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Happy New Year! It's 2020 and it seems as though it's the year that everyone wants to make a change. I don't know if it's because 2020 looks cool or if it's the symmetry of the year 2020 but a lot of people want to get their homes and spaces organized this year and this is the year we're going to do it together.


As you may or may not know, January is National Get Organized Month, but of course, you're always free to get organized any month of the year, however, January feels like a fresh start which is why I believe people are motivated to make changes in their lives. So, starting this month, we'll be talking about how to take the steps to get to a point where you home hugs you instead of stresses you out.


The first topic I'd like to focus on is mindset. A lot of people have the desire to get their homes organized, but they are overwhelmed and don't know where or how to begin. Changing the way you think approach your project can help motivate you and relieve some of the anxiety that I know a lot of people feel around organizing their home. I've come up with a concept so simple that it blew my mind. Now, I'd like to point out that simple does not mean easy. It just means simple.

Being a professional organizer means I help people in their homes and online to repair a fractured relationship between them and their spaces and belongings. I firmly believe you ARE in a relationship with your homes and your belongings whether you like it or not and how organized or disorganized your space is, is dependent on the health of your relationship. More and more, over the years, I've started to focus more and more on client behavior than just putting things in rows. Not to discredit the value of creating an aesthetically pleasing space, but it is often the icing on the cake...not the eggs and butter and flour. Those are core components and without them...you have no cake. If you try to ice your bowl of unprocessed cake ingredients, you won't get a pretty cake...no matter how hard you try.


So, the first step in achieving an organized home is changing your mindset about your space. The one thing that may help you get started in your space if you look around and you are overwhelmed and don't know where to start is to realize...that organizing is simply problem-solving and nothing more.


I realize not all of us are gifted when it comes to solving problems. I took a physics course in my post-baccalaureate days and let's just say...I practiced solving physics problems for hours and hours a day and over the course of the year, I got better at it, but ultimately, I found it to be difficult. However, you can get better with practice and help from someone who knows what they’re doing better than you do.


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The reason I always mention that I don't have that many hard and fast rules for organizing that work for everyone is that disorganization is a phenomenon that is an individual experience and needs to be dealt with accordingly. When I am with clients for the first time working with them, instead of sitting down and getting to the decluttering and all that right away, I spend a pretty good amount of time asking questions and asking about their lifestyle and habits. I believe very strongly that the way you use and store your items is simply a manifestation of your behavior and the behavior of people in your household. That, in turn, creates a problem...that you then need to solve.


"I cannot find my keys when I go to look for them."

"I don't wear these boots because I can never reach them."

"My blouses keep falling on the floor when I go to hang them up."

"My kids are just throwing their coats on the mudroom bench instead of hanging them up."

"I can't find anything in my pantry when I need to cook."

"I have an ever-growing pile of unopened mail."

"My kitchen counter is cluttered with all kinds of junk."



If you think carefully about each one of these scenarios, they are just problems that need a solution. Sometimes the solution is to change a previously unhelpful habit and sometimes the solution is to buy a product and sometimes, it's both. This is why organizing spaces is such an individual experience and while it's definitely possible and helpful to gather ideas from other people's solved organization dilemmas, how you organize your space in a way that works for you and your household will be a personal experience.


When I'm with clients for the first time assessing their space, I will ask specifically what the problem is in their space and one of the answers I get back most frequently is: "It's a mess."

When I get this reply, I always ask them to go one step deeper. Is there something they are trying to accomplish in this space that's hindered by the "mess"? Is there an item that they regularly are trying to find and can't because of the mess? Is it a mess because not everything in the space has a place to go when it needs to be put away?


Going one step deeper can help give you an idea of where to begin when you are organizing a space. Simply figuring out the problem can take some of the guesswork and anxiety out of the "Where do I even start?" trap. Solving the problem is another feat but uncovering the underlying problem to be solved can actually do some of the heavy-lifting when you're on a path to home organization and improving your relationship with your space. I hope this inspires you and changes your view on your organization project this year so that you can create a home that hugs you!

