Time for ‘spring clearing’? Call a pro

The first clue you might need help is that you have a junk drawer. It might be in the kitchen, or maybe it’s in the laundry room.

“Everyone who calls has a junk drawer, maybe two or three,” says Regina Lark, a de-clutter expert and professional organizer and speaker — she spoke on “Spring Clearing” at the Ebell of Los Angeles last month via Zoom.

She is also an author —“Psychic Debris: Crowded Closets: The Relationship Between the Stuff in Your Head and What’s Under Your Bed” is in its third edition — and she is a productivity coach.

She was helping a client move when COVID-19 stopped us all in our tracks in mid-March.

While moving is an “essential business,” and her business specializes in residential, estate and corporate moves, the virtual organizing side of her business has risen exponentially.
Read more…

Should This Stay, or Should This Go?

Should it Stay, or Should it Go?

Professional Fiduciaries are first responders. They are often first to advocate for the welfare and well-being of a new client, and, more often than not, first to step foot in the door of a home overrun with benign neglect, or, basically intact but filled with a huge number of things. 

Responsible for the health, welfare, and fiscal oversight of their clients, Fiduciaries are called upon to make some hard decisions. Sometimes this means finding room for caregivers or divesting a home filled with a trove of old and new treasures. 

Your client lives here

Home is where the heart is. It is also the place of deferred dreams and incomplete projects. It is the place where folks stash their bowling trophies, grandma’s plated silver, and signed first editions. Over years the home becomes the repository for everything life has to offer – clothes, kitchenware, and place-settings. The “average” household often contains the possessions of adult children who had long ago moved from the family home but never quite got around to removing yearbooks and toys,always organized Barbie dolls high school ephemera, and everything else assigned to the category of “memories.” Don’t forget the so-called “collectibles” – from Hummels and Barbie dolls to entire runs of Playboy and National Geographic magazines. 

Why do we own so much stuff? It’s a difficult question to answer. Older adults who lived through America’s “Great Depression” tell us that growing up with nothing means holding on to everything. While that may or may not be true, I wonder how we understand younger generations’ seemingly insatiable consumption, or how we account for the growth of self storage

Fiduciaries will of course come across clients’ self-storage units. Dark and depressing, public storage facilities are frigid cold in the winter, overwhelmingly hot in the summer. With a multitude of enticements to bring in the customer, it takes a lot of time and planning to get out. If you’ve seen A&E’s Storage Wars you know that there’s no guarantee of hidden treasures behind the padlocked door.

Hold tight

We tend to cling to our things for two very broad reasons. First, we don’t want to let go of stuff we may need “someday” (note cards, car wax, vases), or that we may wear again “someday” (golf shirts, skinny jeans). Of course any and all items may have future use but if we’re not already in the habit of writing notes or losing weight, then these “someday” items do not have current value; they just clutter our lives today. At the same time, we hold on to things that have been in our lives forever such as Grandma’s good china, music boxes, report cards – contain therein our “memories,” along with the stories we attach to each and very item. 

With a tight hold on that which we may need someday (the future), and an emotional hold on that which has already happened (the past), our “stuff” tends to hang around. The longer it hangs around, the value of the “stuff” either increases or decreases.  

It’s tricky business determining the value of art and clothing, furniture, first editions, and the array of what is unearthed in clearing the path for what’s next in the life of the client or the life of a trust.  And so I asked a pro. 

collectables can be organized in reduced space or sold as part of decluttering What is it really worth? 

Joe Baratta, the vice president of Business Development & Valuations with Abell Auction Co., is a USPAP-qualified generalist appraiser with over 15 years’ experience helping fiduciaries separate “the wheat from the chaff.” I caught up with Joe at his home in Los Angeles to talk about the value of “stuff” he comes across when he’s called in to appraise the contents of the Fiduciary clients’ home. 

