“Paper, paper, everywhere, but not a drop of ink.”
That’s the current state of my kitchen as we strive to get back to normal after the holidays… Christmas cards have been cherry-picked out of stacks of mail, so that now bills and junk mail are all that remain on the island, waiting to be sorted. An overflowing cup of unsharpened pencils and dead pens sits on the corner desk. Receipts and coupons of all kinds as well as tickets to sporting events—a pile my husband refers to as “his stuff”—accumulate on the counter next to the stove. Then there is the pile of newspapers and magazines that I am not quite sure what to do with because they contain articles I have written.
As the constant war on clutter wages on in my house, it’s definitely the paper battle that is the hardest to fight. That’s probably because, like laundry, it never ends. When the kids were little, there was a constant stream of school-related paperwork—permission slips, newsletters, order forms, homework to be signed, artwork to be “treasured.” While that clutter source has somewhat dwindled as they’ve grown up, the larger problem remains. Every day, a brand new stack of paper clutter arrives in my mailbox. As a “list-person,” I create my own clutter as various lists float about the house (and of course, I’m never quite sure where to find them when I need them.) And from previous attempts to organize the clutter, our office filing cabinet is stuffed to the brim, unable to accept even one more piece of paper.
Well, it’s the New Year, and I’m making a resolution to take control of my paper problem once and for all. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m probably not the only person out there who is struggling with this, so I’m going to share my plan—which I’m developing by picking the ideas I like best from a variety of articles found through a Google search— right here.
Create a system.
Most of the articles I’ve read start with this tip. Easier said than done, but it makes sense. Because of the constant influx of paper, all other attempts are temporary, unless you have a system in place for handling future paper flow. Basically, a “system” involves acting on paper right away — sorting mail into stacks of “Toss,” “Take action,” or “Keep.”
One problem with this system is you need a place to put the “Take Action” and “Keep” piles. The recommendation for this usually involves a beautiful Pier One basket for the “Take Action” pile and an empty, well-labeled filing cabinet and/or multi-colored 3-ring binders for the “Keep” papers.
Another problem with this system is you need to be disciplined enough to go through your lovely “Take Action” basket on a very regular basis so you don’t forget to pay the Visa bill or turn in Junior’s permission slip for the field trip to the Zoo.
But this is the year I’m going to tackle it, so it’s time for me to head to Pier One and then go through my filing cabinet to toss the elementary school files for my now college-age kids, the veterinarian records for my dead dog, and the car repair receipts for the minivan we got rid of 10 years ago…
This is the other consistent tip in almost every article. Pay your bills online, and opt out of the snail-mail version of bills. I have two problems with this tip: 1. It requires remembering more passwords, and 2. It requires opening email that looks like junk mail— and I literally currently have 22, 324 unread messages in my email inbox. I am not exaggerating. I counted one day — I receive over 200 emails each day, and generally, 198 of those are junk mail, while only 2 are from real people. I generally just skip to the ones that look legit and open them, while the rest languish in my inbox until the number of unread messages causes me enough anxiety that I need to go through and start deleting in bulk.
So, with the realization that this tip is probably not going to work out so well for me, there is a 99% chance that you are more organized than I am when it comes to email, so I’m passing it along.
I like this one. The suggestion is to use your smartphone to take photos of things like sports schedules and lunch menus, so you can toss the paper version rather than stick it in a pile or on your fridge. Also, when you consider that most restaurants post their take-out menus online these days, you can toss all menus that get shoved under your door and rely on Google instead. Likewise, whenever possible, store the electronic version of things like airline tickets, sporting events tickets, and coupons in your phone’s wallet.
With these 3 tips, I’m going to take a stand against paper clutter in 2019. Let me know if you are willing to join me in the fight—and share your own tips! Once I get this one down, it’s onto the next fight: the battle against electronic clutter–charge cords and ear buds and old cell phones, oh my…
Sometimes, just when we need a dose of inspiration, it strikes from out of the blue. Maybe it’s something you hear in a sermon, maybe a passage you read in a book, or, in these modern times, it’s likely it comes in the form of an internet meme.
