6 Habits of Highly Organized People

by Honolulu Mother

As a disorganized person, I thought the advice in this Washington Post article was pretty good:

6 Habits of Highly Organized People

The first two tips, keeping organizational systems simple and using the force of habit and routine to get things done, are two of the major things that work for me to keep on top of things. I have certainly found that complex organizational systems — especially those designed by others! — are something I’m more likely to work around than to benefit from, or worse yet procrastinate doing whatever task they’re supposed to support because the system is a pain to deal with.

I have more trouble putting into effect the “a place for everything and everything in its place” suggestion, not because I disagree, but because in a small house with five people plus pets we have more of the ‘everything’ than we do of the places to put it. I think Hesper Desloovere, the author of this Hairpin article, put her finger on something important here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Money (love the title!)

The brilliant and bonkers documentary Queen of Versailles was originally meant to chronicle the construction of the most expensive house in America by one of the wealthiest families in the world. Instead, the filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield, had the good luck to capture bad fortune, as the Siegel family hemorrhages money, staff and sense during the 2008 economic crisis. It’s striking how quickly their perfectly manicured mansion goes to literal shit. As they lay off butlers, maids, nannies, chauffeurs and gardeners, their sprawling house begins to resemble one that would be featured on the show “Hoarders:” days-old dishes left to rot, animals neglected, and dog poop everywhere….

. . .Jackie was actually a hoarder all along. She pathologically acquired stuff, animals and children, leaning on an army of staff to squirrel the purchases away, feed the kids and clean up the shit. When the vast wealth starts to evaporate, it lays bare her problems and exposes a counterintuitive truth: stuff is a poor-people problem….

Like juicing, spinning and other rich white lady pastimes, the driving force behind the KonMari method is competitive deprivation….

Do you agree with this take?

And, do you have any tried-and-true organization tips that don’t require significant time or money or both?


162 thoughts on “6 Habits of Highly Organized People

  1. I completely agree with the “Magic of Money”! It’s easier to be organized when you’re wealthy, and also easier to stay thin and beautiful. If I had a personal chef, a personal trainer, and a staff of household help I’m sure I’d be more organized and look younger. :)

  2. I find that getting rid of clutter is really difficult, but living with clutter and mess is stressful. There are times when I would just like to toss everything into the dumpster. Especially on those days when I look into a full closet and have nothing to wear.

  3. I pretty much do everything on the highly organized list. My systems are very simple. I keep a do list on my phone and delete things as they are done.
    One more tip is to build out proper storage space – put in shelves, buy bins, baskets whatever works for you. Then limit yourself and family members to existing storage. If you have no space for new acquisitions, old things have to go. Revisit the storage needs after two years or so. You can repurpose a lot of the bins, baskets (don’t go out, buy more containers !).

  4. I do most of the things on the list except the last one – toss and purge regularly. Which explains why my office is filled with stacks of paper :-(

  5. I’m internalizing this as a non-work process, mostly because I’ve pretty well figured out how to stay on top of work stuff.

    The only one of the 6 I disagree with is “Keep a current and detailed to-do list”. Not because doing so would be unhelpful, but more because I think it would cause me to become depressed at finding that I’m not managing my home to-dos very well. OTOH, if it were like at work the things that never got done would obviously not be very important and so should come off the list.

    “Organized people don’t wait for a free weekend or an upcoming move to get their homes in order.” Hard to argue with this, but it’s just not me. I have not moved everything to electronic statements so we get a lot more paper into the house than probably we should; I have learned that getting the physical bill is a better reminder something is due than the electronic version. Once something is paid it’s shredded/recycled as appropriate. This weekend was my/our organizing/extraordinary cleaning weekend, probably occasioned by DW hosting book club later this week. Papers/clothes/pictures/electronics. Putting an 11yo Wii with games/accessories on ebay this week. I brought in a large file folder for the burn bin at work today (vs shredding at home). I do this paper organizing about 3-4x/yr so everything relevant is in about 6 file folders + two 3″ binders. If I need more detail, I really do know the information is online.

  6. Having enough money that you don’t mind re-buying items that have been purged is clearly important for purging. This is both a monetary and an emotional question. Having enough time/money to shop for clothes that fit, and whether this is an ongoing project, is also important. I went shopping before Baby WCE and hoped to go this December but was busy, so maybe I’ll go next December. Until then, I’ll continue to wear several pairs of pants that are basically a size too large. The interaction between one’s climate and what clothes are in stores (why do stores carry summer clothes starting in January when we don’t wear summer clothes except for a few weeks in July and August?) is another factor.

    I just purged kid clothes, passed down as appropriate and gave away stuff. I do this every size change/end of summer/winter, and I also shop for new clothes every year. I’m not sure my pairs of new children’s shoes “spark joy” now, but not having to shop when someone’s shoe blows out or is outgrown is sufficiently appealing to keep some boxes stacked on the top shelf. I will probably never have a minimalist house.

    We have tons of recreational equipment for fishing, crabbing, skiing, x-country skiing, backpacking, hunting and camping. Marie Kondo never discusses her interests in those areas and I suspect that’s not an area of clutter concern for her. No individual item is used often.

    Lastly, just because several people share a space does not mean they have the same opinions about what sparks joy and what doesn’t. This is especially important for spouses and getting to convergence can be hard.

    Personally, our most recent win is a Google family calendar. Previous wins include a row of high hooks and a row of low hooks behind the front door and a shoe rack.

  7. “stuff is a poor-people problem….

    Like juicing, spinning and other rich white lady pastimes, the driving force behind the KonMari method is competitive deprivation….”

    WOW. That’s effing brilliant.

    My issue is the disconnect between the “daily” and the “everything in its place” obligations. We have a reasonable workflow now for most daily stuff — backpacks go here, mail goes there, mail that requires some action goes in the “to do” box, I even have a cubby that I put stuff that needs to be filed in. But then DH never goes through the mailbox, so that’s usually me delving through to clear it out; the cubby gets full of everything that needs to be filed, so I take it out and pile it on a spot on a counter in the office; and it just piles up there until we get around to filing it (which I frequently don’t want to do because DH likes to enter statements into Quicken). So the daily/weekly workflow only goes so far — at some point, it needs to get put in the damn filing cabinet.

    I agree that money can hide a wide variety of sins — a housekeeper would easily keep on top of that for me. :-) We are at the point where we have sufficient disposable income to hire out many annoying tasks that we’d prefer not to do (mowing, cleaning), but not all of them; at the same time, we are busy enough with work that we’d rather not spend our somewhat limited free time filing, tossing, doing Goodwill runs for outgrown kid toys, and the like. So it’s easier to put it off until the pile of papers literally topples over.

    I am also not a Kon Mari disciple and get absolutely no joy out of minimalism, so there is no offsetting psychological payoff from devoting a Saturday to filing (as compared to my mom, who literally cannot go to sleep at night if there is a dirty glass in the sink).

  8. I’m a pretty organized person, and I do almost everything on the list.

    One trick I’ve trained myself – a million years ago, I was talking to someone whose house was always neat. She said that if a task would take 90 seconds or less, she makes herself do it RIGHT THEN. So, things like dishes in the dishwasher, not just on the counter next to it. Clothes hung up, not draped on the back of a chair. Mail sorted/recycled as soon as you bring it into the house. Come home from running errands, put any tax or business receipts in the correct file right away. I have really worked over the years to adopt this (it doesn’t come naturally) and it makes a huge difference. Things don’t pile up in that death-by-papercuts way.

    Also, like Fred mentions above, I process things much better in paper than electronically. So I still cling to my paper “week at a glance” calendar, and I make written to-do lists.

  9. I felt very accomplished last week when I finally got down the pile of cardboard boxes from Christmas to 3. We only have one recycling bin (at the last house we had 2!) so it is a slow process. I put stuff in the bin and then jump on it like a human compactor in order to get more stuff in there. :)

    Also this week I found the pile of renovation receipts from the last house, so that is set to send to our accountant. However, I might have our nanny go through and make a spreadsheet of the receipts if the CPA minions going through it will cost us too much.

    We have almost no closets in this house and it is driving me MAD. There is no place to put any of the sheets and towels, and I don’t know where a lot of my clothes are since they are spread out around the room. :-P

  10. If i had money to burn I would definitely hire a personal assistant.
    I have a list of calls that I have to make this week, and a bunch of stuff that I just have to get done soon. We did a lot of de cluttering during the holiday vacation and I still have to deal with some of the donations.

    I am one of those people that is organized at work/volunteer stuff, but a little disorganized at home. I am still working through my drop box/shutterfly project and I am sure it won’t be done until I actually have to hand over the file with my 100 final photos for a montage to the DJ.

