By Daniel Loya / Blogs and News / 0 Comments

The holidays are a time for telling stories. The Night Before Christmas (Santa Claus), Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy, and the list goes on. Have you heard of the recent trend in the organizing industry known as Swedish Death Cleaning? The Swedish term for this extended, gentle practice is “döstädning.” The Scandinavian practice of death cleaning is a way to tell the story of your life. You can preserve the memories you want to keep alive, and wipe out the bad ones along with the things that serve as negative reminders.

The topic of death isn’t typically focused on during the holidays, but this method is more about a practical approach to deal with all of your belongings while you’re still very much alive. This technique is practiced widely in Scandinavia, and the process was traditionally started when a person or couple reached their 50s. Americans statistically accumulate more things a a faster pace than most other cultures (especially Scandinavians), so it makes sense that we start this process at a much earlier stage of life if possible.

The ultimate purpose of Swedish Death Cleaning is to simplify one’s life by steadily decreasing the amount of possessions in the home. In time, the practitioners are surrounded by the things that mean the most to them, and the unsubstantial stuff is eventually discarded. Participants slowly and regularly de-clutter their homes until the day they are gone. When one passes, all of the belongings left behind have to be dealt with by people in their family and inner circle. So why not start discussing long term intentions for you belongings with those who are close to you?

Apply the tips below to plan out your own Swedish Death Cleaning.

  • First, create a chart with all of the rooms in your home. Focus on de-cluttering one room a month, slowly and methodically processing the contents in that single room during that period.
  • Begin your journey in storage areas like basements, attics, crawl spaces, or garages. If you don’t have any of these spaces (especially those of you in New York City), then start with closets. Things in these areas are hidden away and the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ proverb especially applies to items in storage areas.
  • There is no urgency with Swedish Death Cleaning, so it doesn’t have to be done all at once  like the hardcore KonMari method (popularized in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). You can just do a little de-cluttering each week, and the best time to start is now. As you pull out holiday decorations, part with all the stuff that is damaged, outdated or that you you haven’t used in recent years.
  • A good way to effectively death clean your home is to speak about it with those around you. Once you speak it into existence, you can be held accountable for it. This will encourage family and friends to claim things, and it will reveal which items no one really wants as well.
  • Get rid of anything that could be disturbing, embarrassing or hurtful for your family or next of kin to find. It’s difficult to imagine now, but one undisclosed day they will have to rummage through your things and sort them out to be distributed. What do you have hidden just out of sight that you wouldn’t want them to find?
  • Make sure to record what you want to be done with specific belongings. Let the hiers know what they should expect to receive, and list it all in your legal paperwork. As you are sorting through things, you can also create notes for the intended recipients, explaining the provenance, special stories related to items, etc.
  • You can reward yourself for your persistent work with healthy activities and indulgences like eating an enjoyable meal, taking yourself (and your other half) to a movie, taking a walk through Central Park on a crisp Fall day, etc. If you sell things as you de-clutter your home, the money can fund fun life experiences (travel!), or be placed in savings for your heirs to inherit in place of the stuff they don’t want.
  • Finally, leave your photographs, scrapbooks, journals, and letters to be sorted through at the end. These types of materials can get you stuck in a time warp as you experience the nostalgia and end up procrastinating with the larger scale sorting.

The concept of Swedish Death Cleaning resonates with us because it counteracts the fast-paced and chaotic world we live in. De-cluttering and downsizing can help us cope with our own mortality, even during the festive holiday season. Paring down reminds us that things don’t last forever, and the we don’t live forever. If you’re dedicated to creating your own legacy, start your process of döstädning to fully express how you see yourself, and how you desire people to remember you.

Happy Holidays,

Dan

By Daniel Loya / Blogs and News / 0 Comments

Organizing your home or office isn’t only about getting spaces in order. It also involves enhancing your general health. In this issue, we’ll explore how tidying up spaces you live and work in can actually help you breathe easier, sleep better, and lose weight. You might think that random piles of clothes, dusty books stacked on shelves, and those dreaded “junk drawers” aren’t really harming anyone, but that is not the case. If your spaces are cluttered, they are likely affecting your health. Let’s go over how clutter affects health, and how you can resolve it if it is a problem for you.

