Spring Cleaning How To: Closets
 

Happy Spring! Now that Winter is (finally) over, it's time to get into one of my favorite activities - Spring Cleaning! While it's not as big of a deal in sunny SoCal, I generally like to do a closet shift, bringing forward all those breezy tanks, and banishing wool turtlenecks to the back of the rack. 

Closets are a great place to start any reorganizing effort. Why? Well, they are inherently contained spaces. It's a lot easier to get through a closet in one go than a big open space like a spare bedroom or (gulp) the garage. Plus, you probably use yours every day, so the feeling of satisfaction is palpable - great motivation to start tackling other problem areas!

Phase One: Decluttering

Start by pulling everything out of the closet. Have a couple boxes or bags available, and sort clothes into categories like; Keep, Donate, Throw Away, Sell, and (of course) the Maybe Pile. 

Time estimate: 2-4 hours

Keep:

I like to use the bed as an area to sort all Keep items into categories - grouping all similar items of clothing together.

Start with only the clothes you love and you wear all the time. The Pareto principle states that we only use about 20% of our closet regularly, so if your initial distribution looks like more than that, think again about what you're selecting. 

Try on everything else (should be about 80%). If it looks great and makes you feel great, it's a keeper! Sort everything else into the following categories:

Donate:

Donated clothing should be in good condition, so anything that's out of style, doesn't suit you, or doesn't fit. Further, items that are itchy, uncomfortable, or unflattering can be donated. Think also about getting rid of shoes that hurt your feet, or over sized handbags that encourage you to cart around more than your daily necessities (lookin' at you, bulky hobo purse from 2004).

Throw Away:

Toss anything that's ripped, stained, torn, or damaged beyond repair. I cannot tell you how long it took me to learn that socks with holes in them are trash. They are! Throw them away! Items that have been stretched out of shape, or whose elastic is no longer functional, are similarly goners. Get rid of them. 

What's tricky here are items that can be fixed. My Achilles heel are shoes that need to be resoled. If you haven't brought the particular item in question in for repairs in over two years, let it go. It's probably not going to happen. Everything else, stick in a box with a due date on it. If it doesn't get fixed before the date, it's time to toss. 

Sell:

Some items, like expensive designer dresses, handbags, shoes, or jewelry, can be sold or consigned. Putting together a garage sale can be hard work, and having the stuff around in the meantime can tempt us to put it back into our closets, but if that works for you - go for it!

There are tons of resources for online selling. We all know about Ebay, and there's also great opportunity for local sales - by selling in lots on Craigslist, or even advertising items through neighborhood social media platforms like Nextdoor. To consign high value items like jewelry or well preserved shoes/handbags/clothes, check out the experts over at The RealReal

The "Maybe Pile":

Ah, yes, the Maybe Pile, everyone's perennially postponed clothing decisions. This is the pile for items we just aren't sure we are ready to get rid of. Perhaps it's clothing with sentimental value, but we just don't wear any more (in which case, it should be stored in a separate container someplace that's not the closet). Maybe it's stuff that we never wore, but was expensive, so we feel we should keep. Sometimes it's clothing that no longer fits we are sure we'll be able to diet back into. Here's a handy guide to help make decisions about all those pesky Maybes:

  • "But I might wear it again someday." - If you haven't worn it in over a year, it's time to let it go (with the exception of black tie or formal wear). Think of the joy it could bring someone who really appreciates it, and donate to a second hand store of your choice. 
  • "If I lose 10 pounds, I'll need these sizes back in my closet." - If you aren't wearing it, it doesn't belong in your closet. If you must keep "just in case" sizes on hand, store them in a separate container somewhere else, so they aren't taking up space. Better yet, why don't you get rid of the old clothes, and reward yourself with something new when you lose the weight?
  • "This piece was such a financial investment, that I feel obligated to keep it." - First, ask yourself, is this item causing you emotional stress? Perhaps you feel guilty about your purchase every time you see it, and realize how infrequently it's been worn? If so, it's time to get rid of the burden and move on! Donate it for a tax deduction or consign, either way, the financial situation will be better than it was with it just sitting in your closet.
  • "My great aunt bought me this, and it's not my style, but it was so thoughtful." - Do your duty as a polite human, write a thank you card explaining how much you love it, and how useful it will be, and then donate. At this point, it's both physical and mental clutter. Someone else may truly love it, so give them a chance to find it!
  • "I love this, but it doesn't match anything else in my closet, so I rarely wear it." - Make sure that everything in your closet has at least two or three things to go with it. If it's hard to work into an outfit with what you already have, it's not worth the aggravation of keeping around. Make your mornings more streamlined by making sure everything can be mixed into outfits.

