CBS story on the power of stuff

24 April 2018

This past Sunday morning I was drinking coffee and I got a text from my friend, Rob. “Turn on Channel 4,” it said. I’m no dummy. I jumped up and turned on the TV and was glad I did. CBS This Morning was airing a story on clutter, called “Making a clean sweep: decluttering your life.”

I was thrilled to see my friend Ellen Delap of, who is the president of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) being interviewed and shown in action with a client, as well as two other professional organizers, Rachel Sager, of Restart with Rachel and Andrew Mellon, author of Unstuff Your Life! Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good.

Here’s the seven-minute story:

If you prefer to read the story, go to the CBS This Morning website here. You’ll also find links there to everyone mentioned in story, as well as stills from the piece.

Sometimes these stories are cringe-inducing for me because they can come across as judgmental of people with clutter problem or they can attempt to make professional organizers look bad. But that wasn’t the case here. I thought it was a terrific segment and I particularly liked the ending line. When Andrew Mellon is asked what words he uses to encourage someone to take action and start decluttering he says, “Set yourself free. It’s just stuff.” Truth.

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No Excuses series (part 3): "It was a gift"

19 April 2018

This is the third in a three-part series of posts debunking the three excuses I hear most frequently from clients for wanting to keep items they no longer use or love. The series originally ran in January and February 2017. Click here to see the other articles in the series.

The third common excuse I hear for keeping an unloved or unused item is that it was a gift. This is a tough one. People tend to have a difficult time parting with items that were given to them. (As an aside, this has completely changed how I give gifts, knowing that my gift may some day become clutter for the recipient.)

What do I say to clients who tell me they can’t let go of something because it was a gift? The first question I ask is:

  • Do you think the gift giver would really want you to keep something you don’t use, just because they gave it to you? If they knew you were investing time and money in paring down your belongings and getting organized, would they care if you let it go?

Usually that’s enough to help the client release it. If that doesn’t do the trick, I might ask:

  • Is there another family member you can pass this on to who would love it?

That can be very helpful, especially when the gift giver has passed away. (I’m the thrilled recipient of some paintings that my grandmother created, given to me by her nieces when they were decluttering.)

Really, what I find is that the client just needs permission to let gifts go. So let me do that for you right now: You are not obligated to keep an item you don’t use or love just because it was a gift. I give you permission to re-gift it or donate it. Don’t stash it in a closet. And try not to worry that the giver will ever ask about it. Chances are they won’t.

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No Excuses series (part 2): "I paid a lot for it"

16 April 2018

This is the second in a three-part series of posts debunking the three excuses I hear most frequently from clients for wanting to keep items they no longer use or love. Click here to see the other articles in the series, which originally ran in January and February 2017.

The second most common excuse I hear from clients who want to keep something they don’t use of love is that they paid a lot for that item. I get it. It feels terrible to let go of an expensive item that turned out to be a foolhardy purchase. But you know what? Keeping it doesn’t make you feel any better. In fact, when you see the item, it just makes you feel worse.

There are two important things to remember when you’re tempted to keep an item you don’t use or love just because you paid a lot for it:

  1. The money is spent. Keeping it won’t bring it back. Selling it will get you some of the money. And donating will get you a tax deduction. Keeping it doesn’t help.
  2. There’s a cost associated with keeping items that you don’t use or love, especially if clutter is an issue in your life. There’s an emotional cost (that reminder of your bad purchasing decision); there can be a physical cost if the item contributes to clutter that poses a tripping hazard or you’re unable to clean because there’s so much clutter; and there can be a financial cost if there’s so much clutter that you have to rent a storage unit.

For those expensive items you don’t use or love, I suggest pulling off the Band-aid. Take a deep breath and decide to let it go. If it’s easy to sell it, do so. Otherwise, donate it and take a tax deduction. Or make yourself feel better by giving it to someone you love. I’m pretty sure it will be a relief to get that thing out of your home!

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No Excuses series (part 1): "I might need it some day"

12 April 2018

This is the first in a three-part series of posts debunking the three excuses I hear most frequently from clients for wanting to keep items they no longer use or love. The series originally ran in January and February 2017 and I decided it was worth running again. Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 next week.

