To Simplify Your Life (and your stuff)... Start Small

The best definition I’ve heard for “disorganization” is Barbara Hemphill’s observation that it is “a series of deferred decisions.” That stack of mail, dishes in the sink, the pile of clothing on the floor, or the backpacks and shoes strewn about the front door are usually things that couldn’t be dealt with in the moment (The baby is crying! Dog needs to be fed! Or I” just want to sit down on the couch and not move for a little bit”…) The problem is, they need to be dealt with eventually, and the longer you wait, the more it’s going to pile up until it feels overwhelming and unmanageable. This is usually the point people are at when they come to me for help. Part of the problem is that we are constantly being inundated with stuff and information. Our inboxes, mailboxes, and laundry baskets are overflowing, and we don’t have the time and energy to do it all. If we could just simplify, and pare down, things would be a lot easier to manage. You don’t have to do it all at once. Here is a series of small habits you can build to start making your life (and your stuff) more manageable. Start with one, and once you’ve mastered that habit, you can begin to introduce more. You might just get hooked!

photo by Social.cut

photo by Social.cut

Control your closet

 Have a dedicated donation box in your closet. Whenever you’re picking out clothes for the day and you come across something you no longer like or wear, toss it in the donation box. Same goes for items around the house. Once a month (it helps if you have a dedicated day, and it’s noted on your calendar) take it to a donation center. Once you get in the habit, you will start to eye your things more critically, and you will get better at letting things go. 

Declutter your inbox

Each time you open your email, unsubscribe from at least one subscription you aren’t interested in. 

Tame your mailbox

Resist the urge to just move your mail from the outdoor mailbox, to a box or surface inside. Each time you touch the mail, take action on at least one thing. This could be immediately recycling any ads/unwanted catalogs, sorting into piles for each family member, or taking everything out of envelopes so they can be assessed later. 

Clear old contacts

Whenever you go to make a call, remove at least one old contact from your phone (if you’ve ever had to deal with online dating, you probably have a bunch of these). 

Clean while you cook

In cooking, there is usually some active cooking time, and then times when you are waiting-waiting for water to boil, for something to cook, etc. Use that down time to throw a few dishes in the dishwasher, or wipe a countertop. If you are cleaning up while you are cooking, you are going to have much less of a mess later when it comes time to do dishes (and you’re feeling satiated and comfortable and don’t want to clean up). Unless someone else is doing the dishes, and in that case, leave all the dishes! Haha, just kidding… kinda…

Multitask your trips 

If you live in a two story house like I do, it can sometimes feel like you’re going up and down the stairs all day long. I like to keep a basket at the top of the stairs, and one at the bottom for items that need to be transferred up or down. At some point when I take the stairs, I bring the items with me and put them away (rather than running up and down with each item throughout the day). This keeps things from accumulating where they don’t belong because of my laziness. 

Start small, and before you know it, things will start to become more manageable. I promise..



It's OK if your house doesn't look like Pinterest...

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I recently moved into a house with my partner Chris. Combining households can be a complicated process, and since I have a tendency to be a Decor Dictator, I had to really check myself. We decided that instead of just bringing all our stuff to the new place, we would let go of things that didn’t really fit the space, and take time to find furniture and items that reflect our combined style. But after a week of living in a bare-bones house, I started to feel anxious, and had the urge to just go out and buy things (anything!) to fill the space. I wanted it to be “done,” so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed when I had friends over (or like an imposter, because everyone assumes I have a perfect house), but I knew that it just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t take the time to find the right things. I listened to a guided meditation later that night, which was about “letting go.” It reminded me that we can’t control everything, all the time, and to keep from going crazy, we need to be ok with that. I thought about all the reasons people feel unsatisfied with their home, or guilty, or embarrassed that it’s not “Pinterest worthy” and how these are often unnecessary feelings that keep us from sharing our space with others, or feeling comfortable in our home. I’m writing this blog to tell you that you don’t have to have the perfect house to feel good about it. I want to tell you that IT’S OK. 

It’s OK to actually use your house

The first thing everyone says to me when I come over, no matter how cluttered or perfect their home is, is “don’t judge…” Why do we all have so much guilt about our homes? There is this lingering expectation from the recent past when people (Ok, let’s tell it like it is, WOMEN) were expected to have a home worthy of company at all times. As we’ve gotten busier, with both parents working, and work bleeding into our leisure time, we have less time, but the same high standards. Let me tell you that sometimes I don’t put my laundry away for a couple of days. Who cares? I have the book I’m currently reading on my coffee table, and my sweater from this morning draped over a chair. It’s ok for your home to show some signs of life. I once heard a story (who knows if it was true or not) about a model who rarely smiled because she was so afraid of getting wrinkles and laugh lines. Can you imagine not wanting to laugh and share deep emotions with others because you’re worried about how you look? Talk about missing the point. That’s how I view some of those perfect, sleek Pinterest houses. If your house looks like that 100% of the time, you’re probably missing out on real life. Let’s agree to stop feeling so guilty about the reality of our lives. 

It’s ok for your home to be a work in progress.

Have you ever gotten to a point in life when you could say “This is it. I’ve reached the point where everything is perfect, and now I’m going to stay this way forever”? Of course not! That’s not how life works. The world is always changing, and we are evolving and growing with it. What worked for us, and the things we enjoyed in our 20s are not going to be the same in our 40s. The same is true for our environment. Our home is an extension of ourselves, and our things reflect our changing styles, interests, and habits. It may take a while to get to the point where it feels “done,” and even then, there will probably come a time when you want to change it again. Be ok with where you’re at in the process, and find beauty in the transition. 

It’s OK if your house doesn’t look like it belongs on Pinterest

When people hear “organized,” I think the images that pop into their heads are shelves of matching labeled bins all lined up perfectly in a row, clear surfaces as far as the eye can see, or closets with clothes all lined up by color. These are images that make me drool…but for people out there in the real world, they can seem unattainable, impractical, or even sterile. When I say “organized” I mean that every item has a home, and that your living space is functional, i.e. you know where to find things, where to put them away, and there are systems in place that make it easy to go about your daily life smoothly. What this actually looks like can vary widely depending on the person. Some of my clients DO want the matching labeled bins, or they are motivated to “file fold” (picture Marie Kondo’s perfect t-shirt drawer) all their clothing every time they do laundry. For others, “organized” may look like labeled pull out bins under their bed, where they can throw items of clothing into the appropriate category, and then hide them away, because they don’t have the time or inclination to fold everything. There’s no right or wrong, as long as it works for you. Getting organized is not about making your home look impressive (although that’s an added bonus!), it’s all about feeling good in your own space. Don’t feel like your home has to look a certain way. Embrace your own particular style and personality!

If your home feels chaotic, out of control, and burdensome, then it may be time to make some changes, but don’t change things just to reach some ideal, and don’t waste time worrying about what others will think about your house. Think about what makes you happy, and how you want to live, and let that be your guide. Home sweeet home. 



Organizing Your Time, Part 2: Productivity Tips

photo by Emma Matthews

photo by Emma Matthews

In our first installment about time-management, we discussed doing a time audit to really see how you are spending your time (if you’d like to check out that blog post, click here.) Hopefully you made some enlightening discoveries. We talk about “finding more time” in the day, but the reality is that we are working with a finite amount of time and energy. The trick is finding out how to BEST allocate those hours so we are getting things done and enjoying life without experiencing burnout. ...

Prioritize

When you look at your schedule, it can be overwhelming to see all the things you need to do in one place. Prioritizing is key to keeping a balanced life. Start from your values and goals, and determine what tasks are supporting you towards these goals, and what is just “filler”, or at least less important. When you approach your schedule from this perspective you’ll it will be easier to find what is most important to you, and allocate your time accordingly. 

Not All Hours are Created Equal

When we add things to our schedule, we are usually considering where we can fit a task in. If something takes an hour and a half, we find a free two-hour block and write it in our calendar. There may be other considerations to take into account, however. Our energy level naturally rises and falls during the day, and our motivation for certain activities follows. If you are energized in the morning, take advantage of that and schedule tasks that require more energy or brainpower then. Maybe instead of starting your day by responding to emails, use the time to write a blog or have a one-on-one meeting. Schedule tasks for when your motivation and mood are suited for them. You will find you can get through them with much less resistance. 

“Double-Duty Task”, Not Multitask

You’ve probably heard by now that multitasking is not very effective. Studies show that when we break our focus to attend to another task, it takes us an average of 25 minutes to regain that focus. Rapidly switching between tasks means we’re going to take longer to do each one, and our quality of work will be diminished. Instead of toggling between tasks, find some time in your day that can serve “double-duty.” These are tasks you can do simultaneously, without diminishing the quality of either. For instance, if you commute to work on your bike, you are checking off the exercise box, and getting to work in the process. Skyping with a friend while you prep dinner can ensure you’re getting some social time in (without having to leave the house!), while doing a necessary chore. Or try having a weekly “errands running” date with a friend, so you’re catching up and having fun while you get things done. See where some of your tasks and activities can overlap, and you may be able to open up some more time. 

Prepare to Be Focused

When you sit down to do a task, minimize distractions. Make sure you’ve had something to eat, your co-workers or family know not to bother you, and it might even be helpful to remove your phone from the area, or block out distracting technology (you can put your phone on “do not disturb” or use an app such as Freedom to block certain websites for a period of time). Productivity studies recommend working in 90 minute blocks, with 20 minutes of rest in between to maximize your output without burning out. I find when I commit to working to a certain amount of time (using a timer to keep me on track), I can really dig deep and tune out other distractions and thoughts. Otherwise, I find myself pulled in multiple directions or down the internet rabbit hole for too long. I’d rather get my work done and have a significant chunk of time for leisure than waste it surfing the internet between tasks. 

Go With the Flow

You may have your life scheduled down to the minute, but of course there are always going to be things that are out of your control. People may show up late, or events may be cancelled at the last minute. I always have a master list (in the notes section of my phone) of small tasks that don’t really have hard and fast deadlines. If I find I have 5 or maybe 15 minutes unexpectedly, I check the list and see if I can get something done. Maybe I’m in an area where I can run a quick errand I’ve been meaning to do, return something (pro tip: keep items that need to be returned to a store or a friend in your trunk, so when you’re in that area you are ready to do so) or I can make a few calls I’ve been dreading. By maximizing this in-between time, you can save up larger blocks of leisure time for later, and chip away at your to-dos. 

Self-Care is Not Optional

We are often reluctant to schedule in the things that keep us happy and healthy, because they seem “optional” while deadlines at work or taking care of responsibilities at home are not. First of all, remind yourself that you deserve to be well. Secondly, you are going to be a better person/spouse/parent/friend/worker when you are taking care of yourself vs. being stressed out or burned out. And thirdly, burnout is a real time-waster. If you think you can’t spare 20 minutes to just sit and do nothing, or go on a walk, or whatever it is you need to do, think about when you have maxed out your energy and patience. Those are the times when you eat things you’d rather not (or don’t eat at all), or when you lose an evening because you have to go straight to bed, or zone out for hours watching something. When we push ourselves too much, our body rebels and forces us to slow down. Stay ahead of the game and take care of yourself. 

While there are certain principles of time-management, it can be more of an art than a science. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with your schedule. It can take time to find that balance (and our lives are always changing!). You can do it!



Downsizing Your Tech: Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism

We can’t deny that technology has become an integral part of modern life. It’s almost unthinkable that someone would not have a smart-phone or a social media account. How would they function?? While tech has undoubtedly improved our lives in many ways, like anything, it has its downsides too. Most of us have a bit of an addiction to our phones. Anytime we have a free moment, we find ourselves compulsively checking our messages, facebook, instagram, or playing a quick game. This is no accident, as these apps are specifically designed to catch and hold our attention as long as possible. These distractions often take us out of the moment, and cause us to miss out when we could be finding joy in what we’re currently doing. They can interrupt your focus, making your workday longer, and less productive. Finally, they often, counterintuitively, make us feel lonelier. We may engage in hundreds of superficial “connections” each day, through messaging, liking, etc, but it cannot replace the face-to-face interactions that we crave as humans. I recently read the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, in which he explores the paradoxical nature of technology and how we can regain control over our tech use to enhance our lives. I highly recommend it, as it covers this topic in much more nuance than I can here, but I would like to share some of his ideas...

The “Digital Declutter”

Organized desk

Cal Newport proposes that we’re not going to break technology’s hold on us with “quick fixes”, “hacks”, or half-measures, and instead advocates for a full detox. He encourages taking a 30 day break from all *optional* technologies. Obviously it would be extremely difficult to go without a phone, but you can take off some of the apps that are merely distractions or diversions. Or if you’re using an app for work, limit it to that context, and cut it out of your personal time for the month. This can include more than just your phone… think about your time online as well, or time watching movies and shows, or playing video games. The more you can cut out (temporarily), the more information you will get about what is beneficial in your life and what is just wasting time.

Less Tech, More Life 

What I found interesting about this particular detox is Newport’s specific caveat. He doesn’t just want you to cut things out, he wants you to bring joyful and interesting activities INTO your life at the same time. What are the things you actually want to be doing with your time? Nobody has a goal of scrolling through Facebook for 4 hours a day, yet inadvertently that’s what ends up happening. Use this break from technology to spend more time with your loved ones, learn a language, or take up a hobby. By replacing digital time with more purposeful, rewarding pursuits, it will be easier to stick through the detox when it becomes tempting to cheat. Your goal for the month is to reconnect with your values and goals. It is only from this point that you can evaluate what role technology should play in our your life. 

Optimize Your Tech 

At the end of the 30 day detox, you can start to bring technology back into your life, but you must do it in a careful and considered way. Newport wants you to ask of each app or gadget, “Does this support my values?” If not, you may be able to do away with it for good. If it does support your values, go one step further and ask “Is this the BEST way to support my values?” There are ways to use technology to fit your needs while minimizing other distracting or harmful features. For instance, you can turn off your notifications, you can keep your phone on “do not disturb” for most of the time, or you can use facebook just for the events page while avoiding your newsfeed. With a little digging, you can find ways to optimize technology to support your life, rather than being your life. 

Rules to Live (Surf) By

Sometimes tech is a guilty pleasure we like to indulge in, but we would like to use it in a more measured way. It can be helpful to create “rules” for yourself. For instance, I will only watch a movie or show with another person. This keeps me from binging on a series by myself, and has an added social aspect that I enjoy. You can also decide you only want to view certain internet content on specific days of the week or time of the day. There are even apps that will help you do this, such as Freedom

Minimalism, in the digital sense or otherwise, is not about experiencing privation, it’s about being intentional about what we have, use, and how we spend our time. It is about giving up low-quality amusements and distractions in pursuit of our greater goals. When we minimize, we find what nourishes us, and, as Cal Newport says, we “happily miss out on everything else.” 



Seasonal Organizing : Summer in Portland!

If you’ve lived in Portland a while, you’re probably used to summer officially starting a little late here. We might get a teaser week or two, but usually have rain right up until July 4th. It’s a bit of an awkward transition, but once we get there, we have some of the most beautiful weather I’ve seen anywhere. Whenever there’s a change of season, I like to give my home a little refresh. Everything is changing outdoors, so why not reflect that in your home environment? 

Closet Reorganization

I love rotating my clothes according to season. (If you’re looking to downsize, check out this past blog about creating a capsule wardrobe) It keeps my closet sleek and manageable, and eliminates the visual overwhelm that makes it difficult to find what I want to wear. Now’s the time to pack up your heavy, bulky sweaters, jackets, and boots, and bring out brighter, airier items. If your winter goods are taking up a lot of space, try vacuum sealing them in bags for easier storage.

Photo by Christelle Bourgeois

Photo by Christelle Bourgeois

Living Room Reset

Put away those cozy blankets, and bring out some lighter and brighter throws. Add some color with new greenery (Yay plants!! Don’t forget to mist your tropicals as the weather gets warmer) and accessories. 

Kitchen Details

I eat a lot more fruit in the summer, and fresh veggies from the garden. I love to put out beautiful bowls or baskets to display my delicious bounty. Here’s a handy guide on how to best store them.

Travel-Ready Organizing

Make sure your toiletries bag is well stocked with travel-size items, and clear bags (for going through airport security), and keep all your travel items stored together in the same area. If you like spontaneous road trips and camping, put together a Grab-n-go bag or bin, so you’re not gathering up all the necessary items from scattered places. Have a checklist of things you usually take with you, but don’t store away with the travel items. Make it easy to take off whenever you desire!

Summer Schedule: Managing your time

There are so many amazing summer events in Portland! Do yourself a favor, and schedule in your favorites. Too often we think “I’d like to go to that this year..” but then we forget about it or get busy and end up missing out. Schedule in FUN FIRST, so you can arrange your work and responsibilities around the things you love to do. Don’t let summer pass you by!

Enjoy!!! 


Organizing Your Time, Part 1 : Time Audit

organizing your time

For most people, “time” is a stressful subject. We don’t have enough of it. Even though we seem to be constantly busy, the to-do list never shrinks, and it feels like we’re treading water. The “cult of busy” is a reality for us in modern times. Not only is everyone expected to be always “on” and busy (which is different from productive), it has almost become a status symbol: the busier you are, the more successful and important you must be. This has led to increasing stress, exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

How do you feel about time? Take a few minutes to gauge your emotional gut reaction. What are your time-related “pain points”? Are you often late? Do you take on too much? Do you find you’re more “busy” than productive? On the flip side...when does time feel expansive to you? What activities make you “lose track of time” in a good way?

Conceptualizing Time

Since the beginning of wage labor, we have conceptualized our day in three equal parts: 8 hours for work, 8 for leisure, and 8 for sleep. The reality, however, is much more complicated. Work has come to bleed into our leisure time, “leisure” time is less about play and more about life-maintenance tasks, and who is able to get 8 hours of sleep EVERY night?? If we want to get a realistic picture of our time, we are going to have to come up with new categories.

When I think about time, I tend to sort it into six categories, which I have explained below. You can choose to use these categories, or make up your own that make sense to you. Either way, I invite you to reflect on how you are using your time, and how it makes you feel. If you want to get REALLY nerdy (I know I do!), you can print out this spreadsheet and actually block out your tasks, and then highlight them according to the category they belong to. This will give you an overall visual of where most of your time is going, and what areas of your life are getting neglected. Ok, here we go!

Perform a Time Audit with These Six Categories of Time

WORK: The “9-5” is a myth. Perhaps this is the amount of time you are “On-the-clock” at your particular job, but when I think about my time, I take a much broader perspective. The half hour you need in the morning to prep for work (making a lunch, grooming myself to a certain professional standard) that’s work time. If you spend time outside of the office doing something work related-that’s work time. If I wouldn’t choose to do these things in my “free time,” then why should I categorize them as such? When you think about it this way, your 8 hour day may actually be a lot longer than you think. Be realistic about what your work entails.

LIFE-MAINTENANCE: I use the term “life-maintenance” to describe all those activities that are technically work, but just not the kind we get paid for. This can include our grocery shopping, meal prep and cooking, household chores, transporting the kids, paying bills, fixing things around the house...you get it. If you’re doing it because it HAS to be done for life to run smoothly, and not for the sheer joy of it, categorize it as life-maintenance.

LEISURE: I think the biggest mistake people make when plotting out their time is to automatically categorize certain things as “work” vs. “play” based on some objective notion of what category an activity belongs to. If you are going to a party (something that is “supposed to be” fun) because you feel obligated-for networking, or because your workplace expects it, or because you feel you owe it to someone to show up, that’s not leisure. Put it in another category. On the other hand, there may be some “chores” that you actually love doing. If grocery shopping and cooking makes your heart sing, consider it leisure. Maybe you love to fix things around the house or go to the gym. This category is very subjective. Think hard about how you feel about the activity, rather than what category it seems to belong to. What are you doing during the week that brings you joy?

SELF-CARE: This can be a bit of a nebulous category, so it might require some reflection first. Are you taking the time for self-care? What are the things you need to do to feel “right.” Or, think about it in reverse. What would activities prevent you from feeling anxious and stressed during the week? This could include exercise, meditation, a bath, a beloved hobby, or time with a special person. It’s entirely personal.

“GREY TIME”: When I use the term “grey time,” I’m referring to those bits of in-between time, where you have free-time, but it’s restricted in some way. This can include waiting somewhere, stuck in a certain location, like if you are watching your child’s soccer practice. It can include your commute, where you’re free to listen to podcasts or chat with someone over Bluetooth, but you can’t really engage in other activities. It can be helpful to identify these times, (when you may just be wasting time playing on your phone) so you can put them to better use either productively or enjoyably.

SLEEP: Lastly, the most easily defined category. Note what time you are getting to bed each night, and rising each morning. It it consistent over the week? Are you getting enough sleep every night, and if not, what is taking up that time?

What did you learn from this activity? Did anything surprise you? Stay tuned for tips on how to maximize the time you have, and open up more time for your priorities..


How to pack for a move

It’s always exciting (albeit stressful!), to move to a new space and start afresh. It is a great opportunity to reassess what you have and what you might need. Your goal should be to move your stuff, but leave behind clutter and ways of doing things that no longer serve you.

Give yourself some time in your new space and really imagine how you are going to use it

Due to a new layout, you may be doing things differently than before. For example, in your kitchen, mentally go through the steps of cooking a meal. Where will you do prep (hopefully you’ve gained some counter space!)? Where does it make sense to put the spices and cooking utensils, so they’ll be in reach when you need them? Taking a little time to think it through will help you know what to pack together, where it will go when you unpack, and prevent you from defaulting to the old way of storing things, which might not be ideal in the new space. Think of the activities you will do in each room, and plan the space accordingly. Maybe you want to foster more quality family time, so instead of keeping the board games in a hall closet, you decide to put them on a bookshelf in the living room, and you get a nice big coffee table to play on. Be intentional about what habits you want to promote, and organize your stuff to facilitate them!

Pare down BEFORE you move

It can be tempting to just throw everything in boxes and let your future self decide what to do with it all. But why spend all the time and effort lugging everything to a new house, just to get rid of a bunch of it? Plus, you will likely have less motivation to deal with it after all the effort of moving, and with the desire to just get settled in. Do yourself a favor and pare down first. As you pack your boxes, consider each item, and set aside (for donation or disposal) anything that is no longer useful, functional, or the right style. If you are downsizing to a smaller space, also take that into consideration and give yourself a % goal (ex: pare down mugs, plates, and bowls by 20%). Don’t worry about what to do with the set aside items until you have gone through the whole house (better to take one big trip to Goodwill, the dump, etc. than a million smaller ones each time you have a small pile of stuff).

Start with things you use the least frequently

You can start getting packed up for a move pretty early, as long as you are packing stuff that you won’t be needing until after you’ve moved. Go through your garage (or attic, or wherever you have long-term storage) and pack up the seasonal sports equipment, or other things you don’t need immediately, instead of deciding to pack up the entire garage the day before the move. If you can get some things out of the way ahead of time, you will have an easier process later.

Group like items together

Sometimes things that go together (either as a “set”, or items that are all used together, such as office supplies) get spread out to different areas of the house, making them hard to find and use. As you pack, this is your chance to bring some order back into the situation! If you have some scarves in your closet, and the hall closet, hanging in the entryway, and on a chair in your room...gather them all up and pack them together. In the new house, you can find a spot that makes the most sense to display or store them where you will use them.

Create a home inventory

Ok, maybe this only appeals to super organizing nerds like myself… but it can be handy to have an inventory of things you own, especially if anything ever happened and you need to make an insurance claim. What better time to start your inventory, than while you’re going through all your stuff! Here is a great list of apps to check out.

Label your boxes with where they will GO, not the room you packed them in

Maybe all those books you stored in your bedroom will be going in the living room now. You don’t want to lug that heavy box upstairs to your room, only to open it and realize you have to bring it back downstairs! Again, this is where planning your space ahead of time will save you time and effort.

Make peace with the (temporary) chaos

As I tell my organizing clients, it’s going to get much worse before it gets better! You’re going to be living with boxes, and piles, and may have trouble finding things… but stick with the process, because it will all be worth it, I promise! And if you feel overwhelmed and need some guidance, we’d be happy to help!

Letting go, but not forgetting

Life happens. We get busy, start a family, pursue a new career, or move on to new things. Sometimes we just lose interest in the things we used to do, and other times it’s a painful, but necessary process of letting go. Our closets, basements, and attics hold objects spanning our lifetimes: old textbooks, clothes we used to wear, and gear for hobbies we no longer do. As we change, what do we do with all that stuff from our past selves? Here are some questions you can ask yourself, to help you process these items in a way that feels right to you.

How do these objects make me feel?

When you interact with these objects, how does it make you feel? Do they bring back pleasant memories? If seeing the items makes you feel stressed out, maybe because they bring up unpleasant memories, or you feel guilty for no longer using them, it may be time to part with them.

Why am I holding onto them?

We have all kinds of justifications for keeping things around that we no longer use. Here are a few I’ve heard:

“I may use this stuff again in the future…”

Say you used to be an avid skier, but now, with a 4 year old and 2 year old, you barely have time to sleep, let alone ski. Your garage is so full of bulky equipment  you haven’t used in years, that you can’t get your car in there anymore. Think hard about how likely you are to take up this hobby again. Come up with a specific percentage. Is there an 85% chance, or a 5% chance you are going to do this again? Are you taking a short hiatus, or have you moved on in your life? Consider giving yourself a time limit: “If I don’t use this stuff in the next year, I will give it away.”

I don’t want to have to buy it again…”

Let’s say you decide that you will probably return to this hobby in the future. Is it worth keeping the equipment around another 5 years until you are ready to use it? Think of alternatives. You could loan it to a friend, on the condition that you are able to borrow it or take it back later. You could rent the equipment when you need it, instead of owning it. Or, if things change down the line, you could consider buying used or getting free hand-me-downs from people giving away their stuff online.

“But these items are part of my identity”

Many of our things hold sentimental value for us, but regardless of what these items mean to us, they don’t define who we are. With or without these objects, we retain the memories, the wisdom, and experiences. I used to act in school plays. I kept many of the items we used, such as old costumes, props, scripts, and notes. It has been nearly two decades since that time, but I still remember it fondly, and every once in a while I like to revisit those things and reminisce. Eventually, I pared down to just a few things that reminded me of that experience. I made a scrapbook with my favorite photos, some of our old jokes, and one program (I had inexplicably kept multiples of each) from each play. Now I can look back at it and remember that time, without having to keep around boxes of extra stuff.

There are many ways we can hold onto these memories without keeping everything. Say you have family heirlooms that you are never going to use, but can’t bring yourself to get rid of. Take photos of these items and keep an album (analog or digital) that you can refer back to when you’re feeling nostalgic. Or you can keep a few small mementos in a treasure box, and let go of the rest. It is not the item itself, but what it evokes for us, that we are holding onto. Try writing a reflection about that time in your life, how you felt, and what these items meant to you, then keep that and let the items go. Think carefully about where you want to keep these mementos. Maybe instead of letting them languish in the basement, you can find a more accessible spot, so you can look at them more often.

“I may need to reference that...”

We are all guilty of keeping around old books, papers, magazines, and clippings, on the off chance that we might need the information someday. If you are not referencing these sources regularly, why keep them around? Ask yourself if this information could be found online, or if you could take out books from the library instead.

“Would someone else benefit from these items?”

When we keep things hidden away, getting old, dusty, and deteriorated, they aren’t doing anyone any good. There are people who would love to have these things, and would use them all the time! You have many options for getting rid of unused stuff. You can sell the items and put the money towards new stuff that is more interesting to you now! Or perhaps you have a friend you can give your old things to, and then you can actually see these items being used and loved. If you want to donate the items, there are many great organizations that will take your things. Second-hand stores allow greater access to items that some people can’t afford new, and are an environmentally friendly alternative to everyone buying new stuff all the time!

“What do I have to lose?”

Looking back at our old things can be a good chance to reflect on where we were, and where we are going now. Think of how your past experiences have shaped who you are, but don’t let them limit you from becoming more. What are your current goals and values? What do you appreciate about your life now? What are you doing that inspires you? By letting go of your past self, you open up space for new opportunities and adventures! Dive in!



How to create a capsule wardrobe (or just make more room in your closet)

Do you find that even though your closet is stuffed with clothes, you tend to wear the same things on repeat? We gravitate towards the items that are most comfortable, or versatile, or that make us look and feel good, and tend to wear the rest infrequently. What if ALL your clothes were your favorites? Sound good? You might be ready for a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe of versatile pieces that can easily be mixed and matched to suit any occasion. It saves you time and mental energy (we already have enough decisions to make in a day!) when you are choosing what to wear, it fosters greater sartorial creativity, and allows you to have your own “signature style.” Years ago I discovered The Uniform Project, a blog by Sheena Matheiken, in which she wore the same black dress every day for a year, creatively reinventing it over and over with an arsenal of accessory items. (You can check out the video collage of all her looks here. ) Her project is on the extreme end of minimalism, but still I was incredibly inspired, and saw that I could definitely do without some of the things cluttering up my bloated closet. I am not going to declare that your wardrobe needs to have a set number of items (I’ve heard 37 is the standard… that seems a bit arbitrary to me!) How much, and what you want to keep are very personal decisions, and will vary from person to person (and will even change for you over your lifetime). Here are some guidelines that will help you figure out what works best for you when paring down your wardrobe.


First, go through your closet and find your favorite items, the clothes that you wear the most.

Set these clothes aside, to use as a starting point for your wardrobe. What do these items have in common? Are they flattering shapes? Do you love the colors or patterns? Are they soft against your skin? By really tuning in to what you like, you can later avoid the temptation of buying something flashy or the latest fad when you’re at the store. If you stay true to your taste, you will be happy with what you choose and get a lot of use out of it.

Let go of clothing that is ill-fitting or just not “quite right.”

If something is uncomfortable, or makes you feel unattractive, why keep it around? Remember, you want every item in your closet to make you look and feel your best, otherwise, what’s the point? We often stubbornly hold onto things we bought on a whim because of “sunk cost” (“I paid a lot of money for this, so I’m going to keep it even if I don’t really like it.”) Get rid of it already! It’s causing you more distress by keeping it around.

Let go of clothing that needs repair or requires accessories you don’t have.

The other category of unused clothing is the “this would be great if…” category. This is clothing that might need some buttons sewn on it, some repairs or tailoring, or maybe has a stubborn stain that needs special treatment. How long have these items been hanging around unused? Give yourself a deadline of a week to fix these issues, and if you haven’t gotten to it by then, it’s time to let it go. The same goes for pieces that you don’t wear because you need to buy other things in order to wear it-a matching top, or bottom, or the right shoes...You want your clothing to be immediately useable and versatile.

Remove off-season clothing from your closet and store it elsewhere.

Having ALL your clothing displayed at once makes for a cluttered and chaotic closet, and can make choosing what to wear unnecessarily overwhelming. Box up your off-season clothing (it helps to roll, rather than fold and stack items) in sturdy plastic bins and store them outside of your closet (if possible). This has the added benefit of making the clothes feel new again when it’s time to open the box for a new season. It’s like reuniting with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while!

Figure out what categories of clothing you need and how much you will keep/acquire for each of these.

Do you need clothes for work? Play? Working out? A specific hobby? How much do you realistically need for each of these categories. If you go to the gym twice a week, you may not need 30 pairs of yoga pants. There may be some overlap between the categories. With a really versatile wardrobe you can change the look of an outfit to fit multiple occasions.

Decide on your “look,” and supplement your wardrobe with a few pieces for the season.

For each season, figure out the styles of clothing that flatter you, and get multiples of, or variations on these shapes. Choose a color scheme that will allow you to mix and match items. This doesn’t mean you have to wear all black or some other “neutral”. Having a few items that “pop” keeps things interesting. Or maybe you love layering different bright colors and patterns. You do you! You want to build up some “classic” items that will be your staples, and then supplement each season with some new items (the fun part, yay!). When shopping for new pieces, remember your criteria for clothes that make you feel good, and consider how each new piece will integrate into your wardrobe.

Experiment with accessories.

Yes, I’m going to sound like a cheesy teen magazine right now, but accessories can really help to stretch your wardrobe, and prevent you from getting bored with your closet. Jewelry, scarves, tights, shoes, belts, layered clothing...there’s so much you can use to enhance or transform what you already have.

Go easy on yourself.

You absolutely do not need to whittle your clothing down to 10 items. Creating a capsule wardrobe can take some time and experimentation. It should be fun, and not stressful! As you get better at figuring out what you need, you will find it easier to pare down.

How to stop accumulating stuff (and save money while you’re at it)

You can have all the right boxes, bins, and furniture for organizing, but sometimes the real problem is just too much stuff (or too little space…but most of us just can’t go out and buy a bigger house!) It’s so easy to accumulate things, and after the initial excitement, a lot of those things get shoved in a closet or garage to be unused for much of the year. Here are some tips to help you take in less, so you have more room to live!

-Ask “Do I need this?” I’m not talking about “need” like medication or toilet paper. Obviously there are things that are non-negotiable. I’m talking about when you go into a store and see something you like and get that feeling of “OMIGOD I HAVE to have this.”  A lot of impulse buys are just that-something we buy on a whim because of a mood we’re in at the moment, or it’s something we’ve seen around and we feel like we have to get in on the action. When I feel that impulse, I have a go-to strategy for figuring out if it’s something I really want, or just a passing fancy. Try waiting a day before you buy. If I am still obsessing about the item, I will have no problem going back to buy it. But, if I purchase it and then regret it, I’m less motivated to make a trip to return it and it just turns into more clutter.

-Can I borrow or rent it? Do you need to own this item? Many things, especially if it’s a big-ticket, infrequently used item, can be borrowed from friends or neighbors (try the Nextdoor app!) And don’t forget about libraries! They’re not just for books anymore.. here in Portland we have tool libraries as well.

Sporting/hobby equipment can take up a lot of room. Usually at some point our priorities change, and even though we use the equipment less and less, it continues to sit in the garage (waiting for a change of circumstances, or “what if…” scenario). Assess how often you actually use these items. If it’s only a few times a year, it may be better to just rent the equipment, or join a workshop or gym where you can use it when you need it, but don’t need it taking up your valuable living space.

-Is there a digital alternative? We’re constantly being bombarded with paper, in the form of mail, flyers, handouts, magazines, etc. This stuff piles up quickly, and can be hard to get rid of. We’re all familiar with using e-readers or tablets for books and magazines, but there are other possibilities as well. It may not be necessary to keep instruction manuals, newspaper clippings, paper articles, and recipes around when these things could easily be looked up (or stored in your own files) online. Evernote is a great app that allows you to capture notes and store them in notebooks on any device. Other apps such as Scannable are great for receipts-just take a picture, enhance the digital copy, and you can send the scans anywhere (including to Evernote). Plus, having your information online makes it much easier to find through searches and tags. If you are a copious note-taker/doodler (like myself), consider getting a Smart Notebook, such as the Rocketbook, which allows you to take notes with a pen, scan the page with your camera and check off where you want to send it online (e-mail, google drive, etc), then wipe the page clean.

-Beware of the “sale”! Sure, you got a great deal on towels, they were 2 for 1! But maybe your linen closet is already so full you can’t close the door...Not buying items in the first place saves you more money than getting a deal on things you don’t really need.

-Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you should take it. We get offered things all the time.. extra napkins and sauce with our food order, goodie bags, flyers, hand-me downs...and we tend to just take these things reflexively. Next time someone offers you something, take a moment to consider if you’re going to use it or not (or if it’s going to just end up a junk drawer) It’s ok to say “no, thanks.”

-Do I have space for this item? Consider setting a limit (based on the space you have) for items in a certain category. Decide that you won’t purchase more clothes that will fit in your closet, or more mugs than will fit on a shelf in your cupboard. You can use the “one in, one out” rule, where if you take a new item home, you will have to part with another item from that category. This will ensure you are re-evaluating your stuff on a regular basis, and only keeping the things you actually like, instead of just holding onto items forever. If you LOVE that Unicorn mug and want to buy it, then maybe it’s time to get rid of that old, chipped novelty mug that you bought for 50 cents in college (in fact, it was probably time to get rid of it a while ago…).

A little bit of intention in your purchasing can go a long way. You can do it!

On the “Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo Phenomenon...

I’m willing to bet that by this time you have heard of Marie Kondo. Whether you were an early reader/adopter of her books, or are just getting into the show “Tidying Up”, there’s no denying that the organization bug has hit… hard! The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was an inspiration for me, and indeed changed my perspective on my possessions, and what I choose to surround myself with. Since everyone is weighing in on the popular show, here are a few takeaways from us here at Abridged:

On “Sparking Joy”-Marie Kondo’s signature question, which she uses as a criteria for whether to keep or discard an item (“Does this spark joy?”) is deceptively simple, and has an almost magical quality. Oftentimes we accumulate objects according to someone else’s criteria: “What furniture do I need to fill up this space?,” “What is trendy right now?,” or “What do my friends and neighbors have in their houses?” Or sometimes we just take gifts or hand-me-downs without much thought about if we really want them or not. Our environment has the power to make us feel a certain way, which is why it is so important to pay attention to our emotional reaction to our things, rather than just a rational assessment. We deserve to be surrounded with items that bring us joy, comfort, and inspiration, so we can live our lives accordingly. This is a very personal, and illuminating process. What qualities spark joy for you? Do bright colors and intricate patterns energize you? Or do you prefer the serenity of clean lines and natural materials? There’s no right or wrong style, just be true to what works for you! That said, perhaps not everything in your house will spark joy (unless you have a novelty plunger that you absolutely love), but it’s a good goal to work towards.

On Thanking Your Possessions-Marie Kondo has a very unique organizing process...One of her quirks is that she likes to kneel down with the family and do a sort of meditation, asking the house to help with their work. She also recommends that when letting go of an item, you thank it for it’s support. This may resonate with some, and sound a little wacky to others, but whichever camp you are in, I think we can agree that having more gratitude and intention in our lives is beneficial.

When we take the time to be grateful for the people and things in our lives, we can find some comfort, a respite from the constant striving to do, have, and be more.

On the “Work” of Organizing-What I appreciate about “Tidying Up” is that it is a more realistic depiction of “home-makeovers” than other reality TV shows. Usually on a home renovation show, the family offers a few suggestions about what they like, and then it’s up to a crew to come in and do all the work, and then present them with a polished product at the end. The families on “Tidying Up” are in the thick of it. It takes long hours and difficult decisions, and they must also learn the skills to maintain that organization after the filming is done. The finished space may not be magazine perfect, with a slew of matching containers, and everything tucked away out of sight, but it is a transformation nonetheless. Much like a weight loss program, or other resolution, tidying up is a process that requires dedication, and does not happen overnight.

On Sharing Responsibility-One of the things I love most about Marie Kondo’s process, is how she compels everyone in the house participate in the project. Oftentimes one member of the household (we all know who this usually is…) feels forced to keep track of everyone’s belongings and schedule, and lays down the standard of how the household functions. This often leads them to feel burned out, while other members in the household may feel helpless or like they are being nagged. When a family (or couple, or roommates) decide on their shared goals together, and put in that work together, they grow closer. Everyone in the family can feel their needs and wants are being met, and they can feel like a responsible, productive member of their family “team.” If you are tackling a project at home, why not invite everyone to join you? You might just be surprised at the results.

On “Professional Organizing”-While we can definitely appreciate what Marie Kondo is doing, our methods here at Abridged are a little different. We prefer to be present during the organizing process, so we can guide you (we want to create a “road map” to your goals), encourage you, and help you make decisions (sometimes it’s a bit more complicated than “Does this spark joy?”). We aim to teach you the skills you need to maintain your organization, and to change your habits for the better. If you’re finding the DIY approach overwhelming, let us help!

Putting Away the Holidays

Simplifying the putting up and taking down of holiday decorations can feel like an arduous task - sometimes so much so that people dread the process instead of enjoying it as part of the seasonal celebration it is. We recommend putting on a Bing Crosby Holiday Album, cracking open a bottle of egg nog and really getting into the spirit, BUT that kind of lightheartedness is only accessed when we simplify our responsibilities and get to the heart of what truly makes us feel happy and celebratory.

For us, it’s two fold:

O N E

Make sure to pare down your decorations to what you truly love (yes, as Marie Kondo would say “spark joy”). Impact can be made with less, if it has the impact and presence that speaks to you.

T W O

Have a system for putting things away that makes it easy on both ends of the project - wrap up cords neatly and store them together with the extension cords you use, put everything that goes with/on the tree together, etc.

This is all completely logical, we get that. But it’s surprising how often in the stress of everything going on pre & post holiday that we all just shove things out of sight wherever, which is NOT doing our future self any favors and we are likely to damage and lose decorations in the process.

Here are a few photos of our simple, Scandinavian-inspired Christmas decor. The garlands inside are faux (but we think it looks pretty real!) for the sake of re-use and lack of stray pine needles, but the tree is a real Nordic Spruce, chopped down locally. Keep in mind - this is what works for US, in OUR SPACE.

I can’t emphasize enough how much longevity I’ve found with my neutral decorations that have worked in a variety of settings, and as my tastes evolve. Having quality items means they'll stand the test of time and having items that tend toward the classic/simple rather than trend forward means they’ll always work effortlessly together or with any new pieces I bring in. I love having touches of the holidays around the entire house, so including garland in the bathroom and hanging snowflakes in all of the windows allows the joy to be spread without it ever feeling overwhelming or hard to maintain.

During the off season, I have a small shelving unit in the basement dedicated to holiday storage and employ four of these IKEA boxes in white to keep the decor organized.

  • B O X 1 / Everything displayed on the mantel, minus the faux garland - but including battery powered lights.

  • B O X 2 / Ornaments, stockings, Nutcrackers that are displayed in the kitchen, faux mistletoe

  • B O X 3 / Large wooden snowflakes that hang in windows, wooden village we display on our shelves

  • B O X 4 / Indoor & Outdoor Lights wrapped neatly into tight coils, as well as extension cords and timers.

  • We leave our faux garlands and wreath out of the boxes to insure they don’t become damaged, as well as our holiday door mat - and Ta daaaaa! The holiday decor has been successfully (and safely) put to bed until next December.

Here’s to a fresh new start — and a reminder to be kind to your future self.

Keeping Shared Spaces Tidy

It’s easy to love your family, but living with them is another story! It can be tough to share space with others, especially when you have different ideas about cleanliness, where to put things, or the aesthetics of a room. If you want to enjoy a tidy, serene space, you will need to get everybody on board. Here are some tips to help you work with your partner, spouse, or kids to achieve the environment you want, without driving each other crazy!

Make sure items have a home-You may feel like you’re constantly reminding everybody to put their stuff away, but what if the problem is there’s no designated spot to put it? Make sure items have a “home” that they can be returned to consistently. Otherwise, stuff may just end up crammed into a random drawer or closet, making it much harder to find the next time around!

Find the path of least resistance-Work with people’s habits, instead of against them, and they will be more likely to put things away. For instance, if your kids tend to throw backpacks, jackets, and shoes onto the floor the minute they get inside the house, even though you have a large coat closet in the adjacent room, meet them where they’re at and create an entryway storage system right by the door. When encouraging others to be organized, you want as few barriers as possible. It is much easier to hang a jacket on a hook by the door than to walk down the hall, open the closet door, take out a hanger, put the jacket on it, place the jacket in the closet, and close the door. Open shoe storage in an entryway  is more likely to be utilized than a bench seat with a lid (which tends to attract clutter on top, which then needs to be moved every time you need to open it...you get the picture). Simplify!

Recognize what they’re doing right-Sometimes we get so caught up seeing everything that’s “wrong,” we become blind to things that are working. Recognize and praise your loved ones for the good things they’re doing. Instead of saying “You always leave the kitchen cabinets open!”, say “Hey, thanks for putting the dishes away, that was really helpful! Would you mind closing the cabinets when you’re done?” Encouragement is much more effective for shaping up good habits than criticism.

Motivate them!-Give them a reason (other than “because I said so!”) to stay tidy. Tell your kids that if the house stays clean, you would be a lot more amenable to having their friends over more often. Tell your spouse that you could have much more quality time together if they took a little time to help out. Show them that it’s much easier to leave the house on time if they put stuff away and can find it when they need it. Emphasize why a tidy house benefits everybody, and they just might start to embrace it. Of course, if subtlety doesn’t work, you could always “bribe” them with a fun family trip, or something else they’ve been wanting! Set up a goal, say, 5 days of keeping the living room clear of “stuff”, track their progress, and reward them for their accomplishments.

Find where you can compromise-Sometimes we don’t get the results we want because our expectations are too high. It may be unrealistic to expect your loved ones to embrace a completely pristine house, but you can meet smaller goals. Together, designate certain rooms where family members need to be more conscientious, and others (like their bedrooms, or a den) where there’s more wiggle room. Or start out with just one or two specific “No Stuff” spots, (such as the kitchen table) where backpacks, purses, lunchboxes, etc. are not allowed to “land.” As everyone gets better at keeping certain areas clutter free, see if you can expand to more areas of the house.

Praise, praise, praise!-Habits can take a while to change, but it’s just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get. As you see your family’s habits change, make sure to praise them, and celebrate their progress. They might just get hooked!

Wishing you a happy (and tidy!) home,

Alissa


Rethinking your To-Do list

The To-Do list. It seems like a no brainer. You just write down EVERYTHING you have to do, and cross each task off as you complete it (ahhh, the best part). But if your list isn’t working for you (aka, you never seem to get to the end of it), maybe it’s time to revamp.

I recommend splitting your list into three different lists. Ok, I know you’re probably thinking “ugh, that sounds like MORE work,” but hear me out.  Putting a little more thought into your list(s) can end up saving you a lot of time and help you feel more motivated too. When everything, from short errands, to long-term projects are on one list, it can seem overwhelming. You may get to some tasks, but others seem to get transferred from list to list with no resolution in sight. When you separate and prioritize, you will know what you need to take action on first and when is the best time to accomplish each task.

Breaking down your long-term goals

Your first list is for long-term projects. Write down the things you are working towards this year. This could include business goals, health goals, house improvements, etc. It is important that you be as specific as possible! It will be a lot easier to work towards a measurable goal, than something fuzzy and undefined. If your goal is to lose weight, come up with a number (“I want to lose 15 lbs”, or “I want to be at 150 lbs” by next January). Under each goal, brainstorm all the steps, big and small, you need to take to get to that goal. For instance, for the weight loss goal, you can add “check out gyms in my area, sign-up, go to the gym 3 times a week, make an appointment with a nutritionist,” etc. This will be your master list, which you will reference regularly, and add items to your calendar at the appropriate time. You don’t need to carry it with you at all times, but the more accessible/visible it is (like on a bulletin board above your desk, or on your fridge), the more you will be reminded of where you’re headed.

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

Everyday Tasks

The second list is your short-term task list, tasks you must accomplish within the day or week. Start by checking your long-term goal master list, and adding the sub-tasks you can start on right now. Then add all that other life-maintenance stuff (does it ever end??) that has a specific deadline. You can add a mark (a star, smiley, whatever!) to indicate the tasks that are most urgent. Since you’re sure to accomplish all these things by the end of the week, you will have the satisfaction of being able to cross everything off!

“I’ll get to it when I get to it..”

The third list is your “whenever” list. This is a list of low-priority tasks that don’t have a specific deadline. This list can include things like returning an item to a friend, calling a relative to say hi, or buying a non-crucial item. They’re things you would like to, and intend to do, but they’re not dire enough that you put them on the schedule, so they often get neglected. When you have a free block of time, you can glance at this list and see if there’s anything you can tackle. I also like to mentally group tasks based on location (where I can accomplish them) as I check my list, so I don’t spend my time driving all over to get things done just because I’m going down my list in order. If I’m close to a shopping center where I can accomplish three tasks in a 20 minute block, that will be more productive than spending the time driving somewhere to accomplish one task.

Lastly, decide if you prefer analog or digital lists. I like to have a written “long-term list”, but keep my “short-term” and “whenever” lists in the notes app on my phone for easy reference. Other people prefer to put them in a calendar or planner that they reference frequently. Do what works for you!


Honing in on your values

I often marvel at all the “time-saving” products and services that exist right now. You can do just about anything online, have anything delivered to you anywhere, at a moment’s notice, and hire someone to do pretty much everything except eat and sleep for you.  All of these things exist to make our lives easier, but are they really worth it? Is the time we’re saving enriching our lives, or fueling a busier and more stressed out life in the pursuit of “doing it all”?

Sometimes, the experiences that we are trying to make more “efficient” are experiences that are much better when enjoyed at a less frantic pace. Take cooking and eating, for instance. It can certainly be a chore if you are running around with a million things to do, and you just need to get something into your stomach NOW! This is why we have fast-food restaurants, take-out, delivery, microwaveable meals, nutrition bars, and packaged food that can be eaten in the car, or on the run. Maybe the problem isn’t that we need more ways to get nutrients into our bodies as quickly and easily as possible, but that we are sacrificing a fundamental need in the name of work, or productivity. Personally, some (ok, a lot, actually) of my greatest joys revolve around enjoying a meal. I love turning on some music, opening a bottle of wine, and cooking a delicious meal with someone I care about. I love having a good conversation on the outdoor patio of a restaurant on a warm summer evening. How do we reclaim these experiences?Our busybody culture isn’t going to change overnight, but we can make changes in our own lives. Instead of viewing productivity in terms of just doing more, think about it in terms of being more intentional with your time. Being productive about rest, self-care, and building relationships is as important as working towards your goals.

As we get busier and busier, we tend to lose sight of WHY we are doing what we do. Are you acting out of necessity, obligation, or enjoyment? Are your actions aligned with your values? What do you even value right now?? You can’t focus on what is important to you if you haven’t identified what it is!

Who is most important to you? This one may be obvious, but think hard about if you are actually prioritizing them. Sometimes we take for granted the ones we love the most, knowing that they’ll be there no matter what. Put them first on your to-do list. Schedule a date, a family dinner, or a fun event, and then work everything else around it. You can start small. I have a group of busy girlfriends that are really hard to pin down. Whenever one of us sends out a text to the effect of “let’s meet for dinner next week!” it turns into scheduling nightmare, and then we have to drop the effort entirely. We’ve since learned that we can schedule a time about every two months, if we do it in advance. It’s not much, but without that effort, the friendship could easily fade away. Make a habit of prioritizing your family and friends.


What do you love to do? What is the thing (or things) in your life that you are passionate about, inspired by, and puts you in a state of flow? If something doesn’t immediately come to mind, you need to get out and start exploring! For most of us, though, the problem is not figuring out what that thing is, but figuring out how to fit it in our life. Identify the reasons why you aren’t pursuing that hobby or goal (or aren’t spending as much time as you’d like). Is it a lack of time? Money? Confidence? Once you know what is holding you back, you can work towards changing your circumstances and finding new ways to do what you love. How can you adapt what you love to fit your life today?


What do you hate doing? What drains your energy? I’m an introvert. I enjoy intimate gatherings of friends, but I can get exhausted by large parties/celebrations, especially when it’s for someone I don’t know very well and I have to interact with a lot of strangers. Recognize what is not working for you and get comfortable with saying no. You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way.


What do you need to do to stay sane? Analyze your habits. How many hours of sleep do you need at night? Do you need a certain amount of socializing or alone time? What works best for you? Figure out what is non-negotiable, and what you have some wiggle room with. I absolutely have to exercise, or I feel really out of sorts, so I make sure I have enough time for it every week. I value reading time, but I’m okay putting it aside for a while when I have too much on my plate, so I can be more flexible with it.

Once you start to reflect on some of these questions, you will get a better picture of what you need and want in your life, and can edit out the things that are hindering you. As the rainy season starts, it’s a perfect time to go inward. Get cozy, get out a pen and paper, and start exploring. You’ll be thankful you did!


A Primer in Editing

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We can’t emphasize enough starting with a small, manageable project at first. Editing the objects & mementos collected over years is exhausting, emotional work - and it’s only when you taste the freedom at the other side will you grasp the true benefit of the (often) arduous process.


Here are a few tips to simplify the process and hopefully allow you to think more objectively about the physical objects taking up space in your life.


M A K E S P A C E T O S O R T

Designate a place to work through the process of sorting - clearly labeling the bags/bins/piles with the following signs, depending on your needs: TRASH, RECYCLE, DONATE, REPAIR, SELL, GIVE BACK, etc. Really contemplate all of the places your items might be better suited for, and don’t be hesitant to add a category mid-process if you find you need to.


E V A L U A T E W I T H O B J E C T I V I T Y

As hard as it sounds, part of what makes sorting easier is evaluating objects with as much honesty as possible, and as little emotion as possible. Be real: Is the item broken? if so, can it be repaired? Is the item getting used? When was the last time you can remember it being used/enjoyed? Is it versatile? Are there other items that do the same job? Do you love it? — really try to connect with that last one. Hold it in your hands. Does it “spark joy”? Does it feel more valuable than the money that was spent on it? Do you feel proud to have it in your home among all of your favorite possessions? 

In this process, be gentle with yourself, but also firm. You deserve to love the things that fill your home - whether it cost you money at some point, whether you were gifted it, whether you don’t quite know how to dispose of it, loving and using what you own are all that matters.

S E N T I M E N T A L O B J E C T S / A R T W O R K

No matter how minimalist we all aspire to be, we all collect things of sentimental value throughout our lives - it can be a beautiful way mark memories, and measure time. But not when it weighs us down. These objects are the most emotionally charged of all, largely because they’re irreplaceable. A helpful tip might be to contemplate is if photographing the item would achieve the same feeling for you - this can be a great solution to children’s artwork, as we’re much more likely to go back and look through a digital photo album than we are to pull out files from the basement, and your child will get more opportunities to show off their work to friends and family!

It’s important to let go of guilt here - if a family heirloom doesn’t speak to you, it’s okay. Passing it along to someone else in the family (or a stranger) who might put it to use could be the perfect solution. Just remember, letting things collect dust in your closet or basement isn’t the same as enjoying them actively - let objects have new life in a place where they can be used and loved.



F I N I S H I N G T H E T A S K

The sorting process can take a good amount of time and attention, but it’s not the end of the process. Be sure to get as much out of your home as quickly as possible is key to the success of your journey towards a less burdened life - and we can’t express how great it feels. If you plan to sell any objects, photograph them immediately and get them posted! When you’re in the zone, stay in it until you’ve accomplished your goal. We recommend getting it all done in the same day - and then taking a much deserved breather.

You’ve got this - and we’ve got you.

-TEAM ABRIDGED






Where to begin Organizing when you're overwhelmed

One of the main reasons we hear for why people find it hard to declutter their house is that they just don’t know where to begin! It can definitely seem like an overwhelming chore (for those of you who don’t LOVE organizing as much as Mackenzie and I). Here are 8 tips for figuring out where to start your organizing project.

  1. Think about your organizational end goal

If we’re at the point of exasperation with the state of your whole house, it can be hard to parse out what is MOST frustrating to you. You know you’re stressed out about the mess, but try to think about the WHY behind it. Is your messy bedroom causing tension between you and your spouse? Do you wish you could have nice, relaxing dinners at home, but your dining table is constantly covered in stuff? Have you been putting off inviting people over because your living room is a disaster zone? Honing in on what you want will help you discover the most important place to focus your energy first.

    2. Start with a room that will have the most impact

Many times it is necessary to start by cleaning up the basement/attic/garage/storage area. If you find that you will be relocating many items from the house to that area, it makes sense that you create places to put these things. If this is not your situation, however, you should begin with the space you use most frequently. If you choose a space that you use every day, you can really appreciate the change, and will be more excited to fix up other areas of the house.

   3. Start small

Oftentimes we get overwhelmed because we set our goal too high. You don’t need to organize your entire kitchen in one day. Start by organizing the fridge or pantry. Or even just one drawer. You want to get to that feeling of accomplishment, not hopelessness.

   4. Don’t start by buying more stuff

We’ve all done it... substituted buying things for actually taking action (“I’m totally going to start writing every day… once I have this new leather journal”). We go out and buy a bunch of new storage containers and feel good for having progressed towards our goal, but then a month later the house is still messy and the containers have gone into the garage, unused. Sure, there are times when you just don’t have the right items for the job, but take some time to assess the situation first. Once you dive in, you may find that you are getting rid of a lot of things, or maybe you want to put them in another room entirely. And in many cases, people have storage items already lying around, or have things they can repurpose. Get a sense of what you really need before you drop a ton of money on something you may not need after all.

  5. Make it enjoyable

You may hate organizing, but you can at least make it less terrible! Put on some music or a podcast. Invite your type-A friend over to help (it will make their day, trust me). Give yourself breaks. There’s no need to be a martyr about it!

  8. Make it easier to focus

Set yourself up for success. Make sure you don’t have people (or your phone) around distracting you when you start the process. If you are organizing part of a room, and you keep eyeing other areas, you can even cover up the parts you aren’t working on with a sheet or a room divider.

  7. Give yourself a reward at the end

Sweeten the deal a little bit. Maybe you can watch your favorite show once you’ve tidied up a bit, or you can go out for a special treat. Better yet, have someone else reward you (so you’re not tempted cheat!)

  8. Go easy on yourself

Remember that having a messy or cluttered house is not a character flaw, it’s just a problem to be solved. And you don’t have to turn your house around overnight. Whether you schedule in weekly organizing sessions, or get to it occasionally when you have the time, be proud of yourself for working towards your goal!

Happy Organizing!


The Abridged Version

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Hello! Hi! We're so happy to be here. We're Alissa and Mackenzie, the Abridged team. Since we launched this business in early 2018, we've found ourselves spending a lot of time explaining what it is that we do, and why we so fervently believe in it.

We met in 2007, here in Portland, when we both began working on a team providing behavioral therapy to an adult with Autism. It was there that we spent years cultivating a deep understanding of what motivates people, how to encourage good habits and make them stick, and the importance of establishing systems that work for you and your life.

With over 18 combined years of work in the field, we feel we have a solid skill set that works perfectly alongside another passion of ours, space & life organization. We all need it - and even more than that, we believe that putting these systems into place will simplify and enrich life, leaving more room for the people and experiences you love most. It's as basic as that. We believe deeply that life is best spent enjoying it.

What do these systems look like? Well, that depends on you. We take a holistic approach to organizing. We want to know who you are, what makes you tick , and what your goals are. We want to get to the root of your challenges, so we can find solutions that work for you over the long term. Do you have trouble getting out of the door on time? Maybe you need help finding a home for your things, so that you can find them easily when you need them. Or perhaps what you really need is help budgeting your time within your morning schedule. We eschew the one-size-fits-all approach for something more personal. We have recommendations, both analog and digital to help you, based on your temperament and how you’re motivated.

We can’t wait to work with you!