Happy New Year! Our first blog of the year comes from Jennifer Hanzlick of Clutter Trucker. They are a junk removal and hoarding cleanup company in the Denver area.
Most people are familiar with clutter, messy rooms, excess junk in the garage and the occasional backed-up sink or broken refrigerator. Everyone has faced an unkempt home at one time or another, whether it’s the result of a big party or a temporary aversion to house-cleaning.
The point is, for 99 percent of the population, a messy home is a temporary, rare situation. For people who suffer from a psychological problem called “hoarding disorder,” it’s an everyday reality. Professionals have studied the condition in detail and categorize sufferers into five distinct groups, referred to as the “levels of hoarding.”
Here are the key points about each level, beginning with Level One, the least serious of all, and ending with Level Five, the most dangerous of all.
The Levels of Hoarding
- Level One: The sufferer doesn’t
like to throw things away and often buys items for which they have no apparent
need. The space only has light clutter but no blocked entryways or walkways.
It’s hard to notice hoarding at this early stage.
- Level Two: People at this stage
don’t allow visitors, are often embarrassed by the clutter, have a few blocked
walkways or exits in the home, and are unable or unwilling to clean the
- Level Three: Sufferers at this
stage often have emotional problems, eating disorders and live in an extremely
cluttered, unsanitary space. Fleas and other pests can be a problem, bathrooms
might be non-functional and there are strong odors everywhere.
- Level Four: Serious hygiene and
mental health problems are apparent in level four, along with mold, mildew,
sewage problems, excessive clutter, various pests, animal waste, blocked exits
and unusable rooms.
- Level Five: The home is not fit for habitation, sewers are backed up, bathrooms are unusable, all space is cluttered, walls are broken and there are numerous fire hazards within the residence.
How To Deal With the Problem
There are two steps to the process for handling a hoarding situation. The first is to get psychological help for the sufferer as quickly as possible. The second involves cleaning up the residence so that people can live in it without the danger of acquiring an infection or illness of any kind. Proper, comprehensive cleanup also opens the space up and allows for easy passage from room to room, unobstructed entry and exit, and a sanitary living area for all who reside in the home.
Checklist courtesy of Tri-Star Cabinet & Top Co., Inc.
U – Upkeep
While organizing is the crucial first step, upkeep is just as important. No one wants to spend time and money organizing a space just to have it go back to its original chaotic state! Systems (ahem, and following those systems) are the key to upkeep! When organizing any space make sure to:
- Keep ‘like’ things together in categories
- Find a space that will fit each category
- Pick your space based on how you function in the room
- Purge until the items fit into their designated space
- Label spaces if you think you (or someone else) might have a hard time remembering where things go
For upkeep of your organized space, make sure to:
- Assign homes to all new things that come into the space
- Continue to purge old things as new one’s come in
- Put things back into their designated space…every time
- Put things back on a regular schedule of upkeep (daily/weekly/monthly)
- Reorganize if the system you’ve chosen is too difficult to maintain
It’s not enough to simply make a space organized. The organizational system must be created with the people who will be in charge of upkeep, in mind. This is why I like to organize a home/office with its people, so I know how they function in their space and what they are and are not willing to do to maintain it. Organization is only half the battle. Upkeep is other half.
T – Time
Time is the one things everyone wishes they had more of! Time to spend with family and friends, time to do fun things, and time to actually get things done! So, since we can’t have more time, we need to figure out how to best use the time we have. For many people, time management just does not come naturally. Even those of us who help others with their time management find ourselves in time-suck activities and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day! For example, instead of writing this blog, I spent 20 minutes reading “The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets of the Year So Far”…and I don’t even have children (you got sucked into it to, didn’t you?).
Time flies or drags depending on what you’re doing. Two hours at the DMV can feel like 12 years. However, a long weekend away can be over in the blink of an eye.
The following techniques will help you become the master of your own time:
- Carry a schedule and record all your activities for a week. This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going.
- Any activity that’s important should have a time assigned to it. Schedule appointments with others and yourself and create time blocks for high-priority items.
- Schedule time for interruptions. Plan time to be pulled away from what you’re doing.
- Take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your day. Don’t start your day until you complete your time plan. The most important time of your day is the time you schedule to schedule time.
- Practice not answering the phone just because it’s ringing and e-mails just because they show up. Disconnect instant messaging and block out social media. Don’t instantly give people your attention unless it’s absolutely crucial to offer an immediate human response. Instead, schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.
- Outsource or get assistance with anything that you can. There are services that can help with everything from grocery delivery to virtual assisting to Professional Organizing!
Time, unlike money is something you can never get back or earn more of. Figure out your priorities and then budget your time according to those priorities.
Everything is made up of systems; from the Circulatory System in our bodies to the Solar System in space, to the necessary Septic System. Systems are crucial to life! They are also crucial to an organized life. Just like we couldn’t live without our Respiratory System, we can’t live in an organized way without systems for our belongings.
If we think in terms of organizing survival, we’ll realize the importance of using systems. Now, coming up with the ‘right’ systems is trickier. This is where most people draw a blank, and where Organizing Professionals come into play. Here are a few things to think about when trying to figure out what systems are right for you.
- How you function in your space – How do you use the space you have? A person who does a lot of baking and cooking would create kitchen systems that are much different than the person who prefers to eat out most of the time.
- What’s working – Think of any systems you have in place and why they work. If you put your keys in the same place every time you come home and therefore never have to look for them, that’s a working system.
- What’s not working – Isolate the main problem with the disorganized areas. Is it lack of time? Then a simple system is best. Are things hard to find? You may want to consider hidden/visible storage system options.
- Consider active vs passive space – the things you use regularly (toilet paper, pens, dishes, etc) should be in your active space and the things that are used infrequently (holiday decorations, ski clothes during summer, serving platters, etc.) can go into your passive space.
We all strive to put things away, but we don’t do it because, often, we don’t know where ‘away’ is. We blame it on being generally disorganized, not having time or not taking the time. Creating homes for everything and systems to get those things into their homes will eliminate the “where does it go” blues, as well as piling and clutter areas.
R – Real
Let’s be real here!
Do you feel like you have too much stuff?
Is it taking over your space?
Are you unsure how it got to this point?
Do you feel like you should be able to handle it on your own?
Are you stuck?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then, realistically, you need some help. There’s no shame in it! If you needed to lose some weight, would you feel bad about getting a personal trainer to help accomplish your goals? If you had a toothache, would you avoid going to the dentist in the hopes that it will just fix itself? Would you torture yourself by doing your own taxes? We hire people to help us do the things we have trouble doing ourselves or that we just don’t want to do. They help us with the needs we have and we help them put their talents and knowledge to work and pay their bills – It’s a symbiotic relationship!
Our brains are all wired a little differently. I have a very smart client. She and her husband are both doctors. They have 3 kids and not much free time. Every time I work with her, she tells me I’m brilliant for figuring out a solution to a particular organizing issue she’s having. She often wonders why she can’t come up with these solutions. I tell her that we each have our strengths. I certainly couldn’t perform surgery!
I try to be a do-it-yourselfer every chance I get, because I like figuring out how to do things. However, my brain seems to shut down at the thought of numbers. I used to make myself do my own taxes, but it made me miserable and I wasn’t getting all the deductions I could get because I just didn’t know what I was doing. Now, I happily take all my paperwork to a tax preparer and don’t have to give it a second thought! That gives me more time to spend doing the things I need and want to do. And I’m confident that the money I spend paying someone else do my taxes, is returned to me in the form of tax deductions and time to work with clients!
There are people out there with expertise and knowledge on just about everything! Organizing, taxes, finances, health, etc. So get real about what’s keeping you down and get a Professional to help turn it around! Oooo, that rhymed!
Q – Quick
In our speedy society, we aim to do as much as we can in as little time as possible; get a quick bite to eat, grab a quick shower, quickly run to the store. However, organizing your home doesn’t sound like a quick thing to do, but it could be…
Here are 5 quick organizing tips:
- 2 minute rule- If something takes 2 minutes or less, do it right away.
- Put a read newspaper in the recycling bin
- Put a dish in the dishwasher
- Hang up a shirt
- Quick purge – if you put on a piece of clothing and it doesn’t look good on you, put it into a bag for donation right away.
- Mail rule – When the mail comes, open it immediately and decide what you need to do with it next…Recycle, file, pay, reply, etc. Then put a sticky on it with that direction.
- Running Errands – Keep all return items in your car, so they’re with you when you happen to be driving by that store. If you have multiple errands, go in order of where they’re located so you’re not driving back and forth across town.
- Basket system – get everyone in the household a basket. When you’re cleaning things up around the house, toss each family members items in their basket and have them put their items away at the end of each day.
See, organizing can also be a quick process! There are many more tips such as these! If you liked my tips, please subscribe to my Tip of the Week newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Monday (no SPAM guarantee!). Just click the Organizing Tip of the Week link on the right side of the page.
This piece is contributed by Fix.com, a lifestyle blog devoted to helping readers make life easier. From home repairs to health, Fix provides a daily dose of improvement.
