Diary of a Professional Organizer - A Behind the Scenes Look at My Journey to Downsize, Move and Organize a New Home - April 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 the January publication. Click HERE to read the February publication. Click HERE to read the March 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.
As I write this newsletter on April 29th, I am reminded that in three short months our home will have been staged, photographed, videoed, the drone flown around the property and the house will be on the market. On July 29th we will head out of town with the pups in tow, as our agent Cynthia will host an Open House for the weekend.
When people come to our home, I am reminded on a more frequent basis of the upcoming move, as the first thing they see missing is the dining room table. In fact, our living room and dining room are getting pretty bare as the downsizing process continues.
I’ve heard from some of you how you are enjoying this newsletter series and I really appreciate hearing how this is helping you with your own journey to downsize or get organized, even if you are not moving.
I’ve heard from clients and subscribers to this newsletter who have:
• Proclaimed that I am a “real person.” Yes, I always thought of myself as a “real person” but sometimes it’s funny how clients see me as “different.” I think this may be in due to the fact that I’ve been so open with my feelings and emotions, something clients don’t usually see from me when working with them. Instead, I see their emotions, how challenging this can be at times, I listen to the stories of their treasures and I am there to help them make the best decisions for their circumstances and problem-solve.
• Wondered “where” we are moving....I want to assure our existing client base that we are NOT moving out of the area – we will still be in Washington State, and more specifically, somewhere on the eastside of Seattle – Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Mercer Island – wherever we can find a home to rent until we are ready to purchase another home or remodel one. With all the home “flipping” shows Rob watches, I have a hunch we will find a home that we will remodel in the near future.
• Shared stories of their own personal journeys and struggles – keep them coming; I love to hear how you are doing.
• Told me how much they really appreciate the stories, but also the tips, projects and resources.
When I embarked on this theme for this year’s newsletter, I was not sure how it would be received – so I really do appreciate you sharing with me how this is impacting your life, your downsizing and your ongoing quest for organizing areas of your home.
Let’s continue with the journey as I share with you what has transpired in April!
During the month of April, we continued to work on the 2 D’s – downsizing and donations! We also started in on a list of small “home-improvement” projects on our list. It was also filled with a lot of work; ironically several clients that are also downsizing and relocating to a new state or moving locally.
If you read the March edition of the newsletter, you know about the saga of the “red couches.” I didn’t expect I would be writing about them again, but just to show you how time-consuming it is to try to “sell” stuff and how many times things fall through; I have yet another frustrating story to share.
After I last wrote, an offer came in through OfferUp for the couch, loveseat and ottoman. She asked if I would sell for less than asking price. Wanting to get them out of the house and because she had a “cool name” (Laura) I agreed. Laura informed me on a Wednesday that she could not pick them up until the following week when her friend with a truck could help her – and would I mind waiting until the following Thursday. I agreed.
Then, over the weekend, someone from Craig’s List emailed wanting to pay “full price” and pick them up on Wednesday; one day before Laura was to pick them up. I pinged Laura through the OfferUp app to confirm she was still coming on Thursday (because I now had another offer); to which she replied YES.
I told the Craig’s List person that I’m sorry but I had another offer but would let her know if anything changed. Much to my surprise (OK, maybe at this point I just should not be surprised anymore), Laura pinged me through the OfferUp app on Tuesday, 2 days before she was to pick them up and said her friend with the truck left town! ARGH! I wanted to scream.
I had been nice, going against my own rule of “he/she who shows up with cash first gets the goods.” So, I emailed the other person through Craig’s List who originally wanted them on Wednesday and now she no longer had a way to pick them up!
Come on people – have you heard of Home Depot? They rent trucks for $19.99! Guess what is still sitting in our living room? Yup, the red furniture. I really hope by the time I write to you in May that we aren’t still talking about this.
You might wonder just why I am spending all of this time sharing this with you. For us, it’s really not about the money; it’s more about the real-life experiment I am conducting using our home and our things to share with you just how time-consuming, challenging, frustrating – and sometimes rewarding, this can be. Of course, I still have a Plan B for that furniture should no one want it – but hey, I still have almost three months to find it a new home.
In fact, as I write, we have three clients that are in the middle of either a major “downsizing” or “right-sizing” project. Here are some of their stories....
