Blog: Can We Have Some Order Here?
Lightening The Load
I have a friend who is in the process of relocating her home 3000 miles away -- and she is really struggling. Moving is challenging, even when you're organized, and more so if you're attempting to haul tons of clutter with you. So I'm going to spend a couple of weeks talking about ways to make moving easier.
A Great Opportunity
When I tell people what a freeing experience moving is, they usually look at me like I'm crazy. "What do you mean freeing? It's the most exhausting thing I've ever been through!" While there are stresses associated with relocating, each move offers you the opportunity to lighten the load, to clean out, to start over fresh without all the clutter. When I was in college, I moved at least once a year, and sometimes once a semester. You'd better believe I only took the bare essentials with me -- I wasn't going to waste my time packing up junk I didn't need! If I didn't use it regularly, it was either sold in a garage sale, given to charity, or tossed in the trash.
Unfortunately, once we become more settled we tend to accumulate things that we don't use and that don't serve a purpose in our lives. It's easier, sometimes, to just stick it in the closet and say, "I'll deal with that later," than make a decision. But when we move, we are forced to pull all of those dark demons out of the shadows and confront them face on. So as you handle and contemplate and pack each of your favorite treasures, ask yourself a few of the following questions.
Does It Belong To You?
You've had your neighbor's hedge trimmer for 3 years and your sister's favorite casserole dish since the annual church social. And what about that library book that was due last fall? Why take someone else's clutter with you to your new home? This is the perfect time to weed out those borrowed items that have taken up permanent residence at your house. Returning things that don't belong to you is incredibly cathartic -- even if you have to face late fees or a bit of teasing from the other person about "stealing" their stuff, it's a great way to achieve closure with your old environment before you move on to the new.
If you want to avoid this problem in the future, set up a receptacle (crate, basket, box) in your new home for borrowed items. When you're finished using it, put the item to return in this "out box" rather than storing it away in your cabinets or closet. Put a tag on each item reminding you who it belongs to, and make a date to get it back to its rightful owner. You're more likely to return it in a timely fashion, and this offers you a great opportunity to schedule coffee or dinner with a friend!
When Was The Last Time You Used It?
It's time to get realistic about all that junk that's been sitting untouched in your attic and basement and garage for the past decade or two. If you haven't touched something in the past 12 months, chances are that you're not going to use it in the next 12. This is meant to be a GENERAL rule -- of course I'm not talking about memorabilia, and everyone has the odd item they only pull out every few years for special events (those don't count!) But you know when your storage spaces are full of things that serve no purpose. It's natural for people to have a hard time letting go of the past, and if an old outfit or a bowling ball really means that much to you, then put it away with your keepsakes -- just don't let items that have no value to you weigh down your moving truck .
If you can't seem to make a decision, ask yourself when you would ever need it again. Be honest and realistic about this one! At what point will a green shag toilet-seat cover be crucial to your survival? If you can picture a specific, concrete instance when you will need it in the foreseeable future, then by all means keep it. "I might need it someday" isn't a good enough rationale. Do you really want to take up valuable space in your new home with junk you never use?
Is It Easily Replaceable?
You may not have enough room on the truck for everything -- so think about all the things you own that are relatively inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to replace (plants, canned goods, cleaning supplies, etc.) Is it worth the added expense, renting a bigger moving truck, just so you can fit in a few potted plants, 15 bags of charcoal, and a bunch of buy-one-get-one canned veggies you got on sale at the supermarket? Give them to your neighbors as a going away present and get more when you reach your new location!
Sometimes it's actually healthier to leave certain items behind. Volatile chemicals such as paint, gasoline, and certain cleaning fluids can become a real hazard when packed on a moving truck. And trying to empty your freezer into a bunch of coolers for a long journey is just asking for food poisoning! It's best to just let these things go, and replace them (if you need to) when you arrive at your new destination.
Of course, if we are talking about an expensive or hard-to-find item, you are certainly justified in thinking twice before ditching it. But even with things you think you couldn't live without, you always have to consider cost versus benefit. How much will it cost to transport to your new home? How much does it weigh and will it be difficult to carry? Is it bulky -- will it require extra movers or helpers to get it into your new home? How much space does it take up on the truck and how does that break down into dollars per square foot? Will you have to buy extra insurance to cover any potential loss or damage? Will you have to put it in rented storage when you reach your destination? It may cost you more (in time, space, energy, or money) to keep the item than to replace it if and when you ever need it.
Does It Fit With Your New Lifestyle?
When I finished my Masters degree and moved to Atlanta to start a job, I decided that I was not going to take a single piece of crappy "college furniture" with me. I wanted to begin my life as a professional with a professional image. So I got rid of everything that didn't match this new persona. I created the space for re-inventing myself. And I really feel that -- had I kept the temporary furniture around -- I would still be partially stuck in college mode. This might sound like a superficial change, but it has aided me tremendously in seeing myself as successful and achieving my professional goals.
One of the nicest things about moving is that sense of leaving the old behind, starting over fresh and new. Of course, you are still the same person that you were in your old neighborhood -- but in some ways, you get a chance to do things differently. You might take a job in a different industry, get involved in community activities you have never tried before, or decorate your home in a new style. So why would you want to bring along a lot of excess "paraphernalia" from your old lifestyle?
If you are going to make a change, go on ahead and do it without remnants from the past hanging on. If you are no longer interested in macrame, don't even think about packing your macrame supplies on the truck! If you are giving up the corporate job to be a stay-at home mom, consign your suits or donate your work clothes to a women's charity. Take a minute to think about who you want to be and what kind of environment you desire before you start packing up -- it will not only lighten your load but also get the creative juices flowing!
What Is The Worst Thing That Would Happen If You Got Rid Of It?
When my clients are anxious about discarding an item, they are saying, "I'm afraid of what might happen if I got rid of it." This is a fear of the unknown, uncertainty about the consequences of their actions -- and it's an entirely reasonable concern, given what a litigious society we live in! But it does no good to let vague and unformed worries take over your mind and keep you from making a decision. The best cure for fear is to drag it out into the daylight. So I ask my clients to let their apprehensions run wild, and to imagine the absolute worst-case scenario (which is quite often, not that bad!) Will the world end if you toss out that ring binder you haven't used since college? Probably not. This knowledge helps dissipate the fear and makes letting go a little easier.
Picture the craziest, most unlikely scenario that you can. For example -- if you tossed out your old tax returns and the IRS decided to audit you and you couldn't prove you had paid your taxes, the IRS might take everything you own and leave you living in a box under the freeway. So that's an important item to keep. But if you tossed out an old Southern Living magazine from 1985 and there was a recipe for cherry cheesecake in there that you wanted later, you could simply go to the library or look it up on the internet. Not quite as critical to your existence on this planet!
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posted on: 3/15/2012 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Can We Have Some Order Here?
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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