Decluttering – How To Decide What To get Rid Of?

Decluttering and trying to decide what to get rid of is a very hard thing to do.

decluttering garage

That is why it is very helpful to use an outside person, a friend  or a Professional Organizer to help you. We don’t have the attachments to the objects that you do. It is easier for us to help you make the decision based on need and not on emotions.   Often someone other than family/friend is able to say things that you might need to hear, but won’t accept from someone close, it can make the decluttering process easier.

Questions to Ask Yourself:


*Does it take more time and effort to manage than it is worth?
*Does it make others unhappy to see it? Am I putting things before people and relationships?
*Do you need it? Is it redundant (i.e., do I really need 3 measuring spoon sets)?
*Do I love it? Does it make me happy or unhappy to see it?
*If you were moving, would you pay to have it packed and moved?
*Would you buy it again?
*Is it broken, and if so, are you ever going to fix it?
*Are you ever really going to finish this project (book, quilt, etc.)?
*Can you borrow or purchase another one, if needed, without spending a fortune or having trouble finding it?
*When’s the last time you used it (assuming you knew it was there)?
*If you knew that someone else would really benefit from having this (i.e. if you found a great place to donate it), would that make it easier for you to let it go?
*Is this adding value to your home or business?
*Is this item getting in the way of your ability to find what you need, when you need it?
*Will this help me make or save money?
*How much space does it require (the more it takes, the more critical you should be in your decision to keep it)
*If you keep it, will you remember you have it? If you remember you have it, will you be able to find it?
*Convince yourself that you need to keep it.


*Am I legally required to keep it (i.e. vital & tax records), and if so, for how long? (a topic for another whole newsletter)
*Will I actually use it/refer to it/need it?
*Is the information still current?
*Can it easily be duplicated or created if needed again (i.e. found on the web)?
*What’s the worst that can happen if you toss it?
*Is it a duplicate?

*Is the item in good condition?…does it have stains or tears or is it too worn)?
*Is the item still in style (And no…..1980’s shoulder pads are not going to come back into style in the same exact way)?
*Do you love the item, or even like it? Does it make you feel great to wear it?
*When was the last time I used this item….Would I use it again now that I remember that I have it?
*How many do I currently own of this type of item (maybe 20 pairs of black pants are too many)?
*Does it fit? If not, is it within a reasonable number of size ranges of my current size range to keep it?

*Do you have anything else that reminds you of this (event, person, time)?
*If we took a picture of it, would that make it easier for you to let it go?
*Am I keeping it because someone gave it to me and I’ll feel guilty if I get rid of it?
*Does the sentimental value exceed the practical value (if so, by all means, keep it!)

Using these guidelines can make it much easier to help you decide if you are going to part with something.

This post was originally posted in 2008. The list was one that was compiled by Professional Organizers.

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Sort The Clutter

When you sort through all your things how do you know what to keep and what to get rid of?

What is your goal?  What would you like to end up with? A room you can see the floor in? A closet you can fit your clothes in?  You need to visualize the space you want to unclutter and sort.

With your vision in mind – you have to decide what is important enough to keep in your new space.  If everything holds the same importance to you and you can’t let go of everything, you will not accomplish your goal and you will not have cleared the space.

Take each item and make a fast decision.  Decided which category it belongs in below.  I suggest either getting boxes and labeling them, or make signs to use for your piles.

The key is to remember that if you keep everything, you won’t be any closer to your goal.

Don’t worry if Aunt Susie gave it to you and you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Do YOU like it and does it add value to the space? If not, then it is alright to donate it, or give it to another family member who might really like it. Take that item and in 5 fast seconds say to yourself, “Do I love this, use it and want it?” Simple as that. (I know it isn’t really that easy…but the more you do, the easier it gets.) I know there are the complicated items, I know there are the sentimental items.  But you have to make a first run through.  Then you can deal with the more difficult items like a pipe your grandfather smoked or a Precious Moments Collections of your mothers.

Sorting Categories

Sorting Keep

Love It: (Keep)

1) Love It
2) Use It
3) Want it or Can’t live without it

Tip: Remember, you can’t LOVE everything or else you will not make any progress

Sorting Donate



1) Won’t Use
2) Don’t Like
3) Doesn’t Fit

Tip: Think of other people who could benefit from the items you are donating. Why let them sit there, when others need them so badly? 

Sorting move it

Move It: (Keep)

1) Wrong Room

Tip: Only Move the things that you LOVE or items that you have to Store. Don’t just shift the mass to another room. 

sorting store it

Store It: (Keep)

1) Seasonal
2) Can’t give it up
3) Can’t Use Now

Tip: Be selective in what you store. You don’t HAVE to save every Christmas decoration etc. Use the same sorting process for holiday decorations.  For items you “Can’t Give Up” allow yourself one plastic bin or box for your “cherished” items. Call it your special box. If that box gets full, then decide which items need to come out to make room for others. Give yourself limits and stay within them. 

sorting trash - recycle

Trash/ Recycle:

1) Broken
2) Torn
3) Can’t Donate

Tip: Please do not donate items that aren’t in good enough shape to use. That just means someone else has to get rid of your trash. Recycle as much as possible, but move it out of your home. Don’t plan a zillion projects to recycle old items into new, otherwise you will not be able to move out from beneath your clutter. 

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Memory Quilt

February 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Bedrooms, Blog, Memorabilia & Keepsakes

Use Your Cherished Items in a Memory Quilt to Enjoy!

I am in total love with my Memory Quilt that was made from all our special items! This will be something I can pass down in my family for generations.

Although this quilt fits my queen size bed, we don’t use it for a quilt on our bed. I’m going to be hanging it back up once our room is painted.  I had this made by Campus Quilts in 2010 and LOVE it!  It incorporates all kinds of special items that mean something to everyone in our family of ten.


Although the picture is a little hard to read (that black type is not actually on the real quilt. lol ) it shows the following:

Top left pink square: The Flower girl t-shirt my step daughter wore at our wedding
Top right white square: The ring bearer pillow (one of two) that my two step sons carried
Bottom left square: The bow on the back of Elise’s flower girl dress
Bottom right square: A section of the back of my wedding dress

I had a square made with a handkerchief that my mom had for her wedding and her wedding gloves that I had sitting in a silk bag in the back of a drawer for years.

The left square is my oldest son (now age 28) baby blanket
The right dress is the first dress I ever got to buy for a little girl. My step daughter when she was 3 years old.

Although this is not a good picture at all… sorry about that but I have included the following:

Three of my oldest son’s baby blankets
One of my older sons bunnies
The white ties & handkerchiefs were from my step son’s wedding atire
My garter from my wedding
My husband’s favorite old t-shirts
T-shirts from my older boys high school
Football jerseys and cheerleading outfits from the triplets

This quilt is