Next Normal-How COVID has changed our homes

  • UPDATED: AUGUST 30,2021
  • ORIGINAL PUBLISH DATE: AUGUST 2020

Unfortunately, the pandemic continues, and the analogy still works, only now, we all realize that our “next normal” will not be the same as our “past normal”. 

As I was researching information for this article, I was trying to think of an analogy that would best describe what we are experiencing.  The idea of Semi-Permanent Hair Dye came to mind! 

Let’s look at the similarities…

Hair Dye:  Color choices range from “normal of brown, black, or red” to “bold colors of green, blue, or purple”.  Covid:  range of symptoms and different experiences.

Hair Dye: Lasts 4 to 8 weeks depending on what color you select and if you take care and use color-enhancing shampoo and conditioner. Covid:  Chances of catching and severity of symptoms depends on if you vaccinate and take other precautions.

Hair Dye:  Claims to be easy to apply, but we all know that our hair never looks as good as when done by a professional.  Covid:  Our healthcare professionals are doing the very best they can under extreme circumstances.

Notice I still think this can be a Semi-Permanent situation.  Unfortunately, we cannot assume that even with a vaccine, we can resume our pre-COVID lifestyles because not everyone will take the vaccine and that will prevent us from defeating it completely. 

Just to give some perspective, the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic lasted for over a year and had several peaks during that time.  Just because our cars are faster, our computers are faster, our flow of information is faster, does not mean we will have a cure to COVID-19 faster.  We need to adjust our expectations. 

Here are some key dates of 2020 I recall: 

Early April talking with a friend, and the thought that schools might not reopen in August seemed “impossible”.  At that point, the school where she taught had extended Spring Break from 1 week to 2 weeks to then the first of May and eventually canceling in school learning for the rest of the year.  Students, teachers, and parents were thrown into the world of virtual learning, and after school, activities stopped.  It was as if everything got dumped on the dining room table and everyone just had to adjust. 

Some adjustments were easier than others!  No one seemed to miss long commutes to work.  No one seemed to miss the alarm going off and everyone rushing around to get baths or showers and put on makeup or shave and get out the door with a Pop-tart in hand. 

But after a couple of weeks, we did realize we were missing some things from before COVID-19.  We missed talking with our child for a few uninterrupted minutes in the car on the way to ball practice.  We missed the feeling of coming home to share news about our day with our spouse because neither of us had left the house.  We missed the excitement of picking out a weeks’ worth of clothes on Sunday night. We missed Sunday feeling any different than Tuesday, or Friday!!! 

We missed transitions!  Going from one place to another.  Seeing different places and people.  Completing one activity and starting another. 

And now it is August 2020 and we don’t know what to expect as the number of cases rises and governments have to decide about reopening schools for classroom learning or continue with virtual learning for the foreseeable future.  August 2021, schools are open and debates continue about mask mandates.

Of course, those decisions affect our daily schedules and how we will work from home.  Changes to bus service, staggering school start times, also affect our schedules and will be part of our adjustments this year.   Many companies have already said their employees can continue to work from home until January and Google just announced it will continue WFH until summer of 2021.  August 2021, companies are struggling with staffing shortages and those that have required staff to return to an office have seen their workforce leave for other companies with WFH policies. 

If COVID-19 did not exist, we would be buying school supplies, getting new school uniforms (if needed) or at least new school clothes, and looking forward to Friday Night lights at high school stadiums.  We would also be looking forward to tailgating at college football games, and planning Sunday night wings and pizza parties to watch the NFL games. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 does exist, and our world is very different because of it.  I think we need to be planning how we can change our homes for this new Semi-Permanent state of virtual learning, working from home, and greatly restricted social gatherings.

While we may not have control of many things right now, we do have control of our homes. We control what we bring into the house and where we put it.  And we control what happens in the spaces.  According to Better Homes & Garden, there are 7 ways that Corona Virus will change our homes:

https://www.bhg.com/decorating/lessons/expert-advice/coronavirus-interior-design/

Need to re-position some things?   Move some things out of the way that we are not using and make room for the things we NEED to be able to do in our homes!  In other words, we need to do more than just adapt or pivot.  Our new Semi-Permanent Middle of COVID Pandemic world requires us to recreate and redefine our spaces

Research shows we need these 4 distinct spaces within our homes for optimal performance and health.

  • A place to Exercise
  • A place to Sleep
  • A place to Create (Work, Study)
  • A place for Leisure (TV, Movies, Books, Hobbies, Crafts)

We cannot eat, work, sleep, and entertain ourselves in just one space, like the couch.  I suggest watching this 10 minute YouTube Video to learn more and get a visual of this optimal “home”

Lockdown Productivity:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snAhsXyO3Ck

Our homes have always been a place for us to rest, relax, entertain ourselves and others.  Now we must also find space for things like virtual learning, working from home, home gyms, and entertainment options that we enjoyed going out for but instead we must now stay in and create our own.  I hope that this article will give you some practical tips on how to reorganize your space to meet the current demands for yourself and your family.

Let’s start with what didn’t work so well when everyone and everything was just dumped together; around March 11, 2020…

We didn’t follow a schedule. We lost track of the days of the week.  We didn’t plan “special days or moments in the days”. Every day just felt like Tuesday

We lost the sacredness of certain spaces within our home.  Every activity occurred in the same place.  We were eating and working at the kitchen table or working and sleeping in the bedroom, or working, watching TV, and eating on the couch. 

Neither of these situations are sustainable, not for a year or however long our Semi-Permanent new normal requires.  So how can we change?

Steps 1,2,3:

First Step:  Acceptance!  This is not going to last forever, but it is going to be longer than we thought and longer than we wish.  By making physical changes to our homes we can change the way we feel about the situation.  We need to create “transitions” so that every moment of every day doesn’t feel the same.

Second Step:  Identify Needs!  Every family is different—some families had a parent working from home and have a home with a dedicated office space.  Other families have never had to set up “workspace” for both parents and children.  Some families were regularly active and want to continue practicing their favorite sport or dance or music.    

Third Step:  Reduce and Repurpose!  Both your space and your schedule

Reduce:  Identify what you don’t need right now and remove it from your home.  Some suggestions include…

                Work or school clothes (but staying in PJs all day is not okay!!!)-PURGE your closets, and dressers like never before!  Wrong sizes, Uncomfortable, Need Repair, Wrong Climate, any of these are easy indicator that it needs to go.  Evaluate what you are wearing daily now and keep similar items.  If you haven’t worn a pair of slacks since early March, you can probably reduce your pants down to 5 pairs of the best fitting, most flattering.  Same thing with jackets, ties, dress shirts, and dresses-purge and then purge again.  Don’t worry about running out of clean clothes. You are going to be home, you can wash clothes daily if needed. 

                Travel items (extra suitcases, briefcase, computer bags, even travel size toiletries)—if you don’t see yourself getting on an airplane or cruise ship, then why do you have so many suitcases?  Start with the easy ones—really big and really small.  Your pre-teen is not going to want to use the princess suitcase in a couple of years when you finally get to fly again.  And you are not going to need that oversized bag that holds 4 suits, shirts, and ties for a week-long conference.  By the time those start up again, you’ll need new suits anyway so get rid of the suits now too. 

                Commuter Goods like insulated lunch bags, Thermos and cold packs as well as backpacks and computer bags (keep your favorite for when we return to offices and schools, but old, dirty, and worn out ones need to go).  Lunches at home don’t require a bag or cold packs.  If you decide to have a picnic in your backyard, you can always use disposables. 

Extra Items you brought home from office. If you emptied your office cubicle or you aren’t in your car daily for client meetings, PURGE the extra items or at least work them into the family’s normal supply.  Things like office supplies, snacks and treats you may have had in your desk, coffee supplies and any over the counter medications or paper products (tissues).  Put office supplies in one central area that all can access.  

The laptop your company sent you to work from home needs to remain separate from the family pc while both can use the printer. 

                Schedules. Your schedule may have been reduced in some areas for you- no more commutes, no more after school practice, or social commitments.  But also look at reducing time on social media platforms, and news platforms (some people think those are the same thing!) so that you have the time for more cooking, helping with school lessons, anything that is now happening inside the home that didn’t before. 

Once you have emptied spaces, now you can repurpose those spaces.

