Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Special: Closet Cleaning Commentary
What's the first thing you think of when you hear Buzz Feed? For me, it's quizzes -- silly quizzes that pop up on Facebook. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see Buzz Feed pop up in a different place: on my Google search for these Saturday posts. Not surprisingly, the same whimsy BF brings to its familiar posts runs through the more practical ones as well.

At our house, today marks the first Saturday of summer, so I thought I'd share a Buzz Feed post that's more amusing than practical. 102 Thoughts You Have While Cleaning Out Your Closet is a quick read that will inspire that wonderful "you mean, I'm not alone?" feeling, as well as a few chuckles. Maybe it will even inspire a first step toward closet de-cluttering...or maybe it'll just be good for a laugh.

Next Saturday, I'm bringing Buzz Feed back, with some practical solutions that we can implement after we clean out the closet.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Feature: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: How Not to be a Helicopter Parent

Photo: butkovicdub via Morguefile
Junior year of high school is an enormous turning point. I didn't realize this as I was going through my own junior year (thank God!), but the signs are everywhere when you're the parent of a junior. I've written before about how easy it is to get caught up in the hype, and to forget that my long-term goals for my daughter have always centered around my hope for her to become a happy, healthy, good person, not an extracurricular superstar, a Broadway sensation or a Harvard graduate. In my more rational moments, I remember this, but like most people, rationality isn't always my strong suit.

Need a little back-up for your desire to parent for the long haul, or a way to back up from the hype? Then you'll love this New York Times piece on "Raising Your Successful 35-Year-Old."

Enjoy your summer. And give your kids some time to enjoy theirs, too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

But I NEED it! (Part 2)

Photo: Tat via Morguefile
For our final week at this location, we'll take a look at some strategies for (perhaps) getting rid of those I-think-I'm-ready-but-I'm-not-sure items.

One of the best limbo strategies I've ever seen was on a now-defunct HGTV show called Mission: OrganizationI wish I could remember which professional organizer to credit, because the idea was genius. Here it is, step-by-step:
  1. Find a box, preferably one with a lid or one that can be closed completely (nothing showing).
  2. Put all of those "can't quite get rid of it" items inside (by category, if you wish).
  3. Close the box and put a sticky note on the top with today's date. 
  4. In an amount of time that you determine (I typically use 6 months), if you haven't opened the box, get rid of it without opening it.
There are two key factors here. First, keep in mind that the end purpose of this exercise is to get rid of things, so you need to choose the items that go into the box carefully (don't put your wedding photo, graduation tassel, or your grandmother's jewelry in the box). Second, you need to get rid of it without opening it. If everything going into the box is expendable (by your standards) and you haven't used it in 6 months (longer if you need more time and have a place to store it), do you really need it?

Photo: kconnors via Morguefile
So what about your wedding photo, graduation tassel and grandmother's jewelry? Are they
important enough or attractive enough to display? If not, or if you want to protect them, these kinds of things can go into a box of their own -- maybe even a pretty trunk or decorative container. While the boxes used for the first exercise should be expendable, the ones you use to preserve items of sentimental value should do just that -- preserve them. If you want those items to come out of the box in the same condition they were in when you put them there (not faded or crumbling with age), do a little research to see what kind of container will work best for the item(s) you're storing. Then, find a home for that container.

Another suggestion popular with professional organizers is to take a picture of the item, then get rid of the item itself. Much as I like the idea, I've never quite been able to do that, and I fear that I'd then be left with a pile of photos that needs to be appropriately stored. But, if you're someone who loves looking through photo books and remembering the stories they inspire, this approach may not only work well for you, but free up space as well.

A few summers ago, we went to an open house at the beach. The condo was beautifully decorated, and in one of the bedrooms, framed articles of baby clothing adorned two of the walls. It sounds kind of creepy when I write about here, but it looked really cool. Done well, this kind of repurposing can be a beautiful keepsake.

If this is all sounding too high maintenance, then here's a simpler strategy. Choose a medium-to-large container, preferably with a lid, and find it a home. Use it to collect all of the homeless items that you can't immediately recycle, repurpose or resell. Then, once a week (or month) or when the container is full, go through it and weed it out to make room for more stuff. If you make it a rule to never allow the container to overflow, you'll always be the boss of your stuff -- at least the stuff in that container.

It's been a fun three months writing about Organizing by STYLE. If you'd like to keep up with future posts, stop by the Organizing By STYLE blog, where next week, we'll tackle the E in STYLE: Easy Upkeep.

Meanwhile, here on The Porch Swing Chronicles, I'll continue the Saturday Specials (which run as an "Organizing Extra" on the Organizing By STYLE blog, but on Wednesdays, I'll return to other blog topics.

Whatever you do, do it with STYLE.

Monday, May 25, 2015

8 Ways to Be a Good Audience Member
Last week, I focused on 7 things that make a speaker worth listening to. This week, I'd like to turn the tables, and focus on 8 ways to be a good audience member.

