Organize to Sell Your Home

January 8th, 2024

Organize to Sell Your Home

Are you thinking about selling your home in the next few years? There are so many tasks to accomplish to prepare your home (and yourself) for that fateful day. It’s never too soon to plan. Begin with a dedicated notebook to list your assignments. Let’s break it down by time frame. Here are the traditional tasks and tasks you don’t think about.

BEFORE you even THINK about listing your home

Consider your home sale as a FUTURE investment because the NET proceeds from your sale may determine your financial future. Did I lose you already? Please stay with me!

List (spreadsheet) all of the major improvements you’ve completed. We call these “capital costs.” Organize and summarize your capital costs including dates, contractors and amounts paid. It’s best to have receipts for work completed. These amounts are added to the cost basis (the purchase price) of your home. IRS Publication 523  provides examples of improvements that increase your basis. The higher your capital costs, then the higher your cost basis will be, then the lower your capital gain will be on the sale, resulting in a lower tax on the sale of your home. Are you following me?

I’m trying to save you money on your tax bill in the year you sell your home. It’s easier to accomplish this before listing your home. After listing your home, your time will be spent on home maintenance. Preparing to list your home and each time a potential buyer comes over is stressful and time consuming. After listing your home, your activities should be focused on looking forward to your new destination, not backward on the history of your home.

Plan to list your home

A year or so before putting your home on the market, start to shop around for a realtor or research FSBO. If you hire a realtor, they will be SO IMPRESSSED that you already prepared your cost basis spreadsheet!! If you will be selling through a realtor, decide if you want an exclusive or MLS.

Plan your destination. After your destination is known, plan and select the furniture that fits in your new home. Decide on storage, if needed. Avoid the expense of moving unwanted items.

Start to de-clutter. Too much furniture in a room (or in a closet) makes it look smaller, and your potential buyers want to see spacious rooms. For items that are no longer part of your life, join a Buy Nothing group  and/or register with Freecycle. Give away things to relatives and friends. Donate to charities. Find an ebay seller or sell on your own if you want to try to raise cash. Plan a house sale or tag sale. Begin to remove personal items from your space and organize your sentimental possessions

Tasks to accomplish within one year of the listing

Curb appeal is your first priority. Pay attention to the way the exterior of your home looks in each of the 4 seasons, just in case your home lingers on the market. When a photographer takes pictures for your listing, you want to put your best face forward.

Make a list of necessary repairs (cracks, water stains, broken fixtures, etc.), and get estimates. Repair necessary projects outside and inside the house. Paint interiors a neutral color.

Contact your local building department for any outstanding permits that did not receive a certificate of completion or certificate of occupancy. It will take time if you need to legalize a previous home improvement project. Any innocent neglect to these tasks will result in a delay to sell and move.

Hire an inspector. Few homeowners do this but doing so avoids any surprises from the potential buyer’s inspector and confirms that your home follows current code.

Start packing. Off season clothing and rarely used items can be boxed, labeled and stacked in an unused interior room. Contact a mover to get an idea of moving costs. Leave the packing of heavy, fragile items to the movers. Discuss additional insurance for the highly valuable items you have to move and/or store. Moving is another topic we can address later.

Listing your home for sale

Contract with a realtor. Your realtor will be SO IMPRESSED that you already prepared your cost basis spreadsheet, contacted your local building department and got your home inspected!! Your realtor probably already has a good idea of potential buyers. A flurry of activities are about to begin so you will be so happy that you accomplished all of the above in advance.

Your realtor will arrange for a photographer so your home must be repaired, de-cluttered, clean and appear spacious. Protect your valuables and prescriptions when potential buyers arrive. Arrange for pets to be relocated during viewing. While your home is listed, keep your home clean, neat, and organized.

Last but not least, be kind to your buyer. Prepare documentation of repairs and contractors you hired, garage door openers and codes, warranties for home appliances and instructions for operating smart home or security systems. Be sure you shut off the utilities and Wi-Fi, and cancel any subscriptions. Complete a change of address form at your local post office.