Repurpose:  A cabinet that once stored thermos bottles, plastic lunch containers, insulated bags can now be repurposed to hold office and school supplies.  Or a closet that has been cleared of extra clothes can be turned into a functional office space or study space. 

Check out YouTube for videos on ideas and inspiration on how to turn a closet into an office.  If all you can do is pull together a folding table, a lamp, and some plastic storage bins then that’s okay—the point isn’t to impress on Pinterest, the point is to create a space that is going to allow you and your family to function better. 

The Better Homes & Garden article mentioned some areas of our homes that will be different in the future.  I want to offer some ideas and suggestions on how you can make these areas possible in your current home.  Please be open to looking at your space differently and realize that your space may not look like what you see on Pinterest.  Again, the point is to make it functional for this Semi-Permanent time without spending a lot of money and with the option of it being changed back at some point when possible. 

Larger Home Office or Study Space:  If your home does not have a separate study you know the challenges of trying to work from the dining room table or your bedroom.  

One solution may be to buy a folding desk and attach it to a wall in your bedroom.  Wayfair and Home Depot both offer desks for under $200. Another option may be to continue to work from the dining room table, and to set up a central supply cabinet (paper, pencils, pens, charging station for computers) and then each member to have a small basket or storage bin where items can be stashed so the family can reclaim the dining room each night for meals.   Storage bins can be found almost anywhere, but colorful and inexpensive ones are easy to find at Dollar Tree and Big Lots.

If you have a home office, you may need to share the space either by designating specific time blocks or by physically sharing the space.  If you are going to be sharing the space, create some “rules” that everyone can live with.  Music allowed?  Eating & Drinking in the space allowed?  Expectations during zoom calls? Just like teachers share Classroom rules with students when they return from summer vacation, your family will need to establish and enforce office rules.

Schedule:

And while we are on the subject of time blocking or scheduling I feel it is important to realize we all have different energy cycles.  Build your schedule around your energy cycles and build breaks into your schedule.  To learn more:  https://blog.trello.com/find-productive-hours

If your best energy is first thing in the morning, maybe you get to be in the office alone while your husband is making breakfast and getting the kids up and settled for their daily lessons.  Then in the afternoon when he is working on a project or deadline, you can check the kid’s lessons, and start making dinner. 

You can find several calendars and schedule templates online that can help you block out your day.  No one can work ALL day EVERY day.  Just like we have different rooms in our house, we need different activities on our schedule, and they need to be defined spaces and times. 

BREAKS:

Breaks you may want to consider building into your schedule –walking and stretching.   Every hour or an hour and a half, get up, stretch your body, and walk around for a few minutes.  Go outside and take a Non Smoking Break.  Refill your water glass. 

If you are concerned about getting “off track”, set a timer for the first couple of weeks.  Your students are familiar with changing rooms between classes and know they only have so many minutes to complete the task.  Build these 5 to 10-minute passing periods into your day. 

MEAL PREP & EATING:

One addition to your schedule may be meal prep and eating time.  Many families ate breakfast in the car on the way to school.  Without the drive to school it can be easy to let breakfast stretch on and on and pretty soon, the kids are hungry again and you’ve lost the entire morning.  I suggest having very easy to prepare items for both breakfast and lunch.  If the preparation takes too long or requires too many dishes or pans, you’ll waste valuable time and lose your focus on work.  Keep lunch hour to an hour total time, just like you did when you went to the office. 

Although I am not a fan of highly processed foods, there are some good frozen options for lunches.  I keep some on hand so that if I don’t have leftovers from dinner, I can quickly have an entrée and add fruit or a salad for a satisfying and fast option.

POWER NAP or QUIET TIME:

Right after lunch can also be a really good time for quiet reading or even a power nap.  If your meal prep is quick, and you eat in 20 to 25 minutes, you will still have time in your lunch break for a quick power nap.  Just like they tell new moms “Nap when the baby naps”, take the advice and find a space for 15-20 minutes of quiet time for yourself.  The extra stress everyone is under right now takes a toll on our immune system and power naps have been shown to help lower our stress hormones and improve our health.  https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/the-secret-and-surprising-power-of-naps#1

Reading Nooks or Private Spaces:

When I saw it mentioned I didn’t understand why but then I started thinking about how common it was to go to Starbucks for coffee and take a book and just read, sip coffee, people watch a little.  I think that is what you can create by setting up a reading nook.  Instead of the open concept where everyone is together all the time, creating spaces where people can go and come back from will help keep us from feeling trapped. 

Move a chair, small table, or bookshelf and lamp to the corner of the room.  Place a tall plant to shield the view.  Now when you need a few minutes to prepare for a conversation or presentation you need to make, you can retreat to this space.

Expanded Outdoor Entertaining Space: 

Of course, there is still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19 but it appears that being outside with sunlight, and more fresh air is better for us than staying inside with the AC going.   Outdoor spaces are not only going to be for dining, but also for limited social interactions.  Maybe you have “driveway happy hour”, or maybe you have a “bring you own box dinner” with friends so no cross-contamination occurs.

And don’t worry about buying new patio furniture, the trend is to use old blankets thrown over chairs or benches, old planters turned upside down for tables, and old wooden pallets either leaning against a tree or house to create a very casual setting.  Add a few strings of lights from the Christmas decorations and you’ve instantly got an inviting patio for conversations and cocktails. 

Garages are becoming Home Gyms:

This isn’t a new use for garages.  Many guys have weight sets and machines in their garage.  A few even have a functioning treadmill.  What is new is that with gyms closed, there is added interest in getting to use the equipment more frequently and even expanding the space for cardio like jump rope, and hula hoops.  You don’t have to park your car outside permanently.  But you will have to organize your garage space and keep it organized.  Just like at the gym, weights must go back on the racks. 

If you want to expand your exercise area so that the entire family can exercise together, then other items may need to be relocated.  But first PURGE all the “extras” that have collected in the garage.  Extra yard tools, tools with batteries that don’t stay charged anymore, toys the kids have outgrown, extra lumber, etc. 

Clutter is just postponed decisions.  Make the decision now-either discard it, donate it, or decide to keep it and place it somewhere that doesn’t interfere with the exercise space.  For more help with your garage, check out my previous post Cycles of Decluttering-B Phase where I give details on how to declutter and organize your garage. 

Mudrooms or Entry Areas: 

Instead of bringing everything into the kitchen and dropping it on the countertop, we are now looking for an “unloading zone”.  In the past, it may have just been a basket for the keys to be dropped into, but now we have masks that need to be washed and hung up so we can use the next time we head out.  We want to have a place to wash our hands, and of course to unpack groceries and recycle packaging from items we order online. 

There may not be a lot you need to do to prepare an area in your home for this besides hanging a few hooks on the wall or placing a bin in the garage for recycling mail and cardboard.  You may need to practice not placing grocery bags or your purse on the kitchen counter and of course, washing your hands each time you return home and when you have put the groceries away or opened delivered packages. If you’re not sure, just wash your hands again! 

Now is not the time to give up on our families or our communities.  Instead, as the video says, it is our opportunity to come back better.  Our homes can be better designed for not only now but the future.  Our schedules can be better without long commutes and wasted hours in traffic.  Our physical health can be better with a focus on exercise and good quality sleep.  This time requires both discipline and grace. 

If you need help PURGING or REDESIGNING SPACE for your family to function better, please let us know.  I am happy to give a free consultation and discuss your goals and then present you with an action plan and cost estimate. GCarter@Organized-Occasions.com or Contact Us

Breast Cancer–Discovery, Decisions, D-Cups and Diet

My knowledge about Breast Cancer began at age 42 when my BFF was diagnosed.  Hers was a rarer form known as Paget’s Disease—the cancer cells collect in and around the nipple.  Only 5% of all Breast Cancers are Paget’s and most occur after age 62.  She thought she had a skin condition due to being in a swimsuit at the lake all summer.  She was surprised when she was sent to get a mammogram instead of a referral to a dermatologist.  Her mammogram showed that she had DCIS –Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.  The way she described it to me was that the technician showed her the images taken in the mammogram and pointed out silver streaks which indicated clumps of cells. 

And so, began her journey and battle.  Unfortunately, along the way, if something could go wrong, it did.   Initially, an infection at the site of the biopsy occurred, then the drain tube was removed too soon, and she experienced swelling under her arm and even down her arm at certain times.  When all was completed, she was unhappy with her reconstruction results.  But she has been cancer free for 14 years and I benefited from watching and listening to everything she went through.  We walked in the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer  3 day walk so that another mom would not have to tell her young sons that she had breast cancer. 

