Category Archives: Organizing Tips & Tools

Beyond Tidying Up

Beyond Tidying Up

Chances are you’ve heard all the buzz around the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Since I am obsessed with all things organizing, I couldn’t wait to dive into the show. I got even more excited when I found out that a friend and former co-worker was featured on one of the episodes. She even gave me the inside scoop on what it was like to work with Marie Kondo! 

There isn’t a day that goes by where someone doesn’t ask me my thoughts on the show so I decided to write a post discussing the similarities and differences in Reclaim’s approach and the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method has six basic rules.

Commit yourself to tidying up

We discuss commitment during our initial in-home assessment. We talk about the decluttering and organizing process and ensure that the client is on board to make the necessary changes in order to achieve their goal of a less cluttered, more organized home. To ensure success we need to make sure that the client is ready to declutter (or, in other words, “tidy up”).

Imagine your ideal lifestyle

During the in-home assessment we also get an idea of what the client’s vision is for their home. This gives us a clear picture of how they see their ideal lifestyle and helps us create the best organizing solutions for them and their needs. These personalized solutions, once put in place, will make it much easier for the client to maintain an organized home.

Finish Discarding First

We first sort and then declutter. The sorting process allows the client to see how much they have of a particular item, making it easier to make decisions as to what goes and what stays. The organizing process won’t be nearly as effective if the client doesn’t declutter (or “discard”) first.

Tidy by Category, Not by Location

This goes back to Rule #3. When we sort we gather all items that belong in the same category. Let’s use clothing as an example–we also gather all of our client’s clothing together. But unlike Marie Kondo, who has the client create a large pile, we use garment racks and sort all clothing by style and color, allowing the client to see how much they of a particular item or color, making it easier to see what they have and therefore decide what stays and what goes.

Follow the Right Order (Clothes, Books, Paper, Miscellaneous Items, Sentimental)

We allow our client to dictate what we do first. During the in-home assessment we create a list of priorities and from there develop an action plan. We believe there is no right or wrong place to start, but we encourage clients to start in a room where they feel it won’t be very difficult to make decisions during the decluttering process.

Does it Spark Joy?

We don’t ask this exact question, but if a client is struggling with what to keep and what to get rid of we’ll ask them questions such as “When is the last time you used this/wore this?” “What would be the worst thing that would happen if you got rid of this?” or “How does this benefit you?” If there is no clear answer, then most likely it’s time for these items to go.

On the show, Marie consults with the families, but she doesn’t actually do the hands-on work. At Reclaim we provide full-service decluttering and organizing and we’ve found that our clients greatly appreciate this approach. The thought of decluttering and organizing a home can be a daunting task, but with our team we can get it all done in a matter of days. We do all of the sorting, provide support during the decluttering process, provide donation resources, and organize everything, putting personalized organizing systems in place that are easy to maintain for our clients. We have very high success rates when we see a project through from start to finish.

Q&A with Sehnita Joshua Mattison from “Episode 6: Breaking Free From a Mountain of Stuff”

How did you get to be on the show and what made you decide to apply?

They posted a casting notice to a local moms group I belong to on Facebook. We were determined to clean up our space, so we figured why not? For years I had been putting the idea of clearing out space on my vision board and this was going to help make that vision a reality.

Your husband Aaron already seemed on board with decluttering before Marie arrived. Has he always been the organized one?

Aaron grew up in a very organized household. His mother is extremely organized and tidy. I am definitely responsible for more of the clutter. If an item has a place to go Aaron has always been good about putting it back.

It seemed difficult for you to part with things that you no longer needed nor really wanted, but were still useful. How did you get over his hurdle and let go of those items?

Marie’s method of holding something and asking if it sparked joy really did work. By doing this process it made me get an idea of how much I really liked something. Also, putting like items together was helpful. Marie suggests sorting by category, not by room. By doing this we could see how much similar stuff we had, which made it much easier to get rid of things.