Cassie, one of our amazing Organizing Specialists, is working with a woman who downsized a few years ago from a larger home to a small condo. Now, she is downsizing to a retirement community. Her original move date was going to be May 3rd, but given the time it is taking her and the desire to sell so many things, she opted to push her move date back. Fortunately for her, she is in a position where this is possible; which is not the case for everyone. We’ve discovered that for some reason, the downsizing work is only getting done when Cassie is on site, instead of working on small home-work assignments between sessions. If the client if fine with this, so are we. We know this is hard-work to stay focused and make decisions when there is not someone with you holding you accountable and keeping you focused – or someone that knows how to plan a move with multiple stops and items being shipped across the country.
Keeping in mind that Cassie’s client lives alone and is a senior, I would not recommend that she invite people to her condo to purchase the items she is selling. In fact, I even said that it is going to be a major challenge to get everything done given the timeframe and the fact that boxes from the previous move were never unpacked. Thankfully, family has offered to help sell items that she feels will sell so she earns some money for these things. This, my friends, is why we start this process early!
Gail, another one of our truly gifted Organizing Specialists, is working with a client we helped downsize over a decade ago when she moved from her larger home to a town home. Now our client is moving to a senior retirement community – a space that will be less than half of the size she currently lives in and no garage for storage!
Gail’s client has so many amazing stories to share about her treasures she’s collected over the year, but this also has a tendency to slow down projects. It’s so hard to not share these stories, yet our job is to be great listeners while we keep the project moving forward.
Like Cassie, Gail has also prepared a plan to help her client downsize and the most recent estimate is that it’s going to take between 50-60 hours to go through the entire townhome and the garage. Does this sound like a lot of time to you? If it does, this should be a cue to you for what you can expect when you are downsizing or right-sizing.
The amount of time it will take you to downsize or right-size will vary depending on the following: • The size of your home • The amount of stuff you own • The amount of stuff you need to downsize or right-size in order to fit reasonably in a new home • The speed at which you make decisions • Your ability to stay focused on a project you are working on • Cooperation with other family members
I use the terms “downsizing” and “right-sizing” interchangeably, however I do have definitions of each that I want to share with you.
Downsizing: Your need and desire to pare down and edit the number of belongings you own in order to fit them into a new smaller space.
Right-Sizing: Your need and desire to pare down and edit the number of belongings you own because you will not need them in a future home. Your new home could be the same size as your existing home or it might even be larger. The fact of the matter is, you won’t need “everything” in your current home in your next home – so there is no point in paying to pack it and move it. When you pay to pack and move everything, you will still need to make decisions in your new home regarding where it will live and the purpose it will serve.
Getting settled after moving is time-consuming as you try to determine: • Where everything will live • The purpose it will serve in your new home • How to best maximize and organize the spaces in your new home • The frequency of use, which also helps determine where items are stored and how they are organized
In our situation, we are doing both – downsizing and right-sizing. Why you ask? Here’s why....
We know that ultimately we will not need a home quite as large as the one we currently live in. While we love having all of the space; a lot of it is unused space that we know we can condense. As we get older, our lifestyle is changing and we no longer desire a home so large to maintain and clean as well as a fully-landscaped acre of yard work to do! While we both enjoy yard-work and being outdoors, we’d rather sit on our deck and relax instead of doing work. The other reason we will no longer need such a large yard is that while our two loveable pups get older, they no longer use the yard like they did when they were younger – so they don’t need the amount of space they currently have.
With that said, we know we need to “downsize” because we plan to live in a smaller home at some point. Even if the home we end up renting is still about the same size as our current home, it does not make sense for us to pay to move things (mostly furniture in our case) that we know we will never use in a new home we purchase.
Rob and I both have furniture that is about 20-30 years old and we would like something different that we can pick out together, vs. things we each brought to this home that came from our individual homes before we met.
This is where the “right-sizing” comes in....we know we won’t “want” it, even if the home we rent is the current size – we’d rather do without and so we are letting it go in favor of not continuing to own things we no longer like or use.
In April, I worked with a client in her home out-of-state who is relocating to Washington. While the new home is larger than the existing home, we are still downsizing and right-sizing items we know will not serve a purpose or be needed in the new home. When you are moving interstate, you especially do not want to pay to move things you won’t be using, so this process becomes even more necessary.