If all else fails, and you still have items in the Maybe Pile, put them in a box, and write a date at least six months in advance on the lid. Open the box on the date, if you haven't missed anything inside, it's time to get rid of it.

Phase Two: Organizing

Time estimate 2-3 hours

First, I like to divide what's getting hung vs what's getting folded. Remember, hanging clothes up at the end of the day is much easier than folding them, and it's a snap to keep hanging items neat, while stacks are far trickier! For this reason, I hang as much as possible, with the exceptions of sweaters (these will stretch if hung), jeans, t-shirts, active-wear and lingerie/hosiery. 

How to categorize your closet? There are a couple of different ways to do it, so think about your habits and what is most likely to work for you. Remember, at the end of the day, your organizing system should reflect your daily routine - and items you use most frequently ought to be the most accessible. 

Hang similar clothing items together:

The simplest way to organize is to group together similar clothing items. Keep pants with pants, blouses with blouses, etc. The advantage to this is that it's a great way to maximize space. You can slide additional shelves, cubbies, or drawers under short hanging items like shirts or jackets. For bonus points, use specialized racks to corral accessories like scarves, belts, hats, and shoes.

Within groups you can arrange by color, or light to dark. Alternatively, you can arrange clothing in segments that represent work, casual, and dressy. To make these categories pop visually, think about buying colorful plastic hangers, and assign a color to each. That way, you'll have a visual representation of how much of your closet is devoted to each category. 

Sort into outfits:

I love this one, because it's great for lazy people like myself, but it does require a bit of forethought. Think of a fashion designer's show-room. Are all the pants, dresses, and shirts together? No! Most of the time, in a seasonal collection, clothing is distributed into outfits, or grouped with items that match. 

Take a look at your clothes (they should still be all over the bed). Start with what you wear all the time. What bottoms do you tend to put with your favorite blouse? What jacket? In this vein, you can start to sort things into groups. Generally, color has something to do with this, so think about having a warm section, a cool section, and distribute basics in black and white throughout, keeping in mind what you are most likely to pair together. 

Pros - this makes it super easy to get dressed in the morning, because everything you are likely to throw together is already in place. Plus, it makes it clear what you tend to gravitate towards regularly, giving you concrete criteria when you go out shopping to fill in wardrobe holes (which you are totally allowed to do now, by the way, because that's what cleaning out your closet is for).

Add embellishments:

Maximize space by using up every square inch for something useful. You can extend the space in awkwardly sized shelves by using containers like baskets, fabric boxes, and shelf dividers. That way, stacks are not falling over on top of one another.

Use hooks to hang a nylon bag in the closet or behind a door for items that need to go to the dry cleaners. Add more hooks for items that need to be aired after wearing, like PJs and robes. 

Instead of moth balls, I like natural insect deterrents like lavender and cedar to avoid moth damage. In my closet I have Sonoma Lavender Sachets by the Yard which is available on Amazon. It's a full yard of lavender sachets you can choose to tie on the rod in your closet, or cut up and distribute throughout drawers. All you have to do is scrunch them together, and the closet smells amazing!

 
Announcing new progress!
 

Exciting news! I am now a Certified Professional Life Coach, after completing training through Life Coach Workshops. Had a wonderful time with these guys, and learned so much! Not only about the process of coaching, but also about myself. For bonus points, forged connections with like minded people, and made new friends. 

It shouldn't have been such a surprise that the road to coaching proficiency is paved with as many moments of self-discovery as the path to organization. One of the things I love so much about what I do is that it has the ability to strip away the veneer of what we tell ourselves about "the way we are" and show us the truth about what we may have been hiding from ourselves. Now I have new tools and methods to open that conversation to deepened moments of awareness and clarity. Mental decluttering is important too!

My own experience with the workshop resulted in finding inner strengths and ways to better tackle inherent challenges both on a personal and business level. I'm very excited to be moving forward with new knowledge, authenticity, and respect. I can already see ways in which this new process is weaving its way into my organizing practice, and life as a whole!

