The Why and How of Order

Clutter comes in many forms- none pretty. We have cluttered homes, calendars, schedules and minds. How to deal with all the clutter and chaos is where many people start. If you’re a shopper, buying matching containers and bins to hold all your things sounds like fun. Hiring a professional organizer seems like the perfect solution for taming too much stuff. With the right supplies and the right talent, the clutter problem will be solved!

Hold on a minute. Buying more things to solve the problem of too many things is an inauspicious start.

A more reasoned starting point is why. Why do I have so much stuff? Am I a recreational shopper? Am I a doormat for family “heirlooms”? Am I keeping up with the Joneses? Am I buying ‘just in case’? There are plenty of whys. And the answers may vary, but one thing is certain. If you don’t explore why, the how will suffer.

At the Cornwell Center’s Learning Connection, Robin’s Rules and Simplicity Organizers connect and you will learn why and how to make 2017 your best and simplest year ever.

The Why and How of Order

Wednesday, Feb. 15
10:30am-12:00pm
The Cornwell Center
FREE- no registration required

Robin’s Rules of Order will help you with why. The principles and practices explained in the book will guide your thinking. Thinking that should precede any doing. The Rules pave the way for Simplicity Organizers to do what they do spectacularly well. The how. These professionals specialize in clearing out the unnecessary to focus on what matters most-creating space, balance and harmony in homes and lives. Simplicity does much more than just purging and organizing stuff. They’re really your partner in ‘life simplified’. You’ve answered the why by considering Robin’s Rules.

The next step is for Simplicity to show you how. That inauspicious start can be the perfect ending!

Why? Robin’s Rules of Order

How? Simplicity Organizers  

 

 


Nature: Your Personal Decompression Chamber

Natures peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

~John Muir, Our National Parks

While rubbing elbows with the birds and the bees can become a bit more challenging during the winter months, getting outside and moving in nature should be a priority all year through. The benefits of crisp clean air, a good dose of bright light or the peace found in the sound of rippling water can go far beyond that moment to completely transform your day. Research is piling up to show that perhaps one of the quickest ways to a better mood and a healthier mind and body, is simply moving your lunch hour and/or your exercise routine to a park, a field, a forrest, or a patch of grass near you. So bundle up, if necessary, but just grab those boots and go. Don’t let a little weather keep you from getting out there and enjoying all those gifts the natural world has waiting for you.

Here are our top 4 reasons for soaking up a bit of nature right NOW:

  1. Kick the Seasonal Blues

If you are anything like me, the lack of sunshine during the winter months can get leave  you feeling a bit down. So much for myself, in fact, that we moved to Florida for four  years to combat it. It is not necessary, however, to pick up your life and move to the sunshine, just make an effort to get outside everyday around noon when the  sun is at its brightest, to soak up some of nature’s very best blues busters. If you also combine your time outside with some exercise, you get a double dose of that mood  lifting healing-power.

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it. “

~John Burroughs

  1. Relieve Stress Naturally

Think of nature as a personal decompression chamber that is always available to you. It heals, soothes, and restores. Feelings of overwhelm that are too often a part of our modern lives, can be gently and quickly eased by simply taking a walk outside, breathing, and noticing the beauty and continuity of the natural world.

Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. It Doesnt Get Boring

Nature is ever-changing. The color, the light, the scents, the living things, will never be the same from day to day and season to season. Research shows that we are far more likely to keep up with a workout that does not feel monotonous and at the same time, feeds our soul. So, while I am not suggesting you give up your gym membership, moving your workout or your yoga practice outside a couple days a week will keep you routine (and your lungs), fresh.

Is the spring coming? he said. What is it like? …‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.

