Friday, July 29, 2011

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

Talk about a busy week... I've been working long night shifts this week taking care of a preemie baby in the NICU (alongside her nurses).  During the day I've been finishing up a merchandising job at Sam's Club, doing laundry, and trying to sleep. Add in Steve's birthday, and there's an opportunity for my brain to explode!

Taking all the boys to Shakey's for the all-you-can-eat buffet was inspired. Bringing them back to my house for swimming and video games was a no-brainer.  Snacks/beverages/candy was purchased in one quick trip to Smart and Final.  But... the cake.  There's got to be a cake, right?

Well, not necessarily.  A case of Kit Kat worked just fine. The boys LOVED it.  I went the extra mile and arranged them beautifully on cake tiers.  You can see by the expression on  Steve's face that he was okay with it, too.  Happy Birthday!  Now, let me nap.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have been invited to participate in something completely new to me -- a Quartermania.  I've been to one, so now I'm an old pro, but the concept is very new to me.  Basically 10 vendors get together (the home party gals, mostly), wrap up lovely lavish prizes consisting of their products, then raffle them off for anywhere from one to four quarters each.

The main money comes from the customers who pay a flat fee to get in.  Then they start bidding their quarters for the prizes.  Since I declutter, my "prizes" are basically certificates for an hour or two of my time.  I've been thinking of ways to make it more fun: one prize could be for cleaning out the medicine cabinet (1 hour) + a basket consisting of fuzzy slippers, tea, and magazines for the winner. She'll be able to kick back and put her feet up while I do the work!

Other prizes I've thought of are an hour of pantry cleaning + a lazy Susan and shelf extenders, an hour of closet purging + a sweater bag for under the bed, and another closet hour + a pack of nice wooden hangers.

The other gals have tee-shirts and aprons that advertise their companies.  I don't, so I went out and found a very cool/hip full apron in a tan and aqua leaf pattern.  I'm going to wear my distance glasses so I can see the nice people in the audience and I'll probably look like everyone's mom, LOL!

I'm excited!  If you're reading this, and you're local in Southern CA, find me on Facebook and request the flyer. Tickets ahead of time are $12 and they're $15 at the door.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Making Moolah From Decluttering

One of the biggest excuses reasons I hear from folks about why they live amidst clutter is that they are waiting for the right time to have a huge garage sale where they can sell all their treasures.

If you're living in clutter...
  • You're not boxing/sorting the mess in order to sell it
  • You have ceased to see the clutter around you and perceive it as "normal"
  • You are creating excuses for your clutter (like waiting for a garage sale) and not acting
The last reason is the most common. I hear time and again from people who say, "Well, this stuff isn't mine; it belongs to my son" (who moved out 22 years ago).  You can't throw out someone else's stuff, but you CAN make them take it with them when they leave (or give them a time limit to come and pick it up).  Stick to your guns and get it gone!

You MUST stop making excuses.  You are too valuable to live in a mess!  It's better to clean it all out and donate everything than to wait for some day in the distant future when everything will suddenly be "better".  I have news for you -- it won't be.  The time is NOW!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Oh boy... As I've mentioned, I've been helping a client get organized and giving her advice on storing her belongings in an orderly manner.  Then we got to the garage... I gave her advice about shelving and placement, which she liked.  When I got home, there was a text from her: "Can you send me a picture of your garage?"

MY garage?  The one where we dump all our stuff?  It is most assuredly NOT ready for a photo opportunity!

Our 2-car garage is the one source of storage for my family of four.  Our attic is negligible and awkward, so we don't store anything there.  Our closets are small and hold our clothing, period.  The garage holds a treadmill, weight bench, refrigerator, stand-up freezer, all our tools, 20 bins of Christmas decor, bins of outgrown hobbies, hubby's framed artwork that he hopes to sell some day, our overflow pantry, beach and camping equipment, the grill, and five bikes.  I'm sure there's more, but those are the big items right there.

It should be fairly obvious that we don't store a car in our garage.  I have organized our shelving well, though, and there's actually room for a knife-throwing station and two large trash cans in addition to everything else.  However, I do live with humans... everything can be arranged as beautifully as I can make it, but I can't control the way people put tools and bikes away.  Individual shelves are pretty messy, and the boxes and bags of items for donation threaten to overtake the floor.

Yesterday and today I did some rearranging.  There are a couple of really big things that need to go to the dump, and I'm waiting for the bike rack to come in (we'll be able to hang two of them, which will be great), and then I can take a picture.  I'll post it here for all of you, too!  Heck, I'll be so proud of it that I'll probably use it as my icon photo on Facebook!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Paper Trail

Yesterday I met with my client to attack the volume of paper she had stored in her home. During this past two weeks she has done a good job of gathering the assorted piles, bags, and boxes of paper and putting them in the pantry, our staging area.  By doing so she was able to physically see the amount of excess "stuff" that had piled up and was affecting her peace of mind.

I didn't count specifically, but there were at least 15 different bags or boxes that were stuffed with paper. She and I went through and touched every piece.  A huge issue was the volume of unopened statements and bills.  She says she pays her bills over the phone, so there really is no need for a paper statement.  Also, paying by credit card can incur finance charges and possible service charges -- these can be negated by doing bill pay through your checking account.

For statements you need to keep, such as IRA or 401k plan info, as a new statement comes in, throw the old one out (actually, shred it).  Keep an expandable pouch file labeled in categories and drop in the new info as you clear out the old.  If you devote 15 minutes a week to this, you're set, or just keep the file by the trash can.

I taught my client the TRAF method, which I learned nearly 30 years ago: When paper comes in, your first response should be to TRASH it, then ROUTE it, ACT on it, and lastly FILE it.  70% of your mail will fall into the T zone. Another 3-5% will be an R (must set it aside to chat with the spouse, etc.).  You may need to Act on another 10-15% (invitations and bills), and then File the odd flyer or postcard advertising a vendor you'd like to try some time.  Hopefully that added up to 100%!  If it didn't, throw out a little more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Working with Clients...

The "do-it-yourself" decluttering schedule I created for my client has generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest among my friends who think it might be the way to go.  No one has the spare cash to pay me the big bucks to come in and overhaul their home storage all at once, but all agree that it needs to be done.  We've all been watching my client to see how it works out.

It's actually working about as I expected.  My client was enthusiastic about the schedule, read through it, and told herself it was quite workable.  Her first week showed great promise as she pulled things out of her house and grouped them in areas to give away -- she filled her pantry and dining room table with excess items.  However, very little of what she accomplished was actually on the schedule.  When I came in for my two-hour assistance, we spent the entire time working on an area that wasn't on the schedule until later because she felt anxious it and wanted to attack it first.

I am nothing if not flexible (actually, I'm not, but I can bend a little). We cleaned it all out, established two perfect clutter-free areas, I hauled away her excess items to donate, and we made plans for me to come back. That's where it all fell apart.  She lost track of the schedule during the week due to a fussy baby, scheduled a guest to visit during our work party, and did not do any of the "homework" I assigned.

I'm planning on visiting my client next week to get her on track.  Having me come in a bulldoze does solve the immediate problem of clutter, but it does not make the owner take control of her own behavior.  I can see I may have to take some psych classes in order to become more efficient as a clutter counselor.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Decluttering

I'm trying something new with a client of mine. She has two very small children, which limits the time she can spend focusing on one project. Having me come in to spend hours decluttering isn't possible, but she has some real needs that must be addressed before ending her maternity leave and heading back to a very challenging job.

I evaluated her home, listened to her, then created a month-long schedule with two tasks a day. We will meet weekly for a couple of hours to do some more intensive work together, but the bulk of the work will fall solely on my client.

I'm excited about this for two reasons: One, it keeps the budget at a friendly level. By doing most of the work herself, my client saves the hourly fee I charge. Two, (and most important), it helps my client take ownership of her home. By doing the work herself she will value her efforts and make sure she doesn't lapse back into bad habits. When I come in and sort through, it's very easy for a client to appreciate their new clutter-free home, then go ahead and trash it again. Yes, I have seen it happen.

This Friday is our first meeting, and I'm excited to see what my client has accomplished. When I called her Monday (the first day of this project), she excitedly told me she was on her second task already. It was just awesome to hear the excitement in her voice!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Decluttering the computer...

My husband surprised me with a brand-new computer! While it will be a huge upgrade from my current hand-cranked model, the thought of all the work involved in setting up a new work station made me put off the task.

My teen-aged boys didn't understand. "It's plug and play, Mom," they encouraged me. "Just plug it in and off you go!"

Not exactly. There was the matter of transferring all my pictures. That took almost an hour all by itself. I had to go through each person's files since my computer used to be the only one all four of us used (that should tell you how old it is!). I did delete a whole bunch of stuff that wasn't necessary. The new System 7 file transfer wanted to "help" by transferring every last thing on my hard drive, so I chose not to use that function. I may have added a little more time to my transfer, but I saved an enormous amount of time (and RAM) by not clogging my hard drive with all the junk from the old computer.

Outlook Express isn't supported on the new system and the Windows "Live Mail" couldn't understand my internet provider's info. I gave it some time, then called it a day and switched to gmail as my primary email. I was able to link it to Live Mail + I discovered Outlook for my calendar (since my Palm Pilot decided to give up the ghost at the same time as the old computer).

I'm planning to be more efficient next week. I'm getting there!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Starting Fresh!

I'm resurrecting my blog :o) For the past year and a half we've been in a crazy state with our family... hubby still mostly unemployed (thanks, economy), and me working outside the home for the first time. When my husband first got laid off, I figured we'd have a few months of pain, then pick up where we left off. A few months turned into a year, and by then the "fun" of getting by was wearing thin. I withdrew from blogging and other activities until I figured out just what, exactly, was going to be happening in our home.

I confess to initially resisting working outside the home. As a homeschooling mom, it seemed unlikely that I could do any kind of a good job anywhere when my loyalties were divided. I tried a six-week stint as a temp with a large medical firm (which I hated, but stuck out), and looked around for other opportunities. Selling the hairclips and doing boutiques and craft fairs turned out to be a problem for my lower back -- hauling the equipment and standing for hours at a time wreaked havoc on my spine.

It seemed logical to me to find something to do with children, since my own are my heart. I found a babysitting job with a friend's children in the early a.m., which I did all last year. This year I'm still working for them plus am also now a part-time kindergarten aide in a local school district. I love it! It's only 10 hours a week, but it's a foot in the door to the school district.

The jobs bring in some much-needed $$$ and I can be home in the afternoon for my own big boys, who still need me for homeschooling and mothering. Hubby has found two small part-time jobs that help out, too, plus he finally turned 62, enabling him to start collecting social security. That is HUGE for us. My jobs don't bring in enough cash to qualify as "full time", so I'm considered a dependent, which brings in a little more SS, as do our under-age boys. We can pay the mortgage, pay for groceries, keep up with bills... breathe more easily. There's still the hope that I can find a full-time job, but so far I've been unsuccessful.

Blogging about our issues while they were happening was impossible for me. I was unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel for a long time, then had to get in a whole new mind-set when I began working for the school. Now I think I've finally figured everything out!

Another aspect to my working life is that my decluttering business is starting to pick up. I've been a keynote speaker at a women's luncheon talking about organization, and have discovered some new clients along the way. That keeps me busy, too.

Future blogs will fall into various categories: decluttering/organization, gardening, food/recipes, and snippets of life. I'll try to group them in the appropriate folders so you can find things quickly. I'm still working on the amount of time I'd like to devote to the blog, but think that 2-3 times a week is about all you'd want to read of me :o)

I'm open to suggestions! Please comment and let me know what you'd like to read about. I'm going to be as open as I can about homeschooling, finances, and raising teens -- get ready for a wild ride!