A Behind the Scenes Look at My Journey to Downsize, Move and Organize a New Home.
As 2016 neared the end, I contemplated a theme for our Home Organizing newsletter for 2017. Like many, I could not wait for 2016 to come to an end – but on the other hand, I wasn’t ready for 2017 to begin. 2017 is a BIG year of CHANGE for me – and change is hard.
I'm not sure what is scarier...
The thought of turning 50 at the end of 2017 OR The thought of downsizing and moving to a home we will rent and wondering if my clothes will be as organized as they are in my current closet and if all of my kitchen drawer organizers and pantry bins will fit into the next kitchen.
I realize these are first-world problems.
And then I wondered if perhaps our subscribers to this newsletter and our clients would like to join me on the personal journey I was about to embark on for 2017.
So begins the theme to our 2017 newsletter – a 12 Chapter (1 chapter each month) look behind the scenes of a professional organizer’s journey to downsize, move and organize a new home.
In 2016, 10 years after we moved into our current home, Rob and I made the decision to sell our house in 2017 for a variety of reasons.
In 2006, we selected our home to serve three purposes: a place for us to live (on the main floor), the 2nd floor to serve as the offices of Eliminate Chaos and finally a large yard for our dogs to play in.
After a decade, our needs have changed and we no longer have the desire to own a home this size with a beautiful large yard. After all, we have the large yard for our two 4-legged children (Bear and Chaos) who have decided as they get older that they don’t want to play in it and prefer to just lie on the front porch and wait for visitors instead or hang out in the office with us.
Knowing in 2016 that we’d be selling in the next year or so, we are afforded the “opportunity” to downsize and prepare for this move over a period of a year or more.
I know first-hand the sheer amount of work and stress that goes into a project of this scope; having worked with our clients for 17 years – hundreds of whom we’ve downsized, packed, moved and organized into their new homes – along with all of the other work that accompanies a move.
Now is your opportunity to do some “pre-work.” Any pre-work you do will help you live a more organized life in your current home. AND, it will ensure that your next move will not become a 2-week stress-fest, as we’ve seen with some clients. These are clients that had to move on short notice where they did not have the opportunity you have right now to do this pre-work.
It is now time for me to practice what I preach and I hope that the techniques I have taught over the years to our clients will inspire YOU – even if you don’t plan to move in the near future.
You’ll be amazed at the variety and number projects you can accomplish this year as you join me on this journey.
And by GO, I mean “Get Organized” as January is National “Get Organized Month.“
Create a Plan
You may want to include in your plan the following: • A list of things you need to do “to” your home in order to make it ready for sale. • A list of furniture you don’t plan to move that you will sell or donate – make a list for each. • Start a list of furniture you may need to replace or acquire as living needs change. • A list of memories you want to create/celebrate in your home before you move. • A list of projects “in” your home that you want to complete before you move – such as organizing photos, or going through the 30 boxes of stuff in your garage from your last move! Just sayin.... • Prioritize each of these lists and use them for your timeline/schedule.
Create a Timeline/Schedule to Accompany Your Plan
Be realistic; we all have 24 hours in a day and you get to choose how you spend your time. I’ve always advised clients to start with the end in mind – the date where things need to be complete.
If you’re not selling a home, then you’ll use a “move” date as your “Project end” date. If you’re selling your home, you’ll have two “Project end” dates – one for when you “list” your home and one for the date you will “move.”
Determine the amount of time you can dedicate each week to your various projects and schedule what you plan to accomplish each week from your list on a calendar or on your plan.
Review your plan on a regular basis – every couple of days if possible – and adjust as needed to reach your goals by your project end and/or move date.
Create a Budget
I realize it’s difficult to determine how “much” everything is going to cost, but you MUST determine what you can afford and how you are going to finance your projects and the move itself. Don’t worry if you can’t determine an exact amount – a “range” is a good place to start and you can adjust as you move forward.
You’ll need money for more than just fixing up your home if you’re selling one. You also need to budget for: • Moving supplies • Packing services - if you don’t plan to pack yourself • A mover – or rental truck if you’re going to DIY • Childcare for kids or pet care for the 4-legged children for the days of the move • Cleaning services • Food and tips for helpers on moving day • Extra garbage disposal • Furniture • Organizing Supplies
The first thing we did last year was create a OneNote notebook to use as a place to create our plan and all of our associated lists.
If you want to learn more about OneNote (a digital notebook), read this newsletter on the subject – OR, if you are in the Seattle area, join me for a OneNote class on 1/31/17 for a class on how to use OneNote.
The first list we created was a list of improvements we want to make to our home and yard before we list it.
We walked through our home, room by room making note of “inside” and “outside” projects such as:
Rooms to paint
Carpet to replace
Windows to replace
Kitchen update – which required an additional project list, timeline and supply list
Gutters to replace
Decks/patios to stain or replace
You get the idea.
We then sat down at the table and put “completion” dates to some of these projects based on the priority, weather and memories we planned to create - more on this below.
These dates were then added to our calendars and we each had our own list of tasks to complete.
We knew that Thanksgiving 2016 would be the last one we hosted in this home, so we ensured that our kitchen update was complete and the carpet had been replaced in our living/dining room before company arrived. After all, if you’re going to go to all of the work to do this type of update, you should get to enjoy it for a while – right? I’ve never liked spending time and money to update a part of the home, only to turn around and sell it and not get to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
We also knew that Christmas 2016 would be our last one in this house. Given that, one of my bucket list items (since we moved in) was to host a holiday open house. Every year we lived here something came up and it just never happened. I was determined to not let this happen again and put a date on the calendar in November for a party after Christmas with family and friends. Our home never looked prettier with all of the decorations and extra touches this year in preparation – and then, on Christmas the flu hit and guess what? No party as planned for the end of the year. Bound and determined to not give up on the “memory” I wanted to create with friends and family, we rescheduled for January and left the décor up an extra week. (One upside to artificial trees and LED bulbs on fresh garland).
There is no better way to accomplish your goals by the date you set than to schedule a party or host a holiday at your home! Try it – you’ll be amazed at what you’ll accomplish!
Wanting to create just a few more memories in our home, we’ve already scheduled a few more events/parties at home for the first few months of 2017.
The first will be a class in our house on February 24th – Organizing with Laura – Real Life Strategies and Techniques. This class will give 12-15 people an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see exactly how certain rooms are organized. This is the LAST time this class will ever be offered – for obvious reasons!
We also look forward to hosting our wine club in February, an NSA Northwest Chapter event in March and hopefully one final back yard party this summer. Again, it’s good to have deadlines each month in order to get things done!
We’ve made a list of furniture we will sell or donate so we can start to work on this task a little each month.
If it were up to me, I’d start getting rid of all of it now, but some of it we are not able to part with until after a few events in our home. When we replaced the carpet in our living/dining room in the fall, it was a beautiful warm, sunny day and we had much of our furniture on the front porch. I wanted to put most of it out on the street with a “FREE” sign on it and not even bring it back in, since I knew it would not be coming with us. Rob had other ideas; like the fact we needed furniture for all of the upcoming holidays and events at our home. It can be time consuming to part with furniture, even if you are donating it, so I always try to look for things I can do well in advance and not feel rushed at a later date. We know that over 50% of our furniture will not make the move with us because it is not how we plan to live in our next home and some furniture just needs to be replaced as it has served its purpose; such as all of our bedroom furniture.
While I haven’t made my list of projects “in” our home that I want to complete before we move, I have started several this past year and years prior.
Downsizing and digitizing most of our printed photos and organizing them into same size/matching albums that fit into our TV cabinet.
Downsizing the amount of files I keep with paper in them and scanning them to store electronically. What we have currently is not that much, but now is even less. Specifically I:
1. Reviewed all printed manuals/user guides for items we own. Recycled most since you can get many online and set aside those for items we plan to donate or sell.
2. Reviewed all printed receipts that I had kept on file for larger ticket items for insurance purposes and scanned them.
3. Went through each folder in our personal filing system to determine what needed to be kept in paper format and what could be scanned and then tossed or shred. 4. As a reward for doing this work, I purchased new hanging folders and inside folders in my favorite color – pink!
5. Taking the paper files that were scanned a step further, I attached copies of specific items to our password management system – LastPass – in order to have access to current insurance policies in the cloud, etc...
6. Smiled, cried and took trips down memory lane while I re-read old letters and cards. Made the decision to scan some of my favorites and let the rest go.
Downsized a bit of our Christmas décor. I don’t collect a lot of “stuff,” however I love Christmas – it’s my favorite time of the year. It is the ONLY thing I can honestly say that I collect. When we decorated for Christmas 2016, I set aside several bags of décor and lights I knew we’d never use again – and donated them in November so someone would have them in time to decorate for the holidays.
Started selling some items online that I knew were worth something in order to try out various online selling sights vs. always using Craig’s List. For a couple of weekends I selected a few different areas of our home to start photographing items and listing them online. Definitely very time consuming – and in some cases, not worth the time, but a good way to test various apps and sights. More on this in the resources section below.
As you can see from the list of projects above that I’ve started there is a theme: either they are very time consuming projects or are projects that are seasonal.
I have watched too many clients over the years try to tackle photos, paper files, and memorabilia just prior to a move and it just doesn’t work.
These projects are accompanied by hundreds of decisions you get to make with each box, file drawer or bin, not to mention it can be an emotional roller coaster to try to speed through these types of projects.
If you are short on time, box these items up and move them with you and work on them after your move – you’ll be glad you did.
If you have the time, you can choose to make this type of project a priority and you won’t feel so stressed doing it and you’ll enjoy the trips down memory lane.
I can’t believe January is already half over. I purposely did not send this newsletter out at the beginning of the year – even though it is Get Organized Month. “Getting organized” is always one of the top 5 resolutions, but by mid-month, that resolution may have already been given up on. Perhaps it’s because you tried to tackle too much or you started without a plan, or maybe you just didn’t know where to start.
Can you see that by having a plan that you work from throughout the year will set you up for success – whether you are moving or not? I sure hope so.
I hope you will enjoy this journey with me this year – certainly a year that will be comprised of change. I know you will find your home more enjoyable, less stressful and peaceful when you start working on some of your own projects.
Here’s to our organizing successes in 2017!
Make a list of the organizing projects you want to accomplish in 2017.
Set goals for each of your projects with a completion date. Reward yourself for meeting that goal!
Create a plan/timeline and break large projects down into manageable pieces.
If you are going to spend the time to re-do your filing system, invest in new files and labels. You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t try to organize photos, paper files or memorabilia if you have a short time frame to move – do it after the move.
Determine if you’d rather take a tax deduction on your items you will eliminate, sell, or do a combination of both. Be sure to itemize your donations using the Its Deductible app or online program.
If this is your year to downsize the paper files, review Publication 552 from the IRS for how long you need to keep papers. You’ll be surprised.
Projects to Accomplish IN Your Home - If You are Not Moving
Each month I will give you 3 simple projects that should not take more than an hour each. Here’s your projects for January. They are short and not too time-consuming this month.
• Go through your linen closet or medicine cabinet – or any place you store medicine. Set aside medicines (Rx or over-the-counter) that are expired. Take inventory of what you may need to replenish for cold/flu season. Expired items can often be taken back to your pharmacy to be disposed of. Don’t flush them down the toilet. If you must throw them out, mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter.
• Go through personal hygiene items in all bathrooms of your home. Put similar items together so you can take stock of what you have and shop from home this year before you purchase more. Don’t forget about the makeup!
• Gather any un-opened mail. Open it. Separate into the following 4 piles: Recycling, Shred, Action, File. Make time to take action on the actionable items and file any remaining items you need to keep. If you don’t have a filing system, grab a bin to place items that only need filing and you can file at a later date.
Facebook Buy Nothing Groups – A great way to share items that no longer serve a purpose in your life. Let someone else use them.
It’s Deductible – Free online program and app that allows you to track your donations at the amount the IRS allows on your tax deduction. Download your donations directly to TurboTax at tax time.
NextDoor - A free private social network for your neighborhood. Post items to sell in the classified section for free, and they get more visibility than on Craig’s List.
OfferUp – A free app you can download. Take a picture on your phone of an item to sell, add a title, description and price of your item and post. Then wait for the sound of the cash register on your phone for an “offer.”