Viscous Cycle

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We recently visited a client who was extremely relieved to have dealt with her own personal Mt. Washmore (her term for describing the mountain of laundry that had previously lodged itself in the center of her living room).  In a previous CRUD blog we excoriated the sheer volume of laundry related products amassed by clients in pursuit of wardrobe maintenance. But piles of unwashed laundry or laundry waiting for folding contribute to the disarray.  People, who have a lot of clothes and not enough time to wash, fold and put them away, find their space compromised by the presence of multiple overflowing baskets stationed anywhere there is an empty surface, including every seat in the house.

There are many good reasons why laundry does not get done in a timely manner. Laundry is one of those household tasks that you can perform ostensibly while you are doing something else like reading, cooking or watching Ellen. It’s not like you have to watch your soapy clothes sloshing around through the circular window. But, you could get distracted and be unpleasantly surprised by mildewed clothes that accidently stayed overnight in the washer. If you care about your wearing apparel you know it is prudent not to mix your delicate garments with heavily stained denim in the same load. Thus, the simple task of doing laundry gets broken up into multiple segments that encompass sorting loads, treating stains, deciding what can go into the dryer and what needs to be hung to dry and worst of all, separating what needs to ironed. If you are fortunate enough to have your machines on the main floor of your home, you may be able to manage all this complexity without too much difficulty. But, if your washer and dryer reside in the basement or if you have to leave to use communal laundry facilities or a laundromat, your motivation may be diminish. Postponement only leads to even worse consequences.  Rather than run out of underwear you may have to resort to emergency tidy whitey purchases or at the very least a trip to Walmart to pick up even more unsightly laundry baskets. 

CRUD Challenge

When laundry gets to the point when it threatens to overwhelm we suggest that our clients drop off their unwashed loads at a local establishment to at least get them back to square one. While this one- time solution may be pricey, it is worth it for the sense of relief that accompanies dealing with the problem in one fell swoop. If nothing else, it allows the individual to address the clutter that the laundry piles have the habit of camouflaging. 

From our viewpoint, most systems break down at the folding stage. Once the items are removed from the dryer they either remain in heaps atop the machine or get transferred to baskets. In either case, the clothing looks so rumpled they look like you slept in them for week.  Remember, you cannot throw stuff in the dryer and dash out to a double-feature and hope for the best. Instead you’ll have to haul out the ironing board and remove the wrinkles from what was supposed to be permanent press.

As you can probably gather, doing laundry requires employing management skills or it can easily gain the upper hand. You could reduce your wardrobe as a means of shrinking (no pun intended) your laundry woes. Calling your mother won’t help.

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Gone in a Flash

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Many of our clients are members of the boomer generation who are in the process of helping their parents downsize.  Whether their parents are deceased or have moved into seniors’ residences, the adult children are charged with figuring out what to do with oodles of excess belongings.  They are often stymied when they come across collections, like cameras, that have experienced tremendous loss of value due to changes in technology.  Photography has been around since the 19th century.

In all but the last two decades the medium for recording and preserving images had been film. Digital and smart phone cameras have rendered film dependent models obsolete. For the shutterbug of yesteryear, these relics from the non-digital era still hold value, be it sentimental. Consequently, photo equipment is one of the most popular categories we come across in the “Inheritance Zone” in many homes.

Older digital models, video cameras, Polaroids, darkroom equipment, film, lenses, cases and light meters are what comprise a holding pen for the inevitable trip to recycling. Our sympathies go out to those who made significant investments and time and money in what were state of the art products in their time. It still does not negate the need to find alternatives other than keeping for the sake of keeping.

CRUD Challenge

Let’s begin with the obvious. You should have no problems saying goodbye to the disposable units or even you very first Brownie that dispensed little black and white fuzzy photos with the scalloped borders. More bothersome are the myriad 33 mm models with detachable lenses and other high-end equipment. The Internet may be your best route for sourcing collectors or resources for charitable donation.  You will have to do some research, accessing the auction sites as well as classifieds to determine the current value. Some brands retain their value better than others. If selling is not the preferred option you can always recycle, including the batteries. Keep in mind; today’s cameras make everyone look like a pro with one click.