While I'd like to say I practice all of these tips all of the time, I have to admit that sometimes I'm guilty of audience laziness (usually arising from workshop overload), and need a reminder to do some of the following:
  • Be on time. If tardiness is unavoidable for some life-or-death reason, choose a seat in the back, and/or wait patiently for a break in the action. Or, maybe even stand if you have to, especially if you arrive more than a few minutes late. 
  • Silence your phone and then put it away. It's less distracting to you, the speaker and those around you. If you need to have your phone out for some reason, make it as unobtrusive as possible.
  • Be quiet. You'd think this one would be a no-brainer, A quiet aside to a friend or a relevant question is one thing. An entire discussion belongs out in the hall.
  • Make eye contact. It's not only polite, but it's the fastest way to let the speaker know you're paying attention.
  • Smile. I love to speak, yet still find it nerve-wracking, at least until I get rolling. Nothing is more appreciated than an audience member who looks interested in what you have to say. Quiet animation is a wonderful gift from listener to speaker.
  • Ask questions...but don't monopolize the speaker. Most speakers try to allow time at the end of a session for audience questions, but time is often tight, especially if many people want to ask something. Formulate your question (write it down if necessary) so that you don't fumble through it, and limit yourself to no more than one clarification or follow-up. Then thank the speaker and let someone else have a turn.
  • Show your appreciation...Applaud (if appropriate) and, if the group is small enough, thank the speaker as you leave. Even presenters who make it look easy -- especially those presenters, in fact -- have put a lot of time into making even a short presentation look impressive. A positive response is always appreciated.
  • ...then exit graciously. A brief thank you or private question is one thing, but an extended conversation can be an intrusion. Most speakers are relieved to have completed their task and, especially at a conference, may be on a tight schedule. If you want to take advantage of a  speaker's expertise for more than a few minutes, take a business card and follow up with an e-mail.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Special: Clutter-Clearing Questions
When it comes to letting things go, every organizer has a system, but not every system works for everyone. I mean, let's face it -- it's always easy to tell someone else how to get rid of their stuff.

That's what I like about this week's Saturday Special, "10 Hard Questions to Ask When Clearing Out Your Clutter" -- even if only one or two questions help you make tough decisions,  you'll still come out ahead.

Happy clearing!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Freebie: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: Student Loans
As we head into college visitation summer, I can't help but wonder what the logistics of my daughter's college financing will look like. Doing the math on four years of tuition, room, board and expenses is enough to take a parent's breath away. And while none of us wants our kids to come out of college saddled with back-breaking debt, as it turns out, a little college debt isn't such a bad thing.


Hey, don't just take my word for it. Click here to read "The Truth About How Student Loans Affect a Graduate's Life."

For once, the news is not all bad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

But I NEED it! via
42 Craft Projects That are Easy to Make & Sell
It wasn't until I started last week's blog that I realized my third R isn't a Let it Go! strategy at all, but rather an escape route -- and one to be used with caution. While both Recycling and Reselling result in getting things out of our house, Repurposing actually makes it less likely that we'll get rid of the item in question.

That's not always bad. If repurposing a beloved (or simply useful) item gives it new life or helps it earn its keep, then hanging on to it is actually a good long as we follow a few simple guidelines.

  • Repurposing implies purpose. It's right there in the name. Is the item in question being used, or is it merely taking up space? One or two decorative items that add personality to a space, or a collection that's housed in an aesthetically pleasing way is one thing. A pile-up of "I know I'll use this someday" is quite other.
  • For items in limbo, designate a purpose. In our DIY, Pinterest-fueled society, it doesn't take much searching to come up with new uses for everything from empty soda bottles to old furniture. Here's where you have to be honest with yourself. Are you really going to do that project? If so, when? And where will the supplies "live" in the meantime?
  • Be selective: You can't save it all, yet the reasons we have for keeping things vary according to both styles and personality. Sentimental people keep things because they make us smile when we look at them or bring back a special memory. The more practical among us save things that solve a storage problem or serve more than one purpose. Those who are frugal often keep a backlog of things they don't want to have to pay to replace. Whatever your reasons, you need to set a limit to how many of those things you can realistically hang on to.
Next week, we'll talk about some ways to make decisions about the things we can't quite get rid of. In the meantime, box up those things you need to hang onto by category (e.g., sentimental value, future projects, I think I'll use this someday, etc.). That will make things easier as we move forward (and no, I haven't changed my mind about "making" you dispose of beloved items).

Next week will also mark my last week posting on this topic in this location. As we move into the last letter of STYLE in June, and begin talking about Easy Upkeep, I'll be taking the discussion to my "Organizing By STYLE" blog, as a means of both archiving all these posts in one place and continuing the discussion. You can still find me here on Wednesdays, writing on a topic still to be determined. 

Want to hear about something specific? Leave me a comment below. I have some ideas for where I want to go from here, but am also open to suggestions.