Archives for January 2013

The Family Tree And Organizing History

Organizing family photographs is going to take some time but organizing the family tree is a different story. I was the one in the family to inherit all of the important paper work from grandparents. From old SSN cards, Army separation papers, Marriage licenses and death certificates.

While going through the garage I found a big folder with piles of unorganized papers that my mom put in there when her mother died. I’m not sure how this packet went unseen by me for this many years, but it did.

It’s not often that I am left alone in the house for a day but that was the case yesterday. It was nice! I could clean and organize and watch whatever I wanted. TV’s were turned on in every room, all tuned to different stations and it was loud.

There were tax folders to be organized all over the kitchen table, photographs were spread all over the living room table along with those old papers and documents and sheets were crowding the hallways as they were being washed and carried back and forth from the laundry room.

You could smell the buttered popcorn through out the house because that was lunch and dinner along with the artichoke hearts from Costco and my box of Jujy Fruits and Good and Plenty. I was set for the day.

As I took a break from cleaning, organizing photos and washing sheets I sat down on the couch to look through the pile of papers that had been ignored for several years. On more than one occasion I have asked my mom about her grandparents and their families and what were some of the last names. She didn’t know.

This is when you wish you could ask your grandparents, but it’s too late. I ended up researching most of the day the names on the birth and death certificates.  If your last name is;


then we are related on my mothers side.

On my fathers side, we are related if you are Basque from Northern Spain. There will be several updates to this post. This is going to take several months to get in order and then I will have to decide what to do with all of these documents.

What can you do today to be organized in this area? For starters, you can ask those that are living the details of their family history. If you don’t have anyone to ask then you can share with your kids and grand-kids the information you know.

One day it will be too late.













Love Letters From WWII

This past week I was on a little mini vacation with my mom and sister. We were in Idaho and went to dinner with a women who had recently lost her husband.

We started to talk about organizing and the process you go through when a loved one dies. Sorting through years of stuff has it’s ups and downs, so far her biggest chore is going through paper work.

That is when she told us about her dad who had served in WWII. Her mom and dad had both passed away and she was saying the one thing that they kept were the love letters he sent her while he was in Europe.

She remembers how her dad occasionally would talk about the war. Looking back she is sorry she didn’t ask more questions. She is concerned that if they don’t do anything with the letters, that her children will miss out on knowing family history.

Scanning and making a book is eventually what they would like to do. This organizes all of the letters in such a way that it will be easier for more of the family to share.

That story reminded me that I too had a box of my grandmothers cards and papers that I hadn’t really gone through in many years. Going through old cards and papers that belonged to my grandmother is on my list. In the past I’ve done Creative Memories and am quite proud of my scrap books but more and more of my friends and family are using Shutterfly to make books. Either way, it is nice to preserve family history in such a way that other generations will enjoy plus they don’t take up a lot of space.

Probably one of the best things you can do is sign up for a site like, and post your story there. This way, others in your family can connect with it down the road, even after you’re gone.

Zumba, Napolian Dynamite and Fighting the Blues

If you are feeling blue about your clutter situation then maybe you need to take a step back. Too much clutter can cause us to feel anxious and for some, this can be debilitating. So before starting your decluttering project it might be wise to move out of your comfort zone and do something different and fun.

Move Those Hips

My sister and mom both do Zumba. Working is my excuse not to do it in the morning, and going at night just doesn’t work for me. However when my mom, sister and I were on our little trip, they talked me into attending a Zumba class at 10:30am in Post Falls, Idaho. This was different and definitely fun.

The day before Zumba we spent an afternoon in one of the largest 2nd hand stores that I had ever seen. There were several other thrift shops along the same road. The Hospice thrift store had the best prices (maybe I shouldn’t be telling you which thrift store to get the best deals because you do have a problem with clutter). As we made our way through the store we ended up in a section that had tons of tea cups that looked old.We started to make up stories about who the owners might have been and how they could all be connected.

You Can Find Just About Anything There

These 2nd hand stores and non-profit thrift stores have such a variety of stuff. From the very old to the very new. Anything and everything was there. After spending a couple hours in the thrift store we only bought one thing. A DVD of Napolian Dynamite. My sister had never seen it, so after a trip to the market for ice cream and popcorn we sat and watched our movie.

Getting away from the clutter might do you good. Zumba was fun but you know when you’re in trouble when you can keep up with your mom who is two decades older than you are.
After seeing all of the stuff other people gave away I felt more motivated than ever.
There certainly is enough research out there when it comes to exercising and fighting the blues, but another way to fight the blues is to declutter. The research on hoarding, disorganization and depression is there. If not, you may try some sweet dance moves.



Are You Looking For Help?

If you are looking for someone to help you declutter then read on….

The majority of feedback that I am getting is that YOU want to get organized and are willing to downsize and get rid of stuff  for some peace of mind. You realize how much anxiety is caused by having stuff you don’t use or enjoy. BUT the person or persons you live with (husband, kids, partners, grandma) are keeping you down. They are the pack rats and the hoarders. NOT YOU.

