Although every home is different and every client has varying needs, there are some organizing staples that we recommend to everyone!
What are your favorite organizers under $20?
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One of my favorite (and most frequent) recommendations when organizing children’s areas is to create a memory box for each child. Most parents already have something similar in place. They’ve stashed mementos, drawings, and treasures in tote bags and extra large plastic tubs to keep them safe.
While this is a great start, it becomes burdensome as the children grow older. More items need to be stored so more totes are purchased. The amount of storage space required grows like a never ending vine.
Worse, when the kids are ready to move out of the house, you’re both stuck with a disorganized, tangled mess of childhood papers, projects, and random stuff that your children now consider junk.
What in the world?! The intention was great, but it lacked one thing: forethought. Let me explain.
When city planners gather to discuss where the new road should go, they consider many things: frequency of use, amount of cars that will travel on it, potential problems, and ease of maintenance. They think decades ahead so that their work will not be in vain.
Your memory boxes deserve the same attention.
Step 1: Select the Appropriate Container
I suggest using a large letter file box. This size box is big enough to hold a childhood full of memories, but small enough to carry, stack, and store. As you shop, you’ll also want to choose a container that is relatively safe from the elements. Although plastic gives off a funky scent after so many years, it is bug and water proof. Finally, your box needs to be easy to open. While I love a good cedar chest with a beautiful brass lock, I’ve found that the keys go missing, the chest gets piled high with other things, and they’re difficult to re-home as children grow. Instead, opt for a solution that is portable and easy to use.
Step 2: Create Divisions
Just like lanes on a highway, creating divisions within your memory box will give you the direction you (and your child) need to organize their belongings as time goes on. Hanging file folders are a favorite of mine because they take up little space and can hold papers and trinkets. They also allow for maximum accessibility to each division. When I create memory boxes, I use the following divisions for hanging files:
I prefer to divide by grades because most children organize their memories around the school calendar. They remember going to Niagara Falls after 4th grade or winning that soccer championship in 10th grade. The school calendar typically has more firm start/stop points than a child’s own birthday. However, if your child prefers to organize by given age, that’s fine too. I’ve also seen families set up boxes by category rather than grade level (i.e., school papers, sports, crafts, etc.). The only downside to organizing by categories is that it will be difficult to keep organized as the years go by and you’ll have a greater tendency to stop organizing and start piling the keepsakes.
Step 3: Maintain the System
This is where the rubber meets the road; where you realize whether the system you created for your toddler actually works when he’s a teenager. If you use a file box with the hanging file divisions I shared above, I promise you, the system WILL work. The trick here is to sort and file the keepsakes along the way. You may notice that a file will get particularly hefty…and may begin to crowd out others. If this happens, pull the file out and review it with your child. Are the pieces they’ve chosen to keep really their treasures from that year? Give your kids the gift of wisdom by teaching them to compare and evaluate. Children who learn to determine the value of their own belongings are better prepared to make wise investment choices as adults. Learning to live within the boundaries, within their means, will enable them to comparison shop for clothes, food, colleges, cars, and homes.
Never underestimate the power of a box.
Kids are messy, aren’t they?! Like, shockingly messy. Old candy wrappers, empty gift bags, random rock collections are found tucked away in the most interesting places. And then there’s the toys. Even if you try to keep them to a minimum (and rotate them throughout the year) the action figures, craft supplies, and Legos eventually drive you a bit bonkers. It’s okay to cry out in frustration --- you’re among friends. This idea of a clean, organized bedroom lasting more than half an hour really is the seemingly unattainable parent goal of the year.
But today is different. Starting today, that goal of yours is within reach. Why? Simple. We’re going to teach your kids how to keep their rooms clean. Kids (and a large number of adults) struggle to keep their areas clutter-free due to numerous reasons. The most common reason, however, is lack of instruction. Those who struggle to keep a tidy bedroom, home, or office simply need to be taught. These quick lessons will empower your kids for decades to come; they will equip your kids to become successful adults! And who doesn’t want that!?
Create Homes for Everything.
You knew I was going to say that. Of course you did. Because, by now, you KNOW that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to put things away if they don’t actually have a home to return to. If your child isn’t in middle school yet, I recommend making these decisions for them. If your child is older, invite them to be part of this process (though, I’ll warn you, the process may go much slower). You’ll need to go through every item in their bedroom. I recommend starting on the right side of their bedroom door and working around the room if you’ve never tackled a job like this before. Decide what is staying and temporarily put it somewhere. You’ll settle on permanent homes for all the objects once you know what is staying. Finally, divide the room up into zones (like dressing, sleeping, and playing) and then organize the items by category within each zone (i.e., dressing: shirts, pants, socks, etc.).
