Do you have boxes of photos, videos, and other media sitting around your home, vulnerable to the elements? You’re not alone - it’s quite common for people to inherit photo and media collections from loved ones, often thrown in a box without proper storage considerations to preserve those precious family memories. Maybe you’re considering getting those photos organized and cataloged for the family, but the task seems overwhelming and daunting. If this sounds like your situation, it might be reassuring to know that your collection can get organized and become accessible for you, your family, and future generations. Knowing where to begin is often the largest obstacle - here are some tips for getting started:
Imagine your ideal situation
Before getting started with a large project, it’s helpful to take a look at the big picture and imagine what your ideal situation looks like when you’re done. This acts as a compass to lead you through. Think of your own life as well as your family history as a series of stories, and how you’d like to tell them. How do you picture yourself and your family accessing your photos, videos, and other memorabilia? The options are seemingly endless, but what matters most is that you choose options that work best for you and your family. Some ways people like to honor their memories are:
Hunt and Gather
Many people have inherited photos, slides, film reels, and family documents from loved ones who have passed, and as a result, these are squirreled away in little pockets throughout the house. Before starting, I believe it’s best to gather everything you’d like to organize into one central location, and this includes digital media. For digital media, do your best to get everything onto one computer, with at least one backup. If that’s not possible, do your best to list and locate the devices that are holding media. You may need to have conversations with family members - for example, if your sibling has all the slides from a family trip long ago, let them know of your plans. Who knows, you might even get help with your project!
Sort by Media Type
Group by type - all photos together, slides, film reels, VHS, correspondences, family history documents, and digital formats. This crucial step will be your way of taking inventory of each category - your big picture view. Getting a good look at everything helps you decide how you want to break this large project down into smaller, more manageable projects. Choosing the format you’re most eager to work with could be a good jumping off point - we have to start somewhere!
Have you gotten your family photos and memorabilia in order, or is this a project for your to-do list? What does your ideal situation look like? I’d love to hear from you!
Can you believe January has come and gone so quickly? If you’ve recently begun your decluttering journey, I hope you’re feeling like you’re seeing some progress toward those goals! For those of us who have been working on new habits, February can be a make-or-break type of time. If you live up north, the days are still short and often dreary. The urge to snuggle up on the couch with your favorite TV shows or books is strong, believe me - I fight it, too.
When working on a long-term project with someone, a common perception shared with me is “when we’re done, then I can enjoy XYZ.” Waiting for a day that may be a year or more away to enjoy your home can feel overwhelming, and like that day may never come. Instead, I like to suggest focusing on one area or part of the routine at a time that has changed for the better, and continue appreciating the positive changes. While it’s helpful to be clear on what you’d like to work on and diligently check items off that to-do list, it’s also important to take a look at what you have accomplished and enjoy those small victories along the way.
Here are some suggestions for starting to love the space you’re in, and making the best of your situation right now, no matter where you might be on your decluttering and organizing journey!
At the very beginning, it’s helpful for some to shift their mindset a bit. When people reach out for organizing assistance, they’re overwhelmed, don’t know where to begin, and are unsure about how everything is going to pan out. This is a good time to take a minute to appreciate what’s going well: having a home to live in, the courage to call for help, and assembling the support needed to improve your situation.
Just deciding where to begin can feel like a monumental task! I always suggest starting small - a small project or habit change at a time add up to make a big difference. Designating a place for keys and sticking to that new habit takes some stress out of leaving the house. Paring down excess toiletries from the bathroom eliminates extra choices and streamlines wake up and bed time routines. Noticing how these changes are affecting us in a positive way affirms our hard work and provides some momentum to continue making small adjustments.
Carve Out a Space to Relax
In my November 2019 blog, I talked about the concept of hygge (hoo-ga) and carving out a “hyggekrog,” or cozy corner. What’s your go-to relaxation activity? Is it stretching, knitting, snuggling with a book, taking a bath, your favorite TV show, or some other hobby? Designate a space in your home where this activity will occur, and commit to enjoying it 2-3 times a week, or whatever frequency feels most sustainable for you. This reinforces a new perspective, "my home is inviting and enjoyable."
Edit High Traffic Areas
There are places in our homes that we visit each day, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and entryway. You might want to start with editing your closet in order to reduce the stress around getting dressed in the morning. Carving out zones in your entryway that support your lifestyle helps take some of the mental load off arriving/departing your home. Knowing that your keys, shoes, jackets, shopping bags, and mail, etc. have homes provides clarity and streamlines these routines. Think about your situation and adjustments you can make to simplify your day to day life.
