To Organize or Not To Organize?

how to start organizing

So often we think about all the reasons not to do something. We get hung up on those points instead of changing our view for the positive.  

What about if instead of dwelling on how long and difficult our commute is, we thought of it as a time to unwind and think through issues? Or learn a language or skill from a CD or sang at the top of our lungs? 

How about if we thought of how well our bodies would function and feel if we ate well and exercised regularly. However, we focus on how overweight we are and how bad we feel currently about ourselves.  

Perspective can change everything. Adjusting our views can help us progress in life.  

Taking care of and organizing our homes isn’t any different. How many reasons can you think of to put off organizing? There are so many and I’ve heard tons. Some of your reasons (and sometimes even mine!) include things like: 

  • I’m too busy 
  • I’m too tired 
  • It’s too overwhelming 
  • I don’t know where to start  
  • I don’t have anywhere to put my stuff 
  • I or someone might need this some day 

Now let’s try to look at this from a different perspective. Based on what I’ve heard from clients taking on an organizing project, there are some great reasons to stop procrastinating on yours. Stop think about how much the clutter bothers you and the reasons you can’t do it and think of the following items instead.  

1.Stress Relief on the Other Side 

It’s the same facial expression every time. At the completion (or even part way through!) of a job, the relief that can be seen on a client’s face is sincere. The physical presence of stuff has been mentally weighing them down. Instead of thinking about how overwhelmed you are about your clutter, think instead of the feeling on the other side.  

That moment when you walk into your home the days after completing an organizing project and feeling like you can breathe a sigh of relief. You aren’t greeted by piles of stuff that remains unresolved.  

2. There is Someone You DON’T Know Who Needs Your Stuff 

Note the capitalizing of DON’T. There is someone in the area who needs one of your three blenders or could use a sweatshirt to stay warm. And really, when are you ever going to wear 15 sweatshirts anyway? Someone is just getting on their feet after going through a tough time and could use your extra linens, kitchen gadgets and toys for their kids.  

Yes, you may have children who want some of your belongings to start their own lives and a friend may have a child who would enjoy your toys. How often do these occurrence’s present themselves – where friends and family are asking for your belongings? Probably not as often as you’re expecting them too. There is a greater common need coming from those not asking for help or seeking help from other areas.  

Your stuff can have a new home where it can get used and not just sit in your cabinets untouched for years. Adjust your thinking from I’m keeping this because I or someone might need it; to I’m going to give this away immediately to someone who can use it now.  

3. The More Stuff You Move With, The More Stressful 

There is a category of individuals who are in their permanent home (or at least think they are) who don’t have to worry about moving with their belongings (see below). For the rest of us, the thought of moving is incredibly daunting. Thinking about pulling out all of our stuff and throwing into boxes, finding a truck big enough or worse yet; paying someone to do it for us and having it cost 10’s of thousands. Finding a house big enough? No, most of the clients I see are trying to downsize. No wonder it’s overwhelming.  

Think a year is too far in advance to start decluttering for a new home? No way, not if you want to keep your stress level down. Change your thinking, help yourself. Take the time you need to truly evaluate what you don’t need and eliminate it from your life. When it comes times to pack and get your house on the market, you’ll already know you have the items you truly want.  

4. Your Clutter Gets Left to Family 

For those of you who are in your forever home, think down the road to when you have passed away. All those prized possessions you kept are now left for someone to go through. Your kids, your siblings, your spouse. From my experience, your loved ones don’t value most of the items the way you did. Granted, there are a number of family heirlooms and precious pieces that should absolutely be kept in the family. 

The dance costume, the 5th grade notebook, your financial records from 1992, the antique doll that creeps everyone out – they don’t want it. When you go, they will likely get rid of most of your belongings. Here’s a better idea. Go through your most valuable and memorable items. Mark them or write in a book what they mean to you. Where did you get it, why is it so important and why do you want it to be kept? If you can’t think of a good reason it should be kept, let it go.  

Transform your thinking from holding on to items that mean something to you into thinking about what’s important to your loved ones. What memories will they most cherish when you’re gone?  