~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

  1. Up Your Ecological Intelligence Quotient

Even if you don’t consider yourself a true “nature lover”, exposure to nature is key. By upping your time spent outside and making an effort to absorb the gifts of nature, you will move toward an appreciation for it. So if bugs freak you out, or if the wind makes you a bit crazy, take a moment to literally stop and smell the roses or the rosemary or a sprig of pine and see if it doesn’t instantly pick you up. Then, give it a try the next day, and the next and the next. Your love of nature is sure to grow, making you far more likely to become a protector of this beautiful world. And it is no secret, that we need many, many  more protectors.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

 

 

 

 

 


Less is More During the Holidays

Wreath

Ultimately we want to fill the holidays with more joy, relaxation and time with family and friends. Instead, we have a tendency to fill the holidays with more commitments and more stress all the while draining our bank accounts and adding to landfills.

Many of us can certainly be guilty of spending half of a day making and packaging cutesy Pinterest holiday treats (which will soon be forgotten) for every last neighbor and co-worker, rather than spending that time fulfilling a holiday tradition with my children (an action, which will unfortunately, not be forgotten anytime soon by their precious minds).

How do we shift our actions to align with what we want and what brings us true happiness?

  • Wrap yourself up in only the important things. Decide as a family what activities/traditions are non-negotiable. Before taking on anything extra, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for myself, a family member or friend? Would I do this if I couldn’t brag on Facebook or Instagram that I did it? Am I doing this for pleasure or because I feel like I ‘should’ do it?”
  • Put on blinders to advertisements. First cancel, then recycle all catalogs. Unsubscribe from and delete emails from retailers. Consolidate your shopping trips and eliminate them, when possible, to free up time and to avoid the impulse buys.
  • Go green. Choose live decorations, garland and pine cones. The scent brings joy and there is nothing to store away at the end of the season.

The Center for a New American Dream reports that more than three-quarters of Americans want the holidays to be less materialistic. Yet people are still just gifting stuff for the sake of gifting, with utter disregard for the consequences to the recipient and the environment. An online survey conducted for eBay in Nov. 2008 found that of U.S. adults who receive gifts during the holidays, 83 percent receive unwanted items. It seems we love to give more than we love to get.

How do we remedy the issue of “stuff” while satisfying our desire to “give”?

  • Give experiences, not stuff. Click here for a list of suggestions on non-physical gift ideas for everyone in your life, including your children.
  • When a physical gift seems like a must, create something.
  • Re-gift. If you have acquired a gift that you feel bad getting rid of, sell it and donate part or all of the proceeds to a charity in honor of the person who gifted it to you. See our list of charity suggestions here.

We’ve all experienced the overwhelm of too much stuff. Our garages and playrooms are bulging at the seams and quite frankly, so are our nerves and patience. Review these tips for managing your garage and your playroom so you can spend more time living rather than being a manager of things.

In closing, remember one thing this holiday season…less can, in fact, be more.

 

SIMPLICITY’S DECEMBER PROMOTION

If you book services from Monday, December 12th-Wednesday, December 23rd, you will receive 15% off your entire organizational service.  This does not include organizational supplies.

SIMPLICITY’S GIFT IDEAS:

GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME!

When you purchase 4 hours of organizing,

you will receive one free hour that can be applied to a Needs Assessment

or a to a basic hour of organizing.

(Cost $260)

BUY 1-GIVE 1

Pre-purchase one hour of organizing for yourself and receive a free hour of service to give to a family member or friend who has not used our services before.

(Cost $70)

*Travel restrictions apply.


Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

 

garagesbasementsattics2

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Maybe you want your living space perfect, but better might be good enough for your storage areas. Don’t sabotage your efforts by holding these areas to the same standard you desire for the living room or bedroom. A good rule of thumb- if it’s not climate controlled, don’t sweat the details. And if it’s not climate controlled, be careful about what you store. Memorabilia, off season clothes and paperwork don’t fare well in damp, temperature-extreme conditions.

When it comes to organizing, the garage suffers an identity crisis. Is it part of the house or not? Does it merit a high level of “spiffing “ or does anything go? Is it a place to park cars or is that fantasy thinking?

Regardless of how you view your garage, some organizing can be helpful.   This is a project to tackle when the weather is mild. Too hot or too cold and you’ve got a built-in excuse for quitting!