I can tell you that telling a 23-year-old son is not easy either.  I was diagnosed with High-Grade DCIS in 2015—one month after turning 50 years old.   *** 2020 I am a 5 year Cancer Free Survivor!

Here are the details as best as I can remember—there are some things I would love to forget and some things I probably have pushed out of my memory on purpose. 

Discovery

Sept 2015:  I have my first 3 D mammogram.  It was the first time Solis offered it and being very confident that I was doing everything right (maintaining proper weight, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, drinking red wine) I agreed to the new advanced technique.  A few days later I was called back into the clinic to have another mammogram.  I was surprised when the technician took me to the “regular machines” and said, “What we need to see we can see from these images.”   So, a few more squeezes in the big metal photo booth and I was told to not get dressed but to wait to see if more images are needed.  I am still thinking “that stupid 3 D machine messed up and they are just making sure there is nothing here”.  However, when I was asked to come into the room and have a look, I started to wonder.  And when she pointed out the silver streaks, I knew I had breast cancer.  I did not tell anyone at this point I just made the appointment for the biopsy the next day. 

A Breast Biopsy is a modern day torture device (far worse than a mammogram machine!)—you lie down on a table that has a large hole in it and position your boob to hang down through the hole.  A medical staff person then proceeds to insert a needle into your breast to remove cells.  Yes, there is some local anesthesia applied but you are sore afterward and since mine was on the left side and I was driving myself home, the seatbelt was killing me!!!  This was on a Wednesday and I already knew what they are going to find, but I waited a couple of days and got the phone call on Friday morning.

“High-Grade DCIS” was the diagnosis—and I need to schedule to meet with a Breast Specialist.  My husband was not home at the time, so I had to call him and give him the news over the phone. But my son was home and all I could think about was how I wished I wasn’t the mom telling my kid I had cancer.  At this point, we didn’t know much beyond it was in the left breast in multiple spots within the milk ducts.  

The next week I meet with Dr. Mary Bryan at Texas Oncology.  She is very patient and calm and explains the situation I am facing.  1) multiple spots in multiple ducts but most concerned about a specific one that was fairly long (I was small breasted/a B cup at this point) 2) high grade means it grows fast 3) premenopausal so still lots of hormones (estrogen)in my system.  She thinks my best treatment is a mastectomy –as she very nicely explained to me…by the time, they take enough margins to be sure they get all the cancerous cells, they will have removed my entire B cup breast!  She can tell this hit me like Mack Truck.  So she says, go get an MRI and we’ll be able to see more the length and location and make a decision then. 

I scheduled an MRI at a facility that was supposed to be female-focused—unfortunately for me, they were more focused on Botox injections and other “procedures” than on my MRI.  The owner actually asked me if I wanted to get Botox for the wrinkles in my forehead when she stopped by to apologize for my MRI getting stared 1 hour late!!!  I still have wrinkles along my forehead, thank you very much!

Later that night I got a call from Dr. Bryan saying that the MRI confirmed what she had seen in the mammogram and that her suggested treatment was the same—complete removal of the breast. 

And now is when I reach out to my BFF with the news.  And I start researching options—I figured if I was going to have surgery I should get to decide not just when, but exactly what type of surgery. 

Decisions

The only surgery and times I have been in the hospital include a tonsillectomy when I was 5 and don’t remember any of it and the birth of my son which was natural so not really surgery.  I had no reference as to what surgery and recovery would be like!  I didn’t even know how I would react to being under anesthesia for an extended period of time.

Dr. Bryan’s office provided me with a list of several of the local reconstruction surgeons and I called a couple of girlfriends that I knew had gotten boob jobs.  Not all cosmetic surgeons do reconstruction, so I was able to narrow my list down to two doctors. 

The first doctor I went to see specialized in a process to move excess fat from your belly or thighs and use it to rebuild your breast tissue.  I had always said if I was going to have a boob job, I wanted them to move the extra fat from my thighs up to my boobs.  Then I would have thinner thighs and bigger breasts—the perfect body!  Unfortunately, since I was within my ideal body weight range, there was not enough extra fat to reposition.  I must have looked like I didn’t believe him when he told me this, so he continued to tell me how the process would go. 

First I would start off face down on the operating table so they could “harvest” the portion from my thighs and lower butt, then they would flip me over and the breast specialist would do the actual mastectomy and then he would come back into the OR and finish the repositioning.  All together I was looking at more than 8 hours under anesthesia, stitches on both my breast and thighs, unable to bath for several days and lots of bruising.  I felt nauseas after that meeting! 

The second doctor I met with is very committed to helping women that are having reconstruction due to Breast Cancer get their desired results.  He is very compassionate to patients while also being very demanding of staff and at times his patients (If he says don’t do something, don’t do it!!).  On our first meeting, I shared with him that I had looked at having the other procedure and he just laughed and said, “you’re not the typical candidate for that”.

He then explained the procedure of placing tissue expanders after the mastectomy and then replacing those with silicone implants during a second surgery.  I had read a lot on the internet, so I thought I knew and understood more than I actually did. 

I had at this point decided to do a double mastectomy to reduce my chances of having breast cancer in the future—no breast tissue = no breast cancer; better recovery time at 50 years old than what I would have as I got older; and knowing that my BFF had never been happy with her results (one enlarged breast and one removed and reconstructed breast).  I still hoped that somehow, he could keep the nipple on the one breast that didn’t have cancer.  His response when I asked was “Have you ever tried wrapping a present when the bow is already attached to the paper?  It almost never ends up where it should.”  And so the decision was made for complete removal of both breast and reconstruction to begin immediately.

All of this happened during October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month!  My wedding anniversary is also in October, so we took a short trip to get away and I remember sitting on the bed saying “I hate that I don’t have an option besides surgery.  You can fix heart issues with medication, you can take insulin for diabetes, but my only choice is to go under the knife.”  There would be other nights I would cry not because I was scared of dying, but because I was scared of the surgery.  I have never liked hospitals—the smells, the sounds, the schedules—it all makes me extremely uncomfortable and extremely stressed out. 

But I knew I didn’t want to wait since we didn’t know how fast growing the cancer was and I didn’t want to give it time to spread into my lymph system.  I had my 2 doctors picked and I decided that since business was slow during the holidays, I could have the removal procedure in November and that Friday the 13th would be an appropriate day.   I planned to be out for 4 weeks and since I worked from home, and things would be slow, I could ease back into my schedule in December.  

Here are some things they explained to me, but I didn’t really understand until it was happening: 

  • T-Rex arms (much harder to do than you expect—seems easy enough, NO IT IS NOT)
  • Don’t lift more than 5 lbs (a gallon of milk weighs 8 lbs, 2 dinner plates is almost 5 lbs)
  • Jackson Pratt Drains (beneficial but disgusting and will be in longer than you would like)
  • Saline Injections and Tissue Expanders (take it slow to avoid pain)

There is some preparation for the surgery that you do at home including placing an anti-nausea patch behind your ear to help when you come out from the anesthesia. This patch can also make your vision a little blurry which I experienced later.  The surgery went fine and there was no evidence of cancer in the lymph node, so I was CANCER FREE! 

After surgery I seemed to be fine, a little hyped up from the drugs and very chatty, but everything was going well the first day.  I ate, friends brought over shaved ice for my sore throat (I learned that having a tube placed and removed from your throat can cause soreness!), I visited with family and friends.  I wasn’t really in pain YET. 

That night the nurses were very attentive, but I could not go to sleep.  I tried reading a book and that’s when I discovered the blurry vision.  They removed the patch and decided I could have a muscle relaxer along with the pain meds in my IV to help me sleep.  I think I got around 2 hours of sleep and then time for the nurses shift change, breakfast delivery, and doctors making rounds. 

The dining staff brought in my breakfast tray and I naturally reached across to the get the coffee cup and had barely taken 2 sips when my reconstruction doctor arrived and saw the drain on the right side was full of blood.  That reach across the table for my coffee cup had caused a stitch to break and he was frantic.  He yelled at me! He yelled at the staff! And he put me in a sling to hold my right arm next to my body!!!

My husband arrives on the scene and immediately says “you are acting like a bull in a china shop”.  I tried to explain I didn’t do anything!!  I didn’t realize T-Rex arms applied to feeding myself.  They made it sound like I had intentionally done something that would harm my recovery.  I later explained to both my husband and doctor that no one in that room wanted to be out of there more than me so anything I had done was purely accidental.

