Trial by fire or how to remain organized under pressure

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Soot covered ceiling

Some of you may be wondering what has happened to Neatsmart in the past few weeks since there have no posts or updates. Well, sit down, friends, and let me tell you a story that will benefit you all. Neatsmart World Headquarters, a.k.a. my home office, had a fire on September 15th. Don’t panic; nothing serious was damaged and nobody was hurt. This was not one of those devastating fires you may have read about here and here. This was a simple dryer fire that started on its own but did require the fire department to put it out and make sure everything was safe. I was at home at the time so that certainly minimized further damage or greater loss but what has been amazing is how much smoke damage we sustained.

Smoke covered ceiling

Another view of the soot covered ceiling

Our dryer was located on our second floor in a hallway off the master bedroom. I had been doing laundry that afternoon and noticed that the dryer suddenly wasn’t working. It would not turn on. I didn’t think too much about it so I went downstairs to do something else. About an hour or 2 later I smelled smoke and went upstairs to check what it was. The inside of the dryer was in flames; not the drum, but the actual inside of the dryer. Ultimately, I had to call the fire department and they successful put it out without having to use the huge water hoses. In all, it was less than 3 hours of activity but the amount of work required to clean up and put back in order would end up totaling more than 4 weeks.

The dryer that caught fire

The dryer that caught fire

We were able to stay in the house a few more days but the smoke smell and damage was horrendous. All of our clothes, which were located in closets right next to the laundry room, had a layer of soot on them. The ceilings and walls were covered in smoke. The a/c intake vent was right next to the fire so all of that air had been dispersed throughout the house and attic. There was soot all over our shower, sink, floor, ceiling, walls, light fixtures, rugs, bed, Neatsmart HQ, etc. A huge demolition and reconstruction was going to be required which meant we were to be moving out of our house post haste. That means quickly and with little time to plan. Think about the last time you moved; my guess is you had some time to strategize, organize, and create a plan to have everything you needed throughout the process. I know I did. This was going to be a challenge because it would have to be quick and I’d need to be able to access files and work from various locations. We were extremely fortunate that we had lovely neighbors traveling for a couple of weeks so we were able to stay close by to keep an eye on things and still be in our neighborhood. We did have to stay in hotels a few times but were able to find ones that were fairly close and pet friendly which is not always an easy task.

All of the drywall had to be replaced in our bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. This is a great crew!

All of the drywall had to be replaced in our bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. This is a great crew!

Our entire construction process took about 4 weeks and we were able to move back in before the end of the 4th week. It really was a remarkably fast construction project and our crew was so wonderful. There were no less than a dozen people here on any given day and they worked 8-12 hours plus.

So how do you remain organized under pressure? How do you not go crazy living out of plastic grocery bags? Why grocery bags? Because our luggage had smoke damage and was removed for cleaning. You forget how important a little thing like a tote bag is until you don’t have one. Actually, all of our clothes had smoke damage and had to be cleaned which took about 3 weeks.  Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible to not just survive a crisis but to survive with ease, low stress, and clarity. You are a lot stronger than you realize and I’m here to help you plan a little so that you are ready when the next challenge gets thrown in your path.  Follow the Neatsmart blog on the right hand side of the screen or like us on Facebook so you don’t miss an update.

More to come soon…

Happy organizing!

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Is it Trash or Treasure?

Happy Friday, y’all and welcome to the last weekend in February! Can you believe the 2nd month of 2013 is already coming to a close? Yes, time does indeed fly when you are having fun.


So I read an interesting article this week on Houzz which has sparked quite the buzz among readers regarding clearing treasures and memorabilia from homes. There seems to be dissension among the ranks as to what is trash and what is treasure. Should it stay or should it go? Several people commented that they were so glad they had held on to letters and other memorable treasures from their family and there were an equal number who said there was no need to burden your home with things from your (family’s) past.

Personally, I think having a box letters from ancestors is a wonderful peek into history and should be treasured. However, crates of letters, boxes of china, 42 bud vases, random books about topics that don’t interest you, and anything else in excess is just too much to hang on to. I have saved every card and letter from my husband because he writes so well and puts a lot of thought into his writing. These are all in a pretty, lidded box that is on the shelf in my closet that I can see every day. I have saved the last birthday card I got from my Grandmother in 2007 because I knew her vision was failing and she wouldn’t be writing much more.

