Tag: Getting Organized

The Upside of Downsizing

What is “downsizing? Webster defines it as “to make smaller.” The term is most familiar when related to business layoffs and making a company smaller. For the purpose of this discussion, it means engaging in a number of tasks, such as:

  • Reducing household good via gifts to family and friends, sales, donations, etc.
  • Organizing, sorting household items.
  • Preparing for developing an overall moving and/or “aging in place plan.”

Are you ready to boldly sail into your future, but are still clinging to all your cherished things? Downsizing is an opportunity to create a new life in a new space. Many of our clients tell us, “Getting rid of stuff was so liberating.”

20 Tips to Declutter Your Home

It’s only worth what people will pay for it.

When deciding what to get rid of, make three piles: toss; donate; and sell.

  1. Wedding dress

If no one is going to wear it again, have some nice pillows made out of it. Or save it to wrap bouquets in your daughter’s wedding. Or clip off a piece of fabric and display it in a frame with a photo of your wedding day.

  1. Love letters

Keep them if they’re yours. But if they’re your parents’, they’re part of a romance between your parents and never meant for you. Burn them ceremonially and send the love back into the universe.

  1. Boxes of photos

Throw out landscape shots. Pick three with people in them from each vacation or holiday. With the rest, pull out the great shots and scan them for safe keeping. If you don’t have scanning capabilities, send them to an online scanning service to store in the cloud or to make albums.

  1. China set

If you like it, use it. If you don’t, sell it through eBay. Be realistic, though. Not long ago, fine china commanded a nice price. But today’s consumers want fine tableware that’s safe in the microwave and the dishwasher.

  1. Antiques

We use an online auction service. You can also take high-end antiques to a local antiques dealer, who can take them to an auction house. Find out what the house’s take is upfront (typically 10 to 15 percent) as well as where it will place the starting bid.

  1. Greeting cards

Their job is to greet you over the holidays. They did that. Now you throw them away. Or put them in the recycle bin. If you saved the envelopes, you can go through them to update your address book.

  1. Old appliances

Like a yard sale online, Craigslist is a source for usable appliances. With local buyers, you skip shipping costs. Tip: Sell only to buyers who pay cash and will pick up the item. When they come, have someone with you.

  1. Your kids’ stuff

It’s not your job to save everything from your children’s lives. Box up what belongs to the kids, and send it to them. Or tell them to claim it now, with the date you plan to have the house cleared out.

  1. Books

If you’re going to read it, or it just feels too much like family, put it on your bookshelf. If not, give it away. You can drop books off at a library or donation center. Call around for a charity that will pick up.

  1. Luggage

Few use that old high end-leather luggage anymore. That graduation gift from your grandparents? If it’s in decent shape, try sell it at your own or a neighborhood garage sale. If not, donate it to a charity such as a women’s homeless shelter.

  1. Furniture

Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity great sources.

  1. Clothes

Questions: “Do I need it?” “Will I use it?” If not, out it goes. It doesn’t matter whether “I only wore it once,” “It’s in good condition” or “It was expensive.” Then make three piles: toss, donate or sell it. We donate to local thrift stores.

  1. Jewelry

Decide what to keep, then give family members their choice. Sell the rest on eBay. Polish the jewelry and light it well, then photograph items in high resolution from several angles. Include a close-up of any label or stamp.

  1. Art

Appraising fine art is an art in itself, so you might need an appraiser. You don’t want to give away that ugly painting or sculpture only to find out it later sold for $50,000 at an auction.

  1. Old tennis racket

They’re heavy wood and outmoded. Toss it or sell it on Craigslist to a collector of old rackets.

  1. Curio collection

Select three pieces to keep, then photograph the rest, and put the photos in an album alongside the display. eBay is the place to sell smaller, more valuable items like collectibles.

  1. Musical instruments

Craigslist is already flooded with dead musical dreams. Spread the word around your neighborhood; ask your kids’ former music teacher. Even if you sell at a loss, it will fill a home with music. Just not your home.

  1. Stuffed Closets

Rather than fishing through and deciding what to eliminate, take everything out, down to the bare walls. Then physically put back items. Choosing to keep, rather than choosing to let go, will net in clinging to fewer things.

  1. Important Papers

Organize the originals and store them in your bank’s safety deposit box. For those that you use periodically, like birth and marriage certificates, school records, wills and other legal documents, scan them electronically and back them up on your hard drive.

  1. Household junk

Got Junk and similar sources will pick it up. Hold a garage sale. Put price tags on items: $5, $50, make an offer. Post signs in the neighborhood, and advertise on Craigslist and other online estate sales sources.

How to Check On Elderly Parents During Holiday Visits

By Laura Berrios for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

If you’re planning a holiday trip home to aging parents, you might want to do a little snooping while there.

Elderly parents aren’t always forthcoming about their health and activities of daily living when talking with their adult children over the phone.

And for good reason, says Lisa Kaufman, owner of SeniorCare Options, an Aging Life Care Management service in metro Atlanta. “They are fearful of being put away in a home, so they keep things private. They don’t want someone finding out they’re not functioning.”

If you want to know what’s really going on with your loved ones as they age in place, here are a few places to poke your nose where (your parents think) it doesn’t belong.

