Home Inventory

March 1, 2017

infographics about home inspection checklist and tips

One of the best ways to prepare for a disaster at home is to have a complete home inventory. Do you have an inventory of the contents of your home? Have you ever thought about taking or making such an inventory and then immediately stopped because the thought of all the work involved paralyzed you? You know that an inventory is the absolute best way to prove what your house contains in case of theft, fire, flood, tornado or any other disaster. I do understand that the creation of an inventory is a ton of work! I had to handwrite my first inventory back in 1979 since my husband’s job required us to submit a complete inventory when we were moving to Thailand. Imagine handwriting something such as that! Wow!! Even now I shudder at the thought. As the years went on and we moved from place to place technology allowed me to put our inventory in a spread sheet and then there was a program created for just such a purpose.

The program I use now is very flexible. It is called HomeZada. It does so much more than just keep track of your household furnishings. When you are ready to do the inventory, it allows you to take a picture of the item, identify what room it is in, put the date purchased and from where – if you know that information and if it is a valuable item (sentimental or expensive) you can even say who should receive it upon your death. Additionally, you can scan the receipt for the item so you have an accurate record of the date of purchase and how much it cost. You can also take a picture of a room and identify the built-in pieces of cabinetry.

I also love the fact that this program allows you to record the maintenance of appliances and keep track of home improvements. No more searching for that information. You don’t need to wonder when the HVAC was last serviced or your home last painted. The information is right there at your fingertips. If you’re planning to sell your home, you can easily retrieve the documents which identify the improvements you’ve made to your home.

Since this program is cloud based you will be able to retrieve all the information from any computer anywhere in the world. So, if disaster should strike and your home was destroyed you would be able to show an insurance adjuster photos of all that your home contained. No guessing involved.

This is real peace of mind. What a relief. Even better the program is easy to use. I recommend tackling a home inventory project the way you would any other large project – a little at a time. You could enter the information one room at a time. Or, if you decided this was simply too much for you to contemplate you can hire a professional organizer to do the original data entry for you. This is a service I offer as do other professional organizers.

 I recommend updating the information once a year, or as you trade out furniture or complete a home improvement project. It is very important to keep your home inventory information current as stale information defeats the purpose.

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about the HomeZada home inventory program and how I may be able to with a home inventory project. Check out their website: www.homezada.com

 

Home?

February 23, 2017

House on wooden floor , home concept

What does this word mean to you? For me, it is more than a place. It is a feeling of belonging. A feeling that I am safe and at peace inside this place. I have moved many times to three completely different countries and to two very different regions within the United States of America and yet I’ve been able to create a home for me and my family in each spot.

So, I ask again, what does home mean to you? Is it the home in which you grew up? Will that place always represent home to you? If it does, do you also have a home in which you live most of the time?

Here’s another question for you to ponder: what does your childhood home contain that makes it feel so much like home? My childhood home is now someone else’s home. Whenever I went back to visit my mother it was the scent of her perfume that brought memories flooding back for me. Also, my mother was there. We would spend time together reminiscing. The other thing that made my childhood home so special to me was the familiar furnishings: photos, paintings, and furniture.

When we sold my mother’s house (my childhood home) I was able to keep a few of the items that meant something to me. I do mean only a few. I incorporated them into my décor so that I have a little bit of my childhood home mixed in with my adult home.

Do you want your home to contain a few memories? Would you prefer to create your own memories and leave your childhood home behind?

If you choose to bring some of the furnishings from your childhood home into your current home be selective. Be sure to ask your partner, if you have one, if they agree with your choices. One thing is for sure, you do not want to create additional clutter in your home simply because you want to bring part of the past into your present.

Ask yourself these questions:

1.       Does this bring back a special memory?

2.       Do I love it?

3.       Will this add to the overall atmosphere of my home?

4.       Will this fit in?

5.       Does it have a purpose?

If you can answer more than one of these questions positively then by all means bring some of your childhood home into your current home.

If you need to create the feelings of safety and peace inside your home take a look around and ask yourself what is bothering you about your home.

1.       Are things out of place?

2.       Do you know how to put your belongings away?

3.       Can you find what you are looking for?

4.       Do you have to do a major clean up before inviting someone over?

If you need to create order in your home so that it will be your place of refuge take the time to figure out where you want to start.

Please write back and let me know what home means to you. Let me know if I can help you in your quest to make your house feel like your home.

 

Face It! Life is Messy!

