We have a guest blogger today whose insights we know you'll enjoy hearing. Kathy Vines is a colleague and a fellow organizer near Boston. You can count on her for insightful input, whatever the topic, and today she shares a taste of the content of her brand new book with us, “Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less: Break Free from Your Stuff Even When Your Head and Heart Get in the Way.”
Read on for some FAQs from Baby Boomers about downsizing & getting organized. Then be sure to download a copy of Kathy's book on Amazon and read along with Holly who is reading it right now, too! One thing Waco Home Organizers has in common with Kathy is our love for Baby Boomers and a desire to help them "rightsize" (some say downsize) and live their best life, no matter their age and location (or relocation).
As a Certified Professional Organizer, I’m lucky enough to get invited in people’s homes every day to help them live with less clutter, less chaos and less stress.
Some of my favorite clients to work with are Baby Boomers who are starting to plan out their next chapter. They see that downsizing is in their future, and they know it will take a while to get to where they’re ready to move. When I start my work with these clients, they seem to have similar concerns, uncertainty, and questions, all of which I hope to address. Here are some of the most common questions I get, and how I help my clients think through the answers:
It’s all so overwhelming. Where do I start?
One way to start is to begin with something easy. Something you don’t have an emotional attachment to. Something you think you can tackle in one sitting. Start getting your decision-making muscles in shape! What’s something you think for sure you can address easily? If you’re moving to Florida, maybe start with your winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves. If you’re moving to a home that is already furnished, start making a list of the furniture you know won’t go with you.
You may also like to start by making a master list, go room by room throughout your house to start to identify categories or spaces that are going to need your attention. This may help you develop a plan, a timeline, some priorities that can help you manage what you’ll focus on between now and when you move.
Some of my things I’d like to try and get some money for. How do I do that?
Many people start out thinking that they may want to sell things, but come to the conclusion that it may not work out for them, and they’re better off just donating and taking a tax deduction, if they’re eligible for one. In my book, Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less, I focus a chapter on this and talk about how to take the ideal of “I’d like to get some money for this” and break it down into whether or not this is practical, feasible, and worth your time. Some key questions for you to ask yourself:
If you’re able to say “yes” to these questions, you may be in good shape. If you’ve got a fair amount of “no” answers, then selling may not be realistic or feasible for you.
I have a lot of keepsakes, and it’s hard to part with them. How am I supposed to choose what to keep?
There’s no doubt that for some people, this is the hardest part of downsizing. Going through the memories and willingly parting with items that remind you of people and moments can be excruciating for some people! But you’re probably going some place with less space and less storage, and when you need to choose between space for things you need and use vs. space for things that hold only sentimental value, it becomes clear that some tough choices must be made.
Going through these items can take time. Pace yourself, give yourself time to reconnect with some of the memories, but not so much time that you get lost in your stories and you become more attached to the items, even though you hadn’t laid eyes on them in years! Work with someone who can help keep you focused and make progress, and can help keep you honest with yourself about the difference between something being memorable, and something being important. Not all things that are memorable are important; letting go of the things that aren’t as important is a place to start. Sometimes, it is helpful to ask yourself the question, “What is the role I see this item playing in my future?” Photos of family members may generate a very different answer than the tassel from your high school graduation cap.
I don’t know where I’m moving to next yet. How will I know what I need?
Well, there are 2 things to think about: Assumptions you can make for sure, and how you think your lifestyle will be different, given those assumptions.
What are some assumptions? Well, first, it will probably be smaller, maybe with fewer bedrooms. If that’s the case, you might think about what size beds you’ll have in the future, and what size linens you’ll need for them. If you currently have 3 or 4 different sizes, you can streamline that. Smaller probably also means less wall space, so you can think about the different things you put on the wall now (artwork, televisions, mirrors) to see what you’d choose if you only had half the wall space in the future.