With garages, the contents may be different from what’s in your house, but the organizing process is the same. First, envision how you want your garage to function- what’s working and what’s not? Then, it’s time to roll up your sleeves.

Garage

Sort and Purge

Everything comes out and is separated into one of three piles- keep, donate or toss.

Reorganize

All the keepers are stored with like kind, with most frequently used items being easily accessible. Open wire shelving is an excellent, affordable option for keeping things off the floor and in easy reach. Shelf height can be adjusted to accommodate your needs. If your budget permits, a custom installed garage storage system is as good as it gets.

Contain

When practical, use clear, lidded containers for storage.   Dirt and bugs will be minimized and small items won’t be lost.

Label

If you have a label maker, use it. If not, consider buying one. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

Discard /Donate

Don’t sabotage your project by letting trash and donations linger. Call the city for an extra trash pickup and load the car with donations. If you’ve got a mountain of discards, using a professional rubbish removal service to haul it all away will be money well-spent.

simplicity-garage-promo2


Household Tips for Eco-Efficiency

eco-efficiency-october

We believe that people inherently want to be good stewards of the environment and its natural resources, but there are a few popular excuses that get in the way. Many people believe that going green will take more time or cost more money when in fact, it can even save you time and money, in some cases right up front.

Here are some simple steps to save energy, which will also save you some green.

  • Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs. For every degree you turn your heat down in the winter, you can save up to 5% on your energy bill.
  • Install compact fluorescent light (CFLs) or LED bulbs when your older incandescent bulbs burn out. CFLs use 75% less energy and last 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs. While they cost more up front, they pay for themselves 10 times over during the life of the bulb!
  • Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. Or, use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or “vampire” energy use. Americans spend about 4 billion a year on electricity for things they aren’t using!!!!
    1. Buy less electronics overall.
    2. Keep electronics as long as possible.
    3. Donate, if possible. There is no shortage of places that accept old phones for a great cause. Just google it.
    4. Recycle them! Simply Google search “Electronic Recycling” in your area.Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.While most of the Earth’s surface (nearly 70%) is covered in water, one may wonder why water conservation is so important. Well, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is actually usable by people. We also have to consider that the population is growing but the water supply is not. Follow these steps to save water, money and time:
      • Take shorter showers. Most standard shower heads today release 2.5 gallons per minute! You will not only save water, but you’ll save the energy used to heat the water you aren’t using.
      • Install low-flow shower heads. Many can be found for under $20. They typically release 2 gpm (gallons per minute). Save $23-$33 annually. So with only one person showering you have paid off your low-flow shower head in less than one year!

      Even the foods you eat make an impact. According to the EPA, in 2012, nearly 30% of municipal waste was from containers and packaging. Here’s what you can do to help:

      • Buy from the bulk bins and avoid single-size packaged foods (which we don’t recommend packaged foods to begin with). You’ll save money and eliminate package waste.
      • Make one day a week meatless. Standard meat production is taxing on the environment and can be rather expensive. 1 pound of ground beef costs more than 1 pound of organic lentils. Yet the lentils yield more than double the servings than the ground beef and one serving of lentils still yields 11 g of protein.

      See more ideas on simplifying your pantry here.

      We are a society of convenience. But if we continue on as we have been, many of our greatest conveniences will be lost forever. Here are some ways to replace single use or disposable items without compromising convenience:

      • Quit the plastic water bottles. Simply use a filter from your fridge door or Brita or find a water bottle that has a filter built in.   Save $500 a year by eliminating 1 bottle of water a day. The production of plastic bottles uses a lot of oil and they typically head straight for the trash. Here is one of our favorite re-usable water bottles.
      • Use Micro Fiber cloths to replace paper towels. 1 Skoy cloth can replace 15 rolls of paper towels!
      • Use beeswax Abeego to replace foil/plastic wrap.

      Click here for more products we love that replace single use and disposable items.