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Petticoat Junction

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It’s snowing down south. That’s an expression we have not heard in decades. There is a good reason for that. Back in junior high, “snowing down south” was code for “your slip is showing.” A friend or Good Samaritan might give you a heads up, sending you scurrying to the Girl’s Room for an interior wardrobe adjustment.  Those were the days before women were allowed to wear pants to school. Even when the mercury dipped below freezing, you had to wear a skirt or stay home.

We’ve come a long way with respect to freedom of choice in wearing apparel. Many women today have forsaken skirts and dresses altogether in favor slacks and jeans. They either don’t like their legs, resent wearing heels or simply desire the comfort, warmth and versatility of dressing in leggings or pants. After all, trying to bicycle to work in a maxi-skirt presents obvious challenges.

So, what’s the deal with all of the slips still resident in your lingerie drawers? Back in the day when slips were a wardrobe staple designed to prevent embarrassing moments caused by static cling, you had full slips and half-slips, long ones and short ones and crinolines. Even if you still wear skirts or dresses, most are already lined, so why waste valuable drawer space on undergarments that no longer serve their intended purpose. 

CRUD Challenge

If it breaks your heart to have to part with your collection, consider saving a few select pieces, including a full slip to indulge your inner Maggie the Cat.  Your selection process should include the state of the garment. Toss anything that is either ripped or stained and designate the rest for your donation bag. Don’t let the bag sit in your home for an eternity. There are plenty of clothing donation bins on streets and parking lots. This would be an excellent opportunity to purge other artifacts from your dresser like tights that bag at the knees, shrunken camisoles that no longer reach your belly button, granny panties and those old standbys, shoulder pads.

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Deadly Nightstand

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If you are truly serious about making headway in the clutter wars, we advise you to start small.  Certain clean-up activities, like taking on an entire kitchen or a triple garage can take weeks and deplete you of energy and determination. There is nothing quite as satisfying as eliminating an eyesore in a matter of an hour or two. When clients ask for help with domesticating their bedrooms, they typically mean unruly closets and bulging drawers, or what has multiplied under the bed while they were sleeping.

If your intention is to transform a bedroom so messy your own mother is threatening to disinherit you, why not begin with a problem area that is relatively easy to fix?  We mean your bedside table. Whether yours is simply a flat surface or furniture that contains shelves or drawers, almost all night tables are subject to similar debris. Most contain some form of lighting, personal electronics and their charger companions, for openers. If you are not willing to risk injury going into the bathroom for a drink in the middle of the night, you need to provide space for requisite water glass. Speaking of glasses, the nightstand must accommodate a pair of specs along with the reading material designed to make you drowsy. Watches and other jewelry often occupy a few more inches of space, as do medications taken at bedtime. Clock radios are another nightstand staple, as are memo pads, half-eaten snacks and the remote control.  If there is more than one surface or a drawer or two you are likely to be storing a flashlight, family photos, postage stamps, cosmetic samples, unfilled prescriptions, tissues, an expired bank card and a blank journal or two.

Don’t you think this is a lot to ask of a single piece of furniture measuring a mere 18 inches in diameter? How can you balance your need for access with your desire to be relieved of the burden of CRUD (completely ridiculous useless debris) precisely where you are spending a third of your life?

CRUD Challenge

This problem often requires a two-pronged approach involving evaluation of both the suitability of the furniture as well as the contents. You may deem many of the aforementioned items to be essential, but that doesn’t mean they all have to be visible to the naked eye.  Therefore, if you are using a table, consider replacing it with another piece that furnishes storage for the overflow. Drawers with dividers help to keep similar categories together and improve your ability to retrieve things when you need them.  Before you go ahead, be sure to comb through the current contents to look for duplication, obsolescence and to weed out stuff that does not belong there like letters from ex-boyfriends who cheated on you. You can do a great deal to improve the functionality and appearance of the surface area by placing a coaster under the water glass to prevent rings, using bowls to hold loose coins and shipping off piles of novels to the welcoming arms a book shelf, keeping only the volume that you are currently reading at hand.

