Gratitude transforms what we have into enough (and why you should opt out of Black Friday)

Each day in the U.S. we are exposed to 5,000 advertisements that tell us that we can be happy by purchasing x, y, or z. Deep down though, we know that happiness can’t be bought, it must be cultivated from within. In fact, in recent years, numerous studies have shown a link between gratitude and happiness. It turns out, the more thankful we are, the more contented we feel. And isn’t that what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about? Surrounding ourselves with our loved ones and taking a day from our busy lives to slow down and fill up on the good stuff (yes, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, but also connection, appreciation, and joy). Yet the sirens’ call of discounts and deals are stronger than ever at this time of year, and we find ourselves seduced by the “savings” and “value” that greedy retailers promise on their top performing sales day of the year. 

I, too, was once a believer in Black Friday deals. It was a long-standing tradition that my mom, my sister and I would faithfully seek out a newspaper every Thanksgiving Day, not because of our interest in current events, but for the big box retailers’ print ads. We’d eagerly spread out the pages to see what the best deals were, find out what absurd hour of the morning each store would open, and plan our Christmas shopping route accordingly for the following day. Sometimes we would stand in line at 3am so we could get the best “door buster” deals, whether they be $5 fleece pullovers, $7 DVDs, or kitchen appliances at such low prices it seemed crazy not to. (Never mind we already owned more clothes than we needed, rarely watched DVDs, and had no room to store said appliance in our already stuffed kitchen cabinets.) For years we celebrated this custom, never questioning the absurdity of the crowds and the madness. We believed we were saving money by buying this stuff. Families all across the nation have bought into the myth of black Friday. It’s only in the last several years that I’ve adopted a new, less consumer-driven mindset about the holidays and their true meaning. I’ve grown a new appreciation for time with family, as time is truly our greatest gift to one another, not the latest gadget or obligatory present under the tree.

The truth is, many of us end up feeling burdened by all the stuff that our homes have collected from many years of doorbuster deals and gifts we didn’t love from people we do. This Black Friday, I invite you to consider that it isn’t a good deal if you don’t need it. Rather than purchasing more stuff that will sooner or later become viewed as more clutter to stress us out and make us feel inadequate, how about we first take a look at what we already own, express our gratitude for it, and let go of all the excess stuff weighing us down? My mission as a Konmari Consultant is to help my clients stop and see the abundance that surrounds them, and to honor and cherish the items that are truly special. In the process, we identify items that have already fulfilled their purpose, express gratitude for those things too, and let them go.

If you’re ready to try a different approach to increasing your happiness and gratitude for the abundance in your life, consider giving the Konmari Method a try. This tidying philosophy is about surrounding yourself with joy and letting go of the rest. After all, we only get what we truly want by letting go of what we don’t.

National Fridge Clean-Out Day - How to KonMari Your Fridge

I’ve partnered with Austin’s own Five Star ER to bring you a fridge cleanout how-to just in time for this odd National day, and with the holidays just around the corner.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “National Refrigerator Clean-Out Day? Does that seriously need a holiday?” I thought the exact same thing. But after further reflection, cleaning out the fridge is one of those things that doesn’t get done precisely because it doesn’t have an official day. Have you noticed that the little tasks you can take care of any time are the things that we never seem to get around to? We’re so busy, we have to carve out time in our schedules for literally everything. So today, I invite you to take the time to slow down and remove this from your mental to do list. Do it the right way, and it will feel like such a relief. Plus, with the holidays just around the corner, you’ll be glad you made space and took inventory of what you need to use up before the ice box is stocked with turkey and stuffing.

National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

Naturally, as a Certified KonMari Consultant, my approach to cleaning out the refrigerator is inspired by the Queen of TIdy herself, Marie Kondo. Here is how to KonMari your fridge in 7 simple steps:

1. Commit to tidying your fridge.

Every journey begins with a single step, so decide that today is the day your fridge gets cleaned out, and affirm it. I’d block at least 30-40 minutes for this project. Less if there’s not much in there, more if it’s totally stuffed. If you share a fridge with others in your household, communicate your plans to them and get them involved if possible.

2. Envision your goal.

Take a moment to visualize your tidy fridge, full of all the things that you want to be eating as part of your healthy lifestyle. Imagine the fresh, crisp air, and the bright, white clean surfaces inside your beautifully organized fridge. That’s what we’re aiming for.

3. Take everything out & categorize.

Yes, remove everything from the fridge. This will allow you to see and personally handle each item currently taking up real estate in the fridge.

One of the KonMari Method fundamentals is to tidy by category, not location. So rather than randomly placing your fridge contents wherever they happen to land, group items by category and place them along your countertops, table, or other clean kitchen surface.

  • dressings and condiments

  • fruits

  • vegetables

  • beverages

  • eggs

  • meats and cheeses

  • leftovers

  • hummus, yogurt, other tubs and jars

  • other

4. Discard.

First, take a broad view of your fridge contents. Which are the largest categories? Does anything surprise you? Are you eating in accordance with your vision for your ideal healthy lifestyle? Don’t judge yourself, just notice. Then, get to work.

The next KonMari Fundamental we’ll apply to our refrigerator is to finish discarding first, and to decide what to keep by asking whether it sparks joy. Category by category, examine each item, check expiration dates and ask yourself if you truly want to consume it.

Food waste is no joke. If there is food that is still edible, see if anyone you know wants it before trashing it. If it’s ready to eat, offer it to a homeless person. My dog is another worthy recipient of scraps, so if you have pets, that’s an option too. Then, any remaining food waste that is unwanted or past its prime should be composted, and containers rinsed out and recycled. (Learn about Austin’s curbside composting program here.)

5. Clean out.

Now it’s time to truly clean out the fridge. Wipe down the shelves, crisper drawers and door compartments with a vinegar cleaning solution. In a spray bottle, mix equal parts vinegar and water and add 6-10 drops of essential oils for a great smell. I change up the essential oils by season- my favorite blends for the kitchen are pink grapefruit with lemongrass & sweet orange, or rosemary with cinnamon & peppermint. There are a lot of wonderful natural and great smelling products out there if you’re not into DIY, but since this is where we store our food, I avoid using bleach and other strong industrial chemicals. If you want to next level your natural DIY, check out Bon Appetit’s citrus vinegar cleaner.

6. Assign a home to each food category.

Wipe down containers when you return them so sticky bottles don’t muck up your clean surfaces. Where you decide to place each category depends on the design of your fridge, but use your best judgement to match the shape of each type of container to the best available space. Keep what you use most often in the easiest to get to zones. And here is a super specific guide to the best way to store your fruits and vegetables to maximize their freshness and taste.

Remove unattractive packaging and face labels towards the front so you can quickly see what it is. If you want to corral items that tumble over easily, opt for clear bins like these from Container Store. In this space, it’s important to see everything you have so food doesn’t get forgotten and go bad.

7. Maintain.

What good is a clean fridge if it doesn’t last? First, if you share your fridge, communicate your organization system and get on the same page about where items need to be returned after each use. If you notice leaky containers, swap them out immediately, and clean up spills as they happen — it doesn’t get easier once things evaporate and get sticky. Maybe invest in glass storage containers so your tupperware woes can be a thing of the past while you’re at it.

Finally, make a habit of inventorying your fridge every week before grocery shopping. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry, and know what you have so you don’t buy more than you can eat. You’ll save food waste and money. There are all sorts of apps for shopping lists, but I use a post it. Do what makes the most sense to you.

From Five Star ER:

How does a clean, organized refrigerator relate to our general wellness? 

The food we put in our bodies directly impacts all aspects of our health. We all know this, but it's easy to get caught up in our busy lives and develop unhealthy eating habits. On days like today, we can take a step back, clean out our fridge, and remind ourselves how we need to take care of our bodies.

Need a reminder? Let's start with one of the most important organs in our body -- the heart. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in America -- nearly 610,000 people die of heart disease every year. (That's 1 in every 4 deaths.) A diet that's high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease. On the other hand, eating foods like vegetables, multi-grain products like bran and oats, and fatty fishes can increase your HDL and lower your LDL cholesterol. You can lower your chances for heart disease by maintaining a healthy diet. Remember that the best way to take care of your heart is to take care of your health. 

As you are cleaning out your fridge, remember to keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge. This avoids cross-contamination, which can help protect you and your family from food poisoning.

-Five Star ER


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or invite us over for a complimentary home organization consultation.

5 ways to bring more PEACE into your home

Happy World Understanding and Peace Day! 
World peace may feel like a big feat you couldn't possibly have anything to do with, but how about starting in your own home? Are you at peace in your environment? Here are my top 5 tips on how to level with yourself when it comes to creating more calm in your home:

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#1. BREATHE.

Take 3 deep breaths (the more stress the longer the inhales and exhales) and soften those shoulders - you can let go the weight of the world you’ve been carrying. 

#2. SCHEDULE. 

Look at your day and pick a time slot to eliminate distractions (like social media) and commit to 10-15 minutes of tidying. 

#3. STOP.

Stop the loop system playing that “you don’t have enough… time, money, resources to have  peaceful home environment.” Start where you are from a place of worthiness.

#4. BEGIN.

