Organizing Your Car

 

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Photo by Kirsi Färm on Unsplash

 

Most of us spend so much time in our car that it can sometimes seem like a second home! AAA’s most recent American Driving Survey* found that during 2016 and 2017, on average, drivers spent 51 minutes driving approximately 31.5 miles each day, making an average of 2.2 driving trips. That’s a lot of car time! In the summer, this is even more true. Summer vacations and long car rides go hand in hand, not to mention trips back and forth to camp, the pool, picnics, and family reunions. 

Since we spend so much time in our cars, it only makes sense that we would want to keep them neat and organized! This will make your car time more enjoyable, and you’ll be spared the embarrassment of someone hopping into your car for those last minute rides only to be greeted by a disorganized mess. Keeping your car organized will also lead to safer driving conditions. We can all probably recall a time when what we needed while driving was just out of reach. And of course there are a myriad of issues related to cell phone use and driving. Clearly, time spent organizing your car is time well spent.

Just like any area of the home or office, organizing requires a deliberate effort and regular maintenance. I use the same 3 simple steps whether I’m organizing a closet, garage, desk, or car: reduce, arrange, and maintain. This article includes a step by step plan for organizing your car using these 3 steps, including suggestions of helpful items to keep in your car and where to keep them. 

Step 1: Reduce/Declutter

The best way to do this initial decluttering is to take everything out of the car, and only put back in the essentials. Carefully examine each item that you’ve removed. Before replacing, make each item “earn” its spot. Yes, you want to be prepared, but keep it realistic. Don’t forget to declutter the glove compartment, trunk, console, side door pockets, built in ashtrays/small holders, and visor! While you’re at it, be sure to check your spare tire to make sure it’s properly inflated and that you have all the tools necessary for installing it. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can do this several small time segments for different areas (glove compartment, console, front seat area, back seat area, trunk, etc.). 

Your car is NOT a mobile storage cabinet, so don’t use it that way! If you are storing items that need to be delivered somewhere, don’t put them back in the car unless you know you will be able to deliver them in the next couple of days. Put it on your calendar or set a reminder. Keep in mind that what you need to keep in the car changes with each life stage. Think about your family and your lifestyle to make the best decisions. 

Step 2: Arrange 

From the front of the car to the back, here are some ideas for items you might want to keep there and how to best organize them. The glove compartment is a good location for small items. A few items that might be stored here includes:  owner’s manual, proof of car insurance and registration (make the information is current), gloves, emergency contact information (this could come in very handy in case of an accident), small flashlight, tire pressure gauge, first aid kit, fuses for vehicle interior lights, and napkins (you only need to keep a few). 

Other items that are useful in the console and front seat area: drinks and snacks, tissues, hand sanitizer, wipes, car freshener, cosmetic bag with personal care items, spare coins, phone charging cord, notepad and pen, and coupons. 

I cannot overemphasize the need to follow safe practices with your cell phone. Get your driving directions set up before you start driving. If you’re going to be listening to something while you drive, get that set up as well. I love listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks while I drive, but I need to remember to set them up before I drive or to pull over to make adjustments. The safest location for your phone is to keep it out of reach so you won’t touch it while driving. The next best solution is a hands free system (Car Play, bluetooth headset, etc.). Not only will these practices keep you safe, they may also keep you out of trouble. Beginning July 1, drivers could face a fine up to $200 for using their cellphone while driving.* 

In the main car interior, I highly recommend having a trash can, preferably one that is attached, since moving objects can be a hazard in a car. You can also utilize the back of the front seat for entertainment and comfort items for backseat passengers. In the main car interior, I also highly recommend an emergency escape and rescue device. I only found out this tool existed while researching this topic. The original tool is called a Lifehammer and is available on Amazon for around $15. If you are trapped inside your car, the Lifehammer has a tool that can cut the seatbelt and a tool that can easily shatter the windshield so that you can escape. 

The main function of the trunk is to transport items, so don’t keep it filled up all of the time. That being said, there are quite a few items for which the trunk is the best storage area. I recommend some sort of container or trunk organizer for them so that you can remove them quickly if needed. Emergency trunk items might include a spare tire with tools, jumper cables, first aid kit, car fire extinguisher, and LED road flares. 

Other helpful trunk items might include reusable shopping bags, umbrella, scraper, light jacket, portable chairs and blanket (you may want to load on the day you need them), water bottles (although plastic ones may melt with heat). Families with children may need to also include a stroller, extra diaper bag supplies, and extra outfits. Pet owners may also need plastic bags for pet waste and a collapsible pet bowl. 

Step 3: Maintain 

Maintaining organization is always the most difficult part. However, spending a few minutes on a regular basis saves you from spending hours on it later! Commit to taking out trash daily! Adding a small trash can to the garage right beside the door into the house has helped us.  Make it a daily practice when you pull into the garage or driveway to unload the car. Get the family to help. This is an important life skill for children. Reassess your organization occasionally. Assess what’s working or not working, what you need to add or subtract to the car, and make adjustments as necessary.

I hope these tips help you make your car safer and more organized!

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Prevent a Cluttered Calendar: Learn to Say ‘No’

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Anyone who knows me well might be laughing that I am writing an article about saying “no”. I frequently talk about the need to decline commitments that don’t support my priorities. But honestly, the reality is that I talk a good game, but I often overcommit. I am terrible at saying “no”. My family knows this all too well. I have a “Stop me before I volunteer again” refrigerator magnet that Eric bought me years ago, hoping it would help. I must confess that too often, I don’t heed it.