Everyone has “stuff,” some of which is brought home to serve an immediate need (a bed or a dresser) or purchased because of the item’s perceived “someday” value. “Beanie Babies” are a perfect example of this,” Joe surmised. The stuffed toys had a high market value at a particular time but many people held on to their “collection” believing that the value would soar the longer it remained in their possession which hasn’t been the case (although there are exceptions). True collectors follow the appropriate markets for their collections through trade shows and major auction houses. Still, anything that is mass produced will usually not hold its original value nor see an increase in value. 

Joe offers compelling insights about what he sees daily. Fiduciaries may find this information helpful when faced with downsizing a client’s home: 

  • Traditional dark wood furniture (tables, cabinets, couches) – not all dark wood furniture  held its value due to mass production over many decades. Chairs with cushions could be reupholstered especially if the bones of the chair are in good shape (think Eames or similar), and these items are often in high demand. 
  • Technically, an “antique” describes any item produced 100 years ago, or, before the year 1920. Still, not all antiques are desirable in the current market.  
  • The Industrial Revolution of the 1870s led to the mass production of wash basins (before indoor plumbing), armoires (most homes didn’t have closets), and sewing baskets (when people repaired or sewed their own clothes). 
  • Samovars: Every Eastern European family brought one or more to the US as these were important to family ceremonies, and carry a lot of sentiment. While some samovars have value, there is a large supply of them without much demand for today’s market.
  • Supply and demand: By mid-20th century, the marketplace was saturated with formal dining tables, china sets, table linens, silver sets, chafing dishes, ice buckets, and other forms of items designed for their entertainment value. 
  • Front entry, living room and dining room are the areas of the house where families display their most “prized” possessions – from art to furniture to home decor. 
  • Tricks of the trade: when Joe walks into a home, the first thing he notices are the walls – “Money is on the walls… most people want to show off their art. They are proud of what they accomplished.” 
  • Flora Dania Royal Copenhagen is among the most valuable dish sets today. 
  • The politics of “value:” When China closed their borders in the early 20th century, so too did the outflow of Chinese goods. Today, many wealthy Chinese are paying high margins to repatriate items seen as valuable to their upper-class heritage (Chinese silks, scrolls art, porcelain, furniture). Similar to Russia after the fall of the Berlin wall (think religious icons, Faberge, Russian silver – considered very valuable mid-1990s through early 2000). 
  • $10,000 and generational attitudes: Our grandparents may have used the money to buy something to enhance the home (think beautiful oil painting in an expensive frame). Baby Boomers’ purchases may extend to fine dining and travel. The millennial mindset covets watches and handbags. 

A Clear Path can coordinate the valuation and selling of collections as part of their organizing serviceBottom line

People have hard time letting go of items, regardless of perceived or real value. The family members in possession of the “family jewels” are stewards to protect the family legacy. Joe reminds us, “We’re custodians of items and feel obligated to hold on to at least some of it because of our family connection.” 


Creative Ways to Maximize Space in a Small House

Updated on February 19th, 2020

When you have a smaller home, every inch of space counts! If you’re feeling cramped in your tight quarters, don’t worry, making a small space more livable can be easy. To help you get started, we asked organizational experts for their best tips and tricks for maximizing space in a small area. Check them out and you’ll feel like you’re living large in no time.  Read more

De-clutter and Toss, Purge and Plan

Getting Ready for Your Next Move

“I wanted to poke my eyes out…”

…said my new client, Kaye. Before doing anything too drastic, Kaye hired my team of Ninja organizers to finally get her long-awaited move underway. Prior to our arrival, Kaye thought she would de-clutter, toss, and purge all the stuff she didn’t use any longer…but discovered that the process wasn’t easy and was taking a lot longer than she really had time for. 

So she invited friends to help but they did more talking and partying than getting down to any real work. 

