you can do it!

When it’s all tidied up, there’s plenty of space in your place and it’s clear you’re doing pretty well. But that happens twice a year and the rest of the time you feel completely overwhelmed.

Where’s the bottleneck that stops things getting done at your house?

Is it the laundry? We wash, we dry, we fold but do we put away? Or does it sit there waiting to be put away. What’s the hold up? It could be waiting for annoyed teenagers to put them away (you’ll be waiting approximately nine years, give or take).

But maybe they have a good reason for dodging the call to action – there’s nowhere to put the stuff. Too many clothes for too little space ends up with a bottleneck and it’s usually located in the smallest room of the house, the laundry room. Clean clothes mingle with their dirty companions and often the simplest thing seems to be to start over and wash everything again. And if you don’t finish the cycle by putting things away, you can repeat the process every week or so, depending on how often you do laundry.

Or how about the mail? You feel like you deal with it because you put it in a designated spot for incoming mail. But don’t stop there. What happens to the opened mail you’ve decided to keep? Pay the bills, read the letters, recycle everything when you’re done. Take the action that completes the cycle of getting mail.

You get something new. And then it sits uncomfortably, like an awkward guest at a party where everyone else knows everybody else really well. Where does this new thing go? The first part of the buying process is to figure out where this item will go when you have it. What will have to leave to give you the space for this thing?

This Saturday, can you begin to close a cycle? Start to declutter the clothes so clean laundry has space waiting for it in the closet and dressers. Go through the mail pile and take the first step on one of those action items. Assess your space before you buy that mini trampoline that may feel less mini once it’s in the middle of your family room.

© 2013 – 2019 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.

Need a helping hand closing the cycle? If you’re in the Boulder County/Longmont area, let’s talk. If you’re further afield, here’s how to hire a professional organizer.

Joyful Surroundings LLC – (720) 526-2114 –

It’s a container, ideally light enough that you could hold it on your lap while you look through the contents. The contents are very special because we don’t have twenty-five sentiment boxes, we just have one. The box is intensely personal. You don’t have to write notes about why something is in there, you’ll know. You’ll enjoy making it much more if you start now. Trying to put one together when you have a month to downsize will be stressful and you’ll be making snap judgments instead of listening to your heart.

It holds the essence of what makes you smile, be it a favorite shell, a letter from a beloved relative, scribbles by your 18 month old who was “writing”, a ticket to a concert or movie you loved. There might be a medal from your first race, the recipe for your wedding cake, a silly photograph of your parents goofing around at your 3rd birthday party.

Exactly the sorts of things I’m usually advising you to declutter. But these things are different because they’re so very carefully selected. They’re the highlights of a life well lived and well loved. They sum up what has given you joy in the past and still brings a smile to your face when you rediscover it.

The only prerequisite is that these things must warm your heart. We don’t stick a school report card in there so we have a something for each period of our lives. We’re not curating a chronological exhibition of your life here, we’re holding a sacred spot for reminders of cherished memories. It’s totally okay if the box is half empty. We’re not trying to fill a quota, we’re just holding space for such things.

Why should the box be able to sit on your lap? Because when you reach the ending of your days, when you’ve shed most of the possessions that bedevil you now, you can gently lift it onto your lap, open up the lid and be viscerally reminded of what a wonderful life you’ve had. Everything in there will bring a smile to your face. Its physical lightness mirrors the joy you’ll feel at the life you’ve been lucky enough to have here.

Encourage your children and your grandchildren to start making their own sentiment boxes. As they grow older, they’ll revise what’s in there, sorting out the special from the ho-hum. The discipline of fitting things into just one box will help them discern what’s truly important to them and set the foundation for awesomely lifelong decluttering skills.

At eight, they might love all their origami animals and want to cram the box full of them. That’s fine, but when the time comes later on to add something different, encourage them to sort through the box and save only their favorite animals. If they decide they’re all favorites, then they won’t be able to put the latest thing they love in there. It’s time to make some decisions not just get another box. Putting off decisions leads to 25 full-size totes stuffed with your children’s artwork. Surely it can’t all be that special?

So, what will you put in your sentiment box? It’ll be as unique as you are. It’ll be a shortcut to your memories, a way to remind yourself of how rich your life has been. It’ll evolve over time as you sort through it periodically, adding new things, removing things which have become stale and unspecial to you. A source of fun to make and a pleasure to review, a way to honor the part of you that sometimes feels as if you’re throwing out your memories when you declutter an item you’ve had for a long time. A sentiment box is a microcosm of your life, a thing of beauty, a joy forever. And it’s all yours.

© 2013 – 2019 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.

Need a helping hand figuring out what belongs in your sentiment box? If you’re in the Boulder County/Longmont area, let’s talk. If you’re further afield, here’s how to hire a professional organizer.

Joyful Surroundings LLC – (720) 526-2114 –


L T-C column July 2019

Send it Away Saturday: Sometimes free is no bargain at all

Before you bring anything bigger than a bankers box into your house, please do your future self a huge favor and think about where it’ll go, and what you’ll do with it when you’re done with it. There’s a reason all those perfectly good pianos are out there for free and you can pick up a billiard table just for the asking from desperate neighbors and friends who are saddled with these heavy items.

How much do you play the upright piano that was such a great find? “They were having a yard sale and they gave it to us for $20!! A piano like that would cost thousands!” Don’t let yourself think about how often you’ve paid hundreds of dollars to have it moved and tuned, how uninterested your kids turned out to be in playing the piano, how it rests now in the center of your living room as a large dust-catching monument to your impulse to get a piano for a song. You’ll find yourself badgering churches and schools to come get it, not realizing they’re trying to get rid of pianos themselves. You’ll turn to begging parents of newborns to come get your piano “for free!” and offering it to complete strangers if they’ll only come get the damn thing.

What will happen to the tempting full size billiard table when you move into a space without a basement? Or you get it home and realize it doesn’t quite fit into your existing space? The table fits okay but when people attempt to pull back for that perfect shot, they bash the concrete wall with an ear-splitting scream.

Things don’t have to be big or heavy to be difficult to dispose of but they often are. How much furniture do you have in the basement, patiently waiting to be used by a needy grandchild off to college, a grandchild who has yet to be born? You’d love to use the space but Goodwill doesn’t come and dig things out of basements and somehow over the years all that furniture got covered in boxes.

So when you see a large bulky item going for a song, take a moment. Where will it go? How have you lived without it thus far? How easy will it be to get it out of your house if things don’t work out? And keep driving. The sign says “free” but you know better.

© 2013 – 2019 Joyful Surroundings LLC. All rights reserved.

Need a helping hand dealing with your clutter? If you’re in the Boulder County/Longmont area, here’s how to work with me. If you’re further afield, here’s how to hire a professional organizer.

Joyful Surroundings LLC – (720) 526-2114 –