 
How to Create a New Years Resolution that Sticks
 

What's the key to creating a New Years Resolution that sticks? Transform it into a habit! Hard truth, but, simply put, motivation on it's own isn't enought to create lasting change. No matter how much you want to start working out, eating more healthy, or waking up earlier, it won't happen consistently without a little habit hacking. 

Fortunately, we live in a time where expert opinions abound on the phenomena surrounding habits. Science has new answers on how to build good ones, as well as fresh ideas about how to break bad ones. So what's the best way to create constant momentum towards our goals in 2017?

 
 

1. Be Specific:

Building habits requires much more than saying, "Exercise more," or "Get organized." Creating new habits necessitates premeditation about all aspects of behavior patterns, that is, what comes before and after the subconscious actions of our habits. 

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains the habit loop, and how we can use it to rewire our brains into accepting new behaviors more in line with our personal development goals. 

Habits consist of three parts: the cue (or, the trigger), the routine (or, the behavior of the habit itself), and the reward (which is what we get out of the behavior that makes it stick). Duhigg explains that, according to neurological research, our brains actually shut down during the activity of habit behavior. This is why bad habits are so hard to break! However, if we can be specific about triggers and rewards when outlining new goals, it's possible to create new habits.

A good formula for creating resolutions, then, becomes something like, "If X (the cue), then I will Y (the behavior), and ultimately reward myself with Z." In some instances the reward is intrinsic, but if you have problems making your habit stick, invent something! Even if it's just patting yourself on the back and saying, "Hey man, I'm awesome." 

 
 

2. Work with Old Habits:

You probably already have some habits, be they good or bad, so why go against familiar routines? By framing new habits within already established patterns of behavior, you're keeping them in line with your lifestyle and mentality, helping to ensure success. 

Let's say you're trying to drink less coffee. You always have a coffee when you wake up, another mid-morning, one after lunch, and then another in mid-afternoon. Try piggybacking new habits onto the chronological triggers that already exist. Presumably, the reward in this case is energy, or renewed focus. Is there something else you can do to revitalize your body and spirit? Next time three o clock rolls around, try a refreshing green tea, a walk around the block, or a quick meditation session. 

A few years ago, I used this method to help keep my kitchen clean. I love to cook, but after slaving away over dinner, who wants to go back to the sink for dishes? Because I was a smoker, I was much more likely to go outside for an after dinner cigarette, and let dirty pots and pans languish. 

When I quit smoking, I found finishing dinner was a trigger for me, and would make me antsy. So, I chewed some nicotine gum, got up, and started scrubbing. Because the cue and reward remained the same, now I'm in the habit of always cleaning up after dinner. And I love waking up to sparkling counter tops (they smell better than cigarettes, anyway)! 

 
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3. Start Small:

Make sure you set goals that are achievable, realistic, and easy to execute! If you haven't exercised in over ten years, going to the gym for hours multiple times a week probably isn't a reachable goal. Why not make it easy for yourself? Begin with something you know you can do, for example, a quick run around the block. Unlike getting to the gym, which requires membership, transportation, etc, a quick run only needs you to head outside. 

The less steps between you and the behavior you're trying to start, the better. If you are setting your sights on something long term and complex, make sure you break it down into manageable and actionable steps. This way, we feel the achievement aspect more quickly, which helps motivate us to stay on track. 

Don't forget, if you get frustrated, go easy on yourself! Would you demand immediate results from a child learning new behaviors? Or criticize a friend struggling with quitting bad habits? Probably not! So, why be so harsh on yourself? Often, we are our own worst judges. Remember that backsliding is natural, and don't get too down on yourself if you miss a few days. Nobody is perfect, and we have to be flexible if we're going to be able to hit life's various curve balls. 

 
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4. Track Your Progress:

Using some sort of tracking system to stay on top of progress is a great way to keep yourself accountable. There are lots of different ways to do this. If you use a paper planner, you can create a color coded legend, marking each day you perpetuate good habits or break down bad ones. Fun fact: there are some planner/journal systems with a focus on goals and habit tracking, like the bullet journal

If you are more of a digital person, there are plenty of smartphone apps aimed at habit building out there. Strides, Way of Life, and Productive are all great options, to name a few. When all else fails, you can always rely on your friends! Set up an accountability group that's mutually beneficial - it keeps everyone on task. I have one of these myself, and I wouldn't get nearly as much done without them! 