The garage: Fender benders, and nicks and scrapes on the sides of the car could indicate there’s a problem with driving. This could indicate that visual and spatial skills have diminished, Kaufman said. If driving is a concern, AARP’s free online seminar “We Need to Talk” can help prepare you for that conversation, says Hillary W. Thomas, senior program specialist with AARP Georgia.

The kitchen: Check out the refrigerator. Are there lots of takeout containers, or expired or moldy foods? Food poisoning is a dangerous risk for the elderly, Kaufman said.

What are they eating? Dramatic weight gain could signal a diet of unhealthy snacks instead of nutritious foods, and dramatic weight loss could indicate that they are not eating much at all, or that they don’t like to eat alone.

Observe how the Thanksgiving meal is prepared. Are they able to get the meal together, to coordinate the prepping and cooking times? Red flags should go up if they don’t appear to make a traditional dish the way they’ve always made it in the past, or if they’re using the wrong ingredients.

The bedroom: Is it as well-kept as in the past? And are its occupants as well-kept as in the past? It could be a cause for concern if they don’t smell clean, or it appears they aren’t changing clothes regularly.

The family room: Are they telling the same stories over and over again, but do not remember?

Is the place messy when it would normally be clean and orderly?

The medicine cabinet:

Ask them how they keep track of which prescription drugs to take, and when.

Family members should note anything that makes them think, “Hmmm. Something’s not right,” Kaufman said.

If the family hasn’t already had an initial caregiving conversation, the holidays are the perfect time to initiate one. Just make sure the care recipients are included, Thomas said.

She advises adult children to ask their parents what they want to do about aging, and really listen to what they say.

“The person receiving the care is an adult too,” Thomas said. When the children come in telling the parent what they’re going to do, it often leads to a combative, adversarial relationship, she said.

Even if there are concerns about the care and health of aging loved ones, families don’t always know what to do. Bringing in a care manager to assess the situation and develop a care plan can help get everyone going in the same direction. When a professional comes in, the loved one is usually more forthcoming and it takes the family out of having to be the bad guy, Kaufman said.

Families can search for care managers through the nonprofit Aging Life Care Association at aginglifecare.org.

One Christmas gift that adult kids can ask of their parents is a family meeting to take care of all decisions about their aging. They can plan ahead, get all the “what if” wishes of the parents, sort out all of the finances, and gather documents such as wills, advance directives, and the power of attorney.

“Many times, parents will say they don’t want to involve their kids because they don’t want to be a burden to them. But when you don’t do things and it becomes a crisis, that’s a burden,” Kaufman said.

Thomas recommends families gather a caregiving team and develop a plan long before it’s needed. AARP lays out the specifics in “Prepare to Care: A Caregiving Planning Guide for Families,” a free source available at AARP.org.

Getting Organized

Did you know that an estimated 4.2 million retirees move to a new home each year? Merrill Lynch and Age Wave reports that fact in “Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices.” Over all, 64 percent of retirees expect to move at least once during retirement.

As such, getting organized for downsizing for a new home is crucial. Having lived in our current residence 30, 40 or more years, we’ve accumulated vast quantities of furnishings, keepsakes and treasured belongings. Most of which have emotional attachments. Deciding how and to whom to distribute them is, in all likelihood, a logistical nightmare for the entire family.

In “Getting Organized,” Barb Gustafson says downsizing is the perfect opportunity to shed ourselves of much of the clutter we’ve amassed over decades.

The proven step-by-step process starts by having a purpose in mind that fits your needs for each room in your new home. This should help you decide what you truly don’t need and what to bring forward. Take measurements or have the square footage of each room to create floor plans and furniture arrangements. Carry a copy for handy reference, if you’re out shopping, especially when selecting larger pieces.

Start sorting and downsizing today. Begin by going through each room one at a time, one item at a time. Create and categorize sorting bins and label as Keep, Donate, Sell, Recycle or Garbage. Ask yourself, “Do I love it, use it or need it?” Qualified items to keep are either practical, beautiful or inspirational. Stop saving the good stuff for special occasions. Treat yourself to the best every day. Items with sentimental attachment worth creating a space for are worth saving.

You may have twice as many duplicate items as you need. Release and pass them on to someone who does. An outlet that accepts donations or a consignment store are two options. Consider replacement versus repair costs of broken items you haven’t used in over six months. Purge what doesn’t belong in your vision, and value what’s left. Remind yourself they’re just objects. In the end, you won’t miss them.

When sorting clothes, let go of anything that doesn’t fit or that you haven’t worn in the past two years that may not best complement you. Chances are they probably never will.

Paper is the number one source of clutter. Gather up all your documents, files and bills and sort into six piles, subsequently creating folders for each. Bills, bank statements, pay stubs / investments / tax returns & supporting docs / insurance policies, home & car ownerships / warranties, user manuals / will, birth & marriage certificates. Store folders in an easily accessible, portable, waterproof folder box. Shred anything that’s trash.

Simplifying our lives gives us time and energy to do the things that really matter to us.

If you feel overwhelmed or don’t have the time to declutter on your own, request help. Get the family involved or hire a professional organizer.

Whether your move is imminent or in the future, it’s never too early to get organized. With less clutter in your home – and your life – you’ll feel lighter, freer and better equipped to begin new adventures.

Barb Gustafson is a Professional Organizer and Interior Decorator based in Victoria, BC.