Happy New Year – Part 4! Wait! What? Where did the time go!

In January, I started writing a blog each week about organizing and decluttering the house.  We started with the master closet, getting rid of what we don’t, won’t or can’t wear.  Next, we attacked the pantry, getting rid of food that had expired, bottles that had just tiny bits remaining, stale chips and crackers.  The third week, we moved to the desk in the home office, getting papers filed, shredding old records, establishing systems to maintain order.  The fourth installment was to be tying it all together and why we should get our house in order.

Here it is April.  No fourth installment.  So much for New Year’s Resolutions.

I was telling a friend about my January blogs and knowing what we do, she asked, “what does that have to do with older adults, aging and its issues, or moving?”  Actually, quite a lot.

Jon and I work with individuals and families who are moving through some type of home transition.  Our focus is older adults, seniors, if you will.  That transition very often involves a move, which usually involves decluttering and downsizing, which involves parting with clothes that don’t fit, food that doesn’t get eaten and papers that need to be filed or shredded.

Of course, there is more to it than just clothes, food and papers.  There is art work, furniture, tools, photographs, kitchen utensils, china, crystal, books, linens, flatware, thing-a-ma-jigs and what-you-may-call-its collected over a lifetime that make a home.

Through working with our clients, I have found that while there is no magic time to thin out, there are times that the task is easier.  It is easier when it is your call rather than life demanding it.  It is easier to do a little at a time and often – rather than a lot all at once.

I’ve also found that decluttering, downsizing and getting organized is a terrific gift you give your heirs.  It makes their ultimate task easier.  Most of us are sure to have our legal directives in order.  Let’s make sure our home is as well.

Happy New Year – Part 3! Last week, you did an amazing job organizing your pantry. Now it’s time to dive into your desk. There is nothing better than a clear desk!

This is the third installment of a four-part mini series.

My desk is a long table that originally was going to serve as mine and my husband’s.  There are two computers, the one I no longer use and the one I do.  It has photographs, nick-nacks, two lamps, things I use daily and things I don’t.  It also holds the dreaded piles of papers, bills paid and to be paid, business cards, receipts, things to read and or review, things to be filed, things to be thrown out, things to come back to.

Let’s pick an easy pile first.  Business Cards.  We meet people, we collect business cards and we make a pile of them.  Business cards are easy to organize and give us a quick win.  If you keep a rolodex – don’t laugh, some of us still do – simply incorporate your business cards into your rolodex.  If you don’t or have too many cards for it to hold, get a binder and business card sleeves.  Group your cards into categories, then alphabetize them within that category.  You now have a resource binder.

Another easy win to a clear desk? Papers that need to be filed and papers that need to be thrown out.  Do that, file what needs to be filed, throw out what can be thrown out.  If they need to be shredded first, shred them. Too much to shred at home? Use a service.  This is about creating a nice workspace for you.

For the piles you have left, I suggest this organizing system. Create Pendaflex folders with the following categories:

To Do Now

Pending

Proposals

Expenses

Resources

To be Paid

To be Reviewed

Shred

Every piece of paper that comes into your office goes directly into one of these file folders.  Schedule time every week, every day if necessary to work your system.  Once you’ve completed the task, move the paper to trash or a permanent file.  You will love having a clean, clear desk.  A desk where you enjoy your photos, nick-nacks and your work.

 

Happy New Year – Part 2! Take your decluttering party to your pantry.

This is the second installment of a four-part mini series.

This should be easy, yet I’m always amazed at how many times I have moved a can of tomatoes, bag of pasta, quarter box of cereal, or old olive oil to the pantry of a new home.

Check your canned goods. If they have expired, toss them.  Oils will spoil, especially nut oils, so if you have walnut oil in your pantry from that special recipe two years ago, chances are it’s rancid.  If so, toss it.  Fancy vinegar breaks down, taste it and if it’s off, toss it.  That bag of chips you got for nachos two months ago is probably stale.  That box of crackers you never ate has expired, toss them.  If you got a special flour or grain for a recipe you meant to make and never did and it’s two years old (I’m guilty of this), toss it.

If your pantry serves as a catch all for where to put things you don’t have another place for (pots, pans, kitchen equipment, etc.), take an honest look at what you really use.  Keep that and part with the rest.  Start with your top shelf and work your way down.  Chances are what you have there are things you don’t use: the 10-year-old bread maker, the extra stock pots, the wine cooler someone gave you that is still in the box.  Cull through your cook books and cooking magazines. Keep your favorites and what you use, gift or donate what you don’t.

Group like things together: canned goods, paper goods, baking goods, oils, vinegars, crackers, cereals, pastas.  Organize items so you can see them.  Put the things you use most where you see them and can reach them easily.

Creating order and getting organized is fun.  You may find yourself more excited about your kitchen. Or at least your pantry.

 

Happy New Year! Your resolutions should be in full swing and we will start with some easy wins: Decluttering and Getting Organized.

This is the first installment of a four-part mini series.

I know that getting organized can sound like a huge and vast undertaking, so we will break it down into small and manageable tasks that produce immediate results.  You will enjoy the extra space you create as well as the accomplishment of getting it done. Best of all, you start the year with a win and winning begets winning.  Here’s to you!

Start in your closet.  If it doesn’t fit, take it out of your closet.  If you haven’t worn it in a while, take it out of your closet.  If you haven’t worn it in a while and think you may, take it out of your closet.  This goes for shoes, handbags, scarves, wraps and accessories also.