February 8, 2017

Recently I read the book titled: MESSY: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford. This book has really opened my eyes to all the ways in which the best intentions for tidiness and order can sometimes have a negative impact. My plan is to look at several sections of the book that directly relate to what I do as a professional organizer over the next few weeks.

I know, first hand, that life is messy. Things do not always happen as planned. I’m a huge fan of planning but quite often the best laid plans simply need to be put aside to let whatever happen. I started my work life as a preschool/primary school teacher. Teachers create lesson plans but many times the lesson can morph away from the planned lesson into something very different but equally beneficial – a unique learning experience. Something you could never have planned for but which just sort of organically happened. Sometimes it’s a wonderful thing and sometimes it’s a hard lesson to learn – not so wonderful. The trick is to let the lesson happen and not to insist that the planned lesson take place. That has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I usually wanted to bring the discussion back to its original intention. As the years went on and as I gained experience in the classroom I learned to be more flexible, to go with the flow, and to let the alternative lesson happen.

The book, MESSY, addresses this topic in the opening chapter. The author teaches the reader that some of the best performances have happened when the planned circumstances did not come together as the planner had intended. No, I’m not going to give you any specifics – you’ll have to read the book.

What do you do when life gets in the way, when it’s messy and your plan is foiled?

My son and daughter-in-law had planned for their wedding ceremony to be on a lawn over- looking the water. It was a picture – perfect location. The white chairs were set out on the lawn. There was a tent which was beautifully decorated for the dinner and dancing to follow the ceremony. The morning dawned with some wispy clouds. We thought nothing of it. The hairdresser came to give all us women in the bridal party gorgeous hairdos. I noticed it got a little overcast but didn’t pay too much attention. We were having too much fun getting ready for this wedding to happen.

Wouldn’t you know, it started pouring cats and dogs (as the expression goes) about an hour before the ceremony. Our guests were arriving and went straight into the tent. They couldn’t hang out on the lawn as planned.

We didn’t know quite what to do as there really wasn’t room on the dance floor under the tent to set out rows of chairs.

The Rabbi and the Priest suggested that the wedding ceremony take place on the dance floor with the wedding party in a semi-circle. Our guests could gather around. Those who needed to sit could sit at a table.

The rain stopped just as it was time to begin the ceremony. We stuck with our new plan because we thought the rain might start up again.

It was a beautiful ceremony. Made even more intimate because the guests gathered around, forming this almost magical circle around the wedding party.

We never would have felt that closeness out on the lawn with the guests seated in rows of chairs. It would have been lovely but what actually happened was even better.

Yes, it was a little messy and we, the two moms, were a little frantic at first but we let it be and it was better than anything we had planned.

Are you a planner? Do you have trouble going with the flow? Connect with me for support.

 

 

How to Say ‘No’ Nicely

January 25, 2017

An organizing friend of mine, Andi Willis, wrote a beautiful blog this week about giving herself Grace. It is a wonderful essay on the ability to be kinder to ourselves. We (many of us women) set high standards for ourselves and do not cut ourselves any slack.

I want to piggy back on this thought and talk about our ability to say ‘No’. I don’t know about you but most times when I’m asked to do something I typically say ‘Yes’ even when in my heart I want to say ‘No’. Does this ever happen to you? I get guilted into taking on projects that I know I’m going to carve time out to complete – time that I would prefer to set aside for an activity of my choosing. I hate to let people down and so will agree to take on the project even when I know it means postponing something else. Other times I get complimented into a task. Someone will say ‘you did such a good job organizing …(fill in the blank) please will you volunteer your time organizing… for us?’ It’s really hard to say no under those circumstances!

I’ve learned that saying ‘No’ selectively can be a form of self-care. It allows me the space to choose the activities to dedicate my time to.

Because saying ‘No’ is a very hard thing for me to do I’ve recently come up with some strategies to allow myself the time and space to say ‘No’ gracefully. These are not by any means new and different strategies. I think we’ve probably all used them at one time or another. I put them together and have multiple copies in strategic places so that I can refer to them when I’m put on the spot and can’t think of the best response.

I have one copy on a bulletin board in my office, another copy in my planner, and a third copy digitally in the notes section of my phone.

1.       Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you on ..(when you get back to the person you can say) I’m sorry, I’m not available.

2.       I’m not able to take on any more projects right now. Please feel free to contact me another time.

3.       As much as I would really like to be able to help you with … this is something I’m not comfortable tackling at this time.

Having these phrases handy has helped me better protect my time. They help me say ‘No’ without negativity.