1. Getting restful sleep is impacted by clutter.
When you’re preparing for bed, and the last thing you see is a hamper overflowing with clothes or paperwork scattered all over surfaces in your bedroom, it can cause anxiety and restlessness. Several studies conducted by sleep specialists show that the sleep patterns of subjects who have cluttered bedrooms are much worse than those who have clean and organized rooms.

Resolution: If your bedroom is less than organized, spend some time putting clothes away (schedule it if you have to), purging things you no longer need, sorting paperwork, and cleaning up. If it’s too close to bedtime, you will likely be overly exhausted so don’t push this off until the last minute. One reward of taking this step is better quality sleep. You could also use a meditation app like Calm to get an even deeper slumber.

2. Your breathing and allergies can be aggravated by clutter.
Clutter itself can be a real eyesore, but it’s what lingers in physical chaos that is the larger issue. Dust is a common problem that aggravates allergies. Allergies to dust can cause symptoms including: sneezing, coughing, itchiness, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Sources of allergies like dust mites, mold, pollen, and pet hair are attracted to cluttered areas. To get rid of dust mites you have to purge the clutter and clean clothing, linens, towels, stuffed animals, carpet, and upholstery that was part of the mess.

Resolution: Once you de-clutter an area, wipe down and vacuum everything thoroughly. Wash linens you find and donate old stuffed animals, especially if they are dusty. You can also use air purifiers and house plants to improve the quality of air in your home or office.

3. Your energy levels are influenced by clutter.
You have probably entered a cluttered room that immediately diminished your energy with the overwhelm. When you are surrounded by massive amounts of clutter, the result is overstimulation that hinders you from processing information and your capacity to focus.

Resolution: If you find yourself avoiding undesirable tasks like sorting piles of stuff or opening heaps of mail, then work for 20-30 minutes and take 5 minute breaks in between. If you want to reward yourself then do something you enjoy, like listening to your favorite music or having a healthy snack. Just don’t get caught up in this part. After 5 minutes is up, go right back to getting tasks done and you’ll be able to refocus due to the short break.

4. Unwanted weight gain can be instigated by clutter.
Studies show that people who have disorganized homes have a more difficult time losing weight. This makes sense because even if you have healthy fruit stored in the back of drawer (and unhealthy snacks are easier to access), then they are more likely to be eaten. In fact, Peter Walsh, has found that there is a connection between clutter, higher stress, and weight gain. In his book Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight, he shares research that indicates when stress increases, hormone levels increase and the result is overeating. Additionally, a Cornell University study revealed that the presence of foods such as candy, cereal, and soft drinks in homes were associated with weight gain in individuals that ranged from 20 to 30 pounds.

A certified health and wellness coach, Maria Bernaris, presented at the last NAPO-NY meeting. She spoke on the topic of organizing and detoxing kitchens. Her philosophy is that kitchens need to be organized in order to maintain a peaceful, uninterrupted flow of energy. Having an organized kitchen ensures that you will be able to find the foods you need to eat or cook quickly.

Resolution: Reorganize your kitchen and pantry to help you lose weight by placing tempting unhealthy foods (as few as you can tolerate) in hard-to-reach cabinets, and keeping healthy foods front and center. If you feel unhappy, unfocused, and stressed out, your health-centered goals will be overshadowed. But if you de-clutter most of the junk food, then you’ll be able to relax because you will have less unhealthy temptations. This means you’ll be able to focus more on taking care of yourself.

5. Your mental health is affected by clutter.
It is normal that most people to have trouble parting with sentimental items like childhood toys, high school yearbooks, wedding memorabilia, or family heirlooms. But keeping these belongings when we’ve truly outgrown them can actually be a burden emotionally, physically, and financially. A Yale University study compared the brains of hoarders and non-hoarders. It showed increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and insular cortex when subjects were shown things they would have to part with. These two regions of the brain are associated with pain and conflict. Clutter can overload your mind, increase your stress levels, and even prevent you from thinking creatively.

Resolution: Even though it can be an emotional process to de-clutter spaces in your home or office (especially after some type of loss), you can try sorting through it with a supportive friend. If you struggle parting with certain items you suspect you may have outgrown, your friend can ask you questions like, “How long has it been since you used that?” “When are you planning to wear this?” “How often will you use this” or, “Are you ever actually going to display that?” Keep the possessions that serve you, bring you happiness or enhance your life. There are many ways to part with the things that don’t fulfill you, such as donating them, giving them to someone else who can benefit from them, recycling them, or throwing them out.