Books and magazines seemed to be particularly challenging for you. How did you overcome your attachment?

Magazines were particularly difficult for me because if I was going to get rid of them I wanted to make sure that they were going to the right place. I limited myself to a few baskets of magazines and made the commitment to part with the remaining ones. I ended up donating all of the extra magazines to a local senior center and they were thrilled.

You both mentioned that if there is an open space in your house it will get filled with stuff. Now that you have decluttered, have you found it’s easier to leave space open?

It’s much easier now to put things back that have a home. This process also helped me recognize that we need more pieces of furniture with storage so things have a place. And now that we have gone through all of our stuff and know exactly what we have, we are no longer buying things we don’t need.

What was the most useful tip Marie shared with you?

Marie’s folding technique is a game changer. It has helped in so many ways. Putting laundry away is so much easier. It’s easier to get dressed because I can see everything in my drawers and it’s even made packing a suitcase easier. In the past I would just stuff clothing in my suitcase until it was full, but now I am much more thoughtful about it. It really has made life so much easier!

Have you seen any changes with your children since getting rid of so much stuff? Especially their toys?

When we watched the show together as a family, the first thing my daughter Natalia said was “Where is my yellow school bus?” She was a little upset about that, but other than that the kids aren’t missing anything of what was given away. My son Ashton was very decisive about what he did and did not want, so that helped. I did feel guilty giving away toys that were gifts, but Marie suggests that the act of giving and receiving the gift is what you value and stays with you, not necessarily the actual gift so that was helpful.

The show was filmed eight months ago. Have you been able to maintain the systems Marie put in place?

The majority of it, yes. 90% of our house is in good shape. A few areas could still use some tidying up and reassessing, which is the next step. We are a work in progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizing Holiday Decorations

Organizing Holiday Decorations

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Decorating for the holidays shouldn’t be a burden. With a little organization, the upcoming holidays will bring you joy instead of stress.

Our Top Three Tips for Organizing Holiday Decorations

 

Store items in clear bins. While it may be tempting to purchase bins coordinating with each holiday (black and orange for Halloween, green and red for Christmas) we have found that clear bins are much more versatile because you can easily see what is in each bin and you’re not locked into a certain number of bins as your decorating needs change. Instead of color coding bins, we use large, festive, custom-laminated labels. When deciding what to put into each bin, we recommend storing items by room and taking photos of each room decorated. It will make it much easier to decorate year after year.

Declutter before the holidays. Decorating can seem like a daunting task when you’re opening bins crammed with various things. As you’re taking out your decorations, discard any items that are broken and no longer usable. Donate items that are still functional, but you no longer use anymore.

Store away items not frequently used. There is no need to store holiday entertaining pieces (Thanksgiving platters, Santa dishes, etc.) in your kitchen when they are only used once a year. Storing these items with holiday decorations will free up precious space in your kitchen and you’ll be more likely to use them because you’ll see them when you unpack for the holidays.

Whether you are in need of an entire holiday decoration overhaul or just need some bins and custom labels, we are here to help with any of your organizing needs!

Our Favorite Holiday Decoration Organizing Products
Clear Your Closet for Fall

Clear Your Closet for Fall

If you are feeling overwhelmed with your wardrobe, you’re not alone. It has been said that people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. That is a lot of unnecessary stuff taking up valuable closet space.

Fall is here and there’s no better time to declutter and organize your wardrobe. It’s time to take a look at your Spring and Summer clothes, donate or sell those items you didn’t wear in the past six months and assess Fall and Winter clothes.

 

Our Top Five Organizing Tips for Clearing Out Your Closet

 

Let It Go. Haven’t worn an item in six months or more? Prepare to sell or donate it. (The only exception is special occasion wear.) Keeping clothing because you “might” fit back into it one day? If you get back to that size would you actually wear those items or would you rather treat yourself to a new, up-to-date wardrobe?

