An Organized Vision
The way we “transition” our clothes from season to season says a lot, not just about how we deal with our possessions but also our approach to organizing, dealing with clutter and holding onto memories.
In a world focused on downsizing, transitioning our belongings takes on a special challenge. Few of us have the room or luxury of letting “it all hang out”.
Enter Rubbermaid Configurations, the ultimate in flexible solutions to maximize every inch of available space. That is the easy part. You, however, are left with the critical questions of what to transition, how, when. How do you begin; how do you get your head ready to tackle all the emotional decisions, and the physical work, required to simplify your possessions and ultimately, your life.
Here are a few tried and true tips from the trenches.
Step 1. Start small. Take out all your tops, regardless of seasons. (Blouses, t-shirts, sweaters, turtlenecks, etc.) Search every drawer, closet, laundry basket to minimize surprises later. Now, and this is tough, eliminate anything that doesn’t make you feel good, no matter how much it costs, who gave it to you, what memories it holds.
Key to success in Step 1 is brutal honesty. If you don’t feel good in the top, if you don’t look good, do not keep. Make Goodwill, or the charity of your choice, happy and send your top on to a new home.
Step 2. Once you have “purged” everything unloved and unflattering, place all purged tops into clean garbage bags for the charity of your choice. Organize remaining tops into three piles.
a) Cold Weather
b) Hot Weather
c) Tops that can work throughout the year
Step 3. Tops appropriate for the current season can now be placed in your closet or drawers. Color-coding and organizing by type of top is helpful.
Step 4. Now address the other two piles of your edited tops, one for the opposite season and one that works year round. If you have the luxury of large closets, now is the time to put the out of season tops away on the other side of the closet. If not, fold them into bins/boxes designed for under the bed. The year round tops can be integrated into your seasonal wardrobe in the way that works best for you. Using garment bags or clean plastic bags from the cleaners are another excellent tool and then stored in a secondary closet or storage area.
Step 5. REWARD TIME. Relax and enjoy a sense of satisfaction. You have transitioned, organized and edited your collection of tops. Most importantly, you have worked through a process that you can now follow for your pants, skirts, suits and dresses. Once these major categories have been organized, you can use the same process for your accessories, bags and shoes.
Guarantee. Once you have worked through this process, you will enjoy a sense of relief and accomplishment. Like it or not, clothes are a key message to our world. No matter our age, shape, size, fitness or income, mastering orderly transition of our clothes helps us be more effective in other challenges.
One of the things I have taught myself this past year is to stay focused. Now, some of you who know me better than others are probably saying, Jane, not focused!!! Well, I think I was really good at teaching and coaching others to stay focused, but sometimes I was not so good at applying it to myself. It is always a good idea to do a bit of self-reflection and then pay attention to what you see! Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I was doing and I was doing some really fun things in business, and in life, but last year taught me to realize that even though you have the energy, the drive and the ideas to put all of this great stuff in place, maybe it is too much, or maybe not. Again, there is no cookie cutter approach to any one’s life; we are all our own unique shape and size.
While I move through this transition stage of my business, I have learned one lesson very well – “Stay Focused” – always keep your eye on the end goal. Here are a few things that I put in place to make sure my business transition went as smoothly as possible and that I stayed focused:
- Create your vision – what do your detailed goal(s) look like, keep focused on these as you work through your transition steps.
- Find your mantra, your word, your phrase that supports your vision and keep it front of mind – go to it every day and several times a day to keep it alive. Mine is the word “Simplify”. The word and how I happened upon it is another story, but for now – know it is so powerful for me – and that I encourage you to find yours. The image you see is on my desktop so it is in my face every day.
- Find yourself a Coach – I call them my “Accountability Coach”. You may think you don’t need one, which is what I use to think a few years ago, but I have had two coaches the past few years and it has been one of the best decisions I have made. They were both transition coaches. Right now, the Coach I am working with, and that is a big “C” coach – is helping me stay focused on the key things I need to put in place for the next stage of my business and personal life. We don’t meet that often, but boy, does that next upcoming meeting reminder ever get me back on track!!!
