Make space. Find peace. Feel joy.

Confessions of a conference junkie

15 September 2014

Later in the week, I’ll be traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the annual conference of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. This is one of two organizing conferences I attend in a typical year. This year, I also attended two genealogy conferences.

I love conferences. I started going to them 25 years ago when I worked in PR for the Missouri Botanical Garden and had the privilege of attending the Garden Writers Association annual conference for six years. In my next career, I met every year with fellow dog writers and fellow cat writers (and I continued to go to garden writers’ conferences).

But it was when I became an organizer in 2005 that I hit the conference motherlode. Most years I attend the annual conferences of both the National Association of Professional Organizers and the ICD. In addition, I’ve had the privilege of attending the conferences of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers in Brisbane, Australia (I spoke there in 2009), and Professional Organizers in Canada, in Toronto.

Why do I go to the considerable expense and time of attending these conferences year after year? There are so many reasons. Here are a few:

  • The education. I learn so much during the conference sessions.
  • The CEUs. To maintain my status as a Certified Professional Organizer®, I am required to earn an average of 15 hours of continuing education a year. The conferences help me get those Continuing Education Units.
  • The inspiration. I leave a conference all jazzed up about my business. The sessions, along with conversations with colleagues, inspire me to explore new services, to make changes in my business, or simply to focus on the aspects of my business that I love most.
  • The networking. By meeting organizers all the country (and the world), I expand my knowledge base. I have people I can call on to help me puzzle out virtually every challenge! I also have people I can refer clients to all over the country.
  • The camaraderie. As you might have imagined, I’ve made some really great friends over the years at these conferences. Attending every year is a bit like going to summer camp, I imagine. (I never went to summer camp.)
  • The fun. The conferences are held in fun cities (hello, Music City!) and there’s never a shortage of fun stuff to do.

If you’re a professional organizer and you haven’t attended an organizers’ conference yet, please consider putting it in your budget for 2015! If you’re a new or aspiring organizer, I heartily recommend attending a conference early on. I attended the NAPO conference at the first opportunity, before I’d had more than a handful of clients, and it was outrageously beneficial, even if I had to finance it with a credit card.

I’m an extrovert who loves meeting new people. But even introverts can thrive at conferences, with the right amount of alone time scheduled in. Organizers tend to be really nice, friendly people.

If reading this post inspires you to attend a NAPO or ICD conference, please introduce yourself to me at the conference and let me know. I’ll buy you a drink!

Hands Free Tote giveaway winner!

12 September 2014

A week ago, I reviewed the Hands Free Tote from United Solutions and offered one up for a giveaway.

I used the Random Number Generator to determine that Amy is the winner! United Solutions will be sending her her own Hands Free Tote. In Amy’s comment, she said that she would use the tote for two things:

(1) Road trips with kid stuff (fewer trips to/from the car), and (2) Running around collecting and hauling stuff upstairs or downstairs during cleanup sessions. (If the basket is strapped to me, I’m more likely to actually put everything away and make sure it’s empty before I set it down!)

It sounds to me like this tote will be put to good use!

There were some other great uses for the mentioned in the entries, including:

  • Crafting materials
  • Dog supplies
  • Baby stuff
  • Fabric and sewing supplies

Those are all great ideas for this terrific tote. You can purchase one from Amazon for $19.99 if these ideas have inspired you!

The rewards of a closet purge

8 September 2014

My friend and fab professional organizer, Geralin Thomas, came for a visit a couple of weeks ago. One of the services Geralin offers her clients is wardrobe organization, which includes closet organizing and wardrobe selection. She helped me six years ago (time flies!) and I leaped at the chance to have her help me with my wardrobe again.

We were on a tight schedule and we started with a couple of hours in my closet. We went through the whole closet and she weighed in on whether or not I should keep each item. The idea was that donating the clothing that I don’t wear or doesn’t suit me allows me to see what I do have to use as a base for creating wardrobe capsules.

For each item, we considered the following:

  • Whether I like it
  • Whether I wear it
  • If it’s flattering on me (Geralin’s very good at gently telling me when an item is unflattering)
  • If it’s still in style
  • If it’s age appropriate
  • If I have multiples of the same type of item, and if so, which to keep

In going through this process, I was amazed at how few items made the cut. We filled two large trash bags with donations. (I took them to the Scholarshop which will provide me with a valuated receipt for tax purposes.)

Then we went shopping. Unfortunately, we hit bad traffic and were left with only about an hour to shop. I purchased five terrific pieces of clothing under Geralin’s guidance and that was that.

in the section of my closet where I store tops, I put away the new clothes and moved all the empty hangers to one side. Here’s a photo.

The rewards of a closet purge

I have to admit that I freaked out a little that my closet was so empty. There are definitely some wardrobe gaps that need to be filled! (I was left with only one pair of dress pants, for example.) But Geralin guided me on the basics I need to buy to build a great capsule wardrobe.

