Organizing Blog

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.

family outside organize

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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Benefits of an Ample Mudroom

shoe storage seat

Benefits of an Ample Mudroom

From Closet Works

pet home organizing

The chill of late fall and winter is finally here, which means bundling up. When snow falls in a few short weeks, you’ll add winter boots to the mix, too.

The best place to keep all of this gear is near the door. It makes sense to create a storage area near the entrance you use every day.

Entry storage solutions aren’t just for homes with a dedicated foyer. As long as there’s enough space near the door, you can create an area where everything has its proper home.

First Things First: Banish Clutter

Before you begin planning your entryway or mudroom storage, get a good idea of what you need to store. If your entryway is a landing zone for things that you’d ultimately like to store someplace else, clear those things away before assessing how much and what type of storage you need.

With the addition of baskets, drawers or rollouts, any small items that pile up can at least be stored neatly before they’re put away. If items end up getting stored in your entryway —your mail or your kids’ lunch boxes, for example—then you should plan to incorporate storage for them. A shelf or some rollouts will do the trick. Maximizing space and creating enough storage will help your entryway stay clutter-free.

A Bench with Shoe Storage is Smartshoe storage seat

What happens when you walk through the door? If you’re like many people, you kick off your shoes or even place them neatly together against the wall. If you add an entryway bench with storage underneath, the whole area will look tidier—and it’ll help you keep your family from tracking dirt and snow through your house.

Coat Storage Can be Hidden … or Not

Adults usually have no problem taking off a coat and hanging it in a closet or wardrobe. But in a household with kids, hooks in open areas function better. They’re easier to reach and require less effort.

You can also have both a wardrobe-style closet plus a row of hooks. This is a good idea if your storage area is smaller and the hooks are mounted above a bench. Short jackets can hang above the bench, and longer coats can go inside the wardrobe.

Add Cabinets, Shelves and Rollouts for Everything Else

You’ll also have to consider everything else you take with you when you leave for the day—hats, sports equipment, gloves, scarves, pet accessories and more. If you’ve got the room, add a cabinet or two, some shelves and baskets or a few convenient rollouts. Corralling odds and ends near the door creates a place for them to live and minimizes the chance of losing one glove or misplacing the dog’s leash.

Entryway or mudroom storage doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it doesn’t have to be built in. Even a few feet along a wall is enough space to create an attractive, hardworking organization center that everyone can use.

When you work with the Designers at The Closet Works, you’ll end up with the right components in the right size for the space that you’ve got. It might be nothing but a bare wall right now. But once installed, your entryway storage system will look like it was born to be there. Because it was. Schedule a free design consultation today.

When you need help getting organized, reach out to Organize Me!organize me logo

 

Reach In Closet Design Ideas

Reach In Closet Design Ideas

From Closet Works

Reach-in closets are often found in older homes and smaller apartments, and can be almost anywhere in the house. Of course we would all love more storage space, but that’s not always an option. Typically, reach-in closets are outfitted with a simple rod and shelf for hanging clothes and some folded storage, but not much more. But even with the small space that a reach-in closet affords, you can turn it into a lean, mean storage machine with some clever design ideas.

Bedroom Closets

room organizingBedroom closets are always a challenge to keep organized, but custom-built elements that take advantage of every square inch of space can provide you with solutions that meet your unique needs and help you maximize any amount of space that you have. These custom creations take closets from cluttered to clean with ease.

The best part about choosing a custom solution is that it’s built specifically for all your stuff. You know if you need more room for shoes and less room for hangers, or vice versa.

Well-designed closets aren’t just great for the adults in the house—your kids would also surely benefit from custom storage. Kids are notoriously messy, but a custom closet can help them keep their clothes, shoes and sports equipment in view all the time.

Other Closets

Reach-in closets in other parts of the home also present unique storage challenges. You don’t have to settle for stacks of papers, disorganized files and messy drawers.

It’s easy to avoid organizing important documents. Receipts, forms and mail pile up in one spot until you’ve got several hours’ worth of filing to do. Make this process easier from the start with a custom office closet that includes deep corner shelves for storing files, books and other office supplies.

Linen closets are the prime place for custom storage because of the items you need to keep there—bedding, extra pillows, towels, wash cloths and even toiletries won’t fit nicely in a hallway closet that may include just a shelf or two. It’s important that this space look guest-friendly; add baskets that will help keep linens smelling fresh, as well as several shelves to help you make small, neat piles of bedding and towels.

linen closetSometimes even a custom closet doesn’t provide enough storage. If that’s the case, you can also add a custom wardrobe to any room, designed to fit your storage needs.

Getting and keeping your home organized will always be a challenge. But a custom closet design can make it much easier on yourself and your whole family.

To get the full article and your custom closet, visit Closet Works!

For help getting your closet organized organized, contact Organize Me!