Downsize and free yourself

My siblings and I banded together to help my 78 and 83 year old parents downsize to a smaller 2150 square foot ranch (bigger than my house) a few weeks ago.  One of the main purposes in moving from a house they loved, but which they knew they couldn’t stay in long term, was so they’d be forced to purge some of their possessions.  Mom and Dad have their own set of “crap” and neither wanted to deal with the other persons stuff so the thought was they’d be forced to get rid of a lot of it in the process of moving.

Things didn’t go according to plan.  The house sold 4 days after being put on the market (they receivied four offers, two over their asking price).   The details of the deal were finalized as they left for their annual month-long trip to Florida.  They returned to their Amherst home to start frantically packing and ended up closing and moving less than a month later.  Needless to say, they didn’t have time to sort their belongings and instead packed and moved most of them.  As my siblings, husband, brother-in-law and I hauled boxes out one door and into another we all vowed to purge our own belongings long before we got to my parents’ age.

I recently came across this great online article entitled: Organizing is Turning You Into a Hoarder and it really hit home with me.  In the past, my husband’s solution to having too much stuff was to go out and buy more totes and shelving units to store it.  I’d hit my limit a while back and decided maybe we should get rid of some items, but he hadn’t hit his. I’m hoping the experience of moving my parent’s “useless” stuff will hit a chord with him and make him rethink his strategy.

Get Organized

Every January I get the urge to get organized and declutter. After putting all of the holiday decorations away I love how my house seems to have more space which has a calming effect on me.  I then vow to continue decluttering and do a better job of keeping my stuff organized.

Last year at this time I was lucky enough to have professional organizer Dorothy Madden, founder and owner of ORGANIZE IT!, a professional organizing company, write some guest blogs about undecorating after the holidays and dealing with items amassed during the holidays. I was happy to see an article, How to kick clutter in the new year, featuring Dorothy on the front page of last week’s Messenger Post Newspaper.  I’ll leave this topic to the expert…Dorothy!

Professional Organizer Dorothy Madden

Dorothy Madden

Give it Away on Give Your Stuff Away Day

I was happy to hear of a grassroots movement started by a Rochester area man called Give Your Stuff Away Day.  Mike Morone  of North Chili has designated Saturday May 15 for that day.  I probably only live a couple of miles from Morone so I’m amazed I’ve never heard of his efforts.  Morone is hoping that people take the time to go through their belongings and set any items they don’t want at the curb on that weekend for others to take.

My friend Lori has been decluttering her house for a while in preparation for putting it on the market.  She knows that if she sets things at the curb it is usually only a matter of a couple of hours before the still useful items find a new home.  Of course how fast things move depend upon your location and the desirability of items left there.  Usually after a garage sale I have items I just want to get rid of so I’ll put them near the street in the hopes that someone stops and takes them.

I think Morone has a great idea. He’s been successful enough in his efforts to get the Governor of Connecticut to proclaim May 15 as Give Your Stuff Away Day.  He also has a Facebook page.  Morone has posted guidelines on his website for types of items to not put at the curb (you should also check with your local municipality to see what can’t be left at the curb).  He has suggestions on what to do with the items that are still there at the end of the day (Craigslist, Freecycle) .  This is an easy, low stress, low effort way to declutter.

That Saturday might be a great day to drive around town if you’re in the market for some items.  You might even find some things you can turn around and sell.  Seriously consider participating if you have been wanting to get rid of stuff.  Help promote his effort by Tweeting about it or posting a link on Facebook.  Help make a difference!

What to do with those old gadgets laying around

In the March 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine, Christina Tynan-Wood discusses options for recycling old and unwanted electronics.  We all have old electronics that we don’t want anymore or which have been replaced by newer better gadgets.  If you’re like me, you’ve stuck it in the basement just in case you might need it someday.  Realistically, if you’ve had it more than 3 years and haven’t used it then maybe it’s time to get rid of it, while it still might have some useful value.

Tynan-Wood’s Recycling for the Greater Good talks about a company called Gazelle, which pays people money for unwanted electronics.  Gazelle tries to place these items in new homes, but will recycle them in an eco-friendly manner if they can’t.  Gazelle has a service called Gazelle for Good where the collection of old tech items can be used for fund raising.  The article also mentions other websites that can be useful for recycling your goods.

I would suggest checking what your items go for on Ebay to see what the going rate is for an item. You might make out better there. Go through your old tech gear and you might make a few bucks, but don’t wait until they’re worth zero and ready to be recycled.

Look inside >
Family Tech

Are you an Innie or an Outtie (or maybe a little of both)?

I got a trial subscription to a new magazine called ShopSmart, that Consumer Reports is publishing.  Their tagline is No Hype+No Ads + Just Great Buys!  I wasn’t too impressed by the first issue I got.  A lot of it seemed like a rehash of information in Consumer Reports, which I also subscribe to.  I canceled my subscription since it was expensive, $23 for only 6 issues,  and you can find the entire issue online.  In the meantime they had shipped me the March 2010 issue which I found much more interesting than the January issue.


On the cover of the March 2010 issue is a teaser for their article on organizing.  Easy Clutter Control – 48 tips that will work for every room.  I figured the article was right up my alley given my current penchant for decluttering.  Opening up the magazine to read this article I was interested by the grouping of people’s organizational preferences into Innie, Outtie and Hybrid categories. I think I’m an Outtie in my work life; my desk is always covered in papers and notes of things I’m currently working on.  At home, I’m an Innie, mostly putting things out of sight in in nice organized fashion: cooking utensils in drawers and cupboards, jewelry in one of five jewelry cabinets, and scrapbooking supplies in labeled drawers of a plastic organizer.

The ShopSmart article was interesting because it gave tips for staying organized, based on your organizational style.  This is the first time I’ve ever seen organization tips that cater to people’s style.  You can read the article for yourself.   Organize for your Style

What’s your style?

Where oh where do I put it?

Professional Organizer Dorothy Madden

Dorothy Madden

This is the second blog written by professional organizer Dorothy Madden.  Dorothy wrote a previous blog about putting away your holiday decorations.  Thanks Dorothy!

The holidays have come and gone and you’re left staring at and stumbling over the abundance left behind!  Oh my, what to do with it all?  Where does it go?  How can we make space for it?  Do we really want it all?  Do we really need it all?

There are some choices and decisions to make.  The first step is to decide if you really want to keep the items and, if so, decide where to put them.  Evaluate each item individually.  Remember they were gifts to you and you don’t necessarily have to keep what someone else thought would be “the perfect gift” for you.

Most likely you want to keep most of your new gifts.  The challenge is then deciding where they go and making room for them.  If your game shelf is overflowing and you want to make room for new ones, seize this moment to sort through the old games (missing parts, children have outgrown them, no longer popular) to make room for the new ones.  Give yourself permission to donate the usable games and recycle or toss the others.

Try assigning a number to how many of each item you want/need in your life.  Ask yourself how many games will your family realistically play this coming year?  Is it 5 or 10 or 30?  Once you select a realistic number, keep only that many.  How many turtlenecks will you realistically use?  Is it 5, 10, 15, 20?  If you do laundry weekly, you can get away with fewer rather than more.  Keep a realistic and manageable quantity.

Try the “One IN and One OUT” technique.  If you have too many toys, games, electronics, t-shirts, sweaters, shoes, etc., keep the new and toss some of the old.  When you keep five new toys, five old toys are discarded.  When you keep a new computer, an old one is donated.  In a quantifiable way, this method keeps balance with your belongings and space.

Most of all, throughout the year, be aware and selective about what comes in the door.  Think twice (or three times!) before purchasing something and know in your mind where you will put it, what you will eliminate to make room for it, and how much you will use it.  By doing this, you will make room for the important things you wish to keep and use in your space and in your life.

Dorothy Madden, a professional organizer in Rochester since 1997, is the founder and owner of ORGANIZE IT! She helps people create orderly solutions for everyday life in their offices and homes. Learn more at You can contact Dorothy at 585.381.5511.

Undecorating after the Holidays

Professional Organizer Dorothy Madden

Dorothy Madden

I’m very excited that Dorothy Madden, founder and owner of ORGANIZE IT!, a professional organizing company has agreed to write a few guest blogs to start out the new year.   I hope your New Year is bright!—Michele

Deck the halls with boughs of holly…… well, soon that holly will be crisp and not looking so festive.  Along with the fresh greenery decorations in your home, you may soon dismantle your tree and put away table-top and other holiday decorations, inside and out.

Now is a great time to evaluate if you wish to keep all those items in your life.  Life evolves and just because you loved an item ten years ago, you may love it less today.  Newer, nicer, more special items may have entered your life.  The family heirloom nativity may be a keeper but the tacky Aloha Santa may not be so cherished.  The special ornaments the children made may be sentimental and adorable but the gold and white ball ornaments carry no attachment.

