Archive for the ‘Clutter-Free Living’ Category

10 Tips for “Letting Go of the Excess Stuff”

It happens to most of us.  Sales magazines and offers and postcards arrive and we think, “Hmmmm…..looks interesting.  I’ll hold on to this and check it out later”.  Problem is, life gets in the way and “later” takes a week, then a month, then a year and before we know it, there is an accumulation of piles and piles of ads, magazines and offers that we planned to go through but never quite was able to find the time.
At UpperCrust Maids, we are all about simplifying and beautifying life.  And while those luxury magazines certainly do have some interesting and unique items in there, truth of the matter is, if you are not planning to buy within the next 24 hours, chances are, you also won’t buy from that magazine within the next 24 months.  So why allow papers and magazines to overtake your home?
It’s not only junk mail and enticing ads that get us.  All types of things have a way of creeping up into our homes and finding a place there.  Below are 10 tips to help you get rid of the “stuff” that is taking over your home and chipping away at its beauty.
1.  Subject every piece of mail that comes into your home to a “tough love” test.  Ask yourself, “Am I going to order from this magazine within the next 24 hours?”  If not, toss it.  Postcards, toss immediately unless you are planning ot use the services offered within the next 24 hours.  Junk envelopes, tear up and toss immediately.  Credit card offers, tear up and throw out immediately.  Remember that paper is inanimate.  It has no feelings, no thoughts.  It could not care less that you are tearing it up and throwing it out.  Get rid of it.
2.  Next, toss out old subscription magazines.  Once you have read them, why hold on to them?  They will simply add clutter to your life.  Put them in the recycle bin.
3.  You also need to tackle your closet.  If you have not worn it in the past 2 years, chances are, you will never wear it.  Pull out every outfit that you sincerely know in your heart you will not ever wear and either take them to a consignment shop or to the Goodwill or to the Salvation army.  There is someone out there who could really use those items and if they are just sitting in your closet, they are going to waste.
4.  Battered and worn out shoes need to go to the nearest garbage can.  Why allow old shoes that you will never wear again to sit in your closet taking up space?  Just toss it.
5.  Sentimental items such as old holiday and birthday cards.  I won’t ask you to throw those away.  I will, however, ask you to invest in a file cabinet and some manilla folders.  File away the cards or put them in a box and store them in the attic.
6.  Spare boxes – Yes, I know that you believe that someday you’ll need those boxes for something. Problem is, they are taking away from the beauty of your lovely home and they are taking up space.  Boxes are easy to come by.  Take those boxes out to the recycle and when you actually do need boxes, just stop by your local UPS store and purchase some. They are inexpensive!
7.  Books – This is a tough one.  I love to read also.  Keep the classics.  Keep the ones that really touched your heart (who could ever get rid of “To Kill a Mockingbird” for example?)  But those fluff books and the books you know you will never read need to be either given away or put in recycle.
8.  Old electronic equipment and wires – Let’s face it.  You will never need that worn out, expired equipment and you will never find use for those cords and wires.  It is just in your home adding to the clutter.  Toss it!
9.  Pictures and other wall hangings – Do you have old pictures and wall hangings that don’t go with your present design scheme for your home? Take that stuff to the Salvation Army.  Someone can use it!
10.  Furniture – Do you have old tables and chairs out in your garage or in your basement or attic?  Take it to the Salvation army or throw it out. Chances are, you will never have it repaired and it will continue to act as clutter around your home.
For a list of places to take your excess “stuff”, GO HERE

Decluttering With Scott Roewer

Scott.jpg picture by Celynthia       By:  Cathy Green

Most of us have had to deal with clutter in our lives. But if we are not careful, clutter will continue to collect and it has the capacity to take on a life of its own. Below is an interview that I recently had with the DC/MD area’s premier organizer, Scott Roewer. In it, he shares the difference between cluttering vs. hoarding and tells us some things we can do to get ourselves organized:
Q – How did you end up in the business of organizing?
My career as an organizer really came out of nowhere. I moved to DC in 2003, and the cost of living compared to my prior home in Kansas City, MO was jolting to my bank account. So, I began the search for a part-time job to supplement my income as a Conference Planner for the Department of Defense. My search led me to the Container Store. Around the same time, a business-consultant friend, Stephe McMahon, went away for the holidays. I had keys to his home, so I decided to surprise him with a home and office fix-up. I rounded up some friends and together we painted, bought more functional furniture, repaired a hole in the ceiling, installed new business furniture, filed 10 years’ worth of paper, and organized his closets. McMahon, delighted, told me that others would pay me to do the same for them. I never worked for the Container Store, but it did begin my life as an organizer.
Stephe became my biggest booster and gave me advice me how to run a small business. I consider myself a teacher and a business owner who happens to be an organizer. I joke that I organize 30% of the time and run a business the other 70%.
Q – What was your major in college and is there anything in your past studies that have helped you in any way with your service business?
I studied music education as an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I have a Masters degree is in Education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I certainly rely on my education background to work with my clients. I observe a client’s learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic/tactile) to determine the best way to teach the organizing process and identify organizational systems that work best for them. I also rely on the psychology courses to manage the emotional aspect of some clients’ experience.
Q – Are you a naturally organized person or do you have to really work at it?
As a child, I loved to do puzzles and today I think organizing is like doing a puzzle. Each home or office I enter has a different reason it’s disorganized and I like to solve that puzzle. In my own home, everything has a place. I can find most things very quickly. With that said, I am not a neat freak. I kick off my shoes in the living room and they may stay there until I wear them again or I put them away in the closet. I don’t have a dishwasher so there are usually a few dishes in the sink and you’re likely to find a few managed piles of paper on my desk. I’m very visual and like to keep things out until I am done with them. My piles are organized and I can easily find anything on my desk.
Q – How do you draw the line between dealing with a “hoarder” who clutters and a non-hoarder who is a clutterer? And do you ever turn down potential clients?
You’re right, there is a very fine line between being extremely cluttered and being classified as a hoarder. As a member of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), I use the Clutter Hoarding Scale to determine which level (1-5) or severity of hoarding someone might be experiencing. This assessment measurement tool gives organizers definitive parameters related to health and safety.
The line you mentioned is determined by talking to the client about his or her past efforts to be organized. If she has a history of disorganization and the traditional self-help methods have failed, or if she has a current poor quality of life caused by disorganization and the expectation of future disorganization exists, then they’re likely chronically disorganized.
Sometimes, people are ‘situational disorganized.’ This occurs when a person finds they’re living in clutter or chaos for a short time period. This is usually caused by a major life event, such as death, change in living arrangements, a shift in work life, marriage, birth of a child, etc. This type of disorganization is easier to resolve than a chronically disorganized client.
I have turned down working with clients and stopped working with others. This is mainly due to the restraints put upon the client by himself or herself, family, or sometimes the city/state. Pressure to get organized or to clean up the home of someone who is chronically disorganized is almost always going to fail. The person living in the environment must want to make change. If he or she is not ready for it, they will fail. I’m not going to work with that individual because he or she is not ready. I want my clients to be successful and only work with chronically disorganized individuals who are emotionally ready for the positive change we can make together.
Q – Okay, so let’s now discuss your “typical” client. What type of person generally gets in touch with you?
Our client base varies, but typically they are 30-50 years old, men and women, couples with kids, and single city dwellers who are trying to maximize their space. I have worked with reality TV stars, politicians, CEOs of media empires, busy moms, association executives, administrative assistants, and stay-at-home dads. Everyone needs organization!
Q – Are your clients generally receptive to your advice (about throwing out certain things) or do you often bump heads?
I explain before we begin the process: my clients can keep whatever they want. I’m not going to make them throw anything away. However, I do expect them to know what they have, be able to find what they keep, and to honor the memories in their lives. Bumping heads with clients is best kept for reality TV shows, not real life. It doesn’t help the process and simply makes them upset.
I tell them a memory isn’t a memory if it’s in a dark corner of the closet or in a box in the basement–it’s just stuff. So, we work on honoring those memories and not personifying the object. I’ll offer ideas, such as photographing the quilt grandma made in 1960. You know the one–it’s Harvest Gold, has holes from moths, and is so scratchy you’ll never use it. We may take a photograph of the blanket and include it in a photo album with a photo of grandma where the client can write a memory about the blanket. Or, we may create a slide show of the photos and put them on the computer. The visual of the blanket is what the client wants to hold on to, not the scratchy blanket. With the memory now honored, we can donate the blanket and gain the space in his or her home.
Q – Do you have repeat customers? In other words, do any of your clients ever fall back into their old clutter habits?

I have three types of clients: those who are successful, follow the organization systems, and who learned how to do it on their own; clients who start and never finish, so they may be better off than when we started, but they never reached their goals; and maintenance clients who would rather have someone come in at various intervals to maintain a certain level of organization.
Falling back, or what we call ‘back sliding,’ happens. It’s part of the process when you make change or break bad habits. I strive to teach clients organizing and maintenance skills, so if backsliding occurs, the clients know how to catch up.
Once you’ve organized your closet or home, maintenance is very important. Just like a diet, once you stop, if you begin your old habits the weight will come right back.
I explain to clients they need to prepare their family to follow the rules of the organized space.
As another example, I’ll tell them to take time in their closet as they get dressed. While in the closet, remove the dry cleaning bags, place the clothes in the hamper, and put the shoes back in their place. If an article of clothing is clean enough to wear again, it’s clean enough to hang or fold and place back in the closet or drawer.
To maintain the volume, use the ‘One In/One Out’ rule for items stored in the closet. Keep a bag in the closet so you have a place to put donations each time something new is purchased. If you buy new jeans, and old pair goes out, find a new skirt, and replace an old one by dropping the other one in the sack. Once the sack is full, drop it off at your favorite charity.
Q – If there is are just one or two tips that you can give to those of us who are not naturally organized about de-cluttering, what would you advise?
Each person’s situation is unique because there is such a continuum of clutter. Usually the big projects are when someone describe his or her clutter as suffocating, or they are drowning, and overwhelmed, or don’t know where to begin. If that’s how your readers feel, it might be time to call a professional.
If it’s not that drastic, first, consider how you want your space to look, feel, and function. Also ask yourself, “what’s the purpose of this room?” Is the problem your closet, and you need to maximize clothing storage for two people? Is it the one room in the house that needs to serve as an office and library, or perhaps it’s the sanctity of your bedroom? Know what you want before you begin.
Once you’ve organized the space, maintenance is very important. Just like a diet, if you stop dieting, you begin your old habits the weight will come right back. Being organized is more like a lifestyle change. You must commit to putting things away after you use them, not over buying, managing your daily mail, and using systems that work for you. Not everyone will live a clutter free life, and that’s ok. I believe each person should be happy and comfortable in his or her own home.

Contact him:

Scott Roewer can be reached  by  WEB       202-249-8330
Also, he has a new blog. PRESS HERE

The “Process” House

 By:  Cathy Green

   I talk a great deal about cluttered houses. However, there is another type of house that needs to be discussed. I term it the “process” house.

In short, a process house is one that needs to be cleaned over a period of time.

What qualifies a home as a process house?

a. Exceptionally dusty or dirty baseboards that clearly have not been cleaned and/or dusted in over a year.

b. Extremely dusty or dirty window ledges

c. Houses where every single picture is dusty

d. A house that has a great deal of clutter

What home owners need to understand is that it did not take their home one day to get into that condition and it’s not realistic to expect that one deep cleaning will miraculously return the home to glory.

Process houses could easily take anywhere from 3 – 8(+) cleanings before they meet an industry standard of cleaning.

Every cleaning company is different. At UpperCrust Maids, LLC, we charge a deep cleaning fee for the first cleaning of a process house. Afterwards, we advise the family to allow either us or another company to clean the house weekly or biweekly until it is brought up to standard.

Other cleaning companies may charge several deep cleaning rates until the home comes up to standard. It just depends on various circumstances.

Before calling a cleaning company, take a careful look at your home. Have your baseboards ever been cleaned? What about the window ledges? How long has it been since the top of your refrigerator was cleaned? What about your windows? Every little thing takes time. Do you ever dust your furniture?

To find out if your home is a process house, give us a call and we will work with you to get it cleaned.




Places to Take Unused “Stuff” that Serves as Clutter

By:  Cathy Green

I recently walked into a beautiful home located on a beautiful street in an absolutely beautiful neightborhood. The purpose was to complete an in home estimate to determine price for cleaning the house.

The second I walked through the door, the vision of beauty melted into a vision of clutter—too much stuff gone wild. All types of “stuff” on the tables and couches and chairs. Every room dissolved into a place for storage.

UpperCrust Maids, LLC envisions itself as more than just a run-of-the-mill cleaning company that cleans a home every two weeks and runs off to clean another. Part of what sets us apart is that we personalize each home. And as the owners of the business, my husband and I view each and every home as our own personal responsibility. Yes, we do turn the homes over to employees to take care of on our behalf—-but much like one would turn over their personal car to be cleaned. We never give up “ownership” of the houses that we accept to clean. They are “our” houses that we entrust to our employees to keep clean on “our company’s” behalf.

We do our part. We are quick to re-train or even dismiss an employee who does not take care of your home to the high standards that we set. However, in turn, we desire that our clients do their part. That is, once we share tips with you regarding your home, we ask that you follow through. And unlike most cleaning companies, we do share tips where necessary.

We don’t accept every cluttered house for cleaning. But when we do accept a cluttered home into our fold, we work one-on-one with the home owner to guide him/her towards becoming less cluttered or totally de-cluttered.

Clutter is not a good thing—which is why I write about clutter so often. Below are a few websites that offer places where you can get rid of at least some of your clutter:

Title Trader



Salvation Army 


Teaching Children To Clean

   By:  Cathy Green

 I’ll never forget an experience I once had when I went to complete an in home estimate in a home.

The fact that the home had stacks and stacks of out-of-date telephone books all over the place was one issue. The dirt all over the walls was another issue. The clutter was blinding. But what really gave me chills was the fact that every floor in the house was being used as a trash can.

Upon entering the bedroom of the child of the house (she was eight years old) I was struck by the trash and filthy condition of her bedroom. It was clear that the child had not been taught anything about hygiene or the importance of cleaning up after one self.

Children are like sponges. They take in whatever they are taught. And if a child sees his parents throwing trash on the floors, the child will learn to do likewise.

As soon as a child is able to get around and comprehend instructions, that child should be taught to do small things such as:

* Wipe up spills

* Put away toys

* Place dirty clothes in laundry basket

And for fun, allow the child to sweep the floor with a child sized broom. Buy the child a toy vacuum cleaner. The goal is for the child to become clean conscious. And it’s best to teach him/her about cleanliness when they are very young so that it will be ingrained in them as they grow older.


What’s The Difference Between a Collection and Clutter?

  This is an organized collection

  This is disorganized clutter

People sometimes start off with a collection which ends up being clutter. Above are two dressers. One displays a wonderfully put together collection which adds to the overall beauty of the dresser and room. The other represents a chaotic mass of stuff all thrown together—taking away from the look of the dresser and ultimately the bedroom.

Everyone who holds on to objects should ask themselves:

a. Is this a collection or…

b. Is this simply a bunch of “stuff” that I don’t want to let go

Even collections should be organized and should have a purpose. Too many seashells all clamored together takes away from a look. There should be a good balance in terms of the amount of an item used in one space. And if a person collect seashells (for example)there should be a point at which the collecting stops—or give away or throw away some and replace with others. Otherwise, it becomes junky looking.

If a person finds himself or herself with a lot of “stuff” which ultimately takes away from the beauty and balance of a space, that person should go on a mission to throw away that stuff because such stuff will ultimately take over a room and become an eye sore.

Yes, it’s difficult to let go of things we’ve been holding on to a long time. But you know what? Go ahead and toss it out. I assure you that not only will you not miss it, but you won’t even remember it.

Journalist Josh Freed Proud of Cluttered Lifestyle

Journalist and author, Josh Freed [pictured above on the right] is so proud of his cluttered lifestyle that he has produced a documentary about it. Check this out:

As a boy, Josh Freed was scolded by teachers for his constant mess. They warned he wouldn’t succeed in life unless he changed.

Once in the workforce, Freed was hassled by bosses and co-workers who refused to accept the trail of paper that always followed closely behind him.

But this award-winning journalist, author, filmmaker and self-confessed mess-expert’s day has come.

“My Messy Life,” an original documentary directed by and starring Freed himself, takes a light-hearted look at clutter in a symbolic act of defiance against what Freed calls the “tyranny of the tidy.”

In the film, Freed turns the cameras on his home office, which he aptly calls his “messterpiece.”

Aside from his chair, not a single surface is visible in Freed’s office. Notes plaster walls, bins cover the floor and stacks of paper, files and books consume the desk.

“I can’t work in ultra neat spaces,” Freed told “My brain goes static.”

But it wasn’t easy for Freed to come out of the closet with his mess.

In 2005, Freed was invited to speak at IdeaCity, a conference in Toronto designed to showcase the city’s most prolific minds. During the conference, Freed took a leap of faith and showed the crowd of movers and shakers his chaotic office, explaining how it was the key to his success.

Freed soon learned he wasn’t alone. Many of the artists, politicians and academics he met shared his dirty little secret.

The hour-long documentary features the unkempt quarters of other notable figures such as Canada’s former justice minister Irwin Cotler, Internet guru Esther Dyson, and television mainstay Joe Franklin.  GO HERE to read remainder of article

Note about UpperCrustMaids’ Policy on Cluttered HomesBecause of how exceptionally difficult and time consuming cluttered homes are to clean—we do charge more to clean such homes. Note also that we don’t accept all cluttered homes that we see. We generally will accept a mild to moderately cluttered home but will turn down extremely cluttered homes. Cluttered homes do require a minimum of two cleaning technicians, which pushes up the cost to clean them.

VIDEO about Josh Freed

News Story about Josh Freed