Archive for ‘Downsizing’ Category

Posted on: January 5th, 2018 by Julie Bestry | 1 Comment

We’re a few days into the new year, and people are still buzzing about resolutions (Paper Doll doesn’t make them) and theme words or mantras (mine for 2018 is LAUNCH). Americans’ top New Year’s resolutions always include losing weight, straightening out finances, and breaking bad habits, but according to market research, 80% of resolutions are broken by the second week of January. It doesn’t have to be that way.

January is National Get Organized Month, and I was on my local NBC affiliate’s morning lifestyle program today, sharing my organizing philosophy and providing tips on how you can kick start your resolution to get organized this year. The conversation was free-flowing, covering some specifics of organizing, but also delving into the personal. For example, Julie Edwards, the host of 3 Plus You, asked me whether you can “make” your children become organized adults. I said that I believe that like anything else, the best way to help your children is to teach useful skills and model good behavior. | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

When I was asked about how to deal with different personal organizing styles, I pointed out that within families (and with co-workers), the key is to maintain good communication, and understand that just because someone’s organizing approach is different from yours, it’s not “wrong.” It just may not be right for you.

Here are some tips I think will help you get a running start to achieving your organizing goals in 2018.


I tell my clients, “Don’t put things down, put them away.” The word “away” presupposes you’ve already got a location in mind. But good organizing systems have two parts: the where & the how. When you bring groceries home, you put the ice cream away in the freezer immediately to keep from having a melted, sticky mess. It’s very rare for someone to put away the toilet paper or breakfast cereal before the frozen foods. The freezer is the “where” but putting the ice cream away first is the “how.” It’s so innate, you don’t even think about.

Clutter comes from deferred decision making. With ice cream, you don’t even have to stop and think; it’s instinct. With everything else in your life, when you go shopping (or even when offered things for free), decide on a home before you buy or bring it in. Once it’s in your space, build fixed time into your calendar for how/when you’ll deal with maintaining it or getting it back to where it lives. (When will you do laundry? When will you file financial papers? What will be your trigger — when the laundry basket or in-box is full, or will you put it on your calendar?)

Remember: “Someday” is not a day on the calendar.


I say this to every prospective client. The eople calling me are focused on the idea of creating systems and order, but don’t always recognize the larger truth, that not everything you own needs to stay in your orbit forever. If it’s broken and you’re not willing to spend the time or money to repair it, let it go.  If you have an emotional attachment to something that’s broken, outdated, or takes up too much space to keep, take a photo of you holding it or wearing it. Then set it free!

Give what is no longer age, size, or lifestyle-appropriate new life via charity or consignment. Let it be a blessing to someone else. Setting up a donation station in your home is as easy as putting a box or plastic tub in your utility room, mudroom, or garage. When you’re doing laundry or sorting through toys in the playroom, if it doesn’t fit your life, take it to the donation box right away. When the box is full, log the contents (if you’ll be taking a deduction), and deliver it to your favorite non-profit. Don’t wait until you have lots of boxes – one box of useful items or clothes, sent on its way, is more useful to others than mountains of boxes that never make it out of your home.


I love The Container Store as much as the next professional organizer. But buying oodles of storage containers – bins, boxes, tubs, and shelves – can only help you organize if you pare down to what you need and want.

Think of it this way: when you see a great outfit at the store, it’s not realistic to say, “Hey, I’ll buy this now and then lose 30 pounds to fit into it.” Even if you do declutter the personal poundage, you never know from where, exactly, that weight will disappear, so shouldn’t buy the new outfit hoping you’ll lose weight in the right places to fit into it.

I’m not saying not to acquire storage containers, but don’t do it first. Once you pare down, pick colorful, fun containers that suit your needs, space, and tastes.


When it comes to clutter, it’s not the space it takes up in your house, it’s the dent it puts in your life! If you’re late every day because you can’t find your keys and your kids can’t find their homework, it’s a much bigger deal than a cluttered guest room closet or drawers of old birthday party pictures that haven’t been scrapbooked.

