My Theory on Condo Living

Residential building facade

I always eagerly await the answer when I ask “Which apartment number?” or “Which condo number? “ For some reason, most of my condo and apartment clients always live high up in their condo or apartment buildings. Nine times out of ten, they answer the third floor or higher. I never ever get someone in the first floor apartment. I see the trend and am convinced stairs have everything to do with my theory. Think about the implications. It takes more effort to take out the garbage and recycling. It’s harder to carry out returns to ship back at the post office or give items back to friends. It takes more time and planning to get rid of a piece of furniture or donations. It’s easier to bring things home then to remove things.

You may think or guess that having an elevator would dash my theory. Surprisingly, having an elevator doesn’t matter. Of course, I’m thrilled if there’s an elevator but I sympathize. Living high up and trekking all that way gets old. It directly effects the motivation to haul and lug stuff up and down.

So, what is the solution? How does a homeowner not fall prey to accumulating too much?

  • For starters, resist online shopping. Think twice before you shop till your heart is content. Shipping to the front door is the easy part. Returning it is the hard part.
  • Don’t buy in bulk. Just buy what you need when you need it.
  • Carry something small every day. Take a little amount of garbage down daily and a small bag for Goodwill weekly or monthly. Don’t let large amounts accumulate.
  • Notice what type of bag or purse you carry for work. Consider something that will be easier carrying up and down stairs.
  • Be grateful. You probably have toned legs and working your heart more than your neighbors. Look at the positive side.

Photo © jbd30 / depositphotos

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7 Ways to Create Extra Time to Exercise

 

  1. exercisePrep lunch food on Sundays for the week, so assembling lunches during the week takes less than a minute. Create an organized lunch shelf in your pantry and your refrigerator so it’s grab and go during the week.
  2. Lay out your outfit the night before, so you save minutes in the morning getting ready. Simply check the weather on your phone the night before and pick out your clothes before heading to bed.
  3. Pick a gym in a location close to work or home. There’s nothing worse than spending 20-30 minutes driving to do a workout. If the gym isn’t within 10 minutes from your house or work, you’re at the wrong gym.
  4. If you’re working out at the end of a work day, don’t un-silence your phone until after you’ve hit the gym. Return personal calls or texts after the gym. Sometimes we never make it to the gym after work because we are putting out fires from messages or texts coming in all day. Reward yourself by “getting your phone back” after you work out.
  5. Limit errands to one night a week after work. This will help create time and ease guilt for the rest of the weeknights.
  6. If you’re on the fence to skip the gym or go workout, ask yourself if your “to do” or errands can wait. If they are not hundred percent crucial and viable and time sensitive, prioritize your workout first.
  7. Pick a gym that has kids programs so you can work out while your kids are taken care of. If you make the trip to the gym a family event, you will be sure to make your cardio session at least once or twice a week. You are also being an example to your children, teaching them that you as a mom or dad or family want to be a healthy family.

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Classic Landing Spots for Clutter

 

landing spotCar

If you work out of your car, commute long distances or your kids are in a lot of activities and sports, your car or minivan is bound to reflect it. Some of us feel like we spend more time in our car than our home. Books, water bottles, leftover wrappers, toys, things to return to stores, paper, coins, and other random stuff accumulates on the floor when we are driving from one activity or appointment to the next. The best organizing advice I can give you is only one piece of advice. Every time you get out of your car, whether you’re entering a store, work, the gym or your home, check the front or back seat by glancing if there’s anything you should be taking with you. If it’s a piece of garbage throw it out. If it belongs in the house, carry it in. If it doesn’t permanently live in the car, keep taking random things with you as you get out of the car all day long, and put the things back where they belong. Do this on a regular basis and your car should never get way out of control.