Thanks to Nicole Pyles, Lauren Wellbank and Apartment Therapy for featuring Under Control Organizing on this topic.

Organize Playrooms and Play Spaces

September 18th, 2023

Organize playrooms with areas for various activities.

Play spaces are an integral part of your child’s growing experience. As they develop, so does their play space or playroom. Most likely, their first play space began in the family room/ living room where they were easily supervised. We can organize playrooms and play spaces to suit their needs.

Consider the location of your child’s playroom

As your child ages, the playroom-living space evolves for them and for you. When you want to entertain more at home, you will want to update your family room/living room. If the play space is located in a main area in your home, you find yourself constantly picking up, putting away and cleaning. Think about other choices in your home to locate the playroom.

Less common but useful locations for playrooms

Basements, attics or other unused spaces in the home can be converted into a playroom. Get creative.

A brightly lit and painted “hobbit hole” can be constructed under the eaves of an attic area. Small children can crawl around, have fun, read and play alone or with a friend. Be sure to make the door large enough for an adult to clean inside.

If a child’s bedroom is large enough, an area can be sectioned off for play space. A small play area can be designed under a loft/bunk bed, using the height of the room for additional functionality.

Be sure to provide plenty of storage for “put away time.” (See below)  To organize playrooms, use labels with pictures of the items to be stored so that a child could accomplish on their own.

Least optimal locations for a playroom

Dark, hidden, isolated areas, that are not attractive, are least optimal for a play space. Play (and work) spaces are ideal when they are inviting and motivating.

An active play space can be organized

Some kids like to put their stuff away after play time, but many others thrive on an actively-used area. The photos you often see of labeled, color coded bins with everything in its place is rarely the actual scene. We may strive for that, but life doesn’t always work that way. Kids can be taught to have “put away” time. Most learn by example. Imagine my delight when an 8 year old boy asked his mom if I could help him organize his play space! He was motivated after witnessing his mom work with me to organize her work space.

Organize playrooms: mess vs. clutter

A play space has clutter when kids outgrow their toys and those materials are not removed. “Clutter” is unwanted or unneeded items.  Seasonally, examine the toys with which your kids are no longer playing and bag or box them up. You can label and store for a short period of time, or to be used for a younger child in the family. Ask your child if they want to donate to another who is less fortunate, and explain the benefits.

Avoid a mess in the play space. A “mess” is a room strewn with small items that can cause accidents. Keep a shallow basket handy to remove items from the floor. Toss the mess into the basket to be used during the next playtime.

Tips to optimize play space

Ideally, an optimized play space includes:

  • Bright, airy, open space for activities with soft flooring
  • Seating area for crafts with storage for materials
  • Shelving for games
  • Storage using floor and/or wall space for sorted toys such as construction, dolls, toy animals, balls
  • Clear labels that can be followed by a youngster
  • Bins for quick pick-up
  • Library/reading area
  • Wall space for hanging/displaying art work
  • Space for grown-up supervision (nanny, sitter, parent, older sibling) to occupy and entertain them with outlets and charging stations

Read more playroom strategies in this Cubby article, written by Alexandra Frost, a mother of 5 kids:

Do you want more great home ideas for families? Sign up for the Cubby (a division of Apartment Therapy) weekly newsletter featuring their best editor-approved product recommendations, meal ideas, and all the kid’s room decor ideas you need.

Need help getting started on any organizing project? Under Control Organizing provides these services.

How to de-clutter sentimental items

May 15th, 2023

sentimental items evoke beautiful memories

Sentimental items are difficult to de-clutter

If an item stirs up feelings, the item is sentimental. We have the item(s) because we want to keep the “thing” that triggers that memory in our lives. For some people, a sentimental item could be a book, a photo, or a nostalgic object. It’s difficult to de-clutter sentimental items. Should we keep them or de-clutter?

Is it sentimental?

First you have to decide if the clutter really is sentimental or if you’re keeping it for another reason such as guilt, obligation or “it cost too much to let it go.” This is the time to be bluntly honest with yourself.