When I work with clients on decluttering, we discuss their goals and motivations for letting go of excess. They understand that it makes most sense to hang on to meaningful items, not those that are sitting idle. Yet it’s not unusual for a client to want to keep an unused item that’s perfectly good because “I might need it some day.”

I usually push back, particularly if we’re dealing with severe space constraints and the need to let go of a lot of stuff.

Here’s what I say to those clients when I hear, “I might need it some day.”:

  • How likely is it that you’ll need it?
  • If you decide to let it go and you do find you need it, are you able to get another one?
  • If you keep it, will you be able to find it when you need it?

That last question is important, because if a client is keeping a lot of those “some day” items it may be difficult to organize the stuff they keep in a way that will allow them to find everything.

Here’s the thing about perfectly good items that aren’t being used. If they’re perfectly good, somebody else can use them. Rather than having them sit idle, taking up space, it’s better to contribute to the greater good by donating them and letting them be used. If you hang on to them until a future decluttering session and then decide to let them go, they may be less valuable or useful to others.

Basically it comes down to a couple of things:

  1. Your goals for decluttering and getting organized. If you’re trying to create space in your home and life so that you can find what you want when you want it and live with ease (my definition of organized), then storing a lot of unused stuff might well get in the way of that.
  2. A fear of regret. I think a lot of us live in fear of regretting our decisions. If you do find that you let go of an item that at a future date you could have used, you may feel a twinge of regret. But you’ll get past it. Hanging on to unneeded items is a pretty high price to pay to ward off future regret, in my opinion.

I have seen over and over how living with less makes one’s life easier. A great first step toward living with less is letting go of the perfectly good stuff you don’t use.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of the No Excuses series: “I paid a lot for it” and “It was a gift.”

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How Todoist helps me achieve Inbox Zero

5 April 2018

I’ve written before about the benefits of emptying my inbox every day. Inbox Zero feels like an unachievable—or perhaps even undesirable—goal to some. But I know from my experience that when I can empty my inbox each day I am more on top of my work life. And that makes me not only more productive, but happier.

Unfortunately, a pattern has developed in recent months. I’ll achieve Inbox Zero for a few days and then fall off the wagon. When that happens, the number of emails in my inbox quickly swells and it take a concerted effort to get it back down to zero. Like many habits, Inbox Zero is easier to maintain if I do it daily. Dealing with one day’s worth of emails is a snap, compared to dealing with emails from the past week, month or longer.

When I had to travel unexpectedly last week to Walla Walla, Washington, to tend to my father, I let my email get out of hand. I just didn’t have the bandwidth (literally and figuratively) to stay on top of it. But I came back Monday night and on Tuesday morning focused on my email. It felt so great to get it back to zero and in the couple of days since, it’s been easy to maintain.

I’m pretty good at replying to emails the day I receive them and then archiving them, but if further action is required, things get trickier. In the past, one reason I had let emails languish in my email inbox is that they required action and I didn’t want to forget about them.

Todoist, the task manager that I implemented earlier this year has helped me keep track of those tasks that come in via email, so that I am comfortable getting the pertinent email out of my inbox.

There are Todoist plugins for Gmail and for Outlook for Windows, as well as some third-party email integrations. (Learn more about that here). I use the Mail program on my Mac and couldn’t find any plugins, so I figured out a system that works for me.

Here’s how I do it: I created a project in ToDoist called Tasks from email. I have the premium version of Todoist, which allows me to have an email address for each project. I forward emails that I want to add to my task list to the Tasks from email project. Then I archive the email (sometimes I flag it too) in my email client.

The subject line the email to Todoist becomes the name of the task (and I can edit it before sending that email) and the original email message becomes a comment in the task. I have a recurring daily task to check the Tasks from email project folder so that I can refile and schedule those tasks. (I could just as easily forward a task straight to a project, but I like the opportunity to revisit these email-generated tasks at the end of the day and assign a day to work on them.)

When it’s time to do the task it appears in Today’s tasks on the date I assign to it. I can then easily click on the comment to read the original email. This has been working very well for me and so far things are not falling through the cracks!

