Author Archive for Alison

From mess and stress, to space and peace!

Did you know that many professional organizers started out very disorganized and living in clutter?

That’s pretty much where I came from.

Here’s the true story of my own evolution, learning about how to manage my stuff.

Entirely transformed our home, and our lives.

All of us can learn to manage our stuff better!

I hope you find this video inspiring 🙂

(click here to see the video) From mess and stress, to space and peace!

12 Protips for an Organized Laundry

Donate for good!

donate, charity

What is cluttering up YOUR home?

The things that clutter your home could continue to serve a good purpose in your community if you donate. Donations can;

  • become treasures for someone else,
  • provide employment,
  • support community programmes,
  • be diverted from landfill,
  • AND get the clutter out of your home!

More and more Canadians are both downsizing on the one hand, while increasingly shopping in used stores on the other, making this a fast-growing industry. Almost every community has options to donate used goods, but if you want your goods to give additional value to your community, ensure that the organization you donate to is a legitimate non-profit by reading their website.

What happens to your donations?

Many non-profits help people in crisis, perhaps leaving an abusive home, or having suffered a house fire, to get back on their feet by giving them furniture, household goods and clothing. The things you donate can also end up in one of the organizations’ stores, selling to the public. This is a booming business, and young people in particular embrace this kind of shopping.

Profile of one community-based charity

In Victoria, BC, one long-standing and successful non-profit social enterprise is WIN (Women in Need). Through their four stores, WIN sells carefully selected donated goods to the public, and the money raised not only keeps WIN self-sufficient, but also supports its 5 programs that include;

  • helping people to access the things they need through the stores,
  • supporting people in crisis to make a new start,
  • providing bursaries for training, to start a small business or to pursue wellness, and giving training in personal development.

In addition, WIN has created successful partnerships with other organizations and together they are diverting large quantities of non-salable donations from the landfill.

What is valuable to donate?

Volunteer Coordinator Michelle Young says WIN gets the most value from donated goods that are in saleable condition;

  • washed and unstained,
  • undamaged,
  • in working order, and
  • sorted by category (clothes, kitchen, toys, shoes, etc.).

If you have any questions about donating, or want to learn more about specific programmes in your area, check the internet to learn where your valuable donations will make the most impact!

For more information

Women In Need (Victoria BC)

National resources

Montreal resources

Where do you take YOUR donations?

Professional Organizer Tools of the Trade

Professional Organizer tools of the trade

I’m a Professional Organizer, but sometimes I think I should be called The Decluttering Ninja!

Because before you can organize, you need to declutter so that you don’t waste your time organizing things that aren’t needed, used or wanted.

I spend a LOT of time helping people declutter…

So… what does a Decluttering Ninja do?

A Decluttering Ninja is someone who is REALLY good at moving unwanted and unneeded things out the door.

What does a Decluttering Ninja take to work?
My Decluttering Bag!

These are my visible Professional Organizer tools of the trade for decluttering:

Thanks to smart Professional Organizer Lois Kaplan for the idea of carrying it all in a 4-bottle wine bag.

Professional Organizer tools of the trade

Recycling bags, trash bags, donation bags, zippered bags, Sharpie and green painters’ tape for temporary labels

decluttering tools of the trade

Decluttering tools of the trade

Decluttering tools of the trade

  • Construction grade black garbage bags (puncture resistant – for trash)
  • Large, clear bags (from the hardware store – for donations)
  • Large, transparent blue bags (for recycling)
  • Freezer-grade zipper bags (President’s Choice freezer bags are my favourite); ex-large, large and medium
  • Snack sized zipper bags
  • Flyt magazine boxes from Ikea for sorting papers
  • A Sharpie marker and Green painters’ tape

Use these tools to peel away the excess, then organizing important possessions becomes easy and fun!

The freezer-grade bags and collapsible magazine boxes are super-flexible, temporary containers for use during the process.

professional organizer tools of the trade

Ikea FLYT boxes for sorting paper

Start by focusing on creating personalized organized systems that function well and feel comfortable, and you can take all the time you like to upgrade the aesthetics later.

I also share my Invisible Toolkit with my clients!

My years of organizing education and experience has filled my Invisible Toolkit for every possible situation.  It could take a week to talk about all these things, but some examples are: strategies, games and powerful questions to help my clients prioritize, absolute respect for client choices and goals, and endless energy and encouragement!

Most people who contact me feel stuck because of the volume of possessions they have, and they don’t know how to wade through and make decisions.

I specialize in helping people get unstuck, teaching strategies to break through current blockages, but also to prevent it from happening again.

What are your favorite decluttering tools?

10 Organizer tips for a stress-free move

pizza after a good move

Being better prepared is the best way to make your move as stress-free as possible.

A move means uprooting your things, and therefore temporarily losing your points of reference.

Whether or not you’re hiring movers, the following points can help.

Create Safe Zones for things that really matter during your move to keep more control.

  1. Moving File (binder if you prefer paper, on computer if you prefer digital). Put ALL your moving-related information in it, and create a safe place to keep your Moving File.
  2. Tool Kit with multi-head screwdriver, measuring tape, hammer, freezer bags with a marker to safely capture and identify removed hardware and parts.
  3. Packing Kit for tape, tape gun, markers, labels (I use rolls of green Painters’ Tape from hardware store), and coloured stickers if you want to colour-code the boxes for the rooms they will go into.

         * If it is a smaller move, you may prefer to combine the kits together*

If you are concerned about how your stuff will fit, measuring can help.