Rules of thumb for sentimental clutter

If we want to de-clutter, one rule of thumb to follow is to gather up all of the items that stir up a memory. Select the memory of just one thing, such as one of a dear deceased loved one. Sort through all of those items that trigger his/her/their memory. Display everything related to that entity. Know that you have choices to keep or eliminate specific pieces. As this is an emotional experience, you may want to carve out “alone time” or enlist the support of another.

Continue the process for each entity. Making the decisions to leave it be, store it or eliminate it may stir sadness, anger, joy and many other feelings. It’s important to give yourself the freedom to experience.

Choices for sentimental items

If the item is a treasured possession, and you have the space, display it. As one would decorate for a holiday, display your treasured item seasonally or permanently. Have fun with your décor. Hire a stylist to help you find the best place to exhibit your treasure.

If there are too many treasured possessions to display, you can store them or re-purpose them. A labeled, beautiful memory box can keep your sentimental items safe and clean. Label the box for the memory it elicits. Some items can be re-purposed such as clothing items that are made into handmade quilts, or wedding dresses transformed into Angel Gowns by the Emma and Evan Foundation.

Every sentimental item has a story. Maybe it’s not the item that is sentimental but the story itself. These stories can be recorded and the item can be digitized with apps like iMemories or Artifcts. Create a forever gift by working with a professional to compose a memoir such as Memoirs Plus, and convert all the memorabilia into a story book.

Some items may be more meaningful to someone else. Connect with a relative or friend who may appreciate those past treasures. The keyword is past. If the item no longer fits in your life today, let it go. If you want to raise some cash, partner with an e-bay seller or post on another selling site like Craigslist. Buy Nothing or Freecycle sites give you options to give away to someone in your community. You can also donate to a charity such as Pick Up Please that sells your items and donates the money to the Vietnam Veterans (VVA), or Go Green Drop to raise funds for The Red Cross.

Do you need help with sentimental clutter?

If you’re a DIY’er you may refer to books written specifically about de-cluttering sentimental items e.g. The Sentimental Persons Guide to Decluttering and/or Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash.

An empathetic yet practical partner can help you decide whether to keep or eliminate specific sentimental items from your space. That partner could be a friend or a Professional Organizer, Therapist or Coach.

For additional guidance on de-cluttering sentimental items, review the tips written in this article in Homes and Gardens which features Under Control Organizing:
https://www.homesandgardens.com/life-design/how-to-declutter-sentimental-items

Typical places where you may forget to de-clutter

February 13th, 2023

De-clutter your space

There are SO MANY PLACES where people typically forget to de-clutter.

De-Clutter the “STASH”

First, when you’re expecting company, where do you stash your stuff? Those are the most likely places where people forget to de-clutter. Clutter is simply stuff that’s placed in the wrong space, or forgotten items that accumulated over time. When it’s hid away, there’s usually no thought given to where it belongs. Where is it?

  • Under the bed/ platform bed drawers
  • “Junk” drawer(s)
  • Inside cabinets with doors that HIDE stuff
  • Bottom of closets

The Hidden Places

There’s also the stuff that’s under or behind the items you use most:

  • Back end of the drawers – the clothing and accessories that got stuffed back as new ones came in
  • Medicine cabinet – Makeup and sundries
  • Kitchen cabinets – storage containers and utensils

The Rarely Used Places

Of course, there’s the collections and papers that we only use once a year:

  • Top of closets with seasonal items
  • File drawers, Prior years’ tax papers

Don’t forget digital clutter!!!!

How to De-Clutter

Wherever those places are, here are the best ways to go about de-cluttering them:

Avoid the spontaneous stash by visualizing a place for everything. Think ahead and designate a category for your belongings. Labeling your spaces is a good reminder of where stuff belongs. Spend some time at the end of each day putting stuff away. Clutter is just homeless items. Once you get into the routine, you will have no more homeless items.

I find the best method for busy people to tackle clutter is to schedule an uninterrupted appointment with yourself. Decide on a small area to start (like a drawer), and set a timer for 30 minutes. Sort out the stuff into defined categories. See how far you get (in your designated time frame), then put it all away for another 30 minutes. The key to success is leaving enough time to clear the deck.

