The Truth About Clutter

The truth is - the main reason that prevents people from getting their home and lives organized is that they have TOO MUCH STUFF.  Clutter contains negative energy, wasting precious space in your home and lives. We fight the clutter bug everyday in our kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, garages and offices, leading to frustration in our lives and more than enough wasted time and energy.  How much time do you spend on a daily basis trying to find car keys in your purse with the black hole, putting away the kids' toys, digging through stacks of paper to find an important phone number that you wrote down, or going out to eat because your dining room table is too full of stuff to put away?

Clutter also puts an enormous amount of stress in our lives and in our relationships. 

Let's admit it, don't you hold onto this stuff because you think you might need it again someday?  What about clothing?  How many of you have said to yourself, "I'll hang onto this.  I know I'll be this size again."

(Note to my 80' buddies:  no matter how thin you get, the stirrup pants and Flashdance sweaters will never come back in style - please burn them!)

Common clutter excuses:

  • I might need it someday.

  • It's still in good shape.

  • My mother-in-law gave it me.  She'll look for it if she comes over.

  • I paid a lot of money for it - I can't just give it away.

  • It was an heirloom.

  • It's tight now but just WAIT until I lose weight!

  • It's broken but I'll get around to fixing it.

  • Everything's in stacks - what's so bad about that?

  • I'm saving it for when I have grandchildren.

  • It's not clutter - it's 'Shabby Chic'.

Examples of Clutter:

  • Items in the wrong place

  • Anything that's broken

  • Dead batteries

  • Stacks of newspapers and magazines

  • Spare parts and cables from installations

  • Old mints and gum in your purse that are covered in lint!

  • Sample gifts and little bottles from cosmetic-counter bonus offers

  • Pens with dried-up ink

  • Sock without a mate (give it up and buy a new pair!)

  • Fabric that you never had time to make anything out of

  • Old paint

  • Unopened mail, flyers, junk mail

  • Expired coupons

  • Old makeup and hair products

  • Candles and potpourri that never smelled good to begin with

  • Overstock of food containers that don't stack properly

  • Clothes that don't fit, are out of style or you never wear

Where to Start

Now that we’ve identified common excuses for clutter and some examples, it’s time to get started on releasing the unwanted items.  Customers have told me that they get so frustrated by all the piles around them, they don’t know where to start.  The key is to focus on one small area or task such as a kitchen drawer or shelf.  Here are just some of the steps to get started:

  • Grab a notepad and do an initial walk-around your entire home, jotting down not just the rooms but the areas within the room that you want changed.

    1. Once you have your list, write down next to each entry the time it will take to complete the task.  Be sure to allow yourself enough time for any packing, waste removal or a drive to the donation center.

    2. Prioritize your list.  What area or space is the important to change or that gives you the greatest amount of stress? 

    3. Set small goals for easy gratification.  “Today I will spend 30 minutes throwing away all of my dried up nail polish and old makeup”.  If you set your goal too high and don’t accomplish it, it’s tough to keep going.

    4. When sorting, always keep 3 bins or bags in the room.  One each for toss, recyclables, and donate/consign.

    5. Get your family involved!  Let them know about your goal and set aside time in the evening or the weekend to engage their help.

    6. When considering storage containers, always sort and purge first before purchasing bins.  You may not need the quantity or size you initially anticipated.

    7. Clean as you go.  Have your cleaning supplies and vacuum on hand as you move from space to space.

Retaining Organization

Now that you have your home organized, it will be a lot easier to keep it that way.  To be sure, establish new rules for yourself and your family.  If you use something, put it away.  Create a schedule for filing paper and paying bills.  Also, have kids bring their school papers directly to their rooms after school. 

Managing Toy Chaos

Have you ever stepped on a small toy with your bare feet? If you have, you are not alone! I can promise you right down to the bottom of the Lego-Imprinted soles of my feet that there is hope for this “kid-astrophic” dilemma.

As the mother of an eleven year old boy, I have discovered that as he gets older, the toys get smaller. Those once chubby fingers that used to clutch stuffed animals and rubber balls have grown to a size that can grasp the most intricate of blocks, visible only by parents with the use of a NASA developed microscope. We don’t even know the toys are in our path until we are hobbling to the nearest chair, cursing toy manufacturers across all continents.

