Monday, March 28, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I have narrowed my search down to the Dirt Devil Featherlite Bagless but of course now that it was featured in Consumer Reports and Good Morning America it's sold out everywhere!
The search continues.....the crumbs are piling up and our Dirt Devil Kone just isn't cutting it anymore for the larger spaces.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Inside my wallet you will find:
1) my drivers license
2) my health insurance card
3) credit card
4)back up credit card
5) a few business cards
6) library card
cash and coins
That's it! and that is also what was inside Suze Orman's thin wallet, she showed it on air.
I've had this conversation with Husband before about thinning out his wallet. Why carry around old ticket stubs, expired id's, college ids? Usually when I come home I take out all receipts into a basket I keep by where I leave my bag. Then at the end of the week I take 5 minutes and go thru the basket to see what I need to keep for my files and what I can toss in the shredder. Husband has the theory that you never know if you need "x" or you never know if you need "y". Well my philosophy is if you have to start your sentence with "you never know" then you should toss it or at least take it out of what you carry every day.
Also from a safety perspective, having had my wallet stolen twice in my life, the less you carry around with you the easier and quicker it is to call and cancel the credit cards and id cards to get new ones.
The inspiration for this blog.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Papers from high school, undergrad and grad school? Have them stacked in boxes in someone's basement or in the back of a closet, just in case you want to reference them or because you worked so hard them? Scanning is a great way to preserve the work and the paper quality and free up space!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
"I build a house! What a silly question. Don't we all need more stuff?"
-Martha Stewart on what she does when she runs out of storage room
While I do not recommend building a house or even renting a storage unit, I do believe there are ways to manage memorabilia and archives in all living space. This quote goes back to my theory with organizing and stuff: out of sight, out of mind. Find useful ways to store old papers, toys, etc.
Need ideas.....email me!
On a side note: one of the things I enjoy most about working with my clients is helping them move things out of their space once they've decided to part with their items. I do the research of places to donate things, set up delivery, etc.
This local organizing told me they are not accepting donations because of budget cuts. I replied that I wasn't looking for money but rather to drop off a donation to a family in need. And the woman on the other end of the phone responded that there is no one working at the donation center to accept the items nor could I drop them off at the main office.
I am beside myself because an organizing that helps families in need and poverty can not accept free donations? What is wrong with this picture???
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Not that we are planning on moving anytime soon, I do feel good about my re-coaxing project in the kitchen, reassured about our wall paint choices, with major color consultation courtesy from Sister-in-Law and Sister-in-Law's sister, our new appliances and my decluttering style.
Whether you are renting or buying, the nature in which you care for you living conditions can make all of the difference.
February 21, 2011
To Sell an Apartment, No Detail Is Too Small
By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY
On a recent Thursday morning, Jamella Swift, a Citi Habitats broker, was trying to anticipate every detail that would prevent a buyer from purchasing the two-bedroom condo she was selling in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She put a full-size bed in the bedroom so buyers wouldn’t think the room was too small. She dragged in a Lucite coffee table to create the illusion of a larger living space and set up three floor lamps to supplement the recessed lighting. Ms. Swift hoped that the $5,000 she had spent would help her land $395,000 to $425,000 for the apartment.
Ms. Swift learned how much details could detract from the value after representing a couple who was ready to buy an apartment for more than $7 million. The apartment had a rainy, musty smell that Ms. Swift thought the selling broker could have fixed by buying a dehumidifier. Ms. Swift’s client backed out.
“It could have been a done deal,” Ms. Swift said. Brokers say small moves can alter the ultimate sales price of an apartment by 5 to 10 percent. The calculations are irrational, and buyers are usually unaware they are doing it. But chipped plaster or broken bathroom tiles can knock $500 to $5,000 off an offer, $1,500 floating walls can add $50,000 to $70,000, and a $10,000 paint job easily adds $50,000 to the price, according to an informal survey of city brokers.