How to Maintain Organization

Here’s some guidance for maintaining limited spaces and keeping them tidy. When one new item comes in, 1-2 go out. When buying new clothes, accessories or cosmetics, think ahead about where they will be stored. If you’re unable to let go of items, there’s always the option of (temporary) storage rooms. There’s always a price to pay for accumulating.

Finally, if you have difficulty de-cluttering on your own, enlist the help of an accountability buddy. This is someone you trust with whom you share your goals. They should help keep you on track without judgement.

Make the process of de-cluttering a game. Make it fun and motivating.

For more ideas, read this terrific article to the end https://www.realhomes.com/advice/places-you-forget-to-declutter-and-organize  which features Under Control Organizing as well as another Professional Organizer.

CHAOS! How my disorganized basement gave me hives

March 28th, 2022

 

Disorganized Basement

Do you shudder when you enter a room, open a cabinet door or see your disorganized basement because you face “stuff” that you’ve postponed tackling? Have you procrastinated a project that you really want to accomplish? Looking back at her process of dealing with an accumulation of “stuff” in her basement, client, Lynn Amos journals:


CHAOS! How my disorganized basement gave me hives.

Well, not literally. One’s basement is out of sight, out of mind. So, unless I went down to do laundry or scoop the litter box, I really didn’t have to confront the teetering piles that had accumulated so that I had to shimmy and limbo to reach the far corner where the camping equipment bin resides. Over the years, when there was no place in the main rooms to store something, down the stairs it came and it rested wherever it landed in the basement. Slowly the space in which to move became smaller and smaller and with it my anxiety at the sight became greater and greater.

Could it be that I’m a hoarder?

Perish the thought! One day I really will fix those wobbly, mismatched chairs I picked up at tag sales with a vision of painting them different colors for my eclectic dining room. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in my own home in almost 20 years (felines within reach; family afar). But I will again someday. At $20 the pretty green glass vessel sink for the bathroom was a great buy until I realized I would have to switch out the vanity and all the fixtures as well. What’s a frugal homeowner to do?

Finally, the stress that met me each time I descended the stairs was too much to bear; I had to bring order back into my life. It was time to call in the big guns!

I Needed Objectivity About My Disorganized Basement

Marcia worked with me in two three-hour sessions to sort through the mess and choose what to donate or discard. Her objective eye was invaluable. Early, during one session we put the artificial Christmas tree out by the curb (OK. I won’t really be using it again.) along with some other flotsam and jetsam with a sign proclaiming, “FREE.” By the time we were finished that day all items had been taken and were well on their way to living useful lives in other homes, out of the dark.

We uncovered more than a dozen paint cans. Marcia prompted me to identify which ones belonged to which rooms to label and save. We discarded the dried-out cans and put kitty litter in the others to let them dry before putting them in the trash.

The Rewards Are Immeasurable

Once we determined what items I really wanted to keep, Marcia’s organizing skills came into play. She has a keen eye for space – what will fit where, which items need to be most accessible, and how to store things so I’m more likely to put them back where they belong. She brought along her label-maker and we tagged the boxes and bins so I could easily find articles in their new, visible slots. 

I am thankful for the organization Marcia brought to my home. I feel a great sense of accomplishment and am motivated to keep things in good shape going forward. But even more so, I’m grateful for the relief I feel each time I go down to do a load of laundry and scan my orderly basement that no longer causes me to break out in a stressful rash.


When it’s difficult to make decisions, and you value the support of a non-judgmental partner with organizing skills, consider working with a professional organizer to help. You can turn that fear into relief, and that furrowed brow into a smile.

What’s your next project? Is it a disorganized basement?

How to Organize Your Spices

June 16th, 2020

How to organize your spices. Organize your spices, organize your life!

I’ve learned that the process you use to organize the smallest things in your life, like your spices, is a metaphor for how you organize YOUR LIFE. American poet Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) famously said, “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.” Let’s look at the details to consider when organizing your spices, and how the decision-making process may apply to organizing your life.

Examine your space available and the spices you like to use.

Do you prefer your spices to be visible or hidden from sight?
If hidden from sight, will your spices be stored in a cabinet, a drawer, or a closet?
Do you prefer the symmetry of spices in same-sized containers, or do you like mixed shapes and sizes?
Do you use a large variety of spices, or do you prefer a limited palette?
How do you know when to get rid of spices or replace them?
Is there room for additional spices once you’ve organized what you have?

While you’re answering those questions, you may want to do a bit of exploring. Online, you’ll discover an array of products, from the simple and practical to the wild and ingenious. See, for example, the ones found in this link: Spice Organization, or this link: Vertical Spice. You may wish to create a craft project spice rack like the one on this Good Housekeeping link. You may prefer to design your own and have it custom built, as I did (pictured above). There’s no right or wrong way to organize your things. It’s YOUR way. The questions you ask to organize your spices are so similar to the questions to ask yourself when organizing many areas of your life.

I have been helping individuals organize their personal and work spaces, their private and confidential information on paper and digital files, and even small details like their spices. Each of my 700 clients has been unique, with intriguingly individual preferences. Some like visual systems, while others prefer their possessions hidden from sight. I help people of all ages discover the best organizing solutions to fit their needs, their space, their lifestyle.

Organizing your spices requires thinking, planning, and measuring.

Organizing the small details of our lives are worth the thinking, planning, and measuring. We may feel a better sense of control of our lives if we pay attention to the small details, especially during times of stress, discomfort, grief, right-sizing, or growth.

The hardest part is ALWAYS getting started. What project will you select to begin to organize? A seasoned organizer can help guide you away from overwhelm and motivate you to a successful finish. Do you want to feel good that you have accomplished your long-postponed tasks? Together, we can get those projects Under Control.

Will you share a photo of your organized spices on my Facebook post?

 
 

Is “Organizing” Therapeutic for You?

April 4th, 2020

Organizing is Therapeutic

The Huffington Post published an article the other day about why cleaning and organizing is therapeutic in stressful times. Although there is some controversy about equating organizing with cleaning, the topic spurs some thought.

For some individuals, not cleaning nor organizing is a therapeutic task. For some, the task of organizing is additional stress!! Regarding organizing: Where to begin? How to do it? Do I toss, donate, give away, sell? Where/how do I store the things I keep? It can be overwhelming.

In 1985, a handful of individuals began an industry call Professional Organizing, now called NAPO, The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. We, Professional Organizers, help individuals alleviate the stress of organizing: paper, digital, financial, spaces, collections, projects, etc.

How do I personally alleviate stress? For those who know me well, I LOVE to organize, and my career tests proved “I am exceptional at organizing skills.” Organizing is my mojo – the gas in my tank. Whether in person, by phone, text, Skype or Zoom, my organizing aura is contagious. The stress of organizing melts away with me (and you may learn a little too). If you need a little Organizing Mojo, contact me.

How do you get your “mojo”? What makes you smile….cooking, baking, dancing, singing, pet training, crafts, art, meditating, poetry, writing, gardening, reading….? While we’re sequestered in our homes, we’re all looking for ways to motivate, heal, connect and/or disconnect. Let us connect. Maybe you can teach me something, and I can help you organize in return. Let’s motivate each other.

In 1985, “We Are The World” was recorded to support a crisis. Now, 35 years later, we are in need globally to join together to support one another. Introvert, extrovert and everyone in between, “there’s a choice were making, we’re saving our own lives.”

What’s Your Style? Setting Up Organizing Systems.

December 16th, 2019

Organizing systems for every organizing style

 

“I put it somewhere.”  But, can you find it?

Finding It

Are you setting up organizing systems for piles of papers, collections, or supplies?  Some may suggest that cookie cutter systems suffice, but not everyone thinks the same. To be successful at finding “it” in the future depends on several factors. There’s a better chance that you’ll find “it” when you need it, if you consider your style of organization.