Good news, the bleeding stopped very quickly, and there was no permanent damage.  But I did spend the next week with my right arm in a sling.  Being right-handed that was a challenge so my son decided he would feed me while I was at the hospital.   I put a stop to that as soon as we got home. 

The pain worsened over the next day and one nurse was brutal with the drain clearing—it felt like fluid was being sucked from my toes she squeezed and pulled so hard.  By the third day, I was released to go home to recover.

As much as I did not want to be feed, I am grateful that my son was living with us at the time.  My husband had to do all my personal care—bathing, dressing, clearing the drains, doctors’ visits.  And my son did all the house stuff—cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, even Christmas decorations.  Friends brought over dinners, but he usually made breakfast and lunch for me.  Since I could only exercise my legs, he and I would take his dog for a walk every morning which helped me not to go stir crazy.  My BFF also came down for a few days to distract and entertain me.  It was a true team effort!  I returned to work after 4 weeks but only because I worked from home and appearance did not matter. 

D-Cups

Although I was not a candidate for moving excess fat from my thighs to my breast, my thighs could apparently be balanced with larger breasts (according to the cosmetic surgeon)!  Through a series of saline injections into the expanders, the skin stretches.  And each woman can decide just how much expansion you want to do.  I kept saying I would be happy with a C-cup and even bought a couple of new bras in a C cup (these would later be too small).  I scheduled my implant surgery for the weekend before Spring Break knowing again that business would be slow.  Recovery from this surgery was much easier-less than a week!  There are no nerve endings, so you don’t have pain and they just reopen the scars from the mastectomy to exchange the new implants for the expanders.  The doctor decides which of the implants fills the newly created space the best and everyone I know has ended up with larger breasts afterwards (C cups are now D cups!).  I guess the doctors want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth!

And now for the final touches—again I researched my options.  The surgeon explained a procedure he performs to rebuild a nipple and then a tattoo is applied around it.  He has very good results, but I didn’t want another surgery.  I saw an article about medical tattoos and found an artist in Dallas that did them.  It was almost a full year from the time of my mastectomy until I finished my journey with a 3D medical tattoo.  At least now when I look in the mirror, I am not just seeing scars- there is a normal look to my breast.  I can even shower at the yoga studio without being embarrassed if someone sees me.  I still don’t feel anything!  I jokingly refer to them as “Barbie Boobs”.  No offense to Barbie!  They look good and will always be perky but without any feeling I say they could catch fire and I wouldn’t know it. 

If you are facing Breast Cancer a couple of things you need to know

  1. Your experience will be unique.  Research as much as you can.  Talk with others that have experienced it, but in the end—this is a solo fight.  You must fight it and beat it! Mentally, Physically, Spiritually. Fight Like A Girl
  2. Don’t see your breast by yourself the first time—you cannot be prepared for the shock.  All those pictures of other women’s breasts do not prepare you for seeing your own breast without nipples and with scars.
  3. Remember that being CANCER FREE is the most important outcome.  Too Big, Too Little, One a little higher than the other, these are only little annoyances.  The most important is that YOU are HEALTHY, and YOU are HERE to enjoy your family and friends. Unfortunately, we lose a few friends/family/moms/daughters to this horrible disease, so if your battle ends in victory, celebrate!

Be grateful for the technology we have that both detects cancer and allows you to reconstruct the breast.  You are not the same after breast cancer, but you can still be GREAT.

Diet

I have a BS in Dietetics from Texas Tech University and a Nutritional Therapist certificate from The Health Sciences Academy.  I have been interested in nutrition and cooking since high school.   I enjoy cooking classes, reading cookbooks and meal planning.  I strive to always eat a healthy diet and hope these tips will help you recover faster if you are in the battle.  A warning, I get a little “geeky” with some of the nutrition information below, but your diet is one of the areas you have control so use it to your advantage.  Additional information can be found in The Cancer Survivor’s Guide by Neal D. Bernard, MD and Jennifer K. Reily, RD.

First, there is a proven advantage to being thin or losing weight in terms of survival.  There are lot of studies that prove better outcomes for women that are near their ideal body weight.  The reason for this is simple–ESTROGENS.  Body fat acts like an estrogen factory and estrogen has shown to encourage cancer cell growth.  So how can you lose weight after diagnosis and treatment? 

  1. Exercise:  3-5 hours per week of average pace walking.  This is more than the often suggested “15-minute walk after dinner”.  I promise you will feel better if you get out and walk!  I did as soon as I could, and it helped clear my head and lift my spirits.
  2. Reduce your fat intake:  Fats and oils are the densest source of calories, so reducing these will help reduce your overall caloric intake.
  3. Increase Fiber:  Fiber helps your body eliminate excess estrogens.  The liver filters estrogens from the blood and sends it through the bile duct and into the intestinal tract.  Fiber soaks them up and carries them out of the body! 
  4. Increase Fruits and Vegetables:  Beta Carotene and Vitamin C rich diets are proven to increase survival rates. Strive for 5 or more servings per day.

Breast Cancer taught me that every day is an occasion to be celebrated!  We don’t know how many days we are going to get, so let’s make the most of today

Gretchen Carter

BS-Dietetics, Texas Tech University, 1986

Nutritional Therapist, The Health Sciences Academy

How We Accumulate and Organize Items in our Homes

I think it is safe to say, we will never SHOP the same after the 2020 Pandemic.

Many stores that have struggled to survive the past couple of years (Pier 1, JCPenny’s, Neiman Marcus, JCrew) are going to permanently close.  Some have already started clearance sales and store closings.

Items that we previously purchased at a store are now part of a “subscription-based” program and arrive at our front door as scheduled.  Subscriptions include everything from dog food, toothpaste, clothing, shaving cream, and razors.

Grocery stores that had expanded to over 50K items are now reducing products and reallocating space as the supply chain adjusts to the ever-changing consumer.  More families are using home delivery from restaurants, meal kits, and grocery delivery services instead of shopping themselves in a brick and mortar location. (Recent survey said only 65% of food purchases were made at a grocery store.)

The traditional Saturday afternoon trip to the mall to window shop, enjoy a fresh baked cookie from Great American Cookie company, and catch a movie at the cinema  is a thing of the past. 

If we have learned anything over the last 14 months, it is that we can quickly adjust where and how we shop.

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER WHAT COMES IN :

Into your house

Into your mind.

And Into your mouth

And your will power is strongest and most effective at the point of purchase.  If you never buy it, you never have to deal with it in your home!

In terms of purchases for our homes, there are 4 common approaches:

Minimalism, Consumerism, Essentialism, and Reductionism

First, some definitions

Minimalism:  Owning Fewer Possessions—people often think of stark white walls, one chair, one plant.  And yet, it is also the perspective of purchasing less stuff that allows for more freedom to travel or create experiences.  There are several good resources to learn more:  Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist, Ryan Nicodemus, and Joshua Fields Millburn The Minimalist

Consumerism: Acquisition of goods in increasing amounts—Black Friday Sales with hundreds of people pushing each other to grab the last TV; shopping at Costco for multiples of everything; Walmart, Target, Amazon.  Consumerism has been a powerful economic force for the past 50 years.  Unfortunately, easy credit has caused people to overextend with credit card debt and the home mortgage crisis of 2007.  This article provides a summary of that crisis:  https://www.thebalance.com/mortgage-crisis-overview-315684

Essentialism:  Determining what is essential to you in terms of items, people, commitments, and maintaining those regardless of age, available space, or resources.  Marie Kondo style of decluttering where you identify the items that you need and everything else is purged. Essentialism can look like a minimalist house or a home can be filled with lots of beautiful accessories and items.  It is completely up to the individual to determine what is essential.

Reductionism:  Working toward a place of balance of what you have and what you need for your current situation and the future.  A place that many people find themselves in now, where what they needed 6 months ago is different from what they need today.  And if their income has changed, then reducing their expenses to meet the new income.  Families are digging in and getting creative with food items already in their pantry instead of going to the store.  Parents are sharing the school supplies with their students as they all work and learn from home.  And as our commutes to work change so does our automobile or public transportation needs. 