Some more recent examples they provided of real estate math:
Clutter: Subtract 5 to 15 percent. Douglas Heddings, founder of the brokerage Heddings Property Group, watched two West End Avenue apartments that were exactly the same come up for sale at the same time. One apartment, where the sellers cleared out all of their spare toys and books, sold quickly. The second, more cluttered apartment lingered on the market for more than a year and sold for 15 percent less.
Fresh towels and throw pillows: add $25,000. Geraldine Onorato represented a client selling a two-bedroom where the buyers received offers for no more than $450,000. Ms. Onorato spent $700 on a fresh bath mat and fluffy white towels and brought in an offer for $475,000.
Dirty rugs: subtract $5,000. Before Ivy Paterni, an agent with City Connections Realty, brought to market a one-bedroom apartment at 5 Tudor City, she knew buyers would focus on the off-white living room rug that had grayed with time. “Nobody wants to buy a home that at any point in its history was dirty,” Ms. Paterni said. She bought a sandy white $400 rug at Northeast Floor Covering, bought some extra plants and had the seller repaint the apartment neutral cream. She is listing it for $499,000 and estimates that without these changes she would have had to list it for $494,000.
Regrouting tile: add $100,000 (to a $3 million apartment, that is). Deanna Kory, a Corcoran broker, advised the seller of an eight-room apartment in the West 80s to spend a few hundred dollars on regrouting. “If you see a bathroom that needs a lot of grouting, you think it needs to be ripped up,” she said. She estimates that grouting, along with moving around furniture and adding lighting, will bring in at least $100,000 more for a $3 million apartment.
New fixtures and appliances: add $250 in rent. Chris Mercogliano, a local landlord, was shopping for a tenant for his $1,800-a-month two-bedroom apartment at 508 East 78th Street. He spent about $1,600: new outlets and light switches ($100), tiles for the kitchen and dining area ($500), four new light fixtures ($40), blinds for three windows ($75) and a new stainless steel stove, microwave and refrigerator ($1,000). It rented for $2,050 a month.
New lights: add $32,500. Michael Akerly of Rutenberg Realty had been trying to sell his two-bedroom apartment at 15 Broad Street for a year for $949,000. He received an all-cash offer for about $800,000 and a second offer for $885,000. He took it off the market, rented it for a year and paid a professional lighting designer $150 for advice. He spent $2,000 replacing his chandelier and ceiling fan with two large drum lights. In two weeks he had an offer for $917,500.
Replacing cabinets: add $107,000. Frances Katzen was recently selling a one-bedroom apartment in Murray Hill, at 245 East 35th Street, that she advised her client to list for no more than $310,000. After he spent $20,000 on new kitchen cabinets and paint, she listed it for $429,000, and it went to contract for $417,000.
An expensive shoe closet: worth every dollar. Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier has found that when buyers walk into a closet filled with Christian Louboutins, they are likely to pay more of a premium than what the seller spent on her shoe collection. She advises sellers, “You can buy 25 pairs of designer shoes, put them in your closet, and they’re going to get more than you spent on them.” That’s because, Ms. Kleier said, “people want to step into your life.”
Monday, January 24, 2011
Enjoy my comments and feedback to Tobak's very important points.
1. Do less social networking and more real networking. Disengage with your gadgets and engage with people. Networking in the real world will do far more good for your business and career than networking in the virtual world.
Social networking can be a great start to get your foot in the door but there is nothing like making the real connections with real people to make that personal connection. The same goes for our own productivity. How many hours can we spend checking facebook, linkedin and our email when we could be doing 100 other things from our "to do" list. Focus on making short increments to be productive (20 minutes social networking: 20 minutes real time productive work/interaction.
2. Forget 2010. Whether it was the best year on record or a complete disaster, learn what you can from the experience and move on. You’re always better off living in and focusing on the present.
It does not help to pine on the past too long. Enjoy your accomplishments and like Tobak says "move on".
3. Quit whining. Whether it’s your crappy job, your dumbass boss, or your a**hole coworkers, either do something about it or suck it up. Whining doesn’t do a damn thing but make everyone around you as miserable as you are.