- Develop a Plan – use Excel, Project or even paper works, to get the transition steps laid out so you know what is coming next. I use the Outlook Tasks and Calendar to lay out the pieces I am working on and when. The reminder systems in these two functions are almost as good as a really good piece of dark chocolate, I said almost!!!
- Intuition – your gut! Don’t ignore it! Trust it!
We all go through transition stages in our life, whether it is in our personal lives or our business lives. The key to a successful transition, in my mind, is to stay focused on the end goal. Using the above techniques has proven to work very well for me. I hope that some or all of the above will help you – whether you are growing your business, downsizing your business or perhaps just right-sizing your business. I wish you a well-focused and successful transition when that time arrives on your doorstep.
All the best,
We have come to the 10th and final commandment. This is the one we have been working hard to achieve as we struggled through all the others. This is the commandment that marks the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, no matter where you are in your biological life or environment.
Quite simply, now that you are shedding all the layers and skins and trappings of many former lives, ages and stages it is time to build new memories, to take the best of your former life to build upon. This is the tenth commandment – Make new memories.
It is hard to start fresh when you are surrounded, and often shackled by, the responsibilities and trappings of previous stages in your life, well and truly lived or perhaps tinged with sadness and loss. We all have our share. There is never a better time to take a deep breath, acknowledge the good times and experiences, the lessons you have learned, the places you have been and the people who have filled your time and thoughts, both at work, at play and at home. You have honored them all in passing through the stages of the previous 9 commandments. Now you can move ahead and discover what fresh opportunities, people, experiences will be created since you are no longer so encumbered by the past.
It is an incredibly freeing sensation. You may be surprised how light and energized you feel. If you allow yourself to be honest, you will feel relieved at all the tough decisions you made and the lives you enriched with your generosity.
This is the time of congratulations – for yourself and all those who helped you in your journey. Enjoy this renewal, able to look back with satisfaction and ahead to your new surroundings and opportunities.
To forgive and forget are two of the most challenging human hurdles. When we are paring our lives down to retain only the best, most beautiful, most precious, it is essential to forget the emotions and memories tied up with possessions we no longer have room for, either physically or emotionally. Your children’s toys (that your own children refuse to keep for their children); your late husband’s books and music (as well as some of his favorite old sweaters) need to find new homes as you now honor your lives together thru memories and carefully selected photographs. Symbols of happy moments, of children’s achievements, of your family’s history need to be carefully edited to one or two good examples and the rest laid to rest. As hard as this may be to realize, we need to move into new phases of our lives where we focus on creating new and positive experiences.
The more we hang onto old possessions, surround ourselves with old photographs, continue to save the good china and crystal, insist upon too large and impractical furniture for downsizing purposes, the more we glue ourselves into our former lives and have difficulties freeing ourselves to moving on to fresh learning, experiences, people and lives. You can actually consider this a gift to your children and family. You are giving them permission to let go of the past as you role model moving ahead and beyond. You are making decisions they won’t have to make on your behalf.
Forget is a strong word and an even harder emotion. In our world today it is tied up into such fearsome realities as dementia and Alzheimer’s. But just as it is important to forgive, the achievement of “forgetting” is equally relevant to the downsizing process in order to make the transition as painless and positive as possible. It is what you choose to remember and to keep and to honor, that will be of most meaning to your family and your ancestors. Make your decisions good ones.
One of the strangest – and most surprising – emotions caught up in the downsizing and transitioning process is the number of times something causes you a sudden emotional reaction. The emotion brings back a sense of anger, loss, disappointment or simply an intense feeling of frustration and/or unfinished business.
It takes a moment to identify the pain. What does the dress or piece of jewelry, the picture, the lamp, the children’s old toys actually mean to you? Is it the passing of precious time, a failed relationship, a friendship lost forever, the lack of interest or downright refusal of your children and family to want what you believe are beautiful and treasured mementos of your life? Or does it symbolize a bad decision, a hope forever lost, an unrealized dream or a gift from someone that hurt you?
Whatever the reason for the sense of anger, sadness or loss, acknowledge it, and let it pass. Take a deep breath and free yourself from the negative feelings associated with that inanimate object, no matter how beautiful or valuable. Pass it on and give it a renewed life. You will feel a sense of relief and more emotional peace of mind to begin the next phase of your life.
