Friday, September 25, 2009

Turning Your Trash into Cash

"It isn't sufficient just to want - you've got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want."

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I went out to the magazine section just for curiosity to see how many magazines had articles about organization or de-cluttering advertised on their cover and to my surprise, there was only one! Perhaps the fact that it is fall and not time for spring cleaning could explain why I wasn’t inundated by tips and tricks from the experts. The articles in the current October issues were more about comfort food and the up-coming holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. There were organization articles in several of the magazines but they were filler rather than feature articles. There was even a short piece in Cooking Light on how to organize your herbs and spices. Not surprisingly, the most popular "teaser" was about investing which appeared on as many as a dozen covers.

The one feature article is in Ebony and it is titled “How To Declutter and make Cash.”

The article, written by Margena A. Christian, starts with a discussion about having successful garage sales. She uses Elena Jackson of Los Angeles as an example of someone who has turned garage sales into a successful sales business where she has developed a base of loyal customers that are anxious to see what she has each month on display. Ms. Jackson not only sells the items she has de-cluttered from her home, but she also reconditions, repairs and refinishes items that she finds in the trash or that are under-priced at other garage sales or junk shops. The tips the author gives about having a successful sale are the following: Obtain a garage sale permit if required; tag the items with prices and a brief description if the item needs explanation (i.e.: works great or newly serviced); categorize items by putting like items together; make sure all items are clean and neat – presentation makes a difference; and be friendly. Let customer’s know if you don’t deliver. If you do, be clear on the charge. Do not post signs on city property; you could be ticketed and have plenty of change available.

They also discuss the merits of selling your stuff on eBay – “The World’s Online Marketplace” or on Craig’s list, a similar online marketplace like eBay only with a local customer base saving you the time and expense of shipping. Research shows that every person has approximately 50 items they would be willing to part with that could be sold on eBay. They say, “There is a buyer for everything. You may think that no one wants it. You’re wrong. There is a buyer for it on eBay.” We have held several seminars here at the library, offered by the Post Office, on how to sell on eBay (and ship using the U.S. Mail) and the library has available for check-out several copies of the DVD handout showing just how to get started, how to write an effective add and how to make money. Craig’s list is similar, but there are no costs associated with an ad placed on Craig’s list. The Ebony article tells how to get started on Craig’s list. The website is If you are going to post multiple items or you think you may have to repost the item if it doesn’t sell, it is worth creating an account. It makes it easier to copy and paste from a previous ad and if you want to see more. You can post anonymously and still get the buyer information sent to you. You choose the city you are closest to, the category of what you have to sell, and then you post the title and price of the item(s) you have to sell. You can post an item for either 7 days or 30 days and you can repost the item if it doesn’t sell.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chronic Disorganization and Adult ADHD

This week I should be able to write the de-clutter club blog more frequently; however, now that the fall schedule is in full swing, I am going to be posting information only two to three times a week, rather than daily.

I have been doing some more reading on the issue of organizational skills for people with ADHD. I have just gotten a new book from the library, Is It You, Me or Adult A.D.D.?: Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love has Attention Deficit Disorder by Gina Pera (San Francisco: 1201 Alarm Press, 2008). This is a very well written book on A.D.D. and ways that partners of people who have been diagnosed with Adult A.D.D. can cope with behaviors that can cause friction in the relationship. The author points out that the areas in which the person with ADHD has difficulty functioning are often areas of sensitivity between couples such as communication, finances and performance. Sufferers of ADHD have difficulty forming goals, planning their execution, carrying them out effectively, changing course and improvising in the face of obstacles and being successful in the absence of external direction or motivation.

I thought about these traits relative to the goals we have been working on and realized that these are all critical to master in order to de-clutter and organize your life and lacking these skills brings enlightenment as to why people who exhibit ADHD symptoms need to find alternate methods to accomplish what others seem to be able to do effortlessly. I know that several of us have expressed or implied that there is a disconnect between our ability to de-clutter and maintain the newly cleared spaces and our partner’s (spouse or family member) perception of the issue and expectations. The author cautions to not use ADHD as an excuse for inaction but letting those you live with understand that chronic disorganization may not be a matter of laziness or incompetence…it may be a symptom of an even greater issue. This particular book, gives suggestions as to how to let others, particularly those you love, help you devise your goals and carry them out to completion. Understanding that there is not a universal right way or a wholly wrong way to do things and to recognize the different methods employed to reach a goal that are helpful to each individual will make the way smoother and less stressful for both parties.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Having a clutter-free vacation

I got back to the library yesterday, fresh from my vacation, and spent the day de-cluttering my email inbox. Between getting ready to go and then getting back into the swing of things, you end up needing another vacation!

I used some of the information that I have read and shared with you in this blog about packing and unpacking for vacation and it was very successful. I started with the suitcase out much earlier than I would have in the past, and was able to toss things into it as I remembered I would need them. I had some business to attend to while in San Diego for a group for which I volunteer. We had our bi-annual convention last week and I needed to make sure that I brought along some critical items for the event. I had put them aside earlier in the summer but having the luggage allowed me to bring them all together sooner so that I wasn’t running around like crazy at the last minute.

