Thursday, April 29, 2010

Home Rules!

HGTV has debuted a new show combing life coaching with home design, Home Rules. This show describes why I ended up starting Spatial Relations Consultant. With any element of home design/organizing is a huge element of personal style and functionality.

Some people thing an organizer comes in and 1-2-3 and wallah you are organized. But 9 times out of 10 the space doesn't stay organized. I feel inspired each time I speak with and meet with a client to want to help them help themselves. Sometimes it helps to have an outsider assess your space. By bringing in a life coach or licensed social worker helps shed new light on your space. I see with many friends and clients the inertia and the frustration mounting. Life Coaches like Fran Harris in Home Rules take a step back and help the client/home owner work through the inertia into something more productive and less paralyzing.

I ask, do you rule your home or does your home rule you?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Design Happens » Archive » Beauty in The Tiniest of Places

Below is a link to a reason you should know where your beauty products are and a fun way to design a easy way to create a masterpiece in your bathroom draw.

Design Happens » Archive » Beauty in The Tiniest of Places

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Metropolitan Etiquette Authority Battles Subway Nose Pickers

While this article is not directly related to spatial relations, it is indirectly related. It makes me wonder how people think it is ok to clip your nails in the subway car or platform, or at their desk at work or even in a jury room? This is something that should only be down in the privacy of one's own home and preferably in the bathroom. I think Jason Shelowitz is providing the MTA riders a huge service by reminding people where they are and how to spatial relate to others in their surroundings.

Wall Street Journal
APRIL 26, 2010, 3:19 PM ET

Metropolitan Etiquette Authority Battles Subway Nose Pickers AnimalNY via Jason Shelowitz Last week, Jason Shelowitz, 30, a Chelsea-based painter and freelance graphic designer, started hanging very realistic facsimiles of MTA service advisories in subway cars and train stations around the city. The goal: to call New Yorkers out for their inappropriate or disgusting behavior, and to make them laugh i the process. “Keep your hands to yourself, perv,” one sign says. Another: “Keep your finger out of your nose. Please.” The posters bear the stamp of the MEA: Metropolitan Etiquette Authority. Shelowitz created more than 300 posters, which he will finish hanging up over the next few days (though he plans to keep a few to sell or give away to friends). We caught up Shelowitz and asked him a few questions about his campaign for civility. How did this project come about? It came about just experiencing different things on the subway and kind of always sharing stories with friends and co-workers. I’m sure you’ve come into work before and said something to the guy sitting next to you, like “You wouldn’t believe it but this morning, someone was eating a big thing of chicken wings and making a mess and throwing bones on the floor and stinking up the whole train.” Is this a joke? It’s not really a joke, it is serious. I love New York and I love the idiosyncratic behaviors of people, but when it starts to invade people’s space…on the subway where you have no escape, it’s messed up. If someone is sitting on the train during rush hour eating a meatball sub, dripping sauce on people’s shoes and they look up and happen to see my poster, they might think, ‘This is incredibly disruptive to other people. Maybe I shouldn’t be eating this on the train. Maybe I should just wait to get off at my stop.’ So I was hoping I get through to a couple of people, but really I just wanted to make people smile and relate to it. How did you decide which behaviors to target? I sent out a mass email and asked people to send me some their subway gripes. I decided I was only going to do ten posters so I narrowed them down to the ten most occurring. Nail-clipping was a little more obscure, but I threw it in there because I just thought it was funny. Once I had them, I re-wrote them and formulated them into some clever copy so people would at least smile when they saw them. Where did you put them? Mostly on the trains themselves. I’ve done the F, V, A, C, E and L trains. I tried and put them next to the service-change posters. Brooklyn and Manhattan are the only boroughs that have them in the stations…I shuffled them so that they would be in random order. The only site specific ones are the staircase pieces, which I try and put near stairs. Are you going to make more? No. I decided I wanted to do a small amount because I believed it wasn’t going to take much to get the message out. I’m doing such a small run, I’m not really causing a pollution problem or a mess problem in the stations. Have the police contacted you? Any fines?
There are probably only ten you can see up anywhere because people are taking them really quickly. I think that’s why the MTA hasn’t contacted me yet. They haven’t really seen them. I witnessed two workers in Union Square checking some out after I put them up. And they loved them. They were laughing and kept walking. Do you think the MTA should be doing something like this? I don’t know if it would be as effective. They tell you not to hold the doors open. There are little notes on buses and there are signs on the subway that say give up your seats to people who need them. And to not throw trash around. But they are so ubiquitous that people don’t pay attention. What’s the most annoying thing that is ever happened to you personally on the train? I saw a woman eating — she had a plastic bag full of crabs. And she was straight up sucking the meat out of crab parts and then throwing them on the floor. That was probably the most disturbing, just purely disgusting, thing. I had a little turd next to me on the seat once. I was trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. I thought I stepped in something. I don’t know if it was from a baby or a chihuahua or what. That was gross. The turd was on the 1 train. The crab was I think on the F train.