Most good friends can tolerate a certain level of complaining; when, one must learn quickly to stop before you get to the end of the line. The best revenge is your own success, do something about it!
4. Stop stressing and deal with it. Whatever it is that has you all wound up, if you actually bite the bullet and deal with it, it’ll free your mind for what really matters. I’ve had a leaky window forever. Yesterday I caulked it. No more leak. It only took 15 minutes. Why didn’t I do that sooner?
You can put the painful task or project behind you quicker than it takes to stress and procrastinate!
5. Put the gadgets down. Safe advice for pretty much all of us in this gadget-crazy world. I guarantee you’ll be more productive and have more fun. Speaking of which …
Again, I find breaking your time down into increments, 20 minute son the computer, 20 minutes of filing/writing/etc, repeat.
6. Have more fun. After all the screwing off I did in college (you wouldn’t believe it if I told you), I ended up with two degrees and a great career. Sure, I work my tail off, but I play just as hard and that’s the key.
7. If it isn’t working, change it. We all have things we know aren’t working. Whether it’s your job, your marriage, or your investment portfolio, once you know for sure, the sooner you change it, the better.
8. Take care of yourself. If you’re too hard on yourself, you should know that it doesn’t do you any good. Just do the best you can and then, be good to yourself. Spend time with yourself. Work out, eat right, meditate, get out and have fun. It’s life, not a treadmill.
It is important to exercise and have a healthy diet. Part of having an organized space and freeing your mind is also living a healthy lifestyle and being and feeling the best YOU you can be.
9. Take risks. Try new things, even if they scare you. Hell, especially if they scare you. I mean, don’t take dumb risks but reasonable, calculated ones. Most people are too risk averse for their own good.
Try new foods, new supplies, new systems....if you don't like it or it doesn't work, lesson learned and onto the next.
10. Stop wasting your time. We all spend a good deal of time on BS. You know what I’m talking about - mindless distraction. If it’s fun or with family and friends, that’s great. But if you sit around for hours with your eyes glued to the TV or PC, you’ve got a problem.
So stop searching for what doesn’t exist and, instead, just do something about it. It’s that simple.
Time management seems like the overall theme in many of this points. Tobak acknowledges the reality of how much time we spend/waste/procrastinate on the computer. Sometimes though it is important to see the potential success we can use with this tool at our finger tips to help propel us forward to places we need to be and go.
18 Things You Can Get Rid of Today
Overtaken by stuff? These mom-tested strategies will have you cleaning house in no time.
By Diana Reese
Just Say No to Too Much Stuff
Stuff. For many of us it's worse than any four-letter word. That's because "stuff" can weigh you down and
Still, getting rid of our discards can be a challenge. Carla Eskelsen, a mom in Farmington, Utah, admits she had trouble letting go of stuff until she figured out how to manage her "pioneer DNA." Once she figured out that donating and recycling "honored" her pioneer ancestors, she found it much easier. "It's about sharing and blessing others instead of keeping it all for yourself," she says. Here's how you can share and bless others with all of your stuff—and end up with a cleaner, more peaceful home while you're at it.
1. Kitchen Utensils
Is your utensil drawer so full you can barely open and close it? You're not alone. When Robin Austin started cleaning her kitchen in preparation for a move, she found she had plenty of duplicate utensils, the result of a new marriage that combined households and six kids. Many of us also buy new utensils but forget to get rid of the old.
Here's a smart way to figure out what you're really using, from Motherboard Mom Jeanne Smith, Overland Park, Kansas: Toss everything—all the spatulas, rubber scrapers, pie servers, and so on—into a box. As you use a utensil from the box, put it back in the drawer. After a month, check what's left in the box. Keep those once-a-year items that remain in the box, like a turkey baster or candy thermometer. But donate the rest.2. Coffee Mugs
Another item many moms find hogging valuable cupboard space: coffee mugs. "We had over 20 coffee mugs," says Kansas mom Dawn Schnake. She and her husband each chose four mugs to keep and donated the rest to a church rummage sale.