While trying to figure out next steps, Kaye started calling around to moving companies. At the end of that day she scheduled 3 appointments with three different companies. At the end of that week, not a single mover showed up for the appointment

Speaking with and helping to organize a move can be overwhelming, but a professional organizer is a solution

The final straw occurred when trying to find the least expensive place to purchase moving supplies.  Kaye realized she had no idea how many boxes she would need and she didn’t have a truck to bring it all home in. 

 

“I wanted to poke my eyes out…” 

 

As anyone who has ever moved knows: relocating from one home to another stands as one of the top 3 stressors in the lives of most people. Planning ahead can make a difference – but as Kaye knows, even good planning can fall short.

 

This week, CBS News announced a new government program, Protect Your Move, created to address what’s become known as “hostage load.”  Out of 36 million moves this year, 1 in 10 movers will file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that their carriers are looking for more money that initially agreed for hauling their belongings which is different from what they were originally told.  

Trusting your mover has never been more important.

With all the things that can go wrong in a move, I always encourage people tog et references and ask friends, talk with the neighbor most recently moved into your neighborhood, look online for a “moving checklist” – like this one from Real Simple magazine!Trusting a monolithic moving company can be daunting, but you can trust a professional organizer to help with all aspects of the move.

A good Realtor will have a tried and true referral list for moving companies and professional organizers.  Ask for a referral!

For a project as big as any move don’t try to handle everything yourself, instead, surround yourself with people you can trust, take careful notes and , read every contract thoroughly.  

You’ll be glad you did. 

Thanks for reading!

3rd Edition of Psychic Debris, Crowded Closets by Regina F Lark, Ph. D.

You might be interested in a free copy of the Table of Contents and 1st Chapter of my Book

Download a complimentary copy of the 1st Chapter of Regina's 3rd Edition of her book, Psychic Debris

Dr. Regina Lark 

regina@aclearpath.net


PS: Did you know we fold our fees into escrow?

 

Are there 300,000 Things in a Home?

300,000 Things in a Home

I didn’t begin my professional life as an organizer. Rather, I spent the bulk of my career in higher education – as a student, a professor, and an administrator. Budget cuts in 2008 led to a job lay-off at the tender age of 50. It was the beginning of the 2008 recession and the first time in my life that I couldn’t find a job. So I created one.

In those first few months of stepping foot into A Clear Path, I read everything I could put my hands on the topic of de-cluttering and organizing. One thing I remember reading impressed the hell out of me: The average household contains about 300,000 things.

In order to grow my company, I needed clients, which I found by speaking to numerous groups and organizations about clutter, and where I often referenced “300,000 things.”

Are there really 300,000 things in a home. Probably if you count every little thing.

I’ve asked some colleagues and a few clients to conduct informal surveys in their clients’ home or in their own home. We’ve concluded that items in homes could very well number up 300,000 if one were to count every single thing from underpants to office supplies to photographs to silverware.

I’m serious. Go room-by-room in your home, starting with the kitchen. Count:
• pots and pans and lids
• storage containers (and their lids!)
• utensils, plates, cups and bowls
• spices
• cereal boxes

You get where I’m going? Next up, do the living room.
• Books in bookcases, tsotchkies on shelves
• TV, speakers, laptops, and myriad techy stuff
• A couch, chairs, and fluffy pillows

Dining room? Where do you eat? Count chairs, a table, cupboard, and table linens. And don’t forget candle holders and candles.

I often see a lot of stuff in home offices. My clients love office supply stores, and here’s what they take home:
• Packets of Post-it Notes in several sizes and colors and shapes.
• Copy paper, envelopes, file folders, hanging file folders, boxes filled with notecards and thank you notes, and birthday cards.
• Wrapping paper.
• Tape, scissors, stapler and staples.
• This is actually a nearly endless list – but you get the drift.
• Oh, and don’t forget the box of cords.

A working desk, but a little too much clutter. Some good organizing can reduce this to a manageable state.

Let’s move to the bedroom. How many pair of black pants does one need to own? Start counting:
• Shirts and blouses
• Undergarments
• Socks, shoes, purses, totes, robes, work-out clothes, jackets, belts. And all the furniture.