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Master the art of using business forms

2 April 2018

I asked my friend, Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing in Cary, North Carolina, to write a guest post about how organizers can use forms in their businesses. Geralin has created a set of customizable forms that organizers can purchase, which I think are a great foundation for jumping right into business. (See the link below.) Last month, she spoke about using business forms at the 2018 NAPO Texas Regional Conference for Professional Organizers, so I was really happy when she agreed to share some of her expertise here!

Geralin Thomas

One of my business goals is to help professional organizers and productivity consultants reach their business goals by helping them build sustainable and lucrative organizing businesses. And of all the advice I offer and the skills I teach, there is probably none that helps new business owners more than learning to use forms to run their businesses.

What do I mean by “forms?” A form is a document containing specific fields of variable data. As an example, think of an old-fashioned check. A check is a document with fields where you can enter the date, the amount you want to pay, to whom you want to pay it, and so on. That’s a form: fixed fields with variable data in them.

I use forms with my clients to help them easily achieve their goals. For example, when I work with a client to streamline their wardrobe and create multiple outfits, I provide them with forms to keep track of which pieces work together well. And I designed some complimentary forms for use in your own wardrobe planning, available here.

As a business owner, you can use forms to streamline many daily functions inside your business. One key form is the one used for client intake. When a client calls, you want to give them plenty of space to talk about their needs and why they’ve called you today and what their goals are for working with you. But you also must remember to ask how they prefer to be contacted (work phone or mobile phone?), how they found you (internet search, referral from a past client, advertising, or television appearance?), and whether they have pets in the house, among many other questions.

Business owners want to give their clients and their employees or subcontractors the best possible experience. Using forms saves you from accidentally sending someone with a severe cat allergy out to a house with three cats, a waste of everyone’s time and effort.

Another key form is the client agreement. A clear and concise client agreement helps to ensure that everyone shares the same understanding of what you’ll be doing, what the client will be paying for, and how the relationship will unfold. This can prevent a host of misunderstandings and problems.

Using forms allows you to “master the art of faster” by handing off jobs more quickly. Your partners, employees, or subcontractors can step in rapidly with no fumbled hand-off. If you agreed to supply storage boxes, everyone knows what size and how many. Multiple people can work on the same job, so the client’s home clean-out project or move happens smoothly, no matter whether you are at the site or not.

Forms create a more consistent experience for your clients, so the service they get from one team is every bit as good as the service from another team.

Using forms will also help you to evaluate what is working for marketing your business and what could be better. If you collect the same information for every contact, you can make an apples-to-apples comparison. This lets you focus on the marketing efforts that gain you the most clients (and the clients you really love to work with!) rather than groping in the dark, trying a lot of random efforts to reach your perfect clients.

If you want to “master the art of faster” and save time and money by using forms, look at the package I offer to new organizers, here. You can customize the forms I offer – which cover client admin, business admin, and marketing and branding – to your brand and your business, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

To make life better for you, your team members, and your clients, master the art of faster by using forms in your business.

Geralin Thomas is a professional organizer and the owner of Metropolitan Organizing based in Cary, North Carolina. Geralin has appeared in an array of national magazines and she’s been featured on A&E’s Hoarders, The Nate Berkus Show, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN, and other outlets. She regularly coaches new organizers privately and teaches classes through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals.

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Another advantage to a minimalist wardrobe: easy packing in a crisis

29 March 2018

I had to leave town suddenly over the weekend because my 87-year-old father had an acute health crisis that caused him to be flown to a hospital in Spokane, three hours from his home in Walla Walla, Washington. It resolved quickly, I’m glad to say, and I was able to arrive just in time to drive him home from the hospital and stay with him for a week to take him to his follow up appointments.

There were many reasons to be stressed in the situation after I got the call, but at least I wasn’t stressed about packing. There are so few clothes in my closet that selecting what to wear was a piece of cake. Plus, my travel toiletries kit is always packed, so all I had to do was throw in my electric toothbrush and call Lyft. (Well, and book a flight and rental car.)

I keep finding new ways to appreciate having fewer clothes in my closet!

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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