That last thing happened to me just this morning, when this bit of Instagram wisdom popped up in my feed:
“Beware of Destination Addiction—a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
Wow, right? Haven’t we all been guilty of thinking this way? It’s true throughout all stages of life. As a kid, we would think, “When I get that new bike, my life will be complete!” or “If only my dad would let us get a puppy, I would be happy!” As we got older, our wishes got bigger: “If so-and-so asks me to Prom, if I get into that prestigious college, if our team wins the championship…THEN I’ll be happy!” As adults, it might be, “Once we’re married…,” or “When my baby starts sleeping through the night…,” or “If we moved into a bigger house…, or “If I lose 10 pounds… THEN I’ll be happy.”
Well, I’m about to drop my own little nugget of internet philosophy on you today: The problem with this kind of thinking is that, in some ways, living life is like keeping house. You know that feeling of satisfaction you get when all of the laundry is clean, folded, and put away? Or the peace of mind that comes from having a house that has been cleaned from top to bottom? Of course we realize that those feelings are fleeting—because 10 minutes later your kid will be home from school, emptying his gym bag of a week’s worth of sweaty clothes into the hamper (or onto his bedroom floor)… And eventually you’re going to have to mess up the kitchen in order to make dinner… If you’re truly living in your house, it’s going to get messy. And, on the other hand, if you are being too careful not to do anything to mess it up, it’s going to get dusty and cobwebby and musty and stale.
Life is just like this. Just when you think you’ve reached your goal and found your bliss, something comes along and messes it up again. Just when you get that bike you always wanted— then your best friend rides up on one that’s even cooler… That prestigious college you got into is great, but now you’re having second thoughts about the major you’ve chosen… Your baby is finally sleeping through the night, but now she’s having a hard time in daycare… If you’re truly living your life, the messes keep on coming. And if you are being too careful not to mess things up—if you’re trying to stick with the status quo—life is going to get dusty and cobwebby and depressing and stale.
The trick is to learn to embrace the messiness—to grab some happiness wherever you are. Appreciate and be happy about the clean house and the empty laundry hamper while it’s there, sure. But enjoy messing it up, too! Life is never going to be perfect, and we all have bad days—but there will always be something to appreciate in every day. When we learn to seek and find the happiness in the midst of the messiness, our lives become a little bit more meaningful.
And when the messiness truly does become too much to bear, it helps to have someone to call on to help you deal with it. Hopefully, you have a close friend or family member to reach out to to help you deal with the messes in your life—and Immaculate Clean is always there to help you deal with with the messes in your house!
As August approaches, contact us today to schedule a one time cleaning to prepare for a stress free back to school season. Also, get a head start on the holiday season that will be here before you know it! Availability is limited so don’t delay. Text us today!
Here are 4 Easy Ways to Take Advantage of our August Promotional Pricing. 25% savings!!!
Make sure to mention the “August 25% Off Promo”
Text: “Aug Promo Please” to 410 549-0727
Call: 410 549-0727
If you could peek inside my master bedroom right now, you would understand the stark irony surrounding the idea of ME being a writer for a blog about cleaning. In fact, when I told my mom I was going to be doing this, she laughed for about 10 minutes straight.
The truth is, I am not a neat person by nature. When I was a teenager, I had a big poster hanging on my bedroom door that said, “My Room: Love It or Leave It,” depicting a cartoon rendering of a typical, messy teenage girl’s bedroom: books, banana peels, and record albums (the vinyl kind; that’s how old I am) littering the floor, unmade bed, clothes draped on furniture, open dresser drawers, etc. I just have always been a little bit “clutter-blind.”
Fast forward 30-something years, and I’ve certainly matured a bit in that regard. Living in constant fear of “drop-in” company, I have learned to keep the common areas of my house fairly neat and clutter-free, most of the time. Unfortunately, though, based on the belief that pretty much no one besides my husband and me is ever going to step foot into the master bedroom, that tends to be the room where the clutter collects, and it tends to be the room that I neglect the most when it comes to cleaning, organizing, or even decorating. Based on conversations with friends, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
When you think about it, it makes sense. As a woman and a mom, I know that we often focus our energy on others’ well-being above our own. It is sometimes hard for us to think of ourselves as deserving or important enough to take the time to care for ourselves, and by extension, to care for the one room in the house where we spend the most time.