I am running a bit behind in my posts so playing catch up over the next few days….. here is Downsizing Commandment # 7 ……
“Learn to love and appreciate the benefits of minimalism”: in order to do this, you have to review some of the earlier commandments. Focus only on the best, the most beautiful, the most elegant, or quite simply, whatever makes you happy. Think about “less is more”, which really means less to clean, less to worry about, less to replace, less to inventory and insure. less to lose, pack and finance. In our times of smaller and smaller apartments and living spaces for most of us, one of the greatest luxuries we may have is simply space. Do not feel the need to fill all the space; use it luxuriously and keep it open, calm and gracious, highlighting only a few of your most favorite and treasured possessions.
I have recently seen a door hung with a collection of necklaces, beautifully displayed, that looked like an art exhibition in a very small place. The collection served as storage as well as a living testimony of the occupant’s style and history. Although there were many necklaces, they were displayed as one, neatly and organized. Another way of highlighting a few special pieces is to consider having them out one at a time so they receive full attention. This way you can create dynamic vignettes and appreciate what you love.
Minimalism is simplicity. It can be as luxurious and rich as you insist. It can be as comfortable as your favorite chair. What it means is that you have attained a level in your life and awareness that you are focused, organized, clear in your goals and aspirations, having cleaned up the loose ends of a life lived, and confident with the present as you look with hope to your future. It is like taking a deep breath and finally admitting to yourself that “yes. I have achived this much and now that I am at this point, I can go forward.” Good luck!
The excitement of the holidays brings with it a stream of extra seasonal activities such as hosting parties, buying gifts and sending out greetings. High expectations to wow loved ones and create meaningful moments can sometimes lead you to feel pressured and stressed.
Preparing for the most wonderful time of the year can be a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time if you use the right mix of strategies, systems and tools.
Hopefully a few of our ideas and tips below will help you preserve the festive spirit and stay in control this season.
HOLIDAY “To Do’s”:
How to actually follow that never-ending list …
- Develop a plan ~ it’s never too late to do this!
- Make a gift list – who and what – then categorize your gifts, by store, shop in the morning or afternoon to avoid the crowds
- On-line shopping – you might still be able to do this but at this point you will pay high shipping costs.
- Don’t go anywhere without your list
A FEW UNIQUE HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS - for those last minute shoppers and they are environmentally friendly!
- Their favourite charity
- Personal favor gift certificates – a hug, car wash, making dinner, handyman work around the house, housecleaning, organizing, lawn cutting or snow removal
- Adopt an animal – www.wwf.ca
- Tickets to a concert, to the theatre, a special restaurant, you can order a lot of these on-line!
- Baked goods, preserves, special homemade sauces
- www.plancanada.ca/givehope – it’s worth checking out
- Bulbs/seeds for the garden next spring
If budget is a concern, check out travel points you might have accumulated on your rewards cards. You might not have enough for a trip but you can buy a variety of gift cards with your points ~ Starbucks as an example!
If you did not get those paper cards out in time then go the e-card approach. The important thing is to connect with people not the way in which you do it. Check out www.hallmark.com – they have an annual subscription that ends up costing pennies an e-card.
Have a wonderful Christmas, or whatever holiday you do celebrate, with your family and friends. All the best in 2012.
Before those cold temperatures arrive, and depending where you are that “white stuff”, now is the time to tackle that jam-packed garage, or help your clients tackle it, and get it ready for the fall storage including your car! So whether you are going to do it yourself, or perhaps hire an organizer to help, let’s revisit the nine steps to an organized garage according to Barry Izsak of Arranging It All.
- Analyze your needs
- Create a garage inventory
- Make a garage layout
- Break your garage organizing task into small, manageable pieces
- Perform a gross sort
- Detailed sorting and purging
- Choose the storage system that suits your needs
- Organize and containerize
- Maintain your system
“Hire – or barter – professional help”, is a powerful commandment on the treacherous road to downsizing, minimalizing or just plain moving.