I personally believe we all favor a specific approach at specific times in our lives.  In our youth, consumerism is common as we tend to want to buy the next new game, the next Lego set, the popular clothing brand.  Even when we are out on our own, the desire to purchase items for our family increases.  Then at some point, you may find you want to “downsize” or as it is sometimes called “right-size” and you may find yourself in essentialism or even as far as minimalism. 

During the national shelter in place we experienced this spring, we found ourselves stuck inside and looking at our stuff All Day Every Day.  Many people began asking questions about their possessions.  For some, the decluttering and purging started immediately and was only halted by the fact that resale shops were closed so there was no place to take the donations.  Others were able to purchase storage bins and labels and now have organized garages and closets and know what they own and where it is.  It is a natural response that when things outside of our control are increasing, we look for ways to feel in control. 

If you did not spend time decluttering or organizing or doing what I am calling “ The Great American Clean Out”  you may need to take a few minutes to just look at your stuff and get an objective perspective.  And if at any point you feel overwhelmed or confused, you may need to seek assistance from a professional organizer or at least a highly organized friend.  

Ask yourself some questions like: 

How do you feel about the amount of stuff you own? 

How do you feel about how you are caring for the stuff? 

How much time are you spending dealing with it and is that what you want to be doing?

Let’s say you own a BOAT.  

You enjoy taking the boat out every weekend.  You know that you must clean and care for the boat, but you enjoy that as well.  I’d say, KEEP THE BOAT!  It is providing entertainment value, giving you a place of relaxation and good fresh air and sunlight.  All positives.

Let’s say you own 2 bicycles

You haven’t moved the bikes in at least a year; both bikes have flat tires and cobwebs in the wheels.  I’d say, SELL or DONATE THE BIKES!  They are not providing an exercise option and the longer they sit unused, the more the tires age and will be useless for someone else. 

See the difference? 

The Rule of Sunk Cost:  What you paid for an item has no bearing on its value to you now.  Keeping it in a closet, storage shed, or garage does not make it more valuable or return money spent.  It is SUNK.

Areas to clean out: 

Attic or Basement (depending on where you live you may have one and not the other or may have both)

Garage (primary use is to protect your car from the elements, but less than 30% of homeowners can park their car in the garage)

Storage Shed or Unit (9.4% of population rent a storage unit.  More stats about storage units)

Closets (see other blog posts)

Cabinets (Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry Room, office file cabinets)

Pantry and Freezer (One of my favorite areas to organize!  This is your micro grocery store; it should be arranged like one!)

Quick & Easy Steps to Clear Out some of these spaces:

  1. Use up what you have.  Be sure you have gathered everything into one place —you don’t want to find a stash of cleaning supplies under the guest room bath.  Do not buy any more food, paper goods, beauty supplies until you have used what you have.  Make it a game.  Everyone writes down when they think you will have to shop to replace it.  This will also help you budget in the future.  If you see that you can go 6 months on 36 rolls of toilet paper, then you will not rush to buy more when a forecast calls for heavy rains, or ice because you know you have 18 rolls in the hall closet and that’s a 3 month supply. 
  2. Set deadlines.  If you are wanting to empty the storage unit you pay $110/ month, then set a deadline for when you want to be out of it.  Double-check when they will bill your account for the next month so that you can be sure to be out before that date. 
  3. Get uncomfortable for a while.  Instead of “out of sight, out of mind”, put the boxes right on the table or in front of the TV.  If you can’t sit down to eat dinner or you can’t recline back in your chair, you will be motivated to work through the boxes and finally make a decision about the items—continue to store, or remove? 
  4. Stay focused on the desired outcome.  Remind yourself why you are cleaning out the garage or the freezer—monthly savings, reduce food waste, repurpose the space for home gym or home office. 

Owning stuff should not fuel our happiness!  The only way to reduce our desire to own more is to start being grateful for what we already have.  This is also true in our relationships.  When we are grateful for the friends, family, neighbors we have, we can enjoy them more and they will enjoy us more too! 

Once you’ve cleaned out these spaces, the best way to maintain them is to STOP SHOPPING. 

  • Cut up credit cards from stores (usually have higher interest rates anyway). 
  • Follow the 1 in 2 out rule—for every item you bring in, you must donate two. 
  • Unsubscribe from emails. You know your favorite stores; you don’t need to be reminded to go to their website when it’s time to purchase again.  And getting emails everyday encourages more and more spending and unplanned purchases. 
  • Adjust your subscription plans.  Are you using what you are getting in before the next shipment arrives or are you starting to have a surplus?

I mentioned that you may need to get help with some of these projects.  As a professional organizer, I can help you evaluate your current situation, put together a plan, and estimate time needed to complete the project.  My consultation is FREE.  You can also purchase a gift certificate from me to give to a family member or as a client appreciation gift.

Why is Moving So Stressful?

According to a study conducted by the United States Census Bureau, the average person will move their household 11.7 times in their lifetime.  The US Life Expectancy is currently 78.69 years which means we move every 6 years! 

There are many types of moves– Corporate Relocations, Upsizing or Downsizing, First Home Purchase, Going Off to College, Retirement Centers or Assisted Living Facilities and each of these moves require thousands of decisions to be made. 

Unfortunately, all that decision making can make us weary, exhausted, dog-tired, worn out, and fatigued!  And the decisions start long before moving day.  As a Professional Organizer I have helped clients to pack and move but not until my recent move (July 2019) did, I feel the impact of all the decisions and feel the weariness, both physical and mental. 

I am very proud of how well my family has handled this move and how well it went from start to finish. I hope this article helps you to prepare for your next move and makes it as easy as moving can be. (Hint—You are still going to be worn out!) 

Let’s look at a couple of Different Types of Moves and the usual ways they occur:

                Corporate Relocation:  Your employer has asked you to move to a new location and you have a deadline for when you need to be there.  The biggest advantage of a corporate move is that the company picks up the expense for packing and moving your belongings.  Generally, a moving company is selected, and a packing date is set.  Then depending on the distance to the new location the moving truck is loaded and arrives within a few days to begin unloading.  Corporate movers are usually very good about packing your items, so they transport without getting broken.  However, sometimes in the rush to get the packing completed, they will pack unwanted items in a box including dirty clothes and full trash cans

If you have a corporate move in your future, I highly recommend that you SORT and PURGE your belongings before packing day.  You will not have time to purge as they are packing, and you can’t be in multiple locations within your home while multiple moving company staff members pack your belongings. 

Once you arrive at your new location the boxes will be placed in the rooms as they are labeled (this can be a disadvantage if you want things to go to a different room). They will unpack the boxes and remove all the packing materials. 

Upsizing or Downsizing: Most of us will change the size of the house we live in a couple of times—we may go bigger when we have children (or when our incomes allow us) and we may go smaller when they move out (or we want to stretch our retirement income).  The rooms will be different sizes and shapes that may require us to replace furnishings.  The key is making sure the furniture fits the new room.  His favorite chair may not fit with the oversized couch in your new living room and you’ll have to decide which to keep and which to replace.   Or you’ll find that you need an additional chair or two by the fireplace.  These moves are generally a DIY project (with help from good friends and neighbors) and have more flexibility on the actual moving day. 

If you know you are going to be moving in the next 6 months, I suggest that you start SORTING, PURGING and PACKING early. 

For my move, I created a Color-Coded Label System (I am happy to send you the template) where each room has a different color label that will be placed on the box and ALL CONTENTS are listed.

In our case, we were setting up a second residence, so I wanted to be sure that any items I had duplicates of were packed for the 2nd home saving us money to repurchase something we already owned. But I had to be sure I didn’t need that item at our primary residence so by listing the contents on the label I could easily retrieve it if needed.  And the color-coded boxes made unloading and unpacking much faster and easier!!!

We unloaded all the boxes into the garage and then carried in only the room we were working on at that time.  No stepping over boxes to get to the ones we needed.  And the labels helped me find the most important (coffee maker) box the night we arrived for the following morning!

If you are going from one primary residence to another, start with items that are in storage and used infrequently like craft and holiday items, garden and tools, or appliances that you don’t use every week.  Get these items sorted and purged and then packed with contents on the labels. 

Next on your packing order should be entertaining items like extra glasses, barware, serving pieces—this is a great time to decide how much of these do you need in your new home???!!! Our lifestyles often change when we move and if you are not going to be hosting large parties anymore, now is the time to purge the excess pieces.  Or if you have a partial set of dishes or glasses that you have been holding on to because you had a cabinet for them, go ahead and rid yourself of them now and save the time and effort to pack and unpack. 