Preparing to Host a Better Party
Throwing a party can be stressful, and often the stress doesn’t fully set in until the party has begun and you are dealing with a handful of situations at once. Welcoming your guests is all about anticipating their needs, which comes with time and practice. But by doing some research in advance, you can circumvent some of those issues you may encounter and skip ahead to being a master party host! Note: this advice is coming from a person who once hosted friends for drinks without thinking to acquire a corkscrew ahead of time.
Being a gracious party host starts with making room for your guests. Often you won’t realize until after an influx of party-goers arrives that you haven’t designated closet space for coats, or an area for people to put their purses. It’s only when your artfully-arranged appetizer table is littered with clutches, and your entry way is a disaster zone of shoes and coats that you realize something is amiss.
Start by clearing your own shoes and jackets out of the area where people will naturally deposit theirs (that’s where they will end up unless you direct guests otherwise). If you’re short on closet space, try doubling up your hanger space by attaching a hanger to each current one with a soda can tab. Pro tip: use this system to move your own bounty of coats out of the way, as guests may not be quick to pick up on your clever new system!
The other key area to make room for guests is your fridge. If your fridge light is out and you can’t reach it because there’s too much food in there – that’s the first sign you need to make some room. Take it as an opportunity to throw out old food, condiments, and flat soda. Cleaning the surfaces of the fridge is a good idea, as it will be a high-trafficked spot. The same goes for the freezer: make sure there is at least some room for beverages that need cooling quickly (like wine!) and always have ice on hand. If the party is scheduled to begin in 15 minutes and you realize you forgot to arrange ice (while clinking some in a glass for your pre-party drink), you have two options: begin transferring the ice you do have to a Tupperware container and start freezing new ice, or text an ally and ask them to stop for some on the way.
For party hosts who don’t keep the cleanest of homes, a horrifying phenomenon can occur: all of the signs of a lived-in home that seem totally reasonable to you on an everyday basis suddenly become glaring displays that you’re sure your guests are staring at. Every stray fingerprint on glass or strand of hair that escaped the vacuum is visibly shaming you.
In order to host a gathering that won’t result in silent judgment from your acquaintances, you must present a clean living space. Now this doesn’t mean you need to meticulously keep house the week of the party like a 1950s housewife, since you’re not a regular party host – you’re a cool party host! The key is to make your home appear clean to guests. Any spot in your home that you don’t use on a regular basis needs attention. If you normally eat meals in the living room (no judgement, I do too), the floor around your kitchen table is sure to be a haven for seaweed-like piles of hair and dust that will become immediately apparent to guests when they pull a chair out. It’s the spots you suspect the least that will betray you in the end.
The Week of the Party
Make it easy on yourself early in the week by eliminating clutter from your living room, kitchen, and hallway. At least then the inevitable cleaning flurry will be started with a fairly blank slate. If this means shoving piles of mail into a drawer – so be it. For me, hosting a party is pretty much part of my regular cleaning schedule! You can even take it as far as doing a full purge of extra clothing, coats, books – any items that are contributing to a cluttered look and collecting dust.
Speaking of dust, tackling it early in the week will make your life easier. Used dryer sheets make an excellent impromptu dust rag, particularly for electronics such as your TV. Every time you do laundry, dust a little-seen area of your home such as baseboards, shelves, and the TV stand. You can make a game of it: see how much mileage you get out of one dryer sheet and then try to beat that record!
The Final Countdown
When it comes to the day of the party, it’s time to tackle the kitchen and bathroom: the two non-negotiables. There’s no real way to fudge your way through cleaning a bathroom, so give yourself enough time to do it right. Once you’re finished, clear away all signs that you are a person that inhabits the space, except for maybe a toothbrush – think show-home vibes – and don’t forget to put out extra bathroom tissue in a visible spot!
For the kitchen, there are two approaches, and it depends on how much food you’re preparing in advance. If you’re putting out a fairly large spread, it may be best to get everything ready first and then do the dishes and clean the countertops. If you’re making a low-key appetizer or two, do a base clean earlier in the day, and save preparing the food for the last minute; your friends can help you chop things if they arrive early. Quickly stash the few kitchen implements you used in the dishwasher, an out-of-reach cupboard, or even the microwave if you’re really daring.
Right Before Guests Arrive
Make sure you have some sort of smell-disguising plan in place to cover up your food prep. Particularly if you just prepared a delicious, garlicky bruschetta mix! Having a scented candle (and lighter or matches) on hand is your best bet, or do a final lap of your home with an air freshener. If your home tends to run hot, lower your thermostat to account for it, or vice versa if it’s chilly, as the temperature may change drastically when several people arrive. Finally, make sure your music system, whatever it may be, is plugged in and ready to go – you don’t want to be soliciting your friends for their Spotify passwords as soon as they arrive! Sidenote to guests: don’t ask for your host’s WiFi password before you’ve even properly greeted them – serious faux pas. As a host, however, consider writing your WiFi network and password on a piece of paper and sticking it in an obvious place like the fridge door. “It’s on the fridge!” is a much easier answer than “A0Z32w3Mor56”!