      We all know how quickly technology gets updated and old technology becomes obsolete. This is very taxing on the environment, our happiness and our pocketbook. There truly is a battle here of wants versus needs. Getting the latest/greatest iPhone because it is more cutting edge is a want. Getting a new phone because yours is broken (or almost broken) is “closer” to a need. We can save money and the environment by hanging onto our TV’s, computers, phones and other electronics for their lifespan.

      Follow these simple steps (in order) to minimize your technology footprint:

    As with anything else in life, you don’t have to do it all at once. Pick one or two things to start with, then once those are habit, pick another suggestion to try.

    References:

    www.usgs.gov

    www.epa.gov


80/20 Rule for Closet Organization

 

Clothes and Accessories Swap Party

The Pareto Principle  (aka The 80-20 Rule)

This principle was first conceived in over 100 years ago by an Italian who observed that 80% of the land in his country was owned by 20% of the people. We’ve all heard in the classroom how 80% of the trouble is caused by 20% of the students. So what does this have to do with Simplicity? Actually, quite a bit:

We are all looking for efficiency in our over busy, over stuffed worlds. Figuring out what 20% matters- in what we own and what we do, would be huge. Even if it’s not 80% wasted time or unused possessions, most of us have a great deal of fat in our schedules and bloat in our stuff.

 

WhitleyCloset1

How you say?
How much of the contents of your closet never see the light of day?

How much of the stuff that lives in your garage, attic or basement should have been discarded or donated rather than boxed and stored?

How many of your children’s toys never come out of the toy box (if you were lucky enough to have them corralled to begin with)?

How much of the backlog of magazines, journals and papers will never be read?

How much of the stockpile of staples in your pantry will expire before being consumed?

How much of what’s on your calendar or agenda is productive, necessary and meaningful?

Maybe eliminating the 80% that isn’t used, enjoyed, productive and meaningful, could take you a long way toward accomplishing more of your goals. Activities and commitments that are “low value” or “no value” may need to go. The same is true of the unused, unloved, outdated clothes, toys, foodstuffs, and paper piles.

If you haven’t used something for a while, ask yourself why you are keeping it? Because I might need it one day, or it’s too much trouble to make the cull, are not good excuses. If you’re saying yes to commitments out of fear or embarrassment, reconsider your motives.

Remember, better the right 20% than the wrong 100%!

 

 

 

 


Preparation is Key in the Kitchen

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Ben Franklin

Checklist

Failing to prepare, procrastinating, putting off until tomorrow what should be done today…
These are all strategies for disorganization, chaos, waste and heartache- outcomes that few seek. So why do we do the very things that sabotage success we crave? The answer is at least in part-we’re human and we’re creatures of habit. In our busy lives and fast-paced world, there always seems to be more to do than time to do it. Putting things off is a coping mechanism.

But preparation skills can be learned, practiced and habit-forming. And in the process, life becomes calmer, simpler and happier.

Consider these possibilities for success through preparation in the kitchen and pantry.

Grocery Store

Plans meals and keep a grocery list (easier than ever with technology) rather than impulse buying and not having anything that constitutes a meal. Shop less often but more intentionally.

Prep groceries when you unpack them. This means rotating your pantry stock, washing greens and cleaning veggies, unwrapping or unsealing the bottle or jar before you put it in the fridge. Spending a bit of time on the front end pays off handsomely on the back end.

Take stock of your pantry. Mystery jars outdated spices and cans all can be discarded. Food gifts you’ll never use can be donated to someone who will. Be ruthless. If you can’t fathom making a meal of something in your pantry, let it go. And don’t ever buy it again.

If you’re a small family, do you really need the jumbo-sized, discount grocery store? Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a good value.

Not every meal has to be a gastronomic masterpiece. Ingredients for your go-to meals should be staples. If the ingredients are on hand (and prepped), eating at home is quicker, tastier, healthier and cheaper than blasting through the fast food drive thorough. And home cooking results in leftovers, which become the basis for lunches or subsequent dinners.

We’ve gotten in the habit of eating out. It’s dealt our pocketbooks and waistlines a blow. At Simplicity, we encourage you to get in the habit of eating in!