While putting away your holiday decorations, take some time to ask yourself, “Do I still love this item?  Would someone else love it more?  Do I want it to take up space in my basement….in my life?”

Grab this opportunity to decide if you want to keep something or if it’s time to donate it (you’ll support local agencies, please the purchaser, and have a tax deduction), sell it (Craig’s List is easy – check out Michele’s tips!), consign it, recycle it or just plain toss it (you can do it!).

There was a family in the city that for many years decorated nearly every square inch of their corner yard – front, sides, and back.  It was a tradition for many Rochester families to drive to the neighborhood, find a place to park, get out of their cars, and stroll around to see the display.  The owners were very friendly and the sight was amazing!  Finally, last year the owners decided to end the tradition, selling and donating their boxes, bins, and bags of decorations.  They were ready to simplify their lives and gain some much-needed time and space.  After purging the decorations, they actually reclaimed an entire room of their home!

Is now the time for you to reclaim some time and space in your life too?

Dorothy Madden, a professional organizer in Rochester since 1997, is the founder and owner of ORGANIZE IT! She helps people create orderly solutions for everyday life in their offices and homes. Learn more at .  You can contact Dorothy at 585.381.5511.

Did you know hoarding is a disease?

While I was working out at the gym last week I happened to catch a segment on the Dr. Oz Show about people who have a hoarding problem. I was surprised to learn that 4% of the population have this “disease” which means they probably can’t control it without professional help. The problem can be hereditary, so if your parents are pack rats you might be more likely to be one as well.

Since I recently blogged about hoarding I thought people might be interested in seeing the clip. You can find it here:   segment on hoarding (it’s about 11.5 minutes long)

Are you a hoarder/pack rat/collector/saver?

Meredith Janson, in her House Call article in the November 2009 issue of Family Circle, tackles the topic of clutter.  “The cure for clutter isn’t just devising a new storage system.  It’s figuring out why you’re holding on to the stuff in the first place. “

Look inside >
November 1, 2009

I can totally relate to what she is talking about, being a person in the midst of de-cluttering.  I like that Janson explores the various reasons people hoard stuff and tries to get at the root issue instead of just dealing with the immediate problem of too much stuff. Janson supplies research data that shows that too much chaos and untidiness saps mental energy and tires us out.  The disorder also reduces our productivity.

Borrow or pickup a copy of the magazine to check out her article and try some of her suggestions to improve and simplify your life.

Letting Go

Sometimes one of the hardest things to do is decide to let things go.  If you’re like me, you spent lots of years accumulating stuff.  My goal, as a bargain hunter, was to accumulate the most stuff for the least amount of money.  So if something was on sale, I would buy 3 of them, just because they were so cheap.  I bought my kids toys from garage sales, so I was able to buy more. So now I have a house full of stuff.  I’ve been holding garage sales for years to unload some stuff I no longer had use for, but I would generally buy just as much, if not more, stuff to replace it.  And I was selling things occasionally on Ebay and

A while back I reached a point where I finally decided I had enough stuff.  In fact I decided I had too much stuff.  So I started actively working on unloading items, trying to get the most money I could.  I discovered Craigslist which meant I could sell locally year round and not have to wait until my next garage sale and I usually got more from my items than I could at a garage sale.  I also found I could easily sell items on Amazon,  expanding my online selling to toys and household items.  Last year I discovered swapping sites like PaperbackSwap and Swaptree, that let me swap items I didn’t want for items I did.

I’ve been training my kids for years to get rid of their stuff.    I tell them that if they get rid of their books, games, movies or toys then they get to keep the money when I sell them.  When they’re ready, they readily hand their stuff over to mom to sell.  There are still times though that my daughter will give me something to sell and then she’ll see it again in a few weeks or out at the garage sale and say “Don’t sell that, I still want it!”  So then I wait until the next time she’s thinks she’s ready to get rid of it

I’m glad I’ve moved into this stage of my life since I lost my job earlier this year, which means I have to minimize my spending.  My kids, who are ages 11 and 14, still want stuff.    They know the routine.    They have to wait until I can find it inexpensively or wait until I can complete a swap to get it.

It’s a freeing feeling to simplify and declutter.  I have more space in my house.  I have less items to clean around.  It’s easier to find the things I do have.    If we do have to move because I get a job out of town, then I’ll have less stuff to cart with me.  I don’t want to end up like my in-laws who  have so much stuff they could just never let go of, and so one year my husband and I will have to deal with it all.  I also think I’m sending the right message to my kids by saying we don’t really need all of this stuff.

So start thinking now about letting go.