Retirement or Assisted Living Facility:  For many families, the decision to move a parent into an assisted living facility comes on suddenly and can be extremely stressful.  We all have a sentimental attachment to our stuff, but we must accept that other family members don’t have the same attachment.  Most kids do not want their parents’ stuff and that goes for Gen Xers to Millennials.

Although items need to be sorted and purged the process may take longer than we would like and I can only say to cherish the time together, ask lots of questions to learn the stories about the “stuff”, take pictures and keep pushing forward to get the items packed and moved to the facility or packed to donate/sell. 

You can surround them with their favorite items but remember that if everything is “the favorite” then really nothing is—because they can’t all be the same value.

Let’s get started making decisions—SORTING, PURGING, PACKING:

SORT:  Gather all like things together.  All the DVDs, all the books, all the glassware, all the tools, all the towels, and sheets, etc.  Gather from multiple locations and put all together.  You must see it all together to really know how much you have!  When the towels are spread between 3 bathrooms it doesn’t look like so much, but when you bring them all together on the kitchen table, you can match up sets, discard any with holes or stains and keep only the very best to use. 

PURGE:  Discard, Donate, and Sell items as you go.  Why pay for the movers to load something that you don’t really want anymore? It is easier to purge when you see how much you are keeping, instead of looking at what you are giving away. This is why bringing like items together to sort; helps you purge and ultimately pack. 

PACK:  Use packing paper to wrap all kitchen items, pictures, and knick-knacks.  Generally, I like to keep like items together, however, if you have a 2-story house you may need some upstairs and some down so you should pack for both locations.  When you are ready to load the truck, move everything into the garage.  Again, it helps you to see how much you really have when it is all together! Load the boxes first and then the furniture.  When you unload you can place the furniture inside the house in the correct room and put the boxes in the garage. 

Supplies to have on hand when packing: 

  1.  Boxes: a variety of sizes. It is best if they have not been used for food storage/transportation (you don’t want unwanted oils or fragrances to get into your clothes or books). Check on NextDoor or other social media options for used boxes.  If you are going to buy boxes, I suggest buying wardrobe boxes for your hanging clothes.  They hold a lot of clothes and you can pack large artwork in with the clothes as well.
  2. Packing Paper:  Buy at least 2 boxes to start and some bubble wrap as well.  Wrap items to prevent breakage and pack the boxes with extra paper to prevent movement in the box.  Breaks happen when items can shift and move in the box.  No empty space!
  3. Packing Tape and Dispensers:  Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find the end of a roll of tape! 
  4. Black and Red Sharpies:  Medium point to write on the labels.  Use RED to mark any boxes as FRAGILE. 
  5. Pre-Printed Color-Coded Labels:  Write the contents on the label as you wrap, and place in the box.

Supplies to have on hand when loading truck:

  1. Work Gloves: this is hard, physical labor. Save your hands from cuts, blisters.
  2. 2-wheel Dolly: to move boxes on and off the truck
  3. Blankets:  these are available with rental truck companies and are not expensive but prevent damage to furniture
  4. Bungee Cords and Straps:  you will need to prevent items from shifting on the truck
  5. Water Bottles:  depending on the time of year and climate, but it is hard physical labor so stay hydrated.

As for the size of the truck—this is a 15-foot truck with space over the cab.  I was only moving the Living Room, Dining Room, and Office Furniture along with lots of boxes (bedrooms furniture came from the store the next day).  You can see we were not full but due to the great packing and strapping everything in.. NOTHING broke!

A few final tips:

And if all this still sounds overwhelming, hire a Professional Organizer (like me!).  We can keep the process moving (pun intended)!!! Helping you sort, and purge at your old house, or helping you unpack and place items in the best location in your new house.  We make it easier for you!

I always work from a checklist and want to share a couple that I found to be very helpful:

The best moving checklist I found is from SMEAD Organomics. It starts 8-12 weeks before the move to give yourself plenty of time to SORT, PURGE and PACK.

Click on the link and then find “Printable Checklists: Moving Checklist”

Bed, Bath, and Beyond has checklists for Apartment and Campus—more for items to buy, but still a good list to review

https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/registry/CollegeChecklistPage

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

– Lao Tzu

Identifying your Personal Style is the 1st step to a Happy Closet

Have you ever looked in your closet and said?

  • “What a mess!” 
  • “Why did I buy this?”
  • “What am I going to wear?  I’ve got to be out of the house in 15 minutes”

What feelings does a morning like this bring on?

Frustration, Resentment, Anxiety, even a little Depression

I understand and I’ve had those same thoughts and feelings.  Seems that our closet conversations can set the tone for our entire day.  We start our day with negative thoughts and messages and sure enough, we have a really bad day! 

What if instead we looked in our closet and said…

  • “What a great space.  I love how it is arranged and how everything looks!”
  • This is such a great color, I’m so glad I bought this!”
  • “I will put this top with these jeans and grab a jacket for later. Let’s go!”

Now, what feelings are you having?

                Happy, Confident, Empowered, maybe even a little Excited.

With these thoughts and messages, how do you think your day will go?  What kind of decisions will you make?  When we start our day with positive thoughts and messages, we usually have positive days and if we have some adversity, we can face it more confidently. 

So how can we change the conversations we have each morning? How can we get our closets and our clothes to talk nice to us again? How can we start our days with positive messages?

We need to fill our closets with clothes we want to wear and get rid of the other stuff!  But before we start cleaning out, we first need to identify our personal style.  Your personal style reflects your uniqueness and tastes and then allows you to express it and present it to the world.  The clothes you own and wear need to align with your style.

Styles

Identifying your personal style will help when you start Sorting and Purging your clothes. 

Fashion blogs and books have identified 5 style types—the names vary a little depending on who wrote the article:

  • Feminine or Girly
  • Modern or Classic (these are the same, trust me!)
  • Casual or Sporty
  • Bold or Edgy
  • BOHO (everyone agrees on this name!)

Let’s look at each just a bit more and see if you can easily identify which is your style. 
Activities may change but styles tend to remain consistent throughout our lives. 

Feminine or Girly:

Think frilly or flirty.  Soft colors. Lots of florals and prints with details like lace, ribbons, bows.

Modern or Classic:

Think simplicity and elegance over trendy. Little Black Dress (LBD) with pearls. Solids colors.

Casual or Sporty:

Think sports fan or yoga instructor. All about comfort. It can still be fashionable—athleisure wear is very popular with celebrities going from workout to lunch out!

Bold or Edgy:

Think hipster and glam. Bold colors and combinations. Details like zippers, metal snaps, and animal prints.

BOHO:

Think free spirit and nature lover. Vintage, Resale, Repurposed or Handmade. 

If you are not sure which of these you most identify with, look through magazines and see which outfits you are drawn to.  Also, check out a couple of your favorite clothing companies’ blogs to see if they have articles about styles.

Here are a couple I use:

Cabi:  www.cabionline.com/blog

Wardrobe Oxygen:  https://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/about/

Space

Now that you have identified your personal style we can start working with your clothes.  But before we get started on the clothes let’s prep the space.  Remove everything from the closet and give it a good cleaning—dust, vacuum, remove the trash.  Also, repair and improve it.  Fix any rods that may have broken, add a rod if you can up high for out of season items, change light bulbs to more energy-efficient and provide better lighting (LEDs are great!).

Remove any item that does not belong in your closet and take it to the room or space it does belong.  No judgment, I know you just need a place to stash stuff before the in-laws arrived!!!

Now visualize how you want your closet to look.  Where do you want the dresses to go?  Where should the jackets go?  The final arrangement may change, but I hope that by visualizing you are encouraged to really sort and purge items to get to a place where everything in your closet makes you happy, energized, and ready to put your “best self” out into the world.

System

We will use the acronym SPACE:  Sort, Purge, Assign a home spot, Containerize, Evaluate 

Ask yourself some questions:

“Where am I in my career?” “Do I need professional suits & dresses anymore?”

“What are my hobbies or how to I spend my free time?” “Gardening, Painting, Volunteering”

“What is my family situation?”  “On the go Mom? Empty Nester?”

