Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Cheer

Seasons Greetings.

Here's to a clutter-free New Year!

All the best,

Rosemary Flannery

Clearing the
path to calm since 2006.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Occasionally, readers contact me with their particular organizing questions. In this case, one reader is struggling with lists and trying to find a method that would encapsulate all of her tasks for her home and home office. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately since I live by lists personally and professionally. I get great satisfaction from feeling grounded but love crossing off a task once it’s been completed. Depending on how much time you want to devote to list making, here are a few options:

1) Plain and Simple Paper Lists – If contained in a pad, they’re portable for shopping but can get a little messy once you start crossing off chores. Paper also contributes to paper waste so if you go this route, I encourage all lists to be recycled when they have outlived their use.

2) For those who use PDA’s or iPhones, I believe there are apps for list making. Or you can type up the list in Word or Excel and then sync the document to your device. With this method, every time a change is made, it will be updated automatically when you sync up.

Along these lines, has written some great advice on this very topic as quoted below:

Many of us walk around with mini-computers/digital cameras in our pockets thanks to smartphones, and we can use them to bypass paper entirely. Instead of jotting your grocery shopping list on a scrap of paper, use Gmail Tasks, Remember the Milk or your list manager of choice on your phone. Transcribe whiteboards to PDF or even fax documents using previously mentioned Qipit. Also, popular note-taking application Evernote makes it dead easy to capture ideas, lists, and notes without killing a single tree.

Whatever method you choose to compile your lists, have you thought about how you are going to break it down? My preference is to group home chores together, administrative (i.e., phone calls, correspondence, financial matters, etc.) as another section and then tasks outside the home e.g., dry cleaners, food shopping, car repairs, etc. To stay focused, I recommend setting aside time every day to assess what needs to be done and how to get it done. Firstly, I would categorize tasks by room in the house, i.e.,
Living Room
- dust furniture
- vacuum rugs and walls
- DVR Hoarders on A&E

- unload dishwasher
- clean out fridge
- empty trash bin

Break things down and be specific about the task to be done. Don’t be put off if the list is very long because in the end, the more detailed the list, the more focused you will be in accomplishing your work.

One final piece of advice… when certain chores require that I block out time to address them, I use the iCal calendar program on my MAC laptop. This program is invaluable in keeping my appointments or self-imposed deadlines. I love the timer feature that allows me to schedule an “event” for a specific date and time. I hit the alarm button which gives me “heads up” minutes, hours or days before my desired time.

2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just Say Ahhhh...

I received a lot of positive responses to my last posting about my struggle with packing up my house. Some readers were riveted and can’t wait for the next installment. I’m not sure my current situation constitutes enough for serialization but I will keep everyone updated on my further adventures of garage hell!

I took a bit of a break from writing due to an influx of visitors. It’s hard keeping things orderly when I have a nephew sneaking yet another crab trap into my garage or beach items being used constantly. Now that everyone has gone home, I am left again to face the demon garage. The house is not rented yet, nor do I have any prospects, yet I am trying to get as much advance work done without having to live in an empty space. I spent part of the holiday weekend sorting through my beach chair collection. Once I whittled down which ones were keepers, the rest went to the curb with a big “FREE” sign. By that afternoon it was one chair gone and as of yesterday the rest were taken too.

The largest item I have to dispose of is my mother’s 1970’s wall unit. I spent earlier this week posting the sale information on craigslist and prepping copy for eBay. Once I sell this piece I think I will be at peace because I will have gained more storage real estate in the back of the garage. So maybe my anxiety is for naught as my sister (and next door neighbor) announced that she is going to use her house instead of renting it out. This news means that some of the items I worried about storing may now have a temporary home next door. Ahhh…

2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swimming In Material Stress

I have been away from my blogging because I am facing my own clutter problems and feel a little overwhelmed right now. Generally, I am able to tackle tasks one at a time and then move onto the next one. What is different this time? Well I am trying to generate business for Clarity, freelancing as a graphics producer and trying to prepare my weekend house as a 12 month rental in order to generate additional income. This last point is the one that is stressing me the most.

