1, 2, 3 Gone!

I’ve recently gotten involved in the Tiny House Movement. It’s exciting that people are downsizing from their 2,500 – 4,000 sf homes to 400 sf—or less! This requires more downsizing than Mother Hubbard did when she moved her 16 children into a shoe. But for Tiny Housers, it’s well worth saving money, being mortgage free, leaving a smaller carbon footprint, being closer to family, and even traveling turtle-style with one’s house. Singles, couples, and families are all part of the Tiny House Movement.

Some downsizers have asked me what to do with the many items they want to eliminate. For most of us, the best option is to recoup some of the dollars they cost. I’ll focus on that option here. In another blog, I’ll discuss option two: donating items you don’t want or can’t sell.

First, don’t beat yourself up for spending money on items that you’re now discarding. It’s important to keep only the items that you truly love (see the blog “Love is in the Air”) and not think about their cost. Your goal now is to move into your Tiny House and feel comfortable, not cram it with unessential items, such as a Thanksgiving-size platter just because it cost $100. I guarantee once you sell it for a few bucks, and reinvest those bucks in an upgraded faucet or sink, you won’t be thinking about that platter!

I have found that the easiest and most profitable way to sell items is to find a Facebook Garage Sale group.   Here in the Rochester, NY area, you’ll find “Garage Sale Days”, “Garage Sale Days for Rochester, NY” and many others. On Facebook, search your area for similar garage sale sites. These sites offer many advantages. You can Instant Message potential buyers and post many pictures, for example. In general, you can ask more for the items and sell them faster than you can on other sites. Make sure you read the rules of the group. I recently had a virtual garage sale and made over $500!

The old standby Craigslist is another place to sell items. With Craigslist, you can also post pictures. Just make sure you post pictures of the item’s flaws. There’s no faster way to kill a sale than to surprise someone when they come to get the item and it has a tear, a spot or a nick. Many people will still be interested in a flawed item if they can think how to fix it. Surprising a buyer is self-defeating and a waste of time. Displaying flaws also shows that you are honest and forthright. In general, selling items on Craigslist is slower, more difficult to track, and more work overall. However, it is still very effective– particularly if you live in a small town/area. Also, Craigslist is a highly effective way to sell furniture. Always sell for cash only and stipulate if the buyer will need help. The buyer will appreciate knowing if it’s a particularly heavy item or if you are unable to help.

Third, you can sell your items at stores such as Clothes Mentor, Plato’s closet, or Once Upon a Time that will pay you cash on the spot. Check for similar stores in your area. They will take your gently used clothes, shoes, jewelry, scarves – anything you’d wear – and put cash in your pocket immediately. They won’t give you a fortune, but you will make a few bucks, and it’s an easy route to sell those extra clothes.

Fourth, you can have a normal, old-fashioned garage sale. You can sell anything and everything going this route.

Finally there is Ebay. For most of us, this is the slowest and most difficult way to sell items, although small collectables sell particularly well on Ebay. Make sure you check under “sold” to see if 1) similar items have actually sold and 2) the price for which they sold. There is a fee to list each item so make sure your item and its price are competitive. The first time you sell items, you do not have access to Ebay’s “Buy Now” option and so you have to wait for your auction to end – which could be as long as 3 days to 1 month. This can be a major disadvantage.

I suggest using a combination of these options. You can take your clothes to Clothes Mentor. Whatever they don’t take, you can take to Plato’s Closet. Then whatever they don’t take, you could take to a consignment shop. Then whatever they don’t take, you could list on your garage sale Facebook site or have a garage sale yourself.

I wish you luck. You will rarely if ever recover all the money you paid for an item.   When pricing items, think about what you would pay for them. Use garage sale prices. Your goal is to get something for the item.

Next week, I will post how and where to donate items. Good luck and if you have any questions or any other questions or suggestions, please comment below!

Taming the Shrew

 Shrew: (n) a nasty, snarling snare of wires typically found under and connected to 21st Century electronic communications and media devices, such as computers, printers, routers, TVs, VCRS, etc.  Also known as “dust bunny catchers”, they tangle anything that comes in contact with them, such as feet, cats, dogs and of course, dust bunnies.