By Daniel Loya / Blogs and News / 0 Comments

There is exciting news I have to share with all of you. This fall, I will be transitioning my business, Spaces Transformed, to New York City! Please contact me if you’re a Philly resident who wants to complete an organizing project with me, or if you’re a New Yorker who would like to start an organizing venture with me this summer or fall. Below I’m sharing tips on how to make self care a priority, even though it can be tempting to disregard it when you’re super busy.

Imagine this scenario. You’re overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do. Way too many projects have piled up at work and in your home, and your calendar is overflowing with overdue tasks. To try and take on these endless tasks you slowly give up aspects of your social life, skip meals, and stop exercising. When we get stressed out, self care is often something that is sacrificed. The problem is that this actually causes us to have even higher levels of stress.

Even though many of us believe self care is a healthy option, it is actually essential to your daily productivity and overall health. In our busy society, we can easily sacrifice taking essential care of ourselves with the belief that the harder we work, the faster we can get it all done. But this approach can end up being counterproductive if your ability to function efficiently is compromised.

Practicing self care can feel like wasted time, but it can really boost your productivity. First, it helps you prevent completely burning out. Also, tending to your needs can reduce the unhealthy effects of stress. Self care is crucial to keep your body and mind functioning properly. Finally, self care promotes focus. If you take breaks after intervals of work, you perform at much higher levels of productivity.

Aside from taking regular breaks, it is also important to take time to eat meals and exercise regularly. Taking the time to nourish yourself and work out should be given the same consideration as an important appointment. It may feel like an easier choice to skip exercise due to the amount of time preparation, commuting, working out, and showering takes. But the payoff of feeling healthy, decreased stress levels, and a stronger immune system is all worth the effort.

Include enough time for proper eating and exercise in your daily schedule and you’ll should notice that you perform at a higher level and get more work done in your day. Find a way to hold yourself accountable by working out with friends, participating in group classes, hiring a professional trainer, or using an app like All Day or Lift Log.

Additionally, we all know it can be difficult to make healthy eating choices when we’re surrounded by processed foods that are easy to access. Instead of attempting to eat a completely healthy diet, you may find it helpful to focus on one specific eating goal at a time. Try cutting out most saturated fats, reducing carbohydrate or sugar intake, or eating more fruits and vegetables. If you rethink your approach to eating more healthy, the process will be a lot more manageable as you build good eating habits.

Practicing self care can work as the foundation that allows you to take care of everything else in your life. Isn’t it ironic that the first thing we sacrifice in an attempt to be more productive is our own well being? If you read this and find that you have fallen out of the practice of taking care of your own basic needs, then follow these tips to get back on track!

Cheers and Happy Summer,
-Dan

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By Daniel Loya / Blogs and News / 0 Comments

Happy New Year! In exciting 2017 news, my business will continue to focus on expanding from Philadelphia into New York City. So rather than monthly blogs, I have decided to post them quarterly instead to offer more streamlined content. It’s about time to take down and pack away all of that holiday decor, so let’s focus on that in this edition. You can get organized for the fresh new year by rethinking how you store your holiday decorations, supplies, and heirlooms. They should be stored in a way that will preserve them for years to come, but also with function and style in mind.

First, consider if there are more efficient storage options to pack your holiday decor. If you’re ready to step up your holiday organization, you can get rid of unstable cardboard boxes and beat up original packaging, and replace them with professional products. One of my go-to companies for functional, yet stylish organizational supplies is Storables. I’m such a fan of their products that they have offered to sponsor this Spaces Transformed New Years issue. Storables is a “one-stop shop” for all things organization. They sell spectacular collections of ready-to-assemble products and furniture online and they have 4 stores in Oregon and Washington state.

One of my recent clients needed help storing her Christmas items. After assessing her storage needs and selecting 3 unique organizing products on Storables website, I placed my order and received them soon after. The products we chose to pack away her precious ornaments and supplies included: the 54 Compartment Ornament Chest, the Hanging Giftwrap Holder, and the Set of 2 Gray Lynden Boxes.

Since my client has a substantial amount of expensive bulbs, we used the 54 Compartment Ornament Chest to protect these valuable items. I love that this chest has dividers in it, which is the best way to store ornaments. It has 3 removable trays, adjustable dividers for uniquely sized ornaments, and reinforced carrying handles to make transporting the chest simple. The dual zipper-pulls allow easy access and the cardboard inserts shield your keepsakes from damage. Most importantly, it was easy to assemble. This product sold out after I ordered it, but their Clear 24 Compartment Ornament Organizer is still available.