"Even if you received something as a gift, it's okay to let it go," says organizer Marilyn Bohn. "You only need to keep what works for you."3. Plastic Containers
Mary Pankiewicz, owner of Clutter-Free and Organized in east Tennessee, suspects that plastic containers have a secret life (probably hanging out with those AWOL socks and hangers). How else can you explain why so many lids and bottoms don't match up? She suggests holding a "lid party" to match up those errant tops and bottoms. Pankiewicz recently took her own advice. "I had 25 lids with no bottoms and six bottoms with no lids," she says. After swapping with friends, she recycled the rest of the mismatched items.4. Little-Used Kitchen Stuff
When was the last time you used that Bundt pan? If it was months ago, maybe you should give it to a friend. That's what Suzy Ayres and a pal did when they performed a joint kitchen cleanup. They took everything out of their cabinets and only put back what they used regularly. "The things that we left out that didn't get used much, we had to choose. If we put one thing back in the cabinet, we had to pick one thing to donate," Ayres says. The two also traded items: "She had lots of muffin pans and I didn't."
An added bonus to the plan: They now know what's in each other's kitchens, and don't need to buy some of those rarely used items, like a Bundt pan. "We've been trading the same ice bucket back and forth for years," Ayres says. "I can't even remember who it belongs to!"5. Vases
Got vases from the last three Valentine's Day bouquets? Take them back to the florist, says Marla Cilley, who lives in Transylvania County, North Carolina, and runs the flylady.net, an Internet site devoted to housecleaning and organization.
"It takes away your creativity and takes over your mind," Cilley says.6. Food
Cupboards full of food you're not sure you're going to use? Some solutions:
•Check the expiration dates on everything in your pantry, fridge, or freezer. If it's about to expire, put it on the menu for that week, says professional organizer Bohn.
•Motherboard Mom Dawn Schnake gives her sons what they call "muffin pan snacks" to get rid of those almost-empty bags of cereal, crackers, and chips. She fills each of the 12 muffin cups with a different snack and throws in some veggies, cut-up fruit, and cheese cubes. "The boys think they've sat down to a feast," she says—and she gets her pantry cleaned out.
•If you know you're never going to use an item—and it's still good—give it to your local food pantry.
•Have an "Eat Out of the Pantry or Freezer" week, says Marla Cilley, flylady.net. You'll be surprised at how creative you can get with your menu planning when you're only using the ingredients on hand. She also suggests this as a way to inspire creativity and frugality: "When you throw away food, imagine you're throwing dollar bills in the trash can!"7. Spices
They don't mold and don't appear to go bad, but spices don't last forever, not even cayenne pepper. (Cinnamon's an exception to the rule.) "Dried is one thing, tasteless is another," says organizer Blanke. Give your spices the smell and taste test and if they've gone bland and boring, dump them. To find out how old your McCormick or Schilling brand spices are, go to http://mccormick.com/Spices101/HowOldSpices.aspx. And when you buy new spices, mark down the date on the package with a Sharpie.8. Receipts
Computers were supposed to usher in a paperless society, but it hasn't happened quite yet. "Most of us are still drowning in paper," says organizer Pankiewicz. She suggests an annual cleanup. Check with your accountant about how long to keep important papers like tax returns but, in general, materials that support tax returns (receipts and so on) can be tossed after seven years.9. Magazines
Do you have a stack of magazines by your bed that you haven't read? If two months have passed and they're still sitting there, consider donating them to a retirement home, hospital, doctor's office, or school. Many take magazines for art projects (if not for reading material). If, like former magazine editor Cherie Spino, a mom of four in Toledo, Ohio, you "can't throw a magazine away without reading it," do the flip-and-rip. Spino rips out recipes or articles she wants to keep and throws the rest into the recycling bin. She's putting the recipes in a binder.