Tips from my Aunts

I saw my aunts this weekend and one shared with me an article clipping and the other shared with me a tip that she found in a magazine and carried out herself and found it to be very productive.

Aunt #1 tips on organizing:

In Paula Span's posting in on 1/28/10, she writes about "Help for Hoarding" she looks at how hoarding is a disorder the slowly progress as we get older.

This makes sense in the big picture of life, the older we get the more pictures, clothes, mementos we accumulate. the problem begins, as Span discuss in her posting, when the individual becomes debilitated by the collections.

By periodically going through your closets, draws filing cabinets etc is a preventive method to becoming overwhelmed and debilitated down the road.

Thanks Aunt #1 for showing me the article!

Aunt #2 tips on organizing:

Aunt called me this morning, seemingly excited to share a tip she read about and successfully carried out at home. Aunt placed a shopping bag in the floor of her closet. Every time she went into her closet and tried on an item of clothing and didn't wear it or felt she wasn't going to wear it, Aunt placed it inside the shopping bag. Before she knew it the shopping bag was full of clothes she didn't wear and was ready to be dropped for donation.

The most helpful tips are the ones shared by friends and family because you know real people can put them to use at home.

Thanks Aunt #2 for sharing your very practical tip!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another article of interest

The continuing popularity behind hoarding and collectors is noted in this latest article of reference. It most cases, home organizing is not as extreme "as scene on TV" but there are elements of taking collecting a bit too far.

In her book, Randy Frost, takes a similar approach to my style of home organizing. To whatever extreme an individuals collecting habits manifest into, it is important to remember as a social worker to start where the client is and not to get ahead of ourselves; long lasting success will result and best benefit the client.

Hoarding: How Collecting Stuff Can Destroy Your Life

Most of us enjoy our stuff. A new car, designer handbag, or gadget can simplify our lives and bring us status pleasure. Then there are the hoarders, those compelled by an obsession to collect and store things - even that which most of us would consider junk, such as scraps of paper, leaky buckets, and old newspapers. Homes become almost uninhabitable. Narrow pathways referred to as "goat trails" wind through piles of stuff and stacks of things cover sofas and beds, rendering the furniture useless. There are between 6 and 15 million hoarders living in the U.S., and some 75 cities now have task forces dedicated specifically toward working with hoarders in their community.

In their new book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things Randy Frost, a psychology professor at Smith College and co-author Gail Steketee, dean at Boston University's School of Social Work, debunk the myths behind the phenomenon. Frost spoke to TIME about the sometimes dangerous power of possessions. (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.)

In Stuff, you say that self-storage facility rentals are way up and that the average home size has increased 60 percent. Is the U.S. at risk of becoming a nation of hoarders?
All of us have special relationship with things and that relationship is in some ways magical. We get carried away with those attachments and - while that could get more of us into trouble with our possessions - most of us are able to decide when an object begins to interfere with our life. We do something about it at that point. That's the thing that's so troublesome for people who hoard: when the object begins to interfere, they simply put up with it rather than deal with the item.

So they don't realize that their possessions have this powerful effect over them?
We haven't seen too many people who have absolutely no insight. When it comes down to it, in a certain context, they are able to say, 'I've got a problem.' But when they are talking to someone who is trying to get them to throw things away, it's very difficult to say, 'Yeah, I should throw this stuff away.' If they pick up something and someone asks the question, 'Will you throw this away?' all the attachments to that thing overwhelm any thoughts of being without it. (See how to prevent illness at any age.)