Would you rather face the challenge now or procrastinate until you have no choice but to address it?  When you’re ready to take it on, reach out to me:

Too Embarrassed to Declutter

clutter stress
I’m too embarrassed to Declutter

Have you ever looked around your home and thought you really needed to declutter? You have great intentions and you start sorting but it’s a slow process. You ponder what to do with each object or remember the story that goes along with it. You look up and it’s been a half an hour and you’ve actually made a larger mess.

Now you realize you need help. But from who? You’re family or friends can’t help because they’re busy or you’ll feel like you owe them. Maybe it’s that you don’t like their opinions but don’t want to burn bridges. Turns out you need this ‘home organizer’ thing you’ve been hearing about on television.

A stranger? In your home. With your clutter. No way – the embarrassment is too much. How can you show someone else the mess your family has made? So you don’t call and you don’t get help. The clutter sits there or maybe even builds and it continually stresses you out. How on Earth with it ever get taken care of? You cave and reach out to me but you still are nervous.

Bathroom Shelf 1 Before

Rest assured, you are not alone. You are NOT the only one with clutter and dirt and embarrassing piles. In fact, all of the families I have visited are just like you. Exactly like you. Let me guess, you’re going to clean a little before I get there? Don’t bother. You want to know if your house is the worst I’ve ever seen? Nope, it’s not. Stop overthinking and criticizing yourself. I have seen homes like yours before and I’m not going to judge you. I don’t care if your doors won’t open all the way, I have to step on things or if you have crumbs on your floor.

I’m more concerned about the person standing in front of me who doesn’t know where to start. The person who just doesn’t have to ability to think in rows like I do, who looks at the clutter and can’t take it. My goal is to clear your home, get it in order and see the look on your face when you can’t believe the mess is finally gone. I aim to hear you tell me that you sat in your newly organized room and just took it in.

home office walkersville

If I have learned one thing from visiting all different kinds of people and homes, is that we are more alike than you might realize. We all have stress, even though it may come in different forms. It may be overdue bills, broken families, stories of fragile pasts, loss of loved ones, a job that’s too much, loss of a job and so much more. Organizing becomes a personal experience that has often lead to friendships.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and embarrassed, remember that I care more about you as a person than your clutter. I have become immune to your piles, dirt, broken items, private items and everything else. I don’t care what you have, I just want to get it in order.

When you need a friend in organizing, reach out to Organize Me!

Simple and Quick Organizing Tips

professional organizer

Simple & Quick Organizing Tips

Article from Closet Works
1. Keep Instruction Manuals and Warranties in Binders

Instead of tossing out the instruction manual after you learn the basics on how to use a new purchase, keep it and other manuals handy in a 3-ring binder for future reference. The same goes for warranties on everything from a new blow dryer to power tools. This way, they’ll stay neater and easier to locate than if you tuck them into a big drawer or box.

2. Make Shoes Easy to Spot

Give each pair of your shoes a home of its own with expertly designed shoe organization. Angled shelves make everything easy to see. Shoe fences are also available in a variety of finishes to match your closet design and decor. Cubbies are an ideal place to store sandals and flats, keeping each pair of shoes neatly organized in individual compartments. If boots are your thing, check out the Boot Butler that lets you hang several pairs so that they’re visible in your closet.

3. Organize Kids’ Weekly Outfits In Cubbies

Choosing just the right jeans and shirt plus socks and hair bows can be a time-consuming task. But if you organize a week’s worth of complete outfits in advance, mornings are a whole lot easier. A stack of cubbies inside the closet allots separate clothing and accessory space for every day of the week.

4. Keep Home Improvement Ideas Organized in Your Home Office

Have you ever painted a room and then forgotten the name and formula of the perfect color? That won’t happen if you keep paint chips in a home improvement file in your home office. It’s the perfect way to keep track of materials and supplies that you’ve already used, plus pictures and samples of others that inspire you.

5. Use Your ABCs to Organize the Kitchen

urbana home organizingLeave it to the home organization experts at HGTV to come up with a way to make your kitchen more functional. Their ABC method makes a lot of sense because it categorizes your small appliances, cookware and everything else according to how it’s used.