When you feel refueled with oxygen and refreshed from the silence of that chatty mind of yours, you're ready to begin. You can drop the guilt about anything else you might spend your time on and begin with one small task to clear up the space around you. Whether it is unloading the dishwasher, putting your shoes away (my shoes end up scattered on the floor by the door or hiding under the coffee table), or cleaning the bathroom mirror and replacing the toilet paper roll... simply by starting the action you will create a wave effect.

#5. RIDE THE WAVE.

Once you complete that small task, you'll undoubtedly find another, and another... those cardboard boxes that need to be broken down and put in the recycling bin, that cluttered counter that is crying out to be cleared, sorting mail, etc. By staying present in the moment and completing each task with focus, you're on a tidying kick before you realize it. In that state of mind, you can enjoy tidying up and shift the perspective of a “chore” to an investment toward your mental health and inner peace.

 

Hope this helps in your tidying perspective and process,

Erin

Playroom challenge: ACCEPTED

My latest adventure in tidying was with a client with three small children. She contacted me for help organizing a playroom that had just been ravaged by the spoils of a generous Christmas season. Most parents know what that feels like -- and it’s certainly not merry or bright.

My client faced two major dilemmas: 1) the space was large, yet there was still stuff covering every surface, and 2) she feared having to negotiate with three kids under the age of six about what stayed and what was donated or recycled. We addressed these concerns with a simple three-step process.

Step 1 - Remove & Sort everything

First, let’s talk about large rooms. When it comes to clutter, sometimes too much space can wreak as much havoc as too little space, because when an area is large, and especially when it is undefined, there's an assumption that there's ample space for everything—- it becomes a catch-all for stuff, big and small. This was the case for my client’s playroom, and she felt like she was drowning in a sea of toys, books, puzzle and lego pieces, and the dress-up accessories of all kinds. 

My first step when organizing is to pull everything out of wherever it is stored. Empty every closet, shelf, drawer, and cabinet. Do it mechanically, and make sure you get to the bottom of every bin, basket, and box before you make any decisions. It doesn’t take as much time as you think.

Next, you’ll sort everything in the room into categories. As you’re sorting, notice things that are broken or missing parts, outgrown, or otherwise unnecessary, and toss them as you go. Think critically about each item that passes through your hands, but don’t overthink it. (I know this is a delicate balance — just make sure you don’t end up in what I call “analysis paralysis.” Our categories for the playroom were books, puzzles, games, figurines, legos, blocks, cars, train, dress-up clothes & accessories, coloring stuff, kitchen set, dolls & accessories. 

If you’d like, you can involve the kids in the sorting process, but make sure that they understand it isn’t play time (yet). Especially if you’re outnumbered, it may be best to limit their involvement to the decision-making process for what to keep, which is the next step.

Step 2 - Keep ONLY what sparks joy

Once everything has been categorized, have each child pick the items that spark joy for him or her. This is It’s important that each child only decide on his or her own items, and shared items can be decided together. Through this process, you might learn new things about your child - maybe they don’t like puzzles, yet they have accumulated over 20 puzzles. That clears out a lot of space for the stuff they really like!

Now, the next thing I’m going to say is not necessarily in line with the KonMari method, but in my work I’ve learned that most moms prefer to have more decision-making power here, which I can understand. KonMari says that there is not a specific number or amount of stuff to aim for — that all that matters is keeping what sparks joy. But moms tell me “the kids’ll say it all sparks joy! They don’t see the mess!”, so I say, if you have limited space, you should limit the number of items within each category that can stay, and count enthusiastically with the items they choose, without judgment. Remember, we’re picking which toys we want to keep, not which to discard. When they find items that spark joy, it’s a wonderful thing to celebrate and be grateful for. How lucky are we that we get to witness children in a state of joy? 

  • If your young children do not have the capacity to verbalize what brings them joy, you can certainly rely on your observation of him or her at play to understand the fervor and frequency with which their toys are played. The point is to edit the space so only the favorite and best belongings are kept. Next, we’ll set up organization systems with intention, and mark them clearly so everyone can follow it moving forward.

Step 3 - Create zones, set up organization system, & label

After categorizing and choosing what will be kept, the excess should be removed (remember - free haul-away of donations and recycling is included with each organizing session!). Once you see what you’re left working with, begin evaluating the size, shape and function of each category to consider storage options —smaller items should be grouped and enclosed, and larger items will need surface space on the floor or shelf. (Generally toy chests become untidy dumping ground so I don’t generally recommend them). Consider children’s reach and motor skills when devising organizational systems and make sure they will be cognitively and physically able to clean up without your assistance.

Prior to our session, my client’s playroom was well set with storage systems— she had two of those cube shelving units from ikea with canvas cube storage bins, command hooks on the wall for dress-up clothes, some wall-mounted shelving, and a closet with more built-in shelves (perfect for those items requiring parental supervision like play-doh, markers, and paints). 

