12 Things I’ve Realized About Decluttering

After participating in a 30 day Declutter Challenge recently, participants had this to say about what they learned:

12 Things Realized About Decluttering

1. Making your bed every day is not so much about the bed as it is about the habit.
2. Clutter is delayed decisions.
3. Take large tasks and break them down into smaller tasks that can be handled in short time periods; you don’t need to work like a Trojan in order to accomplish your decluttering goals.papierschiff-389016_640
4. You don’t have to keep as many papers (or things) as you thought you did.
5. Ask the question – “Does this item bring joy to my life?”
6. Take things step by step and don’t give up. It’s worth it in the end.
7. It takes a positive attitude to start decluttering.
8. Make a plan and commit to doing it, even if just for 15 minutes a day. You can get things done even when life is chaotic or distracting.
9. New phases in our lives require us to organize differently. Organize for where you’re at in life now.
10. Perfection is over rated! Progress is a good thing and a little each day can make a big difference.
11. You are able to help others by donating items you don’t use or need.
12. The maintenance part of decluttering is very important.
Decluttering , organizing, straightening up – or whatever you want to call it – is about so much more than things looking nice and pretty. In fact, nice and pretty weren’t used in any of the 12 statements above. Over the next 12 months, we will dig deeper into each of these statements. If you want to be motivated to make changes that will become habits in 2015, then stay tuned. There will be plenty to comment about as there will be guest bloggers weighing in on these topics too.


In the meantime, which statement already resonates with you? We’d love to have you leave a comment and tell us!

What is a Body Double?

In a recent class, I talked about using a body double to help you when organizing. Body doubling is not so much a new concept but a new “catch phrase”.  A synonym for the phrase body doubling might be providing support. It is a useful tool in helping you to stay focused on the organizing project at hand.  Watch this 5 minute video for a full explanation on body doubling.

In the video, I talk about having the right questions to ask when making a decision about what to keep or purge.

Here are those list of questions (copy them and post where you can see them and share with your body double).

  • When was the last time I used/needed this?

  • Does it add value/beauty to my life?

  • Is there something I need to do with this?

  • Does it require action on my part?

  • Do I have more than one of these?

  • Do I need more than one?

  • If I let go of this, can I get another one in the future?

  • What’s the worst thing that would happen if I did not have this?

  • Does this belong to someone else?

  • Does this need to be kept for legal or tax purposes?


How to Plan Your Travel Wardrobe

Most of us love to travel, few love to pack.  If we take the time to plan our travel wardrobe, we can travel with less.  In fact, when we carefully select how much to bring, packing is not so difficult after all.  I recently taught a class in my Declutter Your Life group that explained how to travel with less.    There is a basic formula to use in planning what to take. I call this a Packing Calculator.
packing travelThis is an easy guide to use, based on the number of days you travel.  In most cases when traveling more than one week, don’t bring more clothes; expect that you will do some laundry.  I recently discovered soap sheets that you can take when traveling to wash your clothes in a sink.  It’s a pretty handy product!

The list shown above is for the basics of a wardrobe.  Add-on items may be needed due to weather (coats, thermals, etc.) or your destination and activities (golf shoes, bathing suits, etc.)  When choosing the items of clothing, be sure to stick to one main color theme and bring in some accent colors.  If you struggle with putting together wardrobe color combinations, then I recommend going over to the Vivienne Files. This blogger can mix and match wardrobe components like no other! The link takes you to a page where she works miracles with the main color of beige (beige?!! – I know, right? Trust me, it’s amazing!).

Here’s a few more travel tips:

1.  Pack lighter, with room to spare, so you can come home a little heavier.

2. If flying, pack a flattened mailing box in the bottom of your luggage to ship things home in.

3. Bring a travel compression bag or two to fit more in your luggage. (see video below)

Getting Life in Order – Financially Speaking

A dear friend of mine lost her husband unexpectedly 3 days before Christmas.  It was devastating, of course.  After taking care of the arrangements and getting through his service, my friend was faced with the realization that she knew nothing of their lives, financially speaking.  She told me that her husband (a CPA) had always told her that she would be financially stable if something were to ever happen to him. She was relieved to know this….. BUT

Now she was in that place and realized that while those words had always been a comfort to her, she had no idea what they really meant.