    • A: Everyday use items. Store in the easiest to reach spaces, such as the countertop, easy-access cupboards, fronts of cabinets, top drawers and shelves that don’t require a lot of reaching or bending.
    • B: Often-used items. Store within easy reach, but don’t take up everyday use spots. Good locations for the B group include lower or higher shelves, middle drawers, and the back of cupboards.
    • C: Seldom-used items. If you only use your slow cooker or stand mixer around the holidays, there’s no reason to keep them handy. Store things that you rarely use at the highest, lowest and farthest reaches of your kitchen.
6. Pull Drawers Together Using Dividers and Inserts

The sock drawer and the kitchen junk drawer can get out of hand fast. It’s the same for any space where you store a lot of smaller items together. Insert drawer dividers, and you’ll have compartments to store small garment items together which often get separated, such as socks. Velvet or lucite drawer divider inserts organize specialized accessory items such as earrings, bracelets, broaches, watches and sunglasses. They can also help keep necklaces tangle free. Velvet drawer inserts are perfect for housing accessory items such as watches and sunglasses.

7. Reduce The Paper Clutter

There is always that pile of mail, bills, coupons and other items taking up space which can make any space feel cluttered. Sort through a small stack per day and keep only those items which are critical. The rest can be recycled or shredded. Any items which you may be unsure about keeping can also be scanned and digitized. If you really want to be proactive, sign up for paperless billing for any of your utility items. Many even offer you a discount or bonus points simply for enrolling.

8. Designate Spots in the Mudroom or Entryway

pet home organizing
pet home organizing

Does everyone drop backpacks, jackets and shoes as soon as they walk in the door? A mudroom or foyer organizer can handle that with hooks, cubbies and even coat cupboards. Give each person in the family his or her own spot for their belongings, which can be concealed when needed with either flip up or swinging doors. Even add a bench to put on shoes with additional storage underneath to keep items off of the floor and out of the way. Now tidying up at the end of the week doesn’t have to fall on one person’s shoulders.

9. Conceal Laundry Room Items

overwhelming laundryThe laundry room is a place where clothes tend to gather on the floor and cleaning supplies and other items are left visible. Custom pull outs will keep items such as brooms, dustpans and mops neatly stored and out of view. Deep roll out drawers provide ample storage space for items such as laundry detergents and fabric softeners. Roll out drying rack drawers are a convenient space for delicates to dry without taking up valuable floor or counter space. And a pull out, swivel ironing board is a great space saving option which eliminates the need to move or store an additional bulky item.

Getting organized is a process that most people don’t nail overnight. Start in one part of your home and work your way through. If bedroom closets make your blood pressure rise, that’s a good place to begin. Or if the kids’ rooms need help, set your sights on getting them streamlined. For more information on Closet Works and this article, click here!

organize me logoWhen you need help getting organized, contact Organize Me! Organize Me! services all of Frederick county as well as parts of Washington, Carroll, Montgomery Counties and Pennsylvania.

What Professional Organizers Do

to do list organized
What Professional Organizers Do & How They Can Help
Article from NY Times

When you hear “professional organizer” you may think “reality TV,” but you shouldn’t. Professional organizers can help with projects large and small, and with the psychology of clutter, to boot. It’s a new year, and perhaps you have organization goals on your list of resolutions. Maybe this year, you’re ready to break the cycle of resolving, and failing, to get your life in order this year. It might be time to bring in an expert — just like you would enlist a trainer or nutritionist to help with fitness or wellness goals — and hire a professional organizer.

messy laundry closet

“When I tell people what I do, they say, ‘Oh, that’s a thing?’” Sharon Lowenheim, a professional organizer based in New York City, said with a resigned laugh. “It’s a great service and we want to make sure people do know about it.”

A professional organizer is a person who can help you organize any of the physical and digital spaces in your life. She (and it’s almost always a she) will offer support for decision-making, facilitate actions around removal of unwanted belongings, and set up systems, from shelving to labels, that help her clients establish order and clarity. The relationship that clients build with a professional organizer is a very personal one, and so your experience will depend on what you’re trying to get out of it.

