Kids & Filling the Space Under the Tree

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Guest Post by John Cloonan. John is a marketing consultant and public speaker.


Every year around this time, we do a purge of my daughter’s room of items she’s outgrown or no longer wants in order to make room for what she’s going to receive for Christmas. It’s interesting to see what she decides to keep or toss as she gets older, and it’s a good, functional way to keep down the general level of detritus in her room. She has the final decision-making authority on everything – as she should, since it’s her stuff.

But this year, I noticed something different. Not sure if my perception has changed over time, or if it was really different this year, but I noticed that there were a lot of items from last Christmas that had been opened, used once or twice, and then never used again. So a lot of nearly new stuff got donated.

What I realized was this – we had been guilty of filling space at Christmas. Basically buying items that were marginally or questionably desirable to my daughter to make sure she received lots of things at Christmas. Both my girlfriend and I were raised in upper-middle-class families where Christmas gifts were piled high and deep on Christmas morning, and we both wanted that for my daughter.

But that pile, judging by the amount of use of much of it, was pretty much unappreciated. I don’t blame my daughter for this. She enjoyed the gifts that were of interest to her, and left the rest basically unused. I blame us for falling for the “more is better” philosophy.

But what to do about it? There’s an obvious short answer of “buy less stuff,” but what exactly does that mean? A former colleague of mine gets his kids one gift each. I’m not sure I’m ready to go down that road, but I’m trying to look at quality and desirability over sheer mass this year. Everything my daughter is getting this year is something she’s either directly asked for, expressed an interest in, or needs as a replacement for something she actually uses. And while the pile under the tree won’t necessarily be huge, neither will the pile in the back of the car next year when we purge her room.

Our Holiday Gift Guide…for the guys in your life!

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We’ve put together a collection of gift ideas for the guys in your life – gifts they’ll actually use and help them get a bit more organized, too! Which guys do you have in your life??

For the Travelers and Techies:

 

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The Grid-It is a killer invention. With a firm back and a basketweave of grippy bands, it can hold and control pretty much anything your traveler or techie wants to pack (it’s even good with make-up!) My own ‘Mr. Clutterninja’ has one of these and takes it on every business trip.

http://www.containerstore.com/shop/office/cordControl?productId=10028414

 

The Cyclist:

 

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The Rothko rolling bike stand is genius! It keeps the tire off of dirty garage floors, hold your bicycle upright, but still allows you to easily move your bike whenever you need. This would work well for the kids’ bikes, too!

http://www.containerstore.com/shop/garage/sportsEquipment?productId=10017292&N=244

 

The Bartender:

 

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This nifty bar tool set will allow the bartender in your life to show off his mixology skills and save room at the same time. Time for those old, bulky tools to go!

http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/the-ultimate-cocktail-bar-tool

 

The Lunkhead/Gym Junkie:

 

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This line of briefcases and bags from Six Pack Bags is specifically designed for bodybuilders and others who eat frequently on-the-go.

http://www.sixpackbags.com/products/by-style/meal-management.html

 

The Golf Fanatic:

 

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I’ve both used it with several clients and given one or two as gifts! Perfect for the golfer in your life – holds two bags, shoes, and accessories.

http://www.target.com/p/suncast-golf-organizer/-/A-10471913#prodSlot=medium_1_5&term=garage

 

The Sports Fan or Concert Goer:

 

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This is a really cool way to contain AND display all of his favorite sports or concert tickets!

http://www.thatsmyticket.com/floating-tcf.html

 

The Gearheads and Tool Guys:

 

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This rolling tool cart is a great option for corralling all of your tools in one safe place. Five smoothly rolling drawers, a work space on top, and a lock make this a perfect gift for your gearhead!

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200387707_200387707

It’s here! Our ‘Home for the Holidays’ Promo!

As a gift of thanks, we’re offering a rare special throughout the holiday season!

Home for the Holidays Promo ~ 3 hours for $145 (regularly $180)

Do you have a quick-and-dirty project that you’d love our help with?

