Getting Organized in January

Get Organized illo

It’s a natural time to want to get organized, isn’t it?

January, the month right after you got all that new stuff that needs to be organized, the month right before many of us have to start buckling down on organizing for preparing taxes. The month when it’s often, in many parts of the world, a good time to stay home, where you are safe, warm and dry. But where you also can’t help but notice the need to organize. 😦

January is such a naturally good time for organizing that NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, has designated it as #GetOrganized Month.

I thought it would be fun, in honor of Get Organized Month, to feature links to a few posts by professional organizers I particularly admire.

But then something interesting happened this morning when I opened up my computer and saw a new post by a friend who has recently started a blog. The title of her latest post is “Stuff.” Naturally, I had to read that one!

In it, she talks about how she came to the realization that she’s got too much stuff; how it came to be that way; and what she plans to do about in the future. (She also shares a wonderful video clip of George Carlin talking about “Stuff.”)

So, although Sara is not a professional organizer, I thought sharing her post would be a good place to start. You can read her post about “Stuff” here.)

Next I decided to visit the website of Alison Lush, a professional organizer who lives in Montreal. I enjoy following Alison on Twitter, and she often makes insightful and appreciative remarks about the posts on our Facebook page. So I figured that her blog would have a good post to share, and I was right! Here’s a post she wrote last year, about her family’s “new normal.” I think this is a nice companion piece to Sara’s, since it is written several years after the decision to somehow get in control of “all that stuff” was made, and it gives a good sense of how good it can feel to have made those changes.

Another favorite professional organizer of mine is Nettie Owens. Nettie lives in Havre de Grace, Maryland. I really like her philosophy and approach to organizing, so much so that I interviewed her for this blog.  Recently I asked Nettie to share some of her favorite posts with me, so I could in turn share them with our readers. Here’s one, appropriately posted in January (last year).

Next  on my list was a visit to the Marcie Lovett’s blog. We recently shared this post by Marcie, a professional organizer based in Olney, Maryland, in which she shares her favorite tip about “how to begin” decluttering, on our Facebook page. (No, I am NOT going to tell you what the tip is: just visit her blog! It’s easy. 🙂 )

I have often also enjoyed and appreciated  posts by “Erin the Organizer,”  a Chicago-based professional organizer.  Here’s a nice one she did this month, with suggestions for good projects to tackle in January.

I hope you’ll enjoy learning from these experts! Wishing you all a productive, happy January, and all the best in your organizing efforts!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.


3 Things That Make Downsizing Hard, and Tips for Getting Through It…

1. All those memories. 

Lots of people get stuck before they ever get started with downsizing, because the whole house is just so full of memories. Or so it seems.

But it’s not actually the house that holds the memories, it’s our minds–and our hearts. Often aided by pictures, letters, pieces of furniture, and so on.

You can keep the memories, and you can keep some of the pictures and letters too. You can even keep some of the furniture (though you may not want to keep it all). And you can still get rid of a lot of the things in the house, and even the house itself.

You’re not saying goodbye to the memories. You’re saying goodbye to some of the things in your house, so you can make room for other things, or just to free up some space. That’s not a bad thing. And there are ways to go about it that will actually help seal, preserve and celebrate the memories that are so important to you.

2. All those things.

Some of the things are (or may be) valuable. Some of them are clearly not (like chemicals under the sink and in the basement and garage), but you don’t know what to do with them.

People in the process of emptying a home that’s been lived in for a long time come up against a myriad of perplexing questions, many of which require expert knowledge that most people just don’t have. (Is this a valuable antique or a Goodwill donation? Can I throw this in the trash, or is there a better way to dispose of it? and so on…)

You can hire experts to take care of it all for you. Or you can do it yourself. (Or better yet, with the help of family and friends.) If you do the latter, you’ll need plenty of time to sort through it all. So start now! Do just a little bit every day. Or focus on it once a week.

Figure out a schedule that works for you, and then ignore the voice that keeps whispering (or shouting), “This is impossible!”

It’s not. You can do it!

3. Someone could use this…”

People make fun of this one, but they shouldn’t. It’s true that a lot of the things we don’t want anymore could be well used by someone else. Clothing, furniture, kitchen items, even old photographs and magazines.  Finding “new homes” for the things you’re discarding is not crazy, it’s admirable. Some things may help those in need. Other things may help preserve local history for the community, or provide materials for community groups of various kinds. Given enough time and thought there’s a way to find good new uses for many of the things cluttering up your home.

But you have to actually do it!

Our newly updated e-book has very specific advice for how to approach these three common obstacles to downsizing the home; helpful tips from others who have been through the process; and links to other resources that can help you find the expertise you lack as you work your way through this process.

Professional organizers and senior move managers, as well as lots of other people, have told us that our book helped them and their families or clients–we hope maybe it will help you or someone you know as well.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor,  writing coachtravel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Five Places for Helpful Tips on Decluttering

Here are five places to find five tips (or a few more, or even less) that will help you move from WANTING to declutter, or feeling bad about NOT decluttering, to actually DOING something about it.

All of them focus on managing the task in a way that is actually doable. This one, for example, has  18 things you can do to “start with just five minutes” to begin making a difference with what is for so many people an overwhelming task:

This one has some great tips for how to deal with clutter proactively. (For example, it tells you how you to “Say No to Junk Mail”)

The other three have similar, but each slightly different approaches. All of them address the reality that what stops a lot of us from doing anything is not knowing where to begin, or feeling that the task is insurmountable. It’s not!

Each of these sites also offers tips that are “keeper”-friendly. (That is, the tips are offered in a non-judgmental, understanding way that acknowledges that for some people, getting rid of things is very difficult.)

But with encouragement and practical, doable tips, even “keepers” can make their homes more clutter-free, and more pleasant to live in.

If you know of other really good sites for help with decluttering, please share the information with our readers by commenting on this post.


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