Go Backwards. Not sure how often you do or don’t wear something? Turn all of your hangers backwards, and then turn the hanger around once you’ve worn an item. At the end of the season, take inventory of what you’re actually wearing (or not wearing).

Take Everything Out. And yes, I mean everything! You really have to see what you have to have a clear idea of what should stay and what should go. Touch each piece of clothing and ask yourself, “When is the last time I wore this?” “How do I feel when I wear this?” This will take time but you’ll thank me later. It may be hard to part with some items, but you’ll feel so much better because it will be easier to pick out what to wear on a daily basis because you’ll love everything in your closet.

Categorize. By grouping like items together (strapless, short sleeved, long sleeved, etc.) and then by color you’ll have a better idea of what you have and where it is.

Get Styled. If you’re not sure what is in fashion anymore or feel lost when it comes to putting outfits together, it’s a good idea to hire a stylist. I have personally used Alex Long with Alex Long Studio. She put together outfits for me that I never would have dreamed of. My favorite part is when she pre-shopped for me—all I had to do was show up, try on the clothes she picked out, and have her tell me what looked best!

Life & Legacy Organizing

Life & Legacy Organizing

At Reclaim we love organizing stuff! From closets and pantries to attics and garages, we’ve got you covered! One thing we don’t do is life and legacy organizing, but lucky for you we know someone who does! Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions?

• What important documents should I have hard copies of?

• If I got into an accident, would my loved ones know how I’d want them to handle it?

• Do I have everything valuable in my house documented and stored somewhere safe?

• Who can get to my passwords and online accounts if something happened to me?

• What exactly is a contingency plan?

It’s overwhelming stuff to think about. In a world where you’re told that everything is important, it’s hard to know what to do to be prepared for things like illness, accidents, and death. But if you put it off forever, life will decide when it’s time to deal with it—consequences and all. At Reclaim we have worked with several clients who have spent years picking up the pieces after a loved one has passed. Not having crucial information can make an already stressful time even more unbearable.

 Back Up Your Life™ specializes in life and legacy planning, preparation, and peace of mind. Founded by professional organizer Annette Adamska, Back Up Your Life™  customizes action plans rooted in best practices and personal support, built to help you document, store, save, and get things in place, once and for all.

 For more info check out http://letsbackupyourlife.com. Annette is offering her first ever  Jump Start Group Program in May. It’s a great way for people located in the Triangle to take action and get everything in order.

Tackle Toy Clutter

Tackle Toy Clutter

As the kids prepare their wish lists for Santa, now is the perfect time to declutter toys. This is not only to make room for new ones, but it’s also a great opportunity to show your children how they can help those less fortunate by donating toys they no longer use. Here is our four-step process for tackling playroom clutter:

1)  Sort. Gather all of the toys in the playroom and sort by item. Put like items together and trash anything that is broken or missing pieces. Now that you can see everything, it will be easier to see what you have and make decisions as to what stays and what goes. This is also the perfect time to remove all items that don’t belong in the playroom. Create a box of items that are to be stored other places.

2)  Declutter. Go through each category and select toys your children no longer play with. Place toys you are not keeping in designated boxes to donate and/or sell.

3) Contain. Now that you know what you are keeping, it’s time to contain items. Cubbies with baskets or bins are the perfect solution. They allow toys to be organized by type, easy for kids to access what they want without making your playroom look cluttered.

4) Label. The final step is to label all of the bins. This way your children will easily be able to identify what goes where. For little ones who can’t read yet, we love picture labels.

Check out this before & after of a playroom we recently decluttered and organized for a client!

October is ADHD Awareness Month

October is ADHD Awareness Month

CHADD, the leading resource on ADHD, estimates that 17 million adults and children are living with ADHD.