  • Getting your guest room ready for your in-laws or grown kids?
  • Pulling out all of your holiday decor and coming up with a game plan for decorating?
  • Organizing and setting up your gift wrap/holiday crafting/cookie baking station?
  • We’ll even wrap gifts, as long as you provide all of the giftwrap supplies!

Give us a call today to schedule yours! 770-927-7497 or suzanne @ the clutterninja dot com

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Parenting & Organization: Let’s talk about the kiddos!

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Our kids. We love them. We want to protect them from the dangers of life. We want to make their lives maybe a bit easier than ours. We want them to grow up to become successful, responsible adults. Most of us would agree that that includes them being able to maintain a safe, healthy, and reasonably clean home. And that’s where I frequently see an issue.

Trust me, I try my darnedest to not tell anyone else how to parent, but I want to share something I’ve heard many times over the years I’ve worked as a professional organizer.

‘Mom did everything for us kids. I never learned how to do laundry for myself until I graduated college.’

‘I never had to clean my own room. Mom and Dad thought it was easier to do it themselves, so it’d be exactly the way they wanted it.’

‘I never had chores, so I had to learn how to clean a bathroom when I left for college.’

These quotes and more are from actual clients, who’ve hired me to teach them basic organizational skills. And that’s awesome – they realize that becoming organized is a learned skill, they didn’t learn it in childhood, and they’re setting that to rights.

But I’m hearing this more and more, which I think means that while we’re signing our kids up for every possible sport and educational opportunity, we’re ignoring teaching them the most basic life skills. And that can not only have a dramatic impact on their domestic life, but on how successful they are in their professional lives as well.

So, what can we do? Here a few easy examples:

  • Laundry: Set a standard that any laundry found in the kids’ hampers will be washed. Dirty clothes and towels left on the bedroom or bathroom floor? No deal. And I promise, it’ll only take one time of having to wear a stinky jersey to football practice to get them in the routine that dirty clothes go immediately into a hamper. This works for almost any age, too!
  • Homework: It isn’t considered ‘done’ until everything is back in the backpack, and the backpack is sitting beside the door. This guarantees that homework actually gets to school AND the kids have to only grab their backpacks as they run out the door in the morning. Same goes for their sports gear of choice and musical instruments.
  • Even the youngest kids can help with packing their lunches the night before. Keeping a snack box allows even kindergartners to choose their sides/snacks of choice for their lunchbox the next day.

For more ideas on age-appropriate chores to help kids learn to be more independent and responsible, check out these links!

5 Things to Do Before the ‘Holiday Crazies’!

A new client nailed it last week when she said this was the calm before the storm. Most kids’ sports seasons have wrapped up, Halloween is over, but the ‘real’ holiday season hasn’t kicked into high gear yet. Thanksgiving is still three weeks away.

Here a few suggestions on things to do now, before the Holiday Crazies kick in!

Clearing Out the Old – with the kiddos!

Before your kids get covered up with brand spanking new toys, work with each of them to purge all of the broken ones, the outgrown ones, and the ones they never really play with. (Nothing gets kids more into organizing like telling them they need to make room for the new stuff!) This will also give you ideas of what they might like or need as gifts

Prepping the Dining Room

It seems none of us entertain at the level previous generations did (dinner parties, anyone??), but many of us do have friends or family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah celebrations. Look at your dining room with an objective eye. Is it clear of clutter? Are your favorite platters, dishes, and entertaining pieces easy to access? Are your holiday table linens in good shape and ready to use? Getting these ready soon will eliminate a lot of entertaining stress later on.

How’re Those Carpets Looking?

This is also an excellent time to have your carpets cleaned, if needed. Pre-entertaining, pre-family visits, pre-winter boots and wet paws. (And yes, early spring is the next best time for this!)

Get Your Chimney Ready to Go!

If you have a fireplace, please consider having your chimney inspected and swept! Nothing ruins a holiday gathering like a house fire. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends having this done every year. And this does include gas fireplaces – there can still be leaf debris or bird nests in your chimney which can be a huge fire hazard. Stay safe!