Here’s what they don’t do: Clean.

Most people are confident that they can tackle their organization projects on their own. But when those projects get overwhelming and you stall out, it’s time to consider throwing money at the problem.

“Usually we get the phone call because somebody is overwhelmed,” Ms. Tokos said. Dr. Lark agreed: “When someone has reached a personal tipping point — they’re frustrated, angry, emotionally frayed and hey need to consider calling in a professional.

Ms. Lowenheim added that life events, like marriage or divorce, the birth of a baby or transition to an empty nest, or starting a new job, especially if it’s a home-based business, can “be eased with the help of a professional organizer.” shoe storage seat

Professional organizers will work with you to decide what you want to keep, and to identify where unwanted items will go. They will, in many cases, facilitate the disposal, donation or sale of belongings a client wants to part with. They also work with clients to determine what the functions of their spaces should be, and to set up those spaces in ways that can be easily maintained.

About those questions: Professional organizers know that the biggest barrier to entry for most new clients is fear and embarrassment, and they want you to know that you, your things and your feelings are safe with them.

“A professional organizer is going to be respectful and nonjudgmental,” Ms. Lowenheim said. “That doesn’t mean that the organizer won’t tell you some hard truths that you may not want to hear, but it will be done in a loving and supporting way.”

There’s also no need to worry about a professional organizer clutching her pearls upon discovery of your sex toys, collection of pornography or that stash of weed; they’ve seen it all. “Sometimes they hide it,” Ms. Lowenheim said, “and sometimes they go, ‘Ehhh let’s not do that drawer.’”

When you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and burdened by your clutter, reach out to Organize Me! 

You can schedule easily online at Schedulicity!

Organize Me! services all of Frederick County, parts of Washington, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard counties as well as parts of West Virginia and Pennslyvania

How to get Organized by Closet Works

west virginia organizing
New Year’s Resolution
Tips for Getting Organized

If organization is on your to-do list, you can make it stick by putting together a manageable plan. Here are some tips for creating an organization strategy in the new year.

Find Your Problem Areas

We make resolutions because there’s something we want to do better. But you can’t fix disorganization by just deciding to get organized, or even by tidying the house. You’ve got to think smaller. Break down problem areas into categories and work your way out.

Decide on What You Love

If you own something, you should love it. That’s what organization guru Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, says. But if you’re like most people, your home has plenty of things that you’ve collected for no apparent reason. This is the time to separate what you want to keep from what doesn’t make you happy. This step takes time, but it’s one of the most important for getting your home in order.

Define Your Categories

With problem areas understood and not-so-wonderful belongings separated from what you love, you’re ready to define your organization categories. Shoes in one part of the house might find their way to another, and then they become that room’s problem. Instead, it may help to identify categories of items that need to be organized throughout your house. Some examples are books, clothes, coats and the dreaded paperwork and mail. Make a list of categories that need attention and you’ll have a much better idea about the systems you need to handle them.

shoe storage seat

Set Aside Time For Tackling Nostalgia

If there’s one thing to avoid in the initial decluttering and organizing stages, it’s everything that’s nostalgic. Pick up a box of photos, and the next thing you know you’ve lost a whole afternoon. This is partly a procrastination method, even if you don’t realize it. It’s also simple human nature.

Save nostalgic items for a time when your plan is well underway and you feel up to reviewing items that might be sentimental. When it’s time to pare down your items, ask yourself why an item feels sentimental, whether you’ll use it in the future and if someone else would get more use out of it. Answering these questions, as well as following some other tips on how to preserve the memory without keeping every physical memento, can help you honor sentimental things in your life.

old papers

Work With The Experts

The more space you have to store your things, the better off you’ll be, right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Traditional closets, cabinets and shelves don’t make you more efficient; it’s likely that you can make much better use of the space you’ve got.

Check out the full article here and get advice on a custom closet!

When you need help sorting through your belongings and getting a system in place, contact Organize Me!

