Susan Walko is a professional organizer who stays up at night dreaming of the best way to help others live an organized life. In her blog posts, she tries to stay short and sweet, but don't let that fool you. She has a depth of knowledge that has helped many on their path to downsizing to a clutter free existence. Check her out at www.organiz-er.com.
Once your children grow up and move out of the house, your
household dynamic will change. Parents
often struggle as they try to cope with this so-called “empty nest.” It is ironic that the “empty nest” only
refers to people as too often empty nesters find that their nest is full of
stuff! It is this overwhelming
accumulation of a lifetime of possessions that leads people to call a professional
I have worked with many families who were experiencing a new
life with their children out of the family home and have a few pieces of wisdom
to share. The most common phrase I hear
from families is “I don’t know what to do with all this stuff!” There are a couple main reasons for
this. First, there are often items that
children leave behind, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. Parents don’t know how to differentiate
between what items children forgot and what they did not want and so the parents keep
all such items, hoping that children will one day return and decide what to do
with the items. Another problem is that
parents can’t identify who owns what items and so they do not know who to ask
about them and do not want to accidentally get rid of something a child wanted. I tell parents that their home is not a
museum and leaving spaces as they were when their children moved out, with
bedroom sets and old memorabilia in place, is not the best use of rooms.
To avoid keeping extra items, parents need to be clear about
expectations with their children and set a date by which children will have
taken out all items from the home that they would like. Putting all questionable items for each person in once pile can help individuals easily sort through items to see
what they want to keep. Another way I
have found useful is to photograph items and text children photos. This way, they can easily decide right away
and it does not hold up the organization process. Another reason some parents don’t know what
to do with items left behind is because they are hoping that children might one
day want them, even when they haven’t said so.
Some parents believe that children will want certain items, such as
furniture or family heirlooms, and will hold onto them in hopes that the
children will take them. This can happen
because either parents have not communicated their intentions for the items, or
they have ignored their children’s wishes and kept the items in hopes that
children will later change their minds about taking them. Be sure to communicate your intentions to
your children, but parents should not keep items that children don’t or won’t
want. Think practically and worry about
yourself and your own space.
Even after the kids have made their decisions, parents are sometimes
still holding onto or housing items. One
explanation for this is that children do not yet have the space to store everything they want and so they ask for, or the parents offer them, storage
space in the family home. While some
parents are okay with doing this for a time, parents can be taken advantage of
and are left with piles of items that will never be taken by their children in
some cases. To avoid this, I recommend
following a simple guideline: “if it’s your stuff, it should be in your space.” This might sound harsh, but it works to clear
the spaces and minds of parents so they can transition to the next phase of
their lives and downsize more easily.
Again, I would tell you that you are not a storage unit and
since your children have become adults, they are perfectly capable of making
their own decisions and deciding what they would like to keep and take with
them and what they wish to discard. If
you want to remember the room, take a picture!
For more information, or to get help with your organization needs, visit
It is well known how important it is to keep computer files
organized. We create folders and
subfolders, often carefully titling files so that we can easily find what we’re
looking for. After all, if you can’t
find a document, what good is it?
However, we often do not take the same care in organizing our
collections of digital pictures, which can make finding that one picture you’re
searching for a monumental task.
With advancements in technology allowing for the storage of
thousands of pictures on our phones and in our computers, we have developed a
tendency to take more pictures now than in the past since we are no longer
limited by film or even SD cards in most instances. The problem with this arises when all the
pictures we take, including the duplicates and mistakes, end up being stored on
the cloud, in our phone gallery, or on our computer. Often, pictures are stored in multiple
locations. Faced with hundreds or
thousands of pictures, it’s no wonder that few people want to take the time to
go through their pictures before uploading them and dropping them carelessly
into folders online or on their computer.
That is of course, if they even upload them at all. But how do we solve this picture problem?
The first step, ideally, is to limit the number of pictures
you’re taking! I am personally a
proponent of taking fewer pictures and spending more time in the moment
enjoying your surroundings. Last year, I
went on a road trip with a friend for two weeks and I was amazed at how much
time he spent looking at beautiful scenery and animals through a phone screen
as opposed to using his own eyes and living in the moment. I’m not saying that taking photographs is a
bad thing, but I came home with a fraction of the pictures he did and was no
less happy for it. While taking personal
pictures of family and friends is valuable, you must consider that many
photographs of monuments, buildings, art, and attractions can be found online
in better quality, for free, compared to what you can produce yourself. You should ask yourself if every picture is
really worth taking and keeping.
Next, pairing your collection of pictures down to the best
ones as soon as possible will make for less work later. Often, you’ve taken multiple pictures of
people or things in order to get the best shot.
Once you have it, you should consider deleting all the other pictures of
the subject right off your phone or camera soon after to clear space and make
it easy to find the best photo right away.
Finally, it all comes down to organizing your pictures,
whether that be on a computer, storage device, or cloud-based service. Just like with other computer files, you need
to create folders to organize your pictures if you want to be able to easily
locate them. If you can’t find pictures
or it takes too much time, you won’t be able to view or share them and they
will be a burden rather than an asset to you.
Now, there are different ways to organize pictures and it’s mostly a
matter of personal preference and what you’re doing with them that determines
what is best. For instance, you may
choose to simply organize pictures by date, using years or months. Another strategy is to organize pictures by
subject, such as sports, trips, nature, and clubs. Others might find it easier to categorize by
people in pictures with folders for family, friends, or even a single
person. No matter what system you
create, sticking to it and keeping up with it so pictures are always organized
will make them much more useful to you and to others as the years go on, especially
when you’re just trying to find “that” picture you’re thinking of. While it might take more time now, it will
save you time from searching through hundreds of random icons later.
Over time, I’ve learned a couple of tricks that makes
organizing pictures easier. I’ve found
it useful to upload pictures at appropriate and regular intervals, such as
after a trip or event, so I can easily organize and share them. I also make sure to delete the pictures off
my phone or camera once I have uploaded them in order to prevent duplicates
from being uploaded later. For
especially interesting or important pictures, I might also name the individual
pictures something specific like I would a document, such as “Grizzly Bear in
Yellowstone,” so I can easily find it by searching my computer instead of
wading through thumbnails of pictures with randomized names. Lastly, I try to stick to one source for my
pictures so that they’re all in one place and I am careful about cloud
backups. While having the cloud automatically
backup files provides protection against deletion, I like to manually back up
my pictures periodically once I’ve organized them so I am not saving backups of
pictures I have deleted or not yet organized.
By Joe Dumais
For more information, or to get help with your organization needs, visit