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Clearing an Estate? Read “They Left Us Everything”

Today I am reviewing a booked written by Plum Johnson, They Left Us Everything  a memoir. She is a Canadian author from Oakville, Ontario. It is an easy to read , novel style story about her experience emptying her parent’s home.  Once you start reading it you become engaged in the story and can’t put the book down. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotions:  sad, humorous, happy and thoughtful.

Paperback book, They Left Us Everything

by Plum Johnson

Many people have had the experience of going through years of possessions and trying to figure out

  • how to divide things between family members,
  • where to donate things,
  • the division of labour between family members on how the work will get completed and
  • when to sell the home.

This book takes the reader through the many pitfalls and solutions that Plum and her siblings discover to solve these difficult situations.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the chapter on how they divide up their parents’ possessions between the 4 siblings .  Plum has made an annotated inventory list complete with photographs, 422 items, 8 pages long.  There are two categories; one for all the furnishings that have been appraised and priced and one for historical items that were considered priceless. They take turns picking things off the list until everything is gone.  It is very interesting to read the how the process goes, who selects which items and why, and how competitive they can be during this process.

The book has practical suggestions but mostly it gives the reader emotional and psychological insights into the relationships that they have with their parents and that their parents have with each other.  It also shows how these relationships affect how they experience dealing with their parents’ possessions. Learning from their experiences can help each of us to understand the many layers of feelings that affect each of us and our relationships with people and “stuff”

A few memorable thoughts from the book are;

  1. “The most valuable things come from within yourself”
  2. “Are you untangling the stuff in the house or untangling yourself from your parents?”
  3. “Gradually things in the house relinquished their hold on us.”

Post a comment about the part of the book you liked best or a tip to make clearing an estate easier.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

5 W’s of Downsizing

Scaling down

Great ideas for downsizing, moving or moving a family member

Whether you are moving from a house to an apartment, retirement home or you have already done this but still have abundance in your home and want to scale down even more understanding the where, why,who how and what can make the decisions easier.

Where does all the stuff come from?

It may not even be your stuff.  Some of us have things from your parents downsizing that ended up at your house because your Mom and Dad didn’t want to give it away but didn’t have room, so out of respect to your parents you stored it at your house. Perhaps your children have moved out but their stuff hasn’t.

Why do we keep so much?

During the depression we learned to keep an iron grip on anything that might still have some good in it. Then we were encouraged to buy, buy, and buy and to acquire every luxury we could afford.  Next, items began to be manufactured so cheaply that when you couldn’t find it you bought another. The Reagan years were about visible consumption.  We had TV shows like the Lifestyles OF THE Rich and Famous.  We started competing with millionaires. Perhaps you have spent 40 years accumulating and now you are spending time getting rid of excess.

Who is downsizing?

The first thing is for YOU to make the decision that it is necessary to do it.  Not because your spouse or your sister or friend says you should.  Just like losing weight or quitting smoking, it has to be your decision otherwise you won’t be successful.  It is a hard process not only because it can be very physical but there are a lot of emotions that go with it and it can be a long process.  Our culture seems to think that building up is inherently better than scaling down. Fewer luxuries make you appear to be a less successful person.  The idea that some people judge your worth by the things you own, rather than by your personality and achievements can stop you from downsizing. It can be life changing to let go of your things.  When the process is over, you may feel

  • less stressed,
  • sleep better,
  • have more time to be with family, grandchildren or even travel.

Scaling down does not mean renouncing your own style. It means stripping away things that no longer fit or do not contribute to making your lifestyle easier.  You want to be able to find the things you need and love.

How? Make a Plan

Once you have made your decision to downsize or streamline, before you begin the process it is important to know what you want as the outcome, set a goal of what you ultimately want it to look like. If you’re moving – you need to know room sizes and what are the absolute must have large items like a bed, couches, dressers, antiques etc.  Write it all down.  Once you know what you want, and what it should look like and visualize the end product then you start to go through your things.  It will help make the decisions easier, because you can see if it will fit your plan.

What is stopping you?

If you are the type of person that has a hard time getting rid of things, try to understand why it is difficult for you.

  • Are you sentimental?
  • Do you like to be in control?
  • Is it about pride?
  • Do you hate making decision?
  • Is it too painful to revisit certain parts of your life?

