How much of a child’s artwork, school papers, and mementos does a “good” parent save?
I once read about a mom who saved each year of her children’s school memories, pre-K through 12, in a separate (clean, new) pizza box. Her plan was to deliver the 15 “pizzas” to her kids once they moved into their first apartments. Gee, thanks, mom.
Another mom I know had bookcases overflowing with album after album containing every page her child ever scribbled on. Luckily, she couldn’t keep up with this for long, so the albums only went up to about first grade for her first child. I shudder to think how many albums she’d have filled if she’d kept going!
Let’s get real. Your kids don’t remember much about kindergarten and they don’t care about their brilliant 4th grade report on butterflies. They might like to reminisce with you over an album or a few mementos, but don't make the mistake of overwhelming them by saving everything.
“Another flashlight!” I announced to my client as I struck a Statue of Liberty pose holding the torch high. She laughed—at my pose and at herself. You see, during the course of our organizing adventure, we were well into double digits on flashlights. They were stashed in every closet, drawer, and shelf, often in multiples.
Sure, flashlights are a good thing to have in case of emergency. I can get on board with having one for every floor or area of the house. Maybe one for every family member. Thing is, this client lived alone in a two-bedroom apartment. She had enough flashlights for the whole building!
I know how it happens. You come across a flashlight and think, “This is useful. I’m always hunting for a flashlight when I need one. I’ll put it somewhere handy.” Then you forget where you’ve put it. At the store, you think, “I wonder if I have enough flashlights,” so you buy another. Before you know it, you are a flashlight pack rat. Just like a squirrel stashing nuts, you have caches of flashlights in every crevice of your home.
Maybe flashlights aren’t your thing. My clients find all kinds of stuff to stash: emery boards, scissors, paperclips, batteries, plastic bags…I could go on.
A place for everything and everything in its place...
.Have you ever noticed how small changes can have a big impact? Tiny stars make the night sky seem bright. A silly joke can lighten an intense mood. In the spring, little purple crocuses poking out of the ground make the whole landscape prettier.
Little changes to the way your home is organized can make it feel lighter and easier to maintain.
While I love a big garage clean-out as much as the next organizer, it’s just as satisfying to realize that small efforts can still get you to your organizing goals.
A PICTURE’S WORTH…
In my craft studio, I keep a small box of sumptuous ribbons. It’s a jewel box full of lush velvets and shining satins. Gazing into it transports me back to the ancient, hole-in-the-wall shop in New York where I found many of these treasures.
While organizing my studio some years back, it was these same ribbons that stopped me in my tracks. Practical, unsentimental me didn’t know what to do with them. Too special to actually use in a project, they didn’t seem to serve a useful purpose. Why was I holding on to them? Where should I put them? What do I do with them?
The answers to those questions led me to give myself permission to keep them for purely aesthetic and sentimental reasons, just because I loved them. I arranged them in a pretty box that would keep them safe and put the box on a shelf near my cutting table. Now, anytime I need to look at something beautiful to inspire my creativity, I open the box and visit with my special ribbons.
What special ribbons do you have in your life? Maybe it’s the china that your grandmother passed down to you. Or maybe it’s the artwork that your children made. Perhaps, like my husband, you still have the train set that your parents gave to you for your first Christmas.
These things are not practical or especially useful. But they have meaning to you and you want to honor that meaning.
It’s OK to save things that have no useful function. It’s OK to save things just because they are dear to your heart.
3 Rules for Saving Sentimental Stuff
1. If everything is special, then nothing is special.
Be discerning about the special things you save, otherwise it’s all a mass of clutter. Be sure you’re saving just the best of the best. Save the stand-out pieces, the most precious, most beautiful, most monumental.
2. Know why you are saving it.
Does it inspire you? Remind you of a special person? Take you back to a great time? Don’t save things that remind you of bad times or make you feel guilty.
3. Store it in an interactive way.
Why bother saving something special if it’s packed in a box in the attic and you never see it? Instead, think about how you could store the item in a way that allows you to interact with and enjoy it?
