by Kirby Lindsay Laney, 18 May 2016
Spring has arrived, and for many Fremonsters this is the time for an annual clean out, or clean up, as we prepare for the Fremont Fair – and its associated celebrations.
If you want to clear the decks, and clean up your space, to make it look good for visitors coming in June to the Center of Our Universe, or if you want to get rid of last year’s stuff to make way for the treasures you will find at this year’s Fair, Lauren Williams of Casual Uncluttering has some suggestions for how to make it all easier, and maybe even a little fun!
Structures & Systems
Williams belongs to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), and she works with clients who contact her about getting more organized. She consults on homes, home offices, and small business spaces. “There is no usual,” she said, and to those of us (including me) who think theirs is the most disorganized ever, “I can almost always say I’ve seen worse,” Williams assured me.
While not her specialty, Williams has worked as part of a team helping with the homes of hoarders. She recalled one occasion where the team had to tread carefully, literally, while they sorted the mess, for fear of firearms and ammunition buried beneath it all.
More typically, at Casual Uncluttering, Williams deals with those who want to downsize, or find a better system to seeing that bills get paid. She works with clients, for example, who have purchased five different staplers – and yet they find they still can’t locate one when they need it. She works with clients interested in making their space more productive – to make it easier to cook in the kitchen, relax in the living room, or park a car back in the garage.
“Sometimes it is chronic disorganization,” Williams said. Clients may have ADHD, or simply were never taught a system. “For many people, a file cabinet is a big black hole,” she observed, and those in her field can advise clients about many potential methods for storing documents so that they can be accessed when needed. “We help our clients tease out how to anchor things in their brains,” she explained. Clients have different learning styles, and different thinking styles, and “we help clients develop habits and structures and systems to acquire things, file/store things, and retrieve them when needed.
When it comes to spring cleaning, or being more organized, Williams offered a few tips to those who want to work it out on their own.
- One Thing In, One Thing Out – This is the standard rule when looking at cool handicrafts and unique treasures at the Fair, but Williams knows some people may see the need to be more ruthless and adopt a one to three, or a one to 10 ratio. “Looking at that adorable bird statue,” Williams suggested, “maybe it means you give away the broken pig trinket,” that no longer has as much appeal.
- Avoid Harsh Language – When clearing out spaces, Williams encouraged the use of kinder verbs, particularly when working with emotionally imbued items. ‘Release’ things, she suggested, ‘let things go,’ and ‘pass them on,’ rather than talk about tossing, chucking or dumping.
- Create An Environment For Sorting – When facing a long-neglected corner of the family room, the black hole garage or that drawer that collects, well, everything, Williams recommends creating a supportive atmosphere. Consider playing music that encourages you, be it elevating or relaxing. Try aromatherapy, again considering which smells bring you up or calm you down. Check the climate – not too cold or too warm. Hungry or thirsty? Plan a regular snack to keep you going. Get good lighting for your workspace, and pick a time of day when you won’t have to stop prematurely.
- Questions To Ask When Sorting – “Do I need it?” “Do I want it?” “Is it unique?” “How often will I use it?” “How much does it cost?” “Is it in the budget?” “Is it expensive to keep up?” According to Williams, something cheaper – and in the budget – might be fine for once-a-year usage, rather than resorting to a more expensive version. “Does it make you feel good?” Williams encourages us to keep those clothes, and other items, that make us want to strut our stuff on the red carpet – and give away those that make you feel frumpy, old or worn out. “Does it suit your life?” Camping gear for the couple who always prefer hotels and time shares might be better given to someone else. “Do I already have one?” “Can I pass on the other one, or do without this one?”
- Targeted Donations – “If letting go is difficult,” Williams advised, “look at giving items to directed charities,” and recipients. Linens can go to animal shelters. Family photos can be passed on to other family members, and friends, who might treasure them more. Art supplies and craft items can be given to build the Fremont Arts Council Solstice Parade. Excess office supplies (a spare stapler or two) can often be used at B.F. Day Elementary School. Gently used children’s books, toys and clothing can be used by FamilyWorks food bank for their family center. Most non-profits have wish lists that give suggestions about what they need. “Share items among your community,” Williams suggested, “gift items now,” to family and friends, rather than waiting.
“It’s subjective,” Williams said about deciding what to get rid of, and what to keep – and how much stuff is too much. Also, only you know when it might be time to call in help. “It’s a very intimate process,” she acknowledged.
Casual Uncluttering offers a walk-through consultation to those looking for help. Williams likes to do these, to make sure she is right for the situation, and the client. Some consultants in her industry will take over for clients, organizing for them, but Williams acknowledged, “That is not my style. Most typically, I’m working with [my clients] side-by-side.”
In-between visits, clients will do work, but Williams can help. “I don’t insist on a system. We come in and we are coaches and guides,” she said about Casual Uncluttering, “We can make suggestions. We are going to listen.” Every client needs a different system that makes it easier for them to function. “It is astonishing how finely tuned this work can be,” Williams observed.
Not Lazy, Stupid Or Crazy
“The fact that you are trying to tackle this requires bravery,” Williams observed about those addressing spaces this spring. It will take time, and having a conversation about what you want – and what you might be ready to move on.
Williams also observed for those struggling with their stuff, “it’s not that you are lazy, stupid or crazy. It’s all about strengths and weaknesses.”
If you spent two hours, and still can’t find something, find bills don’t get paid, or know you have five staplers and don’t want to go out and buy a sixth, it might be time to contact Williams at Casual Uncluttering to help with this year’s Spring Clean.
Contact Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see her booth at the Seattle Business Tradeshow on June 8th.
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©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.