Guest Friendly Mudroom Tips from Closet Works

organize bathroom
Create a Guest-Ready Mudroom Before The Holiday Season

For many of us, the holidays are a joyful time that that also brings a bit of stress because it means hosting guests. There are so many things to take into consideration. This is no small feat when you and your kids are on the move with work, school, extracurricular activities, cooking and homework every day.

One of these spots that could use some extra attention is your mudroom—the entryway space that becomes a catch-all for you and your kids’ bags, coats, mail, homework assignments, sports equipment and shoes. If you find yourself spending 30 minutes at the end of each week organizing and reorganizing this high-traffic space, it may be time to give it some extra attention before the holiday season.

Here’s how to create a clean, organized and guest-ready mudroom this season.

pet home organizing
pet home organizing

Start with a deep clean

Getting your mudroom ready for the onslaught of relatives and friends starts with a good cleaning.  Check out our step-by-step tips on cleaning your mudroom.

Store items in closed storage

Your entryway is a drop zone for you and your family’s need-it-everyday-things. But there are some items you might want to remove before guests arrive. Having a mix of open storage like hooks and shelves, and closed storage like cabinets and drawers, give you the option to stash many items!

shoe storage seatAdd hooks and drawers for winter gear

Storing guests’ coats, gloves hats and other winter gear in a far-away bedroom is not only time-consuming, it’s also inconvenient for guests who need to get to their coat or bag while at your house. Add enough hooks in your mudroom for family members and guests as well as plenty of drawer space.

Encourage guests to remove their shoes

The last thing you want is guests tracking snow, dirt, leaves and anything else through your house. Encourage them to remove their shoes in your mudroom by providing bench seating and cubbies, under-bench storage or a boot tray for wet shoes.

For the full article and more information on redoing your space, visit Closet Works

For help decluttering your home before the holidays, reach out to Organize Me!

Laundry Room Storage Tips

What You Should Store in Your Laundry Room

The task of completing laundry is a time-consuming and tedious tasks you’re likely stuck doing at least once a week—if not more. But having some sort of laundry room in your home—or just a small nook—can make it much easier to corral clothes and get laundry done in a more efficient way.

Clearly, you should keep your laundry detergent near the washer and dryer, but what else should be stored in your laundry room? Here’s what to keep there to make cleaning your clothes a little easier each week.

Laundry supplies

Keep your laundry detergent, stain remover, fabric softener and bleach nearby in a cabinet above your washer and dryer. If you’re short on space, a slim cabinet with roll-outs that take advantage of the depth of the cabinet could work.

Cleaning supplies

We’re big advocates of storing things where you use them. An omnitrack with hooks near  your washer and dryer can hold paper towels for spills and other cleanup. You may also want to keep hand soap nearby if you’ve got a sink, as well as any cleaners you use in or near your laundry room.


Your laundry room can be a great place to store some old towels just in case you need to clean up a mess. It can also serve as a backup storage spot for other linens that don’t fit elsewhere in your home. Towels and other linens can be stored in cabinets, in a wire basket or on custom shelves

Ironing board, iron and supplies

Ironing is another chore that many people loathe—but one thing that can make it a little bit easier is having your ironing board, iron and any supplies within easy reach. A wall-mounted or drawer-mounted ironing board in your laundry room can make it easier to iron your clothes before they ever go back in your closet.

Drying rack, rod and hooks

Delicates that can’t go into the dryer are usually meant to dry flat. Adding a pull-out drying rack to your laundry room is a great way to help your garments keep their shape and dry without getting ruined on a hanger or in the dryer. For garments that you may want to hand wash and drip-dry, a rod installed over the sink is the perfect place to hang things while they dry. Hooks are perfect for hanging a variety of things like mesh dry-cleaning bags or totes or organizing freshly laundered clothes.

Hampers and baskets

Outfitting your laundry room is one way to separate your clothes into lights, darks and dry cleaning before they hit the washer. Add a few tilt-out hampers or a roll-out removable hamper that’s easy to lift out when you need to carry clothes from one spot to the next.

