To The Mothers

Most of my clients are women - moms - who feel stuck, stressed, and overwhelmed. The idea of ‘having it all’ sounds great but all too often it also means having all the cleaning, all the cooking, all the scheduling appointments, all the organizing kids’ activities, and oh yeah - let’s not forget working. Decluttering may not be the ‘life-changing magic’ solution to drowning in overwhelm but there are a few things you can declutter to make a real difference in your life.

First walk through your home and notice the things that give you a little kick of negativity. That jacket you hate but keep because it was a gift? The dishes you’re saving out of mother-induced guilt? Take a deep breath - and let it go. If you’re thinking, “But April – what if my mother-in-law asks where’s that ____ she gave me?”. Are you ok with giving up space for something that makes you feel bad every time you look at it? If so, carry on. If not – get ready to get real; tell people you’re trying to clear space, that something isn’t your style anymore – even better, ask them “Why do you ask?”. Start devoting your space to things that make you feel good.  

Speaking of devoting your space, do you have a second wardrobe of aspirational ‘skinny clothes’? Box ‘em up and store them in the garage. Better yet, donate them, and if you lose weight reward yourself with clothes that rock the new you. Clinging to the past means you’re not living in the present; let that stuff go and embrace who you really are.

And while we’re time travelling, let’s stop fearing the future. Anything you’re keeping ‘just in case’ falls into this category. Ask yourself just how likely is ‘just in case’? How dire will it really be if your stuff is gone if ‘just in case’ happens? Let’s face it, your kid isn’t Picasso – keeping every piece of art “just in case” they want it someday is burdening them and you! It’s time to live in the now. 

And now that we’re in the present, declutter obligations. Busy is not a badge of honour. You’re not a bad mom if your kid is not in every activity imaginable. You don’t need to volunteer for every committee at work. Repeat after me – “No, thank you”. Declutter your schedule and reclaim time for simply living. 

Finally – get ready for some in your face life advice. It’s time to declutter the idea of being a martyr. Is there really one right way to wash the car or sort the recycling? Do you really have to be the family CEO micromanaging everything? I’m a hard-core believer in the roommate approach – your kids and spouse need to be good roommates. This means sharing the load, on everything from cleaning the toilet to picking up their stuff. Shared space = shared responsibility. Stop taking it all on yourself, and rinse the bitter taste of resentment from your mouth!

Women always seem to be last on their own list. Try making yourself a priority by decluttering the things that drag you down. And while you’re at it, stir up some good karma – donate your decluttered items to a local charity or women’s center, and use it to lift another woman up. 

Host a Clothing Swap!

A little while ago I was working with a client on organizing her wardrobe. Instead of the usual keep, donate, toss piles, she mentioned she’d like a fourth pile for clothing swap items.  A clothing swap lets participants exchange clothing that’s in great shape but is no longer used, for clothing they will use. They’re a great way to declutter and refill one's wardrobe, and, as an added bonus, are environmentally friendly. They're becoming more popular in Newfoundland with regular events popping up - see herehere, and here. My client hosted her clothing swap a short while later, and agreed to share some tips for clothing swap success! So for my first blog post of 2016, here is Carly Ainley, a recent organizational enthusiast and Newfoundlander by choice, with her tips for hosting an awesome clothing swap!

The new year is a time of renewal and the colder temperatures are a great excuse to tackle household projects, cozy up with friends, and refresh in a budget friendly way. Clothing swaps are a great opportunity let go of the past and embrace the future.

Here are my top tips for successful swaps:

1.     Save the date with time to spare: A closet clean out can be a time consuming task, so I give 4-6 weeks notice of an upcoming swap. Many friends have told me that the swap was the perfect chance for them to get around to the task they were ‘meaning to get to’. A deadline can provide focus and motivate us to let go of items we used to love if we know another will enjoy them!

2.     Encourage a diverse group of guests: Swaps work best when there are lots of options as well as different sizes, so I encourage folks to bring friends. Do you have friends who are starting new careers who could benefit from the professional wardrobe your colleagues are ready to be rid of? Are there new moms whose bodies have changed or who are looking for breastfeeding friendly options? The more the merrier!

3.     Set up the Space: My top tip is to designate 3 areas of your home for different sizes (S, M, L) and encourage your guests to distribute their items. Many women have clothing of various sizes and it’s most efficient to ‘shop’ in the area that fits your body now. Items like jewellery, shoes, scarves and bags that aren’t size specific can be in a central location open to all.

Depending on the volume of items and size of your space, consider providing multiple private change areas or mirrors in different rooms to help ease traffic.

4.     Share the love: Even the most successful swaps will have items leftover. Consider local community organizations that would benefit from items that might not work for your guests but still have lots of life in ’em! Confirm with your local women’s organizations which items would be most helpful for them. Smaller sizes and accessories like backpacks and messenger bags can work for youth organizations. Professional clothing could be especially helpful for employment programs.  Toiletries and warm outerwear can work well for housing programs.

5.     Let the structure set you free: In general, I recommend a free flow rather than a 1:1 structure. Some folks might bring more than they take, some might take more than they bring, but the right balance will emerge.

I’ve had swaps expand to include books, toiletries, men’s and children’s clothing. You’ll know best what will be most helpful for your friends and stages of life.