Thursday, December 18, 2014

42 years of clutter

I recently helped a client shuffle through 42 years of 'stuff' - some precious, but most forgotten or no longer needed. For Virginia, the very thought of culling through her belongings sent her running in the opposite direction. She had postponed selling her house because the job seemed too overwhelming.  That's where I came in.

Together, we devised a plan, broke that plan down into manageable chunks and went at it. It took a little over three months to clear out her house, but once on the market, her clean, open and freshly updated home sold in less than 2 weeks. It also listed and sold for $200,000 more than what a friend had offered her in its cluttered condition.

This didn't surprise me one bit. The number one question I get from homeowners is "What are the top 10 things I can do to get my home ready to sell?" The number one is "clean and de-clutter".

For the last nine years, the HomeGain National Home Improvement Survey has ranked the top producing tasks. They estimate that for every dollar spent on the task, the homeowner would receive a whopping 403 percent return on their investment.

De-cluttering delivers big benefits to those who are not selling their homes, too. Studies show that living in a cluttered house is mentally stressful for the occupants and often leads to weight gain and other health problems.

So why do so many of us put off this important task? It's hard work. It takes time. It's physical. It's emotional. And there are lots of decisions to make about what goes where, what gets tossed and more. Worst of all, thinking about it makes it seem like an even bigger project than it really is - which is why experts say the best way to get started is to simply jump in.

The easy way to get started

The toughest part of getting organized is getting started. It's too easy to say, "I'll go through that closet later." "I'll get rid of those boxes later." "I'll donate those clothes later."

It's time to replace 'later' with 'now'.

Grab a couple cardboard boxes and spend 90 minutes right now organizing one part of one room {the desk in your study?}. Once you see that it's not nearly as tough as you imagine, and actually feels satisfying and freeing, you'll become energized and ready to take on even bigger organizing tasks tomorrow.

Here are some tips to keep you on track:
  • Tackle one room at a time.
  • Start with the easy stuff - round up the things you know you want to toss, recycle, sell, or store. 
  • Finish the task you start - don't leave a mess for tomorrow.
  • Get the family involved, include your siblings, parents and kids!
  • Let phone calls and other disruptions wait until you're done for the day. 
Deciding what to keep

Once you make your way through the things you know you don't want any more {broken appliances, unused gifts, outdated electronics, store returns, etc.} then it's time to focus on the items that are useful, but don't get used very often. Experts suggest to strategies. Choose the one that works best for you, or try using them in combination:
  • The 12 month test - if you haven't used an item in the last year, get rid of it.
  • The cardboard box drill - put items you're not sure about in a box and set it aside. Whatever gets pulled out and used over the next two months can stay. The things that don't get rescued should be sent packing. 

How to handle keepsakes

Now for the toughest decision of all: what to do with those trophies, mementos, greeting cards, photos, kids' art projects, and all the other things that trigger strong memories and emotional reactions.

First, go through these things and make sure they're still things you want to keep. Some items may remind you of a time, or person, you choose to forget.

Spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing each item. If you allow yourself to start wandering down memory lane, your organizing work will come to a screeching halt.

Take photos of items that are bulky or hard to store - especially the kids' artwork, which tends to fall apart over time. Once you've captured the item in a photo, let the original go. Create a custom photo album for each child as a more manageable keepsake.

If there are keepsakes you inherited from your parents or relatives that hold no sentimental value for you, it's time to say 'goodbye'.

Other people's belongings

If you're storing anything that doesn't belong to you or others in your household - give it back! It's time to get rid of the ex's belongings and get tough with your adult children!

Working with a professional

A professional organizer can teach you the tricks of the trade, help you make tough decisions about what to keep and what to let go, and consult with you about the best storage systems. Hiring a professional is also a good idea if you're having trouble getting started or sticking with it. Expect to pay around $50-$90 per hour for this kind of help.

Some final words of advice

While you're getting organized, don't allow yourself to buy any non-necessities. Groceries, yes. But say no to clothes, toys, electronics, sporting goods, and other feel-good purchases.

When you're done organizing, a good rule of thumb is that for every new item brought into the house, an old one has to leave!

coming up next - Storage Solutions that really work {and buyers love}!

Until then,

la chasse au bonheur

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