Whether you are moving or not, sometimes it is a good idea to “pretend” like you are moving and determine what you can downsize or right-size in your life. You’ll be amazed at the feeling you receive from a weight being lifted from your shoulders when you face the things that have been stored in your home for years that you’ve not used or touched. I get it, I know this is hard – and it’s hard to know where to start, but I can assure you; your work will pay off. Just like I know it is going to pay off for Rob and me – and so continues our journey.
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 an update on progress as we prepare to list our home.
• On March 31, I hosted the last workshop in our home - Eliminate Paper Chaos. It was a sold-out workshop with 15 participants who spent the day learning how to create systems to easily maintain paper and infomation. We also spent part of the day in our home offices and the office of Eliminate Chaos to see how we use the same systems we recommend. I'll miss howing these workshops in our space; so we'll see what the future holds. I still plan to offer them in a new Seattle location and eventually online.
• Scheduled a listing date with our agent; Cynthia – July 26, 2017.
• Scheduled an open house with Cynthia – July 28 and 29, 2017.
• Scheduled a pre-home inspection for July 11th. This will give us about 2 weeks to fix anything Ken finds. After selling a rental home last year, in our market, a pre-home inspection helps prospective buyers know up front anything they may need to be concerned about with the home they plan to make an offer on so they can request changes or waive them – depending on how badly they want the home.
• Scheduled pictures, video and a drone for July 24th.
• Met with Joe, our guy that refinishes hardwoods floors early in the month to ensure we were able to reserve the week of May 1st on his calendar to refinish our floors.
• Scheduled a date to meet with Cynthia and our stager, Karen to walk our home in preparation for staging.
• Scheduled a date for staging our home – July 21, 2017.
• After Karen walked our home with Cynthia, Rob and I, I made a detailed list of everything she wanted us to do to our home before she arrives with some furniture and art to finish the staging.
Here is my list so you get an idea of the work involved. This is pretty minimal work in my opinion for a home this size; because often times the bulk of the work (and the most time-consuming) is in the downsizing and decluttering. We have very little of this to do in comparison to some of the clients we provide our expertise to. I assured the Karen that all furniture we won’t be using/keeping will be removed from our home prior to July 21st regardless of whether we sell of donate it.
Our Pre-Staging Check List Living Room Move piano to bonus room wall Pack up stuff on piano and piano music Get rid of plant
Dining Room Get rid of candle holders
Entry Get rid of plant Remove stuff from entry table / pack Pack personal photos on stair walls
Kitchen Remove everything from counters except for coffee machine and succulents Remove clock Take down Laura and Rob prints Move Italy prints to where dog canvas is
Family Room Remove Wedding photo Take down glass photo collage Take flower down Remove everything from mantel except rings/pack Plants to Cynthia to hold on to Move recliner to garage Move all dog stuff out Remove everything from back and side tables except lamps / pack Touch up paint
Powder Bath Hide tissue and waste basket under counter Move soap to left corner Remove candle
Exercise Room Move wine to front coat closet Turn tread mill so the back of it faces window Touch up paint
Master Bedroom Move armoire to garage Put TV on top of chest of drawers Remove everything from top of dressers Switch end tables around Remove everything from top of end tables Take down prints over bed Take a picture of bed and send to Karen so she can pick art for bedroom
Master Bathroom Take all personal stuff off counters and out of shower Hide scale Take down flower Take down Rome art Take down Hawaii art Take down angel Paint touch ups
Laundry Room Remove everything from counter Unstack W/D
Media Room Move futon to left corner (angled) of bonus room Move end table and TV table to garage Move rug to garage Remove futon cover Move screen to garage Take down flower from Sue Take down speakers
Laura's Office Remove magnet strips Touch up paint Center daisy print Get rid of plant Lower laptop desk Pack up pictures Pack un-needed work items
Rob's Office Remove all furniture Remove all plants Remove all artwork Declutter office
Guest Bedroom Get rid of small lamps Get rid of floor lamp
Bonus Room Move table to Rob's office Remove excess stuff from white counter
There are a few things we can do in the months prior that I have scheduled, such as shopping for items Karen recommended we purchase, however most of it will be left until the week before she comes in to do her work so we can continue to enjoy our home as we use it. Karen plans to convert the usage of some of our rooms to show in photos and video, and we would not use the home this way so that is why we’ll leave it for one day where we can do all of this work on our own. She is staging our home on July 21st, so I will wrap and pack art/pictures on July 16th and Rob and I will move furniture around on July 19th and 20th.