Organizer Bohn suggests tearing out articles and putting them in a folder you can grab when you know you'll be sitting and waiting (think doctor's office). Or, if you're a tech-lover, you can get many popular magazines as an app for your phone or electronic reader.10. Mail
It's a common bad habit: Grab the mail, flip through it for anything interesting, and then set it on "the pile" that accumulates until the day you start searching for overdue bills. "Scan and stand" is the system recommended by organizer Pankiewicz. "Standing is the trick," she says. Don't be tempted to sit down: Bring in the mail. Leave your coat on. Find a place by the wastebasket, recycling bin, or shredder, and stand and handle each piece of mail. Put bills in a basket or pretty gift bag, take magazines to where you read them, scan any newsletters and bulletins for important information, and discard the rest. "Your goal is to make the mail disappear," she says.11. Unread Books
"Books are our friends," says organizer Blanke. "I know my husband won't ever get rid of his dog-chewed copy of Rudyard Kipling's Kim that he's read 50 times." So, keep your favorites—the ones you'll read again or you use for reference—neatly in a bookcase. In fact, if you're a book-lover with a big collection, a whole wall of books can make a dramatic statement and keep them organized. But, if you have lots of volumes that you have no intention of reading any time soon, donate them. Blanke suggests giving them to www.booksforsoldiers.com. "You really are paying it forward when you donate things," she emphasizes.12. Clothes
Here's a sad truth: You're probably not going to lose the weight to fit into those 10-year-old clothes you have in the closet. Just give it up and give them away, says Pankiewicz. This doesn't mean you're giving up on ever being healthier or thinner, it just means you aren't going to be held hostage by some old clothes that don't fit, need repair, or were on sale (but you never liked). Donate them all and we guarantee you'll feel "lighter."
Need closet culling tips? Here's what some Motherboard Moms do:
•"I can't stand to have a closet full of clothes that I don't wear," says Michelle Speak, mom of three in Parker, Colorado. She sorts through her clothes each season, weeding out what she hasn't worn, although she'll make a few exceptions for items like skirts that she wears infrequently.
•Mom Suzy Ayres has an easy way to tell what she's worn. At the beginning of a new season, she turns all of her hangers around backward. After she wears something, she puts it on the hanger and turns it around the right way. Anything still turned backward is donated at the end of the season. "Right before cooler weather hit this year, anything I knew I couldn't part with, I wore it so I could put it in the 'save' pile," she says.13. Kids' Clothes
Michaela Freeman, a mom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, keeps clothes for her children a year after the end of each season in case things still fit. What doesn't is passed to friends with young children. "How can you put a price on helping another person?" she asks. She's benefited as well. Friends with older kids pass clothes on to her youngsters.
14. Kids' Artwork
Of course every piece of artwork your child ever did is a masterpiece. But that doesn't mean you need to keep it. If it's not something you want to put on the wall or in a portfolio to save, take a photo and toss it. You can develop a digital "art gallery" or put photos in a photo album and you'll take up a lot less space. After all, think about it: If you keep four pieces of paper per week per child, by the time they've graduated from high school, you'll have one huge collection, points out Bohn. "Take a picture and let it go!" she says.15. Electronics
Power cords, USB cords, and other paraphernalia for electronics clog up our desks and cabinets, says Chris McKenry, owner of Get It Together LA!, a professional organizing company in Los Angeles. "It's a jungle," he says. "And there's not room for the things you need."
Sort through that "jungle" and match cords to gadgets. Old cell phones can be donated to women's shelters. Other old electronic items, like some printers and computers, should be properly recycled. "It's against the law in some cities to put electronic waste in the trash," warns McKenry. Check with your city for E-waste collection sites. Ditto for old VHS and cassette tapes. McKenry suggests transferring them to your computer for digital storage and then putting the tapes in E-waste collections.16. Linens
"Most of us have way too many towels and sheets," says The Fly Lady. "Some people no longer even have beds that the sheets fit!" She recommends two sets of sheets per bed and keeping the extra set under the foot of the mattress or in a drawer in the bedroom to free up room in the linen closet.17. Medicine
Check your medicine cabinet for expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs, but don't flush them or throw them in the trash. Instead, take them to your local pharmacist for proper disposal.18. Toys
Start teaching your children early to donate the toys they're no longer using, says organizer Blanke. "I know one mom who tells her kids Santa won't come until they give away the toys they're finished with." Here, other Motherboard Mom solutions to too many toys:
•Carol Showers Brown, mom to three in Manassas, Virginia, also taught her kids to donate toys. "We lived in Bangkok and the orphanages there were so grateful for toys, even used ones." Her kids would fill a basket with toys to give away several times a year. "It worked really well because the kids picked out what toys they were ready to part with," she says.
