Entries in shopping (2)


Out of Control Clothes, Part 2

One of the things I run into most frequently are overstuffed closets, dressers, armoirs, with clothes busting out at the edges and spilling over into the room or even the entire house. My clients often show me a photo (from an organizing magazine) of what they'd like their closets to look like.

I'll share a secret -- there's no secret magic to that. For those photo shoots, they simply remove about one-half of the clothes, get nice hangers and put remaining one-half of the clothes back neatly. It's not actually a secret; it's just common sense. There is a finite amount of space in a closet. If you put too much into it, things are going to be so tight it becomes hard to get to anything. The key to an organized, tidy closet is that there is room to move the hangers from side to side, so that you can see what you have and get out what you have, without a serious tug of war battle.

For most people, the problem is the stuff. They want to keep it all. 

But we know that we wear 20% of our clothes, 80% of the time. Everybody has that go-to pair of jeans, casual summer dress, favorite shirt and so on. We wear them over and over. Meanwhile, other articles languish in the back of the closet or drawer or in a pile of dirty laundry which has been gathering dust for months. If an article of clothing has adopted the shape of a hanger and is literally dusty, you don't need it any longer. Wish it a fond farewell and donate it to somebody who will wear it, rather than banish it to the back of the closet. You'll feel better for doing so. 

I know that it can be hard to let go of things, but clothes, like most things in life, are replaceable. The things that are irreplaceable cannot be purchased at the Gap or Marshall's or Macy's. Time spent with loved ones. Taking the dogs for a walk. Reading a good book. Doing work that is satisfying. Cooking a meal. Those things are irreplaceable. A pair of jeans? Not so much. 

If you want to get organized but are having a hard time culling through things or letting go, stop focusing on the stuff and instead focus on the space and the state of mind it creates. Ask yourself what you want. Do you want a room that gives you peace of mind? Do you want a closet that doesn't make you feel bad when you open it? Do you want your home to have harmony in it? Focus on those things and forget about the shirt, the jeans which still have the tag on them, the shoes that pinch your feet. 

When you stumble or get stuck, try to re-shape your thinking about it. Spend less time thinking about the stuff you are donating and more time thinking about how good a tidy, organized closet will make you feel. Harmony. Balance. Clean spaces. Those are the important things and sometimes to get there, you have to think about the problem differently. A sense of well-being is more valuable than anything you could ever buy.


The Big Shop

Nobody calls me when things are tidy and the household is running smoothly. The nature of my business is such that when things in the home reach a tipping point, I get a call. Every house is different. Every client is different. Yet there are common themes that I run across time and again, one of which is the subject of this entry: over-buying groceries.

I walk into kitchens that are literally over-flowing with food. There are hundreds and hundreds of cans (soups, sauces, vegetables, tuna, you name it); there are myriad dried goods, plus jars of jam, salsa, mushrooms and just about anything that can be put in a jar. Often, much of the food is so old and out-dated that it has to be pitched. It is quite simply TOO MUCH. 

Most of this is the by-product of over-shopping and lack of preparation. Being organized isn't about the right shelves or the perfect hangers, despite what television advertisers would like you to believe. Being organized is about taking a moment to just breathe and think. It's about being thoughtful in your planning. Here are some hands-on tactical tips to keep the contents of your kitchen under control: 

1.  Plan your breakfast/dinner/lunch menus for the week. Planning the week doesn't have to mean that you abandon all spontaneity. This is an outline for the week, but it's not written in marble and you needn't be rigid about it. Plan your menu, then allow yourself some flexibility and wiggle room:  if a friend calls and asks you to come out for a quick bite one night, go enjoy the food and the company; if your kids want pizza night after basketball practice, order the pie and enjoy. But planning the menu prepares you for your week. More importantly, it makes it easy to follow step No. 2.

2. Make a list based on your menus before you head to the grocery store. After you take a few minutes to plan your menus, write down all the items you need.  Steps 1 and 2 will take you no longer than 15 minutes. [Maybe it'll take 25 or 25 minutes when you start, but after a while, you'll get to be a whiz and you can complete the planning and list making in 10 minutes flat.] When making your list, be sure to think about other household items you may need:  kitty litter, laundry detergent, paper towels, etc. The idea here is to do all the thinking at home and then go on autopilot at the market. 

3. Use only the coupons for items which you intend to purchase on your list. But what about all the money you can save with coupons? Hooey. 80% to 90% of coupons encourage you to purchase items you do not need, do not want, and may never use. If you have coupons for items on your list, even better. Otherwise, ditch the coupons. Use your list. And your head.

4. Don't fall prey to the 10 items "bargain. You've seen the deals -- 10 cans of butter beans for $10. You know what? If you buy 2 cans, it still only costs you $1 per can. Buy the amount you need and not in bulk. Most of us aren't cooking for an army. Don't shop as though you are. 

5. Don't impulse buy. Try to stick to the list. One thing that will help you to avoid impulse purchases is to eat before heading to the store. Shopping while hungry is a recipe for disaster.

As with any new habits, this may be uncomfortable, unpleasant or strange. Stick with it. Don't beat yourself up if you have way too much in the kitchen. And do not castigate yourself if you backslide or slip up. Just keep on trying. 

Last thought. If you take these steps above to re-take control of the shopping, you'll start seeing a difference in your kitchen. And in your grocery bills.