Diary of a Professional Organizer - A Behind the Scenes Look at My Journey to Downsize, Move and Organize a New Home - March 2017
A Behind the Scenes Look at My Journey to Downsize, Move and Organize a New Home.
Earlier this I settled on the “theme” for this year’s monthly newsletter publication. If you are a new subscriber, welcome!
Click HERE to read January’s publication or HERE to read February publication.
Our them this year is a look behind the scenes of a professional organizer’s journey to downsize, move and organize a new home.
Rob and I sat at our kitchen table on the afternoon of Friday March 3rd, answering several questions about our home from one of the real estate agents we were interviewing to list our home.
Questions like: • What room in your home do you love the most? • What features of your home do you like? • What about your home will you miss the most?
I can’t remember all of the questions; but I remember these and it was the last one that suddenly hit me.
This was real. This is really happening. We are really moving. And then I needed a tissue.
You see, I love our home and everything we’ve done to make it “our home.” It makes me sad to leave and the uncertainty of what’s next.
I have an overall idea of what’s next; we’ll rent a house until we find one we want to buy or remodel – but the “planner in me” likes to know exactly what is happening so I can plan for the future. You can’t do that when you rent. For me, that is the scary part. But, I digress.
The first weekend of March we met with a second real estate agent to hear her approach for listing our home. We then had the difficult task of deciding which agent would represent us as we’ve worked with both agents in the past. Once we selected an agent, we also settled on potential listing dates which will be in July.
This is a date that works for us and our needs, given what is already on our plates personally and professionally this spring and summer. Even better; it means that we get to spend most of the summer in our home, enjoying our back yard, deck, the flowers and the A/C! It also means I can plan one last summer bash – so that will be added to my bucket list of things I want to do before we move. (Read about this the January newsletter.)
My pursuit of purging the unnecessary items we won’t be moving did not make as much forward progress in March as I would have liked. Can you believe it? Even someone in the business is having challenges. I can assure you it is not for lack of trying.
Let me explain....
Your stuff only sells as fast as someone wants it and is willing to pay what you are reasonably asking for it.
Let me repeat that....your stuff sells as fast as someone is willing to pay what you are reasonably asking for it and shows up at your home to take it away.
You need both of these things to happen. Sounds easy, right? Not so much.
For the month of March I’ve had our red living room furniture listed on three sites: Craig’s List, OfferUp and Nextdoor. Purchase price in 2005 was $1700 for the couch, love seat and ottoman. I listed it for $375 and thew in some inexpensive wall art and other décor. Almost instantly I had several hits on OfferUp for $100. Are you kidding me I thought? $375 was already a steal – given it’s never used except for the occasional bad doggie that manages to sit in it looking out the window wondering when a human will come home to entertain him.
I tend to post my ads on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning for those that are shopping over the weekend. On one Friday I had three people that I thought were going to go into a bidding war over the furniture with one single mom begging to bring me money Saturday morning to “hold” the furniture for her until she could rent a truck to pick up the furniture and take it home. Here’s how I operate; and I tell this to everyone. The first person that shows up with cash gets the stuff. Period. By Saturday, no one was responding and I had put my day on hold to be home to either collect cash and hold furniture or help load furniture into someone’s truck and say goodbye to it. Neither happened.
We’ve hosted a number of events in our home recently, the most recent on St. Patrick’s day when members from our NSA Chapter (National Speakers’ Association) were here for our monthly meeting. During various events, people have asked why I would want to get rid of the furniture? The answer? It’s not what we want in our next home. Don’t get me wrong, this furniture has significant meaning to me; however I am not so attached to it that it’s difficult to let it go.
When I received my book advance to write Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life, I purchased this furniture for my then family room in a different house I owned before I met Rob. In fact, I purchased it less than a month before we met. The love seat and ottoman was the location I sat where most of the book was written. I did this for complete focus. Eventually a couple of tables were purchased to complete the room that will also be sold (once I know the Stager doesn’t want them). As I reflect back a decade on how the book Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life helped transform the business, it’s interesting that letting go of this furniture doesn’t conjure up the same sad emotions I felt when preparing to let go of items from my childhood. (See the February newsletter). Isn’t it facinating how certain things in your life drum up a swell of emotions and others do not?
I’m learning a lot as I go through this process about what I value in life and what is most important to me based on the emotions that I am allowing myself to feel.
Back to the downsizing journey and another example of how time-consuming this can be.
We also had an IKEA desk that was not going to make the move. Wrong color, too large, etc.... I listed it on my three favorite sites again; Offerup, Nextdoor, and Craig’s List. I can’t even remember the number of requests I received to purchase this desk for the low, low price of $15.
Finally a gal and I agreed that she and her husband would pick it up at 6pm on a Friday night. When 6:15pm rolled around and Rob wanted to know where they were so we could get on with our evening, IE figure out dinner plans, I text her through the OfferUp app.
If your are not familiar with OfferUp, you don’t exchange personal information like e-mail, phone numbers, etc...you just put the info through the app and when you do, you hear something that sounds like an old fashion cash register.
At 6:15pm I pinged her through the app and got a response immediately that her husband was still at work and that they’d come “later.” Later? What time is “later?” I don’t have that time on my calendar I thought. Is later 8pm tonight, tomorrow, next week? Can we be a bit more specific please – because I go to bed pretty early and I don’t want someone showing up to my house at 9pm on a Friday night when I am in my jammies snuggled up on the couch with my pups watching TV. That doesn’t work for me.
I politely replied that “tonight would not work” and how about 3pm tomorrow (which was Saturday) to which I never received another response. ARGH! Come on people. We put our dinner on hold because you said you would be here at 6pm!
And, don’t be fooled that it would be ANY easier if I was giving this stuff away for free; that they would magically show up when they say they would. Nope, it’s just not the case. Been there, done that too.
People do what is convenient for them, when it is convenient for them.
This is why I’m telling you that this is time consuming because you never know how many false starts you are going to have to go through before someone actually shows up to pick up the item(s), whether they are paying for it or not!
We have a policy in our house that two people must always be home when someone comes to pick something up. Ironically, I received an email on a Thursday afternoon from someone that found the add on Nextdoor and wanted to pick up the desk that afternoon. The nice thing about Nextdoor is that it means that the person lives close by because you have the ability to post in just your neighborhood or the surrounding neighborhoods. The guy that bought the desk was in our neighborhood was able to come right over and better yet, he was able to help my husband carry it down the stairs!
Problem solved. As you can see, for some of these items, it’s not so much about the amount of money made on them ($15 in this case) – it’s more about the fact that it’s out of the house and I didn’t have to haul it away or pay to move it! Now there are two happy people, Nicholas who got a desk he needed and Rob and I who are happy to have it gone – at a normal time of the day.
I have faith that what I want to downsize and sell will eventually happen, it just takes time and patience. Thankfully, I still have time and patience; at least at the moment anyway. When I start to run low on both, I have a Plan B!
Here's an update on progress as we prepare to list our home.
• Real Estate agent selected.
• Tentative listing date determined.
• Listed Living Room furniture and IKEA desk for sale.
• Remember in February’s newsletter when I talked about the items from my childhood that I was trying to find a home for because I just wanted someone to appreciate them? No one in my family wanted my two favorite dolls (Amy and Jill) from when I was a little girl and I still had several books that no one in our family wanted either. I had previously given some of the books to my massage therapist for her daughter and then she asked me if I had any books left and what was I going to do with the dolls. I told her I didn’t have a home for the dolls and she said her daughter would love to have them and promised to take good care of them. Sold! Well, not really – I just gave them to her because all I wanted was Amy and Jill to have a good home and for a little girl to get as much enjoyment from them as I did. I didn’t have many toys when I was a child and those dolls were extremely special to me. The clothes for the dolls were made by my mom and grandma which made them even more special. How could I possibly just donate those dolls and not know who was enjoying them? I gave Jenny the dolls for her daughter Mikayla. That evening I received a text from Jenny telling me that Mikayla made a bed for them to sleep together because they are sisters! My heart was warmed with the thought that Amy and Jill now had a new home and would be loved and played with.
• If you live in Washington State, you’ve heard of the town called Snohomish which is where we live. What you may not know regardless of whether you live here or not is that the downtown area of Snohomish is known for antiques. I enjoy the downtown area of Snohomish for its charming little boutiques, gift shops and restaurants, but I don’t spend much, if any time in the antique stores because it is not my thing. I do however, from time-to-time, have to do some research for clients regarding particular items they are trying to “let go of” and want to sell because they “know” their items are “worth something.” One Saturday I was meeting a friend for brunch in Snohomish and to visit the cute boutique shops. I decided to arrive early and wander around to some of the antique malls with a few items to see how they were doing things these days. I must say that I was not met with a very warm welcome when I asked what their process was for buying items. I’m sure they must get asked the same question over and over again. Here’s what I learned in case you live in Washington and you think you’re going to drive your stuff to Snohomish to sell it. Don’t waste your time. There are three stores that will potentially purchase items, however that is up to the store owner. The antique malls rent space to “dealers” who purchase items and then turn around and sell it. The cashiers will not give out their name and phone numbers. Needless to say, I was not successful finding a home for the few things I had with me that day or finding a place for an antique desk Rob has from the 1800’s. The quest will continue. I was given a couple of good leads; but you need to do your research. This will apply to anywhere you live. Don’t just assume they want your stuff.
• Sold IKEA desk.
• Stager scheduled for 3/23 to review our home. I am personally really looking forward to this meeting because anything “décor wise” she is not interested in using will be on the “leave the house” list unless we plan to use it on our next home.
• Replaced windows in my office! I can see clearly now.... However it looks like another seal cracked so another one will need to be replaced. Drat.
• Hosted the NSA Northwest Chapter for our monthly programming. I love to host and entertain and wanted an opportunity to open our home one last time. (Another bucket list item).
• Selected a paint color to paint our upstairs/office bathroom – because I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that whomever buys this house will not want a pink bathroom. Yes, I have a pink bathroom. If you could’ve seen the color it was when we moved in – and I always wanted a pink bathroom, but I’m over it now and ready to paint!
Be sure to LIKE our Eliminate Chaos Facebook page where I will post pictures, ideas and inspiration throughout the year.
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.
If you have not read the tips from the prior newsletters in this series, you can access them HERE.
Give yourself plenty of time if you plan to try to sell things online. And don’t forget to add in a dash of patience and a sense of humor; you’re likely going to need it.
Selling antiques or anything that is rare will be a project as so many people are trying to get rid of their stuff. The young people of today don’t want their parents or grandparents stuff and they are living a more minimalistic and simple lifestyle. For this reason, it’s hard to find places that are willing to pay money for your items. Sure, you will find them eventually, but it’s going to take a lot of patience and research and there is no magic bullet. Allow yourself enough time if you are looking to sell; otherwise you may be better off taking a tax deduction. See Resources below.
Keep a folder on your computer or desk top of your computer of the items you are selling that you can quickly upload to Craig’s List or Nextdoor. This helps you see at a glance what you have for sale. Once sold, you can delete the picture.
Type up a description in e-mail of the item you intend to sell. I store it in my drafts folder in Outlook so I can copy and paste it to each site quickly without having to re-write the description.
One of the cost savings repairs we’ve discovered is replacing our own windows when the seals have cracked. Rob happens to be quite handy, so he’s measured several of the windows in our home and ordered the glass from a local glass company and installed them himself.
Each month I will give you 3 simple projects that should not take more than an hour each. Here’s your projects for March. Yes, I realize it is now April. No foolin, once again, I missed getting this newsletter out on time, in March due to work committments.
Project 1: Closet Clean-Out Spring is here! Well, at least the calendar says it is. Time to make some room in the closet for the spring clothes, shoes and accessories. While you may not be able to organize your entire closet in an hour, there are a few things you can do that aren’t too time-consuming.
Review your shoe collection. Of your “spring/summer shoes” what did you not wear last year? Are you kidding yourself that you will wear them this year or are they taking up space that something new could take the place of.
Move boots or out-of-season shoes to bins, upper shelf storage, under bed storage or hard-to-access storage until next year. I like these boot bins to protect my nice short boots from dust. I purchased these at the Container Store. If you don’t have one near you, they ship.
Rotate you fall/winter and spring/summer scarves. I love the ease of access from these scarf hangers. I can easily see everything all at once.
Men can do this with their ties, while they may not need to rotate them, a tie organizer will keep them contained in one small location.
Finally, spend 15 minutes and grab 10-15 pieces of clothing you did not wear one single time this past fall/winter. Ask yourself why? There may be a good answer. For example, it could be special occasion clothing that is worn only once a year and then it’s OK to hold on to – unless of course it’s out of style. Or, perhaps the clothing doesn’t fit and that is why you didn’t wear it. C’mon ladies, how many of us do this because “someday” it’s going to fit again.
Who are we fooling? I’ve done it myself. It’s time to get real. When we shed those pounds, you’re going to want to buy something new and stylish. Might be time to think about why you are still holding on to those clothes. If you don’t have a good answer for why you didn’t wear it, chances are it didn’t make you feel pretty, it no longer makes you feel great, or you have better options and you don’t gravitate to those pieces anymore. Those are the pieces that it is time to find a new home for.
Project 2: Make-up Madness It might be time to “make up” your mind about how much makeup you really need. After all, makeup is expensive and so much of it goes to waste because either you can’t find it or maybe it doesn’t look as great as the day the makeup artist put it on.
When was the last time you sorted through it all? I want you to pull ALL of your makeup out. Everything. Including cleansers, brushes, makeup remover, all of it.
Now, take a look at these recommended guidelines* for how long you should keep makeup and start making decisions about what you will ultimately keep: Mascara: 3-6 months Foundation 6 months to 2 years Blush, Eye Shadow and other Powders: 1-2 years Lipstick: 2 years
*These guidelines are from an article titled: The Makeup Expiration Dates You Need to Know.
Put what you are keeping away, in an organized fashion of course, only what is still in current and you will use.Knowing what you have and having it easily accessible will help keep costs down in the future and it might even make get ready in the morning easier.
Project 3: A Linen Closet You’ll Love A linen closet can become a place where random items land because they don’t have a home. I want you to focus purely on your linens for an hour: sheets, bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, etc.... It’s great if your towels match because they will look pretty and organized in your closet, but you also need to think about how many sets each person in your home needs.
How often do you wash towels? In our home, we have three sets of four bath towels for two people and that is more than enough. We do keep a large stack of washcloths because those are changed out every day. Consider the volume in your home and that may help you downsize what is no longer needed. Towels that don’t match or have become to thin to use make great rags or can be donated to a pet shelter. Sheets work the same way. You don’t need lots of random sheet sets if you have a schedule for doing laundry.
In our home we keep only two sets for us; one on the bed and one in the rotation. There is another set on the guest bed and that’s it. When folding towels, fold in such a way that the seams match, this way when you open the closet door, you’ll enjoy what you see.
You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in a focused hour of time, by working on only the linens.
Please know that I do not receive compensation for recommending these resources to you. I recommend them because I use them personally or with our clients and I like them.
Glyde.com - Sell your used smartphones, tablets, iPad, Macbooks and video games on Glyde.com. You can also sell in bulk. It’s really easy and you can also purchase used electronics there for sometimes far less than what you’d pay retail. A lot of people will sell a phone that has not been used much simply because they want the latest model; so they list it on Glyde.
Sell luxury handbags – on trendlee.com or rebagg.com.
Kovels.com – The go-to source for antiques and collectibles information since 1953.
Books & Encyclopedias – Not sure what to do with your books and encyclopedias? You can donate them to Books for Africa and ship them to Atlanta or drop them off in Atlanta or St. Paul, MN. Be sure to read their guidelines for what they accept. www.booksforafrica.org Many people want to know what to do with encyclopedias, but note that they ones they accept must be published after 2005.
I will list other resources for donating/selling books and electronics in future newsletters as there are many.