Rich People Can Be Hoarders

Posted By on March 26, 2012

Yes, Jeff Lewis, rich people can be hoarders.

In the commercial for designer Jeff Lewis’ new show Interior Therapy, the home of a wealthy couple shows a pile of stuff in a room, and Jeff asks the question: “Can rich people be hoarders? I don’t know.”

I found myself answering the television, “Yes, they can.”

Hoarding is a mental illness, and it doesn’t matter how much money is in your bank account, where you live, what education you have, what job you have, or your gender and race.

Hoarding does not discriminate

Three or four years ago, a surgeon and his wife who lived in an expensive neighborhood in Houston died in a house fire because firefighters couldn’t reach them due to the clutter throughout their home. One of my co-workers recently sent me an article about a man who was trapped in his home because hundreds of yachting magazines fell on him.

Now there is some indication hoarding can run in families, but whether it’s a nature vs. nurture matter is unclear. The research continues in that area. I can tell you from the organizing work I do that some people have natural tendencies to be on the “messy” or “neat” side of things.

Hoarding can also develop with people who are compulsive shoppers. With compulsive shoppers, it doesn’t matter whether they’re shopping in thrift store or expensive stores. The result is still the same.

So yes, Jeff Lewis, rich people can be hoarders too.

If you or someone you know is a hoarder, you can seek help through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization and mental health professionals.

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Even Professional Organizers Have to Clean their Closets

Posted By on March 20, 2012

This past Saturday night was an exciting night in the Simon household. I was deep in my closet, sorting through my wardrobe. Even professional organizers have to redo their space every now and again.

One of the side effects of the health issues I’ve been dealing with since May 2011 is weight loss. I’ve dropped over 50 pounds, and I’m not complaining about that “side effect” at all and consider it a gift for all the crap I’ve been through.

During the past two or three months, a couple of my co-workers suggested retiring some of my wardrobe because the clothes were too big and looked weird. It’s always interesting how we don’t see ourselves as well as others do.

I began digging through the carefully packed boxes of smaller clothes in my closet, and I was excited that several things fit for the first time in a long while. One of my friends is jetting off to Hawaii to celebrate her anniversary, and since she didn’t want to buy a bunch of new clothes for a trip, I dug through my boxes to find some pieces for her. She’s a size smaller than I am now so it works out very well.

By digging through my six boxes (all sorted and labeled by size) for several weeks, I created a giant mess in my closet. This weekend, I devoted the time to clearing out the stuff I no longer need and adding in the things that now fit.

Donate or Keep

First, I had to make more space so I went through the items already hanging in my closet. This meant trying on everything. For me, the choices were: 1) Too big! Awesome! Donate pile. 2) Oh, this looks better. Keep!

I had a moment of panic when I saw how many things were gone, but this brings me to Step Two – seeing what fits of the smaller sizes. Again, I had to try things on. This time, my choices were: 1) Ooh, this looks cute! Keep! 2) Not quite yet (said in a singsong lilt). 3) Oh, I can’t wait until I get back into this! Back in the box.

For Step Three, I hung up everything that fit into the closet and repacked the items that didn’t. The boxes were still labeled so I didn’t have to re-label anything. I created more space in my closet since I was able to reduce my stash by one box.

The process reinforced a few facts I already knew:

  • The actual size on a clothing tag means very little, and what counts is the fit. It’s amazing how much difference a size 16 is, depending on how who made it. No wonder shopping can be a frustrating experience.
  • Shopping in your closet is FREE! The only item I need to purchase is a pair of strappy black sandals – an annual purchase when you live on the Gulf Coast.
  • I am obviously drawn to cute dresses, comfy pajamas and colorful shirts. Going through all the boxes, I saw the pattern.
  • I realized how much I had missed some of my favorite pieces. I felt as if I was greeting long-lost friends, and I definitely took a walk down memory lane. There was the blue silk shirt I wore when I met my birthfather Mike for the first time. I purposely chose that shirt since it makes my blue eyes bluer, a feature I inherited from him.  There was the super cute dress I found for $10 at a department store that I wore to the Savvy Auntie book launch party last year.

With any donations, make sure the items are gently used and do not have stains, rips, tears, missing buttons or broken zippers. Charities spend millions each year disposing of unusable donations. If an item is not good enough for donation, cut it up for rags or toss it.

Where can you donate your clothes and accessories? Charities such as Goodwill, Salvation Army and Purple Heart are always good choices.

Other resources:

Dress for Success. All business clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry are going to this program that helps women preparing for job interviews. There is a serious need for plus size items.

The Fairy Godmother Project. These fairy godmothers provide prom dresses for high school girls who don’t have the means to buy their own. They will take donations of cocktail and prom dresses, shoes, handbags and jewelry.

My next project will be to go through my socks, pajamas, underthings, shoes, handbags and jewelry.

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When Do You Hire Professional Help?

Posted By on February 13, 2012

My eyebrows were the first indication that I needed professional help.