I believe that organizing our time is the most important organizing we need to do. We all have the same amount of time each day. We all have numerous responsibilities and lead busy lives. The choices we make about how to spend that time are critical. If we don’t make those choices thoughtfully and carefully, we can end up with an overloaded schedule and its resultant stress.

The most important principle in making decisions about our time is to consider our priorities. What is important to you? What are you most passionate about? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? These big life questions require deep contemplation. I realized recently that one of the reasons I stayed constantly busy is that I was avoiding these tough questions. It was easier to just keep going, running from one activity to the next. But my busyness had such an adverse effect on my family and on my emotional health that I was forced to confront these questions. It has been well worth the time I have spent in reflection, and I am getting better at making sensible choices about my time.

I recently watched an interview between writer and life coach Marie Forleo and author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam (watch it on YouTube at https://bit.ly/2HGemS8). Vanderkam has written several bestselling books on time management, including What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast  and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.  During the interview, Vanderkam remarked that we tend to have more trouble saying “no” if the event is several weeks or months away. Because we don’t have as many time commitments that far in advance, it’s as if we think our future self will have a completely clear calendar. Logically we know that by the time that event rolls around, our calendar will be much more full. But for now, it’s far too easy to say “yes”.

Vanderkam gives some excellent advice for viewing future commitments, advising us to ask ourselves if we would say “yes” to this same activity if it were scheduled for tomorrow. It’s very likely we already have plans for tomorrow and would have to reschedule something. If the opportunity was a perfect one, we might be willing to do that. But if it’s something about which we’re indecisive or even reluctant to commit, we wouldn’t consider changing our schedule to include it. If we feel reluctant or indecisive about it now, we will feel the same way about it weeks or months from now. So the best option is to go ahead and say “no” now.

An excerpt from Derek Sivers’ book Anything You Want explains well the reasoning that can help you make rational decisions about upcoming commitments. Sivers asserts that if we can’t give an enthusiastic “yes” to something, our answer should be “no”. If we feel “anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely!’”, then we should say “no”. If we are saying “no” to most things, it frees us up to say “yes” to the things we really want to do. Think about this reasoning every time you’re invited to an event or asked to start a project. If your answer isn’t an enthusiastic “yes”, say “no”.

Obviously there are limits to this strategy. We can’t say “no” to everything we aren’t enthusiastic about. After all, someone has to wash the dishes, do the laundry, and scrub the toilet. And we can’t just say “no” to a task that our boss asks us to do that is in line with our job responsibilities. What I’m referring to in this article are optional activities, ones in which we have free choice.

One of my favorite songs is “Stop This Train” by John Mayer. When my schedule is out of control, these lyrics really hit home:

Stop this train

I want to get off and go home again

I can’t take the speed it’s moving in

I know I can’t

But, honestly, won’t someone stop this train?”

Have you ever felt this way, wishing desperately that someone would just stop the speeding train of your life? Well, I’ve got news for you: You are the only one who controls the speed of the train. We may like to think we are at the mercy of others’ demands on us and that we don’t really have control over our schedule. But our schedule is under our control. Yes, we have some commitments that we can’t change, but we have much more control than we like to think we do.

Armed with deep reflection about your priorities and these pieces of advice, take a look at your calendar and your To Do list. Do you see an activity (or a bunch of them) that don’t align with your priorities? Are there some tasks that you wish you hadn’t said “yes” to? Make some changes now to prevent stress later.

Clearly, we can’t suddenly back out of everything. But there is a big difference between backing out of a commitment to a PTA luncheon next month and deserting your post at Guantanamo. If it’s far enough in advance and you’re not going to leave someone in a difficult position, it’s ok to change your mind.

Make a pledge that starting now, you’re going to be more proactive about how you spend your time. Communicate that decision to your spouse, close friends, and family members. Our personal decisions about the way we spend our time have a huge effect on the people we love. If we’re either too busy or too stressed over our own commitments, we’re not going to be as patient, kind, and giving to our loved ones as we’d like.

Alright my fellow Type-A over-committed friends, are you ready to do some real soul searching? Will you really commit to saying “no” to a few things? Here’s to saying “no” to a few good things so that we can say “yes” to the best things.

 

How Messy is Your Desk?

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My husband Eric and I are preparing to downsize to a much smaller home. As we are planning what we will take to our new space, we are getting rid of quite a bit of furniture. One of the most difficult pieces of furniture for me to part with so far has been an antique oak spinet desk. It has a cover that unfolds to reveal many small cubby holes and a writing surface that can be pulled out for more workspace. Although I don’t think I ever used the writing surface or the cubby holes very much, I just loved that desk! Come to think of it, I pretty much love all desks. Maybe it’s because I always loved being a student, and desks reminds me of that time in my life.

I’ve been thinking about all of the different types of desks I have used throughout my life and how much desks have evolved in general. Remember those early desks with a cavity in the side for storage, a built in chair, and a wooden writing surface with a groove for your pencil? While it’s true that desks have changed drastically over the years, they are still an essential part of a functional office space. Whether or not your desk is organized can have a huge bearing on how effectively you work. The true measure of an organized desk isn’t just how it looks, but whether or not it is functional for you. Can you find what you need quickly? Do you have adequate space on which to work?

