Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Boomer Burden: A Book Review

I belong to NAPO-Ohio,  an amazing chapter of professional organizers who share generously.  As part of our meeting, we have a segment call the Round Table. Someone suggested we all read The Boomer Burden by Julie Hall.  It's book that she often gives to families when she gets calls about downsizing or estate settling. It was perfect for discussing at Round Table.  Roger, an associate member from Crestview Books, handed out copies to members. (I told you they were generous.)

I have to say it was one of the best books about organizing, downsizing, and talking to parents about hard to talk about topics.  You should read this book if you have:
a) parents
b) children
c) stuff
d) all of the above

I read this book on a road trip with friends, who patiently let me read parts aloud. The title of the book comes from the post-depression era parents and their baby boomer children who are now dealing with their parents "lifetime accumulation of stuff."   The author provides checklists, strategies for decluttering, help for dividing estates when instructions were not specific, getting appraisals, and dealing with siblings.  The book has lots of anecdotal bits about families she has worked with and their tales of frustrations, deception, and overwhelm.

Having a will is a good start, but keeping it updated is crucial. What if the people named have already passed? In my case, I felt great about having a will, but it hadn't been updated since my adult children were tots.
Shred old documents like the outdated wills and insurance policies that are no longer valid will save grieving loved ones the trouble of following loose ends.
Children often find value it what you used often, like your favorite coffee mug, and not the silver plated tea set.
Sort through your stuff regularly and be a blessing to your children.

I heartily recommend reading this book.  5 out 5 stars from me!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giving a Donated Cabinet New Life

It’s constipating.  When someone is nearly ready to discard something that has been unused for a long time but… They are almost ready. They could be ready.  But… there is just one thing standing between them and having more space.  Deciding what to do with it.
Where is the perfect new home for it?  
Clients often get caught up and some are totally paralyzed by worrying where the item will go.  They know it still has value. They want to give it to friends or family who may or may not want it. They want to give it to a very particular charity.  Having lots of specific destinations for a room full of discards makes the follow through more daunting than the actual project.  I always encourage making donations to one general location or two at most. By donating to a general donation center that accepts lots of household goods like Goodwill or Salvation Army, you can help provide jobs and services to needy people and as if that were not enough of a warm and fuzzy feeling, someone will get things they need from the thrift store.

On the flip side.

You know that amazing feeling when you find just what you need at a bargain price.  
You want to tell everyone.  By donating, someone gave me this feeling.
I was looking for something to display some dishes and add some height to the room.  I looked in stores and on-line but didn't want to break the bank.  I hit the thrift stores and found this. 

 I found this cheeky message scrawled inside the right side door that tells me a little about it's previous owner.

With a couple cans of paint and some new knobs, this cabinet has new life. It was one that the donor hadn't planned.   I even found some a few more fun plates and the plant on top there too.
I know, I know, I spend too much time at my Pinterest crack house, right?  It made me happy. 

So donate freely and let the next owner choose it.  You get space and someone gets exactly what they were looking for.  Thank you to whomever sent this cabinet packing.  It was just what I wanted.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Electronic Clutter

Our electronic devices are becoming obsolete at an alarming rate. Struggling stay current, we upgrade and arriving home with our new  and shiny, and we find ourselves with a graveyard of old technology.  Sadly, in another drawer or box, we have our hairball of cords. Many we cannot even identify what device it came with, or whether we even still own the darn thing.  

Today I offer absolution.  If your life is running electronically well, that is to say, all your devices currently have chargers and can connect to all the devices they need to (for example, your camera can connect to the laptop for downloads) bag up the cords and donate or e-recycle them. If your smartphone trumps your old GPS, and the many other devices it replaces like old phones, old readers, language translators (yes I found one of these a couple weeks ago), video cameras, film cameras, cassette recorders, 8 tracks, and hand held games, it is time to discard. 

In most cities there are e-recycling events and drop off places to keep this stuff from 
the landfill.  Here in Columbus, Goodwill will accept these devices for recycling.  

Things that were once hardwired are connected wirelessly and we are left with all the cray cords.  Keep a couple but send the rest packing.

Computers are not resold.  It would only give someone else all the problems you had when you abandoned that device to upgrade.  They are dismantled and sorted, metals, plastics, fans, cords and boards.

They discovered a way to sort these things into boxes on pallets (the kind that the grocery store displays watermelons and pumpkins) and recycle them. Additionally, they provide services and jobs for the developmentally disabled.  So, gather those cords and devices, bag them and head for a drop off center.

In Columbus, April 26th, 2014 9am-12pm
at Huntington Park,  Goodwill will celebrate Earth Day will an e-Waste Collection event. Can't make the event?  You  can still take your bags to the local Goodwill drop off locations in your neighborhood.   

