Is Your Clutter Really Grief All Boxed Up?

Last night, I attended our monthly chapter meeting of NAPO-GA, the National Association of Professional Organizers. Each month, we have a different educational program on a topic that helps me better help you. This month, we were joined by Anne Keeton, a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist and owner of Grief to Relief in Norcross, GA. Anne really helped us to understand the many myths of grief, the different sources of grief, and how to identify indicators of unresolved grief.

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Can you relate?

But what does this have to do with organizing, you ask? Almost everything.

Many, many clients call me to help them declutter, without really thinking about how the clutter came into being. There can be a whole lot of emotion stuffed into those boxes – pictures of your ex-husband (unresolved grief surrounding your divorce), a decade-old holiday card from your mom (now deceased),  a box of infant clothing and crib décor from a baby (who passed away or was stillborn). Or you’re moving, which can be a source of grief by itself. Compounded by the fact that you’re moving because you’ve gotten a divorce, lost your job, and now have radically different finances? That’s FOUR types of grief in one fell swoop.

I’ve yet to meet an organizer who has never had a client break into tears during an organizing session. There are sometimes very painful reasons you’ve held off from going through those boxes, and that’s okay! Know that good professional organizers have received training on how to respond to those emotional moments, help you acknowledge the feelings, and help to move the process forward. We work every day with clients who are grieving and we are here to help.

Testimonial: Another Happy Client!

“I didn’t know where to start with a major organization project in my condo. I needed to ‘reclaim’ my den from being used as extra storage space through multiple family illnesses and moves. Suzanne actually made the process fun! She is a delight to work with and we accomplished so much more working together.”
Midtown Atlanta

Does perfection have you stuck?


‘I just can’t get that ‘magazine’ look to my master bedroom.’

‘Well, you certainly won’t see this on Pinterest!’

‘I spent so much money with a designer on this house! Why doesn’t it look like something out of Southern Living?!’


Ladies, for the most part, it’s because you LIVE there! Yes, of course, the rooms on Pinterest and within the pages of Southern Living and ELLE Décor look fantastic – because they’re set up as ideals!

That multi-million dollar celebrity home that’s featured still goes through a fanatical cleaning, decluttering, and staging process before the photographer picks up his camera. And guess what those stagers are moving out? Generally, everything that makes that house a home. Framed family photos, the dog’s favorite toy on the rug, remote controls. They even PhotoShop out things like the lamp cords!

Take a look at Reese Witherspoon’s tween daughter’s room, for example, featured in Elle Decor.

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Photo Courtesy: Elle Decor

Gorgeous, sure. Does it look like any teenage girl’s room you’ve seen? None that I’ve ever seen. No photos of family and friends, no discarded outfit possibilities, no phone, no electronics, no evidence of anyone actually living in the space, right?

Here’s another example – Sarah Jessica Parker’s swank Manhattan kitchen, featured on

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Does that look like the kitchen of a busy working mom of young twins? I’m a clean freak, and my kitchen isn’t that immaculate on a good day! And look around – where all of the things that make an active family’s kitchen the epicenter of the home? Breakfast dishes, graded papers from school, even the small appliances are gone!

Can we manage the clutter, create spaces and processes that streamline our home lives, and reduce stress? Absolutely! But so many of us get stuck in the idea of perfection, wanting to do things perfectly, that they don’t get done at all.

Do you get stuck getting things perfect?

Tax-Free Shopping Weekend? Skip it!

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The local media makes such a big deal about Georgia’s annual back-to-school tax-free weekend. My two cents? Skip it!

Get your back-to-school shopping done now, and be done.  Here are my reasons why!

#1: Crowds, crowds, and more crowds. Is there anyone who enjoys picking out flash drives and crayons while being shoved and jostled around by a million other parents in the seasonal aisle at Target?

#2: When was the last time you hightailed to the mall for an 8% off sale? Seriously?

#3: The deals are better right now. OfficeMax has a $20 off any purchase of $125 or more deal right now. That’s 16% off!

#4: As far as clothes go, it doesn’t even get cool here until October. Shop for fall clothes right before you need them, not when it’s still 90 degrees. Plus, the newer the items, the higher the price, generally speaking.

#5: Get it off your list. Shop now, so you can relax and enjoy the last few weeks of summer watching everyone else go nuts and complain about crowds and crayons!

Embarrassed by your clutter? Read on!

Yesterday afternoon, I was working with a client whose goal is to reclaim an unused room and transform it into a warm, cozy living space. While we were sorting many boxes of books, she looked at me and said, ‘I can’t wait to write you a testimonial! I was so embarrassed by this mess, but you’ve made this so much fun!’