I use the same steps and principles for organizing a desk and an office as I do for any other space. I start by considering how the space is used and by making an overall plan. The next step is to reduce by removing any unneeded item. When decluttering a desk, if you have time, empty out each drawer and sort the contents into categories, either one at a time or all at once. You may be surprised to discover that you have 3 staplers, 5 pairs of scissors, or more pens than you could ever use in a lifetime! This decluttering step includes removing unnecessary paper. Very few of us go through their paper files frequently enough, so you can probably reduce that paper volume quite a bit. You might also consider scanning some or all of the papers you need to keep, either as a backup to the physical paper or so that you can dispose of the physical paper. Get rid of any item that you don’t need or use now. Be ruthless!

Before placing office supplies back into the desk drawers, take a few minutes to consider what items you use frequently. These frequent use items should be placed in an easy to reach location. If your desk is cluttered, you might consider moving items that you use only occasionally to a different location altogether. It is very helpful to separate drawer contents into categories, especially if the items are small, like paper clips or staples. You can use small boxes, bins, baskets, or trays with divided sections. Although trays can be handy, they’re not always the best choice because the number and size of sections may not be well suited to the drawer’s contents.

When it comes to arranging papers, we all have different needs and preferences. Some people, like me, prefer to have a desk surface with very few items on top and everything else hidden away. Keeping important papers in an alphabetized file system in a file drawer works well for this type of person. When I need a particular paper, I can open the drawer and quickly find the appropriate file. Others need to have everything visible, so keeping important papers in a file drawer doesn’t work for them. In their minds, if they can’t see something, they may forget it’s there. For this person, a good solution might be a tabletop vertical file, a tall tabletop organizer with labeled horizontal slots, or wall-mounted trays or files.

Companies like Workspace Interiors, Inc. that provide office furniture and equipment of all kinds argue that the most important piece of furniture in your office isn’t your desk, but your chair. A comfortable chair that is fitted especially for your needs is essential for your work health. If you are comfortable while you work and you have all of the tools you need organized in a way that works perfectly for you, you are a lot more likely to enjoy your work and to perform your job well.

How messy is your desk? If you work in a business that is a member of the Kingsport Chamber and you have a messy desk, you might want to consider entering our Messiest Desk in the Chamber Contest. I am excited to be partnering with Workspace Interiors for this contest. Here is their description of their company and its products and services:

“Workspace Interiors, Inc., the area’s sole Steelcase dealership, is the leading commercial interiors and furnishings company in the northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia regions. Our turn-key services include: Office Furniture including ergonomic and organizational worktools, Commercial Interior Design; Technology, Architectural Solutions, Flooring, Branding, just to name a few. Our expertise extends beyond the corporate world by offering solutions for:  Healthcare; Education (K-12); Higher Ed; Hospitality; Retail Banking; Government/GSA; Legal; Industrial/Manufacturing; Home Office, and Outdoor. With WorkLife Centers conveniently located in Kingsport and Knoxville, our goal is to help you make your job easier. Whether you design work spaces, manage them, or work in them — we’re passionate about creating spaces you love to work in.” (workspaceinteriors.com)

The winner will receive 1 day of free organizing services from Shipshape Solutions and up to $1,000 value of worktools and ergonomic tools from Workspace Interiors. Our goal is to transform a messy office with suboptimal equipment into an organized and comfortable space that lends itself to efficient work. For details, entry requirements, and an application, visit my website at https://shipshape.solutions and look under the Messy Desk Contest tab. Applications will be accepted until the end of May 2019. The contest winner’s project, including before and after pictures, will be featured in an upcoming article, as well as on our social media pages. We can’t wait to help transform one lucky Chamber member’s office!

Spring Cleaning: What Do I Do with This?

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Happy spring, readers! I hope you’ve been able to spend some time outdoors and are enjoying the warmer temperatures and beautiful blooming trees and flowers. Spring is a great time to get outside, but it’s also a great time to declutter and clean! Have you felt the urge to do some spring cleaning?

If you do a thorough job of decluttering, you’ll likely end up with a whole lot of things you don’t need. For most of these items, deciding what to do with them is relatively easy. Those that aren’t worthy of donating may need to be just thrown into the trash or recycling container. Of the items that are in good enough shape to donate, the majority can be taken to the local donation center of your choice. But there are quite a few items that are a little more problematic. You may not be able to simply drop these special items into the trash can or the recycling container. They may require some sort of preparation to properly dispose of them. Some items may not be accepted at donation centers for various reasons. This article provides pointers for these special cases. This list is by no means exhaustive. I couldn’t include every special case or every Tri-Cities location, but this will at least give you some options.

We are fortunate that two special cleanup events are just around the corner! For Kingsport City residents, April 1-12 is the annual spring clean-up service. During this time, you can place extra items on the curb for garbage crews to haul away. Items included in this free service include: appliances, tires (limit of 4, off the rim), furniture, small amounts of building materials, yard debris, mattresses, bagged grass, bagged or loose leaves, brush, and general junk.

