Worth repeating: Avoiding overpacking

7 June 2018

This week, I helped a client pack for her fabulous European vacation. As I explained my packing method to her, I remembered that I had written a blog post about it years ago. Now seems like a good time to post it again!

I’m leaving for a weekend trip to attend a family wedding. As I think about packing, I thought I’d share my method for ensuring I don’t overpack.

I’ve been doing this for years — decades, really. I think I invented this system. And I’m happy to share it.

Here’s what I do:

  • I think about the clothes I’d like to take on the trip and make a list. It usually includes the clothes I’m particularly fond of wearing these days, or ones I feel really good in.
  • I number each item in the list

I did this last night for my trip. And I took a picture. (The backs of envelopes are good for this.)

  • I make a list of the days I’ll be there. Since there’s usually a change of clothes, I’ll have columns for AM and PM. (If there were going to more than one change of clothes in a day, I’d increase the number of columns.)
  • I put together outfits for each day, using the numbers next to each item on the packing list.
  • I go through the numbers (looking for each number, in order) and make sure that each number is represented. If there’s no number 5, for instance, on the outfit list, I scratch item number five off my packing list.

Here’s my outfit list for this trip:

There was no item number five!

A nice bonus is that if I want, I can bring along the lists and then I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear each day.

I don’t list undergarments (unless there’s something special) or jewelry. I certainly could list jewelry, but I don’t have that much and I just sort of eyeball it.

I hope you find it helpful. I’ve made my packing list but haven’t packed for my trip yet — we’re leaving after I get home from a client this afternoon. It’s so nice to have the list; packing will be a snap!

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Don't let your stuff control you

1 June 2018

Last month I spent some time in some pretty cluttered situations with clients who had a very difficult time letting go of excess. This isn’t the norm for me; most of my clients are ready to let go by the time I work with them.

As I saw clients struggling to live comfortably because of an overabundance of stuff, I was once again struck by the power that stuff can hold over us and, conversely, the freedom that comes with owning less.

These are words I try to live by.

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Worth repeating: Making a move easy(er)

21 May 2018

Spring and summer are big times for moving. If you’re planning to move any time soon, here are some ideas I wrote down a few years ago to make the move easier for you. (One way you can do that is to bring in an Operation Relocation team.) If you have a move coming up, please read this!

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 podge 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, rather than the room it came from. 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 (or organizing team). 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.

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NAPO-St. Louis Volunteer of the Year

16 May 2018


On Monday, I was honored to be named the Volunteer of the Year for the St. Louis chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO-St. Louis). The recipient of the award, which has been given out annually for the last three years, is selected by the chapter president, who solicits recommendations from the membership. The award comes with a lovely engraved Tiffany key ring, which I will carry with pride.

I was delighted when this year’s president, Jennifer Stewart of Gateway Productivity named me as recipient, citing my longevity with and active participation in the chapter. NAPO-St. Louis has been a big part of my building my business and I intend to remain active as long as I’m in business. In addition to being a founding board member and two-term president about ten years ago, I served again as president in 2015-2016 and immediate past president for the last two years. Yesterday, I started a term as membership director.

All my team members are members of the chapter; in fact it’s a requirement to be on my teams. I believe that investing money and time in the chapter demonstrates that an organizer is serious about her/his business. And those are the folks I like entrusting with my clients.

I was president the first year the award was put in place and was thrilled to award it to Denise Lee of Clear Spaces, who was then the chapter’s immediate past president. Last year, Jennifer presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Lisa Gilliam of Six Hour Organizer. I can’t wait to see who wins it next year!

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Announcing the Getting to Good Enough podcast!

11 May 2018


I’m very excited that my friend and colleague, life coach Shannon Wilkinson and I are starting a weekly podcast called Getting to Good Enough. In it, we’ll discuss how letting go of perfectionism and embracing a “good enough” philosophy can make you happier and more productive.

Shannon and I have partnered before. We created the now-closed Declutter Happy Hour course, a teleclass and guide to setting resolutions that stick and several in-person workshops. We’ve been friends for 18 years and love discussing this stuff, so we thought it would be fun to meet over the internet every week and record a podcast.

We’ve identified our topics and so far recorded one episode. More are in the works as we work out a few technical glitches. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to launch the podcast within a month or so. Watch this space!

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What to do with cards you're given

3 May 2018


I’ve noticed in my clients’ homes that it’s hard for some people to let go of greeting cards they’ve been given. The trouble with saving them, of course, is that they can accumulate over the years and become a storage problem.

I have a couple of clients who save every single Christmas card. But they use them in their holiday decor. Each client bundles the cards by year. One places them in a series of festive baskets. The other creates little books of cards, one for each year. Both look at and enjoy the archived cards every year. I think that’s wonderful.

More commonly I see cards jammed in bags or boxes in the basement, sometimes in rubber-banded bundles. That’s less wonderful, in my opinion.

Here are some options to think about when it comes to figuring out what to do with these cards:

  1. Recycle them for your own use. If you’re a crafty type and a card appeals to you, you can cut the image on the front of a card out and glue it to some card stock. One thrifty thing I do when I buy cards for my husband is to sign them on sticky notes so I can just take off the note and put the card right into my organized cards to send later stash.
  2. Donate them to a school or nursing home that might use them for crafty activities.
  3. Keep them and respect them like the clients I described above.
  4. Just keep the ones that touch your heart and let go of the rest.
  5. Put them in the recycling bin. I give you permission. That’s what I do with the holiday cards I receive. And I have yet to regret that habit.

I got to thinking about cards today because in my own house I came across some cards I’d stashed, which is really unusual. I took them out, put on my reading glasses and went through them to see if I could let them go. Turns out they were the cards sent me when my mother passed away in 2015. (I honestly don’t remember saving them.) And there were some cards received when my dogs, Pip and Kirby, died in 2010 and 2015 respectively, as well as when my cat, Joe, died in 2012.

I really enjoyed looking through those cards and was touched by the sentiments people had written in them. I bundled them back up—and this time I put a sticky note on each bundle so I could tell at a glance what they were. Then I put them away in a plastic shoe box and put them in a closet. It was nice going through them today and I bet I’ll enjoy them again. But as much as I love receiving annual holiday cards, I have no desire to read them again. So I feel fine about recycling them.

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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 ProfessionalOrganizer.com, 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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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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