Diary of a Professional Organizer - A Behind the Scenes Look at My Journey to Downsize, Move and Organize a New Home - June 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. Click HERE to read the April publication. Click HERE to read the May 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.
Make no mistake….this is the June newsletter coming to you at the end of July!
10! That is the number of moves our team completed in June. I personally worked on and project managed four of the larger moves, one including a company with 250+ employees.
2! That is the number of weeks I spent out of town working on moves. I remember the day, it was Friday, June 2nd and I received a text from a past client we helped downsize and move a few years ago. She had referred me to her friend Liz who was moving on June 15th! I spoke with Liz that day and wasn’t quite sure how I was going to pull off one more project of this size, but as Rob always says…”you’ll figure it out”...and I did.
Liz’s move was less than two weeks from the date of our conversation and I had to go back to the office and spend some time in front of all of the calendars to see how I could shift a few things around to ensure I could be onsite for this move before I left for California on June 18th.
I’m so glad I “figured it out” because Liz was such a fun client to work with and really allowed our team to do what they are best at! The results were truly amazing – in every room including the garage. Liz later sent me one of most amazing testimonies we’ve ever received. Thank you Liz if you are reading this!
Yes indeed, sometimes even I get behind! And now you know why you are receiving this newsletter in July. If you stop to consider what it takes to completely downsize a home, pack it, move it, unpack it and organize it – doing that by yourself in one month is no small task. And that is why I never sat at my desk for even half a day in the entire month!
It’s also why I always encourage clients to start this process as early as you can. Because you will always under-estimate the amount of time it’s going to take you and things will always come up that you least expect.
It even happened to me…
You see, I had actually “planned” an entire week in my office after we completed the first two moves at the beginning of June. I had known for quite some time that they were coming up and that I’d be going to California to work beginning on Father’s Day, so I purposely made time to clear my calendar to focus on our home, the downsizing, various projects, etc… before I left town. You know the saying…best laid plans, right? Well, I did manage to get a few things done that month (as you’ll see in the “Our Journey” section), but nothing like I had “planned” to do. There’s always tomorrow, right?
It’s hard for me to not stick to the schedule, but I’ve learned that sometimes you have to roll with it and everything will work out. I don’t advise this; but knowing that things always come up that you least expect – will shift other things around.
June is a special month. It’s Rob’s birthday – and yes, he tries to celebrate all month! I normally take the day off and we do something fun, but the fun this year was a bit different as I ended up needing to be onsite with a client and Rob had client work.
Rob's Birthday Celebration
Because we don’t give each other a lot of “stuff” for birthdays or other holidays, it takes time to come up with something special I can give Rob or make for him. This year there just was no time to be super creative, but I did come up with a great gift idea that would take place over the summer.
I gave Rob a gift certificate to have a professional photographer take pictures of the dogs and us in our yard over the summer before we move. After all, both Bear and Chaos have only lived in this home and I thought it would be nice to have the memories of the four of us. To top it off, our yard looks amazing after all of the hard work this month (see below), so why not have the photos done here. Our friends call our yard “the park” anyway! We look forward to these photos in August.
On June 24th we also celebrated my Aunt Jean and Uncle Dallas’ 50th wedding anniversary! A day not to be missed and yes, I did plan all of the moves I worked on during June around their special day. It had been a long time since we had seen some of our relatives and it was such a beautiful day! The only thing that would’ve made it better was for my mom, grandma and grandpa to be there with us all. I am so glad that my cousin’s hired a photographer that day because we were all so busy catching up, none of us took many pictures on our phones.
It is truly the special moments, events and birthdays that mean so very much to me. So much more than “stuff.” You see now why I wanted Rob to have photos of the pups and us for his birthday. Life is short and photos will last a lifetime!
I still remember the day in August 2012 when we had a family reunion at our home to celebrate with Grandpa Leist. My Aunt Sue, a professional photographer, took so many pictures that day of family (and the dogs) in our yard. Three of these photos have been transferred to canvas and hang on walls in our home.
August 2012 - Laura and Rob with Bear and Chaos
Leist Family Reunion - August 2012
One of the phrases I started using with client’s years ago is:
“The meaning is in the memory, not the memorabilia.”
I try to live my life by this phrase. This is why special moments, events, anniversaries, birthdays and holidays mean so much to me. I’d much rather have the photos from these days to look back on and remember the good times, than all of the stuff associated with these days. It also makes for going through the downsizing process easier – but I must say, it still is amazing how much you can accumulate in 11 years – which is the amount of time we have lived in our home.
What memories can you create that don’t involve more stuff?
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.
Purchased new office furniture for Rob’s office.
Rob started cleaning out his office; It’s the one area of the home where I am “not allowed.” I would love to help, but like many couples we work with, our marriage will be better off if I keep out of it!
All of Rob’s office furniture is being sold or donated as it’s all very old. The desk, book case and lateral filing cabinet are all made of oak which we did not want in photos for when the house was staged – plus it was just time for an upgrade. Additionally Rob has an older leather sofa and ottoman in his office that Chaos loves to lay on or I will go sit on when we work on projects together.
Rob had to build the new desk in the office, so all of the old furniture had to come out first. This means that our “empty dining room” (because our dining room set was sold a couple of months ago) now looks like a used furniture warehouse. Rob gets the prize for packing the first two boxes – stuff he won’t need from his office. He also has a very nice large moving box full of paperwork that will be shred.
Measured and shopped for carpet runners to put down on our hardwood floors in order to keep them scratch free after being refinished in May. This was no easy task as I looked online at several stores and then went to several stores in person. We needed some very specific sizes. After two trips to IKEA, I finally had everything we needed. I purposely went to IKEA on a Friday afternoon (both times) to avoid the weekend crowds.
Purchased three new décor pillows to match our new duvet cover for the master bedroom purchased last month. Our new bed ensemble is finally complete! And while we won’t move this bedroom furniture with us to our next home, the linens will match the bed frame we will use which is currently used in our guest bedroom.
Purchased two new bedside table lamps that match. I’m not sure how we lived in this house for 11 years with just one old lamp; but we did. The new lamps will actually look much nicer with then new bed frame and bedside tables than they do with our existing furniture – but at least we have matching lamps for staging!
Purchased two new bedside tables from IKEA. Nothing fancy, but just something that matches the bedframe we got a few years ago. Currently these are housed in our guest bedroom until we move and then that furniture will be what we use in our new bedroom as it is much more modern.
Of course if you’ve ever purchased furniture from IKEA, you know that it comes complete with 100’s of pieces and an 18-page instruction guide for one small bedside table. Rob has a new slogan for IKEA: “IKEA - When you have more time than money.” I got to listen to him moan and groan about putting together not one but two of these tables. I can’t wait to hear what he’ll have to say when he puts together the matching dresser! Or maybe I will hire IKEA to do it, or just find a dresser elsewhere – that may be a better plan altogether.
Completed three move “walk-throughs” with three different moving companies. As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I also met with one moving company I use with our client’s last month – bringing the total of walk-throughs of our home to four. I do not recommend this as a standard best practice however. My reason for doing this? Research for our clients. I am not in the business of wasting people’s time; however I was very clear to everyone that came to our home that I was getting multiple estimates and that Rob and I would select one once we knew where we’d be moving. Two of the companies I selected are companies I’ve heard great things about but have not used personally or with clients and I like to try companies out before I make recommendations so I can speak to their level of service and how they work.
The reason it can be a bit risky to obtain multiple estimates is because you can easily forget to tell one move estimator about something(s) that need to be moved and they don’t take that into consideration in the estimate, so their estimate could come in lower when you review. If you select a mover based solely on price, they will still have to move the items you forgot to tell them about and your final bill will go up – and chances are you will not be a happy camper. This is however why they are called “estimates;” which is something you do need to keep in mind.
It’s very interesting how each company provides estimates and does their follow up. While most moving companies work based on an hourly rate plus the cost of the truck, three of the estimates were very detailed and one was just an estimate of the amount of hours. Two of the companies told me we have a “2-day” move and the other two companies told us they can do our move in a day. I don’t like to second-guess other professional’s expertise (because I don’t like it when people second-guess me) but I did have to question both companies that told me it was a two-day move when it only took 1 day to move into our house originally – well, technically, that is what was planned, but that is a story for another day. (When we arrived to our house to unload, we discovered the other family had not moved out! Glad this never happened to one of our clients.)
Because Eliminate Chaos is currently located in our home, I also requested estimates to move the companies’ items as well as our personal items – which does add another layer of complexity. Interestingly, only one company actually provided me with the two separate quotes as requested and he was also the one that has done the follow up with me. Ironically, this is a company I’ve not used before, but will likely hire for our move and start using with our clients as I really appreciate their level of service and follow up.
Signed all listing paperwork with our agent Cynthia and discussed a listing price for the house. We won’t determine that until July just before it goes on the market because things are still changing quite a bit in our area. We had to get our paperwork done early because she was heading out on a family vacation, so now all we have to do is drop in a price and the rest is done. This makes it easier for Cynthia when she returns just before our home is listed and less for us to do as well.
Sold one of our two air compressors, our weed-eater and old power-washer. Sold all three of these items very easily on OfferUp and happy to get these items out of our garage. We purchased a new power washer that has more power given all of the power washing we have to do to our roof, driveway, fence, deck and more. I actually do most of the power-washing myself – well, except for the roof (see next bullet point). There is something I find very gratifying and therapeutic about doing this work. It’s also nice to just be outside in the sun finally!
Had a marathon yard day with four guys plus Rob and I – trimming bushes, cutting down a few trees and power-washing the roof. Of course I planned the day while I was away working in CA, not realizing how hot it would be at home over the weekend and it hit 96 degrees that day! As you can imagine, I was about ready to wilt – I don’t know how these guys did it; but they are all from the south – GA and NC, where they are used to being outdoors and in the heat and humidity so they told me this was not hot. Really? By about 3:30pm, I made them wrap up and sent them on their way after having some raspberry sorbet. This team has been helping us off and on with our yard for several years and I always make them lunch and we usually sit outside on the deck and eat. This time I decided we were all sitting inside in the A/C! They were troopers that day, but it didn’t all get done, so two of them came back to finish up on Monday. The yard looks great with just a small amount of weeding to be done and flowers to be planted in the near future. We are so grateful to them for their work as we have a fully landscaped acre that we live on that requires a lot of work to maintain.
Photographed all of our master bedroom furniture for our agent Cynthia. She had asked what we planned to do with it because she has a new neighbor with a large home and they are looking for furniture to fill the rooms. I hope her neighbor (Laura) will want the furniture as we have no intention of moving it again. I was even able to put my hands on the receipts for the furniture in the “Receipts-Furniture” file so I could give Cynthia an idea of what it might be worth today.
Had a conversation with Stephanie – an agent that lists homes for rent. Stephanie was the person I used for ten years with my rental and always listed it for me and found the tenants. I wanted to get her advice about how to go about finding a home to rent with two huge dogs! As a former landlord, I know many people list homes and say they don’t want pets, but take them on a case-by-case basis. She told me to write a letter and include some pictures of us with the dogs and why we will make great tenants. I’ve heard of doing this when you put an offer in on a house, but not when you are trying to rent. Good thing I’ve got the photographer scheduled soon for new pictures with the pups!
Task Rabbit. If you have small projects around your home that you need to get done, you may want to call Task Rabbit. As the saying goes, Time is Money! Sometimes it pays to hire someone to do a task you don’t have the skill set or time to do. Some examples include: lifting and shifting heavy items, mounting a TV or mirror, house cleaning, yard work, handyman work and even putting together furniture. Why do I see Task Rabbit in my future? Perhaps I’ll be calling them to help with furniture assembly after the fun with the bedside tables!
Where to find FREE boxes. If you need boxes for moving or otherwise, stop by your local U-Haul. Often people will rent their trucks and bring back gently used boxes that can’t be resold. You’d be surprised at what you can find there – for FREE! The other week I went to buy packing paper and wardrobes for our own house and when I asked for the wardrobes, the gal behind the desk asked if I was OK with used. I said “sure,” and she showed me where someone had just dropped off seven new wardrobes from a move earlier in the day. Had I purchased the seven new, it would’ve been over $100 just for the wardrobes. After we move, I’ll be able to pass these on to our client’s. If I had any room left in my car that day I would’ve grabbed a few boxes as well!
How Long to Save Your Tax Returns. Did you know that the IRS changed the guidelines for how long you need to save your tax returns? You only need to keep them for 3 years, not 7! Think of the space you can free up! You can learn more HERE. I see a shredding party in your future!
How quickly can you access your travel toiletries and other items? Do you have them stored in one location? Do you have what you need when it’s time for that long-awaited summer vacation and you are packing at the last minute or when you are packing quickly for a business trip?
A few quick steps: 1. Gather all of your current travel toiletries, accessories, etc… 2. Identify a location you will store all of these. It could be a drawer, an open top bin, a plastic box – wherever you have space. Consider how often you will access these items and that may help you determine the best use of space. 3. Make a list of missing items you need so you can purchase them the next time you are at the store to replenish your supplies. 4. After each vacation or business trip, that is the best time to replenish the toiletries and toiletries bags – this way you have what you need at your fingertips if you are packing at the last minute! One less thing to stress about when you are trying to get out of the house.
In the picture below, you will see a very tall drawer in a bathroom that I turned into a “travel drawer” for one client. It’s the bottom drawer in their master bath. While it’s easily accessible, because they travel a lot, it’s the bottom drawer since they don’t access it every day.
You will also see where I used some tall bins – these a 6x6x6 to containerize specific items in the drawer. Because of the height of the items, and the height of the drawer, I was able to take advantage of the height of the drawer, not just the base of it.
Project #2: Organize Your DVD’s
Do you struggle to find a specific DVD you want to watch? When was the last time you took inventory of your DVD’s? Summer is a great time to go through the DVD’s with kids and the family to see what you still want to watch again and which DVD’s you may want to free up to let another family watch.
Putting some structure around your DVD collection can make sitting down an easily accessing one much more enjoyable. Are you in the mood for a comedy, a musical or something more serious? A few quick steps: 1. Decided what your “genres” will be. Make a list. 2. Sort by genre. 3. Inventory how many are in each genre; this will allow you to shop for media bins, a storage piece or even in built-in cabinetry.
As you will see in the picture below, there is a very well-organized armoire! This is not how this piece was used prior to a move. The DVD’s were located in a couple of different areas of the former home and there were a lot of them! There were also a lot of VHS tapes, all of which we let go of. The ones we kept were of special moments and were digitized to a different type of media.
Once the DVD’s were at their new home, they were then combined with other DVD’s already in the house and then ultimately placed into these IRIS media bins, designed specifically for DVD’s. The armoire contains both DVDs and games and is in a central location near the TV area for easy access by the family; yet they don’t have to look at them every days because they are behind closed doors.
Project #3: Downsize and Organize You Children’s School and Art Work
Summer is the perfect time to sit down with your children and downsize and organize their school work and art work. If you do this each year – you’ll stay on top of it and it won’t become overwhelming. I encourage you to involve your kids in the decision making process of what to keep. Why? It fosters good “decision-making” skills which are vital to organizing. It will also be helpful to you later when you want their “stuff” out of your home! Trust me, I have been in so many homes where parents have kept all of the school/artwork “because someday their kids are going to want it all!” Guess what? They don’t. Then, you will likely feel guilty getting rid of it and just keep it all – which will of course become a challenge when you decide to move.
You will need to set some boundaries around how much you will keep. This will have to do with how much space you have to store it. You may decide to keep it all in a bin of a certain size – and you can keep only what fits in the bin. Even if you don’t do anything more with the school and artwork than this, you have made great progress!
Taking it one step further, you can take photos of the school work and artwork – remember, not all artwork is flat; some is 3-dimensional and even more difficult to store – and turn the photos into a photo album. We started doing this with a family several years ago. They do all of the downsizing of art and school work on their own and then we take the pictures and make two books for each child; one with school work and one with artwork.
You can do this too – it’s super easy and inexpensive with services like Shutterfly and think of the space you will save when everything is now in one book that can live on your coffee table or bookshelf to enjoy year-round? In fact, some of your children may be old enough and enjoy making their own books and it can become a fun summer project for them!
Dolly. Truck and muscle anytime you need it! (Their words, not mine.) Dolly is currently in only four cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago. Whether you are moving or not, you can use their app to find someone that can help move furniture around in your home, go pick up the furniture you just purchased, haul away stuff you don’t need or get rid of materials from a remodel. You tell them what time you need the resource (no delivery windows!) and you find out the price up front and pay and tip all through the app. This was a new service I had not heard of that our Specialists were using with clients to help with some recent moves, and thought you might want to know about it as well.
U-Haul. We’ve always advised our clients to purchase packing paper at U-Haul because it is the least expensive and the best paper to work with that they are able to purchase. In the past, we’ve advised against buying boxes at U-Haul because they were two-three times more expensive than what you’d pay at Home Depot or Lowes. Recently, U-Haul dropped their box prices to be in line with Home Depot and Lowes, so now it’s one-stop shopping!
ViaLibri. The world’s largest marketplace for old, rare, and out-of-print books. So many of our clients want to know what some of their books are worth – here is a resource where you can start your research.
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