But it also makes sense that spending some time focusing on our bedrooms could lead to less stress and more productivity in all areas of our lives. I’m not a big believer in feng shui, but I do believe that even if our eyes are closed for most of the hours we spend in our bedroom, if we are spending that time surrounded by chaos and clutter, we will start each day with brains full of chaos and clutter.
So, I’ve decided it’s time to take some action. But how does someone like me, a serial clutterer, go about making our bedroom a clean, lovely haven where we can start and end each day feeling calm and maybe even a little bit pampered?
Hire a Cleaning Service
The first step for me is having an Eldersburg, MD cleaning service like Immaculate Clean come in on a regular basis. In my case, this means that every other Thursday I am forced to put away clothes and clear surfaces of clutter—you know, the “clean before the cleaning crew” ritual. It also means that every other Thursday, I know my bed is going to be made up crisp and neat, the floor is going to be freshly swept, and the room is going to smell clean and dust-free.
Purge the Wardrobe
The next step, which I am in the process of working on right now, involves cleaning out drawers and closets and sending old clothes to Goodwill. It dawned on me recently that one of the things I was spending a lot of time doing in my every-other-Thursday pre-cleaning ritual was putting away the clean clothes that had been sitting in laundry baskets in my room for days at a time. I finally figured out that the reason I kept procrastinating on putting the clothes away was because it was always a struggle to find room to put them! My drawers were overflowing with outfits I never wore, and it was hard to find room—not to mention empty hangers—to hang clothes in my closet. So I’ve started to purge, with the goal of clearing out one drawer each day. That approach keeps it manageable, yet still rewards me with a feeling of accomplishment.
The final step: It’s time to make our room look and feel like a luxurious resort. I’ve been gathering ideas on Pinterest, ordering resort-quality sheets, and am planning a date with Pier One and HomeGoods this weekend to shop for new wall-hangings and accessories. For the price of one weekend in a nice hotel, I should be able to do enough redecorating to make it feel like we’re on vacation every single night. And don’t we all deserve that feeling? If we just take some time to show the master bedroom a little love, it can love us right back.
My parents are selling their home. It’s not exactly my childhood home. In fact, it’s more than that.
I moved a lot as a child. From Ohio to Poughkeepsie, Miami to Buffalo, and a longer stay in NJ. That’s what we did with a Dad in sales. I didn’t mind, really. It helped me to be adaptable or, at least, that’s what I tell myself. It may have just made me antsy and always looking for a change. Either way, I survived all of the moving, but one place always stayed the same.
We spent summers at the lake. Back then, we owned a cabin. I called it my “summer house” to friends, but with no HVAC, phone (yes, that was before cell phones), television or washer and dryer, it really wasn’t more than a glorified cabin. And, I loved it.
When my father retired, he and mom moved to the lake. It was shocking, to say the least. Mom was never a fan of it up there. Then again, what mother of three children would be without a phone or a TV? And, don’t get her started on the lack of a washer and dryer. I’m sure she spent at least a full day each week at the local laundromat.
Somehow, however, Dad convinced Mom to buy an actual house at the lake, and there they have lived for the past 20+ years. The lake has continued to be the place we go. The kids, the grandkids…we all gather there for the 4th of July and any other occasion we can coordinate. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends…they’ve all been there with us. It’s our happy place. Our home.
And, now, they’re selling it. Lakes are beautiful, calm, and serene. They’re also a lot of work. The docks, the boat, the beach…it’s all hard to take care of. So, mom and dad are looking for a simpler life in an “active adult” community. Now, the fun begins.
The Nitty Gritty
“Selling a home is so much fun,” said no one ever. On the contrary, it’s work. A lot of work. And, stressful. And, let’s not forget, emotional.
Most people focus on the work, and the stress. Those are the parts that wear us down, or so we think. But, the reality is, the logistics of selling a home are manageable. All we need to do is find the right people to help us.