Let’s start by blaming Grandma and Grandpa. You know who you are—gentle souls who can’t wait to have your child alone so they can stroll the aisles of Target and fill the cart with unnecessary doo-dads and plastic paraphernalia. When my son arrives home with his new loot, I vow to seek revenge by strategically placing those small items on the Grandparents living room floors to create a Mattel Mine Field. Let’s see how THEY like it!

Now that we’ve determined who is at fault, it’s time we find a solution to the Toy Chaos.

I’ve visited plenty of homes that sport large toy boxes, over-sized bins and overflowing shelves. It’s no wonder that kids leave them on the floor. Trying to put them away or find the toy of choice again is a chore for them. Coupling stuffed animals with sporting equipment and “littles” in the same bins creates frustration for both children and parents.

Let’s get started.

The most important factor in resolving this issue is to make sure your child clearly understands your intention and you have his/her buy-in. Equally important is to explain to them that they are responsible for the clean-up of their toys.

Tip: When working with my customers I always ask that they don’t shop for new bins until they know exactly what will hold each toy and the amount of space needed.

The best way I’ve found to get toys organized is to first do an Inventory. Choose an area in your home that has ample room for sorting. Have a garbage bag and donation bags on hand. Assist your child in collecting toys from all the rooms in the house and sort them into individual “like item” piles. This visual is a good way for you both to see the actuality of how many toys are in their possession. Take a photo. This will be your “Before” picture. Next, work through one pile at a time discarding broken toys and separating toys he/she has outgrown.

The tough part now is negotiating with your child and determining how many of the remaining toys they actually like or play with any more. My dad would say, “good grief! When I was young all I had to play with was a stick”. The solution that always works in our home is explaining to my son that by donating them, other kids who don’t have toys have a chance to enjoy them just like he did. Oh…I have to add a side note here—Christmas 2015 will most likely be the last year he falls for the “we-need-to-get-rid-of-toys-to-make-room-for-Santa’s-new-haul” shpeel. Jot down a quick list for taxable charitable contributions then place all of the donation items in bags and carry them out of the room right away or store them in your car. This will create less of a chance for your children to change their minds about letting them go to a new home.

Toy Storage Buying and Organizing

  • I’ve found the best selection of organizing totes and storage at Michael’s, JoAnn Fabrics, The Container Store, Target and Amazon.

  • Take photos and measure each of the piles. This will help when you’re in the store determining container size

  • Use the vertical space in the room. Will a shelving unit fit? If so, place toys on the shelves at kid-height. I use the top shelves for toys and craft supplies that need parent supervision. i.e, bubbles, sticky stuff and fabric markers. Also be sure that the unit it secure in case they like to climb.

  • Clear, stackable totes work best so your child can see the contents

  • Stylish clothes baskets work well for stuffed animals. If your child’s bedroom ceiling allows, purchase a net for the animals. If you purchase a net, be sure not to place any heavy items over their bed.

  • I purchased two 10-drawer rolling organizers for small toys. They’re easily accessible and the drawers can be pulled out to carry to a craft table or another room for play. There are many different manufacturer’s and they come in multi colors. Michael’s Craft Store and Joann’s carry them. Amazon as well.

  • Large zip-loc bags are nice for games or toys with multiple pieces. Some brands now carry extra large sizes.

  • Label the bins

  • For craft supplies, test all the pens to be sure they work before storing them.

  • Set the rules for toy pick up. Use “if/then” statements. This goes for Grandparents too…

  • Set a date every 3-6 months to repeat the process.

Just like any other organizing project, it’s important to stick to the rules and maintain the system. Your kids (and your feet) will thank you for it in the future.

The Garage Sale Girl’s Guide to hosting a Terrific Garage Sale

It’s that time of year! Spring is in the air and garage sale signs are beginning to dot the corners of our streets and intersections. If you’re ready to jump in and host a sale, here are some tips to help you make the most of it.

Price to sell

When pricing items, keep in mind that "a third of what it costs new" is only a guideline. Remember to be practical when pricing items. Forget what you paid for it all those years ago and be realistic. By putting a high price on your items you risk the chance of selling less, then having to deal with unsold items.  Remember:  EVERYBODY LOVES A BARGAIN!

·         Avery Labels sells blank price stickers that you can format with your computer and print. This is a HUGE time saver. It also beats having to worry about ink smearing on your price tags. You can find these at most office supply stores.

·         Don’t put stickers or labels on anything made of wood. Use blue painter’s tape as an alternative.

·         Put price stickers on the binders of books vs. the front. Avoid any type of adhesive on valuable books.