Show Your Child the Homes.
This is the most frequently skipped step. We think that just because we put things away all nice and neat that our kids actually SEE where everything was put and UNDERSTAND why those items ended up there. Don’t assume anything. Ever. Not with kids or adults. Trust me, just don’t. Instead, take the time to TEACH your child where things go and why. “Your underwear goes in this drawer on top because it’s the first thing you put on. Your socks are in the second drawer, and your pants are in the third drawer. Once you’ve got those on, then come over here to the closet. Do you see how I’ve hung up all your shirts? I put the long sleeve shirts over here and your short sleeves over there. This is where you’ll find all your shirts. This is also the place where they go when I bring up the clean laundry.” DING! DING! DING! Teaching your child where things go will not only help them find things, it will help them PUT THEM AWAY! During this time of instruction, ask your child if the placement of items is logical for them. Would they do it differently? If so, why? Listen to the answers and adjust accordingly.
Implement the Ten Minute Tidy.
Now that your child knows where everything is supposed to go, they’re physically able to put all the items away. But your child won’t do this out of the goodness of his heart and maintain it over time until it becomes a sweet habit. Nope. Your child will continue to be a kid. A creative member of the family. And creatives make messes. You don’t want to squash their creative spirit, but you do want to establish some healthy guidelines. Enter the Ten Minute Tidy. (Side note, this name isn’t original with me --- I’m sure it’s been used hundreds of times in different settings. I thought about calling it the Clean Sweep….but I know that was the name of a show. The point is, you can call this step WHATEVER you want. The name isn’t important. The action is.)
Daily tidying will go a long way to helping your children create cleaner, more organized spaces beyond their bedrooms. Limit the tidy time to basic tasks until they’re crushing those tasks within minutes. I like to begin with the 3 basic tasks listed above because they are the most common items I find as I organize children’s bedrooms. This should clear up 95% of the room. Additional tasks to add might include: throwing away trash, finding items to donate, vacuuming/dusting, making beds, taking laundry to the washer, running their own laundry, and picking out outfits for the next day. But again, don’t rush things. Habits take a long time to form, and you don’t want to overwhelm your child by requiring too much too soon. (Yes, I know, it shouldn’t be a hardship to tell them to clean up their trash, but these are kids we’re talking about. Just trust me on this. Low expectations are great in the beginning.)
Give us a call if you need help with any of these steps. We’d love to hear about your progress too. Comment below to share your story.
Whether you work from home, operate on the go, or sit a traditional office setting, staying productive is easier said than done. We get by on auto-pilot while our minds wander. Our level of output may rise when a new or exciting project crosses the desk, but for the most part, we’re stuck at status quo. We don’t want to be….but most days, we are.
Like any relationship, our workspaces need us to care for them to keep the magic alive. Here are 3 tips you can use to increase your productivity at work.
Operate Within a Schedule
“But that sounds so boring.” I know. It can be. But in this case, it won’t be because we’re going to be intentional about it. Grab a pad of paper and your favorite colored pen. I want you to write down all the things that you ALWAYS (on auto-pilot) do during the week. Some of these activities will be repeated multiple times a day, but you only need to write them down once. At this point, I just want you to see where you’re spending your time. (If you make 5 stops at the water cooler in a day, you should probably write those down too.)
Now here’s the fun part – the part where we mix things up a bit. In order to increase your productivity (the speed at which you produce profitable output), I want you to pencil in those tasks using this handy time-blocking schedule. (Yes, I said pencil….because you might want to erase things. If you’re a devoted pen user, then you might want to just print another copy OR open an Excel spreadsheet.)
When we schedule our mundane tasks, we create healthy limits and a bit of a game. You’ll need to finish the tasks written into each slot ON TIME in order to maintain your efficiency. When you finish early, your brain responds with a chemical boost. Don’t believe me? Here’s a synopsis of a few studies that looked into the “gaming effect” on the human brain. Now, the opposite effect occurs when we “lose,” so part of this exercise is to adjust your schedule each week based on how much time it actually takes you to complete your tasks.
