From Treasure Comes Function

During the summer months, my basement was turned into a temporary storage facility for my daughter’s dormitory belongings. Although it made me a little kooky having “things” hanging around without their proper homes, I knew it would soon be over, and I would begin to get things back in order once we hauled everything back to college.

What I didn’t anticipate was acting upon my desire to make my basement into a home office.

After helping countless clients regain their space and turn even the smallest of rooms into functional offices, I decided it was time to give it a whirl.

Since my basement was pre-finished with new tile, freshly painted walls and recessed lighting, I was excited about finding furniture that would compliment my surroundings.

Bearing in mind that I advise people to choose items that they feel attracted to and depict their personality, I decided to take my own advice. Feeling inspired, I started to research different companies by going online and compiling tear sheets from an assortment of magazines that I saved.

Considering myself to be somewhat of an “eclectic” person, I wanted cozy and comfort to meet form and function. Several years ago, I downsized considerably and still had pieces of furniture stored away for “some day.” Yes, I, too, am guilty of this. My rationale was that I hoped to one day fill another home with my lovely belongings.

For the longest time, I pondered over what to do with my grandmother’s hope chest that I inherited. Although simple in style, it is crafted with quality featuring a pull out felt tray and the interior lined with cedar. Ideal for storing blankets and quilts, I wasn’t satisfied with its purpose any longer and yearned to do something else with it.

Ironically, several days later, I came across an article from “Real Simple,” 15 years of organizing tips, entitled, “Office in a chest – Jan ’03.” It’s exactly the information I needed; “how to transform a traditional piece of furniture into a multitasking mini office.” With complete instructions on how to make a bulletin board, organizing tray, and filing system, I was in business.

For the cork board, you can purchase at any office supply store ready made cork squares or rolled cork to affix to the underside of the chest’s lid. I prefer the squares since they come with sticky tape, that way you don’t have to mess around with glue.

Since my chest already had a built in tray, sectioned off with little dividers, I didn’t have to make anything, I just had to decide what I wanted to put in the cubbyholes.

For my filing system, I did exactly what they said. I went and purchased an adjustable hanging file folder frame and inserted it inside. Since these do come in different lengths, I had to measure the inside for a proper fit.

I decided that the best way I could utilize my new system was to be practical about how I wanted it to function. I couldn’t really see having it open all the time and using it everyday, so I used it to store my long-term files, such as my taxes, deeds, mortgage, insurance papers and auto certificates. I used the cork board to post up different passwords and key information relating to my paperwork to make it easier to find in emergency situations, and I used the tray for some extra supplies I may need when I have to go back in there to make additional files. And last, but certainly not least, (as a matter of fact, it was the very first thing I did) I painted the outside of the chest so it would blend into my new office space.

What was an outdated, traditional chest, is now a piece of functional furniture. I even took it a step further and placed a cushion on top for additional seating. Simply wonderful!

I have the bug to de-clutter, freshen things up and get organized. I am always amazed how I find unexpected treasures while I am cleaning up.

Body Doubling

Body DoublingWhile sitting opposite from one another during our scheduled work session, a relatively seasoned client of mine looked directly at me and said “I think I like it better when I write in my own personal handwriting rather than you printing out labels for me.”

“OK” I said. “May I ask why?”

“I think I find it too impersonal and sterile. I find myself feeling more drawn to the files and want to pick them up when I see my own signature rather than unfamiliar printing.”

Since we already established a relationship with one another, I felt comfortable enough to ask her if there was anything else she wanted to let me know.

“Well, as a matter of fact,” she said, “I think I would really like it if I could try working for a while just on my own, while you sit there. Is that alright with you?”

I smiled back at her and said “Of course. Take your time and let’s see how it goes.” We agreed that we would try this for one hour without talking unless she needed my input.

As I sat there, I started to imagine what it would be like for me to have my assistant just sit in my office while I worked. But that image didn’t last long for me. Unlike my client, I am an active participant when it comes to my work and like to engage and interact with my staff and also require and enjoy their input and feedback.

So, I started to question in my mind what was really going on for my client. Was she beginning to feel more secure in her own sense of style and wanted to try it out while I was present or was it something more profound than this?

Fifty minutes into the hour, she asked if I would like a cup of tea. Sure I said, that sounds good right about now.

We took about a 15-minute break and sat outside on her deck. We talked about the weather, her new landscaping of shrubberies and a little about family.

As we walked back into her office, I asked her if she ever heard of the term “Body Doubling.” Her eyes widened and she just about whispered, “No, what is that?”

Well, I began; I believe that is what we are doing right now.

Having a person who is present and acting like and anchor, not an active assistant, allows the other person to stay focused and ignore distractions. I asked her if she agreed that was what we were doing.

“Absolutely,” she said. “Having you here somehow gives me permission to finish what needs to be done, and I don’t feel the urge to walk away.”

She wanted to know if the practice was common or highly unusual.

