Sort! Part 1 of the Ease Up Method

Sort! Systemize! Style! 

The Phases of a Professional Organizing Session with Ease Up: A Series in 3 Parts

We post a lot of inspirational images and snapshots of our organizing work on social media, and we love sharing tips and kudos with the online organizing community and our followers. But at the heart of Ease Up is the pull to do more than market beautiful, organized spaces.

We want to enhance ease in people’s lives and empower them to make decisions that support their best selves.

That means providing compassionate support and clarity whenever possible so people who engage with our content can understand not just what we do as professional organizers, but how and why we do it.

In this series of posts I’m going to share — in detail — the process we go through with our clients once we’ve been hired to organize their space. I’ll also offer some tips about actions that enhance productivity and morale for all involved. My goal is to arm you with knowledge and enthusiasm, and to help you prepare mentally and practically. So if you do decide to work with professional organizers, you’ll be supercharged with money and energy saving efficiency tools — and heaps of good vibes on the day, too.

Ready? Let’s dive in to today’s topic….

 

Phase 1 – Sort!

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The first thing we do when we enter the space we’re organizing is clear everything out — of cabinets, drawers, shelves, chests — and sort like items together. People naturally accumulate objects over time, which often leads to creating multiple storage solutions in different places to accommodate it all. We want to get all your like items together, so you can see what you have and so we can create more efficient systems for you.

Finding and sorting can take a while, so patience and good faith go a long way.

When we start putting a room back together (phase 2), the last thing we want is to find that we missed a piano bench full of miscellaneous items that then need to be consolidated somehow. This process is so important to the overall organizing result, that if a client is onsite working with us, they can expect to hear team-members supporting each other by checking in and asking, “Have you touched everything?”. We need to be meticulous at this stage to avoid time-sucking do-overs later on.

 

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Finding and sorting are admittedly the less exhilarating aspects of the project, so we try to prepare our clients for this phase by letting them know that things will certainly look worse before they get better. But it will get better — we promise! We come in with tons of bins, and we use available surfaces to sort, sort, sort!

It can be stressful to see everything they own displaced and out for viewing, but if clients can dig in, trust us and embrace the process, we can accomplish big things during this phase that set us up for success in the next.

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Once the client can see their items laid bare, we start to release what no longer serves them. We have bags and boxes for donation and for disposal, and we go through each category with our clients to help them make decisions. We encourage them to carefully consider whether each item they own either delights them or is useful to them in their life as it is now  (not as it was 5 years ago or as they hope it to be down the road).

This process can be time-consuming and emotionally demanding for a lot of people. I must say, though, that the clients who have the most satisfying end result are those who embrace this challenge. This powerful act of releasing creates more space — physical space, of course, but also emotional, mental, and practical space — for the things that do serve and delight.

As the wise Nate Berkus says, “Be a ruthless editor of what you allow into your home.”

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Phase 1 is all about starting with a clean slate. Getting to that clean slate, however, can be an overwhelming experience for clients:

  • Some feel embarrassed at their accumulated volume.
  • Some feel anxious wondering how chaos could possibly be transformed into calm in the allotted time.
  • Some feel impatient about the process and they want to jump right to the “big reveal” without exerting effort or experiencing discomfort.
  • Some feel enthusiastic and optimistic about every step of the journey.
  • Some feel quiet relief to see the process beginning.

Everyone is different, and our team has experience supporting clients all along this continuum of completely natural responses.

We know how to do this work, and we’re here for you.

So, there you have it! Make sure to check out parts 2 and 3 of our series on the Ease Up Method for insights into the rest of the process, and of course, don’t hesitate to reach out personally. We’re always happy to answer questions you still have about your unique space and needs. Or better yet, contact us about scheduling your in-home consultation and let’s get started on creating more ease in your life.

We’re Pinning Out of Control

Pinterest is one of my favourite social media platforms.

I get inspired by the work and words of others, and it’s so convenient and fun to organize content I find online so I can retrieve it later for a project, hairstyle reference, or book recommendation.

Full disclosure here, though. I’ve noticed that my beloved pinboard site can suck me into a pinning vortex if I’m not careful. Fun and inspired can turn to overwhelmed and insecure in short order if I’m not being intentional about what pinning inspiring content can and can’t do for me in my life.

It always starts innocently enough: I browse through my feed to kill some time, thinking I’ll look for some recipe ideas to try, and I’ll pin a few that look good. Then something else will catch my eye…

Ooh! It’s a tutorial on how to strip paint off my cupboards. Well, that’s helpful, isn’t it? I could use that down the road — better pin it so I don’t lose track of it!

Then I’ll read a quote that speaks to me, so I pin that, too.

Wow, I love that haircut (and that one and that one)! Pin ‘em all!

An article on how to optimally arrange throw cushions? PIN! So helpful! I will have the cutest house.

How to fold the perfect fitted sheet? Done! Pin it! My guests will be so impressed!

How to embroider “Smash the patriarchy” on a pillow? HELL YES – PIN IT NOW!!

Before I know it, I can’t remember the first thing I pinned or even why I opened the app to start with. My eyes are strained, my mouth is dry, my kids have grown taller, my hair is greyer… and I’ve become hyper-aware of how impossible it is to actually tackle all of these life-enhancing jobs. I start to think about how run-down my cabinets look, how boring my hair is these days, how I don’t have the time or money to buy all new throw cushions, how unlikely it is that I could ever embroider something so lovely as that piece I pinned….

Eventually, I crawl out of the ditch I wound up in and move on with my life. Ready to pin again another day, as they say (do they say that?).

But I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with Pinterest lately, and thinking about how people around the world are engaging with similar social media platforms. What are the consequences of using this kind of technology? What are we actually doing with it?

If I’m honest, the answer for me is usually a lot of pinning, engaging in a fair bit of crushing social comparison — and not a lot else. There’s evidence to suggest that I’m not alone in this, too. Psychology Today has an article about why social comparison is so harmful, so you should check that out if you’re interested in learning more.

Browsing social media (Pinterest or otherwise) and pinning content is alluring, no doubt. We feel that dopamine rush, and our excitement builds for all the creative, impressive feats we will accomplish with all this stored inspiration. But what are we really getting out of all this pinning? How many jobs to we actually tackle? How much insecurity do we develop along the way from comparing ourselves to others?

We are in an age of information overload, and researchers have learned that it comes at a cost. Our attention is spread too thin, and that negatively impacts our productivity. When we combine that with the dangers social comparison, we end up impeding our pursuits of achievement and fulfillment — which is the opposite effect of what we are after when we log on.

We are pinning (and tweeting, texting, scrolling) ourselves out of control, folks.

We see a tutorial on how to knit an afghan, and we put pressure on ourselves to become the kind of person who knits her own afghan. We read about how to bake a cake from scratch, and then beat ourselves up if we never quite get around to following through. We learn the life hacks that will turn our disorganized bedrooms into havens of order and tranquility, and then we criticize ourselves for not getting the job done. After all, we tell ourselves, all the info we need is right there on our boards! It’s right there!

But we’re not knitting afghans, and we’re not baking cakes from scratch, and we haven’t organized our bedrooms, and we feel horrible about ourselves and our abilities because of it.

We can’t be experts in everything, so why do we set ourselves up for disappointment this way?

Sure, it’s fun and empowering to learn a new skill, and sometimes we do open up Pinterest and give something we pinned a go, but no one can keep up with the rate at which we can pin stuff.

We need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that we are doing the best we can. By all means, keep pinning if you love it. Just be gentle with yourself while you’re in there.

And when your organizing board becomes more a source of anxiety than of inspiration, give us a call. We can take a few of those tasks off your hands, freeing you up to knit that afghan, or bake that cake, or refinish those cabinets….

Disorganization & Self-Judgment: Why this Toxic Duo should Unfriend Each Other


How does it make you feel to walk into a disorganized space in your home or office — to think about trying to find something in there, or having to work in there? Overwhelmed? Anxious? Angry? Those are answers that we hear a lot as professional organizers. Now, what about feelings like guilty, or ashamed? It can get pretty heavy when we stop and reflect on it all. We judge ourselves so harshly, and we suffer so greatly under the weight of negative thoughts and feelings.

At Ease Up, we’re concerned by how much self-judgment we encounter in our work with clients.

I have a story for you, if I may:

Before I started this company, there were about 10 years where I was unknowingly living with depression. I had thoughts in my head every day that told me over and over that I was no good, that I wasn’t going to amount to anything. It was horrible. But I developed various coping mechanisms during this time, and one of those mechanisms was becoming skilled at organizing.

Getting organized brought calm and peace of mind to my life when I desperately needed it. Organizing became something I could lean on when my stress and anxiety levels went up. It helped me feel more at ease.

Through this very personal experience, and as I’ve transitioned this skill into a professional operation, I have discovered the most powerful benefit of organizing: it ensures that our most valuable resources aren’t wasted. These resources being our time, our space, our money, our energy, and more than anything else, our sanity. Our mental wellness is a finite resource, and if we live in chaos, constantly withdrawing from that particular account, we will feel depleted.