However, I have tossed at least a dozen of her belts and purses that she sent to me because they weren’t my taste, didn’t fit my style, and, most importantly, they didn’t hold any special meaning for me. THAT is the key to making decisions on what to keep: does that object hold a special memory for you? I did keep a purse of hers from that assortment that I borrowed from her during our trip to Europe when I was 13. That purse has special meaning to me and reminds me of a fun trip with her even though I don’t use it very often. I use it occasionally but mainly I just pull it out every once in a while and recall that special time with her. If it were stuffed in a box with thousands of other things I wouldn’t be able to see it and enjoy it anymore.

The decision to keep or toss is a personal one and should not be influenced by others. Sometimes letting go needs to happen in stages and sometimes you truly can’t bear to part with the objects. Just remember you can’t keep everything and the memory lives forever in your mind.

Have ever thrown something away, in the process of clearing clutter, and wished that you hadn’t? Have you found a special way to preserve keepsakes to honor the memories? I’d love to hear your stories in the Comments area.

Happy organizing!

Sunk Costs are Cluttering You & Your Home

So I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio a while ago and he was talking about a sunk cost* of an asset and or something that was perceived to be an asset in a caller’s home. This piqued my interest because I’m always fascinated by makeover stories whether it is someone getting their image overhauled or getting out of debt. He asked the caller if the asset in question here, a motorcycle,  was worth x amount today would he spend that money right now to buy it again. It was irrelevant what the motorcycle cost back when it was purchased, only what it was worth today. The caller said “no” so Dave told  him to sell it and  move on. I was impressed with his candor and his justification for making that suggestion quickly. How many times have I heard the following excuses (reasons) for holding on to something:

“……but I paid so much for it.”

“…..but I might get into that size again.”

“…..but I might take up archery/ ice climbing/ slalom skiing/ spelunking, etc again. I used to do it all the time 20 years ago.”

Whatever you spent on that equipment or outfit is a sunk cost and is not going to be retrieved. If you are going to seriously commit to the activities necessary to get into that size or hobby again, then by all means keep that equipment. It really is part of your life and you should keep it but you should also be using it and not leaving it in a cramped closet or garage. If it is just a hope, then let someone else enjoy and use those items. Keeping something that you hope to be able to use is wasteful and it is taking up precious space in your home and your ego. Either commit to using it or move on. It’s ok that you’re not going to be a superstar athlete or cheerleader anymore. That was great at the time but don’t spend precious time and energy hoping you’ll be that person again. There are many resources for donating or selling sporting equipment and clothes. You’ll feel better knowing that someone is able to benefit from it and you’ll love the extra space in your home.

Happy organizing!

*Thefreedictionary.com definition of a “sunk cost” is the following:

“In economics and in business decision-making, sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and which cannot be recovered to any significant degree.”

You are Wealthy!

“I am a big believer that orderliness begets wealth.”

Suze Orman

Think about that quote for a second: it’s powerful. Orderliness means that you are aware of your surroundings and possessions in your home. You have a good mental inventory of your life and that projects you forward.

The opposite is definitely true: Disorderliness begets poverty. You don’t know what you have. You can’t find things. You buy to pacify your need for comfort and calm.

Take time this weekend to take stock of what you have in a drawer or closet or room. I’m willing to bet you’ll discover something you forgot in there. See, you have more than you think you do. You are wealthy!

Happy organizing!

The best time to get organized is…

Trying to find the perfect time to get organized...

Trying to find the perfect time to get organized…

…tomorrow! At least, that is what any procrastinator will tell you. Tell me if any of these reasons (masquerading as excuses) sound familiar to you:

  1. I will have so much more time tomorrow. I believe Scarlett O’Hara said, “Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about that tomorrow.” 
  2. I’ll have more energy to put into getting organized later. Right now is just too busy.
  3. After the holidays, this meeting, company leaves, etc. I’ll be able to go through that closet.

You see, procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing at the outset. wWe have to prioritize our lives and do tasks when it makes sense and in order. You don’t cook dinner without getting the necessary groceries first. But attempting to schedule something that requires the mental energy and commitment of going through an organization process is tedious, tiring, time consuming and not really high on most people’s list of fun things to do. Yes, they want to have an organized closet or are tired of living in suboptimal conditions due to clutter but making that first step is the hardest. There are 2 key truths though about getting organized that you need to know:

  1. You have to start somewhere
  2.  It gets worse before it gets better

Now if that doesn’t make you want to hide under the covers I don’t know what will. You’ve got to start somewhere with this task and it really doesn’t matter where. However, making the decision to get started is the first and most important step. Once you’ve made that decision in your head, write it down as a goal somewhere you can see it. “I want to have a neat, easily functioning office space” or “I want a closet that is organized so I can find my clothes quickly in the morning when I am getting dressed” are perfect examples. Write the goal down so you can go back to it when the process of getting there seems to difficult to bear. Trust me, as you are going through that closet or office and you’ve got piles everywhere and it seems like there is no end to the madness, you will need a reminder of why you are doing this!

Which takes me to rule #2. Getting organized is messy work because you’ve got to clear it out before you can put it up. I think this is the number one reason why people fail at this endeavor. They can’t remember why they started this in the first place and they give up before finishing. This is also why many people hire an organizer: they need the accountability, support, and above all, an extra set of hands.

So my advice is to get started today. Maybe you don’t want to rip out the contents of your closets and drawers an hour before company is supposed to show up but you should start by writing the goal down. Then you can write down the tasks that will help you achieve that goal. This also helps build anticipation so that you are actually looking forward to getting organized or maybe that’s just me ;-). Once you get it clear in your head what your goal is, you will be unstoppable in getting it accomplished. So really, the best time to START to get organized is TODAY.

Happy Organizing!

What we once enjoyed and deeply loved…

What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
Helen Keller

Think about this when you are lamenting throwing away memorabilia. If you cherish it, celebrate it and display it in your home so you can be reminded of it on a regular basis. If it is just sitting in a drawer or a closet, you’re not relishing it so it may be time to let it go. You’ll always have the memories of it, whatever “it” is.

Hidden Benefits of Organization

We all know that having an organized home and work area looks great but what about the additional, hidden benefits of organization? Once you’ve gone through the process of clearing the clutter and putting your space together in a cohesive, constructive manner, you’ll discover additional advantages that increase your return on investment. It tastes great and it’s less filling? Well sign me up!

  1. Increased inspiration: Your muse is calling and would like for you to listen. Now that you have an ordered environment to work in, you don’t have to worry yourself with finding the tools to work your creative magic. Your pens, papers, tools, bowl, or whatever is in place and waiting for you to exercise your genius.
  2. More time: Ah, the one resource none of us can buy and all of us want more of. I don’t even have to explain how wonderful it is to not have to run around the house looking for a cell phone, car keys, calculator, or clean shirt. That is time that is now yours to claim for your own.
  3. Less stress: Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone in your house about the condition of his or her or your things? Show them and yourself how much you love them by keeping the clutter under control and your home and office in order. This applies to children as well. With help, they can learn how to best organize their toys, clothes, and school stuff so that they’ll want to keep it in order. You can help build their esteem by showing they can handle the responsibility of ownership of their things. Happy kids=happy parents.
  4. More energy: When you can master a small organization task, you’ll be amazed at how that sense of accomplishment spreads to other parts of your life. You’ve conquered something that seemed like impossibility and now you can move on to a larger goal. That positive energy spreads to your work, relationships with family and friends, and overall view of the world. Your productivity increases, you are happier, and thus you attract more positive energy because you were able to master a difficult task. Remember, like attracts like so positive energy attracts more positive energy.

So in the beginning you may think you are just clearing out a drawer or closet but the aftereffects are numerous and extensive. Your investment of time and energy to get this task done will save your sanity in the long run because you have invested in yourself.

Plus, Neatsmart is always here to help you through this process ;-).
Happy organizing!