You talk about treatment where you go into people's homes and help them sort through their stuff in order to get their lives back. They learn how to distinguish between what items are meant to be saved and what can be tossed. Are those who make it through the treatment able to stay clutter-free?
It's a struggle. When I asked one woman if I could describe her as a former hoarder - because she has been living pretty much clutter-free for the past six or seven years - she said no. She gave a little anecdote about her thoughts about throwing away a yogurt cup. It was [still] excruciating for her. Part of her phenomena is a tendency to anthropomorphize things and give them feelings. She felt so badly for this cup that she was throwing away. That it was the one that got rejected. That it had to go into this bin and maybe it would be humid and uncomfortable. (Comment on this story.)

What do you think people might be surprised to learn about hoarders?
There are some myths out there about hoarding - that these people are just lazy or messy - and it's really much different than that. It's layered and it's complex. It covers not only attachments to possessions, but the ability to process information in a way that's efficient. You talk to many people with hoarding problems and they'll say, 'I don't really have a hoarding problem, it's just that I don't have enough time to get rid of this stuff.' In fact what's happening, because of the way they process information, is that it takes them so much time to decide to throw something out that they can't keep up with the in-flow.

Do you ever get frustrated and just want to say, 'Oh, just throw it out already'?
I think the thing that sort of captured me and allowed me to do it was just the fascination with the nature of the attachment to the thing: What it is that causes this person to be so attached to this thing? How do they think about this thing? How is that process different from the the process the rest of us go through? It's that curiosity, I think, that keeps me from being impatient with these folks. It's very important to avoid that impatience because that's what these folks have gotten all their lives.

What is the most dramatic incident you've witnessed?
The first time I met Ralph from Stuff we were going through the house [and] his description of the clean out (when his possessions were forcibly removed from his home) that had happened to him was so vivid. And this was something that had happened three years before. The pain in his eyes struck me. He walked me throughout the house, as much as it could be walked through, and pointed out things that were no longer there. These rooms are full of things and he's talking about things that aren't there. One was a name plate off a door that he had taken it down to repair, he described it and then looked at me and literally shouted "GONE!" That sticks in my mind as such a profound experience of just how deeply this had hurt him, getting rid of all that stuff.

Do you often encounter the far extreme of hoarding, like where people actually keep everything?
Yes, we do. In fact, in one of the first groups we ran there was a woman who saved used sanitary napkins and her argument was that she was going to dry them out and use them again. We also had another person who saved everything - parts of her body, everything that came into her house. She had used band aids stuck on the bathroom wall. The first time I was there she worked on at least trying to take them off the bathroom wall and it was just excruciating for her. She was crying and just in horrible pain pulling these band aids off the wall and putting them into a box. The hair that was collected in the bathtub was equally difficult for her to get rid of.

Why do you think that we are so intrigued by this? The A&E show, Hoarders is quite popular, as is TLC's Buried Alive. What is it that makes us want to know about these people?
Part of it is voyeurism. How many chances do we get to really see inside someone's else's life? It is so dramatic to look at someone's home, see it this way, and then imagine how in the world someone could live there. How could they navigate through the rooms? What does this person have to do to get from the dining room to the kitchen?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Objects of Accumulation NY Times Article

This article caught my eye yesterday in the NY Times Magazine backpage. It is always insightful as a social worker to hear people's stories and how they reflect back on them and grow from the experiences. Something that struck me was this line from the article:

"Or you could say the stuff doesn’t matter. It’s the lifetime that counts."

This idea resonates with my style of organizing, safe keeping, and decluttering. It's not about the stuff you collect but what you do with the stuff and what it means to you.

Enjoy the article below.

April 19, 2010

People spend the first half of their lives accumulating stuff and the last half getting rid of it. That’s the story of eBay. And of my parents — except for the getting-rid-of-it part. If their life were a Frank Capra movie, it would be called “You Can’t Throw It Away.” Or, in the language of reality TV: “Hoarders: Rubber-Band and Rotary-Phone Edition.” Which is great if you want to put your hands on that lifelike machine gun you had when you were 9. But not so great when it comes time to sell the house.

We’re talking 50 years’ worth of stuff. The prospect of clearing it out had been looming for a while. My mother hadn’t lived there in two years, after a fall sent her into a nursing home. My dad died in ’97. The place was empty, except for a student who rented the top floor for $400 a month and my occasional visits from L.A. Not the wisest use of a three-story Tudor in the heart of Toronto right now, with the city in the throes of an overheated real estate market.