I’ve tried taming the shrew under my desk for many years. I’ve shoved and clipped it out of the way, only to have it roar back larger than ever.  I’d tried every product and gimmick on the market, yet I could not control the wires under my desk.  It seems I am not alone with this problem.  Just about every client asks me “how do I control the wires under my desk”  “…my tv” “…my <fill in the blank>”  And I really didn’t have an answer.  Until now.

Last week, I discovered that the Container Store has an exciting new area: “Cord Control”.  And while the new area features some failed tactics of the past, such as Zip and Velco ties, it also boasts some pretty ingenious solutions.  I found a box (“CableBox”) that holds a massive surge protector and all the connected cable/wires.  It came in black and white.  I chose white.



Wow, it was only 29.99!  And for the cables and wires that emerged from the box, I found a new  “Cable Zipper” ($14.99).


It’s an 8-foot “binder” that wraps around and zips up the cable. When finished, the cables fit nicely inside.  I picked up white again.  Initially, based on past experiences, I had low expectations for these products.

Taking my shrew taming bounty home, I went to work.  First I unplugged everything.  I put the surge protector in the box.  It fit!  I added each wire, plugging in and curling up the excess wire inside the box.  There were 5 cables plus a small router – and it all fit.  I was amazed.


The wires were already looking neater.  Onto the cable zipper.  This was a little bit more challenging, but certainly doable.  I started at the top of the desk, zipping the cables down to the cable control box.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was once I got it started.  Within seconds the cables were under control.

All I could do for the next 15 minutes was sit back and admire my work.  As if taking a broom to a corner of the room, the web of cables was gone!  I had tamed the shrew.





I highly recommend both these products.  For about $40.00 you too can conquer your cables and free your feet, your cats, your dogs, and whatever else is getting trapped – including dust bunnies.


Très Bien!

“How do I get folks to cut down the “stuff” that they have?  I feel like I’ve tried everything!”

Good question, Janet!  (She has said I can use her real name – I’ve been calling her ‘Janice’ thus far).

One of my responsibilities while working in Switzerland was to train Janet, a new Professional Organizer. She has a natural ability for organizing, which is so helpful for this occupation.

When she heard I’d be working with Mary, she contacted me and asked if I would train her.  She was in France but would be happy to visit Mary and help us.

Maïs oui! Maïs oui!  I’d love to pass on my knowledge to an eager organizer in France.

Janet was fresh with questions.  She’d already started organizing, but was unsure how to solve certain issues.

“Sometimes,” I advised, “people are just not ready to organize. When you see that, you need to let them know. You may not the correct organizer at the time for them.  And you tell them.  Tell them ‘In order to create the room you want to, to create the feeling you want, you need to purge.  Since you cannot purge now, perhaps I am not the correct organizer for you. Let’s not waste your money and my time.”

What Janet did do was work with Bill extensively.  The kitchen was a show place. (See the blog ‘Boxes For This, Boxes For That…”).  She encouraged and supported Bill while still pushing him to make the necessary choices.  She also knew the European way of doing things, and is a chef – so she definitely had two up on me in this situation.

When it came to Bill’s T-shirts, it was a bit more difficult.  Men can be even more stubborn than women when it comes to purging.  While Mary was donating clothes right and left, Bill was keeping a year’s supply of T-shirts.

Janet decided next time she’s going to color coordinate Bill’s T-shirts completely, with not only whites  together,  blues together, etc. but also whites with designs on them, blues with designs on them, etc.  We’re hoping that when Bill sees he has 12 plain blue t-shirts, 12 white T-shirts, etc. he’ll be willing to donate at least a few of them.

Color coordination in your closet, dresser drawers, and shelves allows you to see exactly what you have and how much of what you have.  Between what’s in the closet, what’s on the floor, and what’s in the laundry, you may not realize just how many pair of black pants you have.

I am very proud of Janet.  Très bien!  Janet, you really did one hell of a job.  We spoke briefly of opening a Supportive Organizing Solutions in France.  I would be proud to have her as my partner.  Stay tuned. SOS may go global full force!

P.S.  If you’re over in France or Switzerland and in need of a Professional Organizer, please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Janet!  You won’t be sorry.

Boxes for This, Boxes for That, & Boxes for the Other Things

“Another box!” called Bill.

“Thanks. Now another .’

“Okay, now a smaller box.”