Kitchen Table and Kitchen Countertops

These places are pretty synonymous. The kitchen is the main hub in the home so everyone’s things accumulate here. Your family is no different than the rest of the families on your block. The kitchen is a problem area for all of us. We spend the most time in the kitchen area whether it is cooking, using laptops, opening or leaving mail, or your kids doing homework or craft projects here. Designate one time of day when you’ll sift through the things and clear off these surfaces. It could be before dinner or each morning after breakfast. Enlist family members for help. Assign them baskets or bins on a nearby shelf to collect their knick knacks or return their things to bedrooms to dump there instead of the kitchen. Designate a basket to collect unopened mail instead of it collecting all over the first floor. Empty or go through the basket at least weekly, if not daily.

Basement

This is a common catch all. If we don’t know where to keep it, the answer is often “Just put it in the basement.”….. I loathe those words. I’m a bit joking but mostly serious. The more you put in the basement the more readily stuff is forgotten, piles up and takes up space. Then organizing the basement is a huge undertaking on a future date because a third of its contents shouldn’t be there. Be selective what you store down there. As you put things down in the basement consider if their use or length of usable time will expire. Also consider how heavy and cumbersome the item is. Do you want to have to move it twice or three times?

Tops of Dressers

The surfaces of bedroom dressers always take a beating with everything we dump out onto them. From Pokémon cards, trophies, piggy banks to business cards, coins, perfume, golf tees, everything in our pockets or things we love land here. As kids, we display our prized possessions and everything is usually important if it’s on the top of the dresser. As adults it is where we empty our pockets or set things down. Rarely are these surfaces defined. I’d encourage you to create specific places to catch items such as a business card or receipt collector. Have an intentional coin dumping spot. Get rid of old, expired perfumes or smelly lotions that really don’t smell good anymore and are just getting a layer of dust on them. Put pens and pencils in a pencil cup, mug or vase. Be intentional about the small things and it will be able to be maintained. Another option is to display beautiful things or decorative items so it prevents you from dumping on the surface. For our kids, limit what they can display and use narrow shelves instead to display things higher up on walls. Everything doesn’t have to take up space on the dresser. Create hair and jewelry stations if you have girls and Legos, playing cards and gadgets stations if you have boys. Containerize and group as much as possible.

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Delegating Wisely

 

DelegatingAs a business owner, a large part of organizing is learning how to delegate tasks and recognizing when to delegate tasks. I strongly believe those two elements are crucial to running a successful small business. I have helped several business owners dig through inventory, go through old files, sort through their desk, organize their storefront and discuss their time management. A common theme that runs through most business owners is the mentality that they are trying to do everything on their own and wasting their unique talent that makes them money.

If you’re a business owner reading this blog, stop for a minute and take note of what you’re brilliant at. What do you do so well? Is it interacting with clients? Is it selling your product or service? Is it running your business behind the scenes? Is it designing or creating new ideas, themes, products, etc.? The biggest advice I could give you is…. Do what you DO BEST. Don’t waste your time on bookkeeping if you can’t stand it and it takes you forever. Don’t bother running your social media campaigns if that doesn’t come naturally to you. If you are great at selling your product or service, then don’t work in the business…. sell the business. Once you know what you’re great at doing, delegate ALL the rest. Yes, delegate.   If you continue to juggle ten balls in the air and try to do every role and task on your own, you are bound to burn out, lose customers, or remain small and not grow.

Sit down and write what type of people would be helpful to assist you running your business. Then start to add them slowly over time. Don’t settle for just anyone. Hire the best. My hiring decisions aren’t based on cost; they are based on “who is the best person to do this task at a top notch capacity?” In my business I have:

  • A graphic designer
  • A webhost and web designer
  • A social media person
  • A small business attorney
  • A small business coach
  • A team of eleven organizers

I wouldn’t have the business I have today without all of their help. I love to sell, build my business, work with clients directly, and enjoy bookkeeping. I could delegate bookkeeping, but I’m good at it, enjoy it, and have time to do it. So I’ll keep that task on my plate…..for now.

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Cleaning Versus Organizing

cleaning toolsLet’s make one thing clear. Organizers don’t clean and cleaning companies don’t organize. They might think they do, but they don’t. They pick up, shove things, stack things, or put things where you can’t find them. I’m a fan of cleaning companies; I just think they should stick to cleaning and leave the organizing to the organizers.