  1. Create a floorplan (on paper to scale, or online with ). It can take time to figure out the possible layout choices, and you can start well before moving day.
  2. What will actually fit? Knowing ahead of time if you need to let go of some stuff gives you more time to make arrangements.

Recognize that a move is work!

  1. Take care of yourself.
  2. Ask for help, and accept offers.
  3. Avoid other commitments during this time.
  4. Be aware that this is a transition period for everyone involved. Remember that it is temporary.
  5. With a little research, you will find many great resources available on the internet. Many moving companies offer great lists, and even packing videos on YouTube.

For more of my own moving tips, check out this TV appearance (with English subtitles)

More self-care tips when moving here:

Hello, My Name Is Doris Sheds Light on Hoarding

I’m so glad I read this blog!
I find that hoarding disorder is a powerful and mysterious phenomenon.
I work with many clients who are “keepers” (what a wonderful phrase!), and they generally are attached to their possessions with a very strong psychological superglue. Practically impossible to separate them.
Thank you for voicing the view that patience and understanding is called for, and that they deserve respect.
The last sentence is very powerful.
Looking very much forward to the film!
Thank you again.
Alison Lush, CPO-CD

downsizing the home

Our new normal

6 years ago, our home was truly overcrowded. I did not yet have the skills to manage the ebb and flow of things we lived with. I am very happy to say that things are very different now!

The following are my favorite strategies that have gradually made this transformation possible.

  1. I have learned to bring home less. I am much more discerning. I do not seek shopping opportunities. When things are offered, I stop and compare to what we have and what we use. I do NOT want to add more clutter. I am very clear about that.
  2. Containers help me know when enough is enough. I have learned to respect the boundaries I create. For example, I have my folded clothes on a Kallax (Ikea cube shelving), with one shelf for long-sleeved tops. When the pile is squished, something has to go, that’s it. It took me some time to reflect and decide my own personalized boundaries, but now it is a cinch to know how much is enough.
  3. Everything has a “home”- Everything! It can take time to reflect and create a good home for a thing, but once it is done, putting it away is a breeze!
  4. Done is better than perfect. I do my best today, with the resources, knowledge and energy I have now. I don’t wait for perfection: I just do my best.
  5. No guilt! I do my best, and do not feel guilty for being imperfect. Nobody is perfect.
  6. I cultivate the feeling of abundance. When I feel rich and comfortable, I need less.
  7. It’s an organic process. Our habits and routines change, and so do our things.
  8. Higher housekeeping standards help us stay organized. Make the bed every morning. Wash all the dishes so the sink is empty regularly. Hang the coats up. Don’t leave piles of stuff randomly lying around. All these small gestures combine to create pride and ownership, and contribute to being well-organized.
  9. “For Charity” zone in the foyer. When anyone in the family realizes they no longer have a use or desire to keep something, it is so easy to walk it over to the front door charity zone. And because it is very visible, we take in the donations on a regular basis to clear out the foyer.
  10. I collect mentors! I have identified a whole bunch of people who inspire me and give tips that I find helpful. I’m on a learning curve. It’s great to learn from others!

I’m well aware that none of this is new, nor is it important when compared to big challenges in the world. But it does make a significant difference in the quality of life of the three people who live in our tiny home. Our home welcomes us and allows us to recharge our batteries. We are functional, and therefore more self-sufficient. We don’t waste time looking for things any more. We don’t waste lots of money buying stuff we don’t need. We don’t spend money buying things we already have but cannot find!

This is our new normal. Hooray!

#1 Building block for a more organized life

Came home from work today feeling sluggish.

It’s only 4pm. Hours of potentially productive time ahead of me. What to do?

Scrolling down the mental list- “I could do that… or that… or maybe that. Even enough time to take on that.”

Looking around our little home: Clutter. Disorder. Piles. I feel myself sinking…more and more sluggish.

I remember a gold nugget of wisdom from one of my Organizing classes for when one is feeling overwhelmed and it’s difficult to get going.

Do one thing.” I pick up my hat, gloves and scarves from the table and put them in the front closet where they belong.

I notice the action: That was easy. I notice the feeling: That feels good. I like the system I created last year for my accessories, and it gives me satisfaction to see them put away.

Do one thing.” I empty my bag from work and put it away.

I notice the action: That was easy. I notice the feeling: That feels good. Dirty clothes are now closer to being washed. Empty bag ready for tomorrow. Feels like progress.

Sluggishness gone, starting to feel energized

We often feel stuck or overwhelmed in our physical spaces. Too many things we could be doing or think we should be doing. DO ONE THING is a powerful approach.

Choose ANYTHING to do! The point is to create forward movement.

One step, even if it is small or slow, is STILL ONE STEP, and that is a very different thing from doing nothing.

Surprising experiment in authenticity

For the first time, I had no desire this year to decorate, think of gifts, or cook traditional fare. Rather than forcing myself out of a sense of obligation, I respected my instincts and did almost nothing. Putting up the tree was very important for my daughter, and she could have decorated it had she wanted to. I got the bins of decorations out, and yet the tree remained natural.

Looking at this photo, I see that my Christmas was authentic for me. No wasted energy. No financial regret. No new clutter in my home. I simply relaxed and enjoyed my time with family and friends.

Good organizing is meant to improve our quality of life. Sometimes just keeping it simple can do the same.
It’s a great theme to begin the new year.
What might you want to experiment with?

Communication in 2015

I remember that image from my childhood.

And today I’m working on configuring my WordPress blog so it will play nicely with MailChimp.

Makes the head spin.

I’ve got the invaluable help of Alexander Westcott in my corner.

Wish us luck!