December 6, 2010

Taming the Paper Tiger: Part 2

The clutter is gone. The rooms looks tidy. You know where to go to find a document or piece of paper. Now the trick is making it stay that way.

Here are 10 steps to maintaining your home as a clutter free zone.

  1. Commit to making decisions. Don’t fall into the trap of procrastinating.
  2. Use your FAT system when you open the mail or bring paper into the house:  File it, Act on it, or Toss it.
  3. Be aware of what paper is coming in and ask if you really need it. For example, if you have 6 bank accounts and therefore 6 statements coming in every month you should re-evaluate whether or not you really need them all.
  4. Buy a shredder.
  5. Make a date each week to manage the paper. For example, Monday mornings at 9 you will work on and clear out the Action file, and remove all items that are in the toss area.
  6. Establish the safe spot for filed items – a cabinet, or perhaps boxes in a closet.
  7. Make your filing system easy to use. Color code them and make the labels easy to see.
  8. Re-evaluate subscriptions. Do you really read them?
  9. Donate magazines to local hospitals, retirement residences and the like on a regular basis
  10. Review the filing system annually and purge older documents. For example keep tax returns for only 6 years.

Follow these easy steps and the paper tiger will stay in it’s cage!


November 29, 2010

Taming the Paper Tiger: Part 1

For many the clutter problem begins with paper. Piles of it start appearing in every room of the house. It starts on table tops and expands to include the floor. Junk mail; old newspaper sections or clippings; statements from the gas company, phone company etc;  previous year’s birthday and Christmas cards; store flyers; and much more. There is no system. It is all mixed together.

So what is the problem. Usually the problem comes when you have to find a specific piece of paper or document. You can go crazy looking for it. Which pile did you put it in? It gets worse when during the search you come across your car insurance renewal form….that was due 2 months ago. Oops. Now you have to stop driving your car and reapply for insurance. It all just gives you a headache that won’t go away.

Here are 5 steps to follow to get your paper back in order:

  1. Get help. Invite a friend to work with you. If you have let it get this out of control, you will need someone who will ‘tell it like it is’ while you are making decisions on various papers .
  2. Set up two filing areas. The first is for items that need immediate or imminent action. The second is for things you want to keep so you can refer to them later.
  3. Set up two areas for tossing. The first is for shredding. The second is for immediate trash.
  4. Start by just sorting the piles in one room. Don’t work on anything. Just place each piece of paper  into one of the four new areas you have set up.
  5. Set up categories in your filing area for the various types of paper items you are keeping. For example:  tax papers, household bills, investment information, recipes.

This is the first step to Taming the Paper Tiger. Once you have made it through the whole house you will feel a lightness of spirit that will have make it all worthwhile.


September 27, 2010

The Benefits of Decluttering

People often assume that decluttering means our goal is to throw a lot of things into the trash. However I believe that the emphasis should be on the sorting…sorting the valuable and useful from the unnecessary. When a decluttering project is complete some things will have been discarded. But more importantly we will have found some valuable and useful things that we can put into an identified and secure location for when we need them.

Recently I was speaking to an expert in Geriatric Emergency Management and she highlighted something we should be looking for and isolating when we are doing decluttering projects with seniors. That is a medical history file. I was quite surprised when we spoke to learn how many seniors visit hospital emergency rooms every day. If they have had a fall, or are in pain, it can be very difficult to learn their history verbally. If they came in with a file that had lists of their doctors and last dates seen, lists of surgeries, lists of medications, emergency contacts and so on it could expedite the process and would help to ensure that they get the most appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.

So if you are working with a senior to declutter make sure that you take the opportunity to construct a medical history file and put it in an accessible location for easy retrieval in an emergency.


August 3, 2010

Decluttering and Downsizing – What’s the Difference?

I was working with a few different clients this past week when I had one of those “AHA” moments.

In one case I was moving a senior to a Retirement Residence from the 2 bedroom apartment she had lived in for the past six years. She moved there sometime after her husband passed away, and no longer wanted or needed the big house. Her apartment was spacious and the furnishings were well laid out. Of course not everything was going to fit into her new, smaller one bedroom suite. So we set about identifying and eliminating things she wouldn’t need any more, and things she had no strong feelings about keeping. That was downsizing. It was an organized process. It wasn’t easy. But we took it slowly and over a few days she kept adding items to the reject pile. And we even did a little more after she moved into her new home as it was somewhat more crowded than she liked.

In another case we are clearing a home to sell it. Staging it. We found a 30 by 12 foot room in the basement that you could barely walk into at the beginning.  It was full of things that had been replaced by the homeowner at some point in the past. There were boxes and boxes of glasses and dishes…some wrapped in newspapers dated 1994. There were beautiful comforters and quilts, now useless because the dampness of the basement (and a few mouse holes) had ruined them. That was decluttering. It was an ugly process, and it was sad that so many things had been sitting there for some many years when they could have been used by someone in need.

You don’t have to be moving to downsize.  You can downsize (or rightsize) as you go through life.  Downsizing is a much easier process, and done regularly you can avoid going through an ugly decluttering procedure!


June 15, 2010


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