Interested in a habit tracking worksheet you can print out and use at home? Join our e-mail list and get one delivered right to your inbox - free of charge!

 
 

5. Focus on One at a Time:

According to B.J. Fogg, an expert on habits and behavior from Stanford University, it takes about 90 days for a habit to become something we do automatically. This year, instead of jumping into all of your resolutions at once, try plotting them out on a calendar one by one, leaving more time to develop habits you know will be particularly difficult. Make sure you give each new habit about 2-3 months to get locked into your behavior patterns.

January is the perfect time to plot out long term goals. I like to divide up "big ticket" resolutions into quarterly segments. For example, going to the gym is really hard for me. For the first part of the year, I'm focusing on better work habits. These are a bit easier for me, and since I'm in transition at the moment (*cough* new business *cough*), it's a more realistic expectation. Then, come spring, I'll get into my resolution for exercise. By the end of the year, I should have solidly established at least four big new healthy habits! 

One tool I really like for long term planning is the Project Planner by Livework - a holiday gift from a dear friend. It features yearly, monthly, and weekly views so I can keep track of my goals over time. Plus, it features specialized sections for taking notes and visually tacking progress. 

Wishing us all the best of luck with our New Years Resolutions! 

 
Please Join Us for a Book Exchange!
 
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Free Book Exchange

Sun Jan 8, 10-4

Get a jump start on New Years resolutions and enjoy a day of sharing knowledge and decluttering! We'll be giving away used books, totally free. Come empty handed and load up on new reading, or divest yourself of old unwanted tomes. Everything we have left at the end of the day will be taken to the local Goodwill. 

RSVP HERE

 
Holiday Gift Guide for Neat Freaks
 

We all have them, neat freak minimalist loved ones who are impossible to shop for. Stumped as to what to buy your clutter busting friends for the holidays? They'll love these tried and true gifts, great tools to help them with what they love most - organizing! 

1. For the List Maker -

These Personalized Task-It Notepads from Levenger are fantastic. Made with high-quality paper, they are a joy to write on, and their vertical orientation makes them perfect for writing lists. Best of all, each notepad features a personalized name displayed among cute medallion accents. The set comes with 6 notepads, all with 75 pages each, so you'll have plenty of room for list making throughout the year ahead. 

2. For the Planner Addict - 

While I'm an avowed Franklin Planner user, two other gorgeous options caught my eye this year; the Dailygreatness Business Planner and the Sugar Paper Agenda

The Dailygreatness Business Planner is perfect for the type-A, self-improvement focused entrepreneur in your life. It features a great blend of business tools, like financial worksheets and goal setting, nestled into a focus on personal development and habit building. The undated format gives immense flexibility, and built-in periodic check-ins keep you on task. Ideal for those who want to focus on professional success, as well as mindfulness and self-discovery. 

The Sugar Paper Agenda in chambray is clean, simple, and streamlined. Sugar Paper got it's start making elegant letterpress stationary, and has since branched out into timeless notebooks and desk accessories. Their planner is made with high quality heavy-weight paper and features a layout that's both beautiful and user friendly. At 6" x 8" it's small enough to throw into a purse, and boasts additional sections for tracking birthdays and thank you notes. 

3. For the Organized Homebody - 

This Executive Leather Catch-All by Redenvelope is a great way to create a home for keys, change, or jewelry, and it looks awesome on a night stand or end table. Personally, I use a leather catch-all for my glasses before bed, and would be lost in the morning without it! Best of all, it's the kind of thing folks usually don't buy for themselves, so it's ideal for the friend who has everything.

4. For the Graphics Lover -

I had a wall calendar from Snow & Graham throughout 2016, and just adored it. The stunning signature graphics are printed on high quality card stock, and the generous 12" x 18" size turns it into functional art. I gave mine a prominent place in the entryway, and each new month generated a smile. Perfect for friends and family who appreciate aesthetics! 

5. For the Minimalist - 

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If there's one thing a minimalist doesn't need, it's more stuff. Why not try an experience based gift? Take them out to dinner at their favorite restaurant, book them a spa treatment, or get them tickets to a concert. From cooking classes to archery lessons, the options are endless. The memories will last a lifetime, and you can be sure that your gift won't wind up in a box marked for donation.