Notice how many empty hangers you have now, and how much space you have in your closet and isn’t that nice.  Basque in that.

Take the stuff you have removed from your closet and sort it into piles.  What doesn’t fit and what you haven’t worn in a while goes in the “part with” pile.  What you haven’t worn but may wear again goes into a separate pile.  Now take a close, honest look.  Are you really likely to wear it again?  If you are, put it back in your closet, if not, put it in the part with pile.

Next, go to your dresser and repeat the process.

Sort your part with pile into what you can consign, give to friends, give to family and donate.  I promise you that what you no longer use will be much appreciated by someone who really wants it or needs it. Decluttering is good for you and for repurposing your belongings with others.

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Jon and I got new dishes a couple of years ago. We’d had our old stuff for 15 years and it was showing its age. Many of the plates and bowls had faded or chipped. Same with the serving pieces. I went through a period where I couldn’t have enough serving platters so I’m a little embarrassed to share how many I have. The dishes that are in good shape I kept. They are in my attic. I kept the platters also, the ones in good shape and the ones that are chipped. I don’t use any of them, but I could and I might some day.

Last Christmas my mom gave us new wine glasses. I wanted something that looked a little vintage, these do and I really love them. I still have the ones those replaced. I love those also. They are on the top shelf in my kitchen, I can get to them if I want or need to. I haven’t. I have a set of wine glasses that were my parents, they are tucked away and I’d forgotten about them until writing this.

I have two micro planes for zesting. I use one all the time and never take the other one out of the drawer. I also have two zesters that makes a twist to garnish a drink. I never use that either. I have five pastry brushes, I use maybe two of them.

I have eight casseroles. Eight! I do use those though. I have two muffin tins, haven’t made cupcakes or muffins in years. I have eleven cutting boards! Various shapes and sizes, I use about four. Probably wouldn’t miss the other seven.

We have crystal and china that belonged to my grandparents that would set a beautiful table if only I would pull them out of the cabinet.
Before I started this piece, I’d tell you that my kitchen along with the rest of my house is nicely edited. I fear I’d be fibbing.

Now, I don’t believe I’m the only one sitting in this circumstance. We all have A LOT of stuff. Stuff we love and use, stuff we don’t. There is no magic timeline on how long we should keep our stuff. That being said, it is never too early to start sorting, gifting and donating or at least thinking about it.

And I will. Soon. For some things.

Some things I’ll keep a little longer.

My father loved clocks.  Growing up we had a cuckoo clock in our kitchen and a grandfather clock in the living room, right off the base of the stairs.  There were clocks in every room of course; the cuckoo clock and grandfather clock were his two favorites.  He loved the grandfather clock most of all.  Every 15 minutes it played a piece of The Bells of St. Martin.  On the hour, it chimed.  My bedroom was at the top of the stairs, so I heard it every 15 minutes all night and I loved it (no I didn’t.)  Through many moves and downsizing my dad’s favorite clocks found different homes.

Fast forward many years later and my dad again had a new and very much beloved grandfather clock and a cuckoo clock.  I wish I could capture the pleasure those clocks brought him, especially the grandfather clock.  Daddy was able to get the clock at a discounted price because there was a small crack in a small piece of side glass near the top.  You never saw the crack because of the way it was situated.  My dad was never much of a housekeeper, but he tended to his clocks.  Especially his grandfather clock.

We moved from Houston to Austin in 2013.  My parents were kind enough to move also, their new home just 15 minutes from ours.  My parents showed great courage in making this move.  They were in their late 70’s and early 80’s and Houston had been home for 50 years.  After we had been here about six months, my dad was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  He was severely dehydrated, his heart rate was dangerously low and he was in acute renal failure.  After a week, the addition of a pacemaker and lots of hydration, my dad was discharged from the hospital to skilled nursing for rehab.  While at the nursing facility my dad’s decline became brutally apparent along with the toll it had taken on my mom.  His needs were far too great for her.  So he became a full time resident.

Now my mom was in a home considerably larger than she needed or wanted.  And as my mom is not one to sit still, she started whittling away.  She gave her Christmas decorations to the nursing home.  She gave furniture and clothes to its staff.  She hauled stuff to Good Will.  And all this before we decided she would live with us.  Once we made that decision, she went into hyper-drive.

My mom would be living in a cottage, about 750 square feet.  Every square foot was precious, so she planned and organized, made charts, moved little cut outs around to determine what she could take and what she could not.  There simply was no room for my dad’s beloved grandfather clock in her new home.  There was no room in my home either and though I felt guilty, I did not want it.  We would consign it or give it to Good Will or the Salvation Army.  It turns out that because of small crack in the small piece of glass near the top, the consignment shop wouldn’t take it.  Neither would Good Will or the Salvation Army.  What to do now…

Please understand this was emotional for me, I felt I was letting my father down, dishonoring him.  I did not want the clock and neither did anyone else.  I ended up taking it to the Thrift Store near the nursing home and I was overwrought with guilt.

Then my sister spoke some magic to me.  She told me that the clock would go to someone who really wants it.  And that will honor Daddy.  And she was right.  And I felt better.

I tell this story because we all have our own unique grandfather clocks and other precious stuff.  Stuff that we’ve collected over a life time.  Stuff that represents precious memories.  Stuff that helps define our life.  And at some point we’ll part with it.  Some will go to children and grandchildren, friends and associates and they will be delighted and honored.  And some will go to strangers, and please know that they will be delighted as well.