At Reclaim we often work with those effected by ADHD, whether having it themselves or living with someone who does. Being organized is a common challenge for those with ADHD. We set up systems and strategies for our clients to ensure that they are able to easily maintain them on their own. We also often recommend that our clients consult with an ADHD coach. We reached out to our favorite ADHD Coach Patty Blinderman of Positively Coaching ADHD and asked her to share her thoughts on executive functions and the role they play in becoming more organized.

Executive Functions- the keys to getting- and staying- organized

When we think of executive function (EF) skills, we may not connect them to our ability (or inability) to become more organized. The truth is that having weak EF skills can be a huge factor in whether we are able to succeed in this area.  If you experience difficulties in getting–or staying–organized, take this quick quiz to see if weak executive function skills may be at play.

The following is a list of EF skills, as defined by Guare and Dawson in their Smart but Scattered books.  Respond  “yes” or “no” to the question related to each skill to see if it is presenting an organizing challenge for you.

_____Response Inhibition– aka self-control.  Can you resist the urge to say “I don’t feel like doing it today,” “I don’t have the time,” “I’m too tired”…?

_____Working Memory– the ability to hold in our brain the steps to getting something done.  Can you remember everything that needs to be done to organize the master closet–or are some tasks/areas forgotten?

_____Emotional Control– The ability to manage emotions in order to complete a task or direct behavior. If you feel anxious about the amount of time or work needed to organize the kitchen, can you still manage to get it done?

_____Sustained Attention– Maintaining attention on a task despite boredom, distractibility, or fatigue.  Can you continue organizing your bedroom, even when someone rings your doorbell, or you have to sort 50 pairs of socks or you discover organizing it is harder than you thought?

_____Task InitiationCan you get started on cleaning out the fridge without procrastinating?

_____Planning/PrioritizationCan you formulate a plan to get the piles of office paperwork completed?

_____OrganizationCan you create and maintain systems so you can find what you need when you need it?

_____Time ManagementCan you accurately estimate how much time it will take to organize the pantry, allocate the time to do it, and stay within the time limits?

_____Goal-Directed PersistenceCan you set a goal to organize the pantry and follow through until it is finished without being distracted?

_____FlexibilityIf organizing the garage doesn’t work as you thought it would, can you revise your plan to get it done?

_____MetacognitionCan you stand back and take a birds-eye view of the work you are doing and ask “How is this going?” or “How am I doing?”

_____Stress ToleranceCan you cope with expectations/pressure (from yourself or others) to begin and complete tasks?

How many EF skills did you respond no to?  The truth is, any one of these skills can make it difficult to reach your organizing goals. The more “no” answers, the more challenging it will be to get and stay organized.  Hiring a professional organizer to work with you to set up organizational systems aligned with the way you live can provide a level playing field to set you up for success.

Knowing which EF skills are getting in your way is the first step.  Since EF skills can be improved by practice, working with an executive function coach to target your weaker skills is one way to support yourself to build routines to keep your stuff organized.  Which EF skills do you need to develop more fully to support your organizational goals?

Patty Blinderman, PCAC, PCC
ADHD and Executive Function Coach

Before & After: Medicine Closet

Before & After: Medicine Closet

This medicine closet provided a lot of storage, but was in desperate need of some decluttering and organizing. Our client had admitted that she had not decluttered this closet in several years, so we knew there would be tons of expired medicine (the oldest one dating back to 1998!).

We first pulled everything out, then checked expiration dates and trashed medicine that was no longer good. We then sorted the usable items into categories. All of the medicine you see below was expired!

Once we saw what we had left and the size of each category we put those items in appropriate bins (which the client already owned). We then labeled the bins so it was easy for the whole family to easily access what they need when they need it.

Before & After: Master Bedroom Closet

Before & After: Master Bedroom Closet

This shared master closet provided a lot of space, but it was not functional due to an odd layout, very high ceilings, and inaccessible shelves and hanging space. We were up for the challenge to make this a practical (and pretty) closet!