“What is my current fitness level, health, weight?” “Recovering from surgery or just lost weight”

SORT & PURGE:

SORT:  The first thing we need to do is get ALL YOUR CLOTHES together, but, please do not just pile them on the bed (I know you have seen it on Tidying Up—but that is for dramatic TV, not real life!).  Gather everything from under the bed, inside the bins in the guest room, wherever you have put clothes, find them and bring them together.  Now start sorting them into categories—put all the jeans in one pile, put all the dresses in another, and so on.  This way when you start to try on and pick which items are staying you can see exactly how many jeans you’ve picked to stay instead of bouncing back and forth and not knowing how many you are keeping.  And depending on what phase of life you are in you can also decide how many pairs of jeans do you need.  If you are volunteering at the local thrift store you will need more than when you were working at the bank or presenting cases in the courtroom all day.  And you will not need as many dresses or suits now. 

Save any bins you empty and all the best hangers!  Also, save boxes that are clean and in good shape.  These will be used in the containerize step or at least a way to carry items to the donation center.

PURGE:  Let’s make 3 piles:  Yes, No, Maybe. 

The Maybe pile we will come back to after we have put all the Yes items back into the closet and can see if we need to fill in any gaps in our wardrobe. 

Items in the No pile can be donated, sold or disposed of.  Selling used clothing is not always easy if you don’t have a good consignment store nearby.  Sometimes it is just easier to donate it and let someone else worry about selling it. 

Items in the Yes pile go back into the closet on the best hangers.  I like to use the same hangers throughout the closet, and they can be all plastic or all felt, but never metal ones from dry cleaners!  If you don’t have enough good hangers, put on metal temporarily and as a final step count how many you need and purchase matching hangers.  I promise it makes such a difference in how your clothes look in the closet if everything is on the same type of hanger! 

ASSIGN A HOME SPOT: 

Let’s set an expectation here.  Your closet is NOT going to look like the photo in The Container Store sale catalog.  First you have more than 6 items and second, your clothes are not all white or beige!  But uniformity will help. 

Start by putting all your YES items back into the closet.  A few people like their closets to be color-coded, but most want theirs arranged by category.  Be sure when you are returning items to the closet that you hang everything uniformly—collars facing the same direction, hang pants so the pockets are facing out (helps identify which pants/jeans), dresses and skirts hung facing same way. 

Immediately get rid of the NO items—trash bin or donate.  This is their new home spot!

Place the MAYBE items in a storage bin for now. 

CONTAINERIZE: 

Typically, we are talking about shoes but this can also refer to bulky sweaters, scarfs, even jewelry.  Use the containers we saved to at least give yourself some temporary storage solutions.

EVALUATE:

Pick 10 combos from the clothes you have kept.  Lay them out together and take a picture (then return to the closet).  Wear these out and see how you feel and if you get any feedback on how you look.  I bet it will be positive.

If you feel like you need help with combinations, check out different Capsule Wardrobes online.  Allison on Wardrobe Oxygen does capsule wardrobes every season.  They are designed to show a few items used in multiple combinations. 

As you wear the 10 combos you picked, start thinking of your next 10 and see if you have enough in your closet or if you need to add some items back from the Maybe bin.  Give yourself the first month to see if you need to pull items out and add them to your closet, if not, take anything that remains in the Maybe bin to a donation center.  You should now have at least 4 weeks of clothes that you can wear any day and feel good about yourself. 

Also use this guide for help with different style charts:  https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliegerstein/girl-you-look-good

It was written in 2015 but has some good information. 

(PS—there is also one for men that I think every guy needs to read  https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliegerstein/31-simple-style-cheat-sheets-for-guys-who-dont-know-wtf?bfsource=relatedauto)

Now can you hear it?  It’s your closet saying

                You Go Girl

                You Got This!

                Be the Winner God created you to be!

There is no one like you!

Cycles of Decluttering–B Phase

Original Blog Post written in 2020 during Covid-19 shut downs and stay at home mandates.

When I wrote my post “Cycles of Decluttering, Organizing, and Cleaning” (original post-Dec 2019) I mentioned there is an A Phase (late Dec through Jan and into May) and a B Phase (June through December) during the year and that when we got to the B Phase I would write a follow-up post. 

WOW—I don’t think any of us knew how different 2020 would be at that point.  And yet it seems the cycles are continuing right on schedule as they always do.  Here’s what the typical cycles look like:

 A Phase and B Phase:

Months that these Phases typically occur:

Decluttering:

A Phase: Late Dec, Jan & Feb

B Phase:  June, July

Organizing:

A Phase:  March

B Phase:  Aug, Sept

Cleaning:

A Phase: April, May

B Phase: Oct, Nov

This year, 2020, as we were entering the organizing phase in March Covid-19 put us all in lockdown where we stayed through April and May which are usually the months for the cleaning phase.  I know I personally deep cleaned every room during April and May! 

And now here we are in June, and back to the Decluttering phase.  I’m sure there are things that you have dealt with the past couple of months that you would LOVE to THROW AWAY (husbands and kids may even be on your list!) And there are things you may wish to hold onto and treasure as reminders of this time as well. 

I hope that we can use some of our decluttering energy in our garages, storage sheds, and attics.  For many families, the garage is the MOST DISORGANIZED space in their home.  Everybody uses it but no one really claims it as their responsibility.  The attic is the place stuff gets put when we don’t want to make a decision—it is purgatory for our stuff—not used or valued but still around.  And any extra storage space, a shed, or a stall at one of the storage facilities, is also like purgatory but with a price tag (purchase price for the shed and monthly fee for a stall).  At some point someone is going to have to deal with the stuff and the space—take the time NOW to do it and you’ll feel so proud when you finish.  Additional Resource:  Article from This Old House–

We will continue to use the SPACE system—

Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize, Evaluate.

An estimate of the time this could take is easily 20 to 30 hours depending on how long it has been since you last worked in the space, and how much stuff you have.  The majority will be cleaning out the space and sorting through the items.  You will need to move everything out, thoroughly clean (sweep, hose out, blow off, throw away trash), make repairs as needed, and add or improve lighting before putting things back in.  The reason you want to move everything is that often this step quickly identifies items that are broken and can go directly into the trash. 

TIP: Have lots of heavy-duty trash bags and don’t overfill them so they rip or can’t be lifted and moved to the curb or trash bin. Toss anything that is mildewed, moth-eaten, broken, or dried out, as well as old newspapers, magazines, college notebooks and textbooks, pet bedding, and cardboard boxes (bugs love to hide and reproduce in these).

SORT: 

What is actually in your garage?  Sort it by categories (think of the signs you see at the home improvement store—Plumbing, Lawn & Garden, Lumber) and look for any broken items to throw out.

Typical Categories—may vary based on location and weather

  • Gardening/Yard Work Tools
  • Bug Spray, Weed Spray, other chemicals
  • Sports Equipment, Bikes, Camping Equipment
  • Paint, and painting supplies
  • Auto repair items
  • Toolbox
  • Storage boxes
  • Halloween and Christmas outdoor decorations
  • Extra Refrigerator or Freezer
  • Trash Cans and Recycle Can or Bin

PURGE:

Once you have items SORTED and grouped, now you can PURGE. 

Open all the boxes to see what is inside and if you need to toss the contents.  If the bin or container is still in good shape, hold on to it and it will either be used to carry items to be donated or may be reused as a container for something else.  If it is a cardboard box or a plastic bin that is broken, take to the trash.

Questions to ask yourself while purging????

  • If you pay for your lawn to be mowed, why do you have a mower, weedeater, and edger? 
  • How many years of office files do you need to keep?  Check with IRS, or any other government or regulatory agency to confirm the number of years and statute of limitations.
  • Paint and Chemicals—are they still usable?  Be very careful with chemicals—no mixing or combining to save space.  If you have paint that you want to throw away, be sure the paint in the can is dry or you will need to find an appropriate disposal site.
  • Any duplicates of tools or equipment, if yes, see if the young family that just moved in could use the extra rake and shovel or put them on the curb with a FREE sign.  Keep the best ones for yourself of course!
  • Call your grown kids and tell them to come get their bikes, and other sports equipment or you will be donating these items. 

Let’s talk about the extra freezer or refrigerator.  I know during the lockdown many people stocked up and needed the extra storage.  If you have an extra refrigerator in your garage, be sure there is space around it for airflow and consider plugging into a surge protector in case power is interrupted.  Also, the heat from the garage will put more strain on it to keep the desired temperature.  Tell the kids, and grandkids to not leave the door open too long when they are grabbing drinks or other items from it.  And be sure to practice FIFO—First In, First Out (rotate your stock so the oldest is in front and will be used first).

ASSIGN a home spot:

At this point, you should have only the items you are keeping and using.  And can tell about how much space you need for those items.  You may want to sketch out a floor plan of your garage and even take a few measurements to see if you can move existing shelves or stackable bins around to get more floor space.

What are the categories you have?  Each category needs a “home spot”.  Exactly where the home spot is in the garage is determined by several factors. 

Freezers and Refrigerators need electricity (not recommended to use extension cords) so they have to be set up near an electrical outlet. 

Kids Bikes need to be where they are not going to be accidentally run over when you back the car out or knock over lawn tools when the kids want to go ride them. 

Just like in a closet or pantry, the more frequently used items, need to be easy to get to and then easy to put back in place. Seasonal items can be stored up high or behind other items.  Be sure to not place heavy items on top of lighter weight items that could be crushed or could fall and crush you! 

CONTAINERIZE:

Anything can be a container.  And ultimately the garage itself is the container.  It all has to fit in the garage—PLUS YOUR CAR/TRUCK/SUV (only 30% of Americans can put their cars in the garage—but your car costs more than everything in your garage!). 

If you need shelving or storage bins, I recommend checking out Shelving.com In addition to metal shelving, they have fun and colorful lockers that you could use in a kid’s bedroom, playroom, or even laundry room.  Check out their entire product line. 

EVALUATE: 

It is best to do a daily evaluation or review of all spaces.  Take a few minutes to put the tools away or to hang the bike on the hooks. 

You have just spent HOURS getting this space organized but until you use it and see what is working and what is not, you can’t tell if everyone is going to be able to help maintain the space.  And if it cannot be maintained, then you’ll most likely need to spend HOURS again next year Sorting, Purging, etc.  Daily or at least weekly spot checks to see if where you placed items is working out for everyone or if you need to make a few adjustments.

Hire a Professional: 

Anywhere in the process, you may feel you need assistance completing the steps.  As a Professional Organizer I can help you with the SORTING, PURGING, ASSIGNING a Home, and CONTAINERIZING.  Notice I said I can HELP you—because it is your stuff and your family, you will have to be involved in the process.  Sure, I can come and find the easy stuff to purge—but if you keep things that you don’t use, you won’t get the full use of the space.  And instead of just a little bit better, let’s really get it decluttered, organized, and cleaned out this time. 

You may also feel you need to add shelving or need to add electrical outlets, a fan, or other light fixtures added, and I encourage you to hire professionals to help with these tasks as well.  Check references on anyone you hire to work on your home. 

Cycles of Decluttering, Organizing and Cleaning

For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.

-Benjamin Franklin

Original Blog Article written 2019.

A funny thing starts to happen around the end of December and carries into January and Feb.  A cycle or wave of restless energy starts to pull us toward Decluttering projects.  And then as spring breaks thru in March we start to want to Organize things and as the weather warms up we start to want to Clean things.  This cycle repeats during the year giving us an A Phase and B Phase.

Months that these Phases typically occur:

Decluttering:

A Phase: Late Dec, Jan & Feb

B Phase:  June, July

Organizing:

A Phase:  March

B Phase:  Aug, Sept

Cleaning:

A Phase: April, May

B Phase: Oct, Nov

For example, as you sit here in late December and start looking around your house you may start to notice some future Decluttering projects.  Maybe you see a whole cabinet full of movie DVDs and realize you never use your DVD player anymore because of Netflix or other streaming services.  And then you see all the music CDs (lots of money spent on those in the past) and again realize that with Pandora, Google Music, Spotify, etc. you never pop in one of those anymore either.  And of course, all the books!  Are the books just something to cover the shelves or something to dust since you read off a Kindle or listen to audiobooks in the car?  All these items are becoming obsolete due to technology.  And the question we all must ask is, “What do I do with these items now?” 

If you have a “cabin in the woods/lake house/beach cottage” where you don’t pay for high-speed internet and you could take these items there and actually enjoy and use them, then get a box, load it up and plan to take it the next time you go.  Easy Solution!  If you don’t have a second home the next best thing you can do is donate them.  The reality is that you will not go back in technology—they are not going to come back into use.  So just like clothes that no longer fit, these items have lost their usefulness and need to be removed from your space. 

Items to focus on Decluttering in A PhaseDVD, CD, Books as well as Paper Files, Computer Files, and Photos.  These are all items you can do while inside during the long cold winter (Decluttering A Phase is late Dec – Feb). 

***Keep utility bills, pay stubs, and bank statements for 1 year.  Keep tax returns and documents for 3 years (more in some cases).  Everything else can be shredded or deleted. 

Also, consider unsubscribing to Catalogs and Emails.  Catalogs are bad for the environment, take up space, and encourage you to buy things you don’t need.  Call and ask to be removed from their list.  The daily emails waste your time and energy to read or delete and they also encourage you to buy things you don’t need.  It seems like there is a sale or a promotion EVERY SINGLE DAY.  If you really do need something, search online for the item and you may find you get a better deal or at least have saved 15% of the purchase price by not spending unnecessarily.

Other items to Declutter include Over the Counter Medicines (check expiration dates), Lotions, Soaps, Cosmetics.  Use them up and start 2020 with fresh new ones.  And stop buying so much at one time!  Costco has trained us all to have closets full of paper supplies, vitamins, shampoo, body wash.  Most of us don’t live in Antarctica and if you start to run low, you can get more.  If you really love certain items from Costco, share with family or neighbors or donate half to local charities that can use them. 

While you are sorting papers and photos (online or prints) burn some of the “almost used up but still a little in the jar” candles that are sitting around.  This will make the task seem more festive and you won’t have to clean/dust the jars once they are used up and thrown out. 

Phase B items will be sports equipment, gardening, outdoor items, and school supplies/projects.  I will do another Blog Post about these items when we get to that time of the year!

This may be a lesson that you have to tell yourself over and over when decluttering: “What you paid for an item has absolutely no bearing on whether it has a place in your life.  Think only about whether you like having it around.  It is the rule of sunk cost.”  Barbara Reich, AARP Magazine article Declutter Your Life-Now. 

A great example of this is an expensive engagement/wedding ring.  If the marriage is unhappy and ends in divorce most women do NOT keep wearing the ring just because it cost a lot of money.  All the money in DVDs, CDs, and various players are sunk cost.  Clear the space these occupy and just enjoy your streaming sources and know that even newer technology is coming. 

When you have removed items (Decluttered) then you can spend March Organizing.  Putting items in new bins, labeling the bins, creating new files folders, etc.  Anything can be a container so as you are decluttering, save bins, good quality boxes, even zippered clear bags that sheets, bedding come in.  When you are ready to Organize having multiple size containers will help you fit your reduced, decluttered items, into the perfect sized container. 

And when the weather warms up (April & May) you will be ready for a good Spring Cleaning of your home.  And with less clutter, and nicely organized spaces you can clean faster and will see the results clearer. 

You may want to check out some of my other Blog posts for more tips and resources.

B Phase of this repetitive cycle starts around June—it seems we want everything Decluttered. We want to wear fewer clothes, we want lighter meals, and as the school year ends, we want to put an end to those projects, classes, and schedules.  We can then enjoy a summer of organized and planned trips, vacations, and outings.  Even mowing the lawn with the straight lines and trimmed edges are in alignment with our Organized energy.  And as we move into the fall season and holiday events we get back to Cleaning.  

Depending on the size of your home and how much stuff you have accumulated, Decluttering can take 20 to 30 hours.  It is best to block off 2 to 3 hrs of time for “sessions”.  Put these sessions on your calendar just like any other important meeting or appointment.  And imagine how great it will be when you can easily find a photo you want to share or find an article that you want to review.  Getting rid of the unnecessary and unwanted helps us to find the items we do value sooner and with fewer frustrations.

And what were you going to do on that cold drizzly day in late January anyway? I’m guessing it wasn’t watching one of those DVDs!

If you need help getting started or want extra support, contact me at GCarter@Organized-Occasions.com, and let’s schedule a free consultation. 

Books I have read and suggest to help with Decluttering and Cleaning:

                Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K White

                Clutter-Free by Kathi Lipp

                How to Clean Practically Anything, Consumer Reports Books

Final Word—”Life will throw you enough messes, you don’t need to come home to one!” Barbara Reich, AARP magazine

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