If you’re ready to create a laundry area that’ll help you work more efficiently, reach out to Closet Works and view the full article here!

organize me logoWhen you need help getting your home organized, reach out to Organize Me! We can tackle your laundry room together.

Getting Rid of Tech Clutter Safely

disk cd recycling
How to (Safely) Get Rid of Old Tech Clutter

organized home office

Electronics are far more disposable than they were decades ago; when technology advances or when something breaks, we tend to replace old devices instead of getting them fixed. Unfortunately, old computers, music players and peripherals like cables and hard drives can’t or shouldn’t just be thrown in the trash. These things need to be recycled properly so that your personal data stays safe and so harmful components don’t become environmental hazards.

Here’s how to safely get rid of all of those tech devices.

Just like any major decluttering project, the first step is gathering all of your electronic devices and putting them in one spot. That likely means it’s time to clean out your home office desk drawers and cabinets, your nightstand drawers, your closets, the home entertainment center, that junk drawer in your kitchen and anywhere else tech clutter may be hiding.

Look for things like:

  • Cellphones
  • Cables for your TV, stereo, camera or MP3 player
  • Controls for devices you no longer use
  • Speakers
  • Digital cameras
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Laptops, monitors, computer towers
  • Keyboards, mice, webcams, external hard drives
  • Game consoles and controllers
  • CDs, DVDs, floppy disks

disk cd recyclingSeparate everything into two piles: keep and recycle. Importantly, if you discover that a piece of electronic equipment still works, but you no longer use it, you may consider selling it if it’s still worth something. As you review each item, figure out if the item still works, if anyone in the family still uses it and if it’s of any use to you.

Items you’ve decided to keep

You’ve decided to hang on to that digital camera or portable speaker—make sure it’s stored properly. Whether in a cabinet in your home office or in your reach-in closet, it’s best to store devices in a protective bag, to keep it free of dust and dirt. Use bins and baskets to store these items in one place. If it’s cords you’re holding onto, you may want to label them for future use. DVDs and CDs should be stored in their original cases or in a CD book.

Recycling through retailers

The easiest option for getting rid of computers, small speakers, peripherals, gaming consoles and most other small electronic devices is to turn to big box electronic retailers like Staples or Best Buy. You’ll likely have the most luck recycling these devices there because they accept a variety of devices and their associated cords and chargers. Check out Best Buy’s Recycling Program and Staples’ Recycling Program.

Importantly, if you’d like to recycle an old computer monitor, you may be charged a fee.

Cellphones are even easier to recycle. While big box retailers will accept these devices, you may be able to stop by your local grocery store or department store to recycle your phone. Look for recycling bins at your local Whole Foods or even in your shopping mall. Your phone manufacturer may also accept old tech you no longer use. Check out Apple’s Recycling and Trade-Up Programs that allow you to recycle or even get a gift card for your old cellphone, iPod, laptop or electronic device.

Similarly, the major phone carriers provide an easy way to recycle or trade in old devices. AT&TVerizonT-Mobile and Sprint will walk you through trade-in and recycling options.

Recycling through charitable donations

Charities also accept electronic devices. If you’ve got a few cellphones you no longer use, consider donating them to Cell Phones for SoldiersGoodwill and The Salvation Army also accept some electronic devices in all conditions.

How to recycle CDs and DVDs

Getting rid of old CDs and DVDs might seem like a no-brainer—they’re not bulky and they’re plastic, so you can toss them in your recycling bin, right? Wrong. CDs and DVDs are made from a special type of plastic that most likely can’t be recycled with other containers. Instead, you can donate music and movies to local thrift shops or charities, or send them away to be recycled safely through programs like GreenDisk and the CD Recycling Center. There may be a small fee involved to cover the cost or recycling these items.

Getting rid of personal data

Before you recycle laptops, digital cameras, hard drives or cellphones, remove all your personal data and restore the device to factory settings. The process for doing this is a little bit different for each device; however, it’s important to note that simply deleting files on a computer isn’t enough. To purge your device of things like saved passwords and other identifying files, you need to completely reset it.