For Sullivan County residents, the biannual Sullivan County Hazardous Waste Collection day is on Saturday, May 4th from 9am to 1pm at the Sullivan Central High School parking lot. The following items will be accepted: automotive and marine products (fuel, oil, solvents, fluids, antifreeze), home improvement products (strippers, thinners, adhesives, sealants, tar), lawn and garden products (pesticides, fertilizers) and miscellaneous products (pool chemicals, photo processing chemicals, mercury thermostats and thermometers, fluorescent tubes/bulbs, aerosols).

Paint is not accepted at the Hazardous Waste Collection, but it can be easily disposed of at home with this method: use cat litter or packets of paint hardener to solidify the paint, then simply place the paint cans into the trash. Other items that require special disposal include batteries (can be taken to Batteries Plus or Lowe’s), light bulbs (can be taken to Lowe’s), and plastic bags (can be recycled at Walmart, Food City, or Kroger). Medication (either prescription or over the counter) should not be thrown into the trash can, poured down the drain or flushed in the toilet. Drop boxes for proper disposal are located at the Justice Center in downtown Kingsport and at the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office in Blountville.

A few categories of items are more difficult because many donation centers don’t accept them. Baby items such as car seats, strollers, and bouncer seats have strict rules that prevent many organizations from accepting them. They can, however, be accepted at Hope House (maternity home and crisis pregnancy resource center) in Kingsport (call for specific requirements and available space). Household cleaners and personal care items are usually accepted at homeless shelters like Hope Haven Ministries in Kingsport or Oasis (a women’s ministry in Kingsport). Oasis also accepts laundry supplies and donations of pre-packaged snacks and individual microwave frozen meals. Some medical and dental equipment is accepted by Healing Hands Health Center in Bristol, Hope Community Church (multiple locations), and Shepherd Center in Kingsport. Unopened and unexpired medications are accepted at Friends in Need in Kingsport. For the medical supplies, it’s best to call beforehand to make sure they can be accepted. Pet supplies and food and old linens are accepted at animal shelters.

Used electronics are a rapidly increasing form of waste. Of One Accord Ministry accepts donations of working electronics for their thrift store. Goodwill has a program called E-cycle which is dedicated to reusing or recycling computer and other electronic components instead of discarding them. You can also drop off old electronics at the Kingsport Transfer Station.

There are a few items that are accepted at donation centers, but you may want to choose a different destination to benefit a specific group of people. Used working cell phones can be donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers. There are local drop-off locations, or they can be mailed. Prom dresses can be donated to the YWCA in Bristol or Becca’s Closet; these dresses are given to young women who might not be able to afford them. Eyeglasses can be dropped off at many vision centers, including Walmart, LensCrafters in the Fort Henry Mall, and others. They are picked up by Lions Club International, which repairs and cleans them to donate to the needy. New or gently used shoes can be taken to Fleet Feet (given to organizations that benefit the needy locally) or mailed to Soles4Souls (benefit the needy in developing countries). Toy donations can be given to Marine Corps Toys for Tots for distribution (see website for specifics). Old vehicles can be donated to the Make-A-Wish East Tennessee, which benefits children who are facing critical illnesses or to the National Kidney Foundation, which benefits patients with kidney disease.

What if an item is too large for you to deliver for donation, such as appliances, building materials, or furniture? Many organizations will schedule donation pickups, including Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Good Samaritan Ministries. If you have a trash item too large to put in your trash container, you can call to schedule pickup through the Kingsport Sanitation department. If you have a large amount of items that are mostly junk, there are even companies such as JDog Junk Removal and Hauling that can pick it up, dispose of it properly with minimal distribution to the landfill, and clean up afterwards.

With all of these resources at your disposal, I hope you’re feeling motivated and ready to do some spring cleaning. Feel free to email me with questions or if you would like my help. Decluttering is my specialty!

Happy organizing!

 

I Love NAPO!

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From Thursday, April 4 to Sunday, April 7, Laurie and I were thrilled to meet with hundreds of professional organizers from around the country (and around the world) for the annual convention of NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) in Fort Worth, Texas. What an amazing weekend! I attended presentations on topics as diverse as “From IDEA to Death Cleaning: Swedish Concepts in Organizing”, “Let’s Make a Shidduch” (I bet you’re curious about that one!), “Tech Tools for Writing”, “Branding and Monetizing Your Business”, and “Helping Clients Identify the Value in their Objects” and many more. We discussed tips that work well for our businesses and how to best meet all of our clients’ needs. We ate a lot, laughed at our obsessive tendencies, and enjoyed being with likeminded people. We even danced to 80’s music together! Although organizers tend to be a very serious and focused group that is  passionate about order, we also love to have fun!

NAPO has been invaluable from before I even launched Shipshape Solutions. I have learned so much from not only the conferences, but also the online classes, the daily email and Facebook discussions, online classes, and consulting with other NAPO organizers. NAPO gives me a standard of quality and exemplary ethics in all aspects of my business and gives me all of the tools and encouragement I need to deliver excellent organizing services. I can’t wait to share the ideas I learned at the NAPO conference with my clients.

*By the way, in case you can’t read it, our matching shirts say, “Fill your life with adventures. Have stories to show, not stuff to show.” Laurie and I are passionate about this concept. We have seen our clients enjoy the freedom that can come from living clutter-free, and we want to help more people achieve that goal.

The Myth of Making Money from Collectibles

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Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their stuff. While I have always found that to be true of my clients, I am realizing it is also true for my own family. My husband Eric and I are preparing to downsize. We’re closely scrutinizing every item we own. We won’t have nearly as much space (we consider this a positive, not a negative), so we have very strict criteria for deciding what items will survive the move.