She did not know the log-in and passwords to her online banking.organize finances money paper

She did not know where to find the life insurance policy.

She did not know how much liquid cash was available to her.

She did not know which accounts were being paid online and which were being paid by check.


Bottom line – You don’t know what you don’t know! Life is busy, I get it; but we must get our financial lives in order AND we must tell others how it is set up. Here are 3 things to do immediately:

  1. Make a list.  Make a list of all your bank accounts, household bills, investment accounts, life insurance policies, and anything else financially related.  Next to the name of each account, put the account number, website, agent and applicable phone numbers. Update this list every year.  I recommend you put the list in your Household Binder or in a red folder in the front of your filing cabinet.  Tell family members (especially your spouse) where it can be found in the event it is needed.

  2. Have all your passwords in one location. Please do not use the same password for all of your websites!  It’s not safe and is an all around bad idea.  You may want to make a list of your passwords and keep them in your home’s safe. I highly recommend LastPass.com. It’s in the cloud, has bank level security, and is very easy to use. LastPass is free. It is the only password you ever need to remember because all the rest of your passwords and user ID’s are stored there.  Make your spouse, or significant other, aware of your LastPass account and how they can access it in an emergency.
  3. Have up to date Advanced Directives/Power of Attorneys in place.  Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. Seek the advice of your estate attorney to set up these important documents or you can draw them up yourself and have them notarized.  I found a website that lets you download the Advance Directive forms based on the state in which you live.  You may also want a durable Power of Attorney for your finances.  Be sure to name an alternate in these documents in case the person you have selected pre-deceases you.  Put a copy of these documents in the same red folder that holds your account list.  Also provide copies to those named in your documents and to your doctors.

Organize Your Files and Keep Them That Way

3 File Types


Confused about how to organize your files?  You are not alone.  The first step to organizing your files lies in knowing what types of files you are dealing with. The graphic above shows the 3 types of file categories all our paperwork falls into.  The pie chart depicts the quantity of files in each category.
Reference is the biggest category and it contains those items you receive on a yearly or semi-yearly basis, such as insurance policies and service records on your autos.  These files need to be purges once a year in order to keep them from becoming huge paper monsters that contain information of zero relevance. (I know you know what I mean.)
Archive files are important yet, rarely do we need to reference them.  These include birth certificates, real estate documents, and such. Once something goes into the archive category, it usually stays there.  The exception to this, however, is your tax returns.  I purge my tax returns so that I only have the last 7 years’ worth.  Ask your CPA or accountant how long to keep your tax returns.
Action files are those files that we use weekly or monthly.  They are relatively few files compared to the other categories but these files are important.  The action files help us to keep our life in order. I have talked about these files in previous posts and even created a video to demonstrate how action files are used. Purge your action files everyo ther month so that you sare working out of files that are up-to-date and only contain what they absolutely need to.
Have you categorized your files yet?  I highly recommend it if you want to get your papers organized and be able to use what is needed when you need it.

4 Steps to Better Pantry Organization

Are you wishing your pantry was more organized?  Does the word “chaos” describe your pantry right now? Not to worry, Here are 4 easy steps to better pantry organization.  I’ve included photos to inspire you along the way!pantry-ba

Step #1  Empty the pantry

Go through your pantry, shelf by shelf, and throw away expired foods. Also be on the look out for the foods that make you think “Where did this come from?!” – Throw those away too!  Don’t be surprised if your garbage can fills up because it will! Wipe down surfaces of your pantry and let’s begin to organize.
Step# 2  Group foods together 
Here’s a quick example of what groups of food can look like:

  • Breakfast foods
  • Canned goods/soups
  • Snacks/things for lunch
  • Pastas/rice
  • Drinks
  • Disposables plates/plastic ware

grouped pantry


Step #3 Reassembling the pantry

Put things back into the pantry strategically. What I mean by this is put things back on the shelves based on frequency of use.  For example, breakfast foods are used daily so these foods should be at a easy to reach height for all family members. Use the top shelves for rarely used appliances  and cookware or alcohol.
Use baskets or bins for small packaged goods such as seasoning packets, pastas and snacks. Invest in can organizer.