Focus on your biggest daily stressors, break them down into small, actionable steps, and solve those first. You don’t need to do it all at once, but if you develop a habit of doing a little bit at a time, once your space is straightened up, maintenance will feel natural.

Go through just 5 hangers or one drawer each night. Clear a counter for the daily launch pad of essential items to get out the door. Hang a key hook by the front door and make it a nighttime ritual with your kids to check everything is there that you’ll all need the next day.


Give yourself permission to declare bankruptcy on the “debt” of unworn clothes three sizes too small or catching up on reading months of magazines. Holding onto something just because you spent money on it or because it was a gift doesn’t make it any more valuable or useful; it just ends of costing you time (dusting or caring for it), space (that you could use for more important things), or money (spent on dry-cleaning or storage rental).

If you’re overwhelmed with thousands (or tens of thousands) or unread emails, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, or check out the classic Paper Doll post, A Different Kind of Bankruptcy, to give you some step-by-step action items.

Don’t feel guilty! Remember, supermodels on those magazine covers are airbrushed and Photoshopped. They don’t really look like that. The same is true with the rooms you see in home and garden magazines. Nobody actually lives in spaces like that – those rooms were specially designed and curated to look “perfect.” No dual-career families with toddler toys and pre-teen soccer team sleepovers live in those magazine homes. Cut yourself some slack.


Getting your space, time, and priorities in order can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. Weight Watchers and 12-step programs succeed because they give people accountability and support. To help you reach your organizing goals, buddy up with:

  • Your spouse – Trade tasks you don’t particularly love (like laundry for balancing the checkbook) and you’re less likely to procrastinate on doing what you enjoy.
  • Your kids – Children love to “catch” adults breaking the rules and best them at competitions. Make organizing a game – play Beat the Clock to see who can collect the most things that don’t belong in the living room before the song ends, and then work together to put the items away. Make a rule that anything found on the wrong level of the house goes in a basket by the stairs, and everyone must take something (one item for little ones; the whole basket for grownups), and let everyone have a chance to “blow the whistle” on those who forget.
  • Friends – Make organizing social. Invite a friend over for lunch and to help organize your closet or kitchen this weekend. Then do the same for your friend’s pantry or laundry room next week.
  • A professional organizer – As a Certified Professional Organizer®, I know how much my clients get out of having someone who knows the ropes guide them in making solid decisions and developing systems to surmount those challenging obstacles. Find a professional organizer near you by using the search function for the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).

May you have a happy, healthy, and organized 2018!






Posted on: April 25th, 2017 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

In this space, we usually talk about organizing paper, information, and finances. Of course, we often dig deeply into the intellectual and emotional reasons why we keep clutter, and how we can best arrange what’s left. But if you spend any time peeking behind the curtain here at Best Results Organizing (that’s Paper Doll HQ to you blog readers), you know that my services and expertise extend beyond on the realm of paper and information.

Over the past few years, one arm of my business has focused on helping individuals and couples downsize to prepare for the next stages in their lives. Sometimes, this is just clearing the decks to make room for more of the fun stuff of retirement. Other times, it’s in preparation for a move — to a smaller home or senior living. This has included a variety of speaking engagements, including the following upcoming presentation.

Bestry Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove

If you find yourself in the Chattanooga, Tennessee or North Georgia area, please consider attending. The presentation will cover:

  • All the reasons why it’s so difficult to let go of things, even things we know we don’t need and won’t use
  • How to understand the three types of relative value of the things you might downsize — sentimental value, financial value, and practical value
  • What goes into determining marketability of the items you might want to sell, including rarity, age, and condition, and why not everything “old” is an antique, and not everything collected is a “collectible”
  • Strategies for coping with the stresses of downsizing
  • How to choose where downsized items should go when they leave your home
  • and much more…

So, if you are starting to think about downsizing for the next stage in your life, and you’re in Paper Doll‘s general geographic area, please call Garden Plaza to RSVP.

Of course, that’s not all that’s going on for Paper Doll. I’m spending this week in Pittsburgh with my fabulous colleagues at the National Association of Professional Organizers Annual Conference and Expo. I’m looking forward to telling you about all the organizing wonders I see and what we learn in our classes.