After I moved the empty hangers to a spare closet and got used to the idea that the stuff was gone, I began to realize the rewards:

  • I can see everything I own much more easily
  • The closet contains only clothes I actually like and wear
  • Clothes hang more freely and therefore stay more wrinkle-free
  • It’s much easier to make choices because there are fewer options (which makes decisions so much easier for me)
  • I can put clothes away with virtually no effort
  • There are no clothes in the closet mocking me for my bad judgment or making me feel guilty for not wearing them
  • I know what clothes I need and I can shop mindfully

In looking around the web on blogs about wardrobe capsules and minimalist dressing, I came upon the Un-Fancy blog, which I’m enjoying. If you’re intrigued at the idea of dressing well with fewer clothes, you might want to check it out.

If your closet is overstuffed, consider letting go of those items that don’t make you feel fabulous. It can be a little scary, but it can also be really rewarding. If you want to take the plunge, Geralin offers personal style coaching over the phone!

Hands Free Tote: A review + giveaway

5 September 2014

From time to time I receive emails from manufacturers of products that might interest my readers. They typically offer to send me a product sample, hoping I’ll review it. I don’t promise a review, but I often say yes and offer to give feedback on the product, which is mine to keep. When I really like a product, I’ll review it and do a giveaway.

Today, I want to write about one of those products! It’s the Hands Free™ Tote, from United Solutions. When I unpacked the tote, which resembles a large, rectangular, high-sided laundry basket with a strap, I had a hard time imagining I would find it useful. I was wrong.

Here’s a photo of the tote (courtesy of United Solutions):

Hands Free Tote review + giveaway

It’s sturdy, but light weight. (It supposed to hold up to 25 pounds.) The strap is long enough for me to comfortably wear it across my chest, so what I’m carrying can rest behind my shoulder, leaving my hands completely free to carry other stuff. (It’s kind of like having a third hand!) It looks a little awkward, but I find it’s really functional.

Here are the ways I use it so far:

  • I live in an old house in an urban neighborhood and our recycling dumpster is about four or five houses down the alley. The Hands Free Tote allows me to carry more to the recycling bin at a time, thereby reducing the number of trips I take.
  • My small garage is not attached to my house. I walk across the back yard to get to it. The Hands Free Tote makes schlepping organizing supplies I use for client appointment to and from the house much easier. (There’s not room to store that stuff in the garage.)

Here are some ways I could imagine using it in the future (or others using it):

  • The Hands Free Tote would make a great container for the Relocate to Another Room category during a decluttering session. Once you’ve finished your decluttering session, just carry around the tote to the various rooms of your house and put those items away.
  • Guests coming? Use the Hands Free Tote for quick clean up. Put it over your shoulder and deposit items in it that need to be taken to other rooms. In a pinch, you could temporarily store those items in the tote until you have time to put them away. (I really don’t advocate the “stash and dash” approach to clutter control, though.)
  • if you have a baby or a toddler, the Hands Free Tote would presumably allow you to easily carry relatively large quantities of stuff from one room to another with a baby on your hip. (I know from clients that that can be a challenge.)

United Solutions partnered with popular gardening personality P. Allen Smith to promote the Hands Free Tote. Here’s a video from his YouTube channel that shows the tote in action.

Here’s the fun part—the giveaway! United Solutions has offered to send one of my readers their own Hands Free Tote. To enter, post a comment below about how you would use the Hands Free Tote. After you’ve entered with a comment, you may get additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway (be sure and use @janinea in the tweet, so that I see it) and/or writing on the wall or commenting at the Peace of Mind Organizing Facebook page. The contest ends at 11 pm, central time, on Thursday, September 11. I’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 12.

The giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Amy for winning!

Lessons learned while decluttering

28 August 2014

I love it when I find myself in situations that plant me squarely in my clients’ shoes. This past weekend, my friend Aby Garvey, who is an amazing organizer, offered to come to my house to help me organize my office. We swap services occasionally and it’s always fun and rewarding.

While we were going through my vast collection of office supplies (oh, how I love office supplies!), I heard myself say some things that I hear my clients say with a certain amount of frequency. Here were some reasons I initially gave for not wanting to part with items:

  • I’ve had it for years!
  • That could come in handy some day
  • I don’t use it anymore, but it did such a good job when I did use it
  • I worked really hard to get that
  • It was expensive
  • It’s a keepsake

Even professional organizers can have difficulty decluttering

The truth is that once I got rolling, it became easier to give up items. I knew how much better everything would look there was less of it. But, as you can see from the above picture of my office-supply closet, I did manage to keep quite a bit. At least everything’s stored beautifully.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • I don’t like using binders, so it’s okay to give up my copious binder accessories
  • If I have a two years’ worth of a magazine I’ve never read, it’s okay to decide I’ll never read the issues-and give them away.
  • People are happy to take your free magazines via a free listing on Craigslist
  • It might be possible to have too many colored sharpies
  • Mason jars make great pen holders

It can be hard to give up items that you’ve had for years and that you bought for a reason. But identifying those items that you’ll probably never use can free up space for stuff that you actually need. Out with the old and in with the new (or in with the clean space)!