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Why Wait? Top 10 Reasons to De-Clutter After Xmas

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Once all the gifts have been opened and the turkey has been stripped to the bone, a little voice in your head reminds you that there are logistical issues that accompany the onslaught of abundance.  Alarm bells may sound when you look around and wonder how and where you are going to incorporate all of the gifts into your living space and your life. The post-holiday season is an ideal time to take inventory of your current belongings and take steps to balance the old with the new.  Here’s why…

  1. Christmas may be over, but the merry-making will continue for another week through New Year’s.  Company could drop over at any time. Even worse, relatives and friends may be staying over. Make sure there are places for them to sit, sleep and hang their clothes while they are your guests.
  2. Your credit card bill could arrive any day. Think about selling some excess belongings on Craig’s List or consignment to at least cover the interest from your holiday shopping sprees.
  3. When you are packing up your decorations and lights you realize there are 3 or 4 Rubbermaid containers-full that never were opened, even though every doorway, mantel, banister, surface and window in your house was decked out to the max.  What does that tell you?
  4. Holiday decorations are typically stored in basements, attics, spare rooms and storage lockers, areas that receive infrequent or any visits during the year.  While you are putting this year’s bounty away for another year, why not explore the contents of other long neglected bins and boxes for downsizing potential.
  5. Your kids may be temporarily distracted in the thrall of playing with brand new toys.  Use this as an opportunity to round up toys they have outgrown or discarded, when they are least likely to notice.  Pass those on to shelters, daycares and other non-profits.
  6. If you are planning to take advantage of Boxing Week sales with some of the gift cards you have received, your closet may need some tweaking in preparation. Dive in and decide what no longer fits or works with the rest of your wardrobe to open up hanging or drawer space.
  7. After several weeks no fertilizer or watering regimen will spare your leggy poinsettias from their death spiral.  Time to pitch, along with the tree that is showering needles all over your shag carpet.
  8. Similar to your decorations, your gift wrap stash may be in need of emergency editing. You don’t have to save every bow and bauble that adorned the presents you received.  The same goes for tissue, gift bags and tiny remnants of wrapping paper from old rolls.
  9. If you received more holiday cards than you sent you will want to recycle them rather than suspend them on string until Easter.  You will feel less guilty.
  10. Scales don’t lie. If the extra five pounds drives you to despair, remove temptation by unloading the extra boxes of candy and baked goods on friends and charities.

CRUD Challenge

Once your post-holiday purging activities are complete, reward yourself with a glass or two of your favorite holiday beverage.  Consider a cruise or hot weather resort for next year’s holiday season. No stuff, just fun and relaxation for your and your family.

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Certifiable

Is the very mention of the word “paper” propel you into assuming the fetal position?

Will you resort to any activity, including changing the cat litter, to avoid sorting through decades of files? We are well aware of the feelings of hopelessness and fatigue that are provoked by any attempt at organizing paper.  Today, we offer a strategy for eliminating some of the backlog by removing a paper CRUD category easily overlooked.

Most paper sorting paralysis is associated with combing through heaps of documents that lurk in towering file cabinets too cramped to consider opening, or thrown into bags or boxes without the aid of identification.  The soul-destroying nature of this activity is further compounded by the realization that the responsibility for the mess resides solely with you. It is hard to muster the motivation to tackle something so formidable alone.

Before taking on a project of this magnitude, you should understand that paper comes in many forms. It is far easier to deal with the various sub-categories individually than to attack en masse. Our target for today is certificates. Certificates, diplomas and similar documentation establish one’s credentials in a world where differentiation often matters.  When you are in your physician’s office dreading the results of a lab test that could confirm the existence of a rare but fatal disease, you might feel comforted by the presence of multiple degrees framed on the walls.  At least the doctor making the diagnosis is a graduate of a recognized medical school. You might be similarly reassured by the display of degrees in your lawyer’s office, especially when the retainer keeps mounting for your lawsuit that is not even scheduled to come to trial for another two years.

While degrees and diplomas help to confer authority for medical and legal professionals, they are by no means the only ones who exhibit credentials.  Many of our clients hold on to their own proof of achievement in the privacy of their homes. Some of this makes sense.  After all, you never know when you may need to produce a document attesting that you earned a BS when you have applied for a position that requires corroboration. Still, many of us keep and often frame meaningless documents where our only accomplishment was attending a work mandated seminar on Teamwork. Even worse, we discovered positive proof that our client was among those whose achievement was completing the Alaska Highway by reaching Milepost 1422 in Delta Junction Alaska. Are we all so starved for recognition we need to a piece of paper to confirm our value?

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CRUD Challenge

Here is the real problem with saving stuff like this. The more useless paper you keep, the harder it is for you to retrieve important documents that you really do need. If you are retired, will it impress anyone anymore that you were the top producing salesperson in your branch office for the month of November in 1998? Will anyone care whether you were a runner up in the three-legged race at your elementary school’s annual sports day?  Today may be the day to unload stacks of personal memorabilia responsible for taking up valuable wall space, filling binders and drawers well beyond their intended capacity, and loading your limited storage with fodder meant for recycling. When you are hunting down your paper prey, don’t forget to re-purpose or donate the pile of frames.

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Generation Gap

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Many of our clients have lived for over a half of a century. A good many of them have children who have long left home. These parents a commonly referred to as “empty nesters’. This may be a misnomer.  The fledglings have flown away, but the nest is far from empty. Their belongings remain behind in the custody of the parents. Sometimes, a daughter or son’s room is preserved as if its occupant expected home at any moment, even if that adult child lives halfway around the globe, with a young family of his own. This is not an uncommon phenomenon and in some instances not unreasonable, considering the growing population of “boomerang” kids, unable to afford a place of their own. But, the vast majority of adult children are not expected to return as residents. The parents are saving their children’s discarded belongings because they believe their children want these possessions.  Experience dictates otherwise.

Many well-meaning parents are shocked to discover that the very items they diligently set aside for safe keeping from toddlerhood to adolescence are not valued by their offspring.  Whether its piles of artwork or schoolwork, awards, favorite storybooks, game consoles for bygone video games, old costumes, uniforms or baseball gloves, the story is the same.  The kids either don’t have the room or they simply don’t care about these mundane milestones that chronicle their childhood.  What are they going to do with a single bed complete with a Little Mermaid comforter and matching sheets, or for that matter a desk with no room for a keyboard?  Do they want to be saddled with silver they need to polish, crystal stemware that must be hand washed or gold-rimmed dishes they can’t put in a dishwasher, when they don’t even have time to listen to the voicemails you leave? Where is your daughter going to stash six cartons of photographs of people who they barely remember when a third of  her bedroom is devoted to a sleeping cage for the Afghan hound she adores beyond reason?

Saving stuff for your kids that you presume they want can deprive you of your own living space. You could be re-purposing entire rooms to indulge your own hobbies and interests or create an environment to set up a home based business.

CRUD Challenge

This is not as hard as it may seem. First, understand that your children are individuals in their own right with their own needs, desires and esthetic standards.  Rejecting the memorabilia you hoped they would come to appreciate, is not a rejection of you.  Start by taking an inventory of everything they have left behind.  Then call your sons and daughters.  Tell them you have your own plans to revitalize these vacated spaces. If they want to keep some things, give them a deadline for pickup. Communicate that you would be more than happy to make arrangements to give away or sell what they can’t use. You still have the right to keep whatever you want for sentimental reasons, although hopefully not more than an trunk’s worth.  When the decisions have been made, start enjoying the new spaces you have liberated. No single de-cluttering activity pays back as much as this does.

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