I think this may have been the first home Karen will stage where she did not have to request decluttering or downsizing as would normally be requested. Nothing much to declutter in our home – it’s all pretty organized; after all, I do try to practice what I preach!
While I know that all “personal pictures and art” needs to be removed (which is already in my plan), Karen was able to tell us what other pieces we have that we should leave in place that she can work with. Karen also provided us with a very short list of items to acquire on our own; such as:
o Coverlet or new duvet – because our dogs get on our bed, we’re responsible for acquiring something new. o (3) 30x30 White Euro pillows – also for the master – same reason, dogs o (3) accent pillows - blue and yellow; 2 of 1 color and 1 of the other – also for the master o Futon cover – because it’s not something she stocks o Shower curtain rings – because the silver ones we have with pink accents will not match the new paint color. (More on this below)
• Donated 3 office chairs to our real estate agent for their new office.
• Donated 2 plants to our real estate agent who has the perfect home and space for them. (In homes that are staged, you will see “artificial” plants because they look perfect in pictures. While we will keep many of our plants, and our agent offered to keep them at her home and take care of them for us which we may take her up on. When we told Cynthia and the Stager that we’d be getting rid of some plants anyway, Cynthia let us know that she’d love to have them – so it’s a win-win for both of us!
• Listed and sold our living room coffee and end tables. Unlike the red couches, these tables sold to the first person that inquired and they came the very next day for them. Yeah! Now the living room is really looking empty – well, except for those couches.
• Listed and sold our dining room set. I think I may have set the price too low on this group of furniture as I instantly had many offers; however keeping true to my word, I sold it to the first person that showed up with cash – full asking price. It was a little bittersweet selling this furniture as I think about all of the parties, family holiday dinners, employee meetings and workshops have taken place around this table. Given that our tastes have changed, we are looking forward to purchasing something new in the near future. Guess we won’t be hosting Thanksgiving this year – wherever we are living as we won’t have a table large enough; well – unless I pull out the folding tables. We’ll see.
• Completed paint touch-ups in kitchen.
• Patched and spackled walls in staircase, Rob’s office and Laura’s office in preparation to do touch-up paint.
• Painted our upstairs guest bathroom, which is really used for Eliminate Chaos. We were pretty certain that no one was going to want a pink bathroom! Yes, we had a pink bathroom; something I had always wanted, but I’m far over it now. That is why Karen told us to get new shower curtain rings! Guess she wanted no remnants of pink in that bathroom.
• Ordered RAM board to protect our hardwood floors from doggy nail scratches after they are refinished in May. This is what contractors and remodelers use to protect floors in homes they are working on.
If you have not read the tips from the prior newsletters in this series, you can access them HERE.
If you are planning to move this year, schedule your vendors as far in advance as possible to you get the dates you need and want in order to have your projects completed on time with minimal stress. Your lack of planning will not constitute an emergency on someone else’s part – just sayin’!
• Put important dates on your calendar so you can schedule other activities around things you need to get done. While you may end up having for forgo some personal activities you enjoy, you need to decide what your priorities are. If selling your home for top dollar is a priority, other items may need to be removed from your calendar. While some of our clients lament about all of the work involved, how much there is to do and how time-consuming it is, when we sit down to review their calendar it is not uncommon to see things scheduled that could likely take place at a later date. It all boils down to priorities and prioritizing them. If you don’t plan to do the work, have time for it, or enjoy it, you can hire it out and someone to manage the process for you – there are always ways to get these things done and crossed off your list.
Enlist in family member help; you don’t need to do this all on your own. Delegate small projects to family members (including children) because then they will hopefully get on board with what you are working to accomplish and can take ownership in the maintenance – which is an ongoing process once you have organized a particular area.
Each month I will give you 3 simple projects that should not take more than an hour each. Here’s your projects for April. Yes, I realize it is now May. I will get caught up with newsletters hopefully this month!
Project 1: De-junk and organize your junk drawer
It’s OK to have a junk drawer or two, however an organized junk drawer makes is much easier to find what you are looking for – and you just never know what little treasures you will find when you clean out the drawer(s).