It starts with the realtor. A realtor is someone we have to trust. We have to believe they are working for us. Of course, every penny matters to them. It’s how they make a living. But, if they’re good at their job, each house is one of many.
A realtor’s goal should be to make their clients happy. Happy clients refer realtors to friends. Smart realtors understand this. So, look for a smart, good realtor and that part should go rather smoothly.
Of course, no home is sale ready from the get go. A realtor can help to identify the things that obviously need repair. We also know all of the hidden issues like the loose faucet, receptacles that don’t work, and floor boards that are exceptionally squeaky. Our teenagers helped us to discover the latter one when they came in after curfew.
A good handyman, or contractor if the problems are really big, can help us make the repairs. Some of us lucky people may have a handyman in the house. (Note: this is not the time to build your spouse’s ego by reassuring him he’s handy. Make sure he actually knows how to fix things.) Many of us may actually be the handymen, or should I say, handywomen.
When preparing to sell a home, we shouldn’t go crazy fixing everything. We should focus on the things that may pop up as potential buyers are walking through the house. The inspection will come later. That’s when they’ll decide what needs to be fixed. If it doesn’t come up, don’t worry about it. They’ll discover it eventually, but that will likely be after they’ve signed on the dotted line. It’s their problem then.
The really fun part comes when the showings begin. That’s when we have to figure out how to clean up all of the kids’ toys, get the dirty dishes out of the sink, and get the sleeping baby out of her crib all in a matter of minutes because a realtor is down the street and his clients just noticed your home.
The mad dashes out of the house are bad enough, but keeping the house clean day after day is enough to drive any parent of young children absolutely mad. This is a good time to let go of the ego, and remember there are people to help with this too.
It might be impractical, and far too expensive, to have a daily cleaning service. But, if there was ever a time to splurge on it weekly, now’s that time. And, don’t forget, most cleaning companies offer deep cleaning and moving cleaning services, too. These can absolutely take the pressure off as we deal with all of the other details of selling a home.
Other services to look for when listing a home might be: decluttering companies, storage units, moving trucks, and lawn services. Don’t forget a good massage therapist for when things get too stressful. In general, it’s important to remember that we sometimes have to spend money to make money. And, when it’s a matter of our sanity, the services are absolutely worth it.
The Emotional Factor
The only service we really can’t hire, is the one that removes the emotional factor from selling a home. That’s the truly hard part. Saying good-bye to our happy place is like saying farewell to a best friend. It’s letting go of the ties that bind us, the comfort, and the familiarity. It’s letting go of a part of us.
Despite the frequent moves, nothing prepared me for letting go of the one constant in my life. I know it’s the right thing for mom and dad. I know new adventures await us and we will find a new happy place. Hopefully, anyway. But, saying good-bye will be the hardest part for sure.
Fortunately, we have one last 4th of July. I think we may need to stock up on tissues.
For the past year, I’ve been paying $187 per month on a storage unit. Based on the number of storage places around town, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one wasting money to keep old junk we just can’t seem to part with. But, enough is enough. It’s time to let go of the past.
The past means something different to each of us. For some, it’s memories of our own childhood. We’re not ready to give away our high school varsity jacket or the single bed we slept in. Others of us are holding on to baby items from our children who are now in their 20s. While some of us are holding on to a life that no longer exists.
I recently dragged my son and a few of his former football-player friends to my storage unit. There wasn’t much left. Mostly just the big stuff that I couldn’t throw in the back of the car during one of my frequent visits to the unit. This time I had a truck and brute strength with me to get the job done.
The boys—or should I say, young men—filled the truck with the items. I let them organize everything, not wanting to micro-manage the situation. Nothing was so valuable that I’d cringe at it getting damaged. So, I let them have at it.
I knew the toughest item would be the large, wooden desk/hutch that sat in the middle of the unit. It had taken five other young men to get it in there. I wasn’t sure three were going to be able to manage it. Then again, it’s not as hard to move things when you don’t have to worry about their well-being. And, for the first time in 20 years, I wasn’t worried about what happened to this particular piece.