With the kids help, we selected a bin or box for each category of small items, and shelf space for the larger playsets and dollhouses. We made a label to go with each category (the kids loved helping me spell on my label-maker). Before we knew it, every item had been assigned a home. We even had a practice clean up session to get the kids excited about tidying. 

If this seems overwhelming and time consuming, I am here to help. My trusty label maker and I can help you find peace in your space, no matter what form your clutter takes. Take a look at these before and after pictures and then contact me for a complimentary in person consultation!

Organize the office to maximize workflow!

When I began organizing, I was primarily hired by individuals to organize their homes. I hadn't worked with many businesses but when my friend Emily Ried, co-owner of Gypsy Floral, reached out to me for help with her floral studio, I jumped at the opportunity. Her studio and office were a total mess, and although business was great, she felt like she was going to lose her mind.

Emily's floral designs are amazing. She's able to turn a creative vision into a stunning piece of living art, but the disorganization around her made it difficult to focus. She knew that if she was able to create systems that better utilized the studio space, she'd be able to spend more time creating and less time working around (or looking for) her supplies and tools.

I began with a consultation to see what wasn't working. We talked about her workflow and I studied every nook and cranny of space to see how we could maximize "real estate" of existing shelves, cabinets, drawers, and other storage. We unpacked every box and pulled everything out of drawers, sorted, categorized, and decided to discard (donate/recycle) all that was no longer adding value to Emily, her business partner, and their clients. We made a list of what we needed to buy, including some hooks, shelves, a trash can, and some drawer dividers, and we shopped.

Since Emily is in the creative field in which aesthetics are super important. I wanted the studio to inspire her in addition to being functional. I wanted her favorite things to be the first thing she saw. After a few days of removing, installing, and replacing, the transformation was complete. Floor clutter was replaced by clean lines of shelving with beautiful vases and containers front and center, items grouped by color to create a beautifully flowing space, and tools neatly organized and conveniently within reach. Just look at these before and afters

Clothing Swaps keep your closet tidy and fresh

When I was ready to officially launch Organized for Good, I knew I wanted to host a gathering that reflected the spirit of its mission. Thus, "Swap & Sip" was born.

As a KonMari Consultant-in-Training, I've seen lots of overflowing closets firsthand, and I know the stress of letting go of things and the terrible guilt and feeling of wastefulness that goes along with it. No one should have to experience these feelings about choosing to live clutter-free.

So, for my business launch party I invited over girlfriends (and their girlfriends) to bring a bag of their no-longer-loved clothes, shoes, and accessories to a party for a clothing swap. I turned my house into a little boutique, and we sipped hibiscus mimosas and shopped each other's closets for free. It was delightful. We tried on items that sparked joy and enjoyed the community of women with great style. We only kept what truly sparked joy. What's more fun and sustainable than recycled fashion?

All that remained at the end of the swapping frenzy was donated to local non-profit organizations including Austin Fairy GodmotherDress for SuccessAustin Creative ReuseSafe PlaceFront Stepsthe Salvation Army, and Project Transitions (Top Drawer). All together, we donated 481 items to charity! 

Thanks to my lovely friends at Drink Slingers , (TABC bartenders, bar setup, and fresh mixers for your private event), and to Gypsy Floral (luxe bridal florals & event design), we sipped on mimosas and gave gorgeous blooms to some lucky attendees. 

The event was a huge success, and I plan to make it a bi-annual event. Please clean out your closet and join us for our next Swap & Sip on March 26th, 11am-2pm!

Looking back on Organized for Good's first year...

My Favorite Moments from 2016:

1. Launching Organized for Good and helping my clients control their chaos.
2. Hosting the inaugural Swap & Sip (next clothing swap 3/26/17)
3. Meeting Marie Kondo and beginning KonMari Consultant Training

2016 has gotten a bad rap (mostly rightfully so), but for me, creating Organized for Good was the focus and delight of the year. I had been a part-time home organizing consultant since 2014, and realized that I truly enjoyed helping people get clarity in their lives through decluttering and simplifying. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo's bestselling book and cultural phenomenon), I realized this might just be a full-time calling, and in January 2016 I founded Organized for Good. In August I attended the KonMari Consultant Training Seminar in New York City (the first of its kind anywhere outside of Japan).  

Since then, I have been practicing the KonMari method, along with traditional organizing methods to tidy closets, kitchens, offices, garages, bathrooms, studios, playrooms, utility rooms, warehouses, sheds, and more.  My clients are amazed at the results! It
was a year of creating, learning, and growing, and I'm so excited for the many new adventures 2017 will bring.

If you’re resolved to live more simply, more mindfully, and more organized in 2017, please allow me to provide guidance, accountability, support, extra hands, extra eyes, and so much more.