Making your move easy(ier)

22 August 2014

Make your move easier

A supply drawer we created while unpacking a client

Moving is stressful. There’s pretty much no way around it. Even if an employer is paying for the move and you have the movers pack you, there are a lot of details with which to contend and it’s a hassle. Working with a professional organizer can help, but even so, the process is stressful.

I’ve recently helped several clients settle into their new homes by bringing in teams to unpack and organize their belongings. All of them were packed by the movers. Observing how the unpacking and organizing process went, I’ve identified a few ways to make the move easier:

  • Start early. It’s easy to procrastinate on decluttering, packing, and making logistical arrangements. But the more time you can give yourself, the less stressful the process will be—and the more likely you are to avoid last-minute crises.
  • Declutter before the move. If an employer is paying for the move, you might be inclined to delay decisions about letting go of stuff until after you see how it might fit into your new home. But believe me, by the time you’re in the unpacking phase of the move you’re going to be tired. And the fewer decisions you have to make when you unpack, the happier you’ll be. Less stuff = easier move.
  • Go through the unopened boxes from the last move. If you’ve been in your home awhile and there are still unopened boxes in your storage area, don’t just move them. Open up those boxes and find out whether the items inside merit the space you’re giving them and the effort and money involved in moving them.
  • Categorize before packing. If each box contains a category of items, unpacking is much more streamlined, and less frustrating. It can also make it easier to find an individual item before you’ve finished unpacking. If you don’t organize before you pack, you’ll end up with a hodge lodge of items in each box, which can create headaches when you’re unpacking.
  • Mark the boxes for the destination room. If the layout of your new home is different from the old one, try to mark the boxes for delivery to the appropriate room in the new home. That way you’ll be able to stay in the room that you’re unpacking.
  • Try to unpack as much as possible as soon as you move in. I’m typically a big fan of little and often, and if you need to break down unpacking into tiny chunks in order to get it done on your own, so be it. But if you can power through the unpacking process so that you get rid of boxes and get settled, the transition will be easier.
  • Unpack the kitchen first. I think it’s hard to get a semblance of normalcy until your kitchen is unpacked. When you can make coffee in the morning and fix yourself a snack, life is better. Eating off of real plates rather than paper plates will make you feel like you’re home.
  • Let go of perfection. Don’t get bogged down in the unpacking process trying to decide the perfect place to store items. You can always improve on it later. Just choose a location and see how it works.
  • Enlist help. Unpacking a home on your own can be overwhelming. Enlist the help of friends, family or a professional organizer. In the last two unpacking jobs we did, we were able to get the entire homes unpacked in two days. It felt like a miraculous transformation—from a sea of boxes to a comfy home in two days. The clients still had tweaking to do, certainly, but they were able to get in with their daily routines.

Yes, moving is stressful. But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With a little planning and forethought, you can make it relatively easy.

Keyboard love

18 August 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new computer. I’m now the happy owner of a 13-inch mid-2014 MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It replaced a 13-inch mid-2011 MacBook Pro that had become sluggish.

So far it’s going great. Apple transferred my data from my old computer to the new one. Mavericks was easy to get used to (I’d upgraded from Lion). The computer is very fast. I’ve had few, if any compatibility issues. I swear, I love my Apple products and their ease of use. (But you knew that, didn’t you?)

Since I was shelling out all that dough, I decided to add on a couple of peripherals. One is the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock ($225). I connect my computer to it via a Thunderbolt cable and into it I connect my monitor, external hard drive, and other USB devices. So when I want to unplug my computer and take it on the road, it’s just a matter of unplugging the dock and the power cable. That’s going to change the landscape of my cord control which I’ll blog about as soon as I’ve figured it out.

The other thing I bought was the Belkin YourType Wireless Bluetooth Keypad ($50) to supplement the standard Apple aluminum keyboard I use at my desk. For years, I loved my now-discontinued white plastic Apple keyboard that included a numeric keypad and a delete key (as opposed to a backspace key) that deletes the character to the right. It finally bit the dust and I’d had to satisfy myself with a keypad- and delete-key-deficient Apple keyboard, because I really didn’t want a wired keyboard. But the Belkin product, which is designed be compatible in appearance with the Mac keyboard has saved the day. Here’s a photo from the Apple website—the keypad is on the left, next to the keyboard:

It makes me very happy now, but when I was trying to install the keypad, I wanted to pull my hair out. As part of the pairing process, you’re asked to press the key to the right of the shift key. There’s no shift key, so that’s impossible. I went online, read the complaints, then tried something that was suggested. I changed the batteries. (Never mind that I’d put in fresh batteries already.) Once that was done, the little keypad worked like a dream. I mention it in case you buy one, so that you can avoid the frustration I experienced. Probably simply taking out the batteries and putting them back in would suffice.

Sometimes it’s the little things that count and this little thing has made my new computer seem all the more special.

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