I remember when we bought it. It was one of the first “fine” pieces of furniture my ex-husband and I had shopped for. We found it at a store outside of Denver. It was the perfect thing for our new house.
Back then, computers took up a lot of space. You needed a shelf for the monitor and one for the keyboard, as well as a place for the awkward hard drive tower that had to be attached. I didn’t have an office space so I wanted something that could hold everything but also hide it when company came. This piece did exactly that. It had shelves and drawers for everything, but doors to close and cover it all up. It was perfect.
That furniture followed us everywhere we went; one house after the next. It eventually morphed from a desk to a television cabinet that was kept in our bedroom. And, when I moved out during our divorce, it was one of the first items loaded on the truck.
Since then, however, I’ve moved again. My current house is too small to hold such a large item.
And, so, it sat in the storage unit along with all of the other items that would never find a place in this new home. Until recently.
When I lifted the door of the storage unit, it all of a sudden hit me. It was time to let go of that desk/hutch/television stand/oversized item. Fantasies of posting it on Craigslist to find a new owner vanished. It finally appeared as it actually was—a large pile of wood that needed to be disposed of.
When the boys started inspecting the item for how they would carefully get it on the truck, I suggested we get a sledge hammer and break it to bits.
They looked at me a bit bewildered and then one of them said, “Well, if you don’t care what happens to it, we can just scrape it along and push it into the truck.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “We just need to get it out of the unit.”
They got it onto the truck rather quickly after that. We drove home and I backed the truck to the edge of the curb.
“Just drag it out and put it there,” I said, pointing to the curb. “Someone will take it.”
And, they did.
I was out for the evening and came home after dark. I didn’t notice it until I got out of the car. That piece of furniture that I had held on to for all of those years was gone. Taken away by some faceless, nameless person. I had no idea where it went or what would happen to it. It was just gone.
Strangely, I didn’t shed a tear. In fact, I was relieved. Somebody else could deal with that huge, heavy item from now on. It was gone from my life. It was in my past, and my future seemed that much brighter.
As for the rest of the items, they will hopefully be sold in a yard sale. It’s the perfect way to get rid of a lot of junk at once. And, with no more storage unit, I now have an extra $187 per month to spend on a cleaning service. Life really is good.
The never ending cycle of household chores. You put the clothes in the wash, then the dryer. You fold the clothes, and put them away. Next, you turn around, and the laundry basket is full and ready to be washed again.
Same goes for the dishes, and the groceries. You make your bed just so you can sleep in it. You sweep and the kids track dirt in as your putting the broom away. The counters need to be wiped down every time the sun shines in, and the shower door has a never-ending film of soap scum.
Let’s not even talk about closets. Or, junk drawers. You take everything out, buy the necessary organizational tools, put everything neatly away, and it all looks great. Fast forward a few months…or weeks…or days, and it looks the same as it did before you spent all of the time organizing.
There are those few, rare individuals who never seem to have anything out of place. They’re the really smart ones who put something away as soon as they’re done with it. And, even better, they put it back in the same place they found it. I may have used the word ‘anal’ to describe someone like this at one time or another. Truth be told, I’m just jealous. I wish I had that trait.
Instead, I inherited the “Oh good God, do I really have to clean again?” gene. Not sure from where I got it. Certainly, not my mother. She’s one of those enviable, everything-is-always-clean types. I’m not like her. In fact, the only time my house looks even close to how hers always does is when my mother is coming to visit. It also looks good when she leaves, but that’s only because she keeps it that way.
Truly, I’m not sure how people do it. Then again, I can’t stand the opposite either. It drives me nuts when my house is a mess. I see every crumb on the floor, every hair on the bathroom sink. I hate dirty dishes in the sink and the clothes all over the floor in my daughter’s room. And, the non-dated leftovers in the refrigerator drive me batty. I just wish I wasn’t the one who had to do something about it all.
I always loved the book, The Cat in the Hat. You know, the part where the cleaning thingamajig comes in and cleans up the house. It’s like a dream come true. If only someone could create such a thing.