Working on the premise that we are all smart, competent individuals to start with, there is a humiliating moment in time when faced with vast piles of our possessions and the historical and emotional implications they carry, even the strongest of us falters. Some of us despair, cry, give up. This is the moment when I have learned – the hard way, as usual – that the solution is to hire someone to help. Or, as I did, to barter. I may be hopeless at making tough decisions about my earthly goods, but there are one or two things I can offer that other people value.
This is how I leaned about the Professional Organizer’s Association and most particularly, one of their stars. Her clarity, organization, ability to remove -or at least weaken – the emotional strings of giving up long held clothes, books, linens, accessories, kitchen items and others, kept me sane, focused and efficient. One of her key skills was ensuring we always had – and honoured – timelines which helps to keep you focused, productive and practical. I can’t recommend this kind of assistance enough.
Although best friends and family members may be helpful, they often know you too well and may be hesitant to be completely honest about what should go or stay. I strongly believe there are certain times in life that it is the most economical strategy to hire the best to help you. On this list I include a good hairdresser, dentist, doctor and now, a good professional organizer!
This is my favorite commandment! Here’s why: when you are downsizing, you are getting rid of most of your stuff. Right? Therefore, this is your opportunity, your golden moment, to keep only the best, the ‘stuff” that you love the most! There should be no more “I’ll save this for a special occasion”. You have now reached your own personal “special occasion” and there should be no holding back. I am now drinking my water, milk, juice, whatever, out of my long cherished Waterford crystal glasses that were wedding presents. I am using – every day- my grandmother’s porcelain dishes. I am sleeping on linen sheets that are older than I am! I am using the sterling silver that I hoarded for years. You know what? It feels good. I think my grandmother, my mother and all those people who gave me these treasures would be thrilled to know that finally I am using and appreciating. Plus, my own children and grandchildren are seeing these lovely heirlooms honored and appreciated, so they in turn will do the same.
Keeping this goal in mind, of being “elegant”, helps with some of the tough decisions you have to make when you undertake the serious and difficult task of downsizing. Keep only the best and most beloved of what you have. It doesn’t have to be valuable to anyone else but you. This is your time, your moment, to create a new environment for yourself. As I said, my favorite commandment and I hope it will inspire you.
Whoops, did not realize that I missed Commandment #2 and #3 – here they are…..
Be charitable - ask yourself, do I really want to house clothing, furniture, linens, kitchens and bath accessories, old toys and books that I know I will never use again? This kind of mentality is costly.
You pay for storage, whether it be in jammed square footage, annual cleaning costs, or the sheer frustration of being surrounded by outmoded, outlived, items you are hanging onto “just in case”. Have you considered the ways you can enrich other people’s lives by letting them share in yours? To families who have little, your clothes, linens, toys, dishes, glassware, blankets, and odds and ends may make the difference between poverty and comfort, between deprivation and dignity, between cold and warmth. Charity begins at home – from your home to those of others, share your wealth and kindness. It feels good for everyone involved. There are a number of ways to make this happen. Here are just a few. Goodwill, Salvation Army, church organizations, local charities and community centers, women’s centers, the list is long and you will find a group in your community that welcomes your years of saving. This is a “win win” for you. It is amazing how good you feel after giving to others.
Visit our Where to Donate for a list of links to possible charities in your area.
Visit our Where to Recycle for a list of links to possible recycling solutions in your area.
Be Creative ~ and environmentally responsible: This is tough, I warn you. There is a huge emotional issue underlining our need to accumulate, hoard, save for a “rainy day” (and no, we are not talking about our college or retirement funding here.) To internalize and role model respect for our environment and create new ways to use what you have, recognize that resources are limited. Re-think buying patterns. Avoid purchasing clothes, gadgets, junk food and other “stuff” wrapped in layers of paper and plastic. This requires seismic shifts in behaviors. Personally, I am an avid treasure hunter, shopper, lover of new designs and ideas, both in fashion and interior design. Aging is not dampening any of my enthusiasm. Moving, particularly downsizing, certainly is a wake-up call. I guarantee it.
Our ten commandments of surviving a downsizing continue……
Patience – this may well be the most challenging of all our commandments. You decide upon a task. With great intentions, you believe that it will be completed within a specified period of time. Or, you count on someone else to help. The date and time are set. You assume that everyone is as task oriented and as honorable as you.
Surprise…….unless you are a wizard of efficiency or a master of time management, very little will go exactly as planned. Murphy’s Law is all powerful and if you don’t build the virtue of patience into your planning and thinking, be prepared for exhaustion and frustration. Stuff happens and it is rarely favorable. Patience is a hard won gift, not lightly given. So be prepared to develop your patience as best you can. While your levels of determination, organization and preparation are critical, you still need to cultivate the patience skill when downsizing, moving, and making life changes. Good luck, I am sure you will be successful!
The clearing process is not restricted to the home or cottage during the summer. It needs to be done in your workplace to give you that renewed sense of balance in all areas of your life. Here is a process to help you get started….
Define the areas that you need to clear:
- your paper backlog – desk and surrounding area
- paper files
- e-mail inbox and sub-folders
- electronic files on your personal drive
- electronic files on your shared drive
- prioritize the areas above
- select your top priority
- block off time in your calendar – create one hour to three hour chunks of time
- set-up a reward at the end of the “clearing sessions” – heading out for lunch with a friend, take-out food pre-ordered or a glass of your favourite
- make sure you have any supplies or tools you will need organized ahead of time
- develop a system/structure for your paper and electronic records
- make a commitment to yourself and reinforce this commitment by telling someone else who will not let you procrastinate
- Now – DO IT!
See how great you feel, now apply this process to the next area.
Share your experiences. If you are having trouble getting started, email us, we will give you a boost!
Getting Ready for the Cottage Season……..
If you are an organizer, perhaps your clients may need your guidance or if you are a vacation property owner then try some of the following:
- Identify a place in your city home where you will place all items to go to the cottage the next trip.
- Do the same at the cottage for things to take back home.
- Purge at the cottage the same as you would at home. Identify those areas that need to be cleaned up and make a game of it – see our April issue for the game details.
- Place a small white board on the side of the fridge for those things you need to bring to the cottage or take home the next trip
- Consider keeping several copies of an inventory on the inside of your cottage pantry of the basics and tick them off as you need to replenish, take the list with you when you leave for the city.
- If it is a family cottage, plan a budget meeting now for the fall to review what will be done the next season and what financial contributions will be required.
As the vacation property owner, this can be a bit overwhelming to try and fit all of this into your already full schedule – consider hiring an organizer to put the initial plan in place along with the checklists, so all you need to do is maintain it.
Surviving a Downsizing Transition by Lynda Palazzi continued…….Commandment number 1: Coldhearted; a word you might think would never apply to you. Considerate it an important fallback position that underlines the old saying, “When it doubt, throw it out”.
Throwing “it” out, however, does not mean hiring a dumpster. It means you are moving on to free yourself and at the same time, add to other’s lives, closets and earthly possessions. Just don’t count on your beloved children and best friends to fight over the treasures you have collected over a lifetime. Once you have offered and been declined, swallow hard, move on and explore other options. You may be astounded at how much stranger’s value and appreciate your taste. Enjoy this experience. Search out a dealer, either through your local newspaper or organizer or on the web. Visit antique markets and check out the regulars so you can explore the best way to dispose of your treasures. There are experts in vintage costume jewelry, all sorts of dishes, cutlery, trinkets, linens, books, postcards, pictures. Several of my most successful sales were old beaded evening bags, long leather gloves and some of my mother’s old perfume bottles. Your treasures are treasures to someone. My favorite story is the old gold metal belt that I proudly bought in Chicago 35 years ago to adorn a crème moiré dress I had made. That belt was one of my most precious keepsakes because it represented the waist I once had and what it felt like. With great pride, I offered it to my daughter in law who shuddered and kindly suggested it wasn’t “her taste”. You can imagine my satisfaction when my wonderful dealer told me it was actually fought over by several young women and sold for a substantial sum. Yes!!
I’m back! And happy! My three month hiatus has been a process of discovery, not just about organizing, downsizing and transitioning, but also about life in the 21st century as resources become scarcer and costlier, apartment living escalates because of convenience and expenses, and less really does become more.
As a result of my journey from a 3 story townhouse to a smaller, one floor condo, I have emerged from a chaotic process, “enlightened”, anxious to share what I call my “Ten Commandments of Transition”. Starting with this issue, I will outline my hard-won experiences, two “commandments” at a time.