Get Your Guest Room Ready for….Guests!

Many of us who have a guest room use it for storage, on some level. But if you’re expecting overnight guests this holiday season, use the same process we did with the dining room. Would YOU want to sleep there? Make sure that things are in working order, the bed is in good shape and made with clean linens, there are hangers in the closet, etc. Consider spending a night in there yourself – there’s no better way to gauge the readiness of your guest room than by being your own guest for a night!

 

Scary Clutter of the Week: Fear!

For the month of October, we’re celebrating Halloween and talking about the ‘scariest’ kinds of clutter. This week, we’re going intangible. We tend to focus so much on our tangible clutter, we miss the emotional clutter that causes it!

Over the years and working with many clients, I’ve identified the three scariest parts of reaching out to (and working with) a professional organizer.

Fear of Judgement

‘I’m so scared to let you in the house!’ ‘Don’t look in my closet!’ ‘Do you really need to look in my kitchen cabinets?!’ ‘I’m sure this is the worst house you’ve ever seen!’ ‘Do you think I’m a hoarder?’

I get one of these almost every single time I walk into a prospective client’s home. For some reason, people turn disorganization into a character trait. It’s not – it’s a skill set that must be learned. You likely don’t feel judged if you have a CPA do your taxes – they know the process better! It’s no different here. As a colleague once said, ‘We don’t see the clutter. We’re looking for the cause and the possible solutions.’

Fear of Cost

Is hiring an organizer cheap? No, it’s not. Many of us have invested time and money into building our businesses and continual professional development. What’s more expensive? Not calling in a professional when you’ve tried and tried and can’t do it on your own. So you stay stuck in both physical and emotional clutter, which negatively impacts your family’s lives.

We have packages from$175 – $1225. Give us a call and we’ll work with you to get you where you need to be. Don’t let cost be what stops you from improving your life.

Fear of Change

Some clients I meet aren’t ready for the change that is required to maintain any organizational system. You won’t get fit if you join the gym, but never go, right? It’s a lifestyle change that requires consistency. Same with getting and staying organized. If you’re not ready to change, it won’t work. If you are ready to change the way you see your stuff and your decisions, it’s time to call. As Henry Ford put it: ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’

Scary Clutter of the Week: Your Kitchen Island

I hear you groaning out there already. You spent all that time and money on your kitchen renovation. You chose cabinet finishes, counter tops, hardware, and appliances. You even got that supercool high-end fridge you’ve always eyeballed.

You wanted this:

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Photo Courtesy: HGTV

But somehow, over time, has it started looking more like this?

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I know. Trust me, I know. That awesomely expensive, beautiful kitchen island is the first place that most of my clients express frustration about when we walk into the kitchen.

It makes sense, really. For many homes, it’s the first horizontal surface when you enter from the garage. So your beautiful island quickly gets cluttered with homework, dirty dishes, backpacks, car keys, and phone chargers. And lots and lots of mail. (We covered that last week – find it here!)

A cluttered kitchen island is frequently the result of things not having a designated home. The homework belongs in their binder, the backpacks go into the kids’ rooms or on a hook by the door. The car keys should always have a designated home – no more searching every morning! If you have multiple phones,set up a charging station in a central area for everyone’s phones to charge overnight.

If all of these items already have a designated home, then it’s up to us to make sure that they ‘go home’ right when they come in through the door.  A frequent refrain in our home when we arrive is ‘backpack and lacrosse bag go where? Upstairs!’

So, take a look at what kinds of stuff are landing on your kitchen island. Find appropriate homes for those, if needed, and then enforce it. And then enjoy your beautiful clutter-free island again!

 

 

Scary Clutter of the Week: Your Mountain of Mail!

It shows up every day, like an unwelcome visitor. It can clutter your kitchen, your home office, your entire house if it’s allowed. It’s…..mail. It reflects life quite a bit: the good (party invitations, wedding and birth announcements), the bad (junk mail, unwanted credit card offers), and the mundane (bills to pay).