In going through our belongings, we have become reacquainted with a few collections. We have decided to let go of most of these collections, either through donating them or selling them. Examples of collections we aren’t keeping include baseball and football cards, trophies, ceramic figurines, coins, yearbooks, and stuffed animals. Each collection represents a stage of our lives, something that brought us joy at the time. None of these items were originally collected for the purpose of earning money. And the few that we did sell definitely didn’t earn much.

In working with clients and talking with people about their belongings, I encounter many people with a large amount of collectibles. Often, they have collected things because they think that at some point, they will be able to make a lot of money from them. But like the stock market, you almost never know the precise time to sell a collectible for a big profit. So you keep them a little longer, thinking they will be “worth something” soon. The reality is that windfall almost never happens.

There are two very different measures of an item’s value. One measure of value is the amount the owner thinks the item is worth This value is influenced by both the amount the owner originally paid for it and their emotional attachment to it. The second measure of value, and the most important one financially, is market value. The market value of an item is the amount someone is willing to pay you for it. Rarely does someone else think your collectible is worth as much as you do. That is partially due to the fact that our emotional attachment causes us to inflate its value. Throw in a lack of research on the item’s real value and a bit of wishful thinking, and you’ve got a recipe for disappointment.

To put it bluntly, no matter how much you think your Beanie Baby collection (with tags!) is worth, any item is worth only what you can get for it. So if you’re counting on selling your collectibles to fund your retirement, I’ve got bad news for you. Those collections probably aren’t worth what you think they are worth. And their value is likely only going to decrease with more time. Not to mention the fact that they are cluttering up your home. Your best choice is probably to go ahead and get rid of them now.

How do you find out how much someone will pay for an item? One simple way is to look at online selling venues like eBay. But don’t just check the regular eBay listings. You need to look at only the average of the sold items (on the left hand side of the screen, scroll down to “Show Only” and check the box next to “Sold Items”). This will show you how much someone actually paid for the item. When I searched eBay to see how much an antique water pitcher and basin is worth, the listed prices ranged from $20 to $750. But when I checked for sold items only, the prices ranged from $3.75 to $99. That’s a big difference! You also need to factor in the amount of time, effort, and expense needed to list and ship the item. In addition to online selling venues like eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy, there are local options like Facebook Marketplace.

What I find so often is that people have every intention of selling items, but they have never taken the time to research their value or to list them. Or they don’t need to try to recoup any money from them and are willing to donate them, but they haven’t done it. So the items continue to clutter up their homes year after year.

Here are just a few common collections that you should consider eliminating from your home:

  1. Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls: With very rare exceptions, these are practically worthless now.
  2. Any items from Franklin Mint: Whether it’s coins, dolls, china, or toys, most anything that is produced as a collectible isn’t rare enough to be a true collectible.  
  3. Hummel and Precious Moments figurines: So many are available now, and the younger generations just aren’t interested in them.
  4. Comic books: Unless they’re really early Superman, Batman, or Marvel comics, they probably aren’t worth much.
  5. Barbie dolls: While there are always exceptions, the vast majority of the Barbie dolls that people have kept are not worth keeping.
  6. Collectible plates like Norman Rockwell aren’t worth much more than $5, and that’s only if they’re pre-1980.
  7. Longaberger baskets: These were hot collectibles in the 1990’s, but since then, the resale market has declined significantly.

*References: “It’s Time to Get Rid of these Worthless Collectibles” on cheatsheet.com, “10 Collectibles NOT Worth Collecting Anymore” on geauction.com, and “30 Collectibles that are Now Worthless” on cheapism.com.

What if you have items that you believe might bring some cash value, but you don’t have the time or expertise to sell them? You might consider hiring someone. One local resource is Nancy Morrell of A to Z Craigslist Shopping and Sales. Nancy writes, “When I started this business, I had no idea what type items people would bring me to sell. Many items do not bring the kind of money that was even paid for them. When items are brought to me for sale, I take your price and add my fee on top of your price. I take the photos, measurements, and details of your items and list them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Tri Cities Yard Sales, and Buy, Sell, and Trade. I take the calls and schedule the appointments to show your items. Once sold, I mail you a check.”

Is it time to face the facts about some collections in your home? Yes, it’s disappointing to find out that an item you highly valued isn’t going to bring the return you expected. But I can promise you that finally coming to terms with your clutter reaps huge dividends. Contact me if you need some help bringing more order to your home.

Happy organizing!

 

4 Reasons You Should Watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

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I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love finding a new show for a good Netflix binge. So when a friend recently asked me if I had seen the new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I was thrilled! Not only would organizing be more in the spotlight in general and hopefully encourage more people to make changes, but I would have a reference point with more people to discuss how the process of decluttering and organizing works. I am well into watching the series now, having watched five of the eight episodes. I can honestly say that I have been very pleased with the quality of the show and with the way professional organizers and the effects of their work have been portrayed.

I have been a fan of Japanese organizer and author Marie Kondo and her work for several years now. I have read both of her books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. I have used her organizing techniques (which she calls KonMari) in my own home and occasionally with clients. So naturally, I eagerly anticipated the chance to see Kondo in action. After all, reading a description of someone’s organizing philosophy in their book is a completely different experience from seeing the person actively organizing with clients.