To store my client’s wrapping supplies, we used the Hanging Giftwrap Holder. The main advantage of this product is that it corrals all of your holiday supplies in one convenient place. It features 6 elastic hooks that can hold scissors, tape, and pens. There are also 6 mesh pockets that are perfect for tissue, bows, and gift bags. The main compartment holds up to 25 rolls of wrapping paper and features velcro straps to secure them in place. It has more than enough room for all of your festive supplies. There is a top swivel hook that hangs on closet rods to allow easy access to contents on all sides of this product.

The final product I selected was the Set of 2 Gray Lynden Boxes. These boxes are not specifically designed to store holiday decorations, but they work well for this purpose. The boxes are soft-sided with gray linen finish, and the large one measures 18″ x 15″ x 7.5″ H, while the small one is 16″ x 13.5″ x 7″ H. As seen in the photos, they make stylish and practical storage options for heirlooms you would like to preserve. They are also great for storing everything from spare towels to kids’ toys, while adding a simplistic sophistication to your closet organization.

I hope that you have a productive new year and I look forward to helping you with your organizing goals in 2017!

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By Daniel Loya / Blogs and News / 0 Comments

How many of you have bins of unsorted photos packed in storage spaces? How about outdated artwork, inherited items, dusty scrapbooks, and clothing from decades past? If you have sentimental clutter, you’re definitely not alone. You may have plenty of possessions that you have emotional attachments to, but paring down these items can give you a tremendous sense of freedom.

To de-clutter your keepsake collections, start by making the emotional component of the process work for you rather than against you. Here are 6 steps to organize and slim down your sentimental memorabilia.

Step 1: Work for short periods
Sorting through items that have an emotional charge can feel draining. Some people make the mistake of trying to purge keepsakes in one full-day power session. To avoid becoming overwhelmed and burning out, schedule several sessions that are 2 hours each. When you’re at your highest energy level, you can make faster and more reliable decisions. As you organize your stuff, ask yourself: “If I got this item today, would I still keep it?” Keep the things you answer ‘yes’ to and donate or sell the rest.

Step 2: Contain the keepsakes you save
One of the biggest challenges I have addressed as a professional organizer is helping people salvaging items damaged by water (leaks, floods, etc). Ideally, you don’t want the effects of natural elements to determine what memorabilia you’re able to save. Switch out any cardboard boxes you currently use with plastic containers. Separate obvious garbage and things you no longer have emotional attachment to from the things you still want to keep, and store those items in clear bins if possible (so you can easily see what you have).

Step 3: Take digital photos
Storing digital images may not be the same as actually having tangible keepsake items, but the process of taking photos is a big physical space saver. Photos and paper memorabilia can be damaged over time, even if they are stored in archival sleeves and boxes. You may be able to let more of your keepsakes go if you take pictures of them to keep the memories alive. This is especially effective with old schoolwork, report cards, diplomas and awards, and personal artwork. By giving yourself permission to let go of some sentimental items, you will reward yourself with a sense of accomplishment.

Step 4: Find out what’s really being passed on
Most people believe their sentimental things will be passed on to the next generation or to surviving family and friends. The best way to find out if people really want the things you plan to leave them is to confirm they actually want them. If you’re holding onto sentimental clutter simply to pass it on, but it’s not really wanted by the intended recipients, part with it.

Step 5: Transform keepsakes into functional items
Did you know there are companies that specialize in repurposing your old clothing and accessories into one-of-a-kind keepsakes? My favorite company that offers this service is Once Upon A Time Creation.They make functional items like quilts/blankets, pillows, ornaments, teddy bears, or totes out of clothing that’s stored away in your home. If you are saving keepsakes that have no current functional use, consider converting them into treasures you can use on a daily basis.

Step 6: Seek help if you need it
A great way to sort through your keepsakes is to enlist the help of family, friends, or a professional. Figure out if you mostly need company, a cheerleader, or someone with an expertise in de-cluttering. Based on your needs, ask for help from someone you know or hire a professional. The benefit of working with others who are encouraging is that they will collaborate with you during the process, and share in your excitement after you see the results of your hard work.

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