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Sometimes (okay, most of the time), it can be really fun to go out and get a little retail therapy. It's fun to shop! It's fun to go out into the wild jungle of commerce and hunt and gather and bring your newfound prizes home!


However, in the West, we often are challenged from having too many choices, too much opportunity and we are often tempted to purchase items on impulse only to leave them sitting in the shopping bag at home or even putting them away never to actually use them. Well, if this sounds like you, I've got some tips to help you determine if you should checkout or get out.

Okay, so I know we are all guilty of Impulse Purchasing. Shopping is fun and can actually make you feel better if you have a bad day...but kind of the same way that chocolate cake can make you feel better. It's not necessarily the greatest way to relieve stress because too much of it can make you feel sick or make you gain weight. One of my favorite books from my twenties was Confessions of A Shopaholic, which was the fictional story of a young woman with a shopping addiction who puts herself into debt from buying designer shoes and handbags. It's a fun, lighthearted book with a serious undertone as I was just getting out of debt from a period of over-shopping myself. These quick hits of dopamine can quickly come with a consequence of creating stress from acquiring crippling debt or creating clutter in your home.


Many of the clients I see when I'm in their homes helping them declutter their spaces, talk to me about their shopping habits and how they may be creating a problem in their homes. I have often seen items of all sorts with the tags still attached or even items in the bags that did not make it out of their packaging once they arrived at home. A great deal of keeping an organized home is to correct some behaviors that bring clutter in your house in the first place and I like to encourage my clients to do what I call Mindful Shopping.


Stop Using Shopping As A Remedy for a Bad Day: I understand, I've done this. The weird truth is...Retail Therapy IS real. Studies have proved it's a highly effective way to relieve stress and anxiety and 82% of purchases made while therapeutic shopping are actually purchases buyers do not regret. While it's true that shopping is really fun, you can often start to rely on this as a crutch for a quick hit of dopamine when you've had a bad day. Just like anything that can make you feel better when you feel bad, you can quickly develop habits and get dependent on these behaviors just like any other vice. Retail therapy can quickly take a dark turn to compulsive shopping.

So, I like to encourage people, if they are having a bad day or they are in a bad mood, instead of grabbing their purse to go shopping without a goal or without specific items in mind (don't just go to the mall), that they redirect their feelings and do something productive instead. The feeling of accomplishing something can be just as much of a pick-me-up as buying two pairs of shoes and it might not have cost you anything except time.



Going to the gym, taking your dog for a walk, emptying the dishwasher, opening the mail...not all these things are "fun" things, but the feeling of accomplishment that you get after they are done can often be enough to improve your mood. So long and short of it...if you're in a bad mood and you want to go shopping to make yourself feel better...don't. That being said if you do go out and do a little Retail Therapy shopping from time to time, it's not necessarily the end of the world. I even recommend that clients take themselves shopping as reward for achieving goals.


Window Shop Instead of Purchase: A study shows that window or hypothetical shopping is just as therapeutic as actual shopping. There was a point in my life when I didn't think window shopping was going to be very satisfying, but it actually is. Sometimes, if I've had a bad day and I want to do some impulse shopping, I will consciously leave my debit and credit cards at home and just go and browse. This actually does make me feel better and after my mood has been improved I still have my money. This practice leads me to the next strategy which is...


Capture and Hold: If you're out and you find yourself in an impulsive shopping situation, instead of taking the item up to the till. Pull out your phone and take a picture of it. You've captured its image and that MIGHT be enough to satisfy you and make you feel better. If you end up looking through your photo roll and really want to go back for the item after some time, than go for it. But if you're still there and feel like you're not sure if you're in the right headspace to make a good decision about the item, put it on hold if that retailer allows. Depending on the store, items can usually be held for a few hours, until closing or for 24 hours, just ask. If you really want it, you can go back for it. If you change your mind, a nice salesperson will put it back on the shelf.


Go Shopping Purposefully: When you are actually out shopping for things you need, you probably won't need to go through this list of questions. However, if you are out by yourself...and you feel out of control...here is your questioning:

Was I looking to buy this item already?

Will it serve a meaningful purpose in my life?

Do I have something similar already ?

Can I make space for it/Do I have a place for it when it gets home?

