Shred even the small stuff

I’m very excited that Dorothy Madden, founder and owner of ORGANIZE IT!, a professional organizing company has agreed to write another guest blog.


Professional Organizer Dorothy Madden

Dorothy Madden

Looking for a cost-effective and convenient solution for shredding your papers?  Look no further than your local OfficeMax!

Last year OfficeMax partnered with Shred-it, a global leader in secure document destruction, to provide shredding services for individual consumers and small businesses. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially the environment because the shredded materials get recycled.

Don’t let your piles collect at home! Regardless of how much or how little you have, just box your papers neatly, load them in your car and drive to your local OfficeMax. Your papers (including staples and paper clips) are weighed before shredding. Currently the cost is 59 cents per pound.

An OfficeMax ImPress associate inserts your papers into a locked container behind the counter (you can watch) and only Shred-it has the key. Shred-it’s truck comes every couple of weeks (more often if needed) and a bonded, insured Shred-it representative shreds the papers on-site within the Shred-it truck. Learn more at:  OfficeMax secure document shredding.

There are five OfficeMax locations from Rochester to Lockport and nine in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area. For a location close to you, see the OfficeMax store locator. So where’s the catch? There is none.  However, it is recommended that you call the store before going to confirm there is room in the Shred-it containers.  They fill up fast!

As you prepare your taxes, you may find you have old information to shred. Or you may just be in the mood to get organized and clean out some files, a little at a time. Consider using this easy, affordable, convenient solution available at your local OfficeMax!

Additional resources for Shredding, Recycling/Disposing, Selling, Donating, and Consigning your items may be found at

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.

Consider a White Elephant

Some of the best fun I’ve had at the holidays is participating in White Elephant Gift Exchanges.  In a White Elephant Exchange, participants agree to bring a wrapped gift, the value of which is not to exceed a specified amount, usually $10-20.   The gift may also be a “White Elephant,” something you might find at a White Elephant Sale, it may be a little kitschy or otherwise no longer wanted by its current owner. This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of those tacky holiday decorations that you’ve had for 20 years or the gaudy jewelry Aunt Bee gave you.

The White Elephant Gift Exchange works like this:  participants draw numbers to determine the swap order. The first swapper unwraps one of the gifts.  The second person then has a choice of “stealing” person one’s item or opening a new gift.  If person one chooses to steal person one’s gift then person one gets to choose a new gift to unwrap.  Person three can then choose from the already open gifts or choose to open a wrapped one.  Each time a person has their gift stolen they may choose to steal someone else’s open gift or pick an unopen one. There are other rules and variations to the game, many of which can be found on this Wiki.

Some people use the occasion to get rid of items they no longer have a use for (VHS videos), don’t like (a pair of gloves), can’t use (a broken Tiffany lamp) or don’t want (a singing stuffed snowman).  Some of the fun is seeing who gets “stuck” with an item they don’t want: my sister-in-law who got the nose hair clippers my brother-in-law had bought and really wanted, or my uncle who got the really nice smelling lavender bath set.  There is usually some valuable items that show up (alcohol, lottery tickets, huge tins of nuts, etc.).  People get creative in their wrapping to keep others from figuring out what an item is.

There are always lots of laughs at a White Elephant Gift Exchange.  Now is the time to set up a White Elephant Gift Exchange with friends, family and co-workers over the holidays.  Just be sure to get your rules set out ahead of time.

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!

Don’t sell it…swap it!

I discovered the swapping site Swaptree last year.   Rather than sell items my family didn’t want anymore and then turn around and spend money on stuff they did, I could trade one item for another.  Last year I made 60 trades on Swaptree.  Mostly I traded old video games (Playstation 1 and Xbox) for other items like CDs, DVDs, and Books.

The way Swaptree works is you list items you have to trade and then add items you want to receive to your want list. Swaptree then tries to match you with someone who has the items you want and is looking for the items you are trading. Swaptree may also find a 3-way trade, meaning you send your item to person #1, person #1 sends an item to person #2 and person #2 sends you an item you requested. Every match is presented to you for your approval so you don’t need to agree to swap a $20 item you have for a $5 item. If you reject too many trades you may be limited by Swaptree on how many trades you can do at once.

If you are trading expensive video games, don’t worry that you’ll be matched with someone who is trading a book. Swaptree ranks items at two levels of value. Video games are considered high value items, which can be swapped for other high value items, like multi-set DVDs and multi-set CDs.  This way the system doesn’t initiate a trade of a $5 paperback book for a $50 video game.

Swaptree users rate their trading partner so you can see if someone has a history of being a good trading partner.  I rate my partner on whether they shipped the item in a timely manner, packaged the item safely and whether they represented the item correctly.  When you list an item on  Swaptree you indicate what condition your item is in, anywhere  from Acceptable to Brand New, similar to and Amazon.  You also have a place to indicate specific details about the item, such as the book is missing a dust jacket or a CD has a cracked case.  I always supply details so people aren’t disappointed with the item they receive.  They will be more likely to give you a good rating if they feel you represented the item fairly.

I’ve only had a few problems trading on Swaptree. One time a person took 3 weeks to mail their item.  I also had someone who still hadn’t shipped their item after 3 weeks. I reported the item as missing to Swaptree and I got a message saying the person will mail it in 2 days, which they did.

The nice thing about swapping is you don’t have to deal with receiving payments like you do when selling, though of course you need to pay for shipment.  If you’re looking to replace some of those movies or books with new ones, swapping might be a good way to go.  Give it a shot.

Note: this site is now called

Wrap it Up!

I’m hoping I catch at least a few of you before you are done wrapping your gifts. Do you ever think twice about all the paper we use during the holiday season? There are ways to minimize its usage and go a little greener for the holidays.

First off, instead of wrapping in paper, think about alternatives. Wrap your gift in a festive holiday towel.  You can also use brown paper (cut open a paper grocery bag) and decorate it with stickers, pictures, drawings, stamps, etc.  The kids will have fun with that.

I grew up in a family with 5 kids. To save on wrapping paper, my parents wrapped some of the gifts in the Sunday comics and put some of our gifts, unwrapped, into garbage bags to keep them separated (“Santa doesn’t have time to wrap all the presents!”).

I also like the large, opaque ziploc bags they came out with a few years ago. These are good for clothing and stuffed animals. After the holidays the bag goes back in my Christmas box for use next year.  I like these bags because they’re also a big time saver.

Another favorite of mine is gift bags.  Throw the gift in the bag and cover it with some tissue paper.  I never write anything on the attached tags so the receiver can reuse the bag.    I always reuse the bags that people give me.    Sometimes I can even repurpose a nice store paper bag with sturdy handles as a gift bag.  Or buy a reusable grocery sack to use instead.  There are many attractive totes out there, some of them holiday themed. For more ideas on alternatives to wrapping paper, see this article:

If you’ve already wrapped your gifts then you still can make some changes to help the earth.  After gifts have been unwrapped, sort through the paper to see if any of the paper can be salvaged for next year.  It’s a Christmas tradition for my husband to go through all the paper to trim off unusable parts and roll it up nicely for next year. I always start my gift wrapping with paper saved from the previous year.

Lastly, don’t forget that you can recycle wrapping paper in many communities.  Here in Rochester we are lucky that the waste management companies accept wrapping paper for recycling.  Check with your waste company before disposing of it in your recycle bin.

One of my Christmas traditions is to shop for next year’s holiday wrapping paper on December 26, when prices are discounted 50% or more.  Since I’ve learned to conserve my wrapping paper, I haven’t needed to buy any in years.

I’d like to wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday!