When Life Was All That and a Bag of Chips

1978 There was still snow on the ground from the blizzard. Jimmy Carter was president, the Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever album was #1 on the music charts. Good girl Sandy fell in love with greaser Danny and Jamie Lee Curtis came face to face with Michael Myers in Halloween. Collars were big and pant legs flared. Gas cost 63 cents a gallon and the average home cost $54,000. It was 1978 when I showed up in this world. 20150525_142508_HDR

In Walks the 80s Atari and Sega didn't keep me from playing outside till the street lights came on. Imagination was the only thing my brother and sister and I needed to be able to lose track of time. We had this thing called a record player. My sister and I would shut off all the lights in the basement and listen to Thriller on repeat. Sometimes it skipped and we would just dance to the skipped noises, cause it was still music to our ears. The turquoise Le Clic camera my sister got for her birthday was coolest camera I've ever laid eyes on. On Friday nights I got to stay up late on our mustard colored couch, eat potato chips and drink soda while Knight Rider was on. Life was simple in my corner of the world. It was the 80s.

All That and a Bag of Chips My mom would drive me to the store to pay $9.99 a month for my pager. That included unlimited paging. On the weekends the disappointment that followed during trips to Major Video, when the movie I wanted to see was not on the shelf, quickly dissipated when my friends and I could record our own songs using my boombox and a cassette tape.  There was the agony of waiting for the latest issue of Teen Beat magazine to come out so that I could somehow fit another New Kids on the Block poster on my bedroom wall. Brenda and Dylan was greatest love story I had ever witnessed and every penny I made from babysitting went to Contempo Casuals because of Cher and Dionne from Clueless. It was the 90s...no duh.

Enter Our latest reality I don't remember the transition into our latest reality but I do remember when we liked things without giving a virtual thumbs up, without the fear of insult. When life was simple. When we had to get pictures developed and await the anticipation of how they looked, and we were ok with them because visible flaws couldn't be covered up by some app. When the phone would ring and you'd answer it rather than send a text. When an hour would pass and it wasn't wasted scrolling through a newsfeed watching other's carefully constructed highlight reels play out. A time when the comments, stories and opinions of others were discussed in person rather than online where they live forever to be misconstrued, judged and misunderstood as purely narcissistic. Our new reality can seem like a dark place at times.

 I don't remember the transition into our latest reality but I do remember when we liked things without giving a virtual thumbs up, without the fear of insult. When life was simple. When we had to get pictures developed and await the anticipation of how they looked, and we were ok with them because visible flaws couldn't be covered up by some app.

The Upside of Our New Reality There are upsides to our new reality, some light in the tunnel of the over consumption of social media. The sharing and the reconnections. The heartfelt stories and videos that we can witness in real time. We share our photos with family and friends who don't live close by. We reconnect with people that were once an important part of our lives. We tell our stories, reveal beautiful moments and we become more self aware. We can keep it positive, light hearted and make someone's day in seconds with a kind word. Of course that choice is up to us. I believe social media is all about how you decide to use it.

Always the informer I've been nicknamed the informer since I was 3. I'm a sharer. I am also moved by other people's stories, the struggles they overcome. I've met some of the most interesting and incredible people through social media. And I get to share my story. I get to use that as a way to connect virtually with people all over the world. That is where I light up inside. Where the positive power of the internet walks in. So for me the answer is to keep it going under my terms, for now. Dismiss the negative images. Unfollow, delete and move on when necessary. Share when I feel compelled and decide to walk away when it's time.

I always imagine the day I officially walk away from social media. I think about the time I won't be wasting. The opinions that are floating around I don't have to wonder or obsess about. The idea that I can stay present in a moment without grabbing my phone to take a photo and hit share. A day when my life isn't on display.

Maybe having lived for 2 decades years before any of our new "social reality" existed has me wanting to go back. Back to when life was simpler, less complex. I'm pretty sure I can manage without it...someday. And I'm pretty sure life will still be all that and a bag of chips.

 

Everyone Deserves a Place to Call Home

Our homes are to be more than sanctuaries. They are where the storm stops at the door. Where love reigns and peace dwells.

I've always believed that everyone deserves a place to call home. I've also always believed that regardless of the size of a home if you are adding only what you love to that space it can change your life.

As an organizer I'm visiting people's homes who are at times complete strangers and other times not. The one thing I have noticed in my travels is that there are always a few things that will stand out in a home that capture the personality of the person or family who lives inside. It might be quotes on the wall, photos or little trinkets that tell a story. Either way it's all about everyday reminders in the space that make those that live inside smile and light up. Our homes can bring us so much joy and comfort in our lives.

All of this got me thinking recently about those who don't have a place to call home and are entering transitional housing, their possessions only enough to fit into a backpack. Regardless of their story and how their journey to homelessness began, I believe that they can find peace and comfort in their new space with just the right touch of what is meaningful to them. I've always had a vision to provide donated furniture and décor for transitional and permanent housing facilities in order to create an environment that embodies growth, positive change and overall wellness. Hearing their stories, asking them what makes them happy and inviting in objects that create happiness can cultivate feelings of joy and positivity.

I recently made a visit to the Welcome House of South County where I was able to add some organizing love to the basement where they store all of their toiletries. I met the amazing house manager Allison Martinez, who was such an inspiration to me. Her dedication to her job is inspiring. Liz Duggan of Amenity Aid was also was there to help and dropped off 600 toiletry donations to the shelter! I'm hoping it's just the beginning of me being able to utilize my gifts in a way that will help those coming out of homelessness to finally feel the comforts of home.