Bill was into organizing.  Really into it.  As he tackled the kitchen with Janice he was focused and energized. “I think we should put the same types of spices together. The spices, herbs, and savories.  It will make it easier to find them as I need them. Oh and let’s not toss those small box lids, Janice. We can use them to hold, hmm, well pastas in one, sauces in another, and crackers in this one.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. He’s got it, by George, he’s got it!

Spices Pantry3 Pantry2 Pantry KitchenShrank

Meanwhile I was working with Mary in the living room. We found her lovely jewelry in a mound of tangled chains. As she detangled and slipped her jewels into the pockets of a hanging organizer, she couldn’t contain her pleasure. “Oh my God!  This makes me so happy.  You have no idea, Lynne, how happy I am.  All my leather bracelets are together, all my silver is together.  And it’s so pretty!  I am so happy!”

A big Hooray!  My trip was not for naught.


JewleryOrganizer2 JewleryOrganizer

Although this is not the exact model as I used with Mary, Bed, Bath, and Beyond carries similar types.  Here is an example:


We’d been working nine-hour days— far longer than any client has ever been able to handle.  I’ve been drinking Coke for energy and even so have dropped several pounds. Mary and Bill were now fully engaged in their work and were falling in love with the results.  The number of boxes on the floor were dwindling and clear counter space were growing.

They occasionally took a deep breath to admire their new found room.  Then it was back to work, which was only interrupted by Mary’s occasional cough. She’d developed a stubborn case of bronchitis along the way.  Stress will do that to you.  And organizing can be extremely stressful.

Mary and Bill have learned a lot while I’ve been here.  To group “like” items together.  To use baskets and boxes so that those like items stay together and stay neat.  And to store frequently used items in the most convenient spaces.  Even Mary saw the advantage of color organizing things so you can see how many items you have.

It was a very productive day indeed.  And we forge forward tomorrow with new skills in our heads and hope in our heart.  I have only a couple of days left.  But I lift my glass and toast Mary and Bill to a job well done! Proscht!  Zum Wohl! Gsundheit!  –all Swiss ways to Cheers!  To your good work!

The Mother Ship

Like a siren’s call from across the Atlantic, I had heard the Mother Ship calling me even as I sat in my Rochester NY home.  I heard it again in my bedroom in Basel. And it was loudest on the drizzling, grey morning we set out to find her. A short tram ride and suddenly she was there.  The IKEA Mother Ship!   Dressed to the nines in her blue and yellow glory.  With a warehouse on her left and a marketplace on her right.  “Don’t eat the meatballs!” my hosts had warned as Mary and I had left that morning.  But…but…it was such an “IKEA” thing to do!


We began by reserving a truck with a gentleman who claimed he knew “nur ein bisschen“  or “very little” English.  Ha! If I spoke German the way he spoke English, I’d consider myself fluent.  We would be buying so many closets, baskets, and gadgets we needed a large truck. Check!   Truck reserved.  We had two hours to shop.

Armed with my laptop, a notebook with dimensions, a parts list from Bill, and a tape measure in centimeters, I followed Mary  down every aisle and into every model room. We shopped.  And shopped.  And shopped.  Mary made decision after decision after decision.  White or cream?  White.  Silver or Grey.   Laminate or Wire drawers?  Laminate for her, wire for Bill.  Two hours, four carts and five helpers later it was mission accomplished.­­


Meeting Janice and Bill at the front door we felt like conquering heroes returning home with the spoils of war. Our bounty filled the lobby.  One by one the pieces went up three flights of stairs. One by one  Bill, a master IKEA builder, constructed each piece of furniture.  In no time, Mary had a schrank (“closet”).  I loved the word, pronounced “shronk” – like a duck sound.  Shrooooonk shronk shroooonk.  I wanted to tuck my arms under and duck walk.  But the Swiss are a dignified bunch and I might look like an ugly American.  And I couldn’t have that.


But friends, I digress.  What a successful day!  Many good decisions made, much good work accomplished.  Tomorrow is another day and we head to the “Wegman’s” of Germany!

Love is in the Air

We all were up early ready to tackle a day of organizing.  Mary, like most of us, had collected way more tuff than she had room to store, and, like most of us, she was having a difficult time prioritizing. Figuring out what’s important is at the heart of organizing. But it’s all important she insisted.

So I held up a Good Housekeeping magazine from June 2012. “Do you love this magazine?” I asked, “I mean do you love it with your heart and soul?”