I explained that it depended-sometimes it is woven into the organizing practice quite naturally and in other circumstances it is introduced right away. One thing that is certain is that body doubling is highly effective and actually mirrors what organizing looks like.

With this new-found understanding, it made it easier for my client to accept that her initial request was in essence a particular organizing practice. Body doubling offers alternative solutions for people to succeed in their organizing endeavors, when they recognize they are challenged with distraction.

It was safe to say, my client and I worked silently for the next hour and a half and when I left, she felt empowered and satisfied with her accomplishments.

-Patricia Diesel
Keep It Simple Now

What’s In Your Closet?

The desire to spruce things up has kicked into high gear for me. I am having my upstairs painted, which consists of three bedrooms and a full bath. So, you know what that means – each has a closet that needs to be de-cluttered and organized.

I found the bathroom medicine cabinet to be simple because there was not an emotional attachment to anything. Discarding expired prescriptions and over-the-counter items was just a matter of reading the labels, and anything that was a lotion or hair tonic that I had not used in a year, I let go.

While cleaning the linen closet, I didn’t realize how many sheets I had been holding onto that I didn’t have beds for anymore. I found that to be interesting. Regardless, any sheets that didn’t serve a purpose went into the donation pile. I had a lot of towels that were frayed or wearing thin, so I put them aside with the cleaning supplies to use as rags.

The amazing thing was that all this time, I convinced myself that I had a hefty supply of linens, when actually I needed to replenish.

Moving right along, I went to the wardrobe closets that were just screaming to be purged.

Beginning with my daughter’s, I reviewed the remnants (or so I thought) of the clothes she no longer wanted after taking what she did want with her to college.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. Here, I found old prom dresses, sweet-16 attire, graduation gowns and countless handbags and shoes among the remaining everyday outfits.

I decided the best way to conquer this project and not have her feel I was invading her space and not respecting her things, was to schedule an hour telephone call so we could review her contents and come up with a plan.

To my delight, not only was it well received, but also long overdue on her part. As long as she was involved, she was looking forward to coming home to a closet that would allow for extra storage since she was tired of “looking for things” she could not find in her cluttered closet.

We both knew when it came to her wardrobe with significant memories, without being present, it was unrealistic to make such a big decision, so we decided that anything that fell into this category would go into a memory trunk, and I would store it until she came home to make the final decision.

Anything else that overlapped such as pocketbooks, shoes and scarves, she decided to let go of. If it wasn’t important enough to bring with her, then the likelihood of her using it again would be nil.

We thought it only fair, that her summer items could be left for her to deal with when she returned home for her next go around, and any clothes being brought home from the previous seasons would get one more “looking over” before retiring them.

Overall, I was pleased with the reclaimed space since it made it so much easier to organize and put things away once everything was painted.

As far as my closets, well, I will have to keep you posted on that topic.

-Patricia Diesel
Keep It Simple Now

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Clearing Your Clutter

So often I hear clients say they would do just about anything to stop the harassing effects of their clutter.

After countless attempts trying to purge and being defeated, some people associate their lost battles with a feeling of being assaulted. All they know at this point is they want the chaos of the clutter to stop.

Introducing a list of questions at this point helps put things into perspective about not only their current circumstances but also about how the clutter came to be and what is needed to make it go away.

It’s more appealing to look at de-cluttering as a fun and enlightening concept rather than another grueling task. The goal is to de-clutter in a fashion that feels comfortable and natural.

If your clutter is having an emotional impact on you, begin by asking yourself the following questions. Allow yourself the luxury of taking the necessary time to answer completely and honestly, you may be surprised what your answers reveal.

What has prevented me from de-cluttering in the past?

  • Time
  • Motivation
  • Energy
  • A plan
  • Commitment
  • Distractions
  • Other

What do I find is the hardest thing about de-cluttering?

  • I don’t trust myself
  • Insecure with my decisions
  • I double-check myself
  • I remember what I like
  • Fear of letting go
  • Afraid I can’t get it back
  • I may need it
  • Don’t want to deal with it
  • Other

What would make it easier for me to de-clutter?

  • To know it’s OK to let it go
  • The idea that I can find it again
  • Someone to help me
  • A reward system
  • A plan I can follow
  • Thoughts of being clutter free
  • Other

How much time am I willing to commit to de-cluttering?

  • One day
  • One week
  • One month
  • Six months
  • One year
  • However long it takes
  • Other

What does de-cluttering represent to me?

  • Freedom
  • Simplicity
  • Excitement
  • Work
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Other

After reviewing the answers to the questions above, you can easily begin to see what you need to put into action in order to begin taking action toward living an organized life. The easiest way to begin making organization part of your routine is to begin incorporating changes slowly. Create small wins for yourself so you can easily feel a sense of accomplishment and treat yourself to celebrate your win. This will begin creating a positive behavior pattern. In time, organization will become a part of your life, not something that overwhelms you.

-Patricia Diesel
Keep It Simple Now

5 Most Common Organizational Starters

Patricia Diesel

Patricia Diesel


We’re talking about organizational starters…

As the New Year approaches, we begin thinking about the things we would like to accomplish in the coming year. We don’t have to wait until spring to begin cleaning and getting organized, you can start with little projects right now to get yourself motivated.