Is saying ‘No’ a problem for you? How have you handled it? Write me back and let me know!

 

Hand writing Time To Say NO concept with red marker

 

 

 

Quarterly Goals

January 19, 2017

I had a meeting with my business coach last week to talk about my business in general and where I’d like to take it. Of course, I had a flip answer ‘To the Moon’ I replied. That drew the expected chuckle from her. She then said, ‘Really, what are your goals for this year – 2017’. I had no reply. I was deep in thought. I was thinking about all the areas that I want to improve regarding my business.. more speaking, sell more books, work with organizing clients, write my blog. I have an endless list. Being very smart, my coach then asked me to focus on just one topic and create a short term goal. Her question was what would I like to focus on this quarter?

I love this idea which is why I’m sharing it with you. Focusing on just a few things for just a few months makes the goal so much more achievable. Since the end is in sight I better create a plan and write down the steps I need to take, to make measurable progress by the end of March. I like this so much better than planning what I want to have accomplished by the end of December – 12 long months from now.

I encourage you to think about your goals in small chunks. Think about what you would like to accomplish between now and the end of March. Is there a house project? If there is, is it something would contract out or is it a project you want to tackle yourself?

Do you have a personal goal to exercise more? Now is the time to sign up for that gym membership! Or maybe you want to create your own exercise routine. Perhaps you’ll mix it up and create a schedule to walk so many times a week combined with an exercise class or two.

Do you want to cook at home more often? There are many different companies which offer pre-measured ingredients packaged meal by meal and are delivered to your home. You can check them out online.

A great short term goal might be to get control of your papers and filing system. Think about it. If you worked on that a little at a time between now and the end of February. You would accomplish two things. You’d have a paper filing system that is current and you would be able to tackle your taxes in March, enabling you to get them off your desk promptly.

Wow! Aren’t you just loving the thought of these short-term or quarterly goals?

My short-term goal is to focus on promoting the children’s books I wrote with my co-author Jonda Beattie. 

What will you choose to be your short-term goal? Write me back and let me know!

 

 

 

 

Limits?

January 11, 2017

 

Scattered clothes

Happy New Year! I’m so happy to be starting this New Year by writing a blog to share with you. I’ve been thinking a lot about limits recently and why it’s important to know what your personal limits are.

This has come up because some of my clients have had trouble determining how much is enough.

We all have physical limits that are pre-determined by the home in which we live. The closets and cupboards can create limits for us if we let them. However, we sometimes (and yes – I am including myself in this discussion) cram things into these spaces thinking that we can ‘make room’.

I have found that the best way to ‘make room’ is to remove everything from the cupboard or closet and only return those items which you absolutely KNOW that you use and/or love. The temptation is to push things around or to restack everything inside the closet or cupboard because it does take time to completely empty the space and make those decisions.

How does knowing your limit apply here? Well, if you’re headed out to go shopping and you come across a dress or a new platter and you know that your cupboard or closet is full and that you’ve reached the limit of what the space will contain easily. It’s easier to say to yourself something like “I know that if I bring something more into this space I will be removing things that I don’t use or love – do I want it badly enough to reorganize the space or can I decide not to bring it into my home”.

We also have physical limits in terms of what we can physically do. I can’t lift very heavy weights. I know not to try to lift something really heavy because I will end up hurting myself and I definitely don’t want to do that.

Can you change your physical limits? Sure, through diet and exercise or through modifications you may be able to change some things. For instance, I love to walk and I walk at a pretty fast pace. One of my friends walks with me sometimes. I used to have to slow my pace to accommodate my friend. Since we’ve been walking together regularly his pace has picked up and he can walk farther before asking that we turn around. His limit has increased.

We also have spending limits. Do you want to incur more debt to buy this one item or do you have enough at home? Is it necessary to spend this money or can you make the decision to tell yourself ‘not now’. Knowing your spending limits is key. How do you do this? You create a budget and check it regularly.

Another way to curb your spending is to only carry cash. I know it’s inconvenient but it is effective. Without a credit or debit card in your wallet you have to be mindful of your spending limit. I have more about the benefits of carrying cash in my book: Now What? A Simple Organizing Guide.

I talk to my clients about the physical limits their homes provide regularly and ask them to think about how much is enough. What number of ….(you can fill in the blank) makes sense?

Ask yourself this question and see if it helps you set limits within your home. Maybe you’ve already set limits for yourself? I’d love to hear about your limits and if the question: How much is enough makes sense to you.

woman is holding bill and credit card in hands

Thank You?