If you are happy with your new pantry configuration, then take the time to label the shelves.  This helps family members to put things back in the proper locations. It also helps with the task of grocery shopping because you can visually see what “sections” of the pantry are low on food.

Step #4 Maintain the pantry

Plan to do organization maintenance on the pantry, once every 6 months, to keep it working and organized for you and your family.


Lessons Learned on Moving and Focus

This post is more on the personal side than my usual organizing posts. It’s still about organization; it’s about getting me organized. Yes, I said getting me organized. This is also about focus.  Over the past two weeks it’s become evident that I need to retire my wonder woman outfit. 

We not only traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday (to a wonderful family gathering) but it was also the week that we moved into our new home!

I dropped the ball on things several times (I’ll spare you the dreadful details). But, like all mistakes, I have learned some lessons in the process.

Here are my top five lessons learned:

  • Whether you are moving 2 miles, or 200 miles, pack everything, that is not considered furniture, into boxes.

  • Don’t schedule appointments OR go back to work the day after the movers drop off your furniture.

  • If it can be avoided at all, never move around a major holiday.

  • No matter what is going on in your life, stick to the habit of reviewing your calendar the night before. Set alarms on your phone if you think things will just be too crazy to remember everything.

  • It’s better to reschedule clients and take time off to settle in after your move than to try to do “business as usual” when your head is not in the game.

I often hear myself telling my clients to give themselves grace during a period of change. Change, even when for the good, takes time to get adjusted.  We can’t/shouldn’t try to “do it all” (aka Wonder Woman syndrome) when we are in the midst of a change. Patience and deep breaths are what is needed.

The past two plus weeks of moving just 2 miles down the road has reminded me that I must give myself grace. I need to remember that change and transitions are hard and even though I am organized,  I am still only human. As things are starting to settle, I am focusing my attention on reviewing my calendar every evening to prepare for what the next day brings.

Now that Christmas is here (already), I will practice patience and breathe.


Back Up your Data in the Cloud

It’s important to back up the data and photos you have on your computer.  We all have so much data on our home computers today, especially if you have started scanning paperwork. One of the ways to back up your data is in “the cloud”.  Many of my clients are not sure what ‘the Cloud’ is and if it’s a secure place to store their data.

This is a short and simple explanation of backing up to the cloud from The Today Show:

backing up to the cloud>

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Key points:

  • You can store data off site, on the internet.
  • You can store documents, pictures and other data (not programs).
  • Not everything on your computer needs to be backed up.
  • You can access your data on other equipment –  your phone, your tablet and other places that have an internet connection.
  • You won’t get 100% safety on the internet, even on the most secure sites.  Encrypt your data and use strong passwords.
  • Having multiple back-ups is a good idea. For example, using an external hard drive in addition to the cloud services.

Providers of cloud services:

Some of the following links are affiliate links, if you choose to do business with one of these companies, Organized Habits may receive a small referral fee.

Having back up is part of maintaining the organization of your photos, paperwork and documents. Create your back up plan and start to implement it today.  We all hate to lose our data because there is never a good time to lose data!  Do you use other cloud services? I’d love to hear about them.