Reflect and Celebrate Your Accomplishments
If you’ve been going through the process for any length of time, you might hit a point where it feels like “gosh, there’s still so much left to do!” Think about where you were in the beginning of your journey, and how much easier your day to day life is to manage. Less time looking for things, arriving on time for work and appointments, and refreshed spaces to enjoy.
Have you been working on adjusting spaces in your home or routines in your life? What do you love about your home? I’d love to hear from you, let’s get the conversation going! Leave a comment down below.
Happy New Year! Not only are we starting a new year, we’re at the beginning of a new decade, which feels big and significant. This is a time of reflection and resolutions, and there are as many different resolutions as there are people making them. The most common ones I hear about are home and health related. Being a part of the organizing industry, you can bet I’ve heard from a number of people who are inspired to reduce the clutter in their lives this year! Every January, NAPO (the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) hosts GO (Get Organized) month. GO month is about promoting the benefits of working with an organizing professional, as well as highlighting the educational opportunities for NAPO members.
If you’re feeling like your home and routine could use some decluttering, you aren’t alone. Research shows that people living in cluttered spaces tend to feel more stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, which lead to poor eating and sleep habits. A cluttered space may not be the first thing we think of as a stressor, but it’s true that the clutter affects our feelings of ease at home - I've certainly felt it and seen it in action. It’s important to note that each person has a different threshold for clutter in their home. Some people enjoy more open space while others feel more comfortable surrounded by a larger volume of items.
Maybe you’ve been living in a home that you feel is cluttered and would like to change your situation. It’s possible that you’ve made the attempt to fix it on your own and just can’t seem to “get it right.” Not to worry, everyone needs a little help sometimes! It’s a great first step to acknowledge the desire for change, and even more brave to try and fix it. Someone looking to get healthier might start working with a personal trainer or nutritionist in order to get expert advice and coaching. We hire accountants, lawyers, plumbers, and other experts to help us in different areas of our lives. Along those same lines, someone looking to declutter and organize their home and/or routine might look to an organizing professional for guidance with their organizational goals.
If you’d like some outside help, be assured there are likely a few professionals in the area to reach out to! I would recommend seeking out a member of NAPO. NAPO members are bound by a code of ethics, participate in ongoing education, network with their colleagues to find the best fit for you, and are tapped into a bounty of resources. It’s important to consider their experience with your particular problem, areas of specialty, and how comfortable you feel when talking to them on the phone.
A professional organizer takes the time to get to know you, understand your needs, and has the skills to work with you to achieve your goals. They’ll have a good idea on where to begin with helping you problem solve and provide encouraging support along the way. And with someone by your side, you’ll be likely to meet your goal much faster than if working alone.
If you’re ready to reach out to an organizing professional near you, feel free to contact me or visit the NAPO Find a Pro Directory.
Would you like to read more about preparing for change? Check out my blog post: Developing a Healthy Mindset and Preparing for Change
Feel like giving it a go on your own? Check out 3 Simple Organizing Projects to Jumpstart Your Spring Cleaning and 7 Tips for Paring Down Your Wardrobe
Psychology Today, "5 Reasons to Clear the Clutter Out of Your Life," https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201705/5-reasons-clear-the-clutter-out-your-life
NAPO GO Month: https://www.napo.net/page/GOMonth2020
Do any of these phrases sound familiar?
“I just can’t figure out what to get for so-and-so! It’s driving me nuts!”
“Shopping is just so stressful. The parking, the crowds…ugh!”
“What do I do with all this STUFF now? I’m so exhausted!”
Every year, it seems like there are more people fed up with the excess of the holidays, ready for a change. This time of year can be overwhelming for some, and not enjoyable at all. A recent post on becomingminimalist.com has me inspired to keep the conversation going and encourage others to take those steps to embrace experiences instead of stuff we don’t need. I definitely recommend giving that one a read - there are some eye-opening statistics and helpful tips. If more than half of us are receiving gifts we don’t need, and also wasting money on things other people don’t need, then it’s time to take a look at our current situation and work toward new habits that will reduce the stress and waste. It’s never too late to change your own outlook on gift giving and encourage your loved ones to do the same.
Earlier this week, I attended a meeting with local organizers, and we discussed clutter-free, organizer-friendly gift ideas. If gift-giving is a tradition your family members insist on, then suggest gifts of experience or things you can consume. My friend Janine Cavanaugh, the Helpful Organizer, put together a comprehensive list of clutter-free gifts. Check out Janine's blog post for some excellent gift ideas!
In last month’s post, I talked about the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). I’m really sold on the idea that quality time and fun traditions bring on those warm fuzzy feelings we chase this time of year, and the stuff just brings stress. One thing worth mentioning - many people over schedule this time of year and get worn out. These ideas are not meant to burden you, but instead inspire new habits to replace the old ones. If you and your friends/family want to start dropping the gift-giving all together, here are some activities and traditions you can incorporate into not just the holidays, but all winter long:
Quality time indoors:
Get out around town:
Help family members decorate and/or declutter:
Are you working on changing your narrative around gift giving? What are your favorite yearly activities and traditions? I’d love to hear from you, feel free to comment down below.
As we approach the end of the year, our days are quickly becoming shorter and colder. We’re naturally spending more time indoors. There’s some excitement and anticipation with the holidays just around the corner.
I recently re-read The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, who is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year, this little book helped me get into a more cozy mindset as a way to get through, and actually appreciate the winter.
So, what exactly is hygge? Hygge is a concept that the Danish people have been living by for centuries. It’s important to note that UN’s World Happiness Report frequently ranks Denmark (among the other Scandinavian countries) at the top of the list. There are many similarities between the climate in Denmark and New England. I figured if the Danes can be the happiest people in the world with a long, dark winter, there might be something we can learn from them.
Hygge is a bit tricky to define and translate to English. It’s more of a feeling and concept more than anything. Hygge is defined by some as a feeling of well-being, safety, sense of ease, coziness, and contentment. It’s about slowing down, living in the moment, being grateful, and taking pleasure in simple everyday things. Hygge is not fancy or over the top and has little to do with consumerism - the more rustic, homemade, comfortable, and down-to-earth, the better. You can have a hygge-like experience alone, and according to a survey in the book, a group of 3-4 people is the sweet spot for social gatherings. Hygge can be enjoyed year-round but is mostly associated with winter as a survival strategy to get through those cold, dark months.
The best part about hygge is that it’s not something you can buy - using what you have helps create the best atmosphere and sets the tone for those slow, meaningful moments. Interested in embracing hygge to enhance your experience this holiday season and through the winter? You might find that you do many of these things and have what you need already!
Declutter your living space
As a professional organizer and someone who sees the value in living a life mostly free of clutter, it’s no surprise that I’m mentioning this first. When we declutter our surroundings, we reduce visual noise and distraction that reminds us of what needs to be done. In turn, this increases focus, ease, and helps us slow down to enjoy the present moment. An added benefit of a decluttered home is more open space to move around in and possibly host guests. If getting your whole house in order is too big of a task, consider starting with decluttering the space where you spend the most time in the winter.
Set the mood at home
Soft, warm lighting is at the top of the list for creating a hygge-like atmosphere. The most cozy lighting emulates the soft glow of sunset or a fireplace. The people in Denmark burn nearly twice as many candles as the rest of Europe, but if candle’s aren’t your thing, try string lights. Many of us have extra string lights hanging around that we aren’t using for holiday decorating. Try coiling them in a hurricane vase or stringing them up in a corner of your living or dining room.
With your space decluttered, consider rearranging furniture in the living room to create a “hyggekrog,” or cozy corner. Most of us have more blankets and pillows than we can use all at once. Take them out out of storage and lay enough out on the couch and arm chairs for each member of your family. Gather your favorite books, movies, and board games and make them easily accessible to encourage that simple, feel-good quality time.
Get a dose of nature
Bundle up and get outside! Embracing the beauty of winter makes it a little more bearable. Your area might have local conservation land or a bike path that’s perfect for a stroll. I love to spend time by the ocean listening to the waves and talking to people who are observing winter sea birds. Whatever it is you enjoy the most, try carving out some time to get out there. You’ll likely have increased feelings of coziness when you come back to your warm home. For a dose of nature inside the home, try gathering your houseplants into little clusters if you have them. Most houseplants don’t enjoy being near heating vents during the winter, so when the heat comes on, I gather mine away from the heat. It changes the landscape of the house, creating a fresh new feel, and gives me something green to look at when the outdoors are looking gray and gloomy.
Take time to enjoy the little things
In my opinion, this is the most important of them all - without creating space to feel hygge, it likely won’t happen. Creating the feeling of well-being is quite simple. When you make the effort to do something you enjoy every day, it helps bring some more happiness into your life. What is it that you enjoy? Cozy activities can be enjoyed in or out of your home. You might like:
Like I mentioned earlier, according to a survey, the Danish consider a group of 3-4 people to be the sweet spot for gatherings. When getting together as a small group, the focus is more on the experience of cooking and eating your meal, and enjoying uplifting conversation. Consider hosting a pot luck or cook an unfussy meal together. It’s all about setting the tone for togetherness. Bake some bread or other treat - the smell in the house is very hygge. You might like to play board games, look at old photos and reminisce, anything goes as long as you create an atmosphere of contentment and togetherness.
Are you inspired to bring a little more hygge into your life this winter? What are your favorite simple, enjoyable activities? Does your family have any traditions this time of year that you look forward to sharing together? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment down below.