To reset most cellphones, take a look at this CNET guide or these instructions from Apple. If you’re donating or recycling a digital camera, be sure to first remove the SD card. Laptop and computer hard drive resets vary from operating system to operating system, but you can usually reformat and wipe a hard drive through Settings. Check out this guide from Consumer Reports.

If the laptop or computer you’re recycling no longer works, you can also manually destroy the hard drive before recycling it—just remove it from the computer, unscrew the hard drive and use a hammer and nails to break the actual hard drive. Just be sure to wear safety goggles before you get started!

This article was wrtten for Closet Works Inc. For the full article, follow this link: Tech Equipment Recycling

organize me logoFor help sorting through your electronics and coordinating their donation, visit Organize Me! LLC 

How to Deal With Your Parents’ Stuff

grandparents aging downsize

A Parents’ Belongings

How to deal with it when they die

old hands aging

Cleaning out a loved one’s home after their death can be a series of chores that can be emotionally, physically, and financially overwhelming. And what makes the whole task even worse is that it’s difficult to know where to start. The decisions around what to keep, donate, recycle, toss, or sell can be lengthy and depressing.

Fortunately, there are people who will hold your hand through every step of the process. There are professionals who specialize in “bereavement cleanouts,” or the lengthy and stressful task of emptying a loved one’s house after their death. I spoke to a couple of experts in the matter on the steps you need to take to sort through your family member’s belongings after they die.

1. Look at the Will. 

It seems obvious, but read the will, says Matt Paxton of Legacy Navigator, a company helps families with estate cleanouts. “A will is not an opinion, it’s a fact. You don’t get to keep the piano just because you want it, even if you’re the one doing all the work.”


2. Get in Touch with an Estate Lawyer and an Accountant

Hopefully your parent already had an estate lawyer and an accountant. If not, ask around for local recommendations.  If you’re settling the estate, you’ll need to get the ball rolling with an estate lawyer, and you’ll need to file taxes for the estate. An accountant can help with this. As you clean, keep an inventory of anything of value, and if you anticipate the will being contested, make it a pretty detailed inventory.


3. Set a Realistic Timeline

Paxton says his company estimates that one person can clean out one cubic yard (about the space of a dishwasher) per hour. That means you and one helper can deal with about 16 cubic yards per day. Use that math to estimate your time and how much help you need. Make a trip to a big-box store for contractor’s bags and cardboard boxes. You’ll probably need to go a couple of times once you get a handle on how much stuff there is.


messy home office4. Pick a Room

Deborah Goldstein, a professional organizer who specializes in hoarders and bereavement cleanouts, recommends working your way room to room rather than tackling the whole house at once.  She suggest starting with a room that is storing mostly junk, like the attic, basement, or garage.


5. Make Piles

As you go, make four piles or staging areas: one for stuff to go to the trash, one for donate/recycle, one for sell and one for consider keeping. “As you work through each room, you’re getting rid of the junk and you’re putting aside things to think about. Most people start with a lot of things in the “things to think about” pile, but as they work, they go back and do different edits,” says Goldstein.

5.5. (Maybe Stay in a Hotel)

It can be emotionally taxing to stay in the house you’re cleaning out, especially if your relationship with the deceased was not ideal. “If it was really toxic relationship, I think a hotel is worth it,” says Goldstein, though of course she notes that that decision depends not only on your finances but also on the state of the house.


6. Draw Straws and Have An Hourly Show and Tell

If it’s not clear before your parent’s death who gets what items from the house, says Paxton, “literally draw straws as to who gets to pick first an item to keep.” He recommends, if you’re working with helpers, to work in the same room together at the same time.—This will minimize suspicions that someone might be pocketing something.


7. Touch Everything. Literally Everything

Everyone I spoke to stressed that you have to check every pocket, every file cabinet, the toe of every shoe to find squirreled-away cash and valuables. “I’ve found diamond rings, safe-deposit box keys, cash,” says Goldstein. Says Paxton, “Check all the pockets, check every medicine bottle, check the freezer, check the toilet tank. We find a lot of money.” His compan

y will even run a metal detector over the backyard.

8. Deal With Paperwork As You Go

If you’re lucky, your parents were organized and had all their estate planning in place before they died, and that paperwork is neatly filed. But no matter what, you’re going to be handling every piece of paper in the house. Goldstein recommends designatinorganize paper pilesg one wall or area for paperwork and stashing it there as you clean out the rooms. Make piles by category.


9. If You’re the Executor, File What You Need to Settle the Estate

Regina Kiperman, an estate-planning attorney in New York, suggests getting as many copies of the death certificate as there are accounts to settle. Then, as you clean, you need to keep birth certificates, social security cards, military records, recent bank statements, medical and pharma bills, any stock or bond certificates, annuities, and life-insurance policies. Shred everything else if it has identifiable information. Keep an eye on the mail through the next tax season to see if there are statements or 1099s coming in that you didn’t know about. If you don’t know how to deal with computers or online accounts—like you don’t have the passwords—ask the estate lawyer for advice on how to proceed.

10. Haul Stuff Away

Paxton says his company tends to donate to local charities, like those that provide clothes to people getting out of prison. However, big charities will sometimes haul away furniture if it’s in good shape. For auctions, he uses Everything But the House. If you need local assistance and/or advice, you can google “estate cleanout + your city” for businesses that specialize in this kind of job.

And take it easy on yourself. It’s an emotionally fraught time, even more so if you’re dealing with this with siblings or other family members. “Try to be understanding of your siblings,” says Paxton. “And at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. Don’t lose your family over it. I’ve seen families break up over Beanie Babies.” He pauses. “Oh, and another thing: Beanie Babies are not worth anything.”

For the full article and to get more tips, visit Life Hacker

When you need help sorting through your parents belonging, reach out to Organize Me! A patient hand is waiting to help you!

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7 Steps for Minimalist Living

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7 Tiny Steps for the Beginner Minimalist
Considering a lifestyle change?

If you’ve ever thought that you’d be happier with less stuff, then check out these tips to get started. Changing takes time and effort as well as bold moves. Follow the link at the bottom of the article to get help at any point during your minimalist journey!

1. Write it down. Make a list of all the reasons you want to live more simply. These are your whys and your whys will provide great leverage when you think it’s too hard to keep going. Your whys will help you remember what matters.

2. Discard the duplicates. Walk through your home with a box and fill it with duplicates. If you have two sets of measuring cups, put them in the box. Copies of the same book or DVD? Put one in the box. Once you fill the box, label it “Duplicates” and put it out of sight for 30 days. If you don’t need anything or don’t remember what was in the box, donate it.


3. Declare a clutter-free zone. This area could be a kitchen table, your nightstand, a counter top or a drawer in your kitchen. Use that clutter-free zone as inspiration to live with less. If you enjoy that clean, clear environment, expand the zone a little bit each day.

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4. Travel lightly. Travel always renews my love of minimalism and living simply. The next time you take a trip, pack for 1/2 the time. See how it feels to carry less baggage.

5. Dress with

 Less. If you haven’t considered Project 333, dressing with only 33 items for 3 months (clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories) sounds extreme, but thousands of people know that it actually makes life easier instead of more challenging.

6. Eat similar meals. When you think about how much time you spend thinking about what you are going to eat for lunch, make your family for dinner, or what you need to pick up at the grocery store, it’s clear that food is not always simple. Try eating the same breakfast and lunch all week and have 2 or 3 dinner choices that rotate throughout the week.

7. Save $1000. An emergency fund simplifies everything. If you are paying off debt, only pay your minimum payments until you can save $1000. If you aren’t in debt, but still spend what you have, set aside money every day or every week until you reach $1000. Try the 52 week money challenge and in 45 weeks, you’ll save more than $1000 without ever contributing more than $45 in a week. Money for emergencies reduces stress and emergencies.


For information on getting your minimalist journey started, visit Be More with Less

When it’s time to sort through and remove your clutter, reach out to Organize Me!

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organize me home organizing