Organized Life by Becca

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Get Ready to Sell

 Disperse the Stuff

Below is an article I wrote recently for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper's "Ask the Expert" column.    Maybe you'll find some helpful tips.


"I need to clean out my father’s home since he just moved into an assisted living facility and had to leave most of the household goods.   The house will be sold once finished, but I'm overwhelmed and at a loss about how to begin.   It's a mix of valuable things, useful items, and simply junk.   What is the best way to go about it to maximize profit for him and minimize the time commitment for me?"


This is a daunting project and is becoming more common as seniors do not always live out their lives in the family home surrounded by their acquisitions.   Many of my clients contact me because of the sense of overwhelm that you are feeling.   Expect an emotional and physically challenging job with a significant time commitment when you are called upon to empty out a home filled with memories.

This is the process that I use when assisting families with this task, and hopefully it will help the reader.

      This is the Big Picture review of the contents .  It’s best to begin after they have moved and taken everything they need for their new home.  

Start with a clipboard (you will look and feel more organized immediately) and walk through the house room by room with a page per room.   Jot down the big items, plus a more general entry for small stuff.  For instance:  “hall closet -  coats, weather gear,  gift wrap supplies”.  It’s not an individual inventory which takes a long time and should not be needed unless there is a trust involved.  Expect to spend less than 15-20 minutes per room.

Star items that you expect to be desired by friends/family. 

Notate other items that will not be given away because there is real cash value – more than $10-20 is my usual cut off.  Less than that and it usually makes more sense to donate.  These include antiques, serious collectibles (not Beanie Babies – not yet anyway, sorry!), modern appliances in that work, tools, and furniture in very good condition.

This assessment will help determine what categories to use as you go through the rooms.

       Go through the home in a methodical manner room by room and begin marking with sticky notes or placing things into a designated area for the categories below.  It’s best if you can have space in different rooms for each category because it will become confusing as you work through it.  

This is the most time consuming and emotional part of the job, so leave yourself plenty of time and take a lot of breaks.  You may need to watch for hidden or lost valuable items too depending upon your father’s habits.  Get help if you can for this part from a friend, family member, or a Professional Organizer.


1. Give to friends and family Hopefully this was decided before your relative left the home, but if not you will need to have friends and family members come to the home and find an equitable way to divide the treasures.  Take photos if you need to send the information to out-of-towners.

The key thing here is to set a deadline!   I promise, I’ve seen and done this many times and some people will not make this property division a priority  without a hard date.  Notify everyone when the final sale/pick up/toss will happen and the absolute last day that they may come and take the appropriate things.   You’ll want to get an attorney involved early on if there are very valuable items or dissension about the dispersal.

2. Sell – Auction, Live Estate Sale, Whole Home Buyout, Yard/Garage Sale.  There are many options which you can research, or hire a professional organizer or move manager for advice.  Some of these businesses stay booked months in advance, so keep your end date in mind.  Auction and estate sale professional s in this area are fairly particular about the homes and stuff they will accept.

The best choice depends upon the value of the items and the timeline for clearing the home.  If you do it yourself find appraisers for valuables.  I personally think the garage sale is an absolute last option.  It’s a ton of work for typically small monetary return.

3.  Donate -   Choose a charity that is meaningful to your father and you and this will be much easier.   It helps if you know the things are going to a cause that you support.  Check into their guidelines for what they will accept and know that most charities have certain days of the month that they pick up, so plan this well in advance to work with your schedule. 

Donations are tax deductible for people who itemize and when given to approved charities.  You must keep the receipt and have a list of donated goods and their sale value to satisfy the IRS.  The Salvation Army has an online listing of valuations, and here is a good website calculator  to keep track of donated items.

4.  Toss/Recycle – Anything that has no value to others should be discarded.  Recycle what you can and check with the local sanitation/solid waste department to see if they will pick up larger items that won’t fit into existing trash cans.   Many cities offer a free curbside pick up once or twice per year.   If it is a really big job (I have worked on these), hire a hauling company to pick up and remove the tossed stuff.

      I absolutely recommend hiring a professional cleaning company once it’s empty.  They’ll get into every nook and cranny to make it shine for sale.  More importantly it will save you hours of hard work.

Best of luck with your project!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Moving Innovations

What's New in the Least Favorite Activity in the World?

If you have not moved in the past several years there are several updated products and services that can help simplify your project and reduce the impact on your pocketbook, your time, and on the planet.  Some are especially good for DIYers.

Innovations include:

     1.  Moving cubes - known in the Central AR area as “Green Boxes” (   These are sturdy plastic bins with attached tops that you order in advance of your move.  Once delivered to your home you pack and move as you would traditional boxes.  You do not have to put them together or use tape to close.   Then simply 1) call your selected mover to pick them up 2) unpack at your new home on your own schedule, and 3) call Green Box when you are ready for them to pick up.   They sanitize and re-use them,   which keeps  cardboard waste out of landfills.  Their website comparison indicates they are less expensive than using newly purchased cardboard boxes, but I have not personally verified this yet.

