Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Use It or Lose It!

It's been a crazy month in my household, primarily because we're planning to put our condo on the market next week. As you might expect, I've always considered myself and my home to be fairly organized. However, preparing and staging a home for sale takes decluttering to a whole new level. In case inquiring minds want to know, here are the steps we're taking to hopefully showcase our space, not our stuff, for a speedy and top dollar sale.

1. Ruthless Weeding 
As a professional organizer, I'm pretty sure that regular weeding of my stuff is programmed into my DNA. We make routine donation drop-offs throughout the year. But if there's ever a time to step up the weeding, this is it! We forced ourselves to make the decisions that we'd avoided in the past and also to go through every space...big or little...in our condo to thin out the cabinets, closets, and of course surfaces. Not only was it the perfect time to do this (so as not to end up packing and moving things we don't want), but it was also key to making our storage spaces appear spacious and to make room to put away last minute surface items before each showing. One huge bonus is that it is so much easier to clean with less stuff to clean around!

2. Short-Term Storage 
For the first time in my life, we are renting a small storage unit to house items we want to keep but do not need to use in the next few months. This includes off-season clothing, infrequently used kitchen items, personal photos, books, and off-season outdoor gear. I've always been a believer that there is a time and a place for storage units, especially in the short-term...and this is our time and place. We won't keep the storage unit after we have a new home to move everything into. The interesting part of the experiment is that I'm guessing we will not miss many of the items we put in there. That's not to say that we won't be happy to see them, but it will be proof that if we needed to live with less, we certainly could, and happily so. Who knows, maybe we will decide to part with some of what we stored after our brief separation from it. 

3. Use It or Lose It
Last but not least, I have instituted a 'use it or lose it' policy for small items discovered during the ruthless weeding. This includes a basket of food items in the kitchen, some toiletries, desk/office supplies and some reading materials (newsletters, etc.). If they do not get 'consumed' before we start showing our condo, they're gone. It's been a neat experiment and again has shown me what I can and do live without!

Bottom Line: Whether or not you are preparing to sell your home - in which case I recommend you call your favorite professional organizer to help - we can all benefit from taking a 'use it or lose it' view of our space and stuff. What can you live without?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Putting Away the Holidays

Have you put away your holiday decorations yet or are they still sitting in your living room, partially packed or even still in place? If you've still got some work to do, here are some tips and tricks to help make this often not-so-fun task a breeze, both this year and for years to come.

1. Take a little time to do some winter weeding. If you didn't use it this year, get rid of it now. The only thing worse than storing something you're not going to use is finding it again when you open the boxes next year! Also be sure to toss anything that's broken. If it's worth fixing, make it a top priority so you can pack it away with the rest of the decorations before the end of the month.

2. Create an "open first" box with items you need early in the season. This might mean your tree stand, card-creating gear, cookie cutters, and decorations you like to get up early. This way you won't be hunting through different boxes to find what you need.

3. Store like items together. It may seem obvious, but in the haste of putting things away, it's easy to just "throw it all in" without much thought. Take the time to put all the parts of something in one container, or a bag within the container, store your ornament hangers with the ornaments, and all wrapping supplies together.

4. Make a list of what you need to replace. After the holiday shopping season, you may be sick of lists, but you'll thank yourself if you jot down things you ran out of or need to replace (lights, ornament hangers, wrapping paper). You can either take advantage of post-holiday clearance sales now, post your list in your "open first" box, or put it in your paper or electronic calendar for next year.

5. Choose the right containers. A mix of random boxes and bags might work, but a better solution would be a uniform set of sturdy boxes which will be easier to store and find. Plastic bins with lids work well for many decorations and will last for years. Be sure to pack fragile items with plenty of padding and dividers. Smaller sets of items can be packaged within a large plastic bin. For example, you can store each set of lights, neatly wound and secured with a twist tie, in a large Ziploc bag within a larger bin.

6. Label, label, label. This is organizing 101 and especially important with infrequently used items, like holiday decorations. You might think you'll remember where you put something, but we all know how that story ends. Be sure to label multiple sides of each box so you can easily see them no matter which way they end up stacked.

Bottom Line: I don't know too many people who love putting away holiday decorations, but if you do it right, you'll enjoy the process that much more when it comes time to break out the holiday cheer next year!