Our client had already decluttered her clothing and worked with a stylist so her wardrobe was in check, but her husband’s side needed a major overhaul. Once he decluttered his side, we were ready to go!

We first had to decide what went where. We had a ton of storage, which was great, but because so much of it was not easily accessible we had to make sure that the items accessed everyday were in reach.

The shelves were tall but not very deep, so instead of stacking items we stocked the shelves with labeled baskets.

We then stored out of season clothing and items not worn often on the higher shelves in decorative boxes.

This client now has and beautiful and functional master bedroom closet!

Pro Tips for Packing & Unpacking

Pro Tips for Packing & Unpacking

Spring and Summer are the most popular months for home sales, which means lots of people are moving. Whether you’re moving down the street or across the country, there are things you can do to make the process more efficient and less stressful.

Love it or Leave it. There is no better time to declutter then when you are preparing for a move. If you are unsure  of what items to keep, before packing them, ask yourself, “When is the last time I used this?”, “What would be the worst thing that would happen if I got rid of this?” and “Why am I keeping it?” Anything that you no longer want to keep should be donated, sold, or trashed depending on the condition and the value. By taking the time to pack only what you need and use, you’ll save time when it comes time to unpack. Frequently we are contacted by people who moved into their home years ago and still have boxes that are not unpacked. If you are taking only what you need and use, you won’t have to worry about stacks of unopened boxes. This is the perfect time to sell or donate all of those wedding gifts you never used, but felt you should hold onto!

Purposeful Packing. Put like-items together and label boxes clearly with the contents. It will save you time when unpacking to label boxes Kitchen, Garage, etc. For those items you’ll need right away, write OPEN FIRST on the boxes. Too often when we unpack clients we see lots of things haphazardly thrown into boxes either by the client or the movers. You would be shocked at how many times we’ve opened boxes that are filled with trash. We are also frequently contacted by people who moved into their homes years ago and still have stacks of boxes in their garage that have yet to be unpacked; when we do finally unpack them are almost always filled with items that the client no longer wants.

Tools of the Trade. To be most efficient you’ll need the right packing tools.

-Durable packing boxes
-Quality packing tape
-Sharpies
-Packing Paper
-Color Coded Labels

At Reclaim we’re busy working with clients to help them pack and unpack. We are currently working with two families, one packing and one unpacking. The family that we are packing is moving into temporary housing before their new home is ready. We are decluttering room by room and then packing items into two separate categories–storage and apartment. This will make it easy for the movers to know what goes where. In one three-hour appointment we decluttered and packed two rooms. With a trunk full of donations, a handful of items to sell and five bags of trash, we’re off to a good start!

We are also working with a family to unpack and set up systems in their new home. This is another situation where a family was in temporary housing. When we arrived the bonus room was filled with boxes from storage. The contents were unknown, so we dug right in. In just two hours we went through all of the boxes and put the items in their appropriate places. 75% of the items were trash. The client also found several items she had been searching for for the past three months. We are now going room-by-room, perfecting each space so that everything has a home.

Are you moving or still have boxes that have yet to be unpacked from a past move? We can help!

Before & After: Kids’ Cabinet

Before & After: Kids’ Cabinet

There is no question that kids require a lot of stuff. When doing meal prep for the little ones, whether it be a snack or dinner you’ll want to be able to easily access the necessities and not have to navigate through overstuffed cabinets.

We first pulled everything out and removed the items the client no longer needed. In this case, the client had already done a great job of decluttering, so with only a few things left to discard we had to get creative by maximizing the little space we did have. We put like items together and used white mesh stackable shelves to separate stacking items so that everything is easily accessible.

You’ll see that the upper cabinet was home to a pile of plastic ware. A frequent problem our clients have is dealing with heaping piles of mismatched plastic ware. Our all-time favorite plastic ware is Easy Find Lids by Rubbermaid. The lids snap right on to the bottom, taking up less space while being able to keep matching sets together.