Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time for Another Change

My world has shifted on its axis, yet again. While I have loved running my organizing business, and will continue to work with a limited number of long time clients; I find myself in the wonderfully amazing position of wanting to be a stay-at-home mom AND having the ability to do so. I have always felt that I needed to be many things at once. Now I feel that I need to do one thing at a time.

Here is why:

Eric and I will travel to China again in the spring to bring home another precious son! It was an unexpected opportunity to adopt again. While we did not expect it, we learned of him from the adoption community. A potential adoption by another family had fallen through. His personality, gender, age and special needs were a perfect fit for our family. He needed us at this time in his life and we chose to step up and become his parents. We recognized that although we thought we knew what was meant for our family of six, that the Spirit of Life had other plans. We are to be a family of seven. Adoption is not for the faint of heart, yet, if you are called to it you must prepare for a wild ride. We have been called again. Our son is slightly younger than our girls and will need lots of support and time as he adjusts and transitions. He is also clever and fun and full of smiles and laughter and love. He knows we are coming for him and he is so happy.

Eric & I are homeschooling Megan & Shanna this year. Most people react positively when we tell them this, and yet, they say "Oh, I couldn't do that". Well, I thought that too. I had no idea how to imagine having that much responsibility. At the same time, I thought maybe I could. We were worried about the holes that they had in their foundational skills and the pace they were expected to move at in public school. We recognized the stress is was putting on all of us. We questioned what we were gaining by sending them on to middle school to face that rushing and pressure. We decided to try a different tack.

Shanna holding a bearded dragon.
Megan sharing love with a snoozing milk snake.
And now that we are doing it--- I know it's the Right Thing.  I love being with them and understanding what they know and don't know, what they need and don't need. I have the resources, the patience and skills to do it and we are all better for the
 slower paced life it offers. The only thing is that I knew that I would have to take the time from somewhere and work was the only obvious place. I had to decide to let go of helping others outside my family- in my business. This was not an easy thing to do, but yet, a necessary one. By the time our son comes home, I hope to have created an easy rhythm of life that he can settle into. This will be my major focus for the next few months. Pull in further to my core, follow my instincts and my heart, eliminate distractions and keep only that which brings me joy and happiness.

I love to write and I love to share with others. I will continue to do so by posting on this blog about issues related to family, children, homeschooling and adoption, as well as organizing challenges, tips and ideas about living more simply and following my heart. Although I cannot take on new clients personally, maybe someone will be helped my my experiences and ideas.

Feel free to sign up for my mailing list so updates can come to your inbox, come often and comment.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Beginning

The new year offers a new beginning and isn't it wonderful that it happens every 365 days? We get a chance to put the past behind us, archive it -- if you will, and start again with a clean slate and a new attitude.

I am grateful for the opportunity. The past few months have been extremely busy and challenging for me. I took an intentional break from writing and working with clients in order to concentrate full time on helping my father and his partner downsize their individual homes into a beautiful shared apartment in an independent senior living community. This transition has not been easy or quick. We have sifted through two lifetimes of belongings, every one connected to a moment, a passion, a joy, a disappointment, a sorrow or a purpose. We have laughed, we have cried, we have hollered, hugged and apologized. It has been physically and emotionally exhausting.

It has required my soon-to-be 86 year old dad to let go of things he has done everyday for the last 50+ years. It's really hard for him and it's hard to watch. He is trying to find new purpose and as he says "figure out how to reinvent himself". He is understandably apprehensive and afraid. Yet, and I admire this deeply, he is also eager for the change to happen and is embracing it the best he can.

He is like a hermit crab who must leave his shell (but in this case, it's the shell that has grown too big!) and he needs to find another. So he is scurrying around vulnerable and unprotected as I help him sort, purge, plan and organize.

His partner, whom I have known for 15+ years and love dearly, has undergone an amazing transformation throughout this process. She started out feeling very overwhelmed and not really sure what she wanted or needed to keep or even how to begin. Now, she has developed a real confidence in her tastes, can quickly identify and express her choices and see logical categories for sorting and simplifying. Seeing her life become organized and streamlined has liberated her and she radiates happiness and excitement.

The end of this phase is finally in sight as their apartment nears completion. Soon a moving date will be confirmed and my dad will get to try out his new shell and see how it fits. Undoubtedly, it will feel strange and unfamiliar at first. It will take a while to stretch it in all the right ways, but I am sure it will feel so much better. He is worried that he won't ever find all of his stuff. I assured him that he will have lots of labels to guide him, as well a personalized tour! :) Stay tuned for updates as things progress!

Thank you to all of my clients who have patiently waited for me.
I promise to call as soon as I can.
I wish all of my family, friends and clients
a very, very Happy New Year.
May your New Beginning bring opportunities
to simplify and enjoy your lives.