Don’t forget the bathroom.

And this is a small house!

I’ve often wondered if I had it in me to conduct a study about the average number of items the average household contained. If 300,000 things is where we land, it would be nice to finally put the query to bed. And I will never be out of work again.

 

3rd Edition of Psychic Debris, Crowded Closets by Regina F Lark, Ph. D.

You might be interested in a free copy of the Table of Contents and 1st Chapter of my Book

Download a complimentary copy of the 1st Chapter of Regina's 3rd Edition of her book, Psychic Debris

How to Keep Comic Books in Mint Condition with Proper Storage

The proper storage of comic books is not complex. After all, artifacts made of paper and ink are among the most durable objects ever devised by humanity. If a comic book is a physical object designed to transmit important information through visual media, then it is surely among the most indestructible forms ever made. Practically nothing that you can do to a comic book would significantly impact your ability to read it. However, that is probably not the only value that you were thinking of. You are probably thinking of the value to collectors, and as everyone knows, the more pristine and unblemished a comic is, the more money it might be worth to the very richest collectors. Read more…

TOP TIPS: ORGANIZING FOR VACATION

Vacations require a lot of planning and list-making. It’s not just you that must become ready for your trip, but you’ll want to prepare your neighbors, deal with the mail, leave instructions for co-workers, and make plans to board your animals or arrange for house sitting. Whether you’re away for a long weekend or a month-long trip, pre-planning can take the anxiety out of preparing for some fun!

So if your summer plans give you an opportunity to get away for a while, here are our Top 10 Tips to get you on your way!

Happy trails to you!

1. Tell friends, family, and trusted neighbors where you are going and for how long. How might they can reach you in case of an emergency? Have the post office put your mail on hold if you will be gone for an extended amount of time. Be sure to contact your credit card company if you are traveling oversees. It is not uncommon for charges made in other countries to be “flagged” due to increasing credit card fraud/theft.

2. Make sure everything is up to date, specifically your passport and ID card. Confirm your reservations, pet or house sitter, the person who will water your plants, etc. Pay your bills or set up an auto-pay so you don’t have to pay late fees when you return.

3. Organize your home before you travel. In addition to cleaning as you normally would, clean out the refrigerator, take out the trash, do the laundry, spray for bugs, etc. Think of chores that are typically a hassle to do and need to be done only occasionally such as sharpening your knives. Take this time to take care of it.

4. Make lists. You should make a “Before We Leave” Checklist and a “To Pack” checklist. You don’t want to end up paying $8 for toothpaste at the Walgreens on the Las Vegas Strip. If you are not sure what you need to do before your leave or what to pack, click HERE for a for a “Before We Leave” checklist and HERE for a “To Pack” checklist to get yourself started.

5. Prepare your vehicle. Get the oil changed, fill the tires with air, check when the last time a major service happened and when it is needed again (found in the vehicles manual), etc. These kinds of checks will ensure you are not stranded on the side of the road. Bring jumper cables, a first-aid kit, flares and emergency supplies just in case that happens. I like to wash my car before a major road trip so the inside is clean and smells nice.

6.Fully charge electronic devices and don’t forget to bring the chargers. For some reason, chargers seem to be the easiest thing to forget and one of the more expensive items to replace when you are visiting a different area.

7. Create an itinerary. Itineraries are great tools because you know/decide what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. You can get the most out of being a tourist, or being on time if you’re on a business trip. Some important information to keep on your itinerary is:

  • Flight numbers/times and the confirmation numbers
  • Emergency contacts
  • Airport transportation information
  • Subway/bus maps
  • Local contacts (rental car companies, hotels, airlines)
  • Addresses of places you want to visit
  • If you are out of the country, the embassy number and address, and photograph your luggage, passport, and credit cards to keep on your cell phone.