Being honest with yourself makes the process easier.

When?

Schedule time to do it when you are not rushed and do one room, box or corner. Give yourself a set amount of time, if you feel you want to continue then great, but don’t become overwhelmed.

Here are some steps you can take to tackle the job

  • Set up a few boxes or bins and label them.  Charity, family, garbage, recycle, keep.
  • While sorting, group like with like.  Put all your books together, electronics, collections, paper etc.

At the end of the session

  • take the donated items to the front door or even better right out to your car so that you will drop it off
  • put the recycling out
  • put the garbage out
  • move items that you are returning to other people close to the door

When deciding whether you should give it away, go back to your plan and see if it,

  •  will fit into your space
  • will go with your new design or décor.
  • If not donate.

After grouping all the items you can then see how much you really have and you may need to donate some more items.

Collections and Antiques

The hardest thing for people to let go of are their collections and antiques especially, if they belonged to a parent or a loved one that has passed. Ask youself:

  • Do you have room for them?
  • If they end up in storage or in a box how treasured are they?
  • Could you just keep one or two and give away the rest?
  • Can you take pictures of them?
  • Do some research to see if they are evaluable and have someone sell it on e-bay for you or contact an antique dealer?

If you don’t have room for it give it to a family member that has the same passion for collecting so they can enjoy it and you can visit.  Invite a people over for brunch.  After the meal show them the items you are giving away and let them select things that have meaning for them.

Staying surrounded by things that remind you of the past or which you respond to predictably may prevent you from moving ahead with your life.   Remember they are just things you will still have the memories.  After you have completed downsizing you will end up with a beautiful home, filled only with what you need and love, that uses every inch of space the way you want. You will have control over your environment and freedom from chaos.

Need help with downsizing, contact Mind over Clutter for a one hour free assessment in-person or virtually over Skype.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Photo Organizing

Many people have photos in boxes just waiting to have time to organize them.  This cold winter weather maybe just the right time for you.

As you look over the photos you may not be able to remember when you took the picture, the year or date.  Instead of organizng the photos chronologically think about using themes.  Sort your pictures into celebrations, vacations, family, friends, pets and homes etc.  Once you have your pictures grouped than you can decide if you want to scan them, place them in boxes with dividers or scrapbook your photos.

Enjoy spending time with your memories. If you need help regaining control of your photos and memories, I am ready to take on the challenge. Photo Organizers work with clients to sort through images, find connecting themes, neatly catalogue and edit them into photo narratives and albums that clients are proud to share – now and for years to come. Association of Personal Photo Organizers

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

 

Start Organizing your Garden Now – Tips from a Professional

My guest blogger is Ron Thiessen of Thiessen Farms .  logo1large2He has been farming  all his life.  As a child he worked with his dad and then took over the farm.  He sells his produce at markets and has developed a Community Supported Agricultural Program (CSA) of over 200 families who buy a share of his crops and pick up their produce every week at his farm from May to October. He is located in Jordan Station, Ontario , Canada.  He has written on organizing your seeds, choosing your crops and charting their progress.

Crop Planning and  Choosing Seeds

Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato

Brads-Atomic-Grape

“Elongated cherries in clusters. The colour (and flavor!) is a full-blown assault on the senses – lavender and purple stripes when immature, turning to technicolor olive-green, red, and brown/blue stripes when fully ripe. Really wild! … this amazing variety a good candidate for market growers …” (from www.rareseeds.com)

When we saw this new tomato in a seed catalogue it immediately became a must grow variety for Thiessen Farms in 2017. It looks and sounds amazing!

And when we found seed for the hottest-of-hot peppers – Ghost, Carolina Reaper & Trinidad Scorpion – there was no doubt that they would be on the list too, along with Glass Gem corn, Superschmelz kohlrabi and Golden Wa Wa cabbage.

Coloured kernels of corn on a cob

Glass Gem Corn

Superschmelz kohlrabi

I’ll admit it. We’re suckers for a cool sounding name and a fancy description. That’s why our seed list has grown to more than 450 varieties of  over 60 different vegetables and herbs. But it’s really a cheap thrill. For a few bucks we get to try something new. Sometimes it will turn out great and become a favourite. Other times it’s a disappointment and we never grow it again. But it’s always fun experimenting!