Store Inside or Display

Organizing styles vary.  Creative people think differently than linear thinkers.  There’s not a better way. It’s your way.  For instance, are you an In‑ie (order based on systems placed inside drawers or cabinets) or an Out‑ie (order based on visually displayed systems)? The In-ies: there are drawers, cabinets, binders and boxes. The Out-ies: there are other options such as vertical spaces, clear wall files, cubbies, and hooks.

Keywords and Categories for Organizing Systems

When you’re setting up organizing systems, consider a keywords or categories. That’s where you’ll find it. If an item is related to hiking, do you store it with your hiking gear or other outdoor related items? Where will YOU think to find it? 

Where do you store your Insurance Policy…in an alphabetical file with other Insurance Policies, or specifically with your Home, Auto (Car), Business, or Medical information? Remember, there’s no RIGHT WAY, it is stored where YOU will think to look for it.

There are so many factors to your personality to consider when setting up an organizing system in your home or office.  Labels and color coding can enhance your system. Discuss your preference with an organizing professional.

You can transform your out‑of‑control spaces to Under Control after discovering your personal style of organizing.

Small Accomplishments, Great Strides

August 5th, 2019

Individual steps are small accomplishments toward the ultimate goal.“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together” – Vincent Van Gogh

A master artist knows that a great piece is accomplished in small steps.

We’re all artists of our spaces. We choose our surroundings. We schedule the time to manage our stuff.  Sometimes, “Life” takes over and we abandon our own home base. We become the victim of our space, and our relationships are tested.

Small Accomplishments Create Motivation

Before we met, Robert (fictitious name), a master in his own profession, wrote this poem:

Ode to Clutter

Clutter, clutter, clutter
Clutter, clutter, clutter
You’d think that I lived
in a box or a shoe
or maybe the gutter.

In fact, it makes me so angry
I almost start to mutter.
Or if I were a cookie,
I’d be looking for a cutter.

For it’s papers and boxes
But no Goldilockses.
Not even bread and butter.
And for every word you utter,
There’s more clutter, clutter, clutter.

Because of professional and personal issues, Robert’s work space became Out of Control. He could not dig out from under his “mess”, until he scheduled a consultation with Under Control Organizing.  We created a plan and time line to break down the accumulations.  The piles, boxes and binders full of papers were on shelves, on the floor and in cabinets. The first step was to carve out a workspace so we could sort and identify what needed to be shredded, recycled or archived. With a custom solution, Robert felt pride in his office, and confidence in finding his important information. He felt Under Control as he made small accomplishments toward his goal.

Do you have a project that you’ve postponed because you did not know where and how to begin?  Are you stuck on what to do next? 

I can help you plan, organize and accomplish great things.

Minimalism and Organizing

April 29th, 2019

 

Imagine a blank canvas: Minimalism or something else?

Will you fill it with stuff, select minimalism as an approach, or something in between?  There’s no right or wrong way, just your way.  It’s YOUR life, not someone else’s.

Fill your canvas with what makes YOU happy. 

Now, compare this canvas with your actual life today.  Are you burdened with past possessions, or motivated by them?  Do they energize you or enervate?  Should you keep your mementoes or eliminate them? Is it time to reevaluate?

I was so fortunate to be interviewed by Nicole Pyles, an imaginative journalist whose article on the Minimalism movement was just published in 44691 Magazine.  The essence of the movement is to achieve balance and we do that by learning about ourselves.

In Nicole’s article, she reviews the book by Joshua Becker called The Minimalist Home. Nicole writes, “[Getting to know ourselves] is exactly the type of approach Becker suggests. His priority was to spend more time with family, entertain friends and invite people over. So, he kept the things that helped him do that and got rid of the things that inhibited him. Another approach Becker suggests is doing a trial run and experiment with less...”

Minimalism: Just One Approach

Minimalism, although very popular today, is only one approach to enjoying our “space”.  As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It’s common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But, above all, try something.” 

A thoughtful approach to de-cluttering gives you the chance to review your priorities, surround yourself with the things that make you happy and have a balanced life.  Contact undercontrolorganizing.com .