Start by taking everything – and I mean everything – out of the drawer and setting it on a counter. This way you can also wipe out the bottom of the drawer with everything removed. As you are taking things out of the drawer, don’t just set them on the counter, place each type of item into groups; for example:
Now you can really see what you have, toss or recycle what you no longer need/use, or move certain items to another area of your home that didn’t belong in the junk drawer.
Measure the inside of the drawer so you can purchase an assortment of drawer organizers if you’d like to better organize the contents into compartments as you return specific groups of items to the drawers.
Sometimes I buy a few extra drawer organizers of varying sizes if I’m not exactly sure how I want the drawer layout to fit. I place them in the drawer and start filling each drawer organizer with a group of similar items, trying to keep those items used the most frequently near the front of the drawer.
I always suggest that along with your measurements of the drawer that you snap a few pictures on your phone of the contents you plan to put back in the drawer so you know what you need to shop for.
When your drawer(s) are complete, you are going to LOVE opening them, because looking for something you need to have at your fingertips will now be a snap!
Junk Drawer - Before (Grayed out area is protecting confidential information)
Junk Drawer - After (Grayed out area is protecting confidential information.)
Project 2: Pantry Purging and Organization
When was the last time you cleaned out the pantry – or area where you store food? It might be time take stock of what you have, what is expired and what you need to stock up on. Depending on the size of your pantry, this could take more than an hour – so you may wish to spend time one day going through everything and purging items you will never use and then another hour organizing the remaining contents.
Have a garbage can close by for items that are stale or expired and just need to be tossed. Toss directly into the garbage, saving you time from re-sorting later. Have a recycle bin nearby as well for any containers that can be emptied and recycled.
(The pantry seen above is our pantry.)
Grab a bag or box that you can use for food donations. The grocery store near our home has a bin at the front door for a local food bank. It’s always great to be able to donate food you won’t use; but please be sure it’s not expired. As you remove items; you can place these directly into a donation box so your decision making is done.
As you continue to remove items from the pantry or other locations where you keep food, group them into similar groupings of food. This will allow you to see the types of food you typically store so you can place these groupings back into the pantry in a more organized fashion.
You may also want to consider purchasing a few supplies in order to make it easier for you to contain certain items and improve that accessibility of these items. Two of these products include turntables and clear pantry bins.
Turntables are great for smaller items that are “round.” Items such as oils, vinegars and such. Don’t let these expensive items go to waste when you can put them on a turntable and get immediate access to them without losing them because they get shoved to the back of a shelf.
Clear bins or another type of pantry bins are extremely helpful to contain and compartmentalize certain types of food, such as: • Snack food items • Protein bars • Nuts • Candies • Chips/crackers • Rice • Pasta • Beans • and more
The ones you see below are made by InterDesign and can be purchased on Amazon. They can be used in the pantry, refrigerator, freezer or cabinets in your kitchen. They come in a variety of sizes and also stack.
For those that live close to a Container Store, Storables, Target or Bed Bath and Beyond, you will also find this brand in their stores. Other added benefits of using bins on shelves to contain certain types of food is that you can easily pull the bin off the shelf an access everything in the back. Keeping items contained in something also helps to keep crumbs contained and not all over your shelves.
Making a quick meal will be easier and I guarantee that you’ll save money on groceries going forward after you implement these very simple and easy ideas.
Project 3: Freezer and Refrigerator Refresh
Just like the pantry, consider the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator and freezer. It might be time to refresh a few items with past expiration dates and leftovers long forgotten. You’d be surprised how many things expire quicker than you think – such as condiments. I like to separate this task by cleaning each side out separately and giving it a good cleaning once all of the food it out. The freezer will likely take less time than the refrigerator side; so choose a side to start with. Ensure your garbage and recycling is close by so items can go directly into these receptacles. When you are ready to reload your freezer or refrigerator, you may also wish to use the InterDesign bins as mentioned in the previous pantry project. These bins work great in a freezers that are one large compartment at the bottom of the refrigerator. Since they stack, it’s easy to compartmentalize certain types of foods in order keep things together. They also work well in the refrigerator and will help keep your shelves clean.
Just like the pantry, an organized refrigerator/freezer makes it so much easier to whip up a quick meal or know what you need to shop for – so you don’t waste money purchasing what you already have on hand.
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.
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