The first week in January is always seed ordering time. We pour over the seed catalogues devouring the particulars of all the vegetables, herbs & flowers, choosing the varieties we will grow in the upcoming season. The selection of seeds is overwhelming making it a delightful yet daunting task.

Here’s how we make our choices …

1. We know what we grew in previous years.

We keep a master list – a spreadsheet that names each crop and  variety we grew last season, the amount of seed we have on hand, the year purchased, the company it came from, and the number of days from seeding until harvest. This gives us someplace to start. When the seeds are ordered, all this data is updated & any new varieties are added and those we will not be growing are eliminated.

2. We keep good records – an awful lot of records.

We have a chart where we record every seed we sow in the greenhouse – the date we seeded, the amount, the date the first seeds poked up through the soil, the date we transplanted them and how many, and a spot for random comments. We have more charts where we record everything that gets planted out in the fields – whether it is direct seeded or transplanted from the greenhouse, the variety, the amount, the date. Throughout the growing season we make written notes – both quick observations that we jotted down on the run and more formal evaluations of the different vegetables and how they grew, and produced, their yields, taste, plant health … Photographs are also very helpful for this and  so easy to take with cellphones. We find these records invaluable and refer back to them often.

3. As commercial growers we look to our customers for information 

What crops sold well and which ones did not, what caught the customers attention, what vegetables are they asking for … We have more charts. For each day at the farmers’ market we record what we brought, how much we sold, the prices and the weather for the day. There are similar charts for each Community Support Agricultural Program (CSA )pick-up. These give us a clear picture of what to grow and how much based on actual sales.

4. What would be fun and interesting to grow!

We always try to grow something new that we have not done before. Recent examples include kalettes , cauliflower  artichokes and fava beans.

The seeds are arriving almost daily now

Close to 500 packets of seeds – different sized envelopes, some paper, some foil, even a cloth bag or two, and at least one larger 25 pound sack (snow peas). Add in any leftover seeds from other years, various jars of seed that I saved myself, and we end up with well over 600 different containers of seeds.That’s a lot of seed to deal with and to keep organized!

Proper storage is necessary to keep the seeds viable 

Cool and dry storage being the most important conditions. We keep the seeds in our workshop in small, plastic shoe boxes. A label on the lid notes what seeds are inside. These plastic boxes are then stored in larger plastic bins all with secure lids. This keeps them dry, clean & safe from curious animals (ie cats, or even mice – in case the cats are not doing their job!).And there the seeds wait until it’s time to plant them.

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What have you learned from Ron Thiessen a commercial grower that will help you to organize your garden this year?

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

 

Paper or Electronic To Do Lists, What Keeps You Organized?

Check Your List

People have tried to find electronic solutions for most things that used to be done by paper.  However would a paper To Do list work better for you than an electronic one?  Here is a thought provoking blog post on the topic.  Which ever system works best for you, you must check your list. People will make lists but not look at them.  Use a system that keeps your to do list on your mind.

Why the Old-School Paper To-Do List Is Superior as a Productivity Tool (& How to Make It Work for You in Under 5 Minutes)
 There are lots of styles of To Do Lists, let me help you find the one the works for you during an in person or virtual appointment.

 

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Organize Your Valentine’s Gift

Looking for that perfect clutter free Valentine’s Day Gift?  One that says:

  • I understand you,
  • I want you to be happy,
  • I want to make your life easier

 

Great Valentine's Ideas

Let’s get organized

Contact Julie if you need help making this happen.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Organize your Craft Room and Gain Peace of Mind

I have organized a lot of sewing rooms and craft rooms.  I know my clients enjoy their new spaces and are very talented people.  I never thought about it from a mental health perspective.  Annabelle Short from Wunderlabel has put together a great infographic.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sewing can help you express your creative side and gain better peace of mind. And in addition to granting you greater mental health, it can actually keep you healthy as well. If you want greater peace of mind and less clutter in your life, check out this infographic from Wunderlabel to see the 16 ways in which Sewing can make you healthier!

health benefits of sewing

Manage Technology Before It Manages You

By Harold Taylor

One of my favourite newsletters is by Harold Taylor.  He is a Time Management Expert.  Sometimes I feel like I am old and live in the past.  This article  so clearly states my views about technology that I see that my past helps me to manage my future.