When I bought my little bungalow eight years ago, I really had no housewares to speak of, so packing the place up after the summer for a rental was easy – everything fit in my garage. Fast forward to 2009, after using the house full-time for five years, well let’s say I am equipped +.

My first task is to go through the garage. I’ve seen a lot of garages and mine is not in bad shape but I have been storing items for friends and family that now need to find a new home. To keep myself from hyperventilating, I am scrutinizing everything I have and deciding if I really want to pack it and store it indefinitely. So far, I’ve given a friend a set of acrylic tumblers and re-usable plastic flatware in anticipation of her beach house purchase. I know I’m not making a dent of any kind, but I’m really taking baby steps on this one. While I consider myself not even close to a hoarder, I was fascinated by an episode of A&E’s Obsessed which focused on a this disorder. It was very sad to see a grown man be afraid of tossing junk mail addressed to his dead mom because it would diminish his connection to her. The entire ranch house was COVERED with belongings, garbage and who knows what else. Thank God Smellovision never caught on because I can only imagine the stench.

Hoarding is a very serious problem, so much so that now A&E is devoting an entire series to the topic on Monday nights at 10pm beginning August 17. Some of my clients have this problem; they think by letting go of something that they are somehow dishonoring themselves or the person/event associated with it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a practice that helps hoarders deal with their quality of life issues. I am not a therapist but this is my understanding of this therapy – basically clients are asked, “what is the worst that can happen if you throw this away?” Some respond well to that question, others just shut down – it’s a complicated behavior. Well I am pushing forward on my garage and so far managed to get rid of some bottles of bubbles, hedge trimmers and a hanging basket just by putting them to the curb. I also took my own advice and went to Best Buy to recycle an old television. It was so easy. I happily paid the $10 recycling charge in exchange for a $10 BB gift card which I used immediately to buy new camera batteries. I told the salesperson that BB should really publicize this service since it’s so simple and worthwhile. The bag for the thrift shop is growing and I am feeling lighter already!

2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 12, 2009


A friend of mine is “grappling” with his sock drawer and asked for some advice on how to tame the beast. I’ve seen many a sock drawer as a de-clutterer and some were not pretty. There’s the “just toss all socks whether they match or not into the drawer “ method or rolling pairs or tying pairs together. I have the luxury of a large drawer to store my hosiery so my system is very simple. Before the organizing can take place it is imperative to go through all of your socks/hosiery to weed out the intact ones from those that have holes or tears or loose elastic. Once you have done this you are ready to organize!

My main application of all de-cluttering is dividing items into zones or “like = like.” My chosen method is rolling. Yes, to some this could be tedious when folding clean laundry but I find it therapeutic. On the left side of the drawer I have grouped all my “short socks, i.e. ankle, athletic – this category is quite small so it takes up little room. The other 2/3 of the drawer is used for my knee socks – yes a throwback to my Catholic school days but you know in the winter, under pants, they work well at keeping me warm. At times it’s hard to buy them because the trend has been ankle socks so I load up every time I go to Europe. Did you know that Paris seems to only have black socks and Florence only has navy – never shall the two colors meet in the same city… but I digress...

Since I only have navy and black palettes to work with, the entire navy collection is grouped together in the back and the black are in the forefront. I organize them in rows – it’s a little off-kilter since I don’t use dividers. Cotton socks stay with cotton and wool/cashmere stay together. I also have a very small area designated for tights – black opaque of course! They are rolled neatly into balls but since I am short on space for them I double up to 2 tiers. My rule when dealing with hosiery is if you wear the item and the elastic is shot or there are holes is to toss immediately – you don’t want them back in the mix. I just wish more companies branded themselves so I can keep track of which socks/tights worked or not. To give all of the accessories equal time, I rotate – it prolongs the life of the item

If you’re looking constantly for a sock mate but can’t locate it – I think sock dividers will become your new best friend and eliminate future orphans. One client uses the narrow box type dividers. I’ve worked with the diamond drawer organizers too. You can find both types at Bed Bath and Beyond

Ok, now that you have that drawer under control, walk on!