Always clean after organizing. Once floors are cleared, shelves are decluttered and countertops are empty, it will make the cleaning job a lot easier.

Storing a ton of cleaning products is a waste of space. For most people, cabinet and closet space is precious and coveted so resist the urge to buying multipacks and economy size cleaning products. Keep cleaning products simple. All you need is a dusting spray, glass cleaner, floor cleaning solution, bathroom cleaner and kitchen countertops/sink polish.

You can find just about any speciality cleaning product on the market to clean several specific items. Instead of buying several bottles of specific cleaners, chose cleaning products that have a double use or multi-purpose. This will cut down the number of bottles you’ll have to store.

Just like organizing, you have to schedule time to clean. Having people over is a great prompt to do some quick spot cleaning or pick one day a week to spend some time cleaning. If you use a cleaning company, I’m sure you already have them on a schedule. Obviously cut back even more on your stash of cleaning products if they bring their own products.

Limit the number of rags you keep. Not every hole ridden t-shirt or old dishrag has to be kept. Don’t bother with dark colored fabrics. The color will bleed off and will make it harder to see dirt or dust in the rag.

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When Hobbies Overtake Our Space

 

what's your hobby?I was reminded this week of a home I walked into many years ago in the beginning of my business. When I stepped into the front door, I was greeted with a quilting loom. At least I believe it was some sort of quilting loom. I’m not a quilter. Anyways, this piece of equipment was eighteen feet long and probably nine feet wide. It took up the family’s whole dining room and front living room. I remember thinking to myself, what a hobby. Wow. I don’t think quilting is a bad hobby but I remember the space it consumed and how much this impacted the family.

Another family comes to mind, who practiced the extreme saving while grocery shopping. They had rows and rows of products they purchased at an extreme discount. They could have fed five families for months.

Awhile back I came across a family who loved to ride bikes, for recreation and competition. Their basement was filled with bikes, bike parts and even special clothing for when it’s snowing! Now that’s dedication to biking!

Recently, I’ve come across avid Craig’s List posters and Ebay sellers. My sister is addicted to flipping furniture she finds, refinishes and then makes a killing on Craig’s List when she sells the piece. She spends $20 and sells it for $120-$150. Her husband is less than thrilled the space the furniture takes up but boy she makes a large profit.

My hobby is triathlons. My road bike and bike parts take up space. Half my clothes dresser is workout clothes. Half my shoes are running shoes, and my swim bag is full of swim suits and gear. I fit all of these things into space around my house and recognize the time and money it takes to do this hobby. In total it can consume a lot of time, energy, and money IF I let it. That’s the key word, if.  Maybe your hobby takes up a large space, sucks up time, and spends a large amount of money and perhaps it doesn’t. I want to encourage you to draw boundaries. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, don’t dismiss it. Consider the three categories: time/energy, space and money.

Let’s take an Ebay hobby for an example. Any hobby can fit into this example, but for ease of an example read on about selling items on Ebay and how I would draw boundaries with this particular hobby.

  1.  Money: Raise your threshold on price. If the item or group of items isn’t listed for $50 or more, don’t bother listing it. I know you might pay more to sell these higher priced items and make a bigger effort with more pictures but that’s not the point. The point is to give yourself a boundary.
  2. Space: Mark off a space boundary. If the Ebay items exceed a certain area/space/or shelving unit, tell yourself you have to donate some of the items. Once it outgrows the spacial boundary you and your family agree to, you have to choose to donate items.
  3. Time/Energy: Be stricter on deadlines and time. If you don’t make the time by the end of the month to post “x” amount of items, you have to donate the same amount of items you didn’t post. This will again, keep the hobby in check. Waiting for a sale or special on posting Ebay items won’t work. It only delays the process and puts you behind schedule.

So what’s your hobby? What do you love to do?

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8 Mistakes to Avoid While Tackling An Organizing Project

 

So the day and hour has arrived. You have blocked erase a mistakeoff time to tackle the organizing project that has been on your to do list for months. I’m glad you are ready to dive in and start making headway on the clutter. To help you avoid getting sidetracked, stumped or giving up, below is a list of the most common organizing mistakes people make.