Creating a schedule will minimize time wasters. It helps you to pay more attention to the tasks at hand, and removes some of that auto-pilot effect.
We can all tout the benefits of setting goals, but how many times do we actually SET goals for ourselves in the workplace? If you’re an entrepreneur, goal setting is your life. You start with the biggest end goal you can fathom and work backwards, breaking each goal down into bite-sized chunks. The same is true for the receptionist of a small company. Start with the end goal (which may be a team effort between all parties in the company), identify what parts pertain to you, and then work backwards. Break the goals into such small pieces that you can work on them for just 10 minutes a day to continue toward your goal.
A recent goal I had for myself was to write an e-book. Sounds a lot easier than done….just like being productive! Writing the content wasn’t even a third of the work it took to get the e-book live. I would have known that, and been better able to plan my evenings (working after the kids went to bed) IF I had taken the time to task analyze each part of the bigger goal on paper instead of just jumping into what I THOUGHT was the proper process. Don’t waste your time, invest it toward something great!
Rethink Your Workspace
Finally, take a look at the physical space around you. Do you even like your workspace? Research has proven that when we are unhappy with our workspace, we tend to work less. We avoid the space, find ways to waste time in the space (like trolling social media), and produce lower quality work. If you don’t like your space, identify why. Do you need better lighting? Buy a lamp. Do you hate your pens? Find ones that write like they cost a million bucks. And what about your desk? Reviews.com just published a recent study identifying the best standing desk. If sitting has got you in a rut, consider upgrading to a desk that adjusts in height. These desks allow your creativity, comfort, and design needs to be met all at once, increasing your productivity.
I’d love to hear from you! How are you becoming more productive at work? Share your stories and strategies in the comments below.
Whether or not you want to admit it, that spare room in your home IS your unofficial dumping ground. I’m talking about the guest room that only receives guests a few times a year and the home office that holds a lot of paper but doesn’t do much work. I had a friend once tell me that she referred to spare rooms as prayer rooms --- simply praying for someone to clean them up.
Don’t be embarrassed. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had our “prayer rooms” and dumping spaces because LIFE HAPPENS.
So how do we alter reality? How do we transform our spare spaces into meaningful places?
So which spare space will you attack first? The cabinets? The den? The guest room that has never been able to be a guest room? Share your stories below and don’t forget to join our #5ADayEdit challenge on Instagram.
Happy New Year!!! As is true every January, the desire to live with less turns into a resolution. We’ve been overloaded by the holidays --- the gifts, the food, the company. In an effort to break free of the weight of so many commitments and cookies, we poise ourselves to do the incredible: to let go.
But more often than not, our excitement grows stale because we don’t know how to get started. In fact, it’s the start that stops us dead in our tracks and our resolution dies more quickly than we could have imagined.
But not this year.
You got this, because I’m going to give you the secret to getting started in just one short word:
Every person is different. Every person will have a different threshold for change. Decluttering is a BIG change with a LOT of stuff.
So start small. Start with what’s manageable for you. While I can jump into a room with great fervor, you might want to start with the skinny desk drawer.
Consider your limitations too. Although Pinterest is a gorgeous thing, it often encourages us to bite off and expect more than we can chew. If you’re a young mom with kids under 5, don’t set your sights on beautiful glass containers that hold the crayons and markers in your quaint craft corner. Embrace the season of life that you’re in and remember that these limitations won’t be the same forever. If you only have 20 minutes a day, then use your 20 minutes a day to conquer small areas (drawers, baskets, countertops). If you’re an empty nester who works full time, block off a Saturday. Mark it on your calendar and shoot for one room at a time.
You can do this! I know you can because I help folks just like you every single day. The work is hard. Sometimes tears are shed and voices raised, but at the end of the process, joy is found and worry is gone.
Letting go is a process. Sometimes it’s hard and you’ll want to give up because it seems like too big a task. But don’t give up.
Make your target areas manageable. Ask for help and accountability. Brag on yourself! That’s the entire purpose of our Facebook organizing group in Greenville: to be reminded you aren’t alone.
Be empowered to live free of the stuff! I’m right here cheering you on.
Welcome back DIY organizers! Before we dive into how to pick the perfect container, here's a quick review of the organizing process. Pay special attention to where containers come into the picture.