Let us know to what extent you relate – or might adapt – my story to your own transitions be they simply clearing out and re-organizing your own home or office, or that of a client. Being ready to sort out and plan for your own future may be one of the greatest gifts to yourself and those who love you.
Transition is here to stay. In light of this, my ten commandments are:
- Be coldhearted
- Be charitable
- Be creative
- Be patient
- Be extravagant
- Hire – or barter – support (outsource)
- Learn – and love – the benefits and beauty of minimalism
- Look ahead, not behind, to create new memories
More to come……..
Now for the Spring Cleaning vs the Clearing! – Give yourself a challenge; make a game of it especially if you can involve all the family members. First, identify some prizes that everyone would enjoy and second, set up the game. Here are some ideas:
- Make sure you have the tools on hand – cleaning supplies and equipment, bins, boxes or baskets.
- Identify the areas that need to be cleaned and who are going to do it. Consider drawing from a hat.
- Define what needs to be done – cleaning, purging, or organizing – and what it needs to look like when it is finished.
- Set a time limit – say 30 minutes
- Use a timer and assign a time keeper/coach. Let all the family members take turns in this role.
- Times up, identify the winner, present the prize, and do it again!
Some prize ideas – favourite books, CD’s, ITunes gift card, movie passes, or even personal I.O.U.’s. Add music to the process (maybe let the kids choose the music) and start enjoying the experience rather than dreading it!
A much more pleasant term and broader to encompass the purging and organizing aspect of getting a fresh start for the spring!
There are so many areas to talk about within this concept of “Spring Clearing” so keep in touch. Let’s start small and work our way up to the largest tasks it and for those organizers out there…..capture some of these ideas and work through them with your clients.
I tackled this one myself last weekend when it was pouring cats and dogs outside! That pile of wonderful magazines that have accumulated over the past months or years. It is so easy to allow this to happen. Don’t procrastinate any longer…it’s time to deal with them, try these ideas to free up space and perhaps save some money:
- Limit the number of subscriptions, perhaps one per interest, or rotate your subscriptions each year – you only have so much free time to read them
- Donate magazines to dental or doctor’s offices, or any place there is a waiting room
- If they are current issues(no more than three months old) then you might approach Good Will to donate them
- Share subscriptions with your family members, a friend or your next door neighbour
- Tear out articles and file them in a “To Read” or “Resource” file and recycle the rest of the magazine
- Cancel subscriptions and search for your favourite topics on the internet
Here are a couple of quick organizing tips that will help you this tax year and then appreciate them even more next year…..
Flag your files, find it fast. One of the easiest ways to get started is probably sitting right in your home office to review your records. We’re referring to your tax records from last year! Unless you’ve had significant changes over the year (such as a new baby, investments or home), your past records can provide a good start on what information you’ll need to gather this year. As you review your files, flag items and the files so you can locate them quickly next year. Consider using Avery NoteTabs for this purpose - if things change, you can remove them from the file or item easily and reuse them and they are color coded if you want to categorize your tax information.
Spend less time looking for loose receipts. Americans spend nine million hours a day looking for lost or misplaced items, according to the American Demographics Society. Develop a system to organize your receipts now and then use it for next year. There are a variety of options but I love to use the Avery PocketTabs™. Use the convenient pocket to store receipts for all your deductible expenses you collect throughout the year. The removable, repositionable pocket can be attached easily inside your file folders, and has a closeable flap to keep your contents secure. You could also create a tax receipt binder and attach the pocket tabs to card stock in the binder. Take it one step further, categorize each pocket tab – gas, meals, parking, medical, donations…etc. You can find out more about these products by visiting your office supply retailer such as Staples or visiting www.avery.ca or www.avery.com.
If you need help getting organized for tax time, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you tired of looking for items you need? Starting today, begin asking yourself “Where will I find this?” instead of “Where shall I put this? This question works great for papers to be filed as well as for other items in the home or office. Words of wisdom from Marlo Nikkila that I totally agree with and have always put in practice for my clients to create their own unique organizational systems based on the way they think, not on the way I think!