2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Little Planning Goes A Long Way

Being organized is not confined to physical spaces. Information we take for granted could become very valuable and difficult for a loved one to locate if we aren’t able to do it for ourselves. Writing down medical histories, doctor information, emergency contacts, etc. is not something that only older people need to worry about. This list is really something that we all need.

A few months ago, my mom went into the hospital unexpectedly and I was able to step in and help her and her husband. My mom, a very organized Virgo, carried a lot of information in her head that she would download to me during my daily hospital visits. By the end of the week I was well versed in my mom and her husband’s routines. Thank goodness my mother was lucid and able to tell me what to do, but it occurred to me if she hadn’t been, I would have been stuck figuring out some important things like medication doses. The producer in me got into action. During my downtime, I started to compile an Excel spreadsheet outlining some pertinent information for family members to know should my mom not be available. She was resistant at first, but then it became a project.

The sheet I made for my family was broken down by name and divided into categories, i.e., Medical History, Medications, Doctors’ Contact Info, Immediate Family Members Contact Info, Power of Attorney, Social Security #, Caregivers, Nearest Hospital, etc. The format can be tailored in any way that works for you, but should be put in an obvious place where a friend or family member could find it. I recommend by the phone or on the refrigerator.

I live in New York City and not to sound morbid, but after surviving 9/11, blackouts and just ordinary daily life, I decided to start an “In Case of Emergency” binder divided into sections labeled: Insurance, Investments, Accounts, Health Care Proxy and Living Will, etc. It’s not complete yet, but it’s a start and hopefully will make things easier for my family to settle matters on my behalf, because you just never know!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Out On The Street

Last Friday at midnight, the US switched over from analogue to digital television signals. It’s a great thing for those of us who only have network access since we now can receive multiples of each network and the reception is very clear! But what’s not so clear is how local and state governments are handling the disposal of all the old, non-working televisions that are probably lining curbsides across America.

While I always applaud clients getting rid of items that are no longer useful, it pains me that many items that can be recycled just go into the trash because it’s “convenient. “ For those of us who are aware of the harmful effects junked electronics have on our environment, I offer some thoughts on how to deal with these obsolete items.

First of all, there is no need to run out and buy a new TV if you can buy a digital converter box (for about $75 --less if you have the government sponsored coupon) that will work with your current set. If your TV is too old for the converter box, then consider calling your town/county recycling centers and inquire about their policy for accepting and recycling electronics. If you can’t find a local outlet, try these resources. Sure they might take some effort to drop-off or ship but just think of how much good your are doing for yourself and future generations by minimizing toxic waste in your community.

According to Real Simple’s article, “How To Recycle Anything. “ Best Buy will remove and recycle TV’s when they deliver a new one. Office Depot will accept TV’s for recycling and if you have a Sony set, go to to find a drop off center near you.

2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The 10 Minute Rule

So many people want to clear the clutter from their environments but feel so overwhelmed by the mountains of stuff blocking their path. Taking a tip from decluttering guru, Peter Walsh, spend 10 minutes every day to tackle an area that is bothering you. There are lots of little problems that can build up to big ones. I call these little problems, “clutter potholes.”

So where to begin? After a tough work day, mix yourself a cocktail, put your feet up, set the timer and start going through the mail. You would be amazed at how many people don’t open their mail and how quickly it piles up. Whatever your clutter pothole, just take 10 minutes every day and you can prevent these little problems from developing into monster chasms.

©2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Are Not Alone!

Welcome to what I hope will be the first of many musings on the process of decluttering. As so many of us have experienced, getting rid of things can be difficult. We all want to hold onto items that make us feel secure, which is fine. But when these items we cling to take up precious room and don’t serve a purpose any longer, it is time to think about moving on. I am here to tell you to toss and that it’s ok to do so. In the coming months, I will be posting some case studies from clients and give tips on taming your clutter demons. You are not alone! Together we can make the journey From Clutter2Clarity.

©2009 Rosemary Flannery All Rights Reserved