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Where in the world is my high school diploma? I know I graduated but I don’t think I’ve seen that piece of paper in the 30 years since. I never thought I’d need it again!!!
This was my panicked thought process two years ago when I needed that diploma—and my college one—to prove that I was eligible to sit for the Certified Professional Organizer exam. A professional organizer who can’t find her own vital records—I felt like a fraud!
Thankfully, both diplomas were still in my mother’s house right where I stashed them after graduation. Now I have them in my paperwork system and can grab them at a moment’s notice. In this blog, I’ll help you set up your own simple paperwork system.
ART: My Simple Paperwork System
The biggest hurdle is knowing what to do with all the various papers (both physical and digital) that find their way into our homes. Do I have to do something with this? Do I need to keep this? How long do I have to keep it?
Every paper coming into your home can fit into one of three categories: Archive, Reference, or To Do. ART!
A = Archive
R = Reference
T = To Do
January: New Year, New You! GO Month: Get Organized and Be Productive! Have you made your resolutions? Hitting the gym every day? Are you crushing it?!
Um, not so much.
Honestly, once I clean up from the holidays and start getting back to the reality of a normal schedule, January is nearly half over!
It’s natural to want to set some intentions for improvement. What’s unrealistic is thinking that you’ll accomplish them in the first month. This year, to take on your organizing projects, make January your regrouping and brainstorming month.
What comes to mind when you think about holiday preparations? You’re probably thinking about getting out the decorations, baking yummy treats, juggling the party and event schedule, and wrapping gifts.
This season, I invite you to prepare by paring down. Simplifying and lightening your load is a great way to give yourself more time and space to enjoy your family and friends—and your home—during the holidays.
I like to focus on paring down these three areas:
Are you ready to tackle your holiday shopping? It’s time! In my family, we traditionally start shopping way early. In fact, according to family lore, my grandmother always had all her gifts bought, wrapped, and stowed in her closet by the end of August.
By contrast, when I owned a store (Who knew that little fact about me?), lots of last-minute shoppers would show up on Christmas Eve with a look of panic in their eyes, frantically trying to find a gift. They were so relieved when I offered them free gift wrapping!
This year, with the supply-chain problems causing shortages and delays, you definitely want to get a head start so you don’t end up grabbing whatever you see on the shelves.
My biggest tip for this season is to keep it local. As much as possible, I love to support my local businesses, both because I used to own a main street shop so I know how tough it can be and also because these businesses create the flavor that makes your neighborhood fun.
Years ago, a change of seasons was a fraught time for me. Excited as I was about the warmer or cooler weather ahead, I dreaded the looming Big Closet Switch.
It was a messy, days-long chore. It always looked worse before it got better: clothes spread all over the room; keep/donate/does-it-still-fit piles everywhere; last-season’s clothes needing to be washed before being binned; next-season’s clothes needing to be ironed (nooooo!) after getting crumpled in bins.
The problem is, I really love the change of seasons. It’s fun when you first pull on a cozy sweater in the fall or head out the door in only a light jacket in the spring. But the way I had organized my closet was turning the change of seasons from a fun celebration into a dreaded chore.
How did I free myself? I discovered the Year-Round Closet.
It happens predictably every year in the early fall. Is it triggered by the kids going back to school? Or when I notice the sun setting earlier and the air getting cooler?
Whatever the cause, I feel compelled to pare down the excess and spruce up the house, creating a more streamlined, restful space to live in.
“We don’t need this many mugs,” I announce to my husband as I peer critically into the kitchen cupboard, pulling out one with a chip and throwing it into the trash.
That evening, after I toss an extra deck of cards into the donation bag that I keep by the door and tell him that I’d like to repaint the living room, I see a look in his eyes like he’s just figured something out. “Oh,” he observes, “you’re nesting again.”
“Yup!” I laugh, “I do it every fall.” Organizing isn’t just something you do once and it stays that way forever. Things pile up, new things come into the house, and life changes. It’s rituals and routines like this fall clearing that keep me organized.
Clear the space so you can enjoy your place.
(Read on for how-to tips!)