•Remember that preschool song of "Clea up, clean up"? At Diana Dawson's Austin house the song was more likely "Wade through it," she says. That's why she set "dump-it deadlines"—if the kids' stuff wasn't picked up by a certain time on a certain date, she would gather their things and donate them. Sure enough, the first time she had to follow through with her daughter. "The most difficult were the books on the floor, and I donated those to her elementary school," Dawson says. "The school librarian told her she appreciated the donations and other kids enjoyed her books." Her children and a group of neighborhood kids also put on their own garage sale of their toys to raise money to adopt a family at the holidays.
•Mom Michelle Speak has donated many of her children's toys as they've outgrown them, but not all. "I've kept the toys I can imagine my grandchildren would play with." Put the special, keepsake toys away in a well-labeled box.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
One strategy that I find helpful for many clients and myself included is start with your existing piles. Whether you have to go through the piles once, twice or even three times you'd be surprised that there are papers, envelops and other odds and ends you can throw away or shred.
From there assess what you have left. What are the key piles you have? (bills to pay), (things to file)? What is left should be the basis of your updated filing system. You should be able to see a theme to the piles of papers. Identifying the piles will help prevent them from building up into one big hodgepodge of papers and you will find yourself spending less time wondering what you did with that flyer.
For tips on desktop storage items or to hide the paper trail out of sight contact me for suggestions and ideas.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Something that struck me from Reich's approach is that she echo's much of my philosophy with organizing and deciding what to hold on to and what to donate: “But this will free her [client] mind. Her mind will be free.”
Much of Reich's approach is like mine in that our motives are to get the client organized and on your own and then if follow maintenance is needed down the road, that is totally normal.
Enjoy the article and the tips she shares, they are very useful!
Published: January 7, 2011
Ms. Reich zoned in on a pile of books and games on the floor: “There’s no reason we should have a stack of stuff like this.” Then she got to work.
A puzzle with a missing piece? Garbage. A half-assembled Playmobil boat? Likewise. A drawer full of wooden blocks? Gone. Birthday party favors were subject to the 24-hour rule: “You let them play with it for 24 hours, then it’s garbage.” A checkers set was a recent gift from a relative, but had only black pieces. “She won’t love you any less,” Ms. Reich said as she tossed it. Then there were the notebooks, now touching artifacts, filled with the earliest handwriting of the couple’s 8-year-old son, Lucas. “Everybody’s going to learn how to read and write,” Ms. Reich said. “You don’t need the evidence.”
Three hours — and $450 — later, a dozen trash bags had been whisked out the door, containing, among other treasures, a toy pizza, the game Operation and two polyester sports uniforms from seasons past, based on Ms. Reich’s frank assessment that Lucas was unlikely to ever make the Hall of Fame.
“A lot of it is wasteful,” Ms. Reich acknowledged as she glanced at a bag brimming with games and balls and stuffed animals with a lot of play left in them. “Our society is wasteful.”
Then she turned toward Ms. Hitzig and said: “But this will free her mind. Her mind will be free.”
Ms. Hitzig, a svelte blonde in her 40s who worked as a real estate lawyer until her twins were born five years ago, testified, “This woman has changed my life.”