  11. I make to do lists every single day filled with a mix of stuff around the house/paper work and errands – I especially need that now that I’m home because I can easily waste a lot of time on the internet or reading a book. I’ve started dropping kids off in the a.m. and taking 30 minutes to clean up the kitchen after breakfast, do some laundry and make my bed. I throw mail on the shredder every day but realistically don’t get to it more than once per month. I meal plan every Saturday or Sunday and we make sure to entertain every few weeks to make sure we are keeping up with the house cleaning.

    I tried to Marie Kondo but didn’t get further than my closet. We purged our kitchen before the renovation and the play room before and after Christmas so I’m happy with our level of stuff right now. I’ve taken a new tact with clothes buying – I signed up for Trunk Club and love it! I certainly kept things that I never would have picked out mostly because they were not on sale but I actually love what I’m wearing. I too often buy clothes because they are on sale and not because I really love them, so I feel better buying one or two more expensive things a month that I really love.

  12. In the past year I have created a system which has been life changing for me: flower pot in the kitchen full of car keys, electronic house lock, phone case that holds $20, blank check, DL and one CC. To get out of the house, I need a key and my phone. And my phone is usually 12 inches from my hands.

    We have more than 2 cars, more than 2 drivers and 2 keys to each. It was always a juggle of which set of keys, which purse with how much stuff, etc. I find I can navigate kid pick up, grocery shopping, without any additional accessories (the check for the random kid thing comes in handy more frequently than I would have imagined.)

  13. “Lastly, just because several people share a space doesn’t mean they have the same opinions about what sparks joy and what doesn’t.”

    Also brilliant.

  14. We live in a small house, I am disorganized, my husband is a hoarder, and 2 of the 3 kids have ADHD. Recipe for disaster! It is all-chaos, all the time. My daughter is the worst of it – it is like there is a vortex of chaos following her. For example, she can’t just go into her drawer and get a pair of PJs. No, every single last PJ will come flying out, landing everywhere in her room. If she goes into the pantry to sneak cookies, we will find a trail of crumbs, broken cookies, and several pairs of scissors. It makes it easy to know what she is up to, but it is really hard to keep the house neat in the face of that. And yes, I ask her to clean up, and she does (she likes cleaning up) and in the process makes a bigger mess.

    My husband always has a towering inferno of unopened mail next to his place on the table. For years, I have asked him to please sort through it when it arrives. I have a mail organizer set up, and if he doesn’t like my system, he could use any system he likes. The problem is, the system he likes is to ignore it and leave it in a pile. He buys new clothes and then leaves them in the bag for months on end, all stacked up in the bedroom. And he can’t part with ANYTHING. There is a bag of 300 cassettes in the kitchen, which he keeps promising to sort, but he never does.

    And I am just not organized. I have trouble figuring out where to put things. Some people love storage units and organizers, but I am not one of those people.

  15. DH and I both prefer paper bills to electronic ones – so we’ve stayed with that. And Lark – I’m glad to see you use a paper “week at a glance” calendar – I thought I was the only one. I like being able to see the entire week at a time. It has both my work meetings and my personal stuff. I also have a paper family calendar in a central place in the kitchen where I track family events. I’m the only one who writes stuff down on it but I know both kids check it and find it useful. I use an electronic calendar for work stuff so other people in the office can easily check my availability.

    I am struggling with a way to come up with a to-do list for work. There are so many items and it’s constantly changing. Occasionally I try keeping the list electronically but I find the paper lists work better for me. I seem to go between keeping a paper list in a notebook vs. writing really urgent things that have to be done today on yellow sticky notes. Then I abandon the notebook list for the yellow sticky list. Then the yellow sticky list gets too long. It’s more a sign of too many things to do and not enough time (have worked 2 out of 3 weekends this month so far which is not my desired state).

  16. “If you like visual reminders, put your to be done papers in a fan rather than a pile.”

    I’m not sure what that even means, but it sounds too complicated for me. I rely on visual reminders, but the way it works for me is that I dump everything as it comes in first in a huge in box thing hanging in the kitchen, then I sort it all out when I pay bills once a month. It’s neat and gets the job done. My husband sounds like MM’s husband. I’ve played a game sometimes where I offer him some trashy thing (a handful of wooden chopsticks from takeout, a box that my shoes came in, a weird plastic thing from an electronic purchase, etc.) and ask if he has any use for it. Nine times out of ten he’ll take it and store it somewhere in his basement man cave. *sigh*

    I just started using a binder for car paperwork like oil change receipts, state registration, etc. I thought that would also work with major appliance paperwork. How do you all handle that stuff?

  17. “Putting an 11yo Wii with games/accessories on ebay this week” — I am laughing because our solution was to bundle ours up and ship it to the small cousins in OR, who have just discovered Skylanders. Somehow I don’t think my sister is going to be super happy with us, but the kids are thrilled. :-) All those little pieces, out of my house! Meanwhile, DH just bought a bunch of plastic storage bins for DS, the Lego Hoarder. Since he won’t throw anything away, at least it can be out of sight.

    I also just realized that our “magic” solution has been simply having *more space* for stuff. First we built “locker” cabinets in the kitchen for the kids, with lunchbag and totebag space above, and a small coat closet for us. It wasn’t long before that space became totally insufficient for raincoats, boots, sweatshirts, backpacks, and all the stuff that started to accumulate once they were in actual school. Then we built the kids a “dump zone” in the front room that has always been their playroom, with some shelves and hooks and a bench, etc. — again, quickly overwhelmed by sheer volume of teenage crap; meanwhile, I set up mail bins for all of us, but my purse and keys always lived in mine, with my other purses in plastic bins underneath. And we could never find the gloves/hats/scarves when we needed them — I had put a storage unit in the coat closet, but no one used it because you had to rummage through in the dark under the coats. So I bought a shelving unit that I put in the front entry, with bins for each person’s stuff (I swap it out in the spring with seasonal sports equipment). But everything was always just jammed up.

    Since we built the garage, we now actually use the back entry, so I added coat racks and moved our glove/scarf/hat storage piece back there, shoved the entry runner up against the back wall as a wet boot dump zone, and took back a cabinet and drawer there for purse and key storage [I had originally built it for mudroom-type use, but DH had taken it over to store his Diet Pepsi in, as it is at the very end of the kitchen storage wall]. Now the front entry is reserved only for boxes hat haven’t yet been opened; the kids’ backpacks and sweatshirts and shoes and such still live in their dump zone; we have room for our jackets/etc. in back; and my purse and keys and everything else I need when I go to the car is right there. And the coat closet stores our out-of-season jackets and even has room now for guest coats. And most of the sports equipment is in the garage. And the original storage “lockers” are basically empty and available for repurposing to whatever use I may need (hmm, now that you mention it, the Tupperware drawer is really tight. . . ). I have actually be totally amazed by how (relatively) uncluttered my house now feels.

    So, basically, huzzah. Sort of amazing how better-organized you feel when you actually have space for all the stuff you need on a daily/weekly basis.

  18. CoC – my filing cabinet is in my office and it has a folder for that stuff – one for each car, one for renovation receipts. We keep the instruction manuals in a folder in the kitchen.

    “300 cassettes” – shudder. ;) I do have my All-State chorus tapes from HS and need to find a digitizer – we don’t own any tape players any more.

  19. CoC, I keep a folder in a filing cabinet for paperwork like that. I have one for appliances, one for car stuff, one for electronics, etc. I also have a folder per kid, except that kid number2 and 3 are so complex that I had to start 2 folders each. My biggest problem is that certain folders get swamped, like kid2’s medical folder, and I don’t have time to constantly purge and reorganize. So the folders fall apart from the weight.

  20. @ SSM – My work to-do list is my e-mail inbox. Most of my work comes in via e-mail, and so I leave the request in my inbox until I’ve finished the project or otherwise responded. Then I move the request into the e-mail file.

    If a client or colleague calls with a request, I take notes in the body of an e-mail, and then send it to myself so it is in my inbox.

    I am ruthless about purging/unsubscribing/classifying as ‘junk’, so my inbox at any one time really is just substantive things I need to do.

    I try at the end of each day to have 20 or fewer e-mails in my inbox.

    @ CofC – we have along one wall 4 large built in file cabinets underneath bookshelves. That’s where all that stuff goes.

  21. On chopsticks – we have a collection of beautiful chopsticks we have purchased on different trips to China – probably 5 different full sets (6 settings per set), plus lots of “fun” everyday chopsticks in bright colors. But my husband INSISTS on saving all the disposable chopsticks that come with Chinese takeout, and since we get that pretty often, they build up. Over Christmas, I cleaned out the pantry, and I found a stash of at least 100 of them. I tossed them all.

    He also insists on saving the fortune cookies, even though no one ever eats them. I let them sit on the counter for a few days and then toss. If I toss right away, he complains. Ah, the oddities of husbands…

  22. For my to-do list, I use the Tasks feature on Google calendar. I have tried lots of more complicated systems, but this is the only one that works for me. It is simple and since I am in the Google ecosystem in general, I tend to actually look at the calendar

  23. Mooshi – have you tried shelves with folded clothes for your DD instead of drawers ? If she can see her clothes, that might help.

    Organizing and helping people throw out stuff is my retirement business idea.

  24. I am ruthless about purging/unsubscribing/classifying as ‘junk’, so my inbox at any one time really is just substantive things I need to do.

    This is me too.

  25. Oh Louise, you should see her shelves. It is a horrorshow. When she can see the stuff, it makes it even worse because she wants to grab everything.

    About once a month, we go through and organize everything in her room, which is always very traumatic and drama-filled. And two days later, back to chaos. As she is now going into her early teen years, I am thinking it isn’t worth the angst.

  26. What really helped me is finally realizing that cleaning and organizing takes time–there are no shortcuts. Now, I try and spend 15 minutes on daily house upkeep and another 15 minutes on another task like laundry each day. This helps *a lot*.

    I’ve also realized that nobody in the house cares if it’s clean or organized except for me. Really, my family could live in a sty and be happy. So, I have to do most of the cleaning and organizing. They let me do this, so our system works. When they help, they do it to make me happy–not because they care. I just have to make sure DH isn’t around or he will protest when I donate or throw out stuff.

  27. I forgot–DS2 is orderly and makes his bed/puts away his clothes. I have one kid who is like me. : )

  28. “I just started using a binder for car paperwork like oil change receipts, state registration, etc. I thought that would also work with major appliance paperwork. How do you all handle that stuff?”

    Not that I am exactly the poster child for organization here, but I literally have a folder in my file cabinet called “major purchases.” That’s where the appliance receipts and such go. My renovation had a separate file called “home renovation.” My cars have one called “Cars — service.” My cats have one called “cats.” Etc. ad infinitum. (Of course, the only way this works is that my file drawers are arranged by larger topic — “House,” “cars,” “investments,” “taxes,” “benefits,” etc.). I also have a vertical file divider on the desktop that has freqently-used things, like medical receipts that I need to submit and passwords and such; I’ll add new redwelds there when we’re doing something like planning a trip, just so I have a place to hold it all while we’re still planning. Anything in routine use needs to be on top of the desk, or it doesn’t exist.

    We don’t use a paper weekly organizer, but I do have a weekly whiteboard that I put our appointments on and what I plan for dinner each night — makes it less likely I forget something. Appointments all go on Outlook, which DH and I both have through work. If it isn’t on Outlook, again, it doesn’t exist.

  29. I am going to put another recommendation for the Google calendar. We have a family calendar on it. You can choose schedule, week or month view. This year we have accepted the boy scout calendar and my work calendar for my part-time job at the church. This lets me see the three possible sources of stuff going on at one time. I can also choose not to view the church and scout calendar to minimize visual clutter. All of this is visible on my phone, so I can make plans on the go.

  30. Mooshi – just get her to be some what organized before she gets to college and has to share space with a room mate.

    This is my experience of a room mate one semester. She didn’t know that there was such a thing as a laundry basket/place to put dirty clothes. She used up all her clothes in her closet and then put dirty clothes in a pile on the floor from which she proceeded to reuse clothing. Buried in the pile were assorted items that fell from her bed. She hardly did laundry and I don’t think changed her sheets for six months. My suite mates used to have our room on the “real” college tour for new comers.

  31. “Organizing and helping people throw out stuff is my retirement business idea.”

    So, interested in a lovely family vacation up in B’More, free lodging, easy commute to valuable historical locations in DC? I’d even negotiate for Mustang access. . . . :-)

    Honestly, we tried Google calendar, as a way to track the schedules between the two of us and my mom. The problem was that meant we needed to input all of our appointments twice, since DH and I already use Outlook for our work lives. It was just easier for us to keep using our calendars and then figure out my mom’s schedule each week.

  32. We have a Google calendar but my husband does not look at it. He’ll call me and ask what we have planned on certain dates and I always tell him he can look at the calendar but he says he’ll probably just not do that.:)

    This made me laugh (sadly from personal experience):
    “Trying to keep your child’s toy reptiles separated from his toy mammals is also not worth your time. A bin for plastic toys will do.”

    Every time I suggest that I need to buy more baskets or bins for toy storage, DH correctly says no more baskets, just less toys. He says I’m forbidden from buying any more baskets (our kids dump out their toys from the baskets and then use the baskets to climb on).

  33. I always have too much stuff, have recently been really trying to winnow it down. Like CoC’s husband, I often think “that could be useful one day”. But while assembling a lamp and a coat rack (storage! Yay!) this weekend, I found it was much easier to line pieces up right if I used a wooden skewer as kind of a temp screw, and my IKEA back involved using a twist tie. Iow, sometime the crap actually gets used.

    CoC, when I inherited some of grandma’s things, I happened to get her stack of instruction manuals, warranties, etc. I was just moving into my own place for the first time, and was glad for her example of what to do.

    L, why don’t you use wardrobes?

    I’m curious about clothing storage, and the flow of clothes. How frequently do you buy new clothes? I’m buying more this year than usual because of the weight loss, but that’s probably three items a month, on average. And I have pretty much the same attitude about clothing as I do about twist ties. This weekend I wore a pair of white pants that I recall wearing when I worked in my dad’s office in 1992. The jeans cut velvet pants I got a couple months post-partum are also something I’ll wear now. I don’t like trying on clothes, and I’m picky about fit and fabric, so the idea of frequently purging and buying new sounds like drudgery to me. And even though they aren’t my. blue jeans from high school, it’s still fun to see that those things still fit.

  34. Atlanta, your comments about “no more baskets” reminds me of visiting a relative. There were so many laundry baskets full of toys all over the house! And as she showed me around, I saw that her husband’s side of the bed was neat as a pin, with nothing on the top of the dresser. Her nightstand was covered with stuff that cascaded down to the floor, which was completely covered except for a little path to the bathroom. When I get down on myself for not being a better housekeeper, that memory helps.

  35. I only use a to-do list at work. At home I rely on the other items – routine, doing things daily, having a home for things, purging often, etc. DH is pretty similar, so it works out okay. DS – not so much, but he is decent about following the rules, and I let him keep his room messy for the most part. He just can’t his sh*t lying all over the house.

    I am the type of person who cannot sleep if there is a dirty dish in the sink, clean laundry not folded & put away, etc. I grew up in a very messy, disorganized house, and I hated it. My parents never get rid of anything, and it drives me crazy. Textbooks from the 70’s, old magazines, ugh.

  36. S&M – we have a ton of furniture that the people we bought the house from left, but the drawers are too shallow to fit things in (I like the Kondo way to fold so you can see all the shirts etc.) and there aren’t any with tall storage, AND some of them have 2-step opening (open a door and THEN a drawer), rendering those useless. So all my sweaters are in one dresser but my LS shirts have to be spread around multiple dressers, and all my dresses are on rolling racks. We can’t get rid of the furniture either (it’s perfectly good!). Sigh.

  37. “We have a Google calendar but my husband does not look at it.”

    This is me. I am the only one who enters anything and the only one who checks it. When there’s a conflict because another family member didn’t check the calendar, they just deal with it. They reschedule or miss something or whatever. It doesn’t seem to bother them like it bothers me.

    “I’ve also realized that nobody in the house cares if it’s clean or organized except for me. Really, my family could live in a sty and be happy.”

    This is also me.

  38. “We can’t get rid of the furniture either (it’s perfectly good!). Sigh.”

    Not even to a shelter for women who’ve been abused or sexually trafficked?

  39. I’ve always felt a guilty sense of smug satisfaction when I’ve been in someone else’s house and happened to get a glimpse of their teen’s room that was as messy or even messier than my kids’ rooms. :)

  40. “I’ve always felt a guilty sense of smug satisfaction when I’ve been in someone else’s house and happened to get a glimpse of their teen’s room that was as messy or even messier than my kids’ rooms. :)”

    My college roommate was here this weekend, and I was showing her the house. I opened the door to DD’s room, and she looked a second, and said, “Ok. So this is normal. I wonder sometimes.” :-)

    (It’s actually a little more serious than that, her former DH has serious mental illness, so she is worried about her DD and always on the lookout for signs that she has inherited it; disorganization can of course be a symptom of a real problem, but it can also be “normal teenager,” so I think she was relieved to see her kid wasn’t totally atypical.)

  41. Ivy, my son will be like you. He wants to get rid of every single book, his globe, prefers everything, including t-shirts hanging over having a dresser, and he often complains about “all this ….STUFF”
    Otoh, it would seem like a lot less stuff if he’d put things back where they came from.

    Those of you who use cleaning help: does “putting something away” mean something different to you than it does to them. A couple of times when I was working, I tried hiring someone. If they agreed to put things away, I was always amazed and unhappy at the result–everything squashed into random places, with no rhyme or reason to what was where or next to what. It recently dawned on me, with no precipitating event, that by “away” they were thinking literally away from where we are, as long as it’s someplace we don’t see it. To me it means to put it where it belongs in a way that makes it ready to retrieve and use again, even when that means separating toys from office supplies from jewelry.

  42. I opened the door to DD’s room, and she looked a second, and said, “Ok. So this is normal. I wonder sometimes.”

    But they always emerge from the chaos looking put-together, right?

  43. To me it means to put it where it belongs in a way that makes it ready to retrieve and use again, even when that means separating toys from office supplies from jewelry.

    Wouldn’t that be a higher-skilled task, not just cleaning but organizing the household, and command a higher rate of pay?

  44. Laura, with a teen who has all the mopey, moody signs of that age group, who has gone through serious depression, I absolutely feel for your friend! My kid got bored at school this fall, decided to stick a paperclip into his calf and explore. When I was explaining to the guidance counselor how he got the resultant infection that kept him out of school for days, she said “oh! That’s self-harming!” and was all set to bring out the cavalry. In that instance I was able to tell her no, I’ve seen depression and self-harming in him, and this isn’t it. Other times, I’m not so sure.

  45. HM, I can’t recall. I know that I preferred to request what I wanted them to do, rather than them bringing their default list, so price was always negotiated, and they agreed to do it.

  46. The most amusing or frustrating part of throwing things away is that DD will spy something in the recycle bin or donation bag. Then she will channel her inner Martha Stewart and turn it into something decorative. Then the dilemma, keep the decorative (junk ??) piece or throw it away as intended.

  47. I find that getting rid of clutter is really difficult, but living with clutter and mess is stressful.

    Ditto. My problem is that most of the clutter isn’t mine, so I can’t just toss all the crap.

  48. Has anyone who has a stressful reaction to the show “Hoarders” seen the movie referenced? It sounds fascinating, but I don’t want to watch it if it’s going to make my heart race.

    We keep a portable file bin for owners manuals for appliances, etc. and it has really come in handy since appliance failure tends to happen at the worst possible time. I’m a big fan of marking the ‘troubleshooting’ page in a manual BEFORE it is placed into the file, since I’m often in a hurry the next time I go looking for it.

  49. Up until this winter, I had a wonderful smug feeling going to a good friend’s house. Their living areas were far messier than ours because of life… well they re-did their basement to have a playroom. Now their living space is getting very neat. DAMN IT! Mine is getting worse.. sigh.

    2017 is the year of improving functionality of our home. That means assessing what we have, purging, and organizing. We are working on our stuff – and it’s coming along well. I planned the upstairs linen closet. Closet Maid to the rescue for expense and the ability to allow me to customize the space. I think I’m going to use the same system in our kids’ closet because it’s such an odd shape (one side is ~8 inches deep, the other is more like 18 inches). I can put all the hanging racks on the deeper side and shelves/baskets on the short side. Our closet is mostly planned. Mom doesn’t want a new closet. The last piece is a new built-in in our living room to give us more toy/book storage and opening up some floor space.

    I try to engage in the 6 habits. Particularly now with planning my life around 2 kids. I wouldn’t be surprised if I purge a lot of clothes this year. We officially have too many clothes for kids.

  50. “Those of you who use cleaning help: does “putting something away” mean something different to you than it does to them.”

    OMG, I would never ask my cleaners to put stuff away — they have zero idea of where our stuff goes! There are weeks that someone tries to be helpful and puts stuff away, and it freaking kills me, because they never, ever put it where I would. I mean, DH lost his hairbrush for a month once, because they put it in some drawer we never thought to look in. If I have stuff on the coffee table, please just shove it around so you can dust, pleasepleaseplease don’t try to guess what drawer it all goes in, because I would like to be able to find my remote.

    I guess I could take the time to walk them through it all, but then what happens when a different person shows up, or the main person quits? We have had the same service for a decade, and the same lead for years at a time, and we still have periodic misses with fairly simple instructions (e.g., “no cats” in one bedroom — despite my repeated calls and reminder notes, they’d leave the door open every couple of visits — I eventually had to tape a sign on the door itself). Realize that they are working for *the service*, not you, and so they are doing what *the service* has trained them to do. And that is limited to executing their checklist (which is extensive) in the time allotted to them (which is short) — they don’t have the time or the incentive to learn the foibles and preferences of every house they serve.

  51. It takes me several hours to clean up my house before I pay someone to “clean” it. The reason is that if I leave anything out on any surface – I can never find it again. I hope it also makes it easier for her to actually clean instead of just picking up the trail that DD leaves around the house with her school work, art projects, extra coats etc. I usually run out of time and throw everything into a giant basket and shove it in my closet. I picked up some stuff today in case the power goes out later in the storm. I don’t want to trip over anything. My husband is traveling and I am getting organized in case we do lose power. The storm is still officially a few hours away, but one side of our house is already so much colder from the winds coming from the east.

  52. It should be 7 Habits of Organized People – don’t marry someone with hoarder tendencies!
    We have been married 41 years and have tax returns from before our marriage. We also inherited his parents returns and other unnecessary paperwork to add to ours. My husband is disorganized and has a huge amount of tools but can’t find what he needs so he buys a new one.I tell my children to behold their inheritance – 5 sets of golf clubs, stereo system bought in 1971 when he was in Vietnam, about 20 beer steins and enough crap to fill a two car garage

    I did buy a Groupon for 20 pounds of paper to shred. Told my husband we need to assemble enough paper to use the coupon – he might go along as he hates to waste money except for buying tools.

    It’s discouraging!

  53. Whenever someone unexpectedly knocks on our door in the evening (like a salesman), I tell DH it’s a crew from TLC come to film an episode of “Hoarders.”
    Old Mom, we still have DH’s tax return from 1971.

  54. How to see your Google calendar in Outlook- Mr WCE just sent this last week.

    Y’all are making me appreciate my housecleaner. She has 4 boys of her own, a little older than mine, and she keeps Mr WCE happy with our house. I spend ~2-3 hours picking up (because with a toddler, the floor is trashed within minutes) so that she can clean. She doesn’t work off a checklist and has all sorts of clients, from wealthy people with immaculate, unused rooms to be dusted, to working moms with four kids like me, whose attitude is, “Thanks for doing the best you can.”

    Mr WCE tends to ignore his mail for months at a time so we’ve handled that by having me open everything that might be important (bill, DMV, IRS) and then piling it in his plastic mail tray.

  55. L, I suppose I could shop for clothes (most of what I wear is fall/winter) in September or October, but weekends then are dedicated to attending soccer games, hunting and crabbing, all of which are more fun than clothes shopping. The stores I like to shop at are 1-1.5 hr away, and so Mr WCE has to be willing to watch the kids for several hours.

    I suppose my reluctance to shop is that junior clothes that fit are not the right style and that designers have decided that women have large waists, so my existing pants without waist gaps are superior to most of what is in the stores.

    In short, I hate shopping.

  56. Mail isn’t an issue in our house. We open our own bills and pile them in the same place for DH to pay. We read things pretty quickly and trash (or I leave DS with some magazines to read – Motor Trend mostly because he likes to look at cars). If I don’t read things quickly they pile up… which is why I no longer have some magazine subscriptions.

    My mom tends to clean, and hates when DS messes up the house. She’s a hoarder in her own life but will gladly purge/pick up all my or DS’s stuff. She won’t go through a box she’s has in the basement, but man, she certainly cleaned out a bin of extra dog stuff (which belonged to our dog who passed) right quick. She’s an enigma that one. Freaking Felix Unger with a hoarding complex.

    Our worst hoarding faults are books, photos (remember those!?), and baby things. Every so often I can convince DH to give away a book that he hasn’t read in years. And I’m the worst with baby things (“we’re planning on #2” “are we planning for #3?”).

  57. WCE – why don’t you go with one of those shopping services like Stitch Fix? I hate shopping in person but a box of 5 or 6 things sent to me is perfect. As i mentioned upthread, I just tried Trunk Club and everything the stylist sent me fit well and most things were very much my style (I wish I could have kept everything but am trying to stick to a budget). With both services you can be specific with what you’re looking for and link to a Pinterest page of outfits you like so they can get a feel for your style.

  58. DD’s room is covered with piles of clothes. We started out with one hamper for dirty clothes. This worked until somewhere around age 14-15 (when she started doing her own laundry). She would take the hamper to the laundry room to wash her clothes but then after finishing laundry, would put the clean clothes in it – and never put them away in the bureau. So there was no place for the dirty clothes. Easy solution I thought – I’ll buy a second hamper for the dirty clothes. Both hampers and the floor are now covered with piles of various clothes. DD seems to know which ones are clean and which ones are dirty so I’ve decided not to worry about it. She does have to clean things up enough for the cleaners to vacuum every two weeks (or she ends up vacuuming her room on the weekend).

    S&M – we have cleaners but I don’t expect them to put things away. Having them come every two weeks does serve as an incentive for us to do some picking up so they can vacuum.

    WCE – I also hate clothes shopping. For work, I’ve switched mainly to dresses – many of which I can order online. But my jeans now desperately need replacing which means going to an actual store. I usually go to Nordstrom for jeans as I usually need to have the legs shortened. Ugh.

  59. Hoarders: In the basement this weekend I found 4 untouched 12-packs of a diet shake that had “best by” dates ranging from December 2004 – August 2005. The contents had not solidified so I opened them all up and poured them down the drain, then put all the empty cans in the recycle bin. DS was amazed at how different the can bottoms were then.

    Tax Returns: I got rid of our pre-1990 tax returns last year. Maybe this winter/spring I do up to 1995.

    I have ever so slowly begun decluttering the downstairs bookshelves of some (mostly text-) books we had in college. But I am questioning doing that since I used my b-school stats book a couple of weeks ago when DS asked me for help.

  60. “that they are working for *the service*, not you, and so they are doing what *the service* has trained them to do.”
    I thought I was getting around that by working with individuals who have their own (very) small businesses. Don’t think I ever asked them to simply put everything away. More like “DS brought his toys in to be with me while I worked. Here’s a box for all the toys that are in the office” or “Legos here/ other toys there” And if I asked them to leave stuff they found, like a hairbrush under the bed, in a certain out-in-the-open-so-I-can-see-it spot, they looked at me with wild bewilderment in their eyes.

    But anyway, I already have figured out that that isn’t going to work. What I was asking is what people mean when they say “put away”. Because at the time, I thought they were not doing what was agreed (put it in specified spot), but understanding it the way I described above, as simply out of sight, I guess they did.

  61. eShakti will make jeans to your very specific measurements. Just FYI. I love eShakti. The drawback is you have to have a patient friend or spouse who will take the 10,000 measurements they require.

  62. We don’t expect our housecleaner to put away anything. We figure if it’s on the floor or on a horizontal surface, then that area is not going to get cleaned. So we use her visits as the motivation to organize and straighten up before she arrives.

    She cleans and changes the sheets, using the sheets DW leaves out, except now that my oldest sleeps on a top bunk, I change those sheets.

  63. “OMG, I would never ask my cleaners to put stuff away — they have zero idea of where our stuff goes! ”

    Me too. My housecleaner, not a service but usually she comes with a helper, used to empty out the dishwasher and it would be days before we’d figure out where she had put some stuff. If she finds random stuff under the bed or lying around, she knows to just place it on a surface for us to find.

  64. Changing sheets and messing with a system that is working, like a dishwasher, are examples of things they had on their list that I thought were total head-scratchers. I guess different people want different things, and nobody (but me) wants to talk about that phrase and whether it’s a regional thing or age or something else.

  65. “Tax Returns: I got rid of our pre-1990 tax returns last year. Maybe this winter/spring I do up to 1995.”

    I did the same thing, though going further, and it felt So Wrong. But what drove me was imagining my kids and their wives going through all of the boxes after our demise or dementia and asking, “Why did they save THIS?” That thought has been a very effective motivator.

    In preparation for our last move, I finally tossed all of my student loan paperwork. I also need to toss the huge file I kept for costs of improving our first house, which I ended up not needing when the rollover rule was eliminated.

  66. DD
    Ditto. My problem is that most of the clutter isn’t mine, so I can’t just toss all the crap.

    This is also my problem. And my DH has a much harder time letting stuff go when he is stressed.

  67. Why are so many people keeping their ancient tax returns? Our accountant said we could get rid of business records after seven years.

  68. Cordelia, I sometimes get rid of stuff when nobody is paying attention, but it’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. And what is really annoying is DW is one of those people who s super organized at work and lets it all go at home.

  69. “Why are so many people keeping their ancient tax returns?”

    Planning to run for office.

  70. You can order a ton of jeans and just return them if you can’t get to a store. I do this at American Eagle for my daughter because she is a “short”, and every style seems to fit a little differently.

    For my own jeans, I look for sales of certain brands in Bloomingdales or Nordstroms that have smaller waists and come in ankle length. These include DL1961, Joes, Kut from the cloth. The shipping and returns are free, and both stores have sales or friends and family all of the time. I’ve been able to do the same with Nordstrom Rack online, and then jeans can be 50% off. Gap also has jeans in all different styles to accommodate smaller waists, and/or larger hips etc.

    I know it may seem a little crazy to order several pairs to keep one that fits, but it seems to be necessary with jeans.

    Amazon has free shipping and returns for clothes. They seem to be carrying more brands too. I had to pay to return a Patagonia jacket that I ordered in two sizes for my daughter. I just couldn’t get to the store in NYC to return it for free, but I think it is the first time in several months that I had to pay for return shipping on any clothing item or shoes.

  71. I am getting the shakes at the thought of having tax returns from 20 years ago. MY GOD, or from before I was born. I only have ours in electronic form for 10 years (including a backup & scans of the receipts/forms). OMG – all that old yellow paper!

  72. WCE – I buy online and return about 50-75% of it. If I had to go to actual stores I would never get any clothes! :)

  73. Or you could be like me and find* a pair of pants that fits perfectly and then order 6 pairs more. I’m set for a few years, I hope.

    * Not quite as bad as WCE, but I know if I go clothes shopping in a store today, it will probably be 4-6 months before my next venture out clothes shopping.

  74. We joke that DH is saving his old tax returns for the DH Presidential Library. Although lately, we say it’s for the DH Wing of the DS Presidential Library.

  75. When you need your kids’ SSN, but can’t readily find their SS cards, I’ve found it’s easier to look up last year’s tax return in the TurboTax folder on the desktop.

  76. Organizing and cleaning/not cleaning is one of my favorite subjects, so I am sorry I am writing so late in the day!

    Where to start –

    Bullet Journals – Scarlet – I follow them on Instagram and I find what people create to be charming, but I don’t know that I would be that good at it.

    I find that company coming (whether to stay or for a party/book club) is excellent motivation for me to clean up!

    A less pleasant motivation for me has been my recent ant houseguests who have been coming in the house due to the excessive rain we have had over the past few weeks. I have had to clean out my pantry (throwing away a ton of stuff), and am curious to know how long I can go before I have to buy sugar or flour. The scouts they have sent out into the various kitchen drawers have led me to empty the drawers, clean them and wash all of the utensils – plus throw out the stuff not being used. Always a plus side!!!

    House cleaners – they can’t read our minds about where something that is “out” should go, so I make sure everything is picked up. When DS is home he leaves his clothes where he removes them, and knowing that he has to pick up his dirty socks, etc. at least every two weeks is a blessing. The lady that comes now usually puts throw pillow and knickknacks back in slightly the wrong spot, but I am happy because it means she actually moved them to clean!

    I recently figured out that my dad is a bit of a hoarder. They sold their house and moved to an apartment, and he has a ton of old photos that I had never seen before, and a lot of old papers. My mother, on the other hand, is a ruthless purger. She had one childhood paper of mine saved, and threw away my first communion dress a few years ago (I am still resentful about that one. I was going to take it home with me, but she assured me she wouldn’t get rid of it).

    I have to write things down to remember them. When I was working and was promoted to a team leader, my manager mentioned in my first performance review that I needed to be better at reading my emails (internal company email network). I dutifully put “read email” on my daily to do list every single day for about a year.

    My system now is a yellow steno pad with a page for each day and a month-at-a-glance calendar. I used to keep a tiny pocket calendar in my purse, but it has finally been replaced by my iPhone.

    I love to throw things out, and we constantly have a pile for Salvation Army. Even though the kids are not outgrowing clothes anymore, most stuff still wears out. I finally gave myself permission to throw away old towels that weren’t even needed by DH in the garage. It was liberating!

    DD is very clean in her own space but not in other people’s spaces. One way we knew she had a project due at school was by the cleanliness of her bedroom – she would clean rather than work.

  77. ” I usually go to Nordstrom for jeans as I usually need to have the legs shortened. Ugh.”

    Better than the alternative:

  78. “But what drove me was imagining my kids and their wives going through all of the boxes after our demise or dementia and asking, “Why did they save THIS?””

    I’ve been going through DW’s parents’ stuff, when I have the time and inclination, for the last few years. I’ve found cost basis information for a couple of stocks that they’d gifted to my kids, which will save us CG tax on several thousand dollars.

    I’m hoping to find something indicating the cost basis of their house.

  79. Finn – what about the stepped-up cost basis for heirs? Or are you much wealthier than you’ve let on?

  80. “WCE – I buy online and return about 50-75% of it. If I had to go to actual stores I would never get any clothes!”

    Of course, some of us find not buying online to be an effective mechanism for reducing clothing costs, for precisely that reason. ;-)

  81. Embracing digital records has helped keep our mess at bay, IOW, keep our house from becoming even messier than it is.

    I’ve gone paperless for almost everything I can– bank, credit cards, credit union, utilities, brokerages, property taxes, school, and probably some things I’m not thinking of right now. That has greatly reduced the clutter on my desk.

    I also save user manuals and other documentation digitally. Most stuff now has that available online, so when we buy anything big, I try to go online and download the manuals. I’ve found it much easier to find when I need them than the old way, which was a drawer into which we dumped all our manuals (learned from my parents, who had a box of manuals).

  82. “what about the stepped-up cost basis for heirs? Or are you much wealthier than you’ve let on?”

    The stocks were gifted while ILs were still alive, so no step-up of cost basis.

    But you’re right about the house, I think. DW is a bit hazy about how the transfer was done, but thinks it was done through a trust that preserved the step-up.

  83. “Has anyone else started a Bullet Journal?”

    The first time I heard of this, my initial reaction was to wonder if it was for police officers to keep track of when they discharged their weapons on the job.

    We were at the home of one of DD’s friends a couple of weeks ago (we’ve become good friends with the family and our families have traveled together). DD’s friend’s mom also had her sisters over, and they all have bullet journals.

    One sister in particular really has a system down to where it serves as a combination of diary and planner. She carries a small notebook, and goes through a few of them every year, but she seems to have all kinds of information at her fingertips.

  84. Milo, the phrase I mentioned in my 1:30 and 3:51 posts. What does it mean to put something “away”?

    I posted on FB about the tweet re Barron Trump today, forwarding Chelsea Clinton’s statement that kids should be left alone to be kids. I am so sick of people attacking stuff that doesn’t matter–kids should be off-limits no matter what, and I really don’t care if he makes a typo in a tweet or what his wife wears–when there is so much policy to be concerned about. Dropping out of the UN, hello! And nobody needs ancient tax returns to run for office; just releasing the latest one, or whatever you promised, is fine.

    I’m on online shopper, and return the bulk of it to the mall. I almost never get anything that isn’t on sale. New workout clothes (Prana capri tights, shirt, half zip long-sleeved shirt, & Asics running shoes) came to $160, 3 jackets from Soft Surroundings for ~$100,. etc. I would never have the patience to wade through all the racks of sales stuff in stores to find that outfit, but using sorting tools online, it’s not hard. Nordstroms has great tools for that. Prana’s were decent too. I bought one thing at Lord and Taylor this fall, thought their customer service was awful, so no more of them for me.

    My mom has been going through some of their stuff, I think. Last summer she sent me a couple of papers from when I was in grade school, said she came across them while emptying out a drawer.

  85. S&M – I have been thinking about you asking the cleaning people to put stuff “away” and what their interpretations of that is, and I think that there is probably so much potential for mistakes on their part that they can’t do too much successfully. What I mean by that is – if you have a piece of jewelry or an article of clothing left on the bed, are they supposed to go through your drawers to find the correct spot for them? Or a kitchen utensil – they won’t know that the right place to put a certain strainer is in the top left drawer. They could guess, but they might be wrong.

    And if they put the brush they find under the bed out on a counter, then that isn’t put “away”, so maybe that is part of the confusion.

    I can totally see that asking them to put all of the toys on the floor into a toy bin, easy peasy, but if your son’s socks are on the floor how do they know if they should go back in the drawers or into the dirty clothes?

    These examples may not be anything like what you experienced, but this is what comes to my mind, and the reason why I try to put everything away myself (or have my kids do it) so that the cleaners can focus on the vacuuming, dusting, etc.

    They may have put everything away randomly just because they weren’t sure where you would like it – everyone has his/her own idea of where something should go.

  86. SSK, yeah, this is why I wish this blog had threads. I mentioned somewhere today that I wasn’t asking them to put everything away, just a couple tasks like the example you gave. I’m more curious if “away” means the same thing to everyone. Does anyone clean up their living space by sticking things where ever?

  87. My mother absolutely cleans up living space by sweeping things into drawers. She loves to clean my house that way. Make me crazy. She likes clean surfaces, I prefer clutter that I can see.

  88. S&M – To me, away means in its proper place, but in my home, in what I think is the proper place. That may not be the same thing to another person. If I were at a friend’s home and was helping them tidy after dinner, say, I would ask before I put a clean pot or utensil away – I would say “where do you want this” or “where does this go?” I wouldn’t try to guess where the proper place was.

    So, I guess away is wherever the person who lives there likes it to be, but a stranger can’t know that.

  89. WCE, if you’re around 5’2″, we could have a clothing exchange :)

    Since I still have one at home who climbs every rack in the store and loves to hide, I have bought a bunch of long tunics and leggings on zulily and called it a wardrobe. No waist gaps! No need to replace clothing if my weight changes by less than 10 pounds either way! Can always pick up toddler without mooning anyone! And on me the tunics are knee length.

  90. So, I guess away is wherever the person who lives there likes it to be, but a stranger can’t know that.

    This. When we had cleaning people, we never expected them to put stuff away, just clean around it. I wouldn’t expect them to know where I wanted stuff to go, and if they tried to guess, it would probably end up places where I wouldn’t find it.

  91. I try to clean before the monthly housekeeper comes, but if I forget she either piles the toys and books in corners or puts them away. I’ve given up having her clean the playroom itself, because the toys are meant to be sorted into separate boxes. She doesn’t put the dishes or clean laundry away.

    This week’s project is reorganizing my spice and baking drawers, which would no longer close. I consolidated the spices into new matching jars with labels on the lids (very Pinterest) and discovered that once I combined all three oregano jars, etc., everything fit. I still have to finish repainting the upstairs hallway, kids’ bath, and trim, but I have a ton of PTA work this week and that’s not happening.

    I try very hard to be organized but it is not my natural state, or the children’s, so it is an all-day, every day battle against my preference for reading Jane Austen and eating chocolate. As is so much of life….

  92. Some of y’all are stressing me out. My college-age DD is ruthless on the purging – maybe I should send her for short visits. Before our last move I left the house and told her to get rid of stuff she knew I wasn’t using. Books were the hardest part of that purge – I’m pretty good about everything else but could have had my own Hoarders-Books Episode. I still have a lot, but do a monthly purge now. (And by book purge, I mean they are taking up 60% of the trunk of my Miata because I want to give them to a friend instead of Goodwill, because my books are way more personal than my clothes.)

    I follow Houston’s daily 15 minute de-clutter, along with the “pre-clean” for the cleaning service. I keep a running bag of clothes for donation and drop it off when it’s full. For the last couple of months I’ve been going one room at a time and getting rid of everything I can. I am stuck on a very large oil painting my parents gave us. Obviously they didn’t want it anymore. Can I just give it away? Do I have to tell them? Or should I hang it out if the way somewhere?

    Over Christmas I gutted a lot of the paperwork you guys are mentioning. The IRS says 3 years, so I shredded all returns older than that. I got rid of owner’s manuals and warranties for appliances I haven’t owner for years, and all sorts of stationary accumulated over decades. It felt great. The next step is addressing the 50+ coffee cups for a family that doesn’t drink coffee. I kept thinking the kids would want them for first apartments, but they’re pretty clear that they do not.

    I tried to purge our bonus vehicle, but the guy told me tonight he was going with a cheaper Ford Explorer. My DH doesn’t actually want to get rid of it so I cannot sell it for a bargain basement price. All of the unused stuff in the garage stresses me out because I don’t want to be stuck with getting rid of it someday. It just feels so stress-reducing to me to get rid of stuff that doesn’t get used.

  93. Atlanta — What’s the difference between Trunk and Stitch Fix? I’ve been thinking about trying one of those stylist services, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  94. MBT – Coffee mugs seem to be a thing that can take over your kitchen, because they are inexpensive gifts and souvenirs. Also corporate gifts and bank freebies. We purged a bunch of those. DD has a lot of mugs in her apartment and needs to get ruthless!

    If you are talking about cups and saucers, I always like those, but they are so small for drinking the amount of tea that I drink, so I seldom use mine. They are prettier than the mugs, though!

  95. I suppose if the time/money investment to have well-fitting clothes were worthwhile to me, I would invest in clothing. I don’t “love” any clothing and it doesn’t make me feel much of anything except “not cold” and “not naked”. I don’t like stretchy fabrics or loose tops. Most of the shopping services I see are focused on easy-to-fit items, like tops. I doubt that they offer cotton slacks, machine washable/dryable, with 27 or 28″ waist (belted at the natural waistline), 31″ inseam and 36″ hips.

    The fact that RMS and HM have both recommended eShakti encourages me to try them someday, especially because their dresses often offer long sleeves. (I don’t wear sleeveless- it’s too cold.) But given how seldom I dress up, wearing my Christmas dress and my Easter dress annually is probably adequate for another decade.

    BTW, thanks for the Clarks shoe recommendation from the last time we had this discussion. I found some locally last November while at Marshall’s shopping for Scout gift exchange items. (So it isn’t strictly true that I won’t shop till December.)

  96. Dell, crabbing is where we take crab pots, life jackets, bait (chicken drumsticks, usually for us) and the 14′ aluminum fishing boat to catch dungeness crabs in Newport Bay. You put bait in the pots, drop the pots in the water and come back to get them a while later. You can see Newport Bay (and its beautiful, historic bridge) in the opening credits of this season’s Deadliest Catch, since Deadliest Catch is out of Newport this year. I would say dungeness crab is the Pacific Northwest equivalent of Maine lobster.

  97. “Coffee mugs seem to be a thing that can take over your kitchen”

    Totally. The problem is that every dish set comes with cups and saucers, but they are always both teensy and meh. So I never use them, so they never break — I think I have like three full sets worth of cups and saucers and mugs now, just from the dishes I have bought in the past @25 years.

    And then the kids picked up mugs at Hershey Park, birthday parties, the paint-your-own pottery place, etc. And then my SILs made photo mugs for my in-laws’ 50th anniversary, and we all got matched sets. And then I fell for these guys, and I keep buying them at Rennfest — https://www.etsy.com/listing/267086339/disgruntled-minion-mug-funny-office-gift?ref=shop_home_active_6 — I have about 8, including this one, and an “evil overlord” one, and (my personal favorite) a “where’s my F*ing pony?” one.

    I now have an entire cabinet devoted to mugs. And I don’t even drink coffee!

  98. “The problem is that every dish set comes with cups and saucers, but they are always both teensy and meh. So I never use them”

    Same here, although we just have one dish set. I don’t typically drink coffee, anyway. But, for example, when we’re having Christmas dinner and everyone wants coffee afterward with dessert, and Keurig dispenses more volume than a small coffee cup can hold, we end up putting out all the mugs. It’s more of a fun novelty, because there are two from Hershey Park, a couple of Monets from the Natl Gallery gift shop, etc.

  99. @WCE (and others with experience): we are confirmed to visit my sister this summer, debating Oregon coast vs. Mt. Hood area. Suggestions, recommendations for which is better, etc.? We do recognize that “beach” likely means 65 and blowing, but since we’ll be coming from 102 and muggy, that may be a feature instead of a bug. :-) DH likes being able to do stuff; I like hanging out with the family. My mom likes wine, but the rest of us have little to no interest in Willamette Valley.

  100. @Louise, that article was awesome.

    ““No way around it,” Portland’s former mayor, Charlie Hales, recently told a local news outlet. “We’re weather wimps.”

    Mr. Hales, whose term expired this month, couldn’t be reached for comment, a spokeswoman said, because he is believed to be on a sailboat in warmer climes.”

    Nice. :-)

  101. ” The IRS says 3 years, so I shredded all returns older than that. ”
    I’ve been audited twice at the state level with lookbacks of over 10 years, so now I never get rid of anything to do with taxes. People who complain about IRS audits have NO IDEA how facist and awful state audits are. In one of them, the state of KY claimed I owed taxes when I hadn’t lived there in 5 years at that point. They did the audit TEN YEARS after the year in question, so I had to scramble to find records that showed by residency. And then the worst of it, even after KY agreed that I did not owe taxes, they conveniently forgot to lift the lien they had imposed, so 5 years later. when we were trying to get a mortgage, we suddenly had a problem. I had to go back and resend all materials I had collected, and the letter saying I did not owe taxes, in order to get them to lift the lien.
    So I never throw out tax related stuff.

  102. We have piles of souvenir mugs – everything from a campground in Nova Scotia, to Los Alamos, to a local symphony, to StarTrek mugs. We use them a lot though since we drink coffee and tea and hot chocolate. We hang most of them on hooks.

  103. Louise — got your email from yesterday. Thanks!

    I periodically stealthily pull out mismatched mugs from our cabinet. If a family member objects, I tell them to store the mug somewhere else. We have about three Game of Thrones mugs in use right now.

    I stored away the dinnerware set cups with saucers and replaced them with these Mikasa mugs that go with our white plates.

  104. MM, I guess score one for my no-state-income-tax state!

    And yes to the coffee cup overrun. It caused no end of frustration to my overly logical son who cannot grasp how I have allowed this to happen, especially since we do not drink coffee. My DD brings home coffee cups specifically to annoy the crap out of him.

  105. “wearing my Christmas dress and my Easter dress annually is probably adequate for another decade. ”

    And will make for great time-series photos!

  106. I keep seven years of tax returns, and basis info for house. All my stock is held by the broker, and he has the basis info. IRS enforcement budget has been crippled, so as long as you don’t omit 1099 or W-2 income, or don’t have a large business, you are unlikely to be audited. Finn, you can insert any plausible basis info (make an educated guess as to which decade your ancestors purchased the stock) on the return if you have to sell some. State tax audits are less predictable, but again if you income is mostly wages and 1099s and you have normal deductions, you are usually safe. A tip – Pay the safe harbor amount for use tax (tax due on out of state or mail order purchases) – usually a line item on your state income tax return, if you live in a state with sales tax

    We break enough coffee mugs to handle the oversupply. The useless cabinet over the fridge holds the overflow. My dinner set has small mugs when we have company, and mom’s china of course has infinite traditional coffee cups and saucers that never leave their home in the sideboard/buffer.

    I am not highly organized, but my home is neat. No dogs or small children. I pick up before the cleaners come. Over the years I have learned what they think needs to be put away instead of just straightened, so I take protective action. They make our bed with linen I put out. Wed is their day, and we now have an in progress jigsaw puzzle out under a protective cat proof cover – we’ll see if it is cleaner-proof as well.

  107. Sky thanks for the inspiration on spice jars. 24 nice uniform glass jars are now heading my way. I didn’t even bother with Pinterest but went straight to Amazon.

    We didn’t handle many state tax matters at my firm but IME both personally and professionally, state tax issues are a bear. The websites are awful and customer service is too. And not nearly the level of published resources, rulings, case law etc.

  108. WCE – I make sure not to wear the same dress at Christmas 2 years in a row (or from 2 years ago, etc.). Different strokes!

    NoB, Trunk Club should have better quality, more name brands and more expensive things, and I think they tend to be a more dressed-up aesthetic. Stitch Fix I tried once, but didn’t like – it was not dressy enough for what I asked for and their stuff is not great quality either.

  109. It wasn’t the IRS, it was the state of KY. I think they were having some push to try to get money from students who had gone to colleges out of state. But at that point, I was an official resident of the state where I was a grad student. Normally, you could just show your state tax returns, but that state had no income tax in that era.

  110. L – did you try MM LaFleur ? I like them a lot because I can just shop for items instead of them sending me a Bento Box, which forced me to return unwanted things.
    I am trying Trunk Club.

  111. Completely off topic, but Meme brought it up. Where do people find jigsaw puzzles? I got one for Christmas, just finished it and would like another. Target’s selection seemed a little wanting and the gazillion puzzle selection at Amazon was a little daunting. Any suggestions?

  112. The other audit was courtesy of NJ. At the time in question, I was a resident of NY but worked in NJ. Again, the problem was that many years had elapsed. I needed records from my NJ employer but those had been sent to some vast archive in Trenton and no one knew how to get them. It did get resolved, after many phone calls and letters, and at least, unlike KY, it never came back to haunt me. But what I learned from this is that states do not abide by IRS lookback rules, so save your stuff!

  113. Louise – I did try them, but the dresses didn’t work on me – they don’t offer talls and the dresses were too short for work. I have heard good things about the jardigan though, so I will probably try that next.

  114. Instead of mugs, I bring home jigsaw puzzles from trips. Usually hard ones. I also give wooden ones (pricier) as gifts. On amazon, try 500 piece jigsaw for adults. Or some smaller or larger number of pieces. That will cut down your selection

  115. “that every dish set comes with cups and saucers, but they are always both teensy”

    They’re perfect for dying Easter eggs.

  116. “Over the years I have learned what they think needs to be put away instead of just straightened, so I take protective action.”

    Yes – us too. We don’t have a lot on surfaces in general, but they will stack things neatly on DS’s desk rather than trying to find homes for them, and if we leave clothes on the floor of the closet – they will be hung on hangers or folded neatly. And we have to look in 3 of the regular spots to find the remote every Friday!

    @ Cordelia. One idea is to buy puzzles from gift/souvenir stores when you travel. The two souvenirs that I like to get are Xmas ornaments and jigsaw puzzles.

    I can’t remember the last time that I wore a dress for Christmas or Easter. But we are not church-goers. Our family gatherings are casual on both sides. Jeans & a sweater usually.

  117. Question for Lauren – where do you shop for guest of bar/bat mitzvah ? Is it dress up for the teens ? Just wanted to know because we have family events with nice clothes required and DD has outgrown kid stores.

  118. @L – I had the same thought on Stitch Fix – low quality for the price. I got one box, and sent almost everything back. I haven’t done Trunk Club, but I’m not sure what the difference is between Trunk Club and just going to a Nordstrom personal shopper is now that Nordstrom owns them. The wine they give you when you go into the “salon” or whatever they call it? I have used a Nordstrom personal shopper with success.

    MM LeFleur looks intriguing, but my office is too casual for it to be useful for me except for a few items. And it is a bit more than I usually like to spend.

    The item that I would pay $$ for is a nice quality t-shirt that is not see through and will not get pinholes around the waist within the first few wearings. This is impossible. I think I have been through a dozen different black and white t-shirts looking for this in the past 12-18 months. I had the best luck with Uniqlo of all places, but my favorite one from there just got a pinhole at the waist after about a year, and I almost cried. Still – a year is better than 2-3 washings, which seems to be more the usual.

  119. Ivy, I have realized that those pinholes appear when I am lrubbing against some hard surface, like cleaning or cooking – and the shirt rubs against the countertop etc.

  120. Yes Trunk Club is affiliated w/Nordstrom so that level of quality (i got some Equipment, Joie, DVF and Page Denim in my trunk). I had the same issue with Stitch Fix – I thought the fabrics were cheap, although I think they may have added nicer things since the last time I used it. If you like going to Nordstrom w/the personal shopper than Trunk Club is probably not for you. If you hate going shopping in person like I do it’s great.

  121. Ah – the people I know have gone into the Trunk Club showroom vs. getting a box. So that makes sense.

  122. Also with Trunk Club you chat online with your stylist so you can have a back and forth about what you’re looking for. She asked me what I do and what sort of outfits I was really looking for (pulled together for errands, school run and date night outfits). Was impressed with her picks. I sent back the DVF dress she sent me only because they often go on sale so I now have that dress in my Nordstrom online shopping bag so I can keep an eye on it. I think they have a 15 day sale price match with Nordstrom prices.

  123. Am I the only person in the world that a Nordstrom shopper didn’t work out for? I needed something for my parents’ anniversary, so filled out their ridiculously long All About Me paperwork and asked for something dressy for x dollars, preferably in these fabrics, but definitely not in those. When I got there, all expectant & everything, the woman said “that’s going to be hard to find, so I pulled these instead”. Tons of dresses, several over twice my price, and none in the fabrics I’d requested. Why did she think I had asked for assistance? I’ve since learned that their online software is much better at a request like that. Went next door to Dillard’s. Sales person helped me find more than I could try on before I had to pick my kid up from school, so offered to hold them for me and continue to look for more. Even at Nordstrom Rack, when I said I liked a particular designer, they dove into the racks and brought probably every dress by that designer in the store. But I keep hearing good things about Nordstrom personal shoppers from other people.

  124. SM – for in store shopping I prefer Dillard’s especially for special occasion dresses.
    For online shopping I like Nordstrom. I have never used a personal shopper at Nordstrom because I usually can go through pages of dresses online on my own and the ones I order turn out great. In my city there are stand alone local boutiques and those sales ladies are very good.

  125. I think a Nordstrom personal shopper is going to work if you are willing to spend what an average Nordstrom dress costs. They are not there to bargain hunt, but to match you with their full price offerings.

    I am continually disappointed in Amazon for clothes. I find it hard to sort, quality is hard to ascertain. The worst is that sometimes things vary wildly in price in size and color, and the only way to figure it out is to click on every possible combination – so kids Hatley’s boots might range from $12.98 to $74.32, but you can’t find the $12 ones without clicking on every color and every size variation. It is entirely possible that I am doing it wrong.

  126. @Ada – Amazon shopping for clothes/shoes is atrocious. For all the reasons you mentioned, plus the search function is terrible and there is no good filter. Nordstrom and Zappos both have great search & filter functionality on their websites and apps.

  127. Ada, I have a similar opinion about Amazon for kids’ stuff. Given how hard it is to buy women’s clothing, due to inconsistent sizing, I have no desire to try that.

    I have bought kid shoes from Nordstrom, in part due to the free return policy. (I don’t want to pay for return shipping and Nordstrom is ~80 miles away in Portland.)

  128. I find jigsaw puzzles at Joanne Fabrics.

    We keep our tax returns and paper W2 forever, and thankfully we do. Last year DH was looking for a new job. The background search firm couldn’t find proof of his employment in 2006 and required him to show the W2 from that year. The tax return wasn’t sufficient, they needed the W2 from the company. Oh, and he only had 3 days to provide it.

  129. Louise, it is very challenging to find dress up clothes for this age group. The reason is that their body shapes are so different. DD tried juniors in all of the department stores, but they didn’t fit right. Some of the local kids boutiques carry XL in dresses and those fit. We have several localstores that are geared to kids from the tween to college age so I’ve had some luck. I’ve had no luck at finding anything on line. Ever.

  130. Louise – what about J.Crew? I think their kids clothes are less cutesy than places like Mini Boden and Hanna Anderssen. I seem to be buying more and more from them as my oldest gets closer to double digits.

  131. Louise, we actually found dress pants and jacket at JC Penney’s for my hard to fit 13 year old son.

  132. Ada, now that Nordstroms website has good search tools, I don’t have to bother trying their shoppers any more. I just entered the size, fabric, and price requirements I had that time for a quick search and got 30 hits.

  133. Thanks all. I have to remember J Crew.
    There is a local store for young teens that started up, have to check that out.

  134. Lands End and Hannah both have great search tools for my son’s clothes. Hannah’s actually makes it easier to get what you need once things are on sale. Unfortunately, he is now in Hannah’s biggest boys size.

  135. “some of them have 2-step opening (open a door and THEN a drawer)”

    L, how about removing the doors?

  136. “So I never throw out tax related stuff.”

    It’s a lot easier to keep now that so much is digitized, especially if you use something like TurboTax, which now can create pdf copies of all your forms.

    “state tax issues are a bear. The websites are awful and customer service is too. And not nearly the level of published resources, rulings, case law etc.”

    And IME, TurboTax support of state taxes is nowhere near what it is for Federal.

    Fortunately for us, our state has gone to using the Fed returns, with specific additions and subtractions for differences.

  137. “Oregon coast vs. Mt. Hood area”

    Mt. Hood has a reputation for some of the best summer skiing in the country, although in recent years the low levels of precipitation in the west may have adversely affected skiing conditions.

    If you’re not limited to northern OR, I really like Crater Lake, and you could catch a play in Ashland.

  138. We’re planning a brief trip to Southern OR ourselves this summer, LfB, and if you want to email me I’ll send you a link to my YouTube trip planning playlist for that. (My handle at gmail.)

  139. Mt Hood should have great skiing this year- we’re getting dumped on this winter. I like coastal rainforest hiking (see big trees, ocean, wetland plants/creatures) better than Cascade hiking (see mountain peaks, along with lots of evergreen trees and differing levels of undergrowth depending on whether you’re on the dry side or the wet side). Crater Lake is only ~3-4 hours from either place, so definitely doable as a long day trip or a single night nearby. I doubt if the road around the lake opens until at least mid July this year.

    honolulumother, any interest in the Oregon Caves National Monument in southern Oregon? There are some good books (William Sullivan is my favorite author) with detailed descriptions of hikes in different parts of the state, if hiking is your thing. We also like lighthouse tours.

  140. WCE, it’s on the list of possibles, and I’m happy to share our plans with you too if you want to email me.

  141. Where do people find jigsaw puzzles? — Half Price Books (if you have one in your area) has lots of puzzles cheap.

  142. DH and I did Bend/Crater Lake last summer and loved every single minute of it. Highly recommend!

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