The one thing that I did not get accomplished is to make a master list of all of the things that I need to pack for every vacation. This is the list that the experts suggest you leave in the suitcase for the next time you pack. Perhaps I can get a minute to compile that list while my memory is still fresh. I had read somewhere to pack clothing items in a similar color scheme so that you can mix and match different garments to make a variety of outfits. Of course, I always knew this, but this time I made a concerted effort to do this. When I looked at the airline scales on my return trip, even with paperwork that I picked up at the convention and souvenirs (and two pairs of shoes) that I purchased, my suitcase only weighed 32 pounds. These days, that is a critical thing to keep in mind since I have seen where airlines charge as much as $150 for bags over 50 pounds and will not accept (at any cost) bags over 72 pounds! You might as well throw away your oversized bags that are capable of holding an excess of 72 pounds unless you want to use them for moving or for storage. I am still not at the point of where I can bring clothes that I can throw away along the way, but there were times during the week that I could see the benefit of it!

As to unpacking, I followed the advice that the dirty clothes go straight into the laundry and the clean clothes, if there are any, go back in the drawer or closet. Technically, if you did a good job packing, there should be no clean clothes. If you have unworn clothes at the end of a trip, you have over-packed! I put all of the other things away and got the bag emptied in less time than I was away, although I noticed that my husband has not had the opportunity to empty his bag yet…he has a few more days.

I hope you are all working hard at whittling your piles of stuff. Our next club meeting is October 1st at 7:00 p.m. in the Quiet Study. Write to me about your successes and I could use some suggestions about the areas of concern you have and what you would like to read about or discuss at the meetings. My email is

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tips to last a lifetime

In the last two postings, I shared the three steps that Elizabeth Fenner developed to help make time for fun in your schedule (“More Free Time,” Real Simple, July 2008, pgs. 147-152). At the end of the article, Fenner gives some tips to help you rearrange your schedule and your life and to make sure that you stick to it. 1) Take a tiny bite out of the task you most often avoid, even if you spend just one minute. When you realize how much anxiety is wasted over nothing, you will find the energy you need to get the task out of the way entirely. 2) Fight procrastination. A recent Real Simple poll reveals that six out of 10 women confess that procrastination is a major reason why they don’t get their work done. Put up a Post-it note that asks, “Are you inventing things to do to avoid what is important?” 3) Break projects onto pieces. 40 to 90 minutes is the optimal amount of time to spend on any one task. After that you need to schedule a break. If you have scheduled start and stop times, you are less apt to allow one task fill your day. 4) Take rest seriously. Sleep deprivation (having less than 8 hours of sleep per night) can make you feel more scattered, causing you to think you don’t have enough time to get everything done. Getting the proper amount of sleep to feel rested makes you better able to focus and get your work done. 5) Don’t worry, be happy. Fenner cites some additional statistics from another Real Simple reader pole, this time on happiness and they found that 65% of women who say they are “very happy” make time for themselves while only 39% of the women who are “somewhat happy” give themselves the same benefit. She concludes that “The odds are good that the more time you make for yourself, the happier you will be.”

We missed many of our regulars at the De-clutter Club meeting last night. We reviewed individual successes, discussed Suzanne Neilson’s presentation from Thursday night and shared some ideas for where to get started and how to stay motivated. I am on vacation from September 6 through September 14. I will be back in the library and back to posting to the blog on September 15. Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and if anyone else feels like posting some information on the blog, be my guest. You are all authorized.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Next Steps

Step 2 proposed in Elizabeth Fenner’s article “More Free Time” (Real Simple, July 2008, pgs. 147-152) is: See what you can give up. The author admits that this is the hard part but she also says that “Devoting more time to what you love can help you get more done overall.” Neil Fiore, psychologist, exercise coach and author of The New Habit (Penguin Group, 2007) says, “Research shows that to be productive and creative, you must make time for recreation and relaxation. Trying to skimp on them hurts your motivation and often leads you to procrastinate.” Elizabeth Fenner adds, “being a little selfish will keep you from becoming resentful, burned out, or cranky.” She suggests you find ways to free up time by looking at your diary and determining 1) What you can delegate – household chores to your spouse or children or give junior staff at work assignments that will challenge them; 2) What can you outsource – housecleaning, lawn and garden care, laundry and cut back on some luxury expenses to be able to afford these services – your time is more valuable; 3) What can you do less well (at least sometimes) – when something you are working on is good enough, stop; 4) What distractions can I limit, if not eliminate - don't constantly checking your email while you are at work, give your PDA a rest when you are home and curtail your television watching only to the shows you love and then turning off the set. “You will get more psychological benefits from choosing other forms of fun.”