   2.  Puffy Stuff is Green Box’s alternative to Styrofoam cushioning pellets.  They are bio-degradable  and so much better for the earth, and they will pick them up in the Green Boxes if you save them.

       3.  Recycled newsprint – the common newspaper everyone has used for wrapping breakables but before it’s been printed on.   This eliminates the messy hands and occasional ink transfers  to your items.  Best of all the papers are cut and sold in a handy acessible box when you’re busy wrapping all those collectibles.  Available at most moving and storage locations.

        4.       PODS are large shipping crates that you fill on your own schedule, then call to have the POD moved to your new home.   This gives you more flexibility if you want to wrap and pack over a few days or weeks, and it will usually save some costs for movers.  One downside:  in hilly Arkansas they are not always suitable since a level site is required.  Also, be sure to check with your property owner’s or neighborhood association to be sure they are allowed, or if there is any time limit for their use.

      5.      If you need to ship just a few pieces – say to family or friends – compare package companies like UPS to other transporting options.  I have shipped surprisingly large heavy items – like a big cedar chest - with them.  Delivery was quick, and they can very professionally crate or box anything for a fee.

   6.      My company recently switched to a paper tape sold at U-Haul stores, and  if you use standard cardboard boxes you might want to consider it too.  Not bargain priced necessarily, but there is no roller/applicator required, it never gets stuck to itself, and you can write on it with a Sharpie.  Huge time-saving win for those boxing up a lot of stuff.

   7.      For those with any time and/or physical limitations there are excellent relocation services available to make your move a breeze.  Some movers offer packing, and there are full service companies that can provide everything from project management,  downsizing assistance,  space planning, packing, moving, unpacking, completely setting up and organizing the new home, and dispersal of any items not making the move.  It might be worth it to save your time and sanity. My company is Your Best Move in Central Arkansas.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Best Desk Tips

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette has a column called "Ask the Expert", and some months the question calls for a Professional Organizer.  I wrote this for the September 5th, 2015 paper, and maybe it will help your family too!

Here's the question:

Now that the summer has wound down, it's time for my family to get back into the groove of school and turn our attention back to homework and class projects. What tips can you offer to help me provide the most space-saving and efficient workspace for the desk in my fifth-grader's bedroom? Thanks in advance!

My answer:
The desk is one of the most important pieces of furniture in a child’s room and it’s great that you want to maximize the benefits.   Here are some of the goals and solutions that I present when working with clients.

      Create Work Zones – Determine what types of work will be done at the desk – reading, writing, computer/tablet use, arts and crafts?  Once a reasonable number of uses is established set up zones for those activities.  Include a place for the required tools if it’s something that will be done on a regular basis.  You can move things around as needs change, but they should be easily available without leaving or even crossing the room to increase efficiency and reduce frustration.

       *  Minimize distractions – remove any unnecessary clutter and electronics from the desk area – particularly addictive games!  Best to shield TVs and other attention-grabbers from view if at all possible.  Multi-tasking has been proven to be neither effective nor efficient for children or adults.

       *  When space is at a premium always go vertical.  Use all the wall space behind the desk and install a few shelves (not too many – surfaces can become clutter magnets), and a peg board or white/magnetic board for tools and important papers.  I advise against cork boards or anything with push pins for a child’s space.  They always end up on the floor!

      *  If more space is needed for office supplies, crafts items, etc., look for a rolling drawer cart to tuck under or place beside the desk.  There are handy ones with lots of drawers available for minimal cost at craft stores, or go for something sturdier with the elfa system from Container Store.  The primary goal is keep the desk surface clear and ready for work.

       *  Keep the work area sacred and toss, move or archive keepsakes like trophies, greeting cards, dolls, trucks, art projects, etc.  Anything purely cute and not functional is probably wasting prime space.  These things can live in other parts of the room.  Color, fun design, and comfort are essential and increase the incentive to spend time and use the desk, but they should all contribute to the functionality of work.

       *  Take a photograph of large projects like dioramas or science fair entries while they are pristine and toss the project.  Yes, it’s hard, but you’ll clear up necessary space and those things do NOT wear well over time in a child’s room.  Trust me!
         *  Organizing tips for managing some of the stuff:   use drawer dividers to provide easy access and to avoid duplicate buying.   If you can’t see it, you don’t own it.  Try to stack items like books, binders, and papers, vertically rather than horizontally.   It’s too easy to lose papers and books in a pile.

       *  Two items I highly recommend for a student this age:  a paper school planner ( planner) and a timer.

*  Include the student in this planning and organizing process.  They may view the activities and the stuff needed very differently than you do.   Your child’s input while setting up the desk is key to their success.

     *  Reward a neat, organized space.  An idea from elementary teachers is the “desk fairy” who secretly places a small surprise treat on the student’s desk when they’ve done a good job handling the clutter.  The school is teaching and probably requiring desk management and organization skills, so don’t buy any “I don’t know how” arguments.  Here’s your chance to reinforce what their teachers are already saying.

Written by Becca Clark, Professional Organizer
July 2015

Owner of Creative Convenience and Your Best Move

Serving Central Arkansas since 2006