1. Get Messy. When you’re ready to get organized, you first have to make a fantastic mess. When working in kitchens, you’ve got to pull everything out. EVERYTHING. It’s impossible to see ALL that you actually have unless you pull it out. The same in your bedroom, office, or garage.
2. Sort Like With Like. As you’re emptying cabinets and drawers, begin sorting into piles of similar items. Pots got with pots. Hammers go with hammers. Scissors with other “cutting tools” and tape with other “adhesives.” Following me so far?
3. Edit Out The Things You No Longer Need, Use, or Love. I hope you’ve got a few extra boxes, trash bags, and recycle bins ready for this step. All the broken and stained items go in the trash. Anything still usable (but not personally useful to you on a regular basis of at least once a year) goes toward donations or resale. Go ahead and list each item that you’re tossing into the donate pile so that you’re ready for your tax-deductible receipt when you drop your donations off. If you’re feeling really ambitious, price the items that you’re tossing into the resale bin so you only have to think about it once.
4. Contain The Rest. This is the step you’re most excited about. It’s the step we often try to skip to without putting in any of the HARD WORK required in steps one through three. Trust me, skipping to this step won’t help you get organized. Seriously. You’ll just end up with lots of extra storage bins around your house that never get used. You know EXACTLY which ones I’m talking about. But that’s in the past! We’re going to put those bins to use AFTER steps 1-3.
5. Enjoy Your Organized Space. This is my favorite step. It should be the step that happens continuously, because good systems and easy to access containers create a system that is easy to maintain.
Now let’s go back to step 4.
Containers might be the most fun and creative part of getting organized. They enable you to make the space what you truly want it to be! Your kitchen, office, outdoor living space, fill in the blank can be just like your inspiration pics from Pinterest…..assuming budget and space restraints don’t interfere ;)
But how do you know WHICH containers to pick?
Always measure the piles that you’re KEEPING. The kept items will determine how much space you’ll need inside cabinets, drawers, bins, and closets to stay organized. Add an extra 25% to your “needed” space so that you’ll have room to grow (by 5% at most, because you should be subtracting each time you add) and space to be messy in the interim.
WHAT?! Messy in the interim?! Yes, it’s true.
We aren’t living in a magazine; we’re living in real life. Some spaces are BOUND to get messy in the interim. Pantries are a prime example of this. While we should keep them organized all the time, there will be a day when you’ve gone to the grocery store but you didn’t have time to put all the pantry items away. They will sit in bags in your extra 25% for a day maybe two while your crazy schedule calms down. But in the interim of that crazy time, the extra 25% space allows you to have a functional pantry. Laundry rooms also require this. As much as I wish everyone could run their clothes through the wash, dry them, fold them, and return them back to their closets on the same day, that’s just not real life. Real life requires that you’ve got a space open to catch that basket of clothes that you just couldn’t finish today. Get my drift? Cabinets that hold mugs should NEVER require any extra space because your mug stash will remain fairly unchanged; however, if you like your cabinets to appear balanced and airy, you’ll need a good amount of negative/unused space (like 25%) to achieve that feeling.
So trust me on that 25% thing, ok?
Now that you know what SIZE containers you need, assess what you’ve already got. In kitchens, you most likely have built-in cabinets and drawers. Use these to your advantage. But remember that zone (or point of use) always trumps size of space available.
Buy what you need based on the size of what you need to contain. For offices, bedrooms, closets, or pantries, you may need to add a few containers like a set of filing cabinets (or a crate that holds hanging files), bins for kids’ toys, baskets for cupcake and brownie mixes, etc. I know all the matching nesting containers at TJMaxx are gorgeous, but only buy that three-pack if you know EXACTLY what going inside the baskets when you get home.
Pay attention to style and functionality. Keep your containers similar in shape and color based on the room so that you can easily swap them if one set of items grows and another shrinks. A great example of a needed swap might be the bin that holds the toys (which will shrink over time) and the bin that contains school-work supplies (which will grow over time). One sure-fire way to help you stay organized is to use containers that you love to look at. An ugly space never helped anyone. Decide what your “beautiful” is and aim for that pattern and texture. My garage has a lot of white bins. My pantry has a lot of tan bins. My girls’ room has pink bins that match the playful patterns on the walls. Don’t settle for a container just because it fits your dimensions. If the dresser you found is the wrong color and one drawer short, pass on the purchase and keep looking.