8. When you travel, you should be sure to carry some essentials with you. Bring some snacks, drinks, and entertainment (tablet, book, magazine, crossword, knitting, playing cards, etc.) to help make the adventure fun. Take this time to not work, avoid email, and indulge in some hobbies you never really have time to do.

9. When you come back to your clean home, unpack immediately. Who knows when you will “get to it.” The easiest place to start is emptying all of your dirty clothes into the hamper and starting laundry.

I hope this makes vacationing less stressful!

Thanks for reading,

— Regina Lark

Top 10 Tips: Spring Clearing 2019

Spring is a good time to donate your un-used and unwanted items that take up valuable space in your home. You will lighten your load, reduce your carbon footprint, and feel better about your surroundings, and your donation is tax deductible! Others will benefit from your desire to clear your path of unwanted stuff! At the end of the Top 10 Springtime List below you will find a link for suggestions about where to donate darned near everything you no longer need or want. 

The Top 10 Springtime List of where many people store or stash and what is in those places, the stuff they probably no longer need: 

1. Kitchen: donate duplicate appliances, gadgets, pots, pans, coffee mugs and glasses to women’s shelters or thrift stores.

 

2. Bathroom: women’s shelters need unused soaps and shampoo (travel size from hotel stays, etc). 

3. Living room: Pack up those videos, DVDs, or CDs that no longer suit your listening or viewing tastes. Your multi-media boxes may be donated to thrift stores or GreenDisc.com 

4. Bedroom: in a word, clothes. Go through your closet and dresser drawers. Donate what you haven’t worn for a year or more, or what no longer fits, or you never really liked. Thrift stores will take your unwanted clothing. On the donation list below you will find places that want women’s business attire for poor women entering the job market. 

5. Kids’ rooms: Toys! Ask your children for input about toys and books they have outgrown, never played with, or otherwise will never use and donate to local shelters, churches, or thrift stores. 

6. Hall closets: empty hangers, suitcases and backpacks may go to thrift stores. Unused linen and towels to animal shelters

7. Dining room: napkins and tablecloths; wine glasses, decanters, water pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, platters and serving bowls. Unless these items are seasonal, choose your best and donate the rest to your local thrift store. 

8. Backyard: planters and pots, gardening hand tools, lawn ornaments gathering cobwebs near overgrown plants to Goodwill or similar place. 

9. Garage: sports equipment, sneakers, dust-collecting household tsotchkes that you will never use again but which never quite made it to the Goodwill. Board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, checkers and Backgammon remain popular thrift store items (just be sure you have all the pieces). These things can be donated to a thrift store. 

10. Book shelves: clear your bookcase of novels, “how to” books, or any book that you are certain you will never read again. Public libraries appreciate your donations. 

11. Bonus! Here’s a great list for where to donate and recycle a whole lot of stuff! https://aclearpath.net/resources/ 

Regina Lark
A Clear Path
www.AClearPath.net
regina@aclearpath.net 

Images used are from the following sites
serenehousecleaning.com/index.php/2016/06/10/organize-the-garage/
designsponge.com/2016/11/10-well-organized-kitchens.html
closetamerica.com/how-deep-clean-your-walk-closet-organized-look-year-round 

 

The Myth of Tidying Up

When someone calls upon the services of a Professional Organizer, rarely is the service one in which the Organizer is asked to “tidy up.” More likely, the person calling the Organizer has determined that her home is greatly impacted by miles of files and 8-tracks and cables. Stacks of newspapers cover floors and tables are laden with, well, everything. The person calling has finally thrown in the towel, conceding she doesn’t  possess the ability – either physically, cognitively, or emotionally – to roll up her sleeves and tidy up. When a chronically disorganized person calls upon the services of an Organizer, the living space is light years from the “tidying up” phase.

The country is a-buzz with tidying up. A Netflix program, “Spark Joy,” has taken us by storm! Keep grandma’s flatware set if it sparks joy; thank the item and wish it farewell, if it does not. Audiences seem to be as fascinated with “Spark Joy” as they are with “Hoarders: Buried Alive.” The common denominator is, stuff.