For several years, I had done the plucking thing with limited success. They always wound up crooked, and I’m sure I sported a raised Spock brow. Then someone told me how they had their brows waxed in a salon. I tried it. I liked it. It simplified one aspect of my life.

It was the first time I realized that sometimes we all need a little help. Over the years, I’ve sought professional help several times. I’ve worked with a life coach, a couple of fitness trainers, a therapist and my blog editor.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t be good at everything, and there are times when we need to call in the calvary. So when you do hire professional help?

You hire help when you need it, when you can’t do it by yourself, when you don’t have the skills (see my eyebrows), when you need accountability, when you don’t have time and need to delegate, and when the task is just so overwhelming that you know you can’t do it alone.

It’s not a personal failure if you need to bring in someone to help you. It’s called survival.

When hiring someone, play it smart. Ask for recommendations and interview them before making a decision. Then let your life change because you were brave enough to ask for help. Even if it’s just getting your eyebrows waxed.

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When Do You Stop Working? That Includes Checking Email

Posted By on February 6, 2012

I spotted an interesting article in the Sunday paper about how the Brazilian court said employees answering emails after work hours are eligible for overtime. The ruling is huge since it could lead to companies dishing oodles of money.

In a related story published in December, the German-based Volkswagon agreed to stop emailing employees 30 minutes before their shift ends and won’t resume until a half hour before work begins.

Both stories are intriguing. I tell clients all the time (and I practice it myself) to decide what time you stop working each day. Just because we can access work emails 24/7, it doesn’t mean we should.

I work with a number of Type A, high-achieving types, and many of them feel they should always be “on” for work, which means taking a peek at the Blackberry.

Stop checking email: You need the rest

If you are always working, you never get the rest you, your brain and your body needs. Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, talked about how the need we have for rest and renewal.

Essentially, you need to take the time to rest to be a better employee. Otherwise, you’re more likely to suffer from burnout, and when you’re burned out and stressed out, you can’t be truly productive.

So – decide what time you end work each day. Put down the work email, and rest up. To quote Scarlett O’Hara, tomorrow is another day.

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Take A Day Off

Posted By on February 1, 2012

The buzz about Matthew Broderick’s Honda ad channeling his character Ferris Bueller made me giddy. After all, I am a child of the 80s.

Most of my friends and I have fond memories of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – where Ferris, his girlfriend and his best friend take the day off from school to frolic in Chicago. In the new ad, Broderick takes a day off just like his famous character.

As an adult, I see the movie as a good reminder of how we all need to take a day off now and again. We live in this crazy, multi-tasking world where we’re constantly bombarded by emails, phone calls, work, bills, traffic and other things that constantly drain our energy and resources.

To recover from the stress of our daily lives, we need to have regular regimen of rest. When you leave vacation time on the table, it’s not a badge of honor. We need rest to renew our spirits, our bodies and our minds. After all, even God rested on the seventh day.

When you’re feeling tired and cranky and need some rest, tap into your inner Ferris Bueller and take the day off. Bom bom chickah chickah.

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Making Time to Clear Clutter

Posted By on January 23, 2012

It always sounds so easy. Grab a stack of magazines or a box still packed from your last move and just go through it.

Uh-huh. Getting right on that. But ooh, look. Something shiny and way more fun. Stack of what?

This happens to all of us. We have great intentions of accomplishing all sorts of things, but life gets in the way. Other stuff is always more fun than clearing clutter, unpacking boxes and folding laundry, but we know there are some things we have to do. Here are some ways to make time to clear clutter.

Take 15 minutes. Set the timer or put on some music (Lady Gaga gets me moving) and see how many items you can put in recycling, the donation box and trash. Do this several times a week, and you will see progress.

Other rooms. Grab a box or laundry basket and gather up anything you find that belongs in another room. Then take those items back to the rooms where they belong. Here’s a little trick several of my friends who are parents have told me. If items belong to your kids and they haven’t picked it up like you’ve asked, seize the item, and the kids have to “buy” their stuff back with chores.

Trash Day. The night before trash day, clean out your refrigerator and freezer. Dispose of any expired items. If you’re not sure if something is still good, check out Still Tasty. The website has an app that will remind you of expiration dates too.

Leave the “bad” room. If you are trying to clear the clutter in that room – the one that makes all the air leave your body, take a laundry basket, fill it with stuff and go to the happy room where there’s TV and snacks. Sort your basket and grab another load. If you stay in the “bad” room, it’s easy to get distracted with the other items you see. You will either become paralyzed and do nothing, or you start fiddling with other stuff all over the room and wind up accomplishing little.

Stay in the room. If you need to stay in the room and are not sure where to start, toss a hula hoop or embroidery hoop on the floor. Wherever the hoop lands, clear out the stuff inside the hoop. This works great for helping kids too. If you don’t have a hula hoop, then stick to one spot – one shelf, the top of the desk, the coffee table, the stack closest to the door. Whatever works, but just focus in on one area before jumping to another.

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