around the house.  We're not looking for beauty at this stage, merely functionality.

Drawer #1 

Pardon my foot!
                                                      Drawer #2

Then we see what happens...
The desk owner will quickly know if items are in the right places and if the right items are in the right drawers.  Trust in the process.

A few days later we install the correct containers for the items that the desk owner has decided to keep...and finally, beauty and functionality reign,

Drawer #1

Hey, where did everything go?!

                                                                                                        Drawer #2

Pared down to the easily-maintained minimum.
I love that the labeler made the cut!

So what about that tape dispenser and scissors and favorite pen?  We placed them on a pretty tray above the desk.  Easier access for all.

What household item are you constantly on the hunt for?

What's the most interesting item in your desk drawers?

(Leave a comment, I love to read them.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My Website - Ta-Dah!

I built my own website with WebsiteBuilder.  It was simple, although not quite easy.  I may have contacted tech support a few times.  It's a work in progress because my philosophy is "Done is better than perfect" so check back often as I'll be adding pictures, content and especially my favorite organizing products.

Here it is!

If you'd fill out a contact form, I'd be grateful for any suggestions you may have.
Thanks for checking it out!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Take Pleasure in your Collections

Everyone collects something...even if you don't consider yourself to be a "collector", chances are you have something lurking in your home that has accumulated beyond what is considered a useful amount that a person should own.
Remember this photo from a few blogposts ago?

Or how about this one?

When doing a little research for this post, I came across this apt definition:

  1. 1.
    a person who collects things of a specified type, professionally or as a hobby.
    "an art collector"

So, there's a BIG difference between accumulating the stuff of life (e.g. bookmarks and pens) and collecting things that give one pleasure as a specific hobby or as part of one's work life.  It could be said that one could have a beautiful bookmark or special pen collection, and it could also be inferred that these collections above are indeed to related to hobbies of mine - reading and writing.  But the reality is that these piles of things, because that is what they really are - piles - were quickly reviewed for a few special items which were kept to revive a sweet memory, and the rest?  Well the rest were bagged and donated or simply thrown out.  So they are not collections in the true sense of this definition, rather they are just part of the detrius we humans tend to accumulate throughout the course of our lifetimes and left to pile up, become just that - piles, not collections.

So now that this difference is squared away, let's talk about the collections that people have that give them joy.  And let's talk about where these collections are kept.

I can say from working with clients that the things they profess to "collect" are often hidden away in boxes, or tucked away gathering dust in dark corners on shelves or worse, crowded together in a central place of their home, so many, that it's hard to discern what exactly one is looking at. Neglected and thus forgotten, often covered in layers of dust and even grime, depending on the location.

What to do?  Upon rediscovery, it's best to start off asking a few questions.
  • How long has it been since you've seen these things?
  • Are they intact or broken?
  • Have you missed them?
  • Are the memories that flood back positive or negative?
  • Are you plagued with guilty feelings or feel that little thrill of joy?
  • Would you rather spend your time dusting these things or living life?
  • Is there someone that might enjoy this collection and take good care of it, such as a museum?

Let your feelings guide you to determine what to do next.  It's absolutely okay to pitch the entire collection into the trash or bag it up and donate it.  

But if you feel joy then it might be time to find a creative way to display your special collection so that you can feel that thrill of pleasure everytime you see it.

Here are a few ideas that have worked for me!

Buttons:  I've collected buttons since I was about 10 years old, in fact, as a child, I belonged to The Michigan Button Society where I learned all about the history of all sorts of buttons.  I enjoyed countless hours sorting and trading buttons with friends in the Button Club we formed at our school. For years, I kept them in Mason jars, but a few years ago, I created this out of an old framed mirror that I happened upon and a hot glue gun.

I've also seen buttons sewn into necklaces, bracelets and brooches, sewn on to wall hangings, made into Christmas ornaments etc.  You get the idea. I love buttons; they are a happy reminder of my childhood, so it makes sense to me to display them as something useful.  This mirror is the last thing I look at when I leave the house to make sure there is nothing in my teeth!

Figurines:  My married last name means "owl" in Polish.  It also means "noodle" in Japanese, one can only imagine what that collection would look like!  When we were first married, family members delighted in giving me owls.  It was thoughtful and sweet, but I quickly realized that I could only manage so many owls in my life.  When I'm surrounded by too much clutter, it clogs up my brain and makes it hard to focus.

So when we moved into our house, many years ago, I set them on top of a door frame in our bedroom Every morning I wake up and smile seeing all my owls in one place, but that's the only time I see them!  It's like a special greeting just for me.  Whooo...whooo!

Found objects: I like collecting rocks, feathers and other ordinary things found in nature and the man-made world.  These glass bottles came from swap meets in Los Angeles, antique stores and from an outhouse excavation at a century farm.  Yes, that is where people used to dump their trash!

Place another object in the mix to liven it up!  That mosaic ball was a gift from a girlfriend and it's sitting atop a glass candlestick holder!

When choosing where to display, consider an area that has lots of natural light or install stick-on LED motion sensor lights like these to really brighten up a shelves in an otherwise dark cabinet.

Arrange your items so that there is space between them and even though you may have a large collection, consider only displaying those that you really love so that they easily fit in the space.  Too many in too small a space looks cluttered.  3 to 4 larger objects fit easily on one shelf.  You can always rotate items in for the season and thus display an entire collection over the course of the year.  Remember, the less you display, the less there is to dust!

Thank you for allowing me to show you my collections!

What special collections do you have that bring you pleasure?

How do you display them?