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Thanks to Simplicity, the documentary, Minimalism, was recently screened in Charlotte to a full house. And a full house, or more specifically, an overly full house is exactly what the film was about.  My husband and daughter were my sidekicks for the evening-one, enthusiastic and one a bit reluctant.  But when the lights came up, we all agreed that Minimalism was thought provoking, inspiring and a bit guilt-inducing.

Minimalism

The film documents the two Minimalists’ odyssey.  From more is more, to less is more. From keeping up with the Jones, to charting one’s own path. And from piles of unused stuff, to owning just enough. Their journeys resulted in freedom- financial, emotional and physical.  And their mission now is not to climb the corporate ladder, in the right suit with the right gadgets, but to inspire others to consciously examine what they own and why they own it.  For the movie trailer click here

Less

In the spirit of Simplicity, each of us gives our single most important lesson from the film.

From the 30 year old:

Only hold on to things that bring value to your life.

There isn’t just one template for how to deal with possessions.  Each of us has our own threshold for what is enough and what brings value to our life.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A collection of snow angels might make one person grab a trash bag but for someone else, it could be a treasured and tangible connection to a loved one. And how do you measure the value of something?  Do you use it?  Do you have space for it?  Can you afford the time or money it would take to replace it if you ever decided you needed such a thing?  No matter the value in absolute monetary terms, if the object doesn’t bring value to you, let it go.  Paradoxically, your life will be enriched by having less.

From the 60 something male:

A big change is easier than small one.

As counter-intuitive as this may seem, there is neurobiology supporting it. Often the trigger or nudge is more compelling for a big change than a small one. We evolved as horders. Stockpiling worked in times of scarcity when basic needs were hard to meet but our biology betrays us now.  Biology begets “buyology.  With small changes rather than a sweeping change, there can be a feeling of continual deprivation.  It’s like the addict who needs another hit. And this need for more precludes the feeling of contentment from having the “luxury of enough”.

From the 60 something female:

You think you own your stuff but your stuff really owns you. 

We’re hardwired to feel loss more strongly than we feel gain. Letting go of things is more painful than acquiring them is pleasurable.  We’re wired for dissatisfaction.  Advertising and social media feed that dissatisfaction. Dubious claims of ‘New and Improved’ render the existing version unsatisfactory.  Keeping up with the Jones is exhausting and expensive. We live in a junk culture where ‘more is more’. The cheaper, the better is the lifeblood of mass retailing. We can turn that around when buying fewer things, but better things becomes our habit. Remember the Chinese proverb, “Buy the best and you only weep once”.

Here’s one final thought from the film. You can never get enough of what you don’t really need because what you don’t need, no matter the quantity, will never satisfy.

And lastly, a possible mantra for those on their own minimalist odyssey-

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  Hans Hofmann, German abstract expressionist 

By Robin McCoy


Simple Habits for Mindful Eating

“Food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains life of the sun and the earth. We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread! Contemplating our food for just a few seconds before eating and eating with mindfulness, can bring us much happiness.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

SimpleHabits

We’ve all done it. We eat on the run.  We eat behind the wheel.  We eat behind a screen. We scarf down what’s within reach without thought from whence it came or how it would or would not nourish our bodies.  We eat when we are nervous. We eat when we are bored, sad, or happy.  We rarely slow down long enough to recognize hunger or take the moments required to determine why we are munching.  We may graze mindlessly through our day or numb ourselves with too much food at each meal. Eating this way, is it a wonder that we often find ourselves unsatisfied at the end of a meal, feeling unwell, and perhaps, un-nourished?  Of course not. And if you find that this is your reality more often than not with food, you will find great benefit from learning to become a more mindful eater.

When you begin to eat more mindfully, you will likely find that you:

1)    Consume less and are satisfied with less because you take the time to notice and experience each bite.

2)    Enjoy more fully the experience of eating.

3)    Consume better foods because you are more conscious of the quality of each bite and the effect foods have on your wellness.

4)    Have better digestion because you are slowing down, reducing stress, and taking the time to chew your food.

5)    Become more aware of hunger and satiety cues.

