Diary of a Professional Organizer - A Behind the Scenes Look at My Journey to Downsize, Move and Organize a New Home - May 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. Cliek HERE to read the April 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.
Here we are at the end of May, which just so happens to be “National Moving Month.” What a month it has been!
For us, it started out the best way possible, with a 15 day vacation to Maui. It’s not the best time of year to be away on vacation, but given we’ll be moving this fall when we normally go to Hawaii, we decided to take vacation earlier this year. It was also a much needed break I needed from work and all the moves our team is doing as well as working on our own home in preparation to move. I came home energized and ready to kick it into high-gear for the next two months before our home is listed.
This newsletter comes to you today on a very special day to me; my mom’s birthday. She would’ve been 79; but she passed away when she was just 46 years old and I was only 16. Some of you know about the “purse story” I wrote about in my book Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home & Life. One of the things my mom always said to my brother and I was “You can’t take it with you when you go.” Very powerful nine words if you think about them; but hard to comprehend at the age of 16. While I never dreamed I would start a business to help people get organized, downsize, move and be more productive at
work – it all started when I was 16 when I helped my Grandma go through my mom’s home and prepare for her estate sale. I’m not going to share that story now, but I will in a future newsletter.
And so I say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM and thank you for being the inspiration that I try to use with our clients when I know just how difficult it is to downsize and part with your treasures; because “you can’t take it with you when you go.”
This month was a short month for us to be able to work on our own projects; only about 15 days to make progress due to our 15 day vacation. Maui is my favorite place in the world, the place where I feel so relaxed and at peace which makes re-entry very difficult, especially during one of our busiest months of the year. I kept trying to imagine the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach whenever I would feel like I was getting stressed upon my return to work. A few clients called while I was on vacation (not realizing where I was) and asked if I was “OK” – I guess I sound different in Maui; or maybe it was just the fact that I was so relaxed. Either way, it was a wonderful time and my dad and stepmom joined us for a week as well. I spent a good part of my time sitting on this floating chair in this “adult’s only” pool – reading, or just floating. It was my happy place I had looked forward to.
The minute we walked through our doors when we returned home, we were reminded of the work that was on our plates. You see, we strategically planned to have our hardwood floors refinished while we were on vacation. I highly recommend this strategy if you ever need to have your floors done, then you don’t need to move out of your house while they are being worked on for the week. Plan the work to be done while you are out of town.
There was more prep work than I was aware of for the floor guy and we were scrambling to do this the evening before we left on vacation, just one of the reasons the April newsletter was sent late. We knew that all of our furniture had to be moved around, but what we didn’t know was that anything in our kitchen that wasn’t in glass had to be moved out of our cabinets and pantry because of the chemicals used on the floors. This means we ended up emptying out most of our panty and a good bit of our kitchen cabinets and moving it all upstairs. Nothing like 20+ trips up and down the stairs the night before we left on vacation.
But upon our return it was even more work. Thankfully, Cassie, one of our Specialists brought down everything from the bedroom we had stashed it in and she had it ready for me to put away. What I didn’t factor in was that I needed to clean off every surface, wipe out every drawer and cabinet shelf before I could put things away from the dust. The dust could’ve been far worse, but I still was not going to put things away without cleaning first. To make things more challenging, I slipped on vacation and landed on my wrist and couldn’t use my left hand very much upon our return home, so getting things done took even more time – not fun when I returned home to a very full client schedule!
So, stuff sat on the counters and a table until I could get it all done. When you do what I do for a living, this is not how you like to see things on every horizontal surface!
The end result? The floors look amazing; however we enjoyed them for less than 12 hours before Rob covered them with RAM board (a very heavy duty form of cardboard that contractors use when building homes) to protect the floors while the urethane hardens. Hopefully in another couple of weeks we can take the RAM board up and truly enjoy the floors before we move. That last thing I enjoy doing is spending money to fix something in the house and not getting to enjoy it.
As a result of the floors being done, we also knew that we’d need to have the white trim repaired and painted, so for another week we got to endure most of our downstairs being taped up and no access to some areas. The pampered pooches who normally enjoy lounging around inside were not so happy about being booted outside for a day while the spraying took place. Just what we needed was black fur stuck to white trim. I guess now they know what it’s like to be a dog for day and stay outside.
Planning pays off. Let me say that again...planning pays off. Because we were able to plan these two jobs a few months before we were going to be on vacation, we not only got the contractors we wanted, we also got the dates we wanted, which can be difficult without advance planning.
One evening, while I sat on our lanai in Maui looking out at the ocean, I decided I would finally sit down and write the letter Cynthia asked us to write to the new owner of our home. While sipping a mai tai (because I really needed one to get me through this exercise), I got out my laptop and started typing. My document is titled: Why We Love Our Home and You Will Too.
It ended up being nearly four pages of bullet points. After our dinner that evening, I showed Rob what I had been up to while he grilled dinner. I sat there with tears in my eyes re-reading what I wrote. I don’t know why this is so hard for me; but my last bullet point may help explain.
Here are a few bullet points of my letter to the next owner of our home. Someday I may publish the rest of the letter. Cynthia just read it and said she is going to use this as an example for her future clients.
The first four bullet points: • It’s extremely peaceful and quiet. We live on a cul-de-sac with 5 other homes. • Our amazing, fully landscaped back yard is pure bliss in the summer time as you enjoy the large deck. There are no homes that look into your back yard so you can eat dinner on the deck in your jammies if you want! • Our friends call our beautifully landscaped acre yard – “the Park.” It’s great for children, dogs or both to enjoy with a fence on three sides of the yard. • The location. We are 1 stop sign (not a stop light) and 5 minutes to Albertsons and Starbucks! There is also a Teriyaki restaurant, Subway, McDonalds, nail salon and great Chiropractor with amazing massage therapists all in the same parking lot. I will miss my massage person terribly. I leave at 8:25 every Friday morning for an 8:30am massage!
The final bullet point: • When Cynthia asked us to tell her what we’d miss about the house the most, I put my head in my face and cried. I love this home so much and thought it would be our “forever home” but our lifestyle has changed and we no longer need a home this size. I didn’t know where to start with all of the things we loved so much about this home, but now you know. We hope that you will love this home as much as we did for 11 years. We are sad to leave but we look forward to what the future has in store.
On a happier note.... I am happy to report that the red couches have SOLD! I can’t believe they are finally GONE! Here’s what I attribute to them selling over Memorial Day weekend. I know that Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest weekends to move. I also know that people are looking for furniture when they move and because they typically rented a truck, it’s the perfect time to pick up furniture.
I decided I would repost my ad on Craig’s List early Saturday morning as it had expired. My posting on OfferUp was over two months since it had been posted, so it was not getting much visibility unless people were specifically searching for that type of furniture. I needed to get it to the top of the list again, but the only way to do this is to pay to bump it up to the top of list.
I wondered what would happen if I deleted my post and reposted my ad? I quickly discovered that you can’t delete a post, but you can archive it. Before I did, I selected all of the text in my ad so I didn’t have to remember what I wrote. I archived the ad and then created a new ad with a slightly different title and pasted in the same text and pictures. Voila! Ad posted and several hours later I had an inquiry.
Manuel came by to look at the couches and while we were talking I learned that he had just moved that day and tossed his old couch in the trash. He asked why I was selling the furniture and when I told him he asked if we were selling any lamps! Why of course! I just so happen to have three I am selling. And so he left with the furniture, artwork, vases and a lamp – enough to outfit his apartment for he and his son. He was pretty happy, but not as happy as I was to have them gone. Our living room is now basically empty except for the piano, a lamp and our sound system.
All of the free space is so freeing. I just can’t describe enough how good it makes me feel to know that this furniture has a good new home for someone.
When I started this newsletter, I said it was “National Moving Month” and the month has truly lived up to its name. This month alone, our team:
• Downsized and moved one senior woman from her condo to a gorgeous adult community. This project took over 100 hours due to the amount of stuff.
• Downsized and starting moving a senior from her townhome to assisted living. This project has also been extremely time-consuming due to the amount of stuff and the reluctance to part with things.
• Packed and moved a client out of her three story home into a new rental until they purchase a new home.
• Today, as this newsletter is being sent to you, we are working with Seattle company that has 255 employees on their move. We are ensuring that every last little detail of all copy rooms, kitchen, all storage rooms, closets, office supplies and off site storage is organized and complete when employees arrive to their new offices on June 5th. There have been months of planning, project management, downsizing, organization, productivity consulting, space design and more that have gone into this project since February and we are excited to deliver a final product over the weekend.
• Last but not least, I was afforded the opportunity to provide a downsizing consultation last week to a lovely couple who is downsizing and moving to a new home. Their real estate agent, Mona Renner, who is a true champion of our work, introduced me to her clients so that I could provide some insight and a process for them to work through on their own. Like most couples (including yours truly) the parties don’t always agree on what should be kept. I just had a similar conversation with Rob.
Prior to my consultation with this couple, I sent them our questionnaires and they get gold stars for filling them out. When I asked in person about any concerns they had about the process; one of the concerns was “if something happened to the other person.” I had to think about this one for a minute before I responded. I believe the translation to this statement was the concern about what was going to happen to all of the stuff when something happened to one of them and I could tell that was upsetting.
And so I leave you with these final thoughts this month....
While my mom used to say: “you can’t take it with you when you goy” – my phrase is, “It’s Not About The Stuff®.” To me, the stuff isn’t what matters – what I wanted most when I was 16 was not any piece of “stuff” in my mom’s home, what I wanted was my mom.
Mom's 40th Birthday and the last birtday picture I have with her.
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.
Scheduled the carpets to be cleaned on July 17th, 4 days before our house will be staged. I learned a lesson last year when I sold a rental home when a planter was placed on the carpets that weren’t completely dry and it stained the carpet. I will not have to worry about that this time around.
Scheduled two moving estimates with my two favorite moving companies. Even though we won’t be moving for several more months, this is one thing I wanted to get checked off the list. Because we know which pieces of furniture will not be moving, (I have a list – surprise!), it’s easy to point those items out as the move estimator walks through the house. Normally, you will want to have a good idea of where you are moving “to” because that will affect your estimate. In our case, we don’t know yet and won’t know for some time since we will be renting. The things to keep in mind that affect the cost of the move are:
o Putting up a barricade on the street in front of the home to block people from parking in front of your house – or the house you are moving in to. Ever wonder why you can’t park in front of someone’s home or building on a certain day? This is likely the reason why. And, you do pay for this, but it’s worth every penny because the longer your mover spends looking for a place to park a long moving truck, the more your bill increases. Also, the farther they have to carry everything because they couldn’t park in front of your home will also increase the cost – so do yourself a favor and when the mover asks you if you want this service, just say “YES!”
o Accessibility to the house. This could be how easy it is to access the house through the front door or a garage, the more difficult the access, the more time it takes, the more it costs.
o The number of stairs. This could be stairs outside as well as inside the home. A good mover will ask you “how many stairs,” not just how many “flights” of stairs.
o The time of the year when you move. Typically May 15 – September 15 is the peak season and is more expensive. This is another benefit of selling our home later in the year, although not the reason we chose to list in July.
o Moving on a weekend vs. a week day. Most companies charge a premium for weekend moves or a premium at the end of the month when everyone wants to move. Scheduling a move during the middle of the week and/or the middle of the month is best when possible.
o How much you pack vs. how much the movers pack. For our move, I will do all of our own packing and supply my own boxes because moving companies tend to make a lot of money on supplies. We purchase all of ours at Home Depot or U-haul where they are less expensive.
Once we have signed a lease on the house we will move to, I will be able to provide information to the moving company we select regarding the street parking, accessibility and stair count. Hopefully we’ll be able to push our move out to mid-September, so not only is it mid-month, but it is also past peak move season.
We completed the first move walk through with one moving company and are waiting on the estimate. Given that I am not in a rush, I told them I don’t need it right away, I just wanted to get the information documented while I had time. Keep in mind that I am getting a move estimate from two different companies; something I don’t always recommend for my clients because we are limited on time. Instead I have to select a mover I think will be the best for their move and one I trust to do a good job. In our case, we have time and because I’ve done this for 17 years with clients, I know exactly what to tell the movers during the walkthrough so that when I receive both estimates I am comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges. I find that many clients will try to get multiple moving estimates (which takes a lot of time) only to forget to tell one mover multiple things and then the estimates turn out completely different. Then, when they select the mover with the lower cost and the cost in the end is more and they wonder why, it’s usually because they forgot to tell that mover something during the walkthrough.
While we were in Maui, we purchased a new bamboo mattress. We’ve wanted a new mattress for quite some time as the one we have is old, even though it’s only been slept on for about 6 years. It’s also extremely heavy and we just didn’t want to move it one more time. We had the new mattress shipped home from the Cariloha store – and they even shipped it at no charge!
Before we could take it out of the box, we had to do something with our existing king size mattress. I hated to just take it to the dump, so I decided to put it on NextDoor, OfferUp and Craig’s List for free. I got no takers on NextDoor, but within about five minutes of posting on OfferUp, my cell phone sounded like I had hit the jackpot. So many offers wanting this mattress. I had over 40 offers in under an hour. I’m guessing the fact that the description of “FREE Stearns & Foster King Size Mattress” helped. I started looking at the profiles of some of the people that offered to come “right away” to get it. I could see the items they were posting and it looked like many of them likely buy stuff and resell it. I decided I wasn’t going to play that game. Instead, I found a couple of people that appeared to be in real need and had a conversation with them until I selected one couple that lived close by to come pick it up the next day. Her name was also Laura and last name started with an L and she had been in a bad car accident and needed a better mattress. I was happy with my decision and that the mattress did not land in the landfill. It was a perfectly good mattress, just not one we wanted anymore.
One of the recommended items our stager Karen suggested we purchase was a new duvet cover or a coverlet. This was because our current duvet cover did not hang long enough to cover the sides of the bed. I think part of the problem was the old mattress was a very tall mattress. Either way, it was a good excuse to finally let go of the “temporary” IKEA duvet cover we’ve had for several years – ever since Bear dug a hole through the other beautiful duvet cover we had and we needed something to tide us over while we looked for something else that would match our bedroom. Well, just like clutter in homes, you get used to looking at things and at some point you don’t really notice it anymore – and so the same IKEA duvet cover has graced our bed until Memorial Day weekend when I found the perfect one that not only matched the paint in the bedroom but the paint in the master bathroom as well.
It’s not as if I haven’t looked over the years for a new duvet cover – it’s just been a challenge to find something that we both like that matches our paint colors and is dog friendly. And by dog friendly, I mean it can’t be a light color and needs to have a pattern in it since they like to jump up on the bed and occasionally do not have clean paws.
Hopefully this duvet will match the next location we move to because I really love the colors in this one; it reminds me of the beach and the flowers in Maui!
Purchased three Euro pillows for our bed for staging per the stager’s request. These are the big square pillows that rest against the headboard.
Purchased IP (Industrial Post) racks while they were 25% off at Storables. For those of you that don’t live in WA or OR, Storables is an organizing products supply store where we purchase organizing product for clients. It’s one of my favorite stores to shop at. We will need these racks to store bins on in our next garage as we are not taking the built in systems we have in our current garage. The IP racks are on casters (wheels) so they are easy to move around and you can set the shelves at any height you need. We use these shelving units all the time with clients as they have so many uses. If you aren’t near a Storables, you can also find them at Costco, Lowes, Target and Container Store – each store will call them by a different name.
Met with Cynthia, our agent to review our listing paperwork and talk about our options for offers – so much to think about.
Did some touch up paint in my home office.
Put on the new shower curtain hooks in our freshly painting upstairs bathroom because the stager wanted my old “pink” accent shower hooks removed. Remember the pink bathroom from last month’s newsletter?
Over the Memorial Day weekend, Cassie worked with Rob in our garage to get him started on the downsizing and clean-out process. It’s always more fun to have a buddy in the garage, especially when it is not your wife! Cassie is one of our Organizing Specialists who has worked magic in a lot of client’s garages. We joked that on a beautiful – almost 80 degree day – how lovely it was to be organizing a garage and be outside instead of organizing garages in freezing weather like we did this past fall and winter. It never ceases to amaze me that we organize more garages in the cold months than the warm months. I can assure you, it’s much more fun when you can actually feel your fingers!
Rob has been telling me for a long time he would be parting with a lot of tools that he’d no longer need in our next home because he won’t have to “fix” anything when we rent. I immediately had to jump on the opportunity to have one of our team members help him; because the sooner we can start getting stuff out of the garage the better since I will start packing boxes in advance and will place them in the garage.
I want to provide you with a list of books on downsizing or rightsizing. I have read only a couple of the ones listed below and my favorite is the first one listed. I think it is a must read for any family member that is helping a loved one who is downsizing.
Don't Toss My Memories in the Trash-A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move - by Vickie Dellaquila
Downsizing Your Home with Style: Living Well In a Smaller Space - by Lauri Ward
Living With Less: The Upside of Downsizing Your Life - by Mark Tabb
Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home - by Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand
Right-Sizing Your Home: How to Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle – Gale C. Steves
Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most - by Ciji Ware and Gail Sheehy
Scaling Down : Living Large in a Smaller Space - by Judi Culbertson, Marj Decker, and George Booth
Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space – Kathryn Bechen
Organizing & Productivity Programs
Would you like to bring one of these programs to your organization?