Your lifestyle may also shift, for instance, you may not be entertaining as much or for large crowds, or you may not need work-from-home space for work and storage like you do now. How would you review what you owned for those categories if you kneow it was going to be “less”? If you’re less likely to host Thanksgiving in the future, are their entertaining and cooking items you have now that you only really use for Thanksgiving now, that you just wouldn’t ever use again if that holiday weren’t at your place anymore? Start there, and start reviewing those “occasional” items for that lifestyle view.
But the best advice I can give is to brainstorm for items: “If I did need this item and I no longer had it, what is the worst thing that will happen?” Could something else you own do what this item does for you now? Can you borrow something to do the job? Could you rent something? Could you replace it easily without having to store the item in your valuable real estate from now until that imaginary day where you might happen to need that thing?
I have so much stuff that is still good. Why would I let go of it if it is still useful?
As with anything else, you’ll need to think about your future, even if it isn’t totally clear, and imagine what role it may play. Often, I find that things we call “still good” are things we’ve long stopped using even in our current homes, and unless they’re unique, they’re not likely to get more use in the future. Sometimes, they’re items that remind us of who we used to be – our former careers, parenting when our children were younger, hobbies we used to enjoy. Sometimes, they’re items that were intended for a different future – the treadmill we were totally going to use to get healthier, the crockpot we were definitely going use for make-ahead cooking, the keyboard we were going to start playing again… all “someday.” This is an opportunity to reevaluate the priority of the activities that these items represent, and how likely you are to revisit those activities. Just because an item is still good doesn’t mean it has value in your life. And with all the choices you need to make for what remains in your possession for your future, letting go of the items with less value is going to be important!
Kathy Vines is a Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Specialist and the owner of Clever Girl Organizing®, based just north of Boston. Kathy works with her clients in person and virtually to help them untangle their relationship with their stuff and to create a plan for living more simply and more organized every day. She is a speaker for corporate and community audiences on reclaiming productivity and organization. She is the author of the new book, “Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less: Break Free from Your Stuff Even When Your Head and Heart Get in the Way,” available in print and Kindle on Amazon.
Clutter and depression can be a vicious cycle.
Depression can lead to a cluttered home and then the cluttered home can contribute to depression. We get into survival mode and tend to do less about the house when depressed, so it turns into this cycle that is hard to escape.
I have 3 things to share today for you to consider if you find yourself in this painful slump.
Rather than telling you that you need to get your home ship shape in a week, I would say pick one area and make a haven. This is especially important if you are a creative person or you are introverted.
Creative people tend to let fun and life-giving interests go when they feel depressed, but it’s exactly the time they need to make a space for their creative outlet.
Introverts are generally recharged by alone time, and our environment affects our mind. When I went through a period of depression a few years ago, I literally gutted my bedroom, painted the walls, got white bedding, and made a craft desk in the corner. I finally felt like I had a place to relax and recharge where I wasn’t surrounded by clutter.
So pick an area in your house to make it a haven for you. It might be a closet for prayer or an extra bedroom for crafts or a man cave in the garage to do your woodworking. Think back to the things that were life-giving for you to do before you sank into this depression and then make a space for yourself to be able to do it.
Secondly – I would say that one element of depression can be a low self-concept or even self-hatred. I have heard it said that depression is hatred turned inward. To turn it around we need to practice self-love and self-care. Women tend to be great at taking care of others and not great at taking care of ourselves. Liza Baker, my beloved health coach, has been coaching me on what it means to take care of me. Even if you don't feel the love for the precious person you are, the act of practicing it and speaking love to yourself can be powerful. It is an act of faith of coming into agreement with how God created us - so valuable and loved.
Organizing is actually an act of self-care. It’s setting up your future self for success by putting stuff where you can find it when you need it. It’s making an environment that you can thrive in. It’s setting the stage for hospitality where you can easily invite people over without having to clean for a week first!
My suggestion is to make time in your week to do these things and to organize your surroundings since it's a way to care for yourself - not because you think it's one more thing that you "should" be doing.