6)    As you cultivate mindful eating, you will become more aware of “enough” and eat/order/shop accordingly.  Less food will be wasted.

So, what habits should you develop to become a more mindful eater?  Well, as you will hear often from us in the next several months, “It’s simple but it’s not easy.”  Practice is the only way.  Here are some suggestions for getting started.

1)    When you are eating, only eat. Do not attempt to multitask with the exception of sharing the experience with those you love.

2)    Always eat at a table. This will eliminate your tendency to mindlessly graze.  Even a snack will be etched into your consciousness if your rule is to sit down at a table to eat it.

3)    Practice gratitude for the abundance in front of you.  Appreciate the appearance, the origin of the food, and the preparation.

4)    If you have prepared the food yourself be also mindful in its preparation.  Think of it as a gift you give yourself and those you love rather than as a chore.

5)    Take it one bite at a time.  Notice your sensations as you eat.  Chew each bite thoroughly.

6)    Take the time to consider the interconnectedness between all living things, our planet and its peoples, as well as the impact our food choices have on each.

We invite you to join Simplicity and Spunky Avocado on our Less is More journey. If you’d like to join our private Facebook Group, Less is More, which we hope will bring you inspiration, confidence and motivation to get out there and live more while consuming less plus monthly giveaways, email us.

 

Sources: Psychology Today, Eating Mindfully, Huffington Post

 


The Playroom: Where Fun Meets Function

Less is More.  This is a good lesson for children to learn early in life.  And toys are a great place to start.

Playroom

An organized play space is a functional and attractive alternative to the chaos that reigns in many homes.  If a dedicated playroom isn’t available, a corner of the family room, bedroom or kitchen can be a good substitute. For toddlers and young preschoolers, the more visible and central the location, the better.

Regardless of where playthings call home, avoid having more toys than space permits.  If you’ve already exceeded your limit, purge now, before the birthday party or holiday gift-giving season approaches.  If you’re at comfortable capacity, adopt the “one in-one out” rule to avoid overload.  Make sure your child has in mind which toy from home is going to leave before a new one is purchased.

Weed out age inappropriate toys.  For toys your child has outgrown, contain and label for younger/future siblings, share with friends, or donate to charity. Overly advanced games and toys will be frustrating. Store them until the appropriate time – and if that time is years away, consider letting them go.  Purge anything that is broken or missing pieces or that your child no longer enjoys.  If you have the luxury of additional storage space in your home, consider a toy rotation.  Keep only a portion of the age appropriate toys in circulation at one time.  Every few weeks, stash a portion of what’s in play, and substitute a few items from storage.  Make sure the toys that are being stored are clearly labeled and are very accessible.  This is almost as good as a trip to the toy store!

Establish activity centers. While the floor is great for blocks, Legos, and train sets, you’ll need a table and chairs for puzzles, crafts, and doll tea parties.  Don’t skimp on containers or chaos will be back in spades. Open shelves and lidded clear plastic containers are a good choice.  Ziplock bags work well for individual puzzles or games with many small pieces.  Avoid large baskets and bins, which quickly become catch-alls for unrelated toys.

If your children are old enough, allow them to be involved in the process.  Label containers or shelves so everyone will know what belongs where.  Printed word labels are appropriate for older children, while picture labels for younger ones will facilitate cleanup. If your child is learning another language, bilingual labeling is a good way to reinforce foreign vocabulary.

To summarize:

Designate a play space with several activity centers.

Ensure toys are age and space-appropriate.

Contain and label.

Fun meets function!

Looking for inspiration to declutter and serve the community?

This year, Simplicity Organizers are teaming up with Augustine Literacy Project and Freedom School Partners, to host their annual book drive in the month of May. We are encouraging the community to donate gently used children’s books (Grades K-5) to the Read a Book, Give a Book celebration. This year we will donate the books to Montclair and Rama Road Elementary schools in hopes that every single student will be able to take home several books to read over the summer! Please email us to find drop off location in your area.

Charity sites that accept toys and school supplies: