Downsizing

I feel like I'm hearing that word, "downsizing," so much more these days.  The mono-word turn of phrase is getting some social acclaim as of late, and as a de-cluttering pro, I can't help but do a little happy dance every time I hear or see the word in public.

Example: A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching an advanced screening of Matt Damon's new film Downsizing; what a great movie! If only we could shrink down our trash like those brilliant Norwegian scientists!  My head was spinning from the imagined possibilities. Then the word popped up again! This time in a book title from one of my favorite people and clutter organizers, Peter Walsh. His new book Let It Go, Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier life will be in my hot little hands come January at the event his is hosting for NAPO-LA.

Practice what you preach: I did some serious downsizing myself over the summer. I moved from a 1000 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment, to a 400 sq ft studio, because "why-am-I-in-a-two-bedroom-apartment-when-it's-just-me-and-I-can-move-to-a-better-neighborhood-for-half-the-cost?" was a question that plagued me for a good six months. I didn't have room for the question anymore, and it was time to let go - of it, and my possessions!

I got rid of 75% of my stuff! Me! I'm already a minimalist by most people's standards, but even I was surprised at what I didn't truly need.  So, what did I do with the 75%? I decided to have a yard sale while I was downsizing.

My clients often ask about hosting a yard sale with their purge, and having never done one in Los Angeles, I believed they deserved a first-hand account of the hassle and shenanigans involved.  To give an honest answer from someone who's "been there," I decided to endure the process. And document it. For posterity. You're welcome.

 

Spoiler: We may have had fun making the video.

I walk you through the yard sale process in the video, but in case you just want to read the highlights, what follows are the steps and outcome from our endeavors (which I like to imagine printed up on a trifold pamphlet you might find at your doctor's office entitled):

So, You're Going to Have a Yard Sale...

1. Sort and stage - Here is where the bulk of the work comes in - good time to call your friend or family member (or trusted de-cluttering professional, ahem) over for the often overwhelming decision-making portion of your downsizing. Going through all of your belongings can be daunting to say the least, and I highly recommend the buddy system when going down the dark path to clutter freedom. If you have a garage, use it! The separate location can be a great staging area for your former treasures, plus you get the unwanted items out of your space sooner. Unfortunately, I didn't have a garage to keep things in neat, like-item'd piles, so I made due by opening up my organizing tables in my living room, and I stocked them with the goodies I wanted gone the night before the big event. Setting up the night before made the following early morning pretty easy; we just carried the tables out onto the lawn, ready to go.

2. Price - how to price it can be tricky. No one is going to pay what you paid for the item, or even what it's worth, so let that fantasy fly away with your limited-edition left-handed Frisbee. If you paid $100 retail, you'll be lucky to get $10 for it at the yard sale. (Side note, this part is sometimes painful, especially if you're forced into downsizing rather than choosing it.  Haggling with strangers over possessions you're forced into giving up can be a truly horrible experience, and to me there is nothing more hurtful than feeling devalued. So going in, know this, you are not valued by your stuff-don't take it personal!) Use the round stickers to price everything out. I priced things out for a few dollars each, knowing people would talk me down. Speaking of down, get your wares off the ground; take care to place items on a table or blanket. I happened to have a clothing rack which came in quite handy for displaying my former wardrobe.

3. Advertise - Place an ad on Craigslist/your local paper, and put up signs in your neighborhood.

4. Get change - You will need some cash to start. Get $1's, $5's and even quarters. Yes, it will come down to change.

5. Have fun! It's going to be a long day, might as well make the best of it. Make a video:) and it wouldn't hurt to have some ice cold Coronas on hand; your comrades will thank you.

The outcome from my yard sale experiment: It turns out that I didn't have a lot of the items people were looking for at yard sales. Many would-be patrons came early, between 6-7am, looking for electronics, microwaves, jewelry, gold/silver, and men's clothes. If you're dripping with these items then I say go for it! Put on that yard sale and make that sweet sweet cash.  As for me....I made a whopping $48.

Not everything sold at the yard sale (go figure). I ended up selling the larger items on Craigslist and OfferUp, which yielded $555. Adding the yard sale's $48 totaled me out at $603.  But wait; there's more - I donated the remaining items to the National Council of Jewish Women and got a tax receipt for $768.

Offer up and craigs list items.jpg
National Council of Jewish Women.jpg

Downsizing = Worth it!  Yard sale = Not! -  Hindsight is alway 20/20. I would have saved myself (and my loving pals) a lot of time and effort if skipped the yard sale and sold my stuff on Craigslist/OfferUp and donated the rest. I would have, but now I can authoritatively say that unless you have the right items, yard sales are not worth it! Again, you're welcome!

Creating More Space

We all want more space, well most of us. Ever the minimalist, I'm in the middle of downsizing from a mid-city 2-bedroom unit to a Culver City studio apartment; I'm just one person. Not like my client in Los Angeles with a growing family, totaling 8 people.

I've been working with this client for a while now. We've put systems in place to maximize every cabinet and drawer with organizers.  We've de-cluttered every thing that was not used or will never be used in the near future. Not one extra ladle took up valuable drawer real estate, not one mismatched plate in sight, no extra bottom pieces to Tupperware without a matching lid...you get my point. 

So on our latest work day, when I arrived to find my client attempting to put items away from her latest Costco run, all I could think of was, "No, no; these items are never going to fit!" We had maximized her space, but still couldn't accommodate her necessary bulk buys.

I'm a problem solver by nature, but boy, did I need to solve a bulk-sized issue that day. I looked around thinking that there had to be a way to make this work. Where could we add shelves or more storage?  My eyes settled on an unoccupied wall in the kitchen, and the answer appeared. After taking measurements, we concluded we would need something less then 13" deep. I knew it would be tricky, but not impossible.

Looking online, Ikea is always a go-to for me. That's where we found this shelving unit  and wouldn't you know it, perfect measurements! I was off to Ikea.

Did I mention that I build Ikea furniture:)

Did I mention that I build Ikea furniture:)

I do love building things. It was so rewarding to haul this unit in, build the structure, and fill it with items conducive to my client's needs!

Before and after close-up - The shelves are a perfect fit!

Before and after close-up - The shelves are a perfect fit!

Before and after wide view - They actually make the kitchen feel bigger!

Before and after wide view - They actually make the kitchen feel bigger!

We created so much usable vertical space! Now there's room for the extra protein powders and baby formula. The kids' lunch boxes have there own space instead of on top of the refrigerator, and the cook books are actually accessible. Paper towels - stored! Napkins - tucked away! Extra pancake mix - bring it on! 

After Picture front view

After Picture front view

The fun add-ons for better organization we used included: clip-on baskets for bread and produce, bottle rack for the wine:) and baskets for linen and party goods.

It was a great workday solving problems and creating more space to love!

 

 

4 Piles to Pitch: Win Back Your Storage Closet

Yes! Clean out that storage closet once and for all. I just helped a client do this, and I want to share a few things that might be useful for the closet you have been ignoring... and the skeletons inside.

My client had recently moved, and didn't have time to purge or organize before transitioning from old place to new.  As a result, her storage closet was riddled with random items (because it had a door to close and hide it all behind). Sound familiar?  Well, it happens all the time. Time to reclaim your space!

To get started, take everything out of the closet. As you remove items, sort them into piles with similar types of items - put like items with like items.

With my client, as with most clients, the piles looked something like this: the first pile was composed of packing supplies, including empty boxes, bubble wrap, tubes for posters, etc.  A second pile contained decor items that worked in her old place but didn't work in her new home, including items that needed to be returned. Off to the side, we had a pile of stuff that was to be sold on eBay and Craigslist, and finally, my favorite pile, the bag of bags. Over 90% of my clients have at least one of these piles:)

We also had piles of old makeup to go through, bedding to make decisions on, and office supplies to sort. However, the 4 piles I want to focus on are the four piles mentioned above: packing supplies, things that aren't working, stuff to sell, and the bag of bags. By just dealing with the items in these four piles, you will reduce clutter by half.  So, in no particular order, give yourself permission to let go of ---

1 - Items that are not working in the new (or current) space. This is often a frustrating endeavor, but it's time to realize that even alternative facts won't make your drawer organizers from your last residence fit your new space, and those pictures that looked great on your former living room wall don't catch the light in the same way in your new (or now) house. Yet, these items get tucked away in the storage closet in hopes you will find someone to give it to or eventually sell it. A big crutch in the letting go process is the "waiting to give it to someone who will need it" crutch. We always want to help someone out (or in some cases, pass the obligation of the item onto someone else), but then the unwanted item ends up chewing up valuable real estate in your space for way too long. So go ahead, give yourself permission. Donate it. And those things that need to be returned that didn't work for the new space that got shoved in the storage closet to collect dust and be forgotten? Put them in your car with the receipt and make sure it gets returned before it's too late.  Or donate them. 

2 - The eBay and Craigslist pile. My client had fancy and pricey dresses; some still had the tags on them, plus other items she thought could be worth selling. Of course, I'm all for donating it. Too often the ideal amount you think you can get for a given item is a lot more then what you can actually get for it. With my client, we started looking up how much similar dresses were selling for online and found that they were going for $20 or $30, and some were being stolen at $10. So I ask, how much is your time worth? $10/hr? $20/hr?  Because the time you use listing the item, the time spent in sale limbo/haggling with a stranger, the time and energy physically exerted in shipping the item... is the sale really worth the trouble and your time?  I suggest establishing a minimum listing item price of $50 or more to make the listing worthy of your time. If you can get at least $50 for an item, then list it.  If not, donate it.

3 - The pile of packing supplies. It will be easier to let these items go when you realize you are donating most of the stuff you thought you were going to sell. The act of breaking down empty boxes from deliveries alone (ahem...amazon) will reclaim a significant amount of space.

4 - The bag of bags, or should I say the whole closet, considering how they seem to fill up space like some magic growing jello. Like many people, my client was keeping every bag that was ever given to her, and all the ones she paid for like the ones from Ikea, etc. We looked through them all, and kept a select few that were in good shape.  We used some to bag donation items, and, get ready, donated the rest.

How many shopping bags does one household need? If you go shopping and use about 5 recycled bags, then keep that amount in your car, and get rid of the remainder.  Rest assured, more reusable bags will come into your life; someone is always giving away a free bag. Oh! And if you get paper and plastic bags every time you go to the grocer's and keep them for trash, then take one bag and fill it up with other bags; whatever doesn't fit in that one bag, you recycle. You will keep getting more every time you go shopping; have faith that you will not run out.

By focusing on items in these 4 piles, and not worrying about the organizing part yet, we saw a huge difference in reclaimed closet space. My client even had drawers in the closet that (I didn't know she had) she could never get to, now ready to be filled with items worthy of storing. 

So, what can you donate today to win back your storage closet?