Linda ~

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Toolbox is Handy to Have Around!

In order to be organized, things need to be where you use them. Sometimes this means installing a hook or a shelf where there isn’t currently one. Plus, I always have little jobs around the house that I want done; hanging a picture, loosening a sticky door knob, tightening drawer pulls, etc. I used to avoid these tasks (or have to wait for help) because I never had the required tools handy and I did not feel like running to the downstairs workshop to hunt for what I needed from my husband’s tool bench. I found this frustrating.

I finally realized that what I needed was my own set of tools, (labeled as mine, of course) kept upstairs, so I could use them whenever I needed and always count on them being there. So, I purchased a small, inexpensive toolbox like this, to tote my tools. Make sure whatever one you buy closes and latches tightly and easily. I like the kind with the storage compartments built into the top, so that I can keep nails and screws.

Here's what's in my toolbox:
  • 4 in 1 screwdriver (with small & large, Phillips & regular heads)
  • Small hammer
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Metal measuring tape
  • Safety glasses
  • Small level (to use when hanging pictures)
  • Knife (retractable)
  • A basic cordless drill (with charger)—this one also comes in red, but the pink is so pretty)
  • A small assortment of drill bits (for hanging hooks which require anchors—in drywall)
  • WD40-pen size; for loosening stuck/tight metal things, and removing sticker adhesive
  • Plastic zip ties (short and long) great for tying things together that you want to stay put, such as replacing a broken luggage strap or tying up a plant to a stake.
  • An assortment of short and medium nails, screws and anchors (small and medium)
  • Plastic zipper baggies (snack and sandwich size)
  • Scissors
  • Black Sharpie marker
  • Pencil
  • Velcro One-Wrap® Straps; very useful for wrapping cords which are too long. These are easy to undo and redo, making them ideal for cords of appliances that are used often (these are 8". They come in 12", too.)
  • Command Hooks; Stick on, removable hooks for hanging all kinds of things. The previous link is for use with .5 lbs or under, but this link leads to the whole page with a range of options.
When you want to hang something on drywall, don't let it scare you. Plastic screw anchors are easy to install. I have even taught my 10 year old girls to do it! It is simplest to purchase the anchors like the ones linked above, which come in combination with the properly sized screws. Note the size of drill bit needed, it should be just a little smaller than the diameter of the anchor so it grabs when pushed in.

Mark the place where the hole is to be drilled with a pencil, tape a plastic baggie underneath and drill the hole. If you need to drill a second hole, make sure to use the level before you mark/drill the second hole to make sure the shelf or hook will be straight when you are through. Push the anchor in (use gentle hammering if needed), then screw the hook into the wall. That’s it! You’re done!

For help with any organizing project simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.
Comments Welcome! If the comment box is not visible,
click on the "No Comments" link
~ Counter-intuitive, I know, but it's a Blogger quirk

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Simple Solutions Series: Six Steps to Getting Organized

One of my first goals after starting my business (in 2007) was to publish an article about organizing. As it is with any task, getting started for me was the hardest part. My self talk sounded a little like this: “I really should write that article—but noooo, not now, I only have five minutes.” “I really should write that article—but noooo, not today, I have too much to do.” “I really should write that article—but noooo, I don’t know where to begin.”

It was not that I did not have any ideas. In fact, I had too many ideas. That is exactly what made it difficult to begin; my mind was overstuffed with ideas! That is what made me realize I could write my first article about simply getting started. Organizing is basically about making choices. It is about choosing among too many or too much of something……..…….anything. When we have too much, our minds get dull, overwhelmed, stuck, and shut down. We avoid doing anything about it, which makes it worse the next time we think about it.

Many of us know, that if only we could get a handle on “X, Y or Z”, we would feel so much better, but for many of the reasons I stated above, we just cannot get started. Sometimes it may help to choose a friend or relative to sit with you while you organize, or turn on music you enjoy. Alone or together, choose a first organizing project you know you can begin and finish in one sitting, in a short amount of time, approximately three hours or less. Examples may be organizing a desk drawer, a small closet or pantry.

Got the project in mind? Okay, now schedule that three hour block on your calendar. Make sure you have support from your family or make it at a time when you know that you will not be interrupted. Now follow these simple steps:

  1. Begin by making four index cards and writing on them: “Keep Here”, “Keep Elsewhere”, “Donate/Give Away”, and “Chuck(Trash)”. Arrange these four cards in quadrants around you, far enough apart to have clear boundaries between them.
  2. Take each thing out of the space that you are going to organize (the drawer, shelf, closet, entryway, etc.) and place it into one of the four piles. This may be difficult and painful, depending on the types of items you are going through. If you really cannot decide which category it goes in, come back to it or put it in either the “Keep Here” or “Keep Elsewhere” pile.
  3. When you have finished sorting into piles, box up the “Donate/Give”, take the “Chuck” out to the trash or for recycling, put the “Keep Elsewhere” either away where it belongs or set it aside (in a container) to put away later.
  4. Next, look at the “Keep Here” pile. Begin to sort that into natural categories of items that go together.
  5. Decide if you need additional storage containers to house those natural categories. If so, make a list of “Supplies to Purchase”. You may also have discovered a few “Tasks” that need to be completed, such as hanging hooks or shelves. If so, make a list of “Tasks to Do”, as well.
  6. You can return the items to the area you are working on, as soon as you are satisfied with their category, container and useful placement. Try to think about storing things where you use them. For example, if you live in a condo or apartment, keep the keys to the basement near the front door. If you have “Tasks to Do” or “Supplies to Purchase”, make a date on your calendar to do them.
Congratulations! Just like me, now you have accomplished your task! You have organized your space and narrowed your choices. You have decided what to keep and what to part with. Just like me, you first had to make one overall decision; which project to focus on, then, many smaller decisions about what to include in your final space. It is difficult, but rewarding, and hopefully encouraging, as one good finished project will inspire more.

For help with any organizing project
simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.

Comments Welcome!
If the comment box is not visible, click on the "No Comments" link
~ Counter-intuitive, I know, but it's a Blogger quirk

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Things Will Often Look Worse Before They Get Better"

In the midst of the project

This is a quote from my welcome letter, once someone engages me as an organizer. I say it, because it's true. As we begin to sort through things and move them around, it can look as though things have exploded, similar to the big bang, when the universe began. This has to happen in order for things to come back together again, in a new, more functional order. Change requires change and it cannot happen without disruption.

My goal when working with clients is to help them to work through the transition of change with the minimal amount of stress, using a systematic approach and pacing. Even so, there is always a time during the project where things look worse, and then suddenly, once over the hump, begin to get better. It's important not to give up before that happens, or worse, not even begin the project because the idea of it is so overwhelming.

I have experienced this up close and personal this summer, as we embarked on the project of re-doing my 15 year old daughter's room. This was something she initiated and really took charge of and I was very happy to support her as she transitioned her room from childhood into sophisticated young adult. It involved lots of emotional sorting and purging and I watched her struggle with letting go of the concrete representations of her younger self to make room for her new, mature interests.

We purchased a new headboard and huge desk from Craig's list, which not only displaced her old furniture, but also commandeered the garage for several weeks as she began painting all her furniture to match. The contents of her room moved into every nook and cranny of the rest of the house. Everything came out of her dresser, nightstand, desk and closet to enable all the painting and the installation of her closet system, all of which, as you can imagine, created quite the chaos.

In addition, this summer has been a super busy one for our family. A visit from my mom for one month, hosting a young woman from Spain for another, overnight camp for the girls, summer school for the younger kids and me trying to work in between it all. Throw in several more projects, including installation of a fan in our downstairs bathroom, some much needed and long awaited major landscaping in our backyard, a new shed, rearing and tagging of 180 monarch caterpillars in our dining room and the rehabilitation and taming of our new rescue cat, Lucky, and you get the idea of how it was.

There have been several times this summer when I have felt very exhausted and cranky because of the crazy state of things, when there wasn't one room I could go into that did not have a mess of miscellaneous things that didn't belong there, epitomizing the proverbial "worse before better".

I coped by doing lots of deep breathing, some complaining (which always relieved me) and mostly by just giving in to the chaos. (Click here to read another post about Living with (Some) Chaos). Surprisingly, when I let go of my own expectations that things will be in control, I am able to push past it.

Finally, I am beginning to see the light at the end of many of the projects. It will still be a while before all the leftover debris is dealt with (extra furniture and items) from the transitions as I have to sort through a few more closets and the attic to make room for new things to store and purge out unneeded. For now, I am happy with the progress we have made and with my ability to cope during the chaos.

Here are the "better" photos at the tail end of my daughter's room re-do.

For help with any organizing project
simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.
Comments Welcome!
If the comment box is not visible, click on the "No Comments" link
~ Counter-intuitive, I know, but it's a Blogger quirk

Monday, August 4, 2014

Learning to Be Organized

Last week, I visited a client that I have been working closely with over several months, on  paperwork and project management. Before we got started on our normal trek to her basement office, she excitedly showed me her linen closet. Proudly, she said "Look what I did by myself!" She had applied the concepts of sorting, purging and organizing that I had been teaching her about her paper, making this beautiful space, complete with labeled shelves.

She had found that it was no longer difficult for her to see the excess that she accumulated in her closet and to make decisions about what she "really" needed and what was just visual/emotional distraction. I was super proud of her, as that is my goal for each client I work with; to become as self sufficient and independent as possible in managing their affairs. Everyone varies with this, in terms of each person's abilities and limitations of course, but I encourage everyone to reach their potential, whatever that may be.

I often get calls from Prospective Clients who want an idea of how much it will cost to "Get Organized".  First of all, this is a very difficult thing to estimate, as it depends, among other things on the scope of the project and the client's readiness for change. Sometimes, when they hear my organizing rates, they decide it is too expensive. I understand that. However, I encourage clients to see it for the investment it really is. When we purchase training  that broadens the mind and emphasizes development of a skill set which results in life changing results (such as a college education), it's not only a good decision; it truly is an essential investment.

Working with a Professional Organizer to learn the skill set to be organized and efficient is that same kind of high value, big payoff investment. When I work with a client, it's usually on a very intimate level, talking about vision, philosophy, previous relationships and experiences, unresolved issues, trauma, fears, hopes and dreams. While what I do is not psychotherapy, it is very therapeutic and occurs naturally as we handle different pieces of their life. Clients talk to me about the items and their relationship to them. What they eventually come to realize is that it is Hardly Ever About the Stuff. It is about the Emotions and Beliefs About the Stuff. Which, in turn, affects what we do with the stuff. This new found knowledge helps us to make better, more practical decisions that simplify our lives.

So my work involves talking about broad values, examining past ideas and habits, deciding intentionally how to believe and act from this point further, so that- based upon these new realizations- when the old system is dismantled and the new system is developed, it works because it is based on a well thought out, healthy, functional philosophy. As Stephen Covey says, when you get the the top you want your ladder to be leaning against the right wall.

So Kudos to my dear client! Who has worked so hard to make sure her ladder is leaning against the right wall, and who has achieved the highest goal in my mind; the ability to generalize her new skill set to a different project. I am proud and honored to be a part of your growth and success!

For help with any organizing project
simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.

Comments Welcome!
If the comment box is not visible, click on the "No Comments" link
~ Counter-intuitive, I know, but it's a Blogger quirk

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ask Linda: Any Ideas for Garage Organization?

Last week, a friend posed this Question: 
"Linda, I just emptied out my disaster of a garage, epoxied the floor and painted the walls. Any ideas for garage organization?"
The garage is a tough project, similar to the basement. It is thankless and dirty, but "Oh So Rewarding" when finished.

Nothing will make it easy, but if you follow these tips, it will likely ensure satisfaction at the end of it all.

Be ruthless: Keep only 2/3 or less of what you currently have. That means for every two items you keep, get rid of one! Toss/recycle anything that is beyond repair, or not worthy of donation. Think about how often you have used that item in the last five years. Be honest. If you are afraid to get rid of it, ask yourself if you could easily replace it, or if you would buy it today if you saw it on sale at the store. Most things we keep are from guilt, or because we "might" need it some day. Someone else may be able to use what you don't need. Consider my post on Freecyle and my WNY Resources Donation Page.

Choose the right storage to keep the stuff that's left: We use these storage units, in our basement and garage and they work really well. They come in two depths, 18" and 24". I recommend purchasing at least two if you have the room, as they look nicer when they are placed next to each other in a uniform way, and it makes it easier to store things if you have a little wiggle room on the shelves. They are sturdy and durable and no maintenance. I recommend them for utility storage as well as in a basement playroom.

Getting organized is a process, not an event: I say this all the time to myself, my clients, my family. There will not come a moment where a rainbow comes out and you are Finally Organized. Instead, there will be a transition period where you begin to see the order of things and visualize the possibilities and pleasures of living more simply. This will feel wonderful! Of course, it will slowly clutter up again, and as things change, you age, have other people living with you, change your interests, ideas and capacities, you will need to continue to organize and declutter. But once you do the big job, as my friend did when she painted and epoxied the floor, you create a new canvas where you can design a more functional, organized and beautiful space. You will feel So Much Better.

Recognize that you cannot force people to get rid of things: If you live alone, this won't apply. But many of us don't and we have other people's stuff sharing our space. This can be difficult. This year my son was willing to part with some very outgrown golf clubs, but I couldn't convince my husband to pass along the snowshoes that hadn't been used since (possibly) the Storm of 2001 (if even then). Be flexible if you are organizing others (as in the case of older parents-- see post Helping Older People Get Organized), don't push beyond the limit. You can use the Paper Towel Technique described by Judith Kohlberg (see post How Do I Get Started) to break things down into manageable pieces. Once people get used to the idea of parting with things, they often can let go of more because it falls into the same category as what they have already decided they can live without. This is when the most progress will be made.

Good luck to my friend, with your garage project and kudos to you for beginning and following through and thanks for asking the question!

For help with any organizing project
simply call Linda, 716-631-5619.

Comments Welcome!
If the comment box is not visible, click on the "(No) Comments" link
~ Counter-intuitive, I know, but it's a Blogger quirk