Monday, June 3, 2013

Remembering How My Garden Grows Using Evernote

Big Boys? Early Girls? Beefsteak?
Every spring as the trees bloom and the perennials come peeking up from the ground, I head to the nursery to select my annuals plants.  I love to plant tomatoes, herbs and flowers in the borders and pots around my porch.  I love shopping for the flowers and digging in the dirt.  What always stymies me is I can never remember how many of which tomatoes or flowers worked well the year before or how many bags of mulch I purchased.
Solution: Evernote
I have the Evernote App on my tablet and smartphone and have a link to my account on my desktop as well. The beauty is that I can enter the information where I am and it syncs between my laptop, my tablet and my smartphone so I can retrieve these bits of information wherever I am.  I have been using Evernote for a few years to store lots of random bits of information like gift ideas, measurements of windows for blinds, recipes, notes, my mother-in-law's medicine list, and so on.  You can group like items like Books I want to read, Movies I want to see, and Wines I like.

Input is easy because I can take a picture of the wine bottle at dinner or the plastic plant marker so I can buy it later when I am in the store.  Other input options include typing it in, speaking it as an audio file for playback or speaking to text to read later. All the things you write on post-its all over the place now can be stored on Evernote.  Don't get me wrong I  love post-its but they aren't designed to last and can be tricky to find later.

You can create Notebooks by topic and be uber organized, or you can have one big notebook.  No worries because everything is searchable. Evernote does so much more and scratching the surface right here.  Stay tuned and we will dig deeper next time  So for now I have just added 15 bags of mulch, three tomatoes and four flats of annuals with details to keep me sane next spring.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Simplicity and Paper Products; Gift Wrap and Party Ware

Pinning away on Pinterest, it occurred to me that all the gift wrap storage solutions were for less than a dozen rolls of paper. Usually about 5-6 rolls are featured in the quaint spaces tucked behind doors, in closets, or from the ever popular tension rods.  Reality for many of my clients is that they have a lot more rolls than that.  To get them towards one of the gorgeous solutions, I offer this advice.
Use up what you have.  And do not acquire more until you are down to a more optimal amount.
Discard/Recycle the wraps that are wrinkled and torn. (You can do better.)  
Not in love with the design?   Flip it over and use the white side. 

For simplicity in the future in your smaller gift wrap storage solution:
Use thick brown or white craft paper, white gift wrap or another solid color. 
Decorate the simple paper with sharpies for a quick to/ from tags or  use homemade or store bought tags. I keep silver and gold sharpies on hand for this purpose.
Tie them up with tulle, lace, or ribbon. With the simple paper even a shoestring bow will look elegant.

While we are in the party mood, here are a few more simplifying ideas I love.  When buying paper plates large and small, paper bowls, napkins, and cups just pick a color and run with it.  I usually go only with red party ware. Who doesn't love a red Solo cup? Sticking with one color means after the party you pack up the leftovers and keep them for the next bout of entertaining.  Red works for Valentine's Day, all patriotic holidays (US, Canada, and many other countries), summer picnics, Christmas and here in Ohio, all Buckeye tailgates. I have a girlfriend who has black as a color since it goes with most of her decor.  One color means it always matches and you only maintain inventory. From the looks of my basket I'm getting low on napkins.

If you chose not to go with one color, tuck the napkins in your napkin holder after an event.  Stick the plates on the microwave and use them up. There is no value in saving plastic bags of party leftovers with 2-3 super hero or princess napkins.  You won't use a few leftover invites, or party hats either.  Your photos will show the decorations in the future so saving them to scrapbook is not necessary.  

Choose simplicity. There are lots of details in entertaining. Make gift wrap and paper ware one thing you can take off your plate.

To see the gift wrap storage solutions and other wrap ideas :

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Too Much Fun? Toy Storage Woes

The calls from parents who want me to work with their children to help organize toys in the playroom come more frequent this time of the year.  Here they are heading to ToysRUs to buy more toys but the kids can't see the floor in the playroom now.  They want me to recommend the right tool for organizing toys.  Is it bins?  Is it shelves?  Labels?  What makes a great play area?  Here's what I have learned from the little ones.  They need space, they need less, and they need to play with toys in an integrated way.  

The woes of really large toys 
Pre-made playhouses, large play kitchens, and teepees can fill a room.  Kids can get the same afternoon of fun with a table, blankets, sofa cushions and clothespins. All of these items are easily folded and returned to their original places after the fun. These ordinary household items help teach construction principles.  Even more fun when you add an adult crouching inside with them.  Add a flashlight, some books and a snack for great afternoon of fun.  
Kids size cars can fill your garage and send the real family car out in the cold and you scrapping ice off of a windshield. 
Giant stuffed animals occupy as much space as a book shelf or toy bin which can hold more hours of fun than does one massive overstuffed gorilla.