Here are some suggestions on where and how to begin:

 1. Makeup Bag

Anything older than a year, such as lipsticks, foundations and concealers, toss it out. If mascara is older than four months or smells strange, discard it, as well as any other items that may be questionable.

2. Purse

Scale it down. There’s nothing appealing about lugging around a heavy handbag and not being able to find your wallet and keys. It can be extremely frustrating emptying your purse every time you need to find something.

3. Kitchen Drawer

Do you have too many spoons, not enough forks, and knives that don’t cut? Sales are always on the horizon, so why not think about purchasing some new silverware and get that drawer organized once and for all. What to do with the old set you ask? Why not donate them to a favorite charity, ask a college student if they may need them, or use them as a back-up for summer picnics.

4. Desk Drawer

I’m sure you will find everything here short of your kitchen sink, but let’s streamline things and keep the basic essentials to help you out in last-minute pinches.

  • Antiperspirants – for those stressful days
  • Breath mints – after your morning coffee
  • Eye drops – restore moisture after too many hours on the computer
  • Lint roller – remove lint and hair on clothing before those last-minute meetings
  • Antibacterial cloths – before and after meal cleanups and disinfect your phone
  • First-aid – bandages for paper cuts and blisters
  • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin – tension headaches, minor aches and pains
  • Plastic utensils – for the days you know you’re eating in.

5. Pantry

Take inventory of what you have. Look at expiration dates and circulate or toss out. If you have many opened boxes of the same food, consider combining all ingredients into one container to maximize your space. Remember to keep like with like.

What about your pots and pans? If you haven’t used some of your cookware in years, it may be time to let it go or replace with a more up-to-date product.

The five items listed above are some of the most commonly used areas in your daily life. Beginning here give you a taste of living an organized life. These 5 areas may inspire you to begin incorporating additional organization in your life. Remember, creating small wins is the first step toward changing behavior.

The Cure for Clutter

A long corridor is filled with clutter: boxes, paperwork, unopened mail, clothes to be donated, you name it, and the hallway has it.

It’s been years since the passageway has been clear. Doing a semi-twist and turn to get from one end to the other is part of the daily routine. Actually, in truth, the external clutter seems to have faded into part of the décor and really goes unnoticed after all this time.

But that’s just the beginning. Just about every room in the apartment has stuff untouched or looked at in years. Opening bedroom doors and throwing things in, not caring where they land, has become a way of life.

Does this sound like true confessions? Yes, in part you can say it sounds that way. But for most, it is an opportunity to freely express and reveal their best kept secret. Given that it is estimated more than 3 million Americans never throw anything out, these untold stories have kept many people feeling an astonishing amount of guilt and shame.

Clutter in mass degrees creates a sense of disorder and chaos not only within the confines of our home, but in our mind as well. Although there is some speculation that after a while pack-rats and hoarders tend to dismiss this, I truly haven’t found that to be the case as of yet.

Because if this were true, there wouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of people who attend clutter support groups. It is here, that one feels safe to be “who they are” and to state what’s on their minds. It is also very liberating to be able to gather among like minded people and identify with their challenges without feeling judged.

The point is that people need support and want to find a means to end their clutter challenge. Whether or not the progress is fast paced or measurably slow, it has been my experience that clutter bugs need an outlet for their “cure for clutter.”

Despite that some look terrified, most look nervous, and a few look intrigued, by and large, I have to say, the popular consensus is most just want relief.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed about your clutter, I urge you to find a way to connect with other people to talk about it. Consider joining a clutter support group – try several until you find the one you feel most comfortable with.

Did you know there are actually 50 cities in 17 states that have chapters of Clutters Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program? Some find programs such as these too over the top and prefer a less structured agenda. Others find support through on-line chat rooms or monthly groups that meet in different locations such as the support group I run through Barnes & Noble on a monthly basis. For more information on this support group, email me at patriciadiesel@keepitsimplenow.com.

Thanks for everything!

Patricia Diesel
Keep It Simple Now

My New Website

I am in the process of a complete image overhaul of my website!   I am SO excited and I thank you for your patience while visiting my website.  I know you are looking for great content and up to date information, and it is exactly that I am striving for!  I want you to have a WOW experience when you come to visit me – that’s what my goal is for you! 

I am truly interested in hearing from you on this subject matter.  Please tell me what you want from me on this site?  What are you looking for?  Email me your ideas, thoughts, topics, anything that you would consider educational and applicable to the venue of “living an organized life.” 

Thanks again, and I can’t wait to deliver everything to you and more!

Patricia Diesel
Keep It Simple Now

Share Your Struggles

I have set up this blog for my users to share their struggles with each other, ask me questions, share solutions, or even upload photos or videos if you like. I want to encourage you to use this space to ask for help and remain anonymous if necessary. So please feel free to interact in this space. Together we can find simple solutions for everyone…

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