When do I plan on using this/enjoying it?


I made a pdf cheat sheet for you to reference if you are struggling. Happy Mindful Shopping!

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For those of you who feel as though you have a black thumb and cannot keep any houseplants alive and thriving, I want to assure you that with armed with a little bit of knowledge, you can definitely add some green to your space. The demise of houseplants often stems from the lack of knowledge of what the particular plant needs to thrive. You may go to a nursery and fall in love with a beautiful plant, bring it home and find that you are not able to keep it happy. The key to success with houseplants is finding the right balance between a plant you love, a plant that will love your space and a plant that will tolerate what kind of plant parent you will be. Are you a hands-off person who will maybe water the plant once in a while? Or are you prepared to dote over your plant? Does your home have a lot of bright light or is the most you can give any plant low to medium light? These questions, armed with some technological cheats, are what you need to be the best plant parent you can be!


I like to use an app to identify plants I'm not sure what the names are and it's called Picture This. There is option to pay for the use of this app or you can use it for free for a limited amount of identifications per day. This app is good for popular plants and can help with identification, but it is not 100% accurate, so your best bet is going to a Facebook or Reddit page and asking for identification there.


If you're not sure how much light, which is essentially plant food, you can provide in your home, there are a number of apps for that too! I use one called Plant Light and it costs $.99 on the app store for iPhone. It will measure the light coming in through the rear-facing camera on your phone. Just hold it directly at the light source and it will tell you how intense the light is in that area. This will give you an idea of what kinds of plants will thrive in your home.


Without further ado, here are five SUPER EASY, low maintenance houseplants for a beginner plant parent.


Zamioculcas zamiifolia

IF YOU FORGET TO WATER PLANTS


ZZ Plant: You will have a very hard time killing this plant if you have a fear of killing plants. This is the hardiest or hardy plants. You can ignore this and leave it in the dark for 4 months and it will be fine. With it's attractive dark green waxy foliage and its chubby stems, it makes it the perfect addition to an office desk or a dark corner that needs something. Since it has intense tuberous roots that hold lots of water, along with thick stems and leaves, they can go quite a while without water. They really don't need much attention at all.









Sansevaria

IF YOU HAVE LOW LIGHT


Sanseveria (Snake Plants): You can also be pretty negligent with these as far as watering and they will probably be okay. It's a very forgiving kind of plant and there are MANY different varieties of Snake Plants in all sizes and color and shape to try. It can thrive in low light situations and is also very easy to propagate to make more plants!














IF YOU LOVE PINEAPPLES 🍍


Dracaena Janet Craig Compacta: If you think pineapples are cute, then you need this little plant in a pineapple shaped cachepot right now! This dracaena is simply adorable and is not very needy at all. It can thrive in just about any lighting situation, although it does great it bright light. It is a slow grower so it will stay pretty compact if you do not have a lot of space to keep large plants. This plant is super easy to keep and will make you smile with it's attractive long green leaves.


IF YOU LOVE BEAUTIFUL LEAVES


Scindapsus pictus (Silver Pothos): This plant is super easy to find, super easy to grow and amazing to look at. They have a lovely silvery variegation on the leaves that is actually silvery and somewhat magical. Just like any other pothos, it is a vining plant which can live and climb on other surfaces. These are tolerant of a little under-watering and will grow impressively for you with medium to bright light.


IF YOU NEED AN INSTAGRAM-ABLE PLANT


Monstera Deliciosa: This is the IT plant right now and there is good reason for that. It's easy to care for, gets gigantic and has amazing split leaf foliage as it matures. It is named because of its potential size as it gets "monstrous" and it produces a delicious fruit that apparently tastes like pineapple. These plants will thrive in medium to bright conditions, but not direct sunlight as you may burn the leaves. These plants are very forgiving and will be okay if they dry out slightly between waterings. Be sure to clean the leaves regularly as the sheer size of the leaves makes it prone to collecting dust. A plant will have trouble photosynthesizing efficiently with dusty leaves.




Don't be afraid to experiment with houseplants to enrich your space! With a little bit of knowledge, you can turn your black thumb into a very green one!



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