Less is more.
Lots of toys can be overwhelming for children.  Lots of parents feel helpless against the tide of toys given by well meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles for birthdays and holidays.  Better gift suggestions for these generous folks are family memberships to children museums and zoos , tickets to sports events and shows, or even better a small toy and an investment in the child like money towards education or study abroad programs in high school.   
Avoid the box of naked Barbies: Maximum number of Barbies is number of children x 2 (one for each hand).  
Stuffed animals are adorable but can overrun a playroom or bedroom.   Introduce the concept of "enough". Select a bin size and when the bin is full, you have enough. Rather than giving them so many and then asking them to cull the herd, try to prevent these from coming into their homes. 
The bottom line is that kids overwhelmed by so much do not value what they have because there is always plenty. Basic Econ- supply and demand. Too much and the value goes down.
Kids need enough space for each child to lie on the floor and make a snow angel.  Even more fun? Lie down and make the snow angel space with them.

Storage challenges
Toy boxes, bins and totes are all good.  Make sure they are large enough to hold the amount of toys in a particular category.  When I am queen all toys will come with appropriate size storage containers. 
Shelves use vertical space well but should be anchored to the wall to prevent tipping. Probably not taller than the child.
The shelves with the angled bin shelves are not ideal nor are they my favorite.  I like the reach in idea, but visibility is usually poor in units like that. 
Legos are great toys for following directions and creativity. Except those tiny pieces, that are painful to step on, they are easy to manage. Great containers are available to store them in.  People are divided on this toy.  Keeping all kits separate forever and those that think that once the kit has been built, the pieces can be added to a larger bin for creative building.  It doesn't matter.  What does matter is that the boxes can fall apart and plastic bins are much better in the long run.  Get them the appropriate size for the volume of pieces as soon as possible. Best of all, know when you have enough.
Mixed toy bins are not bad.  Children play with toys in integrated ways.  Reading to stuffed animals, Lego creations for action figures to use, Barbies hanging out with Littlest Pet Shop pets, these are wonderful things and great for imagination.
Great!  Kindergarten work this way.  Each kind of toy has its area, pretend and dress up, building, games, books, music, cars and trains, guys aka action figures, kitchen/dolls.  Cut pictures from toy ads or print them off line and use shipping tape to attach the label to the container. Label with pictures and words for smaller kids and reading readiness.  

The toy organization secrets 
Bless others.  Too many gifts or toys.  Donate.  So many have so little. You get blessed with space. 
Put it away. By creating homes for each category of toy to go to at the end of the day, kids don't have to guess where to put something. The most important part of keeping a toy room clear is making the time for clean up part of each play session.  Rather than telling kids that it is time for bed, build in  time to allow for cleanup.  My daughters always were motivated by beating the last clean up time.  I stood there looking at my watching timing the cleanup.  A new world record!  Use examples like cleaning the kitchen after the meal is over to show how and why clean up is important. ( You are cleaning your kitchen, right?)  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hell Yeah - The Time Filter

I have installed the Hell Yeah Filter on my time management.  After years of overbooking my time and doing things that I dreaded, I am running things through this filter to help me decide whether or not to commit my precious time.  It's another way of thinking about "Just say no".

This is how it works:
My girlfriend Trish calls and says she would like a group of friends to go to a wine tasting.  My response is "Hell Yeah.  I'm in."  As I run this event through the filter, it doesn't create a conflict, is something fun to do, makes me smile right away and builds my relationships with my girlfriends. Good, good, and good,  so I tell her "Hell Yeah!"

Or I am asked to asked to serve on a committee with an organization I belong to.  Put it in the filter. I like the organization. I am feeling my shoulders tighten as I look at the number of hours involved. I don't feel the Hell Yeah coming to my lips. So I thank the caller and tell her "Thanks for thinking of me, but with my limited time right now I am going to have to pass."

I am asked to walk in a charity fundraiser.  Put it through the filter. Turns out two of my girlfriends have been affected by this disease so it's personal, giving to charities is important to me and exercise is good, so Hell Yeah. You get the idea.

There are things come through the filter and the answer is Well Yeah, Of Course.  These are the survival things like working, paying bills, picking up groceries, doing laundry, spending time with my family and exercising (ok, this last one is sometimes a stretch for me). These are the things that are the backbone of my schedule. They are not optional.

Install your own Hell Yeah filter.  It only takes a minute. You'll have fun explaining the idea.

Tell me what you are putting through the filter.