In the meantime, I’ll have to stick to doing things the old-fashioned way. I’ve got to get off my butt and do what needs to be done. Of course, having a cleaning service can make things a lot easier. Even if you can’t have service on a regular basis, a one-time cleaning will certainly help. Call Immaculate Clean for more information, (410) 549-0727.
Clutter is evil. It gets in the way, it makes your home look messy, it takes up valuable space and it has you running around in a constant quest to clean it up. But don’t just clean it up—get rid of it! And now is the perfect time to embark on this journey so that you can start the new year in a clutter-free home. From our Maryland home cleaning company, here are a few ideas on how to fight the evil clutter and what to do with it.
Let go of Heirlooms
Unwanted inheritance may not be such a big problem in the U.S., but it’s definitely rampant in Europe where century-old furniture keeps exchanging hands from generation to generation. But here we sometimes also get stuck with grandma’s china cabinet or grandpa’s work bench that just do not fit anywhere.
If you have furniture sitting in your storage (or piled up in your basement), doing nothing but collecting dust, consider getting rid of it. You’ve already appreciated the gift and the love that came with it, and it’s time to let go. We are not suggesting that you carry your great-grandmother’s old trunk to the dump. If it’s in a decent shape and has historic significance, sell it online or at an auction. Or donate it to a museum or a historic home in your area. If you don’t plan on moving any time soon and there is no room for this furniture in your home, it makes sense to let someone else enjoy it.
Go Through Your “Just in Case” Items
So your sister in law was getting rid of her dehydrator and you offered to take it off her hands. Just in case you are in a mood for banana chips. But guess what? You barely ever cook at home and you don’t even like bananas! And now this thing is taking up your precious cabinet space.
Let’s be honest, we often buy things that we don’t need right away but that we may use in the future. We do this because these things are on sale and maybe even free right now. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it’s done in moderation and you actually end up using the items you bought. And if you don’t, well, that is essentially hoarding. When going through your clutter, try to remember under which circumstances you purchased a specific item. If you can’t remember what motivated you back then and you don’t use the item anyway, get rid of it.
Fix it or Toss it
Most of us probably have something broken in their home. Maybe it’s an old laptop that needs a new hard drive. Or maybe it’s a slow cooker that’s missing a lid, and the replacement lid costs as much as the new slow cooker. So you have all these things that technically can be fixed, but who’s going to fix them?
It’s time to decide what these items are worth to you. Will you pay for that broken wall clock to be repaired? Will you spend the time to glue the broken leg to the dining room chair? Don’t leave it for later. Decide this now and you will eliminate clutter both from your home and from your head.
Commit to a Schedule
Decluttering can be time-consuming, especially if you have a lot of stuff and have trouble letting go of potentially useful things out of practicality. That’s why you will need to set a schedule for yourself to make sure you get things done instead of sitting and reminiscing over an old picture frame you never got to use. There is a challenge called 40 bags in 40 days focused on decluttering one area a day, which should result in one bag (of any size) of stuff you are getting rid of. This is a good way to keep yourself motivated, and there are even online communities of people doing the same thing in case you need support. What do you do with all these bags? These are your four main options: toss, recycle, donate or sell. And here are a few specific places where you can do this. Don’t let deciding what to do with your stuff hold you back. If you don’t need it, put it in the bag and you will figure out the details later.
Invest in Experiences, Not Stuff
It’s one thing to declutter your home, but it’s another challenge to keep it free of clutter in 2016. It’s easy to fill all that space you just made with more stuff that you barely use. One tip for keeping the clutter down to a minimum is to spend money on things to do rather than things to have. For example, instead of another bag or a pair of shoes, you can get tickets to a concert or a local art venue. Instead of a bread maker or a food processor, you can take a cooking class to learn how to easily cut and make bread without these appliances. An appliance or a piece of clothing will eventually break down, rip or fade, but the experience from doing something fun will be with you forever.
After you take out all the clutter, you will probably end up with many new surfaces to clean. You’ve already done a lot, so let Immaculate Clean give you a hand with cleaning and help get your home ready for the holidays!