In my life before organizing, I taught history as a community college professor. History, algebra, earth science, political science, psychology, and about twenty other required and elective courses comprise the curriculum of an Associative Arts degree. I could easily make the case that certain pieces of data, or perhaps an equation, or maybe even knowledge concerning events of the past may become useful at one point along the adult life-cycle. The AA degree is a compilation of knowledge and information that scholars and others deemed necessary for a traditional education.

When a potential client calls for help, I can’t help but notice, that what was not taught in school are the very things we encounter every single day of our lives: papers and “stuff.” Since we aren’t taught what to “do” with that which we bring through the front door multiple times each day, we stack, pile, overload, and overwhelm our space. I scratch my head and wonder why home organizing, or paper-training-for-people, is never a part of any curriculum, at any age, on any level.

Back to the cable shows. We are fascinated with other people’s “stuff.” We’re either trying to figure out how to de-clutter our own “too much stuff,” or we look over the shoulder of the person who hoards and think “thank goodness I don’t have THAT much stuff.”

Professional Organizers are in a unique position to ensure that the homes of our clients are made safe, healthy, and accessible. The “stuff” we encounter? It’s just “stuff” – and the acquiring of “too much” is learned behavior. Transforming external spaces is something we organizers do really well; helping our clients transform the internal spaces [managing time, relationships to stuff, behaviors, etc.] is an ongoing process. For the chronically disorganized, “tidying up” is never a one and done deal. It’s fantasy to think clearing the clutter magically cleared away the very habits that created the crowded spaces, making “tidying up” less a reality [show] and more of an urban myth.

Top 10 Grateful Tips

1. Thankful for the memories. If you save items because of the joy they bring you, rather than utilitarian function, display them in a manner that keeps the objects from cluttering your home but are still visible. The above items are places into a box that is the same size as the table and then covered with glass so the items are visible and the table is still functional.

2. Thankful for the unused space behind the sofa that allows more storage space. In general, there are a lot of places in the home that are often overlooked or are a space we would not ordinarily think we can use. The accent table behind the couch allows for more space to place items you would want when you’re on the couch or passing by it.

3. Thankful to those that help us keep our home comfortable and clutter-free. Whether it is friends or family at one point another person has helped us keep our home organized. Although, it helps to assign chores or write a “to-do” list to be checked off daily to ensure that no task is forgotten.

4. Thankful for inventions made for people that can’t help but forget something when rushing out the front door.

5. Thankful for hidden storage. Furniture that doubles as storage is becoming increasingly easier to find. Although, it is not hard to create a cluttered “junk” pile in hidden storage spaces because no one sees it.

6. Thankful for visual people that create fun ways to stay organized. Something interactive like a wall (literally)-calendar brings to the user. Not only does a calendar create an entertaining and visually appealing way to keep track of monthly events, but it also encourages the user to actually use the calendar and help with time management by taking up the whole wall.

7. Thankful to park your car in the garage. It’s not uncommon for the garage to become an extension of your house rather than a place to park your vehicles. If it is necessary to store items, do so in an organized fashion. Utilize wall space to help.

8. Thankful for pets! Though pets also can dirty your home, they inspire creative solutions to help us live in organization.

9. Thankful for closet space. Closets can be turned into a mud room, office, reading room, storage center…basically a closet can be anything you want it to be! If there is a closet in your home or office that is fully being used, use the closet to create a productive space.

10. Thankful FOR YOU. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have an incredibly diverse and unique clientele that inspires me in the work that I do. I am grateful for my clients, colleagues, friends, family, followers for supporting the work I do helping others. I’m especially thankful for the Clear Path team: Mary, Cathy, Tina, Kimi, Joyous, Nicole, Stephanie, Toni, Richard, and Liam. I would not be where I am without you.