Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Cleaning category.

And I Don’t Iron My Sheets

Last last week, I was folding our laundry, and I got to thinking about my past blog post (I Don’t Like Shopping). It occurred to me that it might have come off a bit pretentious, as I sat there, all high and mighty, screaming for the rooftops my dislike of shopping, and therefore my theoretical lack of clutter.

However, just because I don’t like to shop doesn’t mean I don’t accumulate things. It’s truly amazing the amount of stuff one accumulates simply by living. As many of you know, I’m a Brownie leader with the Girl Guides of Canada. Being in this role means that I am “blessed” with old craft supplies, old Brownie books, and basically a bunch of stuff that other guiders don’t want to have hanging around their house anymore. My husband and I are also part time youth pastors, which means that we have curriculum, party supplies, and forgotten Bibles almost all the time.

Which leads to me to an extension of a previous post, Confessions of a Professional Organizer. Whenever I go to a client’s home, or tell someone that I’m a professional organizer, they will inevitably comment that my home must be pristine, to which my husband usually rolls his eyes, or snorts to indicate that that is certainly not the case. In response, I usually tell people that although I know where almost everything is in my home, it is not “pristine” by any means (unless I’ve had a weekend to actually get some housework done). So, no, I don’t iron my sheets. Actually, in all honesty, I just gave my mother my iron, because in the 4 years I have been married, I haven’t ironed once! Shhh! It’s my dirty little secret. We use the dryer, and try to hang it up right away (which isn’t usually executed as speedily as I would like, but whatcha gonna do?).

So, I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by my last post. That doesn’t mean that I won’t write a post on the global consequences of shopping one day, as I probably will. But, it does mean that although I don’t tend to get tripped up in this area, there are certainly others where I have more difficulty with.

Now, off to swiffer my hardwood floors! Once a month is about right, right?

What tends to clutter your home that you don’t purchase, but simply acquire through life’s activities?

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School’s Out! (A Guest Blog Post)

I have been following fellow blogger Jen at Pursuing “Enough” for a few months now. She writes candidly about her battle with stuff, and all the fun things that contribute to it, like her kids. After a few comments back and forth on a post I wrote back in February (Can’t Touch This), I asked Jen to share her experience of putting that advice into practice. So, here we go:

I am learning that just because I am on a quest to simplify our family’s life, it doesn’t mean that anyone else is going to go along with it easily.  My son, especially, has such a tenderhearted, sentimental nature; it’s extremely hard—seemingly almost painful—for him to get rid of things.  When he was three, it was precious and charming:  “Mommy!  We can’t get rid of that book!  It has baby remembers all over it!”  Once he hit eight, it became a bit more ridiculous:  “But Mom!  My sister gave me those shoes for my birthday when I was five!  And I’ll never be five again!”

So once I discovered the “Sort It” site, I began a search:  how do I deal with a kiddo who is so overwhelmingly attached to “stuff”?  When I found a post titled “Can’t Touch This,” about encouraging those around you to get rid of their clutter, I knew I was on the right track; and I asked Liz for some specific advice about dealing with my overly-sentimental son.

Her words couldn’t have come at a better time.  The last day of school hit, and a year’s worth of “stuff” that had been stuffed into both my kids’ desks got shipped home to my kitchen counter.  I knew if we didn’t act quickly, it might live there for weeks.  So we got to work, and I got a chance to put her suggestions into practice.

One idea that went much better than I anticipated applied to one of his art projects.  She had commented that “if it is a large object, or something he seems particularly attached to, but needs to part with it for whatever reason (health, space, etc.), then take a picture of him with it. That way he can create a scrapbook of keepsakes without all the clutter.”  At the time, I’d laughed about the “health” reason, but I suddenly realized, looking at this “rain cloud” project, that we couldn’t very well hang it up in his room without aggravating his asthma at some point.  Our conversation about it was brief:

“What do you want to do with your cloud?”

“Keep it.”

“Um….where are you planning on keeping it?”  (The thing was huge.)