·         Don’t take the time to price anything less than a quarter. Instead, set up a “25-cent table.” Customers love this and quarters do add up.

·         If you have a bunch of items that have pieces missing or broken, put them in your FREE box with a note - "broken - good for parts" or something similar.

·         Determining the value of items can be confusing. As a garage sale consultant, I can help you get the most profit for your treasures.


·         When placing ads in newspapers and/or online, be specific with dates and hours. Provide an overview of your inventory and be sure to specify “no early birds.”

·         Use sturdy materials when creating signs. Flimsy construction paper just doesn’t do it.

·         Attach a bright balloon on every sign you post. It communicates to customers that you took extra care in setting up your sale. It also distinguishes your signs from others. Milar is more durable than latex and can be reused.

·         The best times to get customers are Thursday 8-5, Friday 8-12 (families leave early to go “up North”), and Saturday 9-3 (you’ll catch people on their way home from running early errands).

·         Use bright paper when making signs for various tables.

 The state of the garage

A garage with oil-stained floors, sawdust and cobwebs communicates to customers that this is also the condition that your items may be in. Before setting up tables and bringing out items to sell, take time to:

·         Dust corners and sweep entire floor; hose down if necessary.

·         Cover oil stains with old rugs or try kitty litter (non-clumping) to pick up the residue.

·         Have an extension cord available for testing electronics.

·         Lighting is key: use as many lamps as you can find. Increase the wattage on bulbs if possible.

·         Move all “not for sale” items into the house, a shed, or to one corner of the garage. Cover the items or place signs on them so customers know they’re not for sale.

 More tips...

·         For safety reasons, have two people running the sale at all times.

·         If you need tables, check with your neighbors. If you belong to a church or VFW, you can ask to use a few banquet tables.

·         Have paper and plastic bags available as well as some newspaper to use as packing material.

·         Lock the doors to your house while you are in the garage.

·         Accept checks. You can call the banking institution on the spot to verify funds. Deposit all checks within 24 hours.

·         Wear comfortable shoes. Your legs will thank you after standing on concrete all day.

·         During the last hour of the sale, announce a “Fill a bag for 5 bucks” sale. The dollars will add up and you’ll have less stuff to pack up and donate.

·         If a customer desperately needs to use your bathroom, be sure that all medications, breakables, and valuables have been removed.

·         Avoid using permanent marker to tag items, especially linens.

·         Have supplies on hand: pens, bright colored paper, scissors, tape, extra labels and note pads.

·         No early birds. If people walk up to your garage the day before or earlier than the advertised sale times, politely ask them to return when the sale starts. It’s not fair to others.

·         Have a variety of batteries available so customers can test small electronics.

·         No sugared drinks at the sale. Bees and ants are a nuisance.

·         Don’t smoke and don’t allow others to smoke in or around your garage. The smell will stay with your items.

·         Dust or polish all of your items before pricing.

·         If selling cutlery, secure the blade with a small piece of cardboard.

·         Notify your neighbors.

·         Be sure you have adequate parking.

·         Strategically place a few bright-colored items at the end of your driveway.

·         Consider a rain plan. Better yet, check out Target, Home Depot or Lowe’s for a pop-up gazebo.

·         Determine a sign placement map (be sure to check with your city offices for sign regulations!)

·         Remove signs at the end of each sale day. Start with the furthest sign and work your way back to your house.

·         Get small change and a calculator for the register.  Have enough 5’s and 10’s on the first morning of the sale. Keep large bills and checks in the house.

·         When selling clothes (including coats) take a minute to search the pockets for money and credit card receipts.

·         If possible, find manufacturer’s guides and warranties, especially for higher-priced items.

·         Place small parts in sandwich bags.

·         Play music during the sale that appeals to everyone – Jazz88 FM (88.5) is a good choice.  Their Bluegrass Saturday Morning program will put smiles on your buyers’ faces.

·         Post a “Children welcome if accompanied by adult” sign at the entrance.

 After the sale

Now that your sale is over, the next step is to ensure that all of the items you moved out to your garage don’t get moved back into your home!

·         Check out Hennepin County’s website. It has “A-Z How To Get Rid Of It” Guide. Click or Copy this link into your browser:

·         Most waste disposal companies will pick up large items for a reasonable fee.

·         Contact organizations such as ARC, Disabled American Veterans, The Lupus Foundation or Courage Center prior to the sale to set up a Monday pickup. is a good place to schedule a pick-up.

·         Sell your remaining items online by posting on Craigslist or