Sunday, July 25, 2004

Sentimental Stuff

Tip of the Week, July 18, 2004

I tend to be a sucker for things that bring back fond memories of family, friends, and events: sports trophies from my school days, knicknacks picked up from places I've traveled to, items given to me by the people I love.

Keeping meaningful things around is not, in and of itself, a problem. The challenge comes in managing these things once they've accumulated for many years, and in deciding which ones are really worth keeping long term.

I try to keep my memorabilia in check by sorting through it on a regular basis (every year or so), purging the things I know I don't need to keep (such as unremarkable stuffed toys from childhood), and finding creative ways of paring down the rest of the stuff. For example, though I want to be reminded of winning competitions with my cheerleading squad in junior high school, I don't need to keep the trophies I earned; instead, I can gather them together, take a few photos, and then get rid of the trophies themselves. That way I can keep the memories--and can even paste them in a scrapbook with other memorabilia--without building up clutter.

I won't get rid of anything I know I'll regret giving up--scarves from my grandmother, for example, or my great-grandfather's collection of old postcards--and I encourage my clients to keep things that truly have value to them. Weeding out the things that aren't as important, however, can help make those special items even more precious, and can help keep you from being overwhelmed by stuff.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Along the Way

Tip of the Week, July 11, 2004

(This tip comes from Cindy Glovinsky's book "Making Peace with the Things in Your Life.") You're cleaning your living room when you come across one of your daughter's sweaters, which belongs in her room upstairs, and a few board games, which go in your basement rec room.
Rather than interrupting your cleaning flow by making trips to put the items away immediately, and rather than leaving them in the living room, where they don't belong, try putting them in "way stations" at the appropriate stairways. These way stations can be baskets or boxes you keep on or near the stairs; fill them with items that need to go elsewhere in the house, and make a habit of emptying them at least once a day. (Enlisting the help of others in the family to help clear out the way stations is also a good idea, as it gets everyone into the habit of returning things to their proper homes.)
Using way stations will help save needless trips throughout the house, and will also help get items at least partway where they need to go.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Pretend You're Moving

Tip of the Week, July 4, 2004

This is one of my favorite organizing tricks, hands down. It doesn't require that you pull out the moving boxes or padding, or that you empty out your fridge and pantry as it would if you were actually moving. Rather, it's a simple and useful exercise to help you get rid of things you're not using and don't need.

When you pretend you're moving, you go through your things with an eye to what you'd be willing to pay a moving crew to pack up and transport to another location. To make this even more effective, imagine you're moving somewhere far from your current home, and that you're being charged dearly for every box you take with you.

Would you pay someone to move that collection of old bowling trophies? How about those stacks of magazines you haven't read in years? The boxes of old LPs you're sure will be worth something someday? The shelves of books you keep intending to read?

At the very least, separate out the things you're sure you would not be willing to go to the expense and trouble of moving, and get rid of them: have a yard sale, sell them online, or donate them to a local charity. With your excess stuff gone, you'll find you have more space--and perhaps more money--to enjoy in your current home, no move required.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Traveling with Toiletries

Tip of the Week, June 27, 2004

Full-size toiletries and personal care products tend to be bulky, take up a lot of space, and are potentially messy to travel with. Besides, unless you're planning to be away for several weeks at a stretch, you probably don't need the entire box or bottle.

Many toiletries come in trial or travel-size versions that pack easily, provide just enough product for a trip of a week or so, and can be left behind when you're done with them. Another option is to make your own travel-size products by emptying small amounts of your everyday toiletries into reusable plastic bottles. (Nalgene, the company known for its durable water bottles, makes a series of high-quality and reasonably priced toiletry bottles.)

A final option, if you're staying in a hotel, is to call ahead and ask what products they supply. Many hotels--even those on the budget end of the spectrum--provide shampoo, lotion, and soap automatically, and will also hand out products like toothpaste, razors, and deodorant if you ask.

Whatever option you choose, make it a goal to come back with less than what you bring, whether that means reusable bottles emptied of their contents or, better yet, nothing at all. All of those mini hotel soaps and bottles of shampoo may be tempting, but unless they're truly special or luxurious, they're probably not worth the clutter they'll cause in your bathroom at home.

Balancing What You Take and What You Bring Back

Tip of the Week, June 20, 2004

If you're anything like me, there's a good chance you return from each trip with at least one item you hadn't brought with you when you left, whether it's a souvenier, a gift, or something else you picked up along the way.

To help ensure you've got space in your luggage for your new loot, try packing your carry-on bag before you leave home with things you know you'll get rid of along the way, such as lunch for the plane trip, magazines or newspapers, or gifts you're bringing to others. When you unload these things from your carry-on, you'll instantly have space for the stuff you want to bring home, so you can avoid having to overstuff your bags or fill up an additional piece of luggage.

You Can't Take It With You (Onboard)

Tip of the Week, June 13, 2004

If you want to keep your Swiss army knife, nail scissors, or lacrosse sticks while traveling by air, don't pack them in your carry-on luggage. In a season of extra vigilance by the security personnel in airports around the country, you can expect any verboten object to be removed from your carry-on bags and confiscated. (Some airports will allow you to mail the item back to yourself--at your expense--but not all offer this service.)

For the most up-to-date list of what you can and cannot carry in your luggage, refer to the TSA's list of Permitted and Prohibited Items. Because while well-organized luggage can help make travel more enjoyable, only well-planned packing can help keep your trips and your possessions safe.

Keeping Tabs on Hotel Room Keys

Tip of the Week, June 6, 2004

To avoid finding yourself frantically searching for your hotel room key as you're ready to head out for the day--or, worse yet, locked out of your room altogether--get in the habit of choosing one spot in the room to store your key. If you return the key to that spot every time you come back to the room, you won't need to waste time hunting it down when you're ready to leave again.