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Less Space, More Life. A Peek Inside the Growing World of TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST

As a professional organizer all of the amazing spaces I get to work in, and even the great space I live in, recently got me thinking about how much square footage and living space we actually need to be comfortable in. I suppose it depends on the family size of course, and factoring in how much stuff we've manage to accumulate throughout our lives beyond the essentials. In the basements, shoved into drawers and cornered into closets are years worth of clothing we no longer wear, grandma's holiday dishes we feel compelled to keep and piles of junk we haven't looked at in years. Where is the line drawn between the extras, what we hold onto and the necessities? According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,700 square feet in 2009, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970, despite a decrease in the size of the average family. The numbers don't lie. We love to buy stuff. In most cases that leaves us with less space, even though we purchased more of it, and less time to enjoy it provided we have to work harder to maintain it. Yikes. Not to mention how this is hurting our environment in terms of wasting energy and resources. It requires more land, energy, building materials, and appliances to build larger homes. There is however a shift happening. Some are opting for a more simplistic lifestyle and one that promotes and supports sustainability. Think less stuff, more living, less space, more life. It's more than a movement, or a passing trend. It's a truly a remarkable way of life.

Enter TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST. They design, build and outfit environmentally sustainable tiny homes as well as offices throughout the Northeast. THNE is founded on the formula of sustainable development, with social responsibility and caring for the environment at the forefront. In some cases the houses are as small as 20-ft, pictured here which was featured at the recent RIBA Home Show, a bit of a downsize from 2700 sq feet of space. But don't let the size fool you, these are highly efficient dwellings.

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Most tiny houses are designed to have everything a modern person needs to live. They include a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, storage and some even sleep up to four people. While this may not be the typical dream house for some, those seeking simplicity and a simpler way of life have found their version of it. I first spotted a tiny house while scrolling through Pinterest and immediately became fixated on how incredibly resourceful they were as well as magical looking. Most were nestled beneath the woods and resembled something similar to a fairytale setting. Cozy, compact and planet friendly. Literally everything you need in one space. That's when I decided I wanted to learn more about tiny houses. 

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Isa, the project manager, GC and design leader at TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST. Isa has a masters degree in sustainable development, and filled me in on her day to day as well as provided me with so much insight into the world of tiny houses. Her passion for conserving resources and vast knowledge of what goes into building a tiny home was impressive and admirable. When she isn't spending time speaking with buyers of tiny homes, or volunteering her time to help she is working on resourcing the environmental friendly construction materials needed as well as finding builders, who are always experienced carpenters.

Isa spoke about the main reasons people are opting for tiny houses. Financial freedom is one. While there are multiple factors in determining the cost of a tiny home it is considerably less money than purchasing a larger home. The extra cash and time you have, due to less maintenance of your home, can be spent traveling or simply enjoying activities you love. There is also the aspect of enjoying the great outdoors when living in a tiny home. Organic and sustainable gardening, farming and essentially using the Earth as your source of food and relaxation beginning at home is a lifestyle change that those looking to purchase a tiny home are yearning for.

Typically when your living space is tight quarters you want to get outside, get some fresh air and as Isa so eloquently put it "the outdoors becomes your living room".

From a planning perspective there are many angles to take into consideration. Isa explained the many layers of the planning process that go into the purchase of a tiny home.

  • Very little closed storage available is a huge consideration. When limited storage options exist what furniture to purchase and the placement of it is very important, the pairing down process truly becomes all about the essentials.
  • Zoning in on the buyer's habits also is important. Do they have pets? How much time do they plan to spend outside?
  • The type of tiny house also varies for each buyer. The 3 types of tiny homes to choose from are turn-key wheel houses, weelshells and foundation ready. All dependent upon the needs of the buyer.
  • Location and the setting of the home are discussed as well and buyers must adhere to local zoning laws and regulations. Then of course there is electricity, sewage and water to take into consideration.
  • The planning page on the TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST site can walk you through getting started. Any questions from weather related concerns to the cost of a tiny house are answered over on the FAQs page of THNE site. THNE truly provides such an expansion of knowledge for those looking to purchase a tiny house, even for the DIYers, and offers classes to educate those who are interested in committing themselves to a simpler life.

As we are slowly depleting our natural resources at a much faster rate than we can replenish them, continuing on and building larger homes is unsustainable and comes at a significant financial and environmental cost.

So what does the future of tiny house living look like in terms of the benefits it provides our one precious home, Earth, and even our well being? As we are slowly depleting our natural resources at a much faster rate than we can replenish them, continuing on and building larger homes is unsustainable and comes at a significant financial and environmental cost. Utilizing natural sustainable resources to build a home that takes up significantly less space is not only protecting our home but I believe is providing others the opportunity to be more present as they live their lives with intent. Instead of becoming consumed with stuff, it is allowing others to have the resources to travel, garden, enjoy the outdoors and live simply. I have always believed that the spaces we live and work in have a deep connection to the way that we feel. Tiny homes may appear small but the impact they have on those who are committed to embracing the lifestyle is massive. Less is always more, don't you think?

To learn more about TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST head to their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tinyhousenewengland and be sure to visit their site.

 

 

 

 

 

Live Lighter This Spring Blog Series, Featuring Liz Duggan Founder and President of Amenity Aid

When I came up with my Live Lighter This Spring blog series I knew immediately I wanted to share the stories of those that are doing amazing things within our communities. My friend and fellow PVD Lady Project member Liz Duggan of Amenity Aid is just that person. Amenity Aid is a 501(c)(3) charity that provides personal hygiene products to at-risk and in-need individuals. Established in 2013, Amenity Aid helps Rhode Island's most vulnerable populations by supplying toiletries to organizations that assist the homeless, at-risk, low income and victims of violence. Assisting nearly 4,000 people each year, Amenity Aid has donated over 22,000 personal care products to date.

After seeing first-hand the need for toiletries in local shelters, Liz founded Amenity Aid in 2013 to ensure every Rhode Islander has access to basic hygiene products that aid in good health. Working with local shelters, community groups and businesses, Liz has developed a variety of programs that collect, purchase, and distribute items such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo to the area’s most vulnerable populations.

In addition to her involvement with Amenity Aid, Liz manages the marketing department for a Rhode Island based management consulting firm and runs a freelance graphic design business.