Several months ago, my newspaper article described Kondo’s books, her organizing methods, and my opinion of her work extensively (you can view that article at https://bit.ly/2RlYyXt). But for those who haven’t heard of her, here’s a brief description. Kondo’s basic organizing method, which she calls tidying, involves a big one time process of going through all of your belongings in a very particular order. While most people organize a small area at a time, the KonMari method goes by category of items, beginning with clothing. When tidying up clothing, you gather up each article of clothing from every area of the home, including closets, drawers, and other rooms. Put every piece of clothing in one pile (perhaps on a bed). Once it’s all in one pile, only then can you see how much clothing you own. Then you begin the process of choosing what items to keep by picking up each one and deciding whether the item “sparks joy”. Defining what sparks joy is a very personal decision, but the way I would describe it for clothing is that the item fits now, it feels good, it is flattering, and you look forward to wearing it. Anything that doesn’t spark joy should be removed from the home after thanking it for its service. Complete the same process with the same method (gathering every item in the category and going through them one at a time) with the other categories. After clothing, tidy up books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and then mementos (items with sentimental value) in that order.

Here are four reasons I think you should watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo:

  1. This show clearly demonstrates the benefits of decluttering. This is far and away the number one benefit of watching this show, and of decluttering in general. When we come face to face with the volume of our possessions and take steps to decrease that volume, the results can be truly transformative. The benefits go far beyond making our home look better. In the show, Kondo’s clients report these results and more: improved relationship with spouse, sense of calm, more time as a family, more creativity, viewing possessions differently, finding valuable things they hadn’t seen in years, changing the atmosphere of the house, changing daily habits, decreased stress, change in family dynamic, working together better, looking forward to the future, and motivation to never accumulate that way again. And those are only from the first five episodes!
  2. It just might give you the motivation you need. Each of the eight episodes features a different demographic, so it is likely that at least one of the episodes will resonate with you. The eight episodes include a family with toddlers, a married couple in the empty nest stage, a family who has recently downsized, a widow, students, a family with a mountain of clutter, expectant parents, and newlyweds blending two households. There will be at least one client (or several) that you can relate to, and seeing their success may help motivate you to do some organizing of your own and to envision your own success.
  3. You can learn some practical organizing tips. In addition to the vignettes with clients, each episode contains demonstrations of practical organizing tips for specific items, such as Christmas decorations, purses/totes, sentimental items, or sheets. One of my favorite Marie Kondo techniques is the way she recommends folding and storing t-shirts and linens. Let’s face it – who doesn’t need help with neatly folding a fitted sheet? That skill continues to elude me!
  4. You get a pretty good idea of what it’s like to work with a professional organizer. Aside from a few cultural differences (such as greeting the home by quietly kneeling on the floor and literally thanking an item for its service before discarding it), Kondo’s practice of working with clients is very similar to that of most organizers. Organizers begin by getting to know a little bit about their clients, finding out their specific needs, their motivation, and their goals so that we can tailor our efforts to our client’s individual preferences and needs. We work side by side with our clients, teaching organizing principles as we go. We may assign homework to complete between sessions. Because the process can sometimes be difficult, especially if we are working with sentimental items, we are always sensitive to our client’s emotional needs. We work together as a team and celebrate the victories together.

If you watch the show and decide that you would like to work with an organizer, I would love to talk with you more about it! I can help you declutter your entire home in multiple sessions over time as Marie Kondo does on the show. Or I can help you with one small area of your home that needs to be in better order. Whatever your needs, contact me today, and let’s get started!

 

Organizando en Mexico

For the past 13 years, my husband Eric and I and our family have had the pleasure of working with Ciudad de Ángeles (City of Angels) in Cozumel, Mexico. Ciudad de Ángeles provides a home for orphaned, abandoned, abused, and needy children living in Mexico. It gives these children a safe & healthy environment based on Christian principles. Watching the girl we sponsor (Chanti) grow from a 7-year old just rescued from a dire family situation into a confident, beautiful young lady who is attending college and working part-time has been such a joy for our family. We visit Ciudad every year to spend time with her and to help at the campus.

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Front Entrance to Ciudad

I was thrilled to be able to use my organizing skills at Ciudad again this year. Last year, I organized a small storage room for tools. This year, I worked in the storage room for clothing and linens. With a rapidly-changing population of growing children in 6 houses, the need to keep extra supplies and to stay organized is essential. I was very fortunate in that the room was in pretty good shape already. There was an abundance of metal shelving and storage containers in some degree of order. My challenge was to remove any stained or worn-out items and to make sure remaining items were organized for easy access. The fact that all of the current labels were in Spanish presented an additional challenge. I certainly learned a lot of new Spanish words! For example, calcetina=sock, sabana=sheet, toalla=towel. The other challenge was that I needed to use the materials they had on hand and couldn’t go and buy labels or more bins.

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Before

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During

I realize now that I didn’t get pictures of my helpers! Eric and Chanti helped, as well as a few other construction team members from Canada who were there that week to help on campus. I was so thankful for their help and would not have been able to do all of the work myself!