Meet Barbara Reich (rhymes with quiche), home organizer to the rich if not-quite-famous; streamliner of Hermès bracelets and Birkin bags, board games and third-grade art projects; subject of awe-filled recommendations at private school fund-raisers and cocktail parties from West End Avenue to Park. For $150 an hour, Ms. Reich, 42, a former management consultant with an M.B.A., will clear out the clutter, color-code sweaters and classify all manner of storage containers with the vaunted Brother P-touch label makers that she instructs her clients to buy. She is booked three weeks in advance.
Her profession provides a glimpse into the drawers of New York’s elite and, by extension, their lives. Ms. Reich has seen the terms of high-powered real estate transactions, bills detailing the costs of maintaining a pool in the Hamptons, secret prenuptial agreements, pills betraying a hidden sickness. Often, what begins as decluttering becomes something more: advice on how to get children to do homework, or to pick up their toys at home as they do at school or to sleep through the night; guidance on how much to pay the baby sitter or the handyman; suggestions about an electrician who can conceal an unseemly tangle of wires.
Once, Ms. Reich’s organizing efforts revealed stealing by a nanny who was relying on the messy state of affairs to ensure she would not be discovered. More than once, Ms. Reich has known a woman was planning to leave her husband before he did. “What can I do to get my ducks in a row?” she has been asked on such occasions.
When one client’s husband died of cancer, Ms. Reich offered to return, free of charge.
“The image is of me being paralyzed, sitting on the floor of my living room, with Barbara going through piles and piles of papers,” recalled the widow. “A year after he died, she came and helped me go through his closet and put things in bags for charity. I could never, ever, ever have done that.”
Ms. Reich lives in three floors of a renovated town house on the East Side, sharing 3,800 square feet with her husband, who is a real estate lawyer, and their twins, who turn 11 this week. She readily acknowledges that she and her clients are privileged — lucky to have so many things, lucky to be able to throw them away, lucky to be able to hire someone to help them do so. But privilege does not relieve stress. Stress is clutter, and clutter is stress.
“Let’s say you have a home in Aspen and you’re supposed to have a business dinner for 30 there on Friday, and you’ve promised your 8-year-old you’d go to his baseball game, and then the house manager in Aspen quits, and your 8-year-old is crying to go to the baseball game,” she said. “It’s a high-end problem, but the stress is the same either way. And I can help you deal with that.”
Ms. Reich’s organizing business, Resourceful Consultants, began when her children were young and she found herself spending play dates rearranging other people’s things. She describes herself as a “type A-plus” whose knack — no, need — for neat surfaces, uniform storage bins and perfectly aligned right angles is evidence that she is “sick in the head.” Growing up in Florida, she was made uncomfortable by childhood sleepovers. “I never liked people touching my stuff,” she said. “I always wanted to put it right back.”
“This is just who I am,” she said. “I’ve taken my personal neuroses and made a business out of it.”
THE National Association of Professional Organizers has 3,739 members, including 320 in New York State, up from 1,444 members 10 years ago (about 150 in New York). Barbara Reich is not one of them.
Ms. Reich joined a few years ago but let her membership lapse: she does not need the extra referrals. She sees generally two clients a day, for two or three hours each; she could be busier, but why? “I’m not curing cancer,” she said.
Her first organizing client, in 2004, was an associate of a former management-consulting colleague who was setting up a home office. Many clients hire her for about 10 sessions, then get back in touch when they are moving, or redecorating or having a baby. Others she visits weekly. “Some people don’t work out without a trainer,” Ms. Reich said. “Some people don’t open their mail without me.”
Valerie Feigen, who co-owns the Edit boutique on Lexington Avenue — “a luxury shopping experience for women of distinction and style” — has hired Ms. Reich repeatedly over the past three years. “The perfect bag or a great pair of shoes can give you so much pleasure, but it can torture you when you don’t know where to put it,” Ms. Feigen said. “When your possessions are out of control, I think it’s very hard to be organized in general about your life. You don’t want your possessions to own you.”
Mr. Yaffe, the father of the boy whose birthday-party favors and earliest writings were tossed, said that he knew it might sound absurd to pay someone to tell his family to throw things away, but that if he had a fireplace, he would hang an oil painting of Ms. Reich above it.
