Making Space When Time Gets Tight

Posted by suevenman on Nov 20, 2013  

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky. ~Malvina Reynolds

Does it seem to you that November is racing by? Is it possible that Thanksgiving is just around the corner? And then, before we have time to take a breath, it’s December! Gadzooks! Just when you’d like to be kind and gentle to yourself, your family and friends, the time-treadmill lurches into the high speed.

And it’s not only time pressures that accompany the holiday season, it’s also the pressure of stuff.

So how do you make a bit of space: space for you and space free of clutter and chaos?

Read the rest of this entry »

Beneath the Mask

Posted by suevenman on Oct 30, 2013  

I love Hallowe’en. I love the costumes. I love the mystery. And face it, I love the candy. My husband hid our stash so I wouldn’t consume every tasty morsel before the 31st. But I’ve found it (don’t tell him) and have been nibbling away; so much for losing those 5 pounds.

Between bites, my Hallowe’en musings lead me to ponder masks. In my organizing work, I often see how our cluttered-selves mask our real-selves. I frequently hear, “I’ll get to that (really important, but scary and self-revealing) project once I clean out the garage (or closet or attic).”

It’s easy to hide behind the clutter in our lives. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by suevenman on Oct 18, 2013  

Does this sound familiar?

You’re looking for the gift you’ve been planning to give your sister. Maybe you stashed it upstairs in the hall closet when you had last-minute guests. You go upstairs and find a box on the top shelf tucked under a couple shoe boxes (photos? old baseball cards?), a precariously balanced deviled egg platter and what looks like a Christmas sweater box. You can feel your forehead tighten.

Your mind starts to churn. What’s in that box? Let’s see, it was probably last summer when you put it up there … hmmm … tick-tick-tick … whrrrrrr … buzzzzzzz … but the box really isn’t the right size, so maybe the present is in the bedroom closet. But then, what’s in this box? No time to take it down now: supper is on the table and then there’s that board meeting.

As you drive to the meeting you find yourself thinking about that box and mentally unpacking it. Maybe the present is smaller than you remember and it’s in the box after all. Grrrrr … tomorrow you’ll take the time to pull out the step ladder and get down the box and see what’s in it!

And what could have spared you all those additional grey hairs? Read the rest of this entry »

Tag Sale Reflections

Posted by suevenman on Sep 27, 2013  

Last Saturday I did something that I’ve warned many of you never to do: I held a tag sale.

Also known as a yard, garage, rummage or boot sale (as in the English “car boot” or trunk), I have repeatedly cautioned you not to spend time and energy on something that will likely only net you a couple hundred dollars. And yet, there I was, up at the crack of dawn, hauling out boxes of books and vinyl records, house wares, blankets and comforters, furniture and more decorative tchotchkes than even Yankee Candle could find room for.

So, why did I do it?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Seasonal Swap

Posted by suevenman on Sep 12, 2013  

Since we’re at that time of the year when the weather is rapidly changing, I decided to revisit the seasonal clothes discussion.

Last week I worked with a client, Jenny, clearing out a long-neglected closet. At the back, squashed between a couple of summer dresses and a pair of ski pants, was a favorite jacket she thought she’d lost. It was like a reunion with a favorite college roommate. But as Jenny had just purchased an expensive replacement, she was a bit irked. To avoid this unnecessary frustration in the future I suggested she adopt the seasonal swap.

Nowadays lots of folks don’t store away off-season clothes, choosing instead to leave everything in their drawers and closets regardless of whether they are currently wearing them. But for more ease in your daily life (and to lessen the chances of losing favorite garments), I suggest trying out the seasonal swap. It’s a delight to reach into your closet and actually be able to wear anything you see and touch.

Read the rest of this entry »

Freedom from Stuff

Posted by suevenman on Jul 10, 2013  

Last week we celebrated Independence Day.

In our little village of 600, we have a huge parade, complete with a float from the Grange (one year they had live sheep and a goat riding along looking confused), the local middle school band (who won first place this year), a fife and drum corps, a dozen fire trucks blasting their horns and, of course, Morris dancers with their flowered hats and jingling bells: altogether, a grand celebration of our collective freedoms.

For the last couple years I’ve wanted to put together an additional float to celebrate one more freedom: Freedom from Stuff. Too often we imprison our aspirations, goals and joy behind walls of too much stuff. But when we can let go of what has become stale and useless and too heavy to carry, we’re able to see through to what is truly important.

Read the rest of this entry »

Less is More

Posted by suevenman on Jun 13, 2013  

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~Hans Hofmann

A while ago I was working with a young mom whom I’ll call Linda. Linda asked me a question which I hear at least every week, if not every day, “How much stuff is the right amount?”