December 28, 2016

Thank youMonday this week was National Thank You Note Writing Day. I never knew there was such a thing. That’s a great idea! To sit down the day after Christmas and write notes to thank friends or family for their gifts. Traditionally in my family we make a list of people to thank as we open their gifts and we plan to have our notes written by the middle of January.

My mother was a stickler for thank you notes. She was very particular and (when I was a child) she read my notes before they were mailed to make sure they were good enough. My mother had me writing notes for all sorts of gifts – not just Christmas gifts.

She taught me to write a note after spending a weekend with a friend. I didn’t actually write my friend, I wrote a note to my friend’s parents to thank them for hosting me for the weekend. This is a tradition I still enjoy. I write my friends and relatives as soon as I return from a trip. If you’re wondering why I do this, the reason is simple. I write to let my friends know that I appreciate their friendship and the time spent with them.

My mother also taught me to write a thank you note to express my thanks when someone has gone out of their way to do something for me.  It can be something like helping me with a project or including me in a family event.

Handwritten thank you notes are very powerful tools. First of all, they indicate to the recipient that you have taken the time to put pen to paper, written your thoughts, purchased a stamp, and made sure the envelope actually was mailed.

You may choose to write a personal thank you note to someone who has taken the time to interview you for a job. An email thank you is important because the person receives it right away. A handwritten thank you note is also a good idea as it shows the interviewer that you are sincere about your interest in the job.

There is a simple formula to use when writing a thank you note.

  1. Thank the person for the gift – be sure to say exactly what the gift is.
  2. Indicate how you might use the gift – if it is something to use.
    1. NOTE: if you don’t like the gift just thank the person for their thoughtfulness and skip from step 1 to step 3
  3. Tell the person something about yourself – what you are doing for your job, about your family or your home – maybe you are working on a home improvement project.
  4. Close your note by wishing the person well and repeating your thanks.

While it’s great to write thank you notes following this wonderful season of gift giving and receiving. I suggest that it’s important to write thank you notes whenever you feel like expressing your gratitude.

Write me back and tell me about your experience writing thank you notes.

 

 

 

Hallmarks of an Adult?

November 16, 2016

Together, success is a given

The other morning I was listening to my local news station as I was catching up on my ‘words with friends’ and I was really surprised. I had only been listening half way, concentrating mostly on my strategy in the game I was playing on my phone, when something caught my attention. It was something about millennials taking classes in what the reporter called ‘adulting’. I didn’t know what that meant and still don’t really. The report went on talking about things adults do, for instance; chores around the house, budget their money, pay bills, file papers, and manage their time (although that’s a subject for another day).

The point of the report was that some millennials seem to be so lacking in knowledge in these areas that they feel a need to take classes.

Actually, I do get that because some of my clients are millennials and they haven’t the slightest idea how to go about cleaning their house, organizing their kitchen, putting away their clothes – I could go on but I think you get the idea. These millennials, the ones I work with (and possibly the ones in the news report), have grown up without any sense of what it takes to lead an organized life.

They have successfully completed school and, for the most part, have jobs. They want to live independently – to be adults.

Unfortunately, schools do not teach home/life skills otherwise known as home economics. I never took home economics in school – I think that was phased out even before my generation. So, what happened? Why is it that some of these young adults are not equipped with the basic skills and information that are the hallmarks of being an adult?

I think it’s a combination of things.

Some of these young people did not have the skills modeled for them. Maybe their parents weren’t great at organizing themselves, maybe they outsourced things like bill paying, maybe they didn’t ask the children to help with routine household chores.

Whatever the reason, I’m happy to know they are taking classes to fill in the blanks.

What are the hallmarks of becoming an adult?

For me, it’s taking care of myself and those in my family, taking care of my home (meaning keeping it clean and tidy), being a good friend, doing my job to the best of my ability, paying my bills, and having fun working on my hobbies which are gardening, needlepoint, and dancing.

What does being an adult mean to you?

PS I have written a book which covers all of these subject areas and more. You can learn more about my book on my website: www.dnqsolutions.com

 

 

 

 

Happiness is .. Gardening!

October 28, 2016

Last week I wrote about a workshop I attended at the Institute for Challenging Disorganization’s annual conference in September. The workshop was presented by Ayla Lewis from the Positivity Institute. To review she taught us that happiness is not a constant emotion. Happiness can be a fleeting experience and we should savor those moments of happiness when they occur.

What makes you happy?