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After

During this project, I was reminded of several principles:

  • Basic organizing principles and steps are the same, no matter what or where you organize.
  • It is a joy to use your skills and passion to benefit others.
  • Any job is more enjoyable with friends, music, and snacks. 🙂

Organizing Gift Wrapping Supplies

 

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The holidays are officially here, bringing with them the accompanying merriment and good tidings as well as the decorating, baking, visiting friends and family, card sending, gift buying, and etc. Most of us are extra busy during the holidays. Even typing this list of activities stresses me out, much less doing them! I am always looking for ways to simplify my life and to be more organized, especially when it comes to the Christmas season. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to simplify your gift wrapping and to organize all of the supplies.

If you’ve read my columns in the past, you know that I am constantly preaching the fact that decreasing the amount of things you own helps tremendously with organization. This principle is also true with gift wrapping supplies. I have always kept a small variety of wrapping paper rolls, gift bags, ribbons, and bows, just as most people do. I just use a tall trash can to store the rolls of paper, a large clear bin for gift bags and another for the ribbons, bows, and other embellishments. I have always felt that the amount I have is pretty reasonable and doesn’t take up too much space, and it’s organized, so I was ok with it.

About a year ago, I was organizing with a client and came across her gift wrapping supplies. She had quite a bit of beautiful, good quality paper, gift bags, ribbons, and bows. She informed me that she didn’t plan to keep any of it because she was planning to start using the same gift wrap and bow for every single gift from here on out. I’m pretty sure I did a double take and said something like, “Did you really just say you are going to use the same thing for every gift including Christmas, birthdays, weddings, Mother’s Day, etc.?” She explained that she was going to pick something neutral that she could use for everything, perhaps champagne color gift wrap and black bows.

Ever since that day, I can’t stop thinking about that conversation. But I never took action on it until now. It only took a few minutes on Pinterest a few days ago (seriously, what did we do before Pinterest?) for me to realize that this was not only possible, but it was exactly what I wanted to do. Remember the line from the song “My Favorite Things” in the movie The Sound of Music about “brown paper packages tied up with string”? That’s my plan from here on out. I will use brown paper gift wrap and gift bags. I can change the color of the string, use ribbon instead of string, write on the paper, or add all manner of embellishments to make it fit the occasion. I will probably end up with with one small bin of embellishments and one roll of paper. And I am so excited to get started with this year’s Christmas presents!

I know what many of you are thinking: “I can’t possibly do that!” or “I love decorative wrapping paper, and I would never want to use the same kind for all occasions”. It’s all entirely your decision. We each have our own style, and this may not be for you. Understanding that most readers will prefer more variety, here are some practical suggestions for organizing your gift wrapping supplies.

  1. Gather all of the supplies, including wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, bows, ribbons, gift tags, and other embellishments.
  2. Get rid of anything you don’t need. It’s very likely there are rolls of gift wrap that you really don’t like, and gift bags that have been used one too many times. No one needs mountains of gift bags. Besides, you’ll soon be replenishing them as you receive gifts. A good goal would be to keep one container of bags in a variety of sizes and patterns and a few rolls of gift wrap. Donate or recycle the rest, depending on what condition they are in.
  3. Choose the best location for your gift wrapping supplies. Very few of us have a big space available for a Pinterest-worthy wrapping station. We may be lucky to find one empty corner of a closet or some space under a bed. You don’t even have to keep the supplies near where you will wrap the gifts.
  4. Choose the best storage solution based on your chosen location. Specialty products for organizing gift wrapping supplies abound, and they just might be perfect for your needs. But if you want to get by with something you already have or use something less expensive, here are a few clever ideas. For pictures and more details, check out these 2 websites: https://bit.ly/2DI3KSl and https://bit.ly/2DHbWCp.
  5. Ideas for storing wrapping paper rolls:
    1. Repurpose a garment bag and hang in the closet.
    2. Repurpose a hanging shoe organizer by cutting out the bottom of the middle pockets.
    3. Use an extra piece of closet shelving turned sideways or a simple tension curtain rod to keep the rolls standing up at the end of a closet floor. With the curtain rod, gift bags could also be hung on the same rod.
    4. Repurpose a pretty frame, teacup hooks, and cafe curtain rods (or wooden dowels) to hang up paper rolls. This can also be used for rolls of ribbon.
    5. Store the rolls in a folding chair bag, which can then be hung up on a hook or rod.
    6. Install rods inside a shelving unit to hold rolls horizontally. This can also be used for rolls of ribbon.
    7. Repurpose a tall laundry basket or trash can.
    8. Using dowel rods for support, store between ceiling joists in an unfinished basement.
  6. Ideas for storing rolls of ribbon:
    1. Use a plastic bin with holes on the sides. Hang the rolls from dowel rods hung in the middle of the bin, and thread the ends of the ribbon through individual holes. No more tangled ribbon!
    2. Use a pants hanger designed to hold several pairs of pants.
  7. Ideas for storing gift bags:
    1. Use magazine holders labeled with “Birthday”, “Holidays”, “New Baby”, etc.
    2. Hang bags from hooks on the wall that stick out several inches.
    3. Hook gift bags onto hangers.
  8. Idea for a quick gift wrapping station during the holidays: Keep all of your wrapping supplies, including scissors and tape, in a decorative basket that can be kept out during the holidays. I like to keep mine near the TV so that I can wrap presents while watching movies or binging on Netflix.

Happy holidays, and happy organizing!