“Ummmm…..”

“How about if we take a picture of you with it, and you can keep that?”

“Okay.”

Seriously?  Okay?  That’s it?  All right then, we’re on a roll….let’s keep it up.

I pulled out the blatant trash from his school box:  even he couldn’t argue that dried up, empty glue sticks were worth keeping.  He agreed to trash the junk, and we quickly got markers and crayons (and salvageable glue) back among all our art supplies here at home.

Another excellent suggestion, one I don’t always think about, is to have him not touch any of it.  “Hold it up for him to see and have him make the decision that way. People are more likely to let something go if they don’t touch it first.”  I strongly suspect that me holding up a nearly six-inch-thick stack of workbooks, notebooks, and folders made a huge difference in his response (“You can recycle it.”).  If he had held those objects in his hands, he would have flipped through each of those items individually, and I know without a doubt there would have been much discussion about their fate.

The pile disappeared before our eyes.  He did keep his giant name poster, choosing to hang it on a wall in his room.  The stash of notebooks, workbooks, and the rain cloud all hit the recycling bin.  Art supplies were put away where they belonged (okay, no, I didn’t check to see if all the markers worked—I’m sure we’ll figure that out over the next few weeks).  We kept two other art projects on display in the kitchen; we’ll make decisions about those after we enjoy them for a while.  My kitchen counter reappeared that same afternoon.  Painlessly.  I didn’t even have to utilize Liz’s first suggestion, to let him have one box to keep things in; he actually let things go on his own, without complaint.

(I wonder if he’d let me give those shoes away now?)


My 3rd guest blog post for the Girl Guides of Canada. What have your experiences been when camping with kids?

GirlGuidesCANBlog

As we are preparing for our annual spring camp, I can’t help but think back to the first time I went to Brownie Camp as a leader. I was a Junior Leader in our Unit for two years before I became a full-fledged leader. When the two main leaders left for university before the start of the year, and then the third leader moved for work a month in, I found myself and my best friend looking at each other saying “We can do this!” And we did, but it was a learning experience to say the least.

Now, this post is meant to be about organizing or cleaning, and I will get to that, but I just wanted to share a couple of “learned tips & tricks” for Brownie level camping:

1. Always bring an extra (or two, or three) pair(s) of mittens and hats. Inevitably, one girl will…

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Previous Post

I won! Please take a look at this Decluttering Diva’s blog 🙂

100 things 100 days

Total raised for your charities: $167

Call me cynical, but when someone does a giveaway online, I always wonder about the process. Did they close their eyes and point to a winner on the screen? Did they enter they enter their favourite reader 25 times? Did they just choose their best friend?

Here at 100 things, 100 days, we’re on the up and up. To prove it, I enlisted the help of my youngest (five-year olds are all about fair) to write down the names of everyone who entered, fold them in half, and draw one out of a bowl.

I taped the entire thing on my iPhone – upside down. Yep, upside down.

Then, my five-year old requested a re-take because he wasn’t happy with his pronunciation of the word congratulations.

And on play back, I realized that I sound exactly like Ma Ingalls on Little House On The…

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Let’s Get Digital

Paper. We all have it, but some of us have NO CLUE as to what to do with it! Here are a few tips to bring that mountain back down to a realistic, working, active pile.

 

 

1. Open your mail. I know that this might sound crazy, but it’s the first step. Also, open it right over the recycling bin. Why? Because inside most envelopes are flyers, pamphlets or brochures trying to sell you something you’ll never need. Open those envelopes and keep the one paper that you actually need.

2. Do something with the paper. Do you pay all your bills at one sitting, or as they come in? If you wait to pay them, have an area where you place paperwork that requires action. For us, we use the top of our filing cabinet. When we pay something off or update required information, then we file it. Right away. A lot of people hate filing, but it’s remarkable how quickly it can be completed if you have the right system in place, and if you are consistent with doing it regularly. With well labeled files, you know exactly where that paper belongs – quick and easy.

3. Cull your paper. Some documents you need for up to 7 years (for tax purposes), some longer (Will, Insurance, etc.) and some less (we only keep one year’s worth of bills, unless we’re claiming it on our taxes). Once your tax year is complete, put all the paper work for that year in a large envelope labeled with the year. Then, when the 7 years pass, shred it. Simple as that. If you’re only keeping one year’s worth of paperwork for a specific file, then as you put the most recent paperwork in the front, remove the last one (which should be a year old now), and shred it. One in, one out.

4. If you can manage it, go paperless. For my husband’s cell phone, we were charged $2 per paper bill – we quickly eliminated that. It will also  help with your paper dilemma. Create a good filing system on your computer and you can store all those bills electronically. No fuss, and no muss. Just remember to open those emails, and back up your computer regularly. I do like the idea of automated payments (especially for those that have difficulty keeping on top of things), but please review your bills – especially credit card bills. You never know when you might be charged erroneously, or spend more than you had intended.

How do you manage paperwork? How often do you file your papers? Have you gone electronic? Why or why not?


Use It or Lose It

This topic may seem similar, as I posted on something along these lines last year (You’ve Got It, So Use It), but who doesn’t like a little reminder now and then?

First, let me confess. I have a “collection” of those little floss containers you get from the dentist at your check ups. And by “collection” I mean 10. Seriously. Here’s the evidence:

It’s not that I don’t floss, I just don’t do it as often as I should. I’ve tried to remedy this by flossing on days with a “U” in them (Tuesday, Thursday and either Saturday or Sunday), so that if I don’t do it everyday, at least I’m flossing every week. Why? Because my husband told me that the plaque that’s on your teeth, and in your gums, can travel through your blood system, and build up in there. YIKES! That was enough to get me flossing more regularly…

Anyway, my point it this: I need to use this up before I purchase any more. And, if I’m not going to use it, then I can’t have it cluttering up my space. If you’ve ever seen our bathroom, you’d understand. But it’s not the size that matters, but the fact that anytime you want to get around it, you have to shuffle it around. And for what? If you’ll never use it, so why not let someone else be “blessed” by it?

Lastly, if you have so much of it that even if you used “it” at every opportunity, you still wouldn’t make a solid dent in it, perhaps you should split “it” and pass some of it on. Don’t let it bog you down just because you think you’ll use it “someday”.

What do you have an overload of? Will you ever use it? Please excuse me while I get to flossing 😀

P.S. While I haven’t completely depleted my body wash (please refer to above mentioned post), I’m getting near the end. Imagine that… But I haven’t bought anymore all this time! Saving space AND money!


Beware of Bags

We have all got them – bags. Grocery bags. Gift bags. Reusable bags. They come in all sorts of handy shapes and sizes, don’t they? And they can be oh so useful! However, I want to warn you ~ beware of using bags for organizational storage…

Before I get too high on my horse, let me just preface this by saying that I do have a bag problem. I am only stating this because my husband reads my blog, and will give me grief if I don’t make mention of it. The issue is this: milk bags. A couple of years ago our church started collecting milk bags, which you can crochet into sleeping mats (details on how to make these mats can be found here). These mats are then sent off to developing countries. They’re great because the bugs don’t lay eggs in them, like they would a wicker mat. Anyway, it takes about 300 milk bags to make one mat, so we started collecting. And, boy, did people give! Please see below:

 

 

I have been working on this mat for too long, but I will get it done – promise. Then I’ll finish the other half completed mat I have 🙂  (Please do not give me any more milk bags – I’m drowning in them…)

Anyway, back to my warning. I have found that a lot of people store things in bags. The trouble with this is “out of sight, out of mind”. I found this myself just a couple of weeks ago. I had a plastic bag on the floor of the living room for a couple of weeks. I walked by it twice a day, easily, without giving it a second thought. However, when I went to look inside of that bag, I realized that I had a proper place to store some of the contents, and the rest of it was rubbish (to be recycled).

If we’re trying to do a quick cleanup of our home, it may seem like the simplest solution to simply take everything and tuck it away in a grocery bag, with the intention of sorting through it at a later point in time. However, when an item is in a bag, that “later time” is put much farther off. And keep in mind that plastic bags do deteriorate over time. Leave them for too long, and you’ll have a big mess on your hands.

So please, please, don’t store items in bags. You can label them all you want, but I can guarantee you that most of what you have in there will be useless within a month. If it was important to you, you would have found a proper home for it. How many bags do you have in your home? How do you use them up?

Things to do with your old bags:

1. Take out the trash.

2. Take the dog for a walk, or clean up the backyard.

3. Use it for the green bin (Toronto).

4. Give a few to a friend with a dog.

5. Give them to your local day care – they often send home wet clothes with the children, and need something to put them in.


But It May Come In Handy One Day!

We all have some “just in case” items. Toilet paper, canned goods, bottled water – things that we keep around the house because we anticipate needing them in the somewhat near future. Some are legitimate, like food and household staples, but others are long shot items that will likely never be needed.

I have found that as we start considering donating or tossing an item, we are more likely to part with it the next time we come across it. For example, if you have a large collection of books, and you think to yourself, “I don’t read most of these books anymore, nor will I go back to them in the future, but I’m just not ready to get rid of them yet”, the next time you go through your books, it will be easier for you to let go of them, because you haven’t used them between the initial thought of letting them go, and the second decluttering experience. Your justification for keeping them will no longer be supported (“but it might come in handy”). So, start asking yourself what do I rarely use, and no longer get joy out of owning? My husband challenges me on things, and I challenge him. As I think about it, I tend to realize that I don’t wear that top anymore, or I haven’t played that game in forever, nor do I plan on it. Sometimes it just takes another’s prodding to get you moving in the right direction.

The more stuff you have, the more energy it takes to maintain it. Also, the longer you hold onto an item, debating with yourself whether you’ll ever use it, or be able to, the less useful it will be to someone else. I have seen many items that were once in great condition deteriorate over time just by sitting around. The adhesive in books will break down. The elastic in clothes will dry out. Canned food will expire. Items that once could have been helpful to someone else, now have to be thrown out. Sometimes it is simply time that will be the difference between these two options:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if you’ve considered tossing (or donating) an item for some time, perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet. If you haven’t used it in the last year, and you don’t get joy out of it, don’t let it take up your space and energy. Wouldn’t you much rather have items that bring a smile to your face when you look around your home?

What have you been debating about parting with? Will you take the plunge?


Can’t Touch This

Getting organized can be tough, but having someone else who is not on board makes it much tougher. Whether it be your children, or your significant other, you may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, and that your efforts are futile. However, let me reassure you that they are not. Let’s begin with the children.

For most kids, being organized (or tidy) does not come naturally to them. It is something that they need to be taught. There are two sides to this. First, it is essential that we help children to learn what to keep, and what/when to let go. If they’ve grown out of a piece of clothing or a toy, encourage them to donate that item either to another family member, or to a thrift store. Have them go with you to drop it off, so that the understand the process. Also, if something is no longer useful, help them to throw it out. It is incredibly important that they make the decision. If we simply do everything for them, they will not develop these essential skills, which will inhibit them later on in life. Also, throwing out (or giving away) items without their knowledge can create issues with attachment.

Second, children need to learn how to clean/tidy for themselves. If you are fortunate enough to have either a cleaner or a nanny, please allow your children to help them. When they move out, if they haven’t developed these skills, they will not be able to apply them to their own home – which will likely be cleaner-less for a period of time at the least. Again, these are learned skills, so be sure to include them in the various components of keeping a home tidy and organized.

Now for the big kid in the family – just kidding. Unfortunately, sometimes our spouse may not have developed these skills, so they don’t see the need to help out. This is a discussion you will have to have with your spouse, and this is exactly why I encourage all couple to go to premarital counselling before getting married. Yes, at our counselling we discussed who would take on which chores. It wasn’t written in stone as I primarily clean the washrooms now, but my husband almost always does the laundry, which is a nice trade off.

Again, however, it is important that you do not throw out (or give away) items that your significant other has not already approved. This can create trust issues, and if they are a “collector” of things, it will magnify the problem – trust me. They will find more items to replace the one that you disposed of, thinking that they wouldn’t notice.

Communication is key, and all relationships (children and spouses) take time. You can’t expect everyone to jump on board with you right at the get go. However, as they see your growing calmness, they will hopefully want to get in on your little secret. As they say “Keep Calm and Carry On”


Conquer Your Closet

Clothing is a tricky area to tackle. We might have bought it on sale. It holds memories of a past life. It holds hope that we will, one day, squeeze back into it. And more often than not, rather than dealing with it, we simply add to it, and neglect to stick to our self imposed “one in, one out” policy – a fantastic organizing technique, by the way.

So, I decided to bite the bullet. I needed to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to my clothing, and I’ve done just that. I didn’t believe that I had that much clothing. I have half of a walk in closet, and one 3 drawer dresser. How much could I possibly possess? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words…

Let me preface this whole experience by saying that I fully intended to organize my closet in the new year. I am a Brownie leader (Girl Guides for girls in grade 2 and 3), and I was making a Christmas tree craft with the girls in December, which required 6 wire hangers each. We have 20 Brownies in our unit this year, so that would mean that I needed 6 x 20 = 120 hangers. Someone had generously donated some hangers already, and I figured I was set. However, when I went to count them (the night before my meeting) I realized that I only had 70 hangers. Where in the world was I going to find another 50 hangers in 24 hours? I phoned a friend, but she wasn’t home, so I started going through our closets. “We don’t have wire hangers,” I thought. “We have a couple, but we mostly use plastic hangers.” Lo and behold, I had 50 in no time.

First, for the curious minds out there, here is the craft:

All you need to make this are 6 wire hangers, electrical tape, garland (long and full) and Christmas lights. Just wrap it around, and you’re good to go. A very cute, petite, tree.

Now, back to my closet dilemma. I had removed all of my wire hangers (I highly recommend doing this – wire hangers will stretch your clothes, and can rust), but now I had to put that clothing somewhere. Let me show you what my closet looked like one I had removed most of those hangers:

As you can see, most of my clothing is still here. You will also note that I was using those “handy” space saver hangers. Personally, I found that they took too much time trying to maneuver them, and they allowed you to be able to hang far too much clothing than most closet rods can handle. If you need additional space in your closet, go through your clothes before you purchase these devices. Next, what my closet looked like with no clothes on my hangers:

A little disorganized, no? In order to hang the “space saving hanger” up, you have to shove your clothes to one side, and I found the process too tedious. My next step was to purchase one type of hanger. I opted for the plastic hangers with the notched out top (to hold tank tops, etc.) – $6.99 for 20. I know that the wooden hangers are best, but I find that they take up far too much space. I’ve also read a blog where the person swore by the velvet hangers (they easily hold your clothes up, and are good for your clothing), but I’m not a fan of them aesthetically. But, to each their own. Here is my closet today:

I ended up parting with (donating) 31 items of clothing. I enjoy going into my closet now, as I don’t feel guilty about not wearing items I’m not in love with/don’t look good on me/I’m not sure whether they still fit or not – I tried on anything I wasn’t sure of before it went back in the closet. My pile of donateables:

Another tip is to flip all your hangers around, and when you wear it, turn the hanger back the right way. After 6 months, if the hanger is still reversed, donate it. If you haven’t worn it in 6 months, you probably won’t miss it.

One blogger put it this way: she was holding onto old clothes that “would never fit and if they did, I shouldn’t be wearing them” – readytochangenow

I was amazed at how good it felt to let go of clothing that was holding me back. If it doesn’t fit, you don’t love it, or you “shouldn’t be wearing it”, then let it go. Even if you did squeeze back into that high school outfit, would you really be proud to wear it in public again?