Getting organized is about living simply. Living simply means eliminating distractions and creating easier solutions to the clutter attacks. Your life should function better and your space feel more welcoming when you’ve finished containing the items that you need, use, and love.
Got questions? Let me know in the comments below!
Being a professional organizer is a blast, but using fun tools to corral and cut the clutter is what motivates me to tackle the mess EVERY SINGLE DAY for my clients. Because I love my readers, I’m sharing some of my favorite tools of the trade! I want you to get as pumped up and prepared as I am to tackle your next pile. And guess what?! All my favs are under $16!
Number 6: Cast-Off Containers
Starting an organizing project usually requires at least one trash bag and possibly one box. As I work with clients, more boxes and bags become available as we begin sifting through the clutter. These cast-off containers may be plastic bins, old laundry baskets, small gift bags/boxes, even reusable shopping bags. Since they are no longer holding the stuff that was sitting in the garage, closet, or guest bedroom, these containers can be repurposed for organizing, donating, shredding, or discarding. Most clients have more than enough reusable shopping bags. The extra bags become the “bins” for future donations that can be stored in closets and laundry rooms, ready to catch the next cast-off item. Boxes, broken plastic containers, and bags are great for collecting trash, recycling, or shred items during a clean-up. As I help my clients, we create piles of empty containers ready for repurposing. It’s a FREE way to help you get the job done!
Number 5: Measuring Tape
This might seem like a no-brainer, but too many folks forget to measure while they organize. Measuring ensures the perfect fit for exactly what you need to store. It also helps you pick the perfect drawer, shelf, or container for your items. A 25’ tape is perfect for small organizing jobs.
Number 4: Straight Tab Files
There is nothing more beautiful than an easy-to-maintain filing system, unless you add straight tabs to the mix. In that case, the system just went from beautiful to DROP DEAD GORGEOUS! Straight (or single) tab folders have the tab for labeling only on one side instead of the left, middle, and right. Straight tabs allow you to add and delete without having to reset all the other tabs so that they appear “in order.” Hanging files that allow for different tab positions are great too. These can easily be converted into straight tab to line up neatly in the cabinet. “But isn’t it hard to see what the labels say since they’re all stacked one in front of the other?” you ask. Not in the least. Labels should be written in thick black ink with a Sharpie marker or label maker that allow for ease of reading. Additionally, files always hold more than ten documents, enabling the files to spread out a bit. (If a file has less than ten documents, you probably don’t need a separate file for those papers. Quality, not quantity, should be the determining factor when creating a filing system. Additionally, you should only keep the documents that you’ll need to retrieve, thus eliminating a big portion of file folders you may have in your current system.)
Number 3: Multitool
Remember your dad’s Swiss Army Knife? The one with 16 different features? Yep, that’s the one. I keep my multitool in my apron, ready to cut, screw, slice, and nail whenever I need it. The one I love isn’t fancy or big, but it gets the job done. It also keeps me from having to run back and forth to the garage or utility room for the tools I need.
Number 2: Wire Shelves
Almost everyone has at least one in their home, or they are guilty of recently giving one away because they just couldn’t see a good use for it. The truth is that these buddies rock! I recommend them for EVERY kitchen project because they double your cabinet space. These shelves are perfect for stacking plates, mugs, and glasses. I also like to use them where the breads are stored since breads are impossible to stack without squishing. The key for a wire shelf is to make sure you have a purpose for the shelf before you buy. They come in standard sizes, so check your cabinet dimensions too. When it comes to color, I prefer white because it seems to create the cleanest look. Bed, Bath, & Beyond is my go-to store for picking these up in a pinch! Amazon, Walmart, Old Time Pottery, and TJ Maxx also carry these.
Number 1: Painter’s Tape
You weren’t expecting that were you? Does it seem anticlimactic? Well it shouldn’t. You see, painter’s tape (or any colored masking tape for that matter) is PERFECT for tackling EVERY job. In the beginning stages of organizing a space, I use the tape to identify locations of items that need to be contained. It’s always best to plan first and act second. The tape allows me to see EVERYTHING that requires a home in the space and allows for easy swapping BEFORE any of the items get involved. Kitchens and bedrooms are notorious for being covered in my lime green tape! The painter’s tape also prevents any damage to finishes as it moves around.
I also use my tape to create temporary labels before printing them on my label maker (which is a bit more than $16). “Why not just skip the temporary and print the final?” Simple. Everything deserves a rough draft. Sometimes, while categorizing, the names of the categories might change and it takes less time to cross out a word on tape than to set up the label maker. At other times, the temporary labels are affixed to temporary storage containers. I always recommend shopping for containers LAST so that clients know exactly what size and how many containers they’ll need. In the meantime, it helps to have the mismatched bins and recycled shoe boxes clearly labeled.
A bright roll of painter’s tape also makes for a fabulous bangle. It never hurts to look good while getting organized!
What are your favorite tools?
We'd love to hear about your tools and answer any questions you might have in the comments below!
A client recently asked me, “What’s the right amount of _______? When is enough enough?”
The question spurred a trail of thoughts a mile long. Every person is going to have a different answer for every area of life. The avid cyclist will have more accessories that I can count, while the once-a-year cyclist may just have the bike. The answer to the question lies in your love, need for, and use of all the things available within a given category. No matter the level of enthusiasm, there is wisdom in establishing healthy limits.
Here are your top 3 guidelines to help you discover when your enough is enough:
Each item in your home is used at least once a year.
This may sound like a tall order, but it’s easy to achieve if you give yourself the time to tackle each category and make decisions. Clothing is the best category to begin with and laundry is your easiest way to measure frequency of use. Runners who run 7 days a week and only do laundry once will require 7 outfits. Employees who work in an office (with no uniform) or teachers will most likely do laundry at least once a week, but may require 10 outfits so that they don’t feel like they’re repeating themselves every week. Instead, 10 outfits allow for a potential repeat only once every two weeks. Some folks like to have even MORE variety in their wardrobes. (I highly caution more than 3 weeks’ worth of outfits.) The Pareto Principle attests that we’re only using 20% of our stuff 80% of the time, so to help you identify what you’re actually wearing (all the time AND at least once a year), try this little experiment.
Dust is at a minimum.
When you are actively using everything in your home, those items will be touched, moved, or laundered on a regular basis. Have you ever seen a pair of shoes tucked in the back of your closet covered in dust? You know why they’re dusty and your other shoes aren’t? I bet it’s NOT because you only dusted the other pairs. Who dusts shoes?! No, that one pair is dusty because they haven’t been moved in months. But what about snow boots? Well of course, those will probably get dusty --- that’s an expected casualty of the seasons. Don’t play hardball --- you know exactly which shoes I’m talking about --- the ones that you know won’t pass the “worn in a year” test. The point is, when the things in our home have a purpose, less dust will settle. You’ll still need to vacuum, mop, and dust, but your work will be cut in half because ….. (wait for it…..)
Your closets, drawers, cabinets, and other storage areas are at least 25% empty.
The emptiness not only creates ease of accessibility, but it also allows the air to flow properly through your house. Proper air flow equals less dust. If your storage areas are always jammed full, then you’ve simply got to ask yourself if all the items within them passed the first test. If they did and you’re still overflowing, then you might be one of the VERY few people in the world who NEED more space. Just a warning, parenting during the infant stage will create a very FULL home. There are a TON of things you need for such a small person, that the hoard is almost laughable. But take heart --- you won’t need all these things for more than each little person’s first year of life. You might feel the need to store and reuse for the next child (thus “breaking” the Twelve Month Use Rule), and that’s normal. Choose an area that is out of the way and not easily accessible like an attic, basement, or someone else’s extra storage space during the “waiting for baby” period.
Ready to find out if you have enough already? I bet you are and I bet you do. When you follow these three guidelines, the items that are more than enough can be released to make way for space, freedom, and even newer/more useful things. Some clients realize at the end of their edits that there are items missing; items not previously owned but needed. Clothing staples and capsule wardrobes provide great examples of how to purchase more after eliminating the excess.
Share your experience below!!!
Are you the person tasked with managing all the family “stuff”? The antique rocker used by your great grandmother for your grandfather as a baby or the rare China that was handpicked by your great aunt for your parents as a surprise on their wedding day? Maybe you’re the keeper of the photos, framed and loose.
If you’re THAT person, you’ve got a lot of STUFF to manage.
Hidden within each piece are fantastic tales, stories of sacrifice, and maybe even great financial investment….it’s not like you can just give it away.
We’re ripping the bandaid off of a pretty touchy subject. Stick with us as we remove the cloud of confusion with this step-by-step guide for all those treasured (and no so treasured) things.