Of course, I always love hearing that! But it brings up a great point. People tend to personalize their clutter – to consider being disorganized a character trait. That their clutter says something negative about them. It doesn’t!

Clutter is frequently a result of higher priorities. The vast majority of my clients were organized at some point in their lives. And then kids came along, or a cancer diagnosis, or a major life change like marriage or divorce. Their priorities just changed – and that’s okay!

Don’t get too frustrated with yourself. Your home didn’t get cluttered overnight, and it won’t get uncluttered overnight either. Start small, even with a junk drawer. Check out my ’15 Organizing Tips in 15 Minutes’ for ideas on how to get started. Build your confidence with smaller projects, then tackle a larger space like your closet, kitchen, or kid’s room.

Do you have some level of embarrassment or shame surrounding your disorganization or clutter? Why do you think that is?

Get your drawers in order!

Whether they’re in your kitchen, your office, or your bathroom, chances are that you have a few drawers that are driving you crazy! Here a few things to keep in mind!

Drawers are a great project with which to learn or hone your organizing skills. They’re small and self-contained, which makes them a quick project with immediate results. Gain confidence here, and you’ll have the confidence to organize bigger projects.

#1: Take everything out of the drawer and wipe the drawer clean.

#2: Toss anything that’s old, expired, outgrown, or broken.

#3: Now, figure out the categories that you’re keeping.

#4: Measure your drawers before you go off buying containers or dividers – there are more drawer depths than you think!

#5: Think ‘outside of the bin’ – make sure to not limit yourself! Great drawer dividers or containers can be found in The Container Store, sure, but also in Target, the office supply stores, and on Amazon!

Newman Utensil Drawer BEFORE 10.2013

Before & After: Kitchen Homework Station

I’ve had a few requests asking about quickie projects that I’ve done, so voila! So many  homes have these built-in desk areas in their kitchens, but so many people struggle with their tendency to end up cluttered and unusable.

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Look familiar?

This photo was taken even after the client had removed dozens of cookbooks from the desk surface and the cabinets.

We pulled everything off the desk and out of the cabinets and purged tons of old craft supplies, never-used cookbooks, used-up coloring and sticker books – you know the routine! We created bins for current categories in the cabinet, left room for growth, and found new homes for the framed photos.

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Ready for the new school year!

Ta-daaa! The clutter is cleared, everything that needs to live there is organized by category, and the desk is functional again and ready for the new school year!

Before & After: Alpharetta Garage

Garages that look like this ‘before’ picture worry me. No, not because they don’t look nice or are disorganized. They worry me because they aren’t safe!

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Lots of tripping hazards, rusty cans of paint and other hazardous chemicals, and sharp blades out in the open. So many household injuries are completely preventable – we just need to make the time to be conscious of how we handle and store things.

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Much better! Still a few saws on the workbench to be hung, but now there is a clear space to walk around, any other sharp items are stored away safely, and the old, rusty cans of chemicals have said goodbye.

Take a look at your garage or workspace – are you satisfied with its safety?



It’s trash day – make the most of it!

These are a few of the things we do on the night before trash pick-up. This routine is super easy and even kids can help out! With everyone assigned a task, you can do this in less than 5 minutes. Set a timer, play an upbeat, fun song, and GO!

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  • Do a quick scan of the pantry – do you spot any expired or forgotten items you can toss?
  • Fridge & Freezer Check – pull and toss any forgotten doggy bags, wilted veggies, and old milk.
  • Grab a trash bag and act like a janitor! Go from room to room emptying all of the wastepaper baskets in one fell swoop!
  • Old magazine and newspapers go into the recycling bin

Get into the habit, and this alone will keep down the clutter in your home! What other quick tasks would you add?

EVENT: Recycling & Donation Event this Saturday, 6/7!

Free Document Shredding Event in Johns Creek this Saturday 
Also: Donate gently used clothing, shoes, and books for charity 
Saturday, June 7, 2014
9AM – 1PM
Panera Bread Company
11715 Medlock Bridge Road
Johns Creek, GA  30097

Dispose of sensitive documents with a commercial shredder.  All of the paper will be recycled.
To avoid identify theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends shredding charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers.

We are also accepting donations of clothing and shoes, to be donated to American Kidney Services, as well as books, to be donated to Better World Books.

For more information, contact us at 770-551-7766 or

This event is supported by Panera Bread Company, The City of Johns Creek, Cintas, and KNFB.  You do not have to be a Johns Creek resident to attend.  This event is free to the public, but donations are appreciated and benefit our environmental education programs.

Keep North Fulton Beautiful is a 501(c)3 organization, and all donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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