Liz holds a Master of Business Administration from California State University, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Salve Regina University and has taken several continuing education courses in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design. Yes folks, this chick is pretty amazing and I am so honored that she took some time out to provide us with some insight into her inspiration behind Amenity Aid, as well as some sound advice for those who may have goals to begin their own charity organizations.

What prompted you to start Amenity Aid? 

The idea for Amenity Aid came from the simple act of donating hotel amenities from my frequent business trips to local shelters. (In fact, the word amenity in our name is reference to the hotel amenities that inspired the charity.) I quickly learned about the high demand housing facilities have for these necessities. Other than food, toiletries are the number one consumable product in-need at organizations that assist the homeless or at-risk.

I was motivated to help an organization that provided hygiene products to vulnerable populations. However my research concluded that no nonprofit existed with this sole mission. I saw an opportunity to fulfill a great community need that I could not ignore.

What's your greatest memory/take away so far since starting Amenity Aid? 

My greatest memory is taking my eighty-eight year old grandmother with me to deliver hundreds of toiletries to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport. Before that experience, I don’t think she really understood what Amenity Aid was all about. Now she gets it and is always giving me soap! My biggest take away is the wonderful people I get to meet because of my involvement with Amenity Aid.  From the men and women that work at area shelters to our amazing volunteers, it’s a great opportunity to connect and collaborate with others that truly want to make a difference.

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What advice would you give someone who wants to start a charity organization? 

I would advise anyone who is starting a charity to stay focused on their mission and on tasks that deliver the highest impact. It’s very easy to allow the day-to-day activities and opportunities to control how you spend your time. As a result months go by and you lose track of your goals.

People will constantly offer advice or opportunities, which is a great thing. But before you jump at everything that presents itself take a step back and think about what you are trying to accomplish and the availability of your resources (for me it’s time). Then consider if this particular opportunity is the best use of your time or charitable funds. It’s ok to say no.

For me, having a working business plan makes it easier to say no to certain opportunities without feeling like I am doing a disservice to Amenity Aid. This is because I have already taken the time to review all prospects, discussed them with peers as well as industry mentors, and selected the programs and strategies that will have the greatest impact.

There is always more you could be doing, especially when it comes to charitable work. For me, it’s about prioritizing and focusing.

What is the best advice or things you have heard from others, since starting Amenity Aid, that sticks out in your mind? 

A friend of mine once told me, “You know you really are helping a lot of people, even if it doesn’t feel like you are.” This statement was very perceptive. Considering Amenity Aid does not directly work with the homeless, at-risk, or victims of violence it’s very easy to forget my impact once I drop-off the donations and leave.  It was a nice and unexpected reminder.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can help, Liz Duggan can be reached at amenityaid@gmail.com. To learn more about Amenity Aid please visit www.amenityaid.org. My hope is that this post inspires you to clean out those bathrooms, gather up toiletries not being used and take a moment to donate to Amenity Aid. Let's all live a little lighter so that others can live better.

 

 

 

Taking Back Your Closet in 3 Steps

"Half of what makes pretty look good is order, so start by decluttering. And then relentlessly organize. Honey it's hard for style to dwell amid chaos" Designer Elaine Griffin

I had the opportunity this past week to be one of the 3 x 3 speakers at the PVD Lady Project Clothing Swap here in Providence. Also in attendance was Big Brothers and Big Sisters of RI, who generously gathered up the clothing that was left over and will use them as donations towards their programs. I've always loved the concept of a clothing swap. You're taking the time to clean out your closet, make choices on what stays and what goes and making room for new items. Then you get to shop for free!  A clothing swap will also give you the opportunity to completely re-evaluate what's happening in your closet. The good, the bad and ugly. Since I'm always preaching the one in one out rule, this was the perfect example of how that concept does work. Making space for something new that will replace an item you feel is no longer bringing you joy is much more powerful of an action than you may realize. When anything in our lives no longer brings us joy releasing it immediately tells the universe that we're ready for something new. It's a very powerful way to invite in positive change. All that goodness from just cleaning out a closet!

Here I am preaching it to the lovely ladies that attended

As a 3 x 3 speaker at the swap I had 3 minutes to talk about what I do as an organizer and also give tips on how to keep your closet organized. I could talk about organizing for 3 hours so I wanted to make sure that I gave my best tips for keeping your closet tidy and a place you love to visit and shop in. Drum roll please...my top 3 tips below...

The hanger police has arrived 

1. I am the hanger police and I'm ok with it. We have to ditch the wire and plastic hangers once and for all. Space saving hangers are going to streamline your closet instantly, keep your clothing from landing on the floor and give you at least 30% more space. If this is the one and only organizing item investment you decide to make within your closet it's a good one!

Your Closet is a Boutique, and Has Your Name Written All Over it 

2. Take your name and add boutique at the end, so in my case my closet would be named Lauren's boutique. Think about what a boutique named after you would look like in terms of what's available for purchase. It probably wouldn't include shoes with broken soles, shirts with holes in them or that pair of jeans we literally haven't worn since high school. It would be filled with clothing, shoes and accessories that we absolutely love! Anytime you open those closet doors feel as those you walked into your boutique, and the moment something isn't making you happy let it go. Think of your items you don't love as moving onto the sale rack, it's time for them to no longer be front and center and add in something that gets you excited to get dressed.

Like Items Like to Live Together  

3. Pants with pants, short sleeves with short sleeves, heel height together. Opposites don't play well together in your closet. You get the idea. While it may seem over the top to keep things so organized, it's actually saving you time and money. When you get dressed you can find what you need, and when you shop it's pretty clear how many black dresses you already own. Keeping like with likes also keeps you from wasting time when getting dressed. Last time I checked time is something very precious to all of us!

I'm on a mission to help you find clarity in your space, and believe it's achievable. By adopting these 3 simple tips you will be on your way to living a little lighter this spring. Stay tuned for more posts and workshop announcements for the Organized for Life series Live Lighter this Spring!