Good-bye Sweetheart – Letting Go of Memory Holders

Rummaging through my jewelry box the other day, I came across a heart pin (from my sweetheart).
My daughter had made it for me when she was in Girl Scouts.  She gave it to me for Valentine’s Day or maybe Mother’s Day, I don’t exactly remember.
She was a cute little Girl Scout with that lopsided grin…[sigh].the organizing mentor
Many times we think we need the objects, or memory holders, to help us keep our memories alive.  Here’s the reality:
  • I will always remember my daughter, with or without this sweet pin
  • I have tons of photos of her in Girl Scouts
  • I have never even worn this heart pin, even though I’ve kept it for 15 years
So today, I am letting this sweet little heart go.  I don’t need it to remember my daughter.


Remember, the memories don’t go away when we let go of the memory holder. Choose one memory holder you have and tell it good-bye.  Write down the memories that object recalls and perhaps take a photo of that memory holder.  In the end, say good-bye because these items don’t need to hold a place in our home in order to hold a place in our heart.
Do you have memory holders? Or are you “keeping” things to give to your 30-something child when they “grow up”?  These items do not serve us and, in fact, only add to our external environment’s clutter.
Letting go is one step closer to getting more organized. I’d love to have you leave a comment and tell me about the memory holder you have let go and the memory that it recalled.

5 Reasons Why People Hoard

Kiera RainToday’s blog post is written by Bay Area Organizer Kiera Rain. Kiera is a professional organizer for homes, offices and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s been a professional organizer since 2003, specializing in the mental health aspects of disorganization: Hoarding, OCD, Agoraphobia, ADD/ADHD, Anxiety, Depression and Grief.  Read on and if you want to know more about Kiera, check out her YouTube video link at the end of this post.

People hoard to fill emotional voids. It’s not about the stuff — it’s about what’s going on with them on a personal level.

Here are the 5 reasons why people hoard:

1) Loneliness.  Hoarders surround themselves with things to fill the empty space around them so they don’t feel as isolated. Stand in an empty, quiet room and then stand in a room full of furniture with a chiming clock, interesting knick knacks, pictures and books, and you’ll FEEL the difference of the space. Unfortunately, instead of making the home warm, inviting and cozy, the home becomes so crowded it becomes a non-functioning space. People can’t sit on the couches, people aren’t invited over because of the embarrassment of the mess, friends and family threaten to stop coming over until the hoarder cleans up their space, etc. I help clients take back their space while making it warm and inviting again.

2) Impoverished.  For those who grew up in the Depression Days, poverty, had “penny pinching parents,” etc, buying things can be very powerful therapy. Until the retail shopping causes more damage than good. These type of hoarders love to bargain shop, buy in bulk, and always have multiples of everything.

3) Grief/Loss.  This is probably the biggest reason why people hoard. Has the hoarder lost someone very close to them–a parent, partner, child, even a family pet? Doesn’t have to be death–divorce, job loss, retirement and more are all reasons to grieve. Grief is a very serious transition that we must all go through, and some people resort to trying to cope via hoarding. They try to fill the void in their lives, fill the empty space around them, shop for retail therapy to lift their spirits, and hold on to everything they have of the deceased loved one.

4) Memory.  Many hoarders feel they need to keep things so they don’t forget about someone or a special event. They feel they will forget the person or occurrence if they don’t have the item to remind them. I give suggestions like taking pictures of the items to keep in the “Memory Box/Treasure Trunk” and donating the items to a good home where they will be used, loved and appreciated.

I also suggest hugging that favorite old t-shirt goodbye before donating it to a good home to ease the transition process, and/or calling the person you’ve been missing and have a long catch-up conversation. If they’ve passed on, write the deceased a letter or talk to them in your own special way.

5) Rescue Mentality, Commonly from Abuse/Neglect.  People will also hoard when they’ve been abused/neglected. Because they were rejected and tossed aside and not taken care of, they rescue items in an effort to rescue themselves. They don’t want to see things go in the landfill, never to be used or cherished. They “might need it one day,” so they hold onto it. I help clients see that instead of that cup sitting in a corner collecting dust for 6 years, they can donate the cup and give it a good home. The cup is not serving it’s purpose if it’s not being used/cherished/valued so give it a chance to be useful.