Decide What to Keep & Who Gets It
We know you’re the keeper, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep everything or that your home should act as a free storage unit for those who want stuff but have no intention of picking it up. If the heirloom isn’t desirable today, it most likely won’t be 20 years from now. Young children are the only ones who get a pass on making that decision. If the choice is theirs but they aren’t ready to make it, store the item with an expiration date; preferably no more than 20 years from now.
The family member (close, extended, or pseudo) that appreciates the item most, gets it.
Appreciation can be determined by how often the member will display, reflect on, or use a given piece. Saying that you care about an item but never sharing its unique story or using it, isn’t caring about anything; that’s just keeping or storing. The exception to this is when a legal request is set forth in a will. Legal always wins.
If the heirlooms are on display in your home (as the keeper), simply record the name of the next keeper on the back or bottom of the piece. My family LOVES masking tape! My sister has had her name on my grandparents’ candy dish since she was 10. No one is going to argue with appreciation on that one.
If the heirlooms are not on display because you personally don’t appreciate them all that much, deliver those items to the person who wants them ASAP. You’re wasting the memory when you keep the treasure hidden.
If the heirlooms are collections, don't be afraid to pare it down. Keep only the best baseball cards, not all 635. Reserve one tea cup instead of the set of twelve. Heirlooms can still maintain their sentimental value as a portion of the whole.
Decide What To Release & Where It Goes
No doubt that in your “keeping” stash you’ve got a few heirlooms that just look like plates, framed photos, and knickknacks. No one wants them and you honestly can’t remember why they were important.
In fact, the only reason they’ve remained in your stash is because of two (misguided) beliefs: guilt and presumed monetary value.
Am I right?
Go ahead and nod; no one’s watching you.
Let’s talk guilt first.
The problem with keeping things out of guilt is that this was NEVER the intention of the family member that passed the item on to you. Never. The item was passed on because the giver (or previous keeper) thought it would bring you joy.
But it’s okay if it doesn’t bring you joy. Their memory may not be your memory. Just because your mother remembered using the old leather reins for her horse doesn’t mean that her granddaughter will bat an eye at them; and she shouldn’t be expected to.
The beauty of heirlooms is the love and memories attached to them --- not necessarily the heirlooms themselves. In most cases, your heirlooms look like ordinary, old stuff to outsiders. If the item is truly just a “thing” that you think may have been special at one time, don’t feel guilty about letting it go.
To combat guilt, try these strategies:
Now the elephant in the room: presumed monetary value.
If you’ve been told that your grandparents’ antique furniture was worth hundreds of dollars or that the vase purchased overseas during an Asian war tour is priceless, you’ve been duped.
For many years, antiques were worth something. It was a generally accepted fact that anything old, particularly if it had been well-cared for, was valuable and could be sold if money was tight.
Unfortunately, times have changed. With so many Baby Boomers downsizing, antiques and heirlooms have flooded the market. The previous value of an item was higher in large part because the supply was seemingly low. Now with Facebook, Craigslist, and other FREE and far-reaching forms of consignment, heirlooms and antiques JUST LIKE YOURS are everywhere. Less than 10 years ago, my husband and I purchased a dining room suite on consignment. It had scratches, but overall we got a steal. Of course, that’s when dining room chairs were worth around $100 a piece. Now I see sets like mine all the time selling for a quarter of what we paid.
The heirlooms you’re “keeping” to trade in for dough on a tight day won’t get you far. Read more here, here, and here about it if you’re not convinced.
There is the RARE exception of a truly valuable item. If you think you’ve got one, ask an Estate Sales Appraiser for a general opinion. They might be able to find a market for your item, but then again, they might not. Antiques Road Show used to be cool, until we all realized that to get that kind of money out of the one random thing you found, you’d have to find someone to buy it.
Here’s The Bottom Line
Keep what you enjoy. Part with the heirlooms that have no meaning, no stories, and no one to appreciate them. In fact, when you make the decisions NOW rather than waiting for someone else to decide AFTER you die (sorry, but it's going to happen), you spare your heirs a load of heartache and headache. Don't let the guilt of keeping stuff pass to the next generation --- if it's valuable to you, share the stories while you have the opportunity.
Don’t hoard the stuff you aren’t using or loving. Let those things serve and bless those around you instead. Be encouraged that when you offer up the unwanted items, you bless others. Look for family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or charities that NEED your things and give with abandon.
Your generosity will not return void.
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