Now, we all know that historically women have been chiefly responsible for domestic maintenance, which includes creating and overseeing the organizational systems within a household. Until around the midway point of the last century, women were able to hone their skills and become undisputed experts at cooking, cleaning, mending, etc. They were masters of home organization.

But times have changed, and so have gender roles.

New technologies reduced the time needed to perform household duties, families started to have fewer children, and employment opportunities increased (1). The feminist movement also picked up serious steam. Women began to work outside the home, as well as pursue higher education in greater numbers. From the early 1950s to today, Canadian women’s participation in the workforce (meaning they have a job or are looking for one) has risen from 25% to 82% (1), and the majority pursue higher education, too. Much to my personal excitement, 2017 figures show that 60% of post-secondary students in Canada are female (2).

One result of all this advancement for women is that they have less time available now to devote to becoming experts in household organization the way they used to.

We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world these days, and women wear a lot of different hats to survive and thrive in it. We need to move quickly when changing our hats, sometimes resorting to wearing several at once: professional, parent, volunteer, student, friend, caregiver, and on and on. Over the past 50 years, the time that women have allotted to the development of “domestic” skills has decreased, while expectations to be extremely organized and efficient inside and outside of the home are higher than ever.

This is the reality of most women today.

Unfortunately, with all the bonkers technological advancements we are seeing all around us, somehow a method for adding more hours to the day so we can become experts in EVERYTHING has not yet been developed. We are busy pursuing our dreams, our educations, and our careers. We are becoming experts in other areas, but the demand for our organizational expertise has not subsided.

Which brings me back to my original point.

How do we respond to this impossible equation of too much demand and not enough supply? Why, good old nasty self-judgment, of course! We judge ourselves in the worst way — it’s heartbreaking and so unfair. I’ll let you in on something that may or may not surprise you: practically all our clients apologize to us when we start working with them. They’re so guilt-ridden about their unsatisfactory organizational systems, and they feel so ashamed that virtual strangers are not only witnessing it, but coming in and fixing what they believe they should be able to handle on their own. But it’s not their fault.

Our society has created unrealistic expectations that women can HAVE IT ALL!!

But as Gloria Steinem brilliantly asserts, “Women can’t have it all if we have to do it all”.

At Ease Up, we want to unburden our clients of this harmful self-judgment, and empower people to seek out support where they need it.

There’s no shame in our game, and we don’t want you to have any in yours. Our team is made up of magnificent, kind people who organize because they sincerely want to help people find more ease in their lives. Everyone at Ease Up approaches a client’s needs with compassion and non-judgment, with full understanding that being cluttered and disorganized is not a reflection of who a person is or their abilities. Instead, we recognize a fellow human being struggling to fulfill yet another expectation, wear yet another hat, and we feel privileged to offer support and guidance in this practical way.

Our name is Ease Up Organizing, but we don’t sell organization, per se. We use organization and efficiency solutions to provide ease of life to our clients. It’s important that they know that we’re in this with them —no apologies necessary. So, let’s kick self-judgment out the door along with all the other stuff cluttering up your space and holding you back from living your life with ease. It’s what we’re here for.

References:

1. Canada, G. O. (2017, March 03). The surge of women in the workforce. Retrieved January 26, 2018, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2015009-eng.htm

2. Cooper, L. (2017, March). The State of Women in Canada’s Economy. Retrieved January 26, 2018, from http://www.rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/pdf/other-reports/Women_Mar2017.pdf

Organizing Reduces Stress & Boosts Mental Health

As the “holiday season” unfolds all around us, are you feeling joyful?  Or perhaps it’s more like anxious? This time of year can be stressful for many reasons, one being the disorganization of your house and belongings.

How do you feel when:

  • you try to find something in your room/house/space and can’t?
  • want to invite guests over but are too embarrassed by the clutter?
  • waste money re-purchasing items because you can’t find the original?
  • you are completely defeated by your stuff?

Perhaps frustrated, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, burdened, helpless, defeated and/or stuck come to mind? For most of us, none of these feelings are comfortable or desirable. Our mental health is compromised when we feel this way for too long.

One way to combat some of these feelings is to get organized in order gain control of our belongings and space so we can better control our emotions and mental health. To be clear, in no way are we saying that organizing replaces, or has the same effect as, medical intervention/treatment for serious mental health issues. Rather, getting organized becomes one of many tools we can use to move us closer to a state of equilibrium and ease.

According to several studies, less organization in the home can lead to higher instances of fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Rather then restorative and restful, the home feels like a combat zone, complete with unfinished projects and a multitude of “failures” all around.

Under stress, our bodies start producing the hormone cortisol, a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of bodily functions. When we have too much cortisol in our system, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability loss of emotional control, cognitive difficulties, new or worsened high blood pressure, and headaches increase.