Step 3 of the program to free up more free time in your life for fun, according to Fenner, is to re-schedule your schedule. Decide what you want to spend your time doing and put time for those activities into your schedule as “non-negotiable” commitments. Then you can make up the rest of your schedule insuring that you have the time to do what you want. Just like the axiom that you will full up the space that you occupy with possessions, no matter how much space you have; you will fill up your time in the same way. Consider how much you can get done in a day when you want to leave work early or when you have to get out of the house for a doctor’s appointment. Contrary to some of the suggestions we have had about lists of tasks, Fenner challenges you to create your to-do list on a 3 x 5 index card, writing only the things you can accomplish in a day (3-5 is doable). Make sure that at least one item from your wish list is scheduled (in ink) during your week. Schedule a quick and brainless task first to get something out of the way which will start you off feeling accomplished and then put your most onerous task second. That way you will get it over with early. Challenge the validity of the list by trying to cross something off – sometimes that is all it takes! Gina Trapani from makes a weekly schedule and evaluates it on a weekly basis saving the time that it would take to do this daily.

If only this were all easy...I will share her concluding thoughts in tomorrow's posting. Hope to see you all tonight at our September Clutter Club meeting at the library at 7:00.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Free Time

I was looking through the issue of Real Simple that I brought to the last meeting and found an article on how to have “More Free Time.” It was written by Elizabeth Fenner and it starts on page 147 of the July 2008 issue. The article begins by considering the results of a recent Real Simple survey. The survey revealed that 93 percent of their readers who responded to the pole didn’t think they had time for fun. That is a very sad statistic and I will admit that I am part of that majority. The problem I think that most of us face is that in our fast-paced, got-to-get-ahead society, we feel too guilty to add fun to our day.

The article says that “with the help of a dozen psychologists, researchers, and coaches…they have come up with a three-part plan to re-seize the day.” They add that how you spend that time is entirely up to you. My recommendation is that if you use these strategies to add some free time to your schedule – make sure you use it for fun!

Step 1: Step back (for a second). Figure out why you want more free time. This is the same recommendation that we have read in all of the books by our “experts” – setting a goal makes it easier to accomplish the task. This is true for why you want more free time as it was for why you want to clear the clutter from your life. What is it you want to be doing that you are not doing now.

Make a wish list. This is a nice way to think about your list of life goals – as a wish list. I think a wish list is more apt to include things that you might think are unattainable than what would be included on just a list of goals – and it is possible to make all things come true with some effort and desire. I apologize for bringing up an overused cliché but “think outside the box.” The author suggests to “write down activities that you long to do more of – things that make you happy, relaxed or sane (or all three).” She suggests ranking the items on your list in the order of importance to you and then picking the top one or two to focus on first – the rest you can come back to once you have had success with the first few.

Then she suggests keeping a diary of how you are currently spending your time. You may have already done this earlier in our process; Suzanne Neilson, our time management coach, suggested this last week. I believe this is really a good idea and maybe you will be motivated to keep the records more by the idea that this will help you have time for fun rather than helping you have more time to de-clutter…no one can say that de-cluttering is fun! Real Simple has some time diaries for three of their readers posted online ( You can compare your day against theirs to see if you are over or under scheduled!

The article cites Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture (Hyperion, 2008), professor at Carnegie Mellon University and father of three ( Sadly for Pausch, it took a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to bring him to the realization of “how little time we spend doing the things we love most.” In his crusade to urge others to live every moment, Pausch adds, “the key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.’” We should be able to change our behavior without having a fatal disease become our wake-up call. I think I told you about the time management coach who asked the question, “If you knew you only had three months to live, what would you change in your life?” And then he added this sobering reminder, “What makes you think you have three months?”

I will continue tomorrow with Step 2.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Organizing versus De-cluttering

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens” - Carl Jung

One of the reasons that de-cluttering books show up in multiple locations in the library is that theoretically there are subtle differences between the content of each of the books. The books that are more specialized, such as a book for those with ADD or one that addresses the home and the office, will find their way to more specialized numbers in the Dewey Decimal System like heatlh and business respectively. This made me wonder if there really was a difference in the approach of these various resources or were they all separated just by the catchy title that the author and their agent applied to the manuscript. I got another book by Julie Morgenstern through Interlibrary Loan and she had made some observations that clearly define for her some of the differences.

On page 12 of Julie Morgenstern’s Book SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the author starts a section titled “SHED is Not a De-cluttering Crusade.” She says, “…organizing is not about getting rid of things. Organizing is about identifying what’s important to you and giving yourself access to it.” Ms. Morgenstern’s SHED is a mnemonic device she uses to represent her four step process: 1) Separate the treasures 2) Heave the trash 3) Embrace your identity and 4) Drive yourself forward. She claims that all of the well-meaning people that counsel you to be tough and just rid yourself of your accumulation of “junk” don’t take into account the emotional attachment you may have to these objects and do not give you a reason to part with them permanently. She claims that her SHED principle will “help you avoid the most common pitfalls of de-cluttering: 1) By ensuring you are doing it for the right reason – ‘to get unstuck’ rather than to get organized, 2) By teaching you what you do before and after getting rid of things to make sure your effort lasts and 3) By changing your view of clutter from ‘just junk’ to what I call a Point of Entry – an opportunity for real transformation.”

She has a free online tool (on her website at where you can determine your SHED Profile.

This is Ms. Morgenstern’s philosophy, although her book on organizing shows up in 648 with the other de-cluttering books, not in 640 with the other books on organizing. So much for my theory…