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!