Knowing this, why is it so hard to get, and stay, organized?

Because it just is. It is challenging to make time, and muster up the energy, to organize. But if you can start, even with just one step, it feels amazing and usually you want to keep going. However, not everyone can do it alone and that is when professionals can help. Recognizing that “just starting” is not always possible, we do the “start “ part, and the rest unfolds as it should. Trusting the organizational process is a big step.

“Lighter”, “clearer” “freer” “relieved” are often the words that clients share with us during and after the organizing process. That sense of having more control over one’s stuff is palpable.  Working collaboratively with our clients, without bias or judgment, we regularly see positive transformations taking place through organizing, transformations that  can reduce stress levels and boost mental health.

If you, or someone you care about, is struggling with their mental health, organizing can help ease things. At Ease Up Organizing, we are always here to facilitate your organizing needs to support healthier and “easier” living.

About the Author

Having caught the organizational bug early on trying to “balance” things out as an elite gymnast, Jessica Tudos brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to her role as a professional organizer.  Drawing from her global work as an experiential educator, author, and motivational speaker, Jessica is on a mission to empower people to lead healthy, creative and organized lives.

Telling My Parents They Have Too Much Stuff

Telling my parents they have too much stuff wasn’t easy.

The words were easy to get out, but I couldn’t help but feel judgmental and critical – who am I to judge?

I’m an organizer, that’s who! Being committed to supporting everyone in their efforts to organize, de-clutter and minimize, it was becoming increasingly apparent that my parents were overwhelmed and stressed out by the amount of stuff in their house. When they consider the inevitability of a move to a smaller home, they really get stressed!

So, what to do about this? First things first; I have amazing parents. For over 45 years, they have been loving and supportive from the comfort of their suburban home, the house my sister and I grew up in. They’ve cultivated a home where all of us could thrive as a family. Growing up, I had everything I needed so I just figured that all the stuff in our house was normal.

Fast forward 25 years and things are different. When I started organizing professionally, I began to realize how much stuff we had in our family home. Items from every era, and every family member, stored in large closets, cupboards and dressers, as well as the basement, shed and garage. So many items not being used.

As they age, I worry about their ability to handle all their stuff. Wanting to help them think seriously about a process for “letting go”, I went through the benefits of minimizing and de-cluttering – more space, time, money, freedom, etc. My sister and I can help some, but letting go requires the “owners” to do most of the “heavy lifting” to be successful.  Plus we have too much of our own stuff to deal with!

A few things became apparent when I told my parents they had too much stuff.  They recognized that:

  • owning so much stuff was increasing their stress levels
  • starting the minimizing and de-cluttering  process felt insurmountable
  • the time never seemed “right” to do it
  • baby steps were needed to make the process doable
  • their emotional attachment to their stuff would be the hardest part to overcome

My first task was to assure my parents that this process was not impossible – we all need to feel like things are possible. Part two was to walk through the emotional process of letting go – the hardest part of the process.  Finally, I assured them I was there to help but ultimately, decisions were theirs to make, not mine. Once we addressed that, it was important to simply start…with a small task…like the basement clothing storage.

The process is unfolding. Items are being sold, donated, thrown out and/or recycled. It is a good start, with much more to come. As I help my parents through this challenging yet freeing process, I am also uncovering items of my own in their (formerly “our”) house which is interesting.

One of the nicest things is recognizing that our family home has had a great life and it’s now time to clear some of the old to get ready for the new, whatever and whenever that may be.

I know that my parents, and so many others, can truly benefit from minimizing, de-cluttering and organizing now. If you know someone who could benefit from the words, “you have too much stuff”, let them know, support their next steps, and let them know companies like Ease Up Organizing are here to help – so that we can all be successful in this life-changing endeavour.

As always, your feedback and comments are always welcome below!

About the Author

Having caught the organizational bug early on trying to “balance” things out as an elite gymnast, Jessica Tudos brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to her role as a professional organizer.  Drawing from her global work as an experiential educator, author, and motivational speaker, Jessica is on a mission to empower people to lead healthy, creative and organized lives. Contact Jessica at: jessica@easeup.ca

How Döstädning or Swedish Death Cleaning Can Work For You

Recently, I have worked with two clients who, due to a death of a parent, have had to deal with the aftermath of de-cluttering and organizing the family home. This involves decisions about what to keep, what to let go of, how to decide, who to involve in the decision-making, how to sell valuable items, etc. These tasks are challenging to complete at the best of times, so when emotions are running high and grieving may be taking place, these tasks can be completely overwhelming. As I was helping to support this process with our clients, I couldn’t help but think that there might be a less stressful way to handle this?