For me, it looks like a couple hours about twice a week where I do all my laundry, put stuff where it needs to go, and do a little planning for the next few days. For me, being organized doesn't mean everything is always magically tidy. It just means I have a system and a place to put things back into whenever I want or need to.... which is usually only twice a week!
My last and maybe the most important tip is to reevaluate where you find true comfort.
A lot of times, depression can be triggered after a time of loss. Sometimes 5 or 6 things happen in a short time frame and it just feels like too much. Sometimes the depression comes with grief because of losing a loved one, or sometimes it comes because of dashed hopes and expectations that you had for your life. Those are only 2 of many examples.
Whatever the cause is, the loss is real. Now you have a choice of how to respond to the loss. Whether it is to sleep, exercise, work, eat, or shop, you are naturally going to respond somehow.
I notice with my clients that often their retail therapy shopping also comes after disappointment or loss. They shop and buy stuff and it fulfills a need for a minute. It gives a dopamine hit. It either adds to clutter or adds to debt or both, but it rarely comforts the loss for more than a couple days, and then the cycle starts again.
What we are needing and looking for is comfort and God made us to find our comfort in Him. He is El-Shaddai, which means the many-breasted one, which refers to one who is all sufficient for every need we have. He nurtures us and comforts us by the Holy Spirit but we do have to lean in and tune in to receive it. We aren’t able to do that whenever we are shopping or eating or doing any other number of things to numb the pain.
So reevaluate where you find true comfort and then ask Him how you can receive His comfort in a deeper way. This has been an ongoing process for me. It's been a few years since I've even had revelation about the concept, and it's taking time for it to show up in my life in real and practical ways. I'm just saying that because it's a journey and there's not a magic prayer to pray that helps you receive God's comfort and make the negative actions & habits disappear overnight. I literally pray, "God help me receive Your comfort."
To recap, if you're struggling with depression and the clutter cycle is a part of it, here are 3 keys for you to consider and take action with:
If it's all too much and you want a listening ear and helping hand, please email or call me. I have these conversations with people and you can't shock or scare me with your depression and mess. I've been there too.
A couple of years ago I started moving toward minimalism in my wardrobe. When my travel life picked up last year, I decided to try wearing the same base outfit in order to eliminate one decision from my day and in order to simplify packing.
I picked out my favorite pair of comfortable black leggings, bought several pairs, selected a classic long black V-neck top from Target, and then purchased different pieces to mix and match on top.
Now when I wake up in the morning, I reach for my leggings, black top and then select one accessory out of my drawer such as a necklace or a scarf.
This base outfit has become my sort of work “uniform”, a concept adopted by the late Steve Jobs, among others. I took this idea and made it my own by adding and accessorizing my uniform depending on whether I want to dress it up or down.
I have 2 floral kimonos, 1 sweater type shawl, 1 denim chambray button up, half a dozen infinity scarves, vests of various kinds, and other items that layer nicely on top of my classic leggings and v-neck combo.
As for shoes, I typically wear my gold Aetrex Erica ballet flats every day, weather permitting. I also bought them in red and black. :) I have a couple of pairs of ankle booties, a pair of Steve Madden Candence leather boots that are going on season 6 and are so "loved" but I can't imagine parting with them, and some gold Naot toe sandals.
Another benefit to this method and style is comfort, especially because I travel often- about 50% of the time I am in another place other than my bed, and I need a simple, predictable method that doesn't change every time. Nobody wants to wear tight jeans on a plane, not to mention while I'm sitting on someone's kitchen floor organizing their lower cabinets.
If you’re interested in creating your own base layer like mine, think out of the box for something simple that might work for you.
I hope these photos give you some inspiration to simplify while still allowing some room for creativity and spontaneity. On a recent trip to California, the lovely Kayla Illies, an Oceanside/San Diego based photographer, captured these photos for me. We had so much fun chatting about our common love for travel and trotting down to the San Clemente beach at sunset to chase the sun! Visit her site to view her work!
This uniform method has worked wonders for me as I’ve learned to save my creative energy for the decisions that matter most. I never spend more than one minute wondering what to wear!
visit related link: 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day