Once your guests are trickling in, the party is on whether you’re ready or not. Get ready to relax, pour drinks, and have fun. After all, it’s a party – people know what to do!
O – Overwhelmed
This months blog post comes from Garage Storage Solutions. Garage Storage Solutions, LLC is a garage storage and organization company serving the Denver area’s homeowners with solutions and tips for an organized garage.
One of the most common barriers to a project is the feeling of being overwhelmed. When we are overwhelmed, we get anxious and start dreading the task at hand. That’s when we quit. It’s hard to get past this feeling once it starts, and it’s even harder to restart a project we put down once we got overwhelmed. Here are some ideas to avoid feeling overwhelmed when you take on a big organizing and de-cluttering project.
First, remember to take it slowly. When you walk into a room filled with “stuff,” you may have the tendency to think, “I’ll never get this done! This is impossible!” The truth is, these thoughts usually lead to you walking away from the room and never even starting. Instead, tell yourself that you CAN do it, and you can do it one box or shelf at a time! It’s important to not overwhelm yourself by trying to take on a bigger task than what you have time or energy for. Set a timer for a small chunk of time; 1 to 2 hours is best, or whatever works best for you. If you feel good enough to continue after that, then do it, but if not, pick another day/time to continue.
To help you ‘go slow’ and avoid overwhelming yourself, it also helps to set time aside on your calendar. Decide how much you can realistically set aside each day without over-stressing yourself and then prioritize what needs to be done first, second, and so on. When you have a schedule that you can look at and even mark off as you go, you can see your progress, and that will encourage you to continue. Having this visual schedule will keep you on a progressive journey to completion.
Another great tool is to enlist the help of others. Having a family friend or a Professional Organizer work with you, or just having somebody to report to and be accountable to has been a proven method to help in a lot of different situations, from children doing their homework to trying to lose weight! Having someone working with you will help keep you on track if the task does get hard and you start to feel like giving up.
Finally, remember that sometimes we just have ‘off’ days. Some days we just need a break, or are too busy to get around to the project.. If you get behind, or if you just need a break, don’t beat yourself up about it! Don’t feel that just because you missed out on a single task the rest of the day or week is ruined. Just move that task to a different day and try again.
De-cluttering and organizing can be a big, sometimes scary, process! Avoid getting overwhelmed and bringing the whole project to a halt, with the above tips. You will be glad to have a plan and will feel a lot better about getting the chaos under control again.
N – NO
The organizing word for ‘N’ is “NO”. I bet you’re wondering how this relates to organizing…well, learning how to say “NO” is a huge part of becoming and staying organized, not just in your space, but also in your life! Here’s how it works:
- When going through your things and deciding what to keep, say “NO” to keeping things out of guilt…like that ugly vase your BFF gave you for graduation or the life-size portrait of Bugs Bunny your aunt Rose painted for your room when you were 3. If you don’t like it, want it, or have a place for it, say “NO” to keeping it!
- Say “NO” to keeping ‘someday’ items. If you have an outfit you intend to wear for that ‘perfect’ occasion, but you haven’t worn it because you have no idea what the ‘perfect’ occasion is…it’s a “NO”! Stockpiling things for a possible zombie apocalypse is a definite “NO”!
- Say “NO” to impulse buys! If you see it and are drawn to it, before you put into your cart, ask yourself…”Do I need it?” “When/how will I use it?” If you can’t come up with immediate answers to those questions, say “NO” to buying it.
- When someone asks you to do something and you feel overwhelmed by the request because you already have too much to do, say “NO” (respectfully). The same goes for kids…they don’t need to have an activity every second of the day. According to an article in Health and Fitness Magazine, ““America is an achievement-oriented culture,” said Dr. Gina Manguno-Mire, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Tulane University Health Sciences Center. “Success is defined by accomplishment, and that mindset starts at a very early age. Today, we see both kids and adults who are so structured that they just don’t seem to know what to do with free time, so they fill it with activities.””
- If your stuff has outgrown your home, the answer is not to get a bigger home or more storage! This means that saying “NO” to more space puts you on the path to saying “NO” to more clutter and saying “YES” to reducing what you already have.
If you have the word “NO” in the back of your mind every time you even think of bringing more things in to occupy your space or more activities to occupy your time, you will stop to consider the consequences of doing it, which will put you on the road to organization. If you declutter with the word “NO” in mind, you will be able to part with more things, making organizing a much easier task.
No guilt keeping!
No ‘someday’ keeping!
No impulse buys!