 

Choosing Where to Donate

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Happy New Year, readers! Whether or not you made New Year’s resolutions, you may have a goal to get more organized. I heartily endorse this goal! But I also firmly believe that for most of us, what we really need most is to declutter. If you’re ready to take a serious look at all of your belongings and shed the clutter, you will likely have many items to donate. This requires making a decision about where to take them. In order to help readers make a decision about where to donate their clutter, I sent the same questions to Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, and The Salvation Army. I have summarized their responses below.

Goodwill Industries  

  • What is your organization’s mission?

Our mission is to provide employment services for those in need.

  • What donations do you accept or not accept?  

We accept clothing of all sizes, household items, furniture, books, CDs, jewelry, linens, musical instruments, pictures, tools, small appliances, toys, office/school supplies, and vehicles. We cannot accept hazardous materials, large appliances, used carpeting, construction materials, wet/torn mattresses, water heaters, TVs, computers, monitors, auto parts/tires, car seats/baby beds/strollers/walkers, and pianos.

  • Are there ways that people donate that are problematic for you?

We ask that people drop off donations only during open hours.  If you have furniture or large items you wish to donate, please call to make sure we can accept your donation or to schedule a pickup.

  • If items are sold, how is the money distributed?

Donated items are inspected, sorted, and priced by our employees and then sold in our stores.  Ninety-three cents of every dollar supports training programs for people with disabilities or people with disadvantaged circumstances.  Program graduates gain new skills to become competitive, find jobs, and live independent, fulfilling lives.

  • What do you wish people knew about your organization?  Any common misconceptions?

Goodwill is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Charity Watch, an organization that evaluates philanthropic organizations, gives Goodwill an “A” rating. Occasional internet rumors sometimes surface with false information.  Goodwill Tenneva is an autonomous locally controlled non-profit overseen by a volunteer community board of directors. “Goodwill Tenneva is committed to operating with integrity and providing excellent stewardship,” said Wally Boyd, board chairman.  “Our local Goodwill dedicates itself to providing employment and support services to local people who need help, and always in an ethical and forthright manner.”

  • Why should people donate to your organization?

Goodwill believes that work enhances the dignity and quality of life, and that the power of work instills hope.  Donating to Goodwill will help local people in need of training and employment. Goodwill strives to handle all donations with respect, in an ethical and efficient manner.

 

Holston Habitat for Humanity

  • What is your organization’s mission?

Our vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. OUr mission is to put God’s love into action. Holston Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) brings people together to build houses, communities, and hope. Habitat will serve our 300th family in 2019. Since organizing in 1985, Habitat has built, refurbished or repaired 272 homes in Carter, Sullivan and Washington Co, TN and Bristol, VA, providing 400+ adults and 600+ children the opportunity to live in a safe affordable home. With the financial support generated by the ReStores, Holston Habitat will build 6 new Habitat homes and offer up to 6 external home repairs in 2019.

  • What donations do you accept or not accept?

The Habitat ReStores in Johnson City and Kingsport accept household items (working appliances, furniture, home decor), building materials (cabinets, lighting, flooring, hardware, windows, plumbing) and tools. The ReStores do not accept clothing.

  • Are there ways that people donate that are problematic for you?

We request that people drop off donations only when the ReStores are open.

  • If items are sold, how is the money distributed?

All money generated by donations to the ReStores in Johnson City and Kingsport stays in Carter, Sullivan and Washington Counties, and Bristol, Virginia to underwrite construction costs.

  • What do you wish people knew about your organization?  Any common misconceptions?

Habitat homeowners buy their homes through our 0% interest mortgage. Habitat does not give away homes. A common misconception is that only Habitat homeowners can shop at the ReStores but ReStores are open to everyone who wants to shop, donate or volunteer.

  • Why should people donate to your organization?

The donations provided to the ReStores provide over 30% of the funding needed to build 6-9 new, energy-efficient homes each year. Each donation provides a hand up, not a hand out, that helps local homebuyers build a home for their family.

The Salvation Army

  • What is your organization’s mission?

The Salvation Army is part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible and motivated by the love of God. Our mission is to preach the gospel and to meet human needs in Jesus’ name without discrimination.

  • What donations do you accept or not accept?  

We accept just about anything, including the kitchen sink. We accept jewelry, stereos, lighting, car items, baby items, diapers, home health items, and vehicles. We cannot accept expired car seats, older cribs, or recalled items.

  • Are there ways that people donate that are problematic for you?

All items should be in working condition. If refrigerators and freezers barely run, tell us so we can price accordingly. Vehicles must be in running condition. We simply do not have room for large items like pianos and pool tables. We do not accept old televisions or hazardous products.

  • If items are sold, how is the money distributed?

We serve Sullivan and Hawkins County, TN and Scott County, VA. After overhead costs, we apply funds to social services. Last year, we provided 6,711 nights of emergency shelter.

  • What do you wish people knew about your organization?  Any common misconceptions?

When someone donates here, they are helping one of their neighbors who is hungry, homeless, in need of clothing, assistance with rent, mortgage, or utilities, or a child who needs help building character. Call for pick-ups in advance, especially during summer. Donations are generous gifts, but there is a cost to make those items available. We do our best to keep prices favorable.

  • Why should people donate to your organization?

We care for both soul and physical needs. We provide for the needy of every stripe. Everything we sell comes from donations. Our motto, “Doing The Most Good” means all our resources, money and time where they will be most effective. We also take donations in time from our helpful volunteers!