Then I learned about Swedish death cleaning, or “Döstädning”, an approach whereby you remove unnecessary things and get your home in order. Before you die.

This may sound a bit morbid, but you do this so that your loved ones don’t have to once you pass on. You get to be the architect of your own legacy, making it easier for your loved ones to deal with your life’s belongings, when you no longer can. It’s a de-cluttering approach that asks you to make decisions about your belongings in the present so that your loved ones don’t have to do it for you once you pass on.

According to Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, “Döstädning can also be applied whenever you do a thorough cleaning, to make your life easier and more pleasant. It does not necessarily have to do with age or death. If you can hardly close your drawers or shut your closet doors, it is time to do something about your stuff.”

As Magnusson says, you won’t be taking any of it with you, so why hold onto it now?

Not unlike Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of editing every category in your home, Magnusson implores us to keep only what we love, and what makes us happy in the moment. There is a life timeline in place. She goes on to suggest many ways in which to discard, donate or pass on unwanted items and suggests that you carefully consider which items you might want to keep (ie: photographs, love letters, a few of your children’s art projects, etc.). A few is the key word here.

If you are picking out what YOU feel is important to keep, your loved ones will be relieved that you made the decision and they do not have to!

If anyone has dealt with the process of “cleaning house” after a loved one has passed on, you know that often many things are left behind. Things you do not always know what to do with. Of course organizers can help (you can always contact us at Ease Up Organizing for this), but it is often family members who must decide the best course of action. The less deciding there is to do, the smoother the process goes, and the easier it is to manage expectations and potential resentments, as decisions have already been made.

Understandably, the concept of death cleaning may be hard for some of us to talk about. Who wants to consider their death prematurely?

Magnusson has this to say on the topic. Death cleaning isn’t the story of death, but rather the story of life, your life, the good memories and the bad. Happy memories will become happy memories for others. “The good ones you keep, the bad you expunge.”

I’d like to leave you with one more suggestion. After each successful “death cleaning” episode, big or small, treat yourself to something you love, because this process is about living life with more ease in the present. And if you need support, please reach out to us at Ease Up Organizing – we’re always here to help!

About the Author

Having caught the organizational bug early on trying to “balance” things out as an elite gymnast, Jessica Tudos brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to her role as a professional organizer.  Drawing from her global work as an experiential educator, author, and motivational speaker, Jessica is on a mission to empower people to lead healthy, creative and organized lives.

Who is the Master of Our Objects – US or THEM?

A long time ago, objects were tools that were required for day-to-day survival – one needed an axe to chop wood, a knife to cut up meat, and shovels to dig holes. However, as time progressed, the world became more plentiful, and objects started to play a different role. They helped us do what we needed to do AND help us confirm our worth.

Having certain objects became a way to communicate. Our value could be tied to our things – and there was no end to the amount of things we could get our hands on. This is still true today of course. As this happens, we move from being in charge of our objects to letting them be in charge of us.

Which leads to the question, why is it so hard to limit the amount of objects we have, and by extension, let go of the ones we don’t need?

In his book, Goodbye Things, Fumio Sasaki talks about the many challenges that arise when we try to discard, edit, declutter, organize, downsize. He talks about the need to develop this skill, over time, so that it becomes a habit. Sounds like an easy enough process, but as we all know, it is not! It takes time. You don’t just wake up and decide to become a black belt karate master or cook Armenian food or speak fluent Swahili. And you don’t just wake up and decide to have less stuff.

Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. It was expensive
  2. What if I need it in the future?
  3. I feel guilty throwing it away
  4. I feel ashamed that it hasn’t been used
  5. I feel bad for the person who gave it to me
  6. One day it will fit/work/match
  7. I feel like I am throwing away an important memory
  8. My vanity is preventing me from letting it go
  9. It’s not the right day/time/hour/season
  10. It’s just easier to leave it as is

Any of these resonate? If so, you are not alone! It is human nature to prefer the path of least resistance (the easiest way to continue) and in order to get past this, we need to be more aware of a challenge and then decide not to take the easy way out.

This requires a mind shift, and in the end, we have more to gain by having less – more time, space, money, energy and freedom. If you or anyone you know wants more of any of these, contact us at Ease Up Organizing, we are here to help. Please send your comments, feedback, and suggestions to jessica@easeup.ca

About the Author

Having caught the organizational bug early on trying to “balance” things out as an elite gymnast, Jessica Tudos brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to her role as a professional organizer.  Drawing from her global work as an experiential educator, author, and motivational speaker, Jessica is on a mission to empower people to lead healthy, creative and organized lives.