5 Simple Steps

Be an example and start with your stuff.  You have plenty to keep you busy for the next year just going through your personal stuff.

Look for the things that you jointly own around the house that you could safely get rid.  An example would be decorations that change from time to time and they don’t notice. Start to downsize that stuff that the others in the house have no emotional attachment to.

Be honest. You already know what things are off limits. If that other person has a collection of anything then don’t touch it.  If you start trying to get rid of their stuff you might end up with World War III on your hands. It’s not worth it.

Be happy. You have a moral obligation to be happy around those you love and when they see how happy you are after you declutter they just might follow and eventually do the same.

It can be lonely to do things by yourself. There are others out there looking for support and encouragement. Statistically, if you are struggling to organize and declutter then thousands of others are going through the same thing at the same time. Find each other.

What To Do With Turtlenecks

Those of us living in California just don’t know how to dress properly in freezing cold weather.  Although, I can assure you that most of us are prepared for those unexpected temperatures of 40 degrees just in case. Well, it finally hit and it was cold. So I get out those wool sweaters and turtlenecks in the bottom drawer, because that is just how prepared I am,  and put one on and headed out for a business breakfast meeting to discuss the week ahead.

When entering the restaurant, I noticed they too were prepared and had the heater blasting out hot air. It wasn’t long after sitting there that I began to feel a little toasty. Nice and toasty turned warm and soon warm turned to hot.


I wasn’t smart enough to have dressed in layers. I started with pushing up the sleeves, and that gave some relief. Getting a chance to wear something I had stored forever made me feel good. The sweaters I have are older, but I did pay good money for them and felt obligated to wear at least once a year. I tried to ignore those little wool balls and occasionally picked off when no one was looking. People looking at me probably thought I was having one of those menopausal hot flashes when I fanned myself.

The more you declutter the easier it gets.

This was going to be easy. When I got home I put together a bag for the goodwill of sweaters. It isn’t worth keeping if I only wear once a year and run the risk of stripping down in a restaurant and going to jail for indecent exposure.

Declutter your wool sweaters and turtlenecks today. You don’t need that many! Especially if you live in Southern California.



Practice Makes Perfect

The more you give away the easier it gets.

Do you live in fear over what may happen when you get rid of stuff? For some, fear is the very thing that stops a person from making that final decision in decluttering. For others the reason for not starting is they assume they won’t be good at it.

No matter what the reason, be it guilt for buying in the first place, or maybe not having the time to sort through the piles of stuff, or maybe you think all of the stuff you are not using is still valuable, I can tell you this… practice makes perfect.

My mom and her friends have discovered a game on the iphone. It is a type of pictionary game. You are given a choice of 4 words, you pick a word and then draw, the person on the other end has to guess and back and forth it goes. She had one friend that was bad at drawing and no one could guess her pictures but the more she drew the better she got.

Recently my mom locked her keys in her car and needed me to go to her house to get the extra set. I told her I would get there as soon as possible but I knew she would be waiting an extra hour. Thinking she would be anxious for me to get there I rushed to park and walked fast up to the bench where she was sitting. Her head was down and she was staring at her phone not even aware that I had arrived. She was deeply involved in her new addiction and wasn’t bothered at all that it had taken more time than I originally told her it would. She then proudly shows me how good she is now with her drawings.

There is an emotional reward when you are good at something.

The way to get good at something is practice, practice, practice.

Start, even if you are not good or perfect at making these decisions. You will get better! The benefit of being organized is worth it and to get organized you must get rid of things not being used.

What the organizing expert has over you is they have more practice. Not just with their own stuff but by helping others.

Relief from clutter is just around the corner. Start small if you have to, but start.

You will get better and it will get easier.



Who Is Cheering For You?

Recently I had a conversation with Sally from Mississippi about her husband’s stuff. Long story short, she has had it with the hoarding. As discussed in previous posts, hoarding is relative and there are different degrees of hoarding.

You know you are in trouble when the City gives you an ultimatum, clean up or move out, but not even Sally and her husband Earl, were in that category. Both of them have been very frugal over the years. They have 4 kids and no debt. Not a bad place to be.

Earl is one of the few that has figured out how to make money on the side by selling things on craigslist and ebay. In order to do that, he has packed their garage with stuff and more stuff. Not to mention the 50 t-shirts in the closet that he will never use. (see t-shirt post)

Those of you who sell second hand items and spend time at garage sales or even the thrift stores always see the potential in stuff. It may just need a good wash or a little sewing to make it more valuable so you buy it and then take it home.

Sally was recently in the garage with her husband and they were attempting to do a little organizing when she picked up a big trash bag that had something squishy in it. She asked Earl, what was in the bag and he didn’t want to say. So she opened the bag and was disgusted. It was a gigantic stuffed big bird that should have been in a trash dump. However, Earl saw potential.

Living with someone who has the need to collect stuff, when you don’t, isn’t easy. When we married, we married for better or for worse and I tell spouses, this is the worse part. Since this is actually a little business for Earl, one suggestion would be to make the garage, his space, and don’t attempt to clean it or organize it unless he asks you to.

We all could use a big cheer now and then and it is hard to fault those of you out there who are trying to make some extra money and in order to do that you need stuff that takes up extra space.

My message to the collector or hoarder out there.  Be considerate of those that live with you that struggle to deal with the amount of stuff. People like me that have to step over it, clean it, insure it, weed through it to find the missing keys, trip on it or bonk our heads on it, kind of resent it. Nothing worse than feeling like the whole world is disappointed in you.

My message to the organizer out there.  Just for today give that family member that hoards a big cheer, not for hoarding but for being someone you love.


Organizing And Saving Your Sanity

Your sanity can be helped by organizing. But remember, in order to organize and be successful you must get rid of things you don’t use. That means, throw the trash away and declutter.

Get rid of things you don’t use.

Do you get frustrated when trying to find something that you know is there but first you have to weed through lots of stuff you don’t need, want or use? Help save your sanity by getting rid of it. In other posts we discussed ways of doing just that. Charity, garage sale, yard sale, giving to other family members that will use it or wear it, or even the trash.

Your stuff takes up a lot of mental energy. Think about it. From the beginning to the end  it takes thought and energy. You first had to make the purchase or receive it as a gift. Now you find a spot or an area to house it, maybe the closet or a drawer or in the corner of a room. You enjoy for a while or wear for a season and then you don’t pay much attention to it. Every time you enter a room looking for something you see it and make a mental note. It gets older, maybe it doesn’t fit or maybe that decoration is now out of style but you can’t part with it quite yet.

You continue to see around the house and other feelings begin to surface like guilt for buying it in the first place. Guilt is not good for sanity.

If it was a gift you feel guilty at the thought of giving it away. Or even worse you begin to feel fear that the gift giver will find out if you give it away. Fear is not good for sanity.

There may be a possible resentment of something that is in your house. It may not belong to you, but someone else living in your house. Resentment is not good for sanity.

Tripping over stuff that you really don’t want or use is enough to make anyone angry. Anger is not good for sanity.

If your stuff is beginning to make you crazy then try simplifying your life.

Clutter is not good for the soul.

The more you declutter the better you will feel. It saves time, space and money. Having too much stuff you don’t need, want or use can make you feel like you are in bondage. Bondage is not good for sanity.

There is an answer.

Remember, we are taking a year for many reasons but don’t wait a year to start. Start small if you have to but start.

Start small if you have too but just start.

Start with a small bag for donation or a small bag to give to someone who could use it.

Here is an idea for today. Most areas have a food bank or a shelter who could use things from you pantry or your closet that you won’t ever use. Gather a bag and donate. This is a good thing to do.

Charity is good for the soul!

Artificial Ficus Tree, Dust, And Allergies

Nancy and I have worked together for many years and like me, she loves to declutter. When I see an area at work that has recently been cleaned and organized, it would be safe to assume that Nancy did it.

She is one of the reasons I love going to work on Monday morning. Her stories are informative and fun. Over this last week she decluttered her living room after listening to the Nate show. Apparently silk plants and flowers are out when it comes to decorating the home. She took a second look at the fake ficus tree in the corner of her living room as well as the fake ivy along a ledge and made the decision.

They had to go. What shocked her, was the amount of dust. Sometimes we can look at something in our homes and not notice the dust. Other times when our attention, for what ever reason, is drawn to the item, that is all we can see.

If you decide to keep your fake ficus tree then maybe it is time to clean it. There are too many leaves to individually wipe. One option is to take outside and blow with an industrial blower or one of the air spray cans or even use the hose.

Controlling the dust in a house is a big issue if you have allergies.  The less trinkets, doodads and thingamabobs around the house make dusting easier and you’ll be more efficient. Just one more reason to declutter.






“How To Declutter After The Holidays” Article

One of the Yahoo Headline Articles in the Lifestyles section this morning was, How to declutter the house after the holidays. There were four steps recommended by the organizing gurus.

Don’t procrastinate

Let go of stuff

Use gift cards

Clean out closets

Again, what the professional organizers out there know is, if you only keep what you use and what helps you enjoy life then organizing is very easy. Organizing becomes a nightmare if you are keeping things you don’t use or like but you keep them anyway.

The article asks you;

1) What’s the worst that could happen if I didn’t have this item? and 2) Does this item help me enjoy my life?

Those are the two questions to ask yourself today.

If you are putting away your Christmas and holiday decorations and there are things you didn’t use this season then just think about those two questions.

Start now and don’t procrastinate.



After posting on my blog this morning I went to the utility closet where I keep the dog food and noticed a big roll of Christmas wrapping paper that I have had for at least 5 years. Every year I tell myself, I will not only vow to use next Christmas but even through out the year to make a point of using. It has not happened. I’m pretty sure I bought one year on an after Christmas sale. It is pretty paper but if I haven’t used in 5 years what are the chances I will use next year.

Even for us pros (yes, I am not only a self appointed pro but I actually have been paid to go into homes and businesses) we have to ask ourselves, what is the worst that will happen if I get rid of the $2.00 (it was on sale) roll of wrapping paper. Answer, NOTHING, so in the pile for the goodwill it goes!