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Decluttering: “I don’t know where to start!”

A complaint I hear all the time from my organizing clients and prospective clients is, “I don’t know where to start!” People look at the decluttering to be done and become immobilized by the magnitude of the tasks in front of them. Here are some ideas to help you get unstuck when the project seems too large and you don’t know where to start.

Kitchen timer as organizing tool
Use a kitchen timer to limit the scope of an intimidating organizing task.

Break down your organizing project into finite, measurable chunks. Let’s say you have a room that’s spilling over with junk. Instead of setting a goal of clearing out the whole space, break off a manageable piece. For example, take a garbage bag and wander through your space picking up 10 things that you’re willing to throw away. Put the bag in the garbage can. Pat yourself on the back for making a start!

Or grab an empty cardboard box, and gather 10 items that you’re ready to donate to a thrift store or put in a garage sale. If you’re making a donation, take the box straight to the car so you can drop it off the next time you run errands. If you’re planning a garage sale, place the box in the space you’ve set aside for storing items …[Read more]

Are You Ready for a Professional Organizer?

Excited shopping woman
Shopping faster than you manage what you already own is a formula for a cluttered home.

Americans love to shop—it’s practically the national pastime! We’re bargain-hunting, credit-card-maxing, no‑holds-barred shoppers. The thrill of the hunt and the joy of instant gratification make our economy run. But one of the threats of our consumer culture is that it’s created a huge problem of clutter in our homes. The more we buy, the more we have to maintain, clean, store, and retrieve. If you’re a typical American, you shop faster than you can manage what you already own, and that’s a formula for a cluttered home.

Clutter issues cover a broad spectrum, from a few stacks here and there to conditions so bad that you can’t walk through the house. As a professional organizer, the first part of my job is to figure out where you are on the spectrum. Can you handle the piles yourself, or do you need my help? Here are some of the clues I look for …[Read more]

Storage Units: The Exorbitant Cost of Holding On

At the February meeting of NAPO Houston, we watched a documentary called Store. It’s about self-storage units and how people use them. The filmmakers interviewed dozens of renters about their stuff and why they pay to keep it in storage. The interviewees offered all the common reasons: they moved to a smaller house, inherited stuff from a parent, or just accumulated too much to keep at home. But there were some less common reasons, too.

Storage units
Your rental payments, like the storage units that clutter our landscape, go on and on forever.

One retired man had been collecting items from garage and estate sales, and he believed that his children’s inheritance was somewhere in his “collection.” Some day they would open his unit, pull out the junk, and find the treasures they’d inherited. Burglars had broken into the unit once, only to walk away empty-handed because the unit was too stuffed full of junk to bother robbing.

Another interview subject, a divorced mother, was storing a huge collection of stuffed animals. She said that she couldn’t throw away “anything with eyes.” …[Read more]

January is GO Month!

News and events to get you organized for 2010

New Year 2010The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) designates January as “Get Organized Month.” January is a logical choice: we wake from a holiday‑induced dream state to realize that we’ve let things go. We need to get our lives and spaces back in order!

In the spirit of GO Month, we want to offer you a few ways to get support toward achieving your goals. Here are some of the opportunities coming your way in the next few weeks …[Read more]

You and Your Stuff: Come, Listen, and Share at a Free Clutter Fairy Event!

Insurmountable clutterAll of us have a relationship to the things we own, and those relationships either work for us or they don’t. Think about it: If clutter is interfering with enjoying your life, the relationship isn’t working!

I love to help people understand and improve their relationship to their possessions. If I can encourage you to see what you own—or what owns you—differently, you can move toward making your life better. Watching that relationship change is a huge reward for me. It’s why I work as a professional organizer.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have the opportunity to speak to three diverse and exciting audiences. …[Read more]

Untangling Your Roots: Organizing Basics for Genealogical Research

Family treeResearching your family’s genealogy is an entertaining and rewarding hobby. If you’ve been successful in finding information, then you know that it’s also a hobby that generates mountains of data—pedigree charts, wills, journals, diaries, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, maps, deeds—the list just grows over time. How will you keep up with it all, much less hand over comprehensible information to the next generation? …[Read more]

Has Procrastination Turned Tax Prep into a Fire Drill?

The Clutter Fairy’s quick sorting process will get you organized to beat the deadline.

TAXESDoes tax season sneak up on you every year? One day you’re toasting the New Year and thinking you have all the time in the world to get ready for April 15. Before you know it, you’re scrambling to get your papers together because you’ve almost missed the filing deadline. It’s never fun, is it? I speak from experience, by the way. I’m a CPA, but I hate doing taxes as much as anyone else!

My theory about why people put off tax preparation …[Read more]

How to Avoid Common Organizing Mistakes

Was one of your New Year’s resolutions “Get this place organized this year?” How is that going? Having trouble getting started? Maybe you began, but you’re having trouble making progress? Let me offer some mid-game course corrections to help you achieve that resolution. Here’s my list of the five most common mistakes people make when they undertake the process of getting organized. In the spirit of David Letterman’s Top Ten lists, let’s start from the bottom:

Mistake #5: Products first

What does every American do when she wants to start a project? She goes shopping! Everyone wants to …[Read more]

Getting Organized in the New Year: A Clutter Fairy Perspective

Baby New Year makes a resolution

How are you doing so far on the New Year’s resolutions? I get the impression that at this time of year, we’re all trying to become better, more-together versions of ourselves. We believe somehow that all we have to do is draw a line in the sand—“starting January 1”—and a better person will emerge all of a sudden. I think that one reason people don’t accomplish their resolutions is that expecting monumental, fundamental changes in yourself just because you’ve started using a new calendar is not a recipe for success.

“Get organized” is a popular New Year’s resolution. Having let their spaces dissolve into disaster areas over the holidays, people wake up with …[Read more]

The Clutter Fairy’s Reasonably Comprehensive Guide to City of Houston Recycling and Household Waste Disposal

“Green” is everywhere these days—in the news, in the workplace, and on store shelves. So wherever I speak to audiences in this environmentally conscious climate, I get a lot of questions about recycling. I started collecting the questions that have stumped me, and then I went online to look for answers.

I live in Houston, as do many of my clients, so I started with the City of Houston recycling web site. What I found there was chaotic, inconsistent, full of confusing acronyms and ambiguities, and spread across a mind-numbing array of pages. I despaired of ever tracking down all the answers I needed. But the Clutter Fairy makes her living bringing order out of chaos, so …[Read more]