“I fell in love with my wife for many of her great qualities,” Mr. Yaffe, 47, said. “Organization is not necessarily one of them.”
With her Searle boots and Prada bag, Ms. Reich inhabits the world of her clients, which is essential to winning their trust. It is hard enough opening your underwear drawer to someone without having them gasp at the price of the contents.
Years of untangling people’s messes — seeing what they have, what they use, what they need, what trips them up, what holds them back — has yielded many sociological insights.
Among them: oversize handbags are out of style, but are coming back (this, courtesy of Ms. Feigen, whose purse closet — yes, a whole closet for purses — she reordered one recent morning). Sex toys are more widespread than one might think (Ms. Reich once innocently placed one in a box labeled “small electronics”). And men do not think condoms belong in the “monthly” box, alongside feminine hygiene products (“daily” would be better).
Ms. Reich also has some general pointers:
1. In your “Home Management” file, keep a list of holiday tips for doormen, hairdressers, et al., making it easy to increase each year. (They always remember how much you gave, Ms. Reich warned, even if you don’t.)
2. Have one file labeled “children’s activities,” so when you need to see whether there is soccer on Martin Luther King’s Birthday, you know where to look.
3. Memorize one credit card number: it will “make your life infinitely easier.”
4. You know those “invisible ink” magic markers? They’re not invisible on furniture.
Many of Ms. Reich’s clients have young children, and therefore apartments that brim with papier-mâché art projects, holiday cards and birthday-party favors long past their 24-hour expiration and toys, toys, toys. She believes in keeping schoolwork that exhibits creativity, but there is a high bar: for each child, two years’ worth should fit into a three-inch box. She likes Magna-Tiles, but hates things that talk.
A cast-and-paint T-Rex? Trash it, because by the time the kid is old enough to do it himself, he’s no longer interested. Candy Land? Between sporting events, music lessons and charity galas, who has time? Goodbye!
“How many people have five sets of flashcards and six memory games, and how many of these people never once will take out a memory game, or they’ll never once do the flashcards?” Ms. Reich said. “I think to a lot of people it’s very refreshing when they’re running this race just to stay still, to have somebody say to them: ‘This is ridiculous. Not one of these kids is going to be a professional baseball player.’ ”
“The flip side is,” she added, “as a parent, I have to also keep saying this to myself as a mantra: This is all crazy, this is all crazy, this is all crazy.”
STANDING in a sparkling kitchen, Rebecca Reich, her hair pulled back in a headband, reflected on life as the organizer’s daughter. “I don’t care if there are pillows on the floor, and everyone else in the family thinks it’s the biggest crisis,” she said. “Pillows can wait.”
“No, they can’t,” interjected Rebecca’s twin, Matthew. “It’s distracting.”
Once, Ms. Reich found her son cleaning the bottom of his sneakers with Clorox wipes. “Matthew,” she counseled, “you only clean the top.”
In the Reich household, even the twins’ Silly Bandz are meticulously organized by type (creatures, sports, “rare”). Matthew’s toy cars are parked on the windowsill, perfectly parallel, a few inches apart. Next to them is the rare surviving trophy — Ms. Reich throws away the obligatory participation trophies given to everyone on a team — Neatest Camper of 2010 at Timber Lake Camp.
“Jeff was horrified,” she said of her husband. “He said, ‘This was what he won, not, like, Best Athlete?’ ”
Across town at the Hitzig-Yaffe apartment, little Lucas’s trophy collection remains intact. “There are certain things I can deprive my kids of, and certain things that I can’t,” Ms. Hitzig said. She has discarded a number of Lucas’s old uniforms, over her husband’s objections.
“I hope we will have the last laugh,” said Mr. Yaffe, an executive at the National Hockey League, “because I hope he will be in somebody’s Hall of Fame one day.”
A version of this article appeared in print on January 9, 2011, on page MB1 of the New York edition.
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