My parents bought the house in 1960 and started filling it with furniture, art, books, LPs, photos, china, silver, crystal, keepsakes and, yes, black rotary phones as heavy as anvils. Memories attached to all of it. And all of it had to go somewhere.

This was on me, their only child. So in March, I gave myself a week. No wife. No kids. No boozing with high-school buddies. I was racing the clock from the minute I landed.

First, the kitchen. An entire drawer of rubber bands, twist ties and those plastic bread thingies. Two cabinets filled with glass jars of every shape and size. Junk I’d been desperate to throw out for years. Before I knew it, I’d filled 20 garbage and recycling bags. Then 40. And it didn’t look as if I’d done anything.

This was a waste of time. Anyone could toss the junk. The important thing was to separate what to keep from what we’d get rid of. I thought about my two boys, 5 and 3. Christmas decorations — definitely. My old toys — they’d already requested the machine gun. My Richmal Crompton “William” books. Thank God they saved all this!

Next, the closets. All jampacked. I started in my mother’s bedroom and lost an hour flipping through a Simpsons department store Christmas catalog from 1974. Every present I’d ever gotten was in here. My G.I. Joes with the kung-fu grip and Village People beards. That “Professional Hockey” game that let you change out all the N.H.L. teams. Ker Plunk! Of course the catalog was in here — this closet was where she used to hide those presents. Where I’d find them before Christmas, then pretend I hadn’t.

I dug deeper. Here was my groundbreaking Grade 5 project on whales, lifted largely from our Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia. My mother’s homework from the ’40s. In German, French, Spanish. A Moderns prodigy, she went on to teach high school. My father was a professor (Spanish literature and language). That kind of explained the saved homework. Certainly the books in every room. I knew those would be hard to unload. Some I shipped home to L.A. At the post office, I was filling out a customs form and asked the young clerk what I should put under “value.” She looked confused: “Used books? I don’t think they’re worth anything.”

I shuttled between the house and meals with my mother at the nursing home, where I’d wolf down a no-sodium, soft-food lunch or dinner to fuel my return to the personal museum I was dismantling. In the basement, I peeled off the poster from my father’s days in La Barraca, Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca’s traveling theater troupe. In the 20-foot-deep closet under the eaves, I found a backpack I think he used in the Spanish Civil War. I was in a nostalgia vortex — a very strange place. Ever look through 60 years of passport photos? It’s like a mortality flip-book.

Speaking of dust, I was covered in it. I washed my hands raw. At around 2 a.m., I’d try to sleep, to quiet the Proustian rush of memory and emotion set off by every object I touched. Finally, after five 15-hour days, I was done.

I met with a couple of estate-sale people, one of whom looked around the house unimpressed and said, “You don’t have that much here.” But she took the job. When the sale was over, she called me with the final tally. A few grand — for a lifetime of stuff.

Or you could say the stuff doesn’t matter. It’s the lifetime that counts.

Rick Marin is a television writer living in Los Angeles.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tired of clothes slipping off hangers?

Ties, tank tops, or silk shirts always slipping off the hanger?
These two products are key items to have when it comes to flipping your closet over to summer

"Huggable Hangers®" at The Container Store or "Real Simple Slimline Hangers with Built-in Hooks" at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The thinness of the hangers helps maximize space in your closets to squeeze more inside. These hangers are not has bulky as traditional plastic hangers and more supportive than dry cleaner wire hangers.

Don't forget to search online for coupons for % off before you head out to the store or shop online!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Something old, something new

My latest find that involves NOT throwing things away but rather finding a new purpose for is.... a t-shirt quilt (

After staring at shirts that are just too old to be worn or worn down but have much sentimental value, I wanted to find a creative way to keep them in my life. Quickly realized my novice sewing skills were not going to cut it, I would leave to the experts I found online. Priced out various companies and compared their advertised work and narrowed it down to Campus Quilting. I have been very pleased with their quick response and timely delivery of the final product.

The range of quilt options seems to start at $250+ depending on the number of t-shirts and additional features you may opt for. I opted for the wall hanging rod so we can have the option to display the final product in a room or use it has something to cozy up under while emptying the DVR.

It might be an expensive way to archive your shirts but it is something that will last, free up dresser draw space and for sure be a memorable conversation piece.