An online poll of over 1000 Canadian adults (Angus Reid/Vision Critical Toronto Star, January 26, 2013) revealed that 90% of the respondents believed their smartphones made their lives more convenient. So convenient, evidently, that 30% of them went online before getting out of bed, 31% at the dinner table, 29% in the washroom and 42% before falling asleep at night,

Smartphones may be smart, but they lack intelligence. Why are we so willing to be at the beck and call of an idiot? The Internet leads anywhere, which for the undisciplined means nowhere. Why browse away the hours? Email, computer games and social media are endless, but our time is not. Why do we behave as though we will live live forever?

Research shows that the Internet and digital technology can have a negative impact on our ability to learn, focus, pay attention, memorize and relate to others on a personal basis. It also gobbles up our time, encourages busyness and multitasking and stifles creativity.

The futures of our business, personal lives, and our nations do not depend on the development of technology, but on our ability to manage the technology we develop.

If you need help with time management routines please contact me. We can discuss different methods of time management during an in person or virtual appointment.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Virtual Organizing-Is it for You?

Sarah Buckwalter

Sarah Buckwalter

Certified Professional Organizer®, Sarah Buckwalter, has over 17 years of experience running an award-winning organizing business, Organizing Boston. With a desire to help everyone get organized, Sarah developed Organizing U. Organizing U offers a professional organizer directory, online courses and virtual organizing programs to help people live more organized lives. Organizing U also offers training programs for Professional Organizers.

organizingulogo-1

Virtual organizing is a new field for the Professional Organizing industry in Canada.  How well established is virtual organizing in the United States?

Virtual Organizing is a new field in the US as well. While there are a handful of organizers who are offering virtual organizing in the US, many are just learning about it and starting to explore it.

Virtual organizing will be the perfect solution for some people but not for others.  Who do you think benefits from virtual organizing as compared to working with a professional organizer in person?

The people who get the most benefit out of virtual organizing are those who are able to do the physical work themselves, but just need (or want) the direction and expertise of a professional. Virtual organizing is great for those who need some accountability while they work through their organizing project. If someone is unwilling or unable to do the work themselves then they will not benefit from virtual organizing.

When you are communicating with your virtual clients do you like to use the telephone or some other technology?  Which technologies have you found to work well for communicating with your clients?

I prefer to use video because you can see the space first hand. I think it allows you to achieve a greater connection with the client because it feels as though you are there with them. I find Skype and FaceTime to be the best platforms. Skype works on any device, so that would be my first choice.

When a client has hired you to work with them, what are your next steps in helping that client become organized?

My first step is always to create an organizing plan with the client. This helps outline the scope of the project for the client and is great to be able to refer to as we go to gauge progress and help stay on track. The next step is to set up a regular meeting schedule to see the process through. Then, we get started and work through the plan.

In all organizing jobs some clients are more successful with organizing and other clients continue to struggle. What tips do you have to make your clients’ organizing projects a success?
1. Have a written plan. It helps the client through the process to be able to check things off as you go.
2. I have a signature process that I apply to every organizing project. I find that organizing is more effective if clients can follow specific steps and apply the same process to each space.
3. Keep a consistent schedule. Don’t end the session without scheduling and creating a plan for the next session.
4. Go above and beyond. Clients will respond well to your extra efforts.

If you feel virtual organizing is something you would like to try, contact Mind over Clutter and discuss it with Julie.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

3 Tips for Organizing During A Divorce

This is an excerpt from a great article by Autumn Leopold .  Click on the link below to see the entire article

1) Give people the appropriate time and space they need to sort through items. If they need to stop and share some memories with you, let them. Do not judge or share your opinion just keep the process moving forward.

2) Be mindful of the children in the home. If they need to see or discuss some of the items you may be donating or throwing away, sit and let them get their feelings out. They may have some memories tied to those items that you aren’t aware of.

3) After the homes are separated, parents should do their best to create a new routine for children as quickly as possible. Do something new and change things up around the house. Get different bedding or a few decorative items to create a new environment for the healing to begin.

Organizing During A Divorce.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She enjoys working with her clients to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She reduces clutter, streamlines processes and manages time to help her clients be more effective in reaching their goals. Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

 

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