There are many things that make me happy. Going for a nice walk with my dogs and perhaps a friend makes me happy. There are a couple of great places near my house where I take my dogs. One is along a river and another is in a nature preserve. I try and walk them in one of these places at least 4 times a week.

Gardening is another thing that makes me happy. I love to see plants that I’ve planted come up in the spring and bloom! I’m in the process of creating a new garden. You see, I moved in August. The new homeowners of my former home inherited a beautiful garden with lots of perennial plants, shrubs that bloom at different times of the year.

There is no garden at my new house. Perhaps I should say there is no garden yet! When I moved in the entire backyard was over grown. There was ivy everywhere – growing along the ground and up into the very tall mature trees. There were some shrubs planted along the fence. The shrubs hadn’t been clipped in quite some time nor had any fallen leaves been cleared. It was a very sad looking space. I was happy that the entire yard was fenced in and thought that it will (maybe a few years down the road) be a lovely place for me and my dogs to enjoy. I saw potential and a HUGE gardening challenge.

The first step was to make it safe for my dogs. The ivy had to go as you never know what may be hiding in the ivy in Georgia – think snakes… not my favorite creature.

I delegated cleaning up the ivy to some part time helpers. It took them several weekends but they managed to clear all the ivy growing along the ground and up into the shrubs. They clipped the ivy growing on the trees. I guess eventually I’ll be able to pull it down. Once the ivy and leaves were removed I discovered some nice stone paths weaving through the backyard. What a great surprise!

These paths helped to define where the different garden areas will go. 

A few weeks ago I placed my planters and a couple of lounge chairs imagining that there will be pretty shrubs and lots of flowering plants eventually for those of us sitting outside to admire. Last week I planted pansies, snapdragons, chrysanthemums, and cyclamen in those pots.

Watching this backyard come to life little bit by little bit brings me lots of happiness. I don’t have time to work in the garden everyday so when I do have some time to dedicate to it I’m as happy as can I can be.

2015 05 summer mailbox flowers

Do you have something in your life that you’re working on that makes you happy? I hope so. It’s a wonderful feeling to spend time on something that fills you with happiness.

Happiness is…?

October 19, 2016

2015 05 beautiful roses

At the end of September I had the privilege of attending a conference run by a group to which I belong: The Institute for Challenging Disorganization. I love this conference. In fact I love it so much that I decided to demonstrate that by chairing the conference in 2017! But I digress.

One of our speakers was a young woman, Ayla Lewis, who spoke to us about the power of positive thinking and happiness. Her presentation was well thought out, fun, and interactive. Ayla had a marvelous way of engaging the audience to teach the concepts she was presenting.

Many of the concepts presented were not new to me and I’m sure not new to many of us there. However; Ayla included scientific information to substantiate these concepts. It was fascinating.  

So, what is happiness? Ayla told us that happiness is a choice. I believe this to be true. I’m one who likes to look at a glass and say that it is half full rather than half empty. I’m always looking for the positive spin and am generally happy. Or should I say content.

We were told that no one is always happy. We have moments of happiness. It’s more important and better for us if we often experience small moments of happiness rather than striving for that one big fleeting moment to be happy. Have you ever heard someone say ‘I’ll be happy after I …’ or perhaps ‘I’ll be truly happy when I’ve …’ I have heard people say things like that and wondered if they ever had those moments of happiness. And how long the happiness lasted.

Ayla advised us to use journaling to record the brief happy moments that occur during the day. She asked us to write down three things daily. If you’re looking for the small things I’m sure any one of us could find way more than three things to write down.

Let me tell you a little story. I attended a wedding last weekend in Connecticut. An adorable three year old little girl was the flower girl.  She made many of us smile as she ran down the aisle in church during the rehearsal. When she got up to the altar she turned around and faced those of us sitting in the pews, sat down, and just started swinging her legs. She looked like she was waiting there to watch the show begin. She was happy in that moment. And those of us watching her chuckled and were happy too!

Ayla encouraged us to take those moments and savor them. This is happiness. It is something that comes and goes. Celebrate – really be happy – live in those moments when they arrive. It’s ok, in fact, natural, not to be happy 24/7. Acknowledge and experience  other emotions. Then welcome the happy moments as they occur.     

I’ll tell you what makes me happy. Working in my garden, successfully completing a series of dance steps with my partner, getting a phone call from one of my children, getting together with a friend, seeing that a client has maintained the organization, making progress on my needlepoint canvas – all these things create moments of happiness for me.

What makes you happy? Write me back and let me know.