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Look familiar?! You are not alone!

Almost every client, at some point, has asked me how best to keep their mail from taking over every horizontal space in their home. Here are a few key ways to control the chaos!

Reduce the Inflow!

This tends to be the most ignored step, but the most important. The less mail you have coming in, the less you have to deal with!

  • Take 15 minutes each week for a month to unsubscribe from catalogs you don’t want to receive. You won’t eliminate them entirely, but it can make an enormous difference.
  • Consider going to e-bills, if you haven’t already. (Note: If you really need the visual, tangible reminder to pay the bill, e-statements are not for you.)
  • Stop the unsolicited credit card and insurance offers by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer site.

Now, go get the Mail!

  • If you come home through the garage, keep a recycling bin right inside the door to the house. While standing over the bin, pull out and dump all of the junk mail into the bin. This takes 30 seconds, max. If you do nothing else, this step will keep the junk mail out of your house.
  • If you come home through the front door, keep a pretty basket just inside that door (ideally, with a lid or slit in the lid) – do the same thing as described above. Once per week, dump it into your main recycling bin.
  • Note: Credit card offers should be shredded, for your financial security.

Command Center

At this point, you should have only the mail you want and need!

  • Have one designated home for catalogs that you do want to review. Purge when the basket gets full,  so you have only the most current ones.
  • Create a simple Command Center for your daily money management needs. You can check out thousands of ideas on Pinterest, but the key here is: SIMPLE.  The simpler it is, the more likely you’ll use and maintain it.
  • Most of us really only need 3 categories: To Pay, To File, To Do.
  • Assign one block of time, each week, to pay bills and file so that your Command Center stays up-to-date and uncluttered.

 

 

 

 

 

30Day Challenge: Voila, we are DONE!

We are DONE! 30 days, 30 areas decluttered. For so many people, it’s figuring out how and where to start working on their home – this challenge was designed to help with that! Thank you to everyone who followed along, and shared your progress, successes, and challenges.

If you’ve missed a day here or there, or you want to do the 30Day Challenge on your own, here’s a recap of the entire program. Until next time!

Day 1 ~ Board & Video Games

Day 2 ~ Junk Mail

Day 3 ~ Cosmetics

Day 4 ~ Cleaning Supplies

Day 5 ~ Kids’ Books

Day 6 ~ Gift Wrap, Ribbons, & Bags

Day 7 ~ Plastic Food Storage

Day 8 ~ Jewelry

Day 9 ~ Pet Toys

Day 10 ~ Old Greeting Cards

Day 11 ~ Medicine Cabinet

Day 12 ~ Travel Cups & Water Bottles

Day 13 ~ Kids’ Toys

Day 14 ~ Shoes

Day 15 ~ Kitchen Utensils

Day 16 ~ Picture Frames

Day 17 ~ Haircare Products

Day 18 ~ Summer Clothes

Day 19 ~ Kids’ Shoes

Day 20 ~ All Those Spices

Day 21 ~ Books

Day 22 ~ Emotional Clutter

Day 23 ~ Junk Drawer

Day 24 ~ Paint

Day 25 ~ Scarves, Mittens, & Hats

Day 26 ~ Workout & Sports Gear

Day 27 ~ T-shirts

Day 28 ~ Hangers

Day 29 ~ Cookbooks

 

30Day Challenge: Day 29 ~ Cookbooks

You can do this one while the coffee brews!

Day 29 ~ Cookbooks

Take a long, hard look. Whip out any cookbooks that you just never used or don’t use anymore. Was it a well-intentioned gift? The remains of a fad now long past? An old diet? Whatever the reason, the result is the same. They’re taking up space you could use for things that you do use!

I had a client a year or so ago who was struggling with letting go of her Southern Living cookbook collection. She knew she never used them – she had even moved them into her master closet! I finally asked her, ‘If  you let go of these, what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ She thought and responded, ‘I’d have more room in my closet.’

Exactly.

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