“No, not the whole magazine, but it might have a recipe I love someday.

Might! The word might is my cue for a heart to heart. It is not helpful to simply say that “half of this must go” or “just get rid of something, anything.”

The key to organizing is to understand what stuff is more important than others. There’s an innate human desire to surround one’s self with things we love. I love cats, computers and organizing materials. My friend is an amateur archeologist and loves rocks and fossils. My aunt is a decorator and loves the composition of objects in a room. The only thing that matters is that you love what you have.  Let me say, it’s not important why Mary was in love with certain things and not others.  It’s not my job to figure this out.  Some people collect clothes, others trains, and still other glasses.  I myself have 10 pair of glasses.  Do I really need 10 pair of glasses?  No!  But, to me this is a priority.  I truly love my glasses.  However, I have in the past stopped loving a pair.  Then I donate it.

The things we love not only hold energy, they also share that energy with us. They energize us, literally.  But just as that energy can energize us, the things we don’t love can drag us down.

The problem is not that we simply have too many things, but rather that we hold on to things we don’t love.  And the things we don’t love overpower the things we do. We can’t feel their love  energy when they are smothered – and we feel depressed, run down, sometimes even sick.


So I asked her, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you came home from a hard day’s work and when you walked through the door, you were surrounded by the energy of love?

If it takes you forever to get dressed in the morning, it’s becuse you’re putting on things that you don’t love as you search for something that you do love. Please don’t settle for ‘this is adequate’.  Choose things you love. Only then will your apartment become a home.

This philosophy was a light bulb moment for her.  “So, if I’m indecisive about something, I should get rid of it?”

“Yes,” said I, “You need to love it.  You deserve to be surrounded only by things you love.”  She nodded as she digested it.  And I really think she got it (mostly).  We’ll see tomorrow.

Switzerland or Bust!!!

It felt like a game of Stump the Organizer. Trying to squeeze 200 cubic yards of organizing items in a 150 yard suitcase took every technique and trick I knew, but I did it.

Suitcase1 Suitcase2

The challenge began a couple of months ago with a message through my facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SupportiveOrganizingSolutions) “Would you consider coming to Switzerland to organize our home?”

Switzerland? The country?  The land of yodeling in the Swiss Alps, Swiss Cheese and Army Knives?  And don’t forget Swiss Chocolate!  Well, Yeah!  Oh, Yeah! What a dream come true!  A traveling adventure while doing what I love to do most– ORGANIZE.

The trip was planned.  But soon the challenge of packing for this adventure became clear.  Switzerland, a country known for its precision, discipline and sense of order somehow does not have the organizing tools we in the States take for granted.  Perhaps most Swiss citizens are so innately organized they don’t need The Container Store or Bed, Bath, & Beyond.   They don’t even have color folders!   So with IKEA as my only sure resource, I purchased a supersize suitcase to hold the many organizing items I’ve collected to help me with this project.  As the Swiss say, Mis Luftchussiboot isch volle Aa! (Translation: “My hovercraft is full of eels.”)

I will be blogging about my experiences in Switzerland – both my travels and organizing challenges.  Next month I’ll explain why I expect to find that mouthful of a phrase useful. I hope you’ll join me on my journey as my company goes global.  Send me your questions in the comments section, and I’ll be happy to correspond.  Bon Voyage! Or more appropriately, Gueti Reis!

Those Little Scraps of Paper

Running around…schedule an appointment here…get directions to there…have an idea to brainstorm…note a grocery list…do you have little pieces of paper everywhere – and never with you when you seem to need it?  How do you keep track of everything?

My solution is to have 1 journal.  A journal about 6” x 8” that has a pretty heavy duty cover – preferably in leather or something else flexible and that will hold up for 4 – 6 months.  I do not recommend a normal notebook.

In this journal, you will keep everything.  You will note everything.  In my journal is everything from ideas for my website to log-ins for my bank accounts (coded of course) to blog and tweet ideas to phone numbers of people that I had to jot down quickly.

Anything that would have gone on a little scrap of paper that I would have dug through my purse for in the past goes in this journal.  Anything that I wouldn’t have known where to file goes in this journal.  Anything that I need immediate access to goes in this journal.  I even taped small pieces of paper into it those times I’m forced to use a sticky note, scrap of paper, or appointment card.