Life was simple. Hard, but simple. There were no greeting cards, pictures, extra clothes nor shoes. No accumulated memories of a life time. No households of stuff when relatives passed away. There weren’t any books nor piles of paper, no projects – completed or not. There were no electronics nor thousands of accompanying accessories. There was no myriad of sporting paraphernalia. Nothing to declutter.
There was what you needed to survive. That’s it. Maybe you carried a small carving as a token or good luck charm. But mostly what you loved were your family and the experiences you shared. You carried virtually nothing to your grave.
I’m not suggesting that we go back to cave man days. Life is much more comfortable now, and more complicated. We spend a lot more time organizing our stuff – and getting overwhelmed by it.
So what do you do if you’re overwhelmed by your stuff but you really want to declutter? The number one priority is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. So how do we let go?
People who are consistently productive have mastery in these five key areas:
Having an organized closet means it’s much easier to get dressed for the day or a special event. No rummaging for that top that goes especially well with those pants. No double (or triple) buying of the same type of outfit. No taking 30 minutes to put the perfect outfit together (unless you can’t make up your mind about what to wear!)
The six keys to an organized closet are simple.
Key 1. Decide your style
Keep your style simple so you can mix and match items in your closet. Wear clothing that suits your body type, your profession, and your hobbies/ personal activities. If you are not attracting the right clients/significant other/friends and you think your wardrobe could be to blame, consider hire an image consultant (we know a great one!).
Key 2. Purge
Donate or sell clothes you don’t wear, no longer fit into, or are worn out. Rule of thumb for everyday clothes is if you haven’t worn them during the season they are appropriate for, then it’s time to let them go. At the end of a season is the perfect time to purge clothes you haven’t worn that season. If you haven’t worn them this year, you’re even less likely to wear them next year. You have a few options for selling clothes, but it’s usually only worthwhile for designer clothes that are lightly worn. Search for your nearest consignment store, or donate items to Goodwill, or other charities. (We use Clothes the Deal to donate no longer needed business clothes to those in need).
Easy access to documents ensures employees can spend their time working on the projects at hand rather than looking for a piece of paper. Estimates of the time that the average employee spends looking for documents range between 2 and 8 hours per week (statistics gathered by the National Association of Professional Organizers) or 100 to 400 hours per year.
We all know time = $, let’s look at the breakdown. According to Gartner Group, Coopers and Lybrabd, Ernst & Young, the average time to retrieve and refile a paper document is 10 minutes. An average of 3% of documents are lost or misfiled, and have to be recovered at a cost of $120 per document. This equates to a cost of $2,160 to $8,640 per year.
An effective paper filing system will reduce the amount of time people have to look for documents and reduce the number of documents that are lost or misfiled, therefore reducing cost. It’s a win-win-win.
Keys to effective paper filing systems:
- Label files clearly
- Have some order to the filing. You may use different types of systems for docent categories of files.
- Alphabetical – useful for client files
- Categorical – can separate different categories such as vendor files, client files, financial files, etc.
- Chronological – useful for financial files
- Frequency of use – can keep documents that are referred to frequently at the front of a file cabinet.
- Priority based – particularly useful for active projects.
- Create rules for where each type of document should be filled.
- Only have one home for each type of document.
- Create naming conventions for files that everyone uses.
- Have a system for quickly identifying where a document or file folder should be returned to if it is removed from the filing system.
- Keep active files separate from files that need archiving.
Once you have decided what you want to use your garage for, you may find there are items that need to be removed from the garage. If you are keeping them, find a new home for them that makes sense. If you are not keeping them, remember to reuse and recycle.
If you are not going to reuse the items, allow other people to reuse by selling items or giving them away. Options for selling items include:
- eBay – advice from a local eBay seller, Amy Weintraub of Shop It LA , suggests only selling something on eBay if it is worth over $100 – otherwise you spend a lot of time posting on line, packaging and posting the items for not much return.
- Wertz Brothers– buy high end furniture (located in Santa Monica)
Consider donating directly to charities in your area, but give them a call first to find out if they need them. Some great places to donate to in the Los Angeles area are:
- Baby2Baby, collects and redistributes gently used baby and young children’s items
- Beyond Shelter, accepts all manner of in kind donations to assit the homeless in transitioning to homes.
- LA Shares, redistributes working electronic goods to schools and other non-profit agencies in the area.
- PATH, People Assisting The Homeless
- Soles4Souls, reusing your shoes that you don’t wear any more.
The first thing to do when organizing your garage, or any space for that matter, is to decide what you want to use the space for. This might depend on how large the space is. If you have room for 3 cars, but only have 2 cars, of course you will want to use that extra space for something.
The garage used to be the place to park your car, but more and more frequently, the car is being parked in the driveway and the garage has just essentially become another room of the house. They are turned into playrooms, entertainment rooms, exercise rooms, or just a place for storage. Some people use their garage for a hybrid of uses – parking their car, storage and a kids craft area for instance.
However you use your garage, you do want it to be functional and not just a catch-all area for stuff you can’t decide what to do with or will never actually use. All too often, it becomes a mess of old furniture, boxes of who know’s what, children’s toys, and extra supplies. The trouble with that is, if it is such a mess, or has so much stuff in it, the useful things get overshadowed and forgotten.
Parking your car
Storing seasonal decorations
Storing gardening supplies
Storing household repair items and tools
Items to avoid storing outside:
- Vinyl records
- Video cassette tapes
- Other electronic media
Anything that will be affected by damp or large temperature changes really should be stored in the house.
- Keep all the things you use for one activity together
- It’s much faster to get out the door when all your gear for an activity is together. Let’s take going camping. It used to take us a couple of hours to get everything together from various places around the house and garage. Now we can have our car packed with all our camping gear for a weekend in about 20 minutes. We all have “camping clothes” that we can quickly throw in a bag. We have a separate box that we keep all our camping cutlery, dishes and kitchen supplies in that stays in the garage ready to go. All our camping gear is in one section of shelving within the garage, so we literally just have to back up our car and load everything straight in.
- Use cabinets, shelving and overhead racks if you have the vertical space.
- If your garage has been a dumping ground for some time, you may need to approach the garage in stages. Perhaps tackle one wall first, perhaps one corner, or perhaps the gear for one activity that you do. Organize the items that you use most often first. That way, you’ll be able to spend more time doing your favorite activities, rather than organizing (which I know is one of OUR favorite activities, but probably not yours!)