Interested in having Organized for Life visit your home to help make your closet fabulous? I'm offering 30% off this spring to celebrate 3 years in business! Contact me here or grab the phone and give me a ring @ 401-369-2311.

Thanks for reading, your simplicity expert

Lauren

 

Celebrating Simplicity, Featuring Patsy, Founder and Chief Celebrator at & Celebrate...

CYMERA_20150301_165225 This is Patsy and I standing in front of her newly organized closet. Patsy is a dear friend who I met through PVD Lady Project, she also happens to love to celebrate. In fact she loves to celebrate so much she has created an inspiring and beautiful blog around it, & Celebrate (you will want to click on that link to see for yourself). This goes far beyond birthdays, graduations and wedding celebrations. Her motto is to stop limiting ourselves to the big moments of celebration in life because it truly is the little moments that find us there. Finding magic and something to celebrate on a daily basis is truly a wonderful way to approach our lives. Makes so much sense doesn't it? I'm in the business of celebrating your space, and Patsy is all about celebrating life. This Sunday funday afternoon spent organizing, simplifying and embracing the beauty of loving your space truly was reason to celebrate.

Her motto is to stop limiting ourselves to the big moments of celebration in life because it truly is the little moments that find us there.

In addition to this incredible message she is spreading with her blog, Patsy has also created a greeting card line, Say it With Shoes. Blank inside so you can create your own message the cards are the perfect way to send some love to someone whether for an occasion or just because. Be happy, be free, be comfy cozy, all adorned with the images of shoes. The best part? With each box you purchase you are providing a pair and a half of shoes to someone in need. 10% of the sales are donated to Soles4Souls, a global nonprofit dedicated to fighting poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing, www.soles4souls.org. I know, it's all so awesome and I am so honored to be celebrating Patsy today on the blog! Below are a few shots from the final project and how we celebrated getting her closet organized.

Her greeting card line is entitled Say it With Shoes, so I really wanted to display her favorites front and center. The sparkle in the black pair and gorgeous pop of red in the heels are the first thing you see when you open the closet door. Reason enough to celebrate! Showcasing your favorite dress, jewelry, shoes or bag in your closet is a reminder of the things that we love to wear, that make us feel happy and bring us joy.

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I can say one of the best moments for me to celebrate is witnessing the excitement of others when I help to simplify their lives a bit. Watching the transformation from holding onto things just taking up space and then physically feeling that lightness in the air when all that remains is what is useful, brings joy and worth celebrating. Those are moments that add up to so many amazing things. Freeing up space to invite in whatever we'd like to celebrate. I challenge all of you to embrace Patsy's message, & celebrate...

The One Rule to Staying Organized

It's an unspoken rule that kind of has to be followed. One that I realized very quickly after moving from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath townhouse, with full basement storage, into a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment in the city- with 0 basement storage.  You cannot accommodate around your belongings, you have to accommodate around your space. Sorry to break it to you, but your stuff takes a back seat to your space. I know what you're thinking- my shoe collection will just have to fit awkwardly in my closet forever and forever, digging for my favorite pair is just part of my routine. On the day of my move I openly and willingly admit to panicking and saying out loud "where is all this actually going to fit?". That was followed by a blank stare, a longer than normal one. But I did what I do. I strategized inside the walls of our new space. I let go of more items we didn't need or used. I looked at opportunities within the space to get a little creative, I measured closets, cabinets and made it my mission to make sure we would fall in love with our new home and not feel like the walls were caving in on us. There are no magic tricks or secrets involved. You have to be willing to look at your habits, what you are holding onto and ask yourself if feeling crammed and cluttered in your home is worth it. Regardless of how much space you have, always accommodate the space not your possessions. When things get too cluttered, edit and then edit again. In my experience you won't miss what you have decided to donate or toss, you will just be really excited about all the space you've opened up and you're going to save alot of time by not digging for the other shoe. I promise.

 Always accommodate the space, not your possessions. When things get too cluttered, edit and then edit again.

I thought about the most common items and areas that are a cause for clutter and took some pictures in our home of how we keep them organized (for the most part). I'm a big fan of what I call "out in the open hiding spots" as you'll see from some of the systems that work pretty well for us. It's never about perfection but about simple, easy solutions. Here's a little tour of my space from the entryway and kitchen to the bathroom and bedroom closet. Don't judge, it's not always this neat :)

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If you suddenly have an urge to start decluttering I have some good news. Just head to my Youtube channel here, where you're going to find an endless supply of videos with tips on getting your space to work for you not against you. You can also hang out here on the Organized for Life site and find more blog posts centered around embracing your space. If you liked this post please comment or spread the love and share.

Always on a mission to help you embrace your space,

Lauren

Creating a Relaxing Space Just for You

giving attention to the things in our (2)When my husband and I moved three months ago to our 2 bedroom in the city it meant I was losing my home office aka place to do yoga, blog, relax and read. I felt grateful to have that space carved out just for myself. I filled it up with quotes I loved, my beloved book collection and could sit in there for hours getting work done or just unwinding. Once we got settled in our new place I set out on a mission to create a corner nook in our bedroom just for me. I wasn't upset that the space went from an entire room to only a carved out corner. It's all about how you fill the space, not how large it is. I have my books, a comfy chair, great lighting and can sit for hours in the space. Mission accomplished.

We all need a place to get away, even if only for a moment.

Whether you have a room, a corner you can make all your own or even a chair you can claim, creating a space in your home just for you is so important. We all need a place to get away, even if only for a moment. You don't need a complete room makeover, just keep it simple! Here are some tips to finding that perfect place in your home and creating your own little sanctuary.

Keep it Simple and Clutter Free

This space is meant to be space that you can relax in, as we all know how important that is for our well being. Think in terms of curling up with your favorite book, sipping a hot cup of tea and being present in the moment. Distractions and interruptions can also act as clutter, it's not always just about the physical clutter. Once you have found that space, claim it as your own personal sanctuary and add in your favorite colors, books, some candles and remember to keep it simple. Focus on the way this space feels to you, and how well it will function as your in home getaway. Cozy pillows, a comfy chair, soothing colors. These are all elements that will allow you to relax, unwind and feel refreshed.