At the time, we were talking about her 3 year old son (I’ll call him Timmy).  Toys, craft materials and children’s books were taking over the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the den, as well as Timmy’s bedroom. You couldn’t walk through a room without stepping on a Lego or a stuffed animal. It was making the whole family pretty cranky. These young parents wanted to provide as rich an environment as possible for their young son, but knew that something wasn’t working. Read the rest of this entry »

The “Plenty of Time” Myth

Posted by suevenman on Jun 1, 2012  

Confessions of a Professional Organizer, Chapter 4

Last weekend I reviewed my organizing map and target dates (see my last blog post). By now I should have completed organizing my knitting supplies and gotten rid of the defunct electronics. To date, it’s Chaos 2, Sue 0. So much for target dates.

Lesson learned: Just because I put a date on the calendar doesn’t mean I get the work done.

Second lesson learned: Get more realistic about how much time I really have.

Third lesson learned: Don’t be so hard on myself.

It’s the second of these lessons that I want to look at here. Read the rest of this entry »

The True Cost of Clutter

Posted by suevenman on Sep 23, 2011  

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


Why should we bother organizing?

Given the actual time we spend organizing our stuff and the mental energy we spend thinking about organizing our stuff, perhaps we should start by figuring out why we’re trying to get organized in the first place!

When you look at the clutter that surrounds you – Whether a pile of magazines spilling off the coffee table, an overflowing file drawer or a closet that won’t close because it’s too stuffed full – You probably don’t see dollar signs. But what’s the real price tag – in $$dollars$$ – on all that clutter?

To find out, take the short quiz below. You may see you stuff in a different light:

In the past week …

  • Estimate how many minutes you spent looking for things.
  • Add to this the time you spent in extra cleaning that wouldn’t have been necessary if you didn’t have to work around the clutter.
  • Add how much time you spent organizing and decluttering.
  • Multiply this total number of hours by how much you make an hour at your current job.
  • Add to this dollar amount how much money you spent on eating out because you couldn’t face your kitchen or didn’t want to invite friends into your home.
  • Add how much you spent on items that you knew were someplace, but didn’t know where.

The total is a concrete dollar amount of how much your clutter costs you every week.

If you want to take this one step further, multiply your $$$Clutter Cost$$$ by the X-Factor: The X-Factor is a number, 1 to 10 that indicates your level of frustration, shame and embarrassment when you think about the state of your home or office.

Most of us are astounded by the number that we come up with when we consider the true cost of clutter. But I haven’t written this tip to highlight your embarrassment or shame. I’ve written it to underline just how important are our ongoing, committed efforts to reduce and reorganize the excess stuff in our lives.

It’s not about looking good.

It’s about having more time and energy and money to invest in who we are and what we truly want in life. I repeat: It’s not about looking good. It’s about having more time and energy and money to invest in who we are and what we truly want in life.

We can’t make all these changes in a day or even in a week. Anne Frank wrote, How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. How wonderful, indeed.

To a wonderful, fruitful Fall ~




My Ebb and Flow Theory

Posted by suevenman on Feb 20, 2010  

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had
never seen this before?  What if I knew I would never see it again?
Rachel Carson

The other day I was commenting to Sue that I pretty much like to
keep my space calm and orderly all the time -that I need to be able
to look around and like what I see.

Well that’s true -but then how was it that this morning I raced
around for more than an hour – put clean laundry away- the phone
book back in it’s place in the kitchen, vacuumed, and so on and so
forth? Ah-hah! – Oh right! My space is not the way I like it all
the time but, I try to get it back there pretty fast.

So perhaps here’s a more accurate theory: It’s all about ebb
and flow. And the problem is when things gets stuck. Hmm – I like
that. Imagine if an ocean wave came in with all the bits and pieces
of sea weed, crabs and small fish and so forth but then it STOPPED
and nothing moved. Stinky?!

I suppose there ARE some people who are always organized but
they’re probably not reading Breathing Space tips! When Sue and I
are contacted it’s because for one reason or another – the wave is
stuck.  How is this a tip?   Well, I want to suggest that you help the
wave go back out!  Help yourself MOVE STUFF OUT more easily. Here
are three immediate ways to do that:

-Always have a smallish “GIVE AWAY” box near the door and deliver
the contents to your chosen location(s) as soon as the box
is full.

-Keep magazines upright in a container (a tall basket perhaps)
that is NOT huge – and when it gets full – it’s time to recycle or
move the magazines to your archives.  I’ve mentioned this before-
but if magazines are upright you can find the one you are looking
for more easily- and the container (rather than a flat
surface)provides a clear limit.

-When sorting mail or paper – STAND UP!! It’s almost magic how
much better this works. AND have a container for recycling right
next to you.You can empty THAT into something larger – later.

Voila– enjoy the tides!