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A “key” to saving you hours of hassle!

- Author: Crystal


Making key copies takes just one quick trip to the hardware store and could save you a ton of problems down the road. (This I can tell you from experience!)

  • Make at least two copies of your house key and one of each of your car keys. Any hardware store should be able to do this for you. Be sure to test them out as soon as you get home.
  • Clearly label these extra keys.
  • Put one extra house key in your car and one extra car key in your house. Store keys in one consistent location so you’ll always find them when you need them.
  • Consider giving a key to neighbors and friends as backup.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Five summertime items for the trunk

- Author: Crystal

istock_000001826881xsmallAs you know, I don’t advocate for using your car as a storage facility, but I do keep a few frequently-used items in the trunk of my car when summertime rolls around:

  1. Reusable shopping bags and a basket for the farmers’ market
  2. Shoes and socks for impromptu walks before/after work (which, of course, is when the weather is cooler)
  3. Picnic blanket!
  4. Big straw sun hat
  5. Rain poncho

Got too much junk in your trunk? Here’s how to organize your car.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

What simplifying means to me

- Author: Crystal

ForestTo me, simplifying means heading down the path toward the following:

  • Emptying my calendar of obligations that don’t fulfill me or my family.
  • Curbing the addiction to material possessions (<—- click for article)
  • Eliminating as many of my subscriptions and memberships as I can.
  • Filling my life with fresh air, exercise and friends rather than new stuff.
  • Being grateful every day for something, even if infinitesimally small.

Readers, what does simplifying mean to you? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Inspiration

How to handle “I’ll deal with it later”

- Author: Crystal

istock_000003520880xsmall“I’ll deal with it later” is a phrase that folks commonly use to dismiss or avoid an important organizing task they don’t want to face at the moment. But “I’ll deal with it later” is also a subtle form of procrastination and has a tendency to contribute to a disorganized lifestyle.

I offer a simple, (albeit potentially slightly uncomfortable) exercise which can help curb this habit, at least for the short-term. Here’s how it works with my Sparkleize clients:

  • First, guide this person toward identifying the discrete action(s) that would be required for them to “deal with it later”. For example, let’s say the item in question is a box of miscellaneous junk. I often take my clients way outside the boundaries of their usual comfort zone by asking probing questions to identify the action required. To continue with the example, let’s say that ultimately they need to look at each item in the box and decide which items to keep and which to give to a donation center.
  • Next, encourage the person to write out these actions on the box itself – preferably by affixing a brightly colored sticky note indicating exactly what step(s) to take to “deal with” that box.
  • Finally, assign this task as homework to them, and follow up (or help them select another friend or family member to follow up).

This exercise — being forced to identify the discrete task and being accountable to getting it done — has the potential to help change procrastination habits. It establishes a tangible step that can be taken rather than their usual amorphous “deal with it later” which has no starting place. I suspect that the latter is a major factor in the feelings of being overwhelmed and difficulty making decisions which so often plague the disorganized.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know.

No Comments - Categories: Organizing 101

Our teeny front yard makeover

- Author: Crystal

A couple weeks ago my husband and I cleaned up and re-bordered one of our flower beds. We were inspired by this helpful article in the Washington Post which recommends (1) removing vegetation and (2) redefining lines. All in all, the project wasn’t too bad, and we can recommend it to you as a half day project that will leave you feeling accomplished. The following is what we did and the lessons we learned.




What it took:

We finished the whole project in about 4 hours including shopping time. Cost was $172 + tax for bricks and mulch. We used a leaf rake, grass shears, small hand saw and garden trowel.

What we did:

  • Clipped the monkey grass with shears; cut down small dead tree with saw.
  • Raked out all the dead leaves and debris.
  • Removed old soggy border.
  • Measured the border, bought bricks, laid bricks. (That was the fun part!)
  • Re-mulched the bed.

Tips for success:

  • Use string to measure the length of wall you want to create, then divide by measurement of each brick. This will give you the close approximation of the number of bricks you’ll need.
  • Double check your count of bricks at the store! (We had to go back a second time for more because we miscounted. Oops!)
  • Lay the bricks on a tarp or blanket to prevent damage to your car.
  • Wear gloves so you don’t hurt your hands.
  • Use a trowel (where needed) to dig out the earth and ensure a flat surface for laying each brick.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas about deck installation maybe? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

1 Comment - Categories: Yard and garden

What to shred to prevent identify theft

- Author: Crystal

istock_000000241690xsmallTo help prevent identity theft, shred anything that has your:

  • birth date,
  • signature,
  • account number,
  • password, or
  • social security number

And for Pete’s sake, please shred all credit card applications!

Not all shredders are created equal! I recommend investing in a high quality, cross-cut (rather than vertical cut) shredder. Fellowes makes excellent shredders which will last you a lifetime, and they are often available in the $60-90 range at your local warehouse stores such as Costco.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Office and paperwork

Borrowing instead of buying

- Author: Crystal

istock_000010634696xsmallI believe that whatever each of us can do to encourage and participate in sharing and borrowing rather than buying and owning can go a long way toward repairing our society’s unhealthy relationship with material possessions.

To this end, I love the idea of NeighborGoods, a new site which hooks people up to borrow things like ladders, tents and lawnmowers.  The point? It reduces the need to buy new things. Why buy something brand new that you might only use once or twice (like a backpack for Thailand), when you can simply borrow it and then send it back into The Great Cycle? This idea is potentially really good for the environment, the community and the soul.

If you’ve ever used FreeCycle to get rid (entirely and forever) of things you don’t use or need, you’ll know how great it feels to free yourself of unwanted items and meet other people’s needs at the same time. You might even score something for yourself while you’re at it, all without having to buy.

For those of you in the Durham area, let’s try it!

Though NeighborGoods is so far only available in the Los Angeles area, the owner of Neighborgoods has set up a special group for me and others in the Durham area! Check it out HERE.

You’ll find the following items of mine listed as borrow-able:

  • Garden shovel and two rakes
  • Hedge trimmers
  • 2-3 person tent
  • Thermarest air mattress
  • 7-speed Jamis men’s commuter bike
  • Charcoal grill

And you’ll see the following items on my borrowing wish list:

  • Lightweight sleeping bag (40 degrees F) — need for 3 weeks only
  • Lightweight trekking backpack — need for 3 weeks only
  • 2-layer water-resistant jacket for ladies (size M) — need for 3 weeks only

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

3 Comments - Categories: Sustainable living

The secret to being happier with your wardrobe

- Author: Crystal

istock_000002256443xsmallThis blog post was inspired by a depressing ad I saw for the WonderHanger. (Warning! Do not click that link unless you want to be bombarded with loud announcer’s voice and “special offer” pop-up messages).

It is my hope to help convince those who might fall for the WonderHanger that you do not need special expandable gadgets that enable you to fit five times the amount of clothes into your closet, and you do not need a bigger closet. Instead, the secret to being happier with your wardrobe (and life) is truly to own less clothing!

Most people, but especially Americans, have an unhealthy relationship with their belongings. We rely on our possessions to be a proxy for our place in society, our value in the world, and most significantly our self-worth. We consistently forget or need reminding about the things that are most important and make us the most happy, namely: family, friends and leisure time. In fact, those are the three things we most commonly neglect. If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, I encouraging you to watch The Story of Stuff. But I digress!

My main point is: It’s a new year, a new decade, and a new chance  to make a fresh start in your closet. I hope you’ll consider these two key actions:

  • Give your closet the early spring cleaning it needs. Read “Get Ready for Springtime Closet Maintenance” for practical guidance on paring down your wardrobe and organizing what you decide to keep.
  • Adjust your default for a while. In other words, rather than your default action being to buy some article of clothing (which, let’s face it, we usually do because we’re depressed, desperate, panicked, bored, etc), opt not to buy it instead. Vow to live for quality, not quantity.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Closets

Three habits to keep your car tidy

- Author: Crystal

Surprise!You’re good about cleaning out your car now and then. Yet somehow it always seems to get messy again in no time. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually be able to put groceries and luggage in your trunk without being hindered by all that other junk?

Maintaining order in your car doesn’t require fancy bins, boxes or bags. Instead, a bit of dedication to changing poor habits is what it takes for sustainable, lifelong organization in your automobile.

Need a bit more inspiration? Another great reason to get that junk out of your trunk is improved gas mileage!

To keep your vehicle in tip-top shape, resolve to make these three habit changes and you’ll see big results:

  1. Get the trash out. Each day after work, park near a trash can and take 3 minutes to empty the car of any garbage, no matter how small.
  2. Don’t use your trunk as a storage space for anything other than automotive necessities. Period.
  3. Make plans to get those errands done. Have merchandise you need to return to the store? Boxes of junk to take to the donation center? Stuff you borrowed and need to give back to your friend? Get it done, and it won’t pile up in the car.

Got too much junk in your trunk? Here’s how to organize your car.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car

Help for family and friends of compulsive hoarders

- Author: Crystal

I’m no expert by any means, but people ask me for advice about compulsive hoarding all the time. Through Internet research and exchanging experiences with others in the professional organizing community, I have compiled the following resources that may be helpful.

istock_000002655048xsmallCompulsive hoarding syndrome (also known as hoarding disease) is a psychiatric condition related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A person with compulsive hoarding syndrome acquires worthless items and fails to discard them even when they appear (to others) to have no value.  People suffering from this syndrome have homes full of what normal people would consider “junk”. Many areas of their homes are unusable because junk takes up so much space.

Wondering whether you or someone you know is a compulsive hoarder? Here’s a 23-question survey to determine your rating on the hoarding scale. Read more at the International OCD Foundation website.

So why is compulsive hoarding a problem? As any friend or family member of a compulsive hoarder can tell you, the massive accumulation of items over time becomes unmanageable, unsanitary and sometimes even dangerous. It tends to put very difficult strain on relationships and can cause shame and embarrassment.

If you are affected by someone else’s compulsive hoarding, here are a few things to try:

Don’t clean out their house. According to the International OCD Foundatioin, while cleaning out a hoarder’s home may seem appealing (why not just cart out the junk and be done with it, right?), it has been shown that attempts to “clean out” the homes of individuals with compulsive hoarding without treating the underlying problem usually fail. Additionally, several people I’ve spoken with report very hostile behavior from the compulsive hoarder when they tried to clean out their homes. It is probably best to focus your energy elsewhere.

Read up on it.

Join an online support group. Geralin Thomas is a local professional organizer in Cary, NC and owner of Metropolitan Organizing. She has lots of experience working with hoarders and advises folks affected by compulsive hoarding to join an online support group for people with this disease and their families. An online group can give you the means to feel supported by others dealing with similar situations and the ability to share and ask questions anonymously. Here are a few:

Seek out professional help for yourself. Geralin says that it is very difficult to help hoarders unless they recognize their problem and realize that they need help. She recommends that someone affected by another person’s hoarding disease should consider seeing a counselor or psychologist for their own sake.

If you’re new to counselors and psychologists and need help finding one, here are three suggestions:

  1. Go to Psychology Today and search by zip code and specialty; or
  2. Ask a trusted friend or colleague for a recommendation; or
  3. If you have health insurance, check your insurer’s Web site for a directory of in-network mental health providers.

Finally, if you’re in the local Triangle area of North Carolina, Dr. Reid Wilson is a UNC professor and specialist in compulsive hoarding behaviors. He’s a good starting point for therapist recommendations and connection to other resources:

Dr. R. Reid Wilson
3011 Jones Ferry Road
Chapel Hill,NC 27516
Phone: (919) 942-0700

Thoughts on this? Suggestions? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

2 Comments - Categories: People and pets