Visit the Space at Least Once a Day

This space is your own. You can visit it as many times as you'd like, but always make the time to pay it a visit. Maybe it's just for a moment to reflect on the day, or a minute in the morning to gain your focus on the day ahead. The idea is to fall in love with this space you can call your own, and look forward to spending time there.

My wish for you is that you can find this space within your home and fall in love!

 

 

A Open Letter to Moms From an Organizer

O-N-E-D-R-O-PI started my organizing business almost 3 years ago. The first 5 clients to contact me were moms. Just for the record I'm not a mommy. An auntie and step-mom yes, but I've never actually given birth. Are you sensing the irony here? I start most of my projects with a phone consult. Very eager and excited to start helping my very first clients (yikes) I asked questions on the consult call like what's the area that needs most improvement? The answers were "well all of it, it's all a mess." Then I asked do you have any zones created in your home for homework and activities "no we just usually have to wing it." Wing it? I don't even know what that means. I'm type A, we don't wing anything. After the phone consultation the first thing I said out loud in my home office on that very first call was "shit, I have no idea what this is like for them." As a matter of fact I said it out loud, every single time. I don't juggle the job, the play dates, frantically attempting to pick up the toys on the floor before company shows up. I don't have a refrigerator filled with little hand prints, a bathroom that has buckets of rubber duckies and empty shampoo bottles to play with. I don't even have one children's book in my home. My lifestyle couldn't be more different. Everything stays perfectly placed in my home from the entryway to the darkest corner of the closets. Some days it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop, and my place can stay clean for days. Again "oh shit, I have no idea what this is like for them."

 The truth is I was there to help them but in actuality they helped me

The irony of all of this is that I have walked into many homes to get play rooms in better shape, help organize children's rooms and even entryways that double as the family dumping ground for little shoes and backpacks. I even held a workshop for moms! I was there to help them weed through the school work to be tossed, help make decisions on what toys should be donated but in actuality they were helping me. Every project was an opportunity for me to fall more and more out of my comfort zone of perfection and stare in wonder at how these women do it all. All of it. It was an opportunity for me to fall in love with these homes and the families inside and realize how incredibly important it is to throw the damn perfectionism out the window. There is no one way to do things. Sure you can simplify, teach your little ones how to let go of toys. Bring in bins and baskets with labels to help tidy things up. It will help to maintain some organization and simplicity. However I have learned you cannot take the imagination out of a child who wants to build a fort in the center of the living room and leave it there for a few days and tell them it's bad feng shui. I learned you can't tell your children that the painting they drew in school can't go up because it doesn't match the decor. I learned from all these incredible mommies that you can look for ways to improve your daily routines but also take in how incredibly imperfect all of it is. So the next time you may need an organizer please don't hesitate to reach out just remember that your homes are already perfect to me, you truly are the example of what a home should be. Lived in and filled with love.

From an organizer to the mommies, you all amaze me. Thank you for the lessons.

How to Decide Where to Donate Your Items, and What Thrift Stores May Not Tell You

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In 2013 the largest form of charitable donations came from individuals, more so than foundations or corporations. As consumers we accumulate so much but as it turns out we are also very good at giving it away. From clothing and shoes, to toys and books the list is endless with the amount of items that are dropped off at donation centers across the country. From personal experience with helping others declutter, and continuously loading my car up with boxes and bags of items, I have seen first hand just how generous and giving we are as a society. Seeing so much generosity from others prompts me to always ask the question - where does this all go? Who is benefiting from this? What percentage of the donations are going to those in need? Is it better to consign my clothing or other items and write a check to my charity of choice? 

Here's how the major players in the donation world that have the most drop off centers specifically here in RI, Savers and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, shape up.

BBBS will pick up gently used items at your doorstep—including resalable clothing, coats, jeans, small household items and toys. The BBBS Foundation turns these items into cash by selling to thrift stores in bulk. They do not sell on a percentage basis. They then donate up to 100% of net profits to mentoring organizations that help children. Their programs are positively impacting the lives of many children and make an incredibly difference. The amount of acceptable donations they take covers almost every category. I have had the opportunity to speak with BBBS adult mentors and heard first hand the impact they make on children and teens and its humbling to hear. 

Now let's welcome in the middleman. This is where things seem to get a bit complex. One of the more popular thrift stores BBBS sells to is Savers. Savers is a 225 privately owned thrift store chain. In an article from the NY Post according to their goodwill spokeswoman Lauren Lawson “84 percent of the collective revenue of the sale of donated goods is funneled right back into community programs.”  It is true that half of donations to Goodwill end up in landfills, versus just 10 percent at Savers. Please keep in mind however if you are dropping of anything other than clothing it's not considered a charitable donation as this is profit for the thrift store chain. 

 

How do they determine what the clothing is worth?

Savers weighs the clothes and sends the charities a check for the value as bulk rags. The middleman then can sell the clothing for 10, 20 or 30 times the rag value. A ladies coat for example worth 80 cents measured by weight could bring $20 in the store. What the charities actually get is about 4 percent of their retail value. Not much.  As someone donating clothing you would have to give 25 bags of clothes through a middleman to match the impact of one bag given directly to a charity. Something tells me its better to give directly to a non profit charity.

Deciding What to Do With your Donations

It seems by eliminating the middlemen and donating directly to local charities you may be having a bigger impact on your community. Local homeless shelters, battered women shelters, libraries, religious institutions, etc are all great resources to give to. You may even want to reach out to your community and ask if there is a family in need. Children's hospitals, cancer care centers and even schools take donations. Taking a few minutes to make some calls to find out where you can drop off your unwanted items may be your best option if you are in fact concerned with how much of an impact your are making. Charity Navigator is a great tool to determine how charities rank. If you are a Rhode Islander and looking for a listing of local charities please visit this link for more info. Two of my personal favorite charities that collect from all over the globe are Souls for Soles, for shoe donations, and Free the Girls for bras. Yes there is a bra charity ladies!

We are givers and we want to give in a way that feels right for us. Once you do find a list that you feel comfortable donating to post it up on your fridge or mark the name of the organization on a donation bin your home. This will make giving easy knowing that it is going into the hands of those who need it.

If Consigning is Your Choice 

Maybe donating directly is not a road you'd prefer to take and consignment might work better. If you are interested in consigning your clothing and using that money, or a portion of it, to donate to a charity of your choice I have some great consignment tips for clothing over on my YouTube channel that will ensure you make the most from your clothing. Click here to view.

 

Word of the Year

CYMERA_20150102_083044 On the eve of New Year's Eve I found myself surrounded by 12 women, sitting in a circle, drinking hot chocolate in the coziest of dining rooms. The pillow that was propped up behind me read "don't quit your daydream" and I suppose my daydream was the reason I was there, but it turns out it was so much more than that. When you have a daydream that your committed to and you're living out loud amazing moments, just like that night, start to happen everyday. That's when the magic unfolds and you realize that when you follow your bliss everything has purpose, real intention and heart. The workshop was hosted by Carole Ann Penney, a life purpose coach of Connect The Dots, and Patsy Culp lifestyle blogger and creator of & Celebrate. Two incredibly talented and amazing women who were kind enough to host this magical evening guiding us towards our intention word for 2015. My word is focus.

I choose the word focus for one reason, because it's actually difficult for me to do. I'm a lover of many things and wear multiple hats. Business owner, wife, daughter, sister, auntie, blogger, full-time worker...and I'm in love with design, decorating, making things beautiful. Sometimes it's hard to plan the day. I don't apologize for my passion in life. I think it's what makes me humble and why my perspective is so positive. I find wonder in everything I do, see and experience. I believe this is the reason why we are all here. To experience life to the fullest. This year I will tune in more, stay focused on my vision, family and my daydream. I will focus on the good.

In 2014 I hosted my first PVD Lady Project workshop, became part of the editorial team for Thirty Something Magazine, Rhode Island Creative Magazine as well as the PVD Lady Project blog. I was a vendor at RI's first health and wellness event, The Mind Body Spirit Expo. My business grew along with my monthly newsletter subscribers and my YouTube subscribers. I reached almost 4,000 YouTube views, hundreds of visitors to my site weekly, 37,000 blogger views and over 500 new likes on my Facebook page. I believe our homes and work spaces are a reflection of our lives, and every home I enter I want to be focused on making beautiful, organized and simplified. This is why the growth of my business and message is so exciting to me. I'm never quitting this daydream.

To 2015 I say hello, pleased to meet you. I am focused and ready for whatever you got. I also hope this year finds you filled up with your daydreams, and many blessings. We have one life so let's always remember to make sure the circle we sit in is surrounded by beauty, dreams and magic.

Love and light, your organizer

Lauren

 

 

How to Ditch the New Year's Resolutions and Still Make Lasting Changes

At the end of every year I always find that I don't focus on resolutions for the New Year, that would just be too much pressure. We're celebrating the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. To list out resolutions that might include a strict exercise routine,  a no carb diet or less time on the internet may in fact help someone's health or well being but creates pressure to follow through. Last time I checked in none of us need more pressure. Instead I reflect on the past year and zone in on the things that I felt I did well, or not so well, the things that worked or didn't quite work well. Then I make a decision to tweak things based on what feels right. I always make choices from a place of what feels good. This is where I find the best follow through, because when you tune into your feelings and what you truly want the pressure is gone. I like to call it my New Years Feel Good List, rather than New Years Resolutions. I start my list by writing down anything I think worked well for me throughout the year, as well add my achievements and use some pretty descriptive words centered around how those actions made me feel. Then on the flip side I think about anything I felt I could have done better and think about the way those choices made me feel. I'm pretty confident none of us want to feel crappy about any decisions we make. I ask myself the question, how can I turn this around? Never aiming for perfection, just tweaking. For instance, the last 4 months my time management skills could have been better. In the New Year I'm committing to having less on my plate and focusing on specific tasks without overloading my calendar, and that feels better.

I'm organized by nature so making lists comes pretty easy to me, but when I am approaching a list based on feelings it's even easier. That is the reason I love approaching goals this way, because it works for everyone. Just spill it. Let it all out, the good the bad and the ugly. One of the things I have learned over the last 3 years working with clients is that once you become clear about how something is making you feel there is an immediate shift in energy. If the clutter in your home is making you stressed, tired or anxious then decide how you'd rather feel and that will motivate you to take the next steps. If you aren't feeling so great about your diet choices think about ways you can have fun making new recipes that are healthier, and still taste great. Whatever you want to change, tweak or eliminate it must be replaced with a feel good solution rather than deprivation or fear about the change.

2015 is just about here. Let's all make a commitment to ditch the resolutions and instead make our New Year all about feeling great. Wherever you start you're already halfway there.

 

Organized for Life- Bringing the Magic and Spirit of Christmas into a Home

Over the last year Organized for Life has had the pleasure of organizing and simplifying spaces so that others can truly embrace their homes and enjoy them from the moment they walk in the door. In addition to creating streamlined and clutter free homes, OFL has also incorporated elements of design into the spaces. Through furniture placement, color and size choices for organizational items as well as home staging services OFL has become a business that helps others achieve organization, design and simplicity. The slogan "Embrace your Space, Live Clutter Free" has truly become Organized for Life's mission statement.

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year, and being asked to decorate a home for the holidays was an absolute dream come true for me. Bringing the magic and spirit of Christmas into any home instantly adds a feeling of joy, love and reminds us of what the holidays are truly about. Below are photos of how everything came together. My goal was for others to feel the spirit of Christmas from the moment they walk in the door, and for the owners to fall in love with their home all over again.

Entrance

Top of stairs

Side view entrance

tree

 

 

 

 

 

Mantle

 

table

scones

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Green tree

bowls and vase

 

 

 

 

 

Think You Know What an Organizer is Really Thinking About All Your Stuff? Think Again

I have heard the phrase many times, "please don't get nervous when you see my home". I'm here to tell you that I will not be nervous. I will never feel a sense of overwhelm or judgment. There are times when I think to myself when walking into a home that the disorganization is actually a beautiful thing. Yes every bit of it. Absolutely beautiful. Why? Every opportunity for transformation is beautiful. I know what waits on the other side and that once I complete the project it will feel like a new space. Every time I meet a client and walk into their home I have been given the opportunity to take a space that is not functioning well and breathe new life into in. The space to me is so much more than just disorganized or messy. It's lived in, it's loved, it's full of memories old and new. The first thought that crosses my mind is how I'm going to take everything in this space and create some clarity and breathing room. How I can help remove what is no longer working or useful, and I'm going to make sure every bit of it looks peaceful and calming. The truth is our spaces are meant to be lived in and there will never be enough hours in our day to allow for perfection. What we can do is embrace the imperfections, remove what is no longer serving us in the space and decide to create function and clarity.

If you are ever struggling with the idea to hire a professional organizer but hesitate because you feel it may be difficult to let go of things or you may think they will never understand the mess, think again. I welcome the mess and the confusion of it all. It's why I do what I do.

Why I Became a Light Worker

12165838_10153353131506137_203977504_n"Why did you become an organizer, what's so great about helping people deal with all their stuff"? This was asked by a woman recently in the parking lot at the market. I was loading up my car with groceries and she saw my business info which is in plain sight on my car magnet. I've been asked this question before. From clients, family, friends and in this case strangers. It's an honest question. The job is not glamorous. It involves work, standing for hours and can feel like a game of tetris. Figuring out what will fit where, how it all makes sense in the space. It also involves patience. Not everyone sees my simplified view on things, they aren't always as interested in just letting go. But I don't focus on those aspects of the business. They aren't important. So I make it about what is important. I make is about how it makes me feel, and in turn how others feel. Since I was 18 I've always worked in the retail and the consumer goods industry. It's about more. More sales, more customers, more numbers. At one point I had no idea that this concept of more was not meant for me. When you're young you're searching for where you belong, how you fit in the world. When you're feeling lost you tend to look outside of yourself for the answers. The external things become a fix for you. So I went along with the more mentality and shopping became my external fix. The thing about "fixes" is that they are temporary and meaningless. My closet was filled up with so much but in actuality it was really filled with emptiness. Eventually I started searching inside instead and focusing on what makes me feel good and that's when everything changed.

I knew how I felt when walking into a room and seeing things perfectly placed, in order but still filled with personality and life. I love that perfect balance between organization and inviting in the unexpected. For me simplicity is never about perfection but rather about your possessions consisting of only what you love. Finding that clutter free balance and feeling at ease in a space. I can't explain why. I just know that I feel a sense of calm, happiness and excitement in any space that is truly embraced and simplified. I knew 2.5 years ago that I wanted to help people feel that way in their space. I also know that stuff does not define us, dictate who we are inside as human beings and that life as a slave to your possessions is a heavy existence. I believe in living light. I believe in this because once I let go of the person I was pretending to be and stepped into who I truly was my energy, focus and life began to shift. Spreading that to others truly became my mission.

I consider myself a light worker. Someone who is here to help people move past their belongings that have begun to weigh them down. It does not matter how many clients I have, or how many speaking gigs I have booked on the calendar. If I can reach a few at at time, make a difference in a few lives I am happy with that. I started my business because everyone deserves to experience living light.

Feeling a Little Lighter- Highlights From My Workshop Series

10346273_715774418488837_6972642400788471929_n After leading a workshop over the weekend and walking away feeling so in alignment with my message and the importance of spreading it, I knew it was as equally important to share some of the content here on the blog.  The more I share in my message the better I feel!

I started Organized for Life not only to help others become organized but more importantly to re-frame their relationship to stuff. Why does it accumulate? Why do we struggle with letting go of things? How can we adopt new habits to invite in a more simplistic and meaningful life? The answers to these questions require patience, truth and the willingness to embrace a new way of being. What is on the other side of your stuff can be the answer to making room for so many of the things you want to transpire in your life. Below is a recap of what clutter is and what it isn't and how you can begin to clear space within your life.

What is Clutter?

"Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor- it's anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living" Organizational expert, Peter Walsh

What Clutter Isn't

Clutter isn't anything you truly love or use regularly. Clutter is not the items you cherish that make you come alive.

There is a distinct difference between the items that we invite into our home that we know and love and the items that begin to accumulate that do not serve any other purpose than taking up space. Clutter IS the junk mail piled up on the counter, the clothing sitting in the closet you haven't worn in over a year. Clutter IS NOT your favorite books, your child's favorite artwork from school. You can feel the difference when you see it and touch it. But how do we ensure the items that we do not consider clutter don't end up being displayed in a way that feels cluttered and unmanageable? This is where clearing space is an important tool to begin to let go of the items we do not want, and invite in the objects we know and love so that they are surrounding us. It's about embracing your space.

Ways to clear space

  • Start with a vision for the space and audit your home accordingly.
  • Remember that everything in our home is there with our permission.
  • Use the 1 in 2 out rule.
  • Zone in on furniture placement and eliminate anything that blocks flow in the space.
  • Honor the memory and let go of the object for items that stir up nostalgia.
  • If you are going to have less things they have to be great things.

Once you begin decluttering, you may find yourself unburdened by heavy emotions and will begin to feel lighter, more at ease and have a greater sense of happiness and personal well-being. This will carry into your day and also bring a happiness into your home.

Letting go- the essentials and the non-essentials that live in our space

The difference between the essentials and the non-essentials in our lives that we can let go of all depend on how much we value certain things. For instance you may see your iPad as an essential and the shoes in your closet that you don't wear as a non essential. If you struggle with what to let go of and what to keep here's a little exercise you can do to get started.

  • List 5 essentials in your life that are things that you can let go of because you feel they no longer serve you.
  • List 5 "non essentials" in your life that are things you can let go of because they are taking up space.
  • List 5 “essentials” that you can keep.

Asking yourself these questions gives you the opportunity to dive into your relationship to your stuff and become honest with yourself about the process of decluttering.

Freeing ourselves of emotional clutter, physical clutter and what no longer serves us is one of the most freeing journeys we can take in our lives. Start with a simple step. Here's to making the spaces we live and work in a little brighter, a little lighter and full of love.

xo

Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

Home Staging Made Simple, Loving it While Listing It

If you are selling your home, fall in love with the space one last time. Think of your home listing as a property where prospective buyers are going to decide from the doorway whether or not they love the space, so decide that you love it to. They are going to mentally begin to move in as they start the tour or feel as though they can't imagine themselves living there. Remember what you loved about the home and accentuate those details beginning with the front yard. Trim the hedges, clean the deck and plant some flowers should the season call for it. Invite them in and allow them to feel at home. Once inside read on for tips on creating balance, flow and simplicity that potential buyers will not forget. First impressions are everything. Create a calm environment that is free of clutter from the moment they walk in. This entryway has a simple but elegant table and a few decorative pieces to add some interest. Arranging items in ones and threes is rule of thumb as it builds progression and flow in any space.

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Be mindful of not having any personal items such as family pictures and heirlooms covering the walls and shelving. Remember clutter eats equity! It also will make rooms appear smaller. Declutter, simplify and bring in accent pieces that accentuate the homes color scheme. Rearrange furniture to create open walkways as well. Take a test drive through your home and see if there are any awkward furniture pieces in the way. Removing them is an opportunity to pair down before your move.

Fresh flowers and inviting seating add warmth and a sense of calm to this living room space below. The seating is arranged in front of the window which overlooks the backyard, but it does not obstruct the beautiful view. If you have hard wood floors it's a great idea to show them off but having area rugs as well will balance the room and bring in color. For focal points in a room such as a fireplace, make it the focal point! Declutter the mantle, keep it clean and add in some interest with accent pieces of varying heights. This will make for a great design and draw the buyer's attention to it. If the focal point is a window keep the window sill clutter free and open the blinds or window treatments to allow natural light to flow. Lightning is important in any room of the home.

plants and paint

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fireplace

Furniture and lighting placed evenly on either side of a larger piece balances the space and actually creates feelings of harmony, stability and wellness. Those are feelings you want potential buyers in your home to experience and remember when they leave. The room below is a great example of creating balance and simplicity. Hard and soft lines in a room should compliment each other similar to the couch and round chair below. Squared off tables and end tables balance the lines well.

upstairs room

Setting your kitchen table as if you were ready for a dinner party will allow the buyer to envision entertaining within the space, however going overboard may deter them from looking at the rest of the kitchen. Keep it simple and light. Stick to a color scheme that works within the space. Leave some breathing room on the table as well, as with most flat surfaces in the home less is more! Key words for table staging- entertain, relax and enjoy.

table with flowers 2 table with flowers 3 table with flowers 4Clear those kitchen counters and leave one or two essentials. A bowl of fruit or lemons and some flowers are just the right touch. Clear counter tops will give buyers the opportunity to see how much prep space they have and will allow the kitchen to appear larger.

Less is best when staging your home and getting it ready to sell. The time you put into the details and finishing touches will certainly go a long way, and is so important to consider for a quick sell!

For inquiries on how Lauren can help you become Organized for Life head to the contact page!

All photos courtesy of Organized for Life clients and permission is needed for use. All Rights are Reserved.

Be the Change. 3 Ways Change Will Set You Free

When too many changes are happening at once I have a tendency to feel as though I'm spinning around on a carousel and get the urge to jump off and run for the hills. There is a peace and comfort in things when they are slow going. Then there are the times when things are moving a little too slow, and I can get itchy to shake things up a bit, looking for change to come to the rescue. So where's the happy medium? When is change nothing but a good thing? There are 2 types of changes that can occur. Those which we welcome and those that we do not. A sudden job lay off that we weren't expecting, clearly an unwelcome change. A much needed new haircut, consider a welcome change. Life is full of the expected and the unexpected, the welcome changes and the ones that sneak up on us out of thin air. We learn to roll with the punches or fight it till we forget why we even started to fight. It's the resistance to change, and on the flip side the idea that sometimes we need it, that makes it oh so difficult for some of us. What if we decided to be the change? Rather than always be anticipating what's to come instead decide to embrace it as it comes? Being the change can mean moving with it and understanding that there is purpose for the unexpected, and when we are seeking it we can silence our minds a bit and ask ourselves why. Dance with it, walk with it and even have a chat with it. Taking positive active to embrace our own lives and embrace the things that we want to create, as well as those that appear unexpectedly, will only create one outcome- a calm spirit amidst a world that is constantly changing. There will be always be changes that we cannot anticipate, but by being the change in our lives we can learn to roll with those punches and truly embrace what we are seeking. Here's my top 3 reasons why change can set you free.

1. You will stop resisting. Maybe you can't let go of certain items in your home and struggling with feelings of loss if you do . By going with the flow and being open to the possibility of opening the space and letting go you will feel free of resistance.

2. You will grow from change. We cannot learn in life unless we are inviting in experiences that allow us to learn from them. Changes almost always follows an amazing growth period. You may be stronger, smarter and happier to "being" the change that presented itself to you.

3. You will be open to the possibilities of life. As they say when one door closes, another one opens. Very cliche but also very true. Allow that door to close, slam it if you have to. There is going to be something beautiful behind that door that is waiting to be opened. The door where letting go of resisting change is waiting.

Allow change to remind us of how amazing life can be. By being the change we can focus on what we want out of life and always remember there are amazing things to come.