  1. Don’t buy organizing products and more bins before the project. First declutter and then go shopping for only what you need.
  2. One can have good intentions but no follow through. It’s easier to make one trip to a donation place instead of thinking you will sell things on Craig’s List, take things to consignment, or ship clothes to your sister’s kids in a different state. All three of those are great ideas but take time. Assume you won’t have the time to do those, take the easier solution, and just donate the stuff.
  3. Moving the clutter to the basement, off-site storage or attic or garage is not the solution. That’s just avoidance of making a decision and shifting clutter. Make a decision to use or store the item correctly, otherwise get rid of it.
  4. Avoid getting too detailed from the start. Do not start with a stack of papers or bins with a million little items. Tackle the easy decisions first and then get down to the details.
  5. Don’t blame others for the clutter. Take responsibility and start making decisions. Organizing is 99% decision making.
  6. Setting aside smaller projects within the larger project is not the answer. Commit to going through everything and anything. A box of photos and paper would be the only exception. Otherwise, nothing should be off limits.
  7. Getting caught up on the cost or value of items will derail you fast. The money was spent when you purchased the item. Instead of feeling guilty and trying to get a few bucks out of the item, commit to making smarter purchases moving forward. Focus on only a few high ticket items if you must.
  8. Don’t expect to have all the answers right from the beginning. Solutions and new ideas usually surface as you’re emptying bins, filling donation bags, and seeing your space in a new light. As you get further into the process you will know what you need to purchase or what problem still needs to be addressed.

Good luck and if you get stuck don’t forget the Ten Reasons to Hire a Professional Organizer!

 

Photo © dimgroshev / depositphotos

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An Organized Halloween

Halloween pumpkinCostumes

Over the years of organizing, I have definitely come across my share of Halloween costumes. I’ve organized pet costumes, adult costumes and hoards of kids dress up and play costumes. Pretending to be something or someone else brings fun, excitement, creativity, fantasy, and the chance to hide or escape. I’ll never forget organizing with a young female customer. She had probably ten different Halloween costumes all organized lined up at the top of her closet. They were meticulously stored and labeled. The holiday was obviously fun and important to her and it reminded me to discuss your options in storing costumes. Instead of shoving past costumes into a great big plastic bin into the basement, consider a couple other ways to store them.

  1. If have extra hanging space or a deep closet with an extra rod somewhere in the house, hang up the costume and attach all the part and pieces with safety pins or inside a smaller bag that can hook onto the hanger.
  2. The Ziploc extra large storage bags are another great storage idea. You can hang them or stack them. They are easy to label, seal shut and you can see right through the bag for easy retrieval. They come in L, XL, and XXL. See here
  3. Wings, swords, spears, masks and other accessories can easily get crushed. Low flat under the bed type of plastic containers can accommodate odd sized accessories and parts and pieces.

Candy

Most parents dread the inevitable bags and buckets of candy post Halloween. I know this because I get offered candy while organizing weeks and months after Halloween. And yes, I will admit, I’ve helped myself to the kids’ stashes of candy more than once. A pick me up, jolt of sugar, always helps while organizing. As far as reducing the amount of candy, I have no great tips or ideas. Just throw some out. I wouldn’t say all of it should go but pick and choose and obviously dole it out over time. Hopefully by Thanksgiving you can pitch what’s left. Enough pie, fudge and holiday desserts are coming up on our social calendars to fill the sugar quota.

Decorations

A few years back I walked into a three car garage in the city. The homeowner wanted to show me his Halloween decorations. The whole loft of the three car garage was full plus a whole car space. This family loved to throw the scariest haunted house party in the neighborhood. I was so jealous I wanted to invite myself to their next Halloween party. All the decorations looked so cool and their home was perfectly laid out with lots of rooms and hiding spots. Needless to say, all these decorations were taking up a huge amount of space. So consider decorations “in moderation”. Get rid of the ones you didn’t put out or set up this year. Unless you have the space, all the coffins, tombs, cobwebs, ghosts and scarecrows take up a lot of attic or garage space. Storing these bulky items in the rafters or lofts or attics is a great idea as long as you’ll retrieve them to use and put them away when Halloween is over. Sometimes just the effort of retrieving the decorations deters us from enjoying them.

 

Photo © Threeart | Jacek Fulawkadepositphotos

 

 

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Working from Home

How to Avoid Distractioninterruption

Running a business from home or working from home for your company is not an easy task. Distraction looms at every corner and productivity can suffer if self discipline and routines are not your strong suit. We, myself included, can easily get distracted when the neighbour stops us to chat or the piles of dishes is staring at us. My weakness is my nieces. It melts my heart and I cave every time when they ask, “Tante (German for aunt), will you play blocks with us? Or Tante, will you take us to the park?” How could I ever say no? I love that I have the flexibility in my day to fit them in. But nonetheless, I’ve had to draw specific boundaries. It has helped but it’s still my weakness. Get to know what your distractions are and start to figure out fences, boundaries, and where you can be flexible. Below are a few tips to help you work more productively at home.

  • Create your own deadlines to prompt yourself to reach goals, make progress, or complete a task.
  • Use a business colleague, friend, or coach to check in and keep you accountable.
  • Break large projects into smaller projects. Tackle bits and pieces when attacking an overwhelming task instead of biting off too much and quitting.
  • Create routines in your day or week to stay on top of emails, writing, social media, etc. Assign specific blocks of time at specific points of your day or week.
  • Draw or design a creative “do not disturb” sign for your office so that family members know you are on an important call or busy on a specific project.
  • Set your alarm, as if you had a job outside the home, to plan on being in your home office by eight each morning. Watch your productivity and time increase when you consciously set work hours.
  • Maintain boundaries at home with your paperwork. Resist the urge to leave paper in the dining room, coffee table, and kitchen countertops. When you’re done working in one of those comfy spots bring the paperwork back to your home “office hub”.
  • Use project folders, client files, or event folders to maintain paperwork for different tasks you’re working on. Do you manage projects? Events? Clients? Volunteer projects? The answer to that question will determine how to sort your paperwork.

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Compartmentalize to Organize

organized pasta

 

Thefreedictionary.com says it well. To compartmentalize is to separate into distinct parts, categories, or compartments. In a nutshell, that is a huge part of organizing. We separate out things, stuff, chaos, parts, pieces, and just about anything into categories and distinct piles. Sorting is the basis of organizing. Teaching kids to sort at home or at school is giving them the fundamentals of organizing. If we can’t see like items and group them, we have a big problem.

So whether you’re organizing your purse, kitchen, or junk drawer, compartmentalize the contents. To help you think like an organizer, consider how we would compartmentalize these areas in your home:

A linen closet:

  • linens (sheets and towels)
  • medicine/first aid
  • travel samples
  • paper goods (toilet paper, Kleenex, feminine products)
  • back up products (shampoo, hairspray, etc.)

Use shelves and containers to create distinct separation between items. If all else fails, imagine you’re walking down the aisles at CVS and Walgreens. Sort items as if you worked there, into different departments.

A wallet:

  • cash
  • rewards cards
  • credit cards
  • receipts for returns

Give each pocket its own division.

A garage:

  • auto section (cleaning and repair agents)
  • lawn care tools and products
  • sports equipment
  • tools
  • bikes/toy section (if you have small children)

Give each wall a section or category. Divide further by specific shelving and hooks for each category.

A junk drawer:

  • coins
  • pens
  • pads of paper/post its
  • tape/scissors

A junk drawer organizer is a great idea and usually a must-have. Remove extra wires and tools that are thrown and mixed in. Instead, keep a small toolbox on a shelf nearby in the pantry or a closet.

A toy closet or room – keep this simple:

  • board games and puzzles on shelves
  • arts and crafts in another section binned up into smaller categories (crayons, Play Doh, etc.)
  • large toys and toy sets standing alone

Get the idea?

Are there areas you’re having trouble compartmentalizing? Tell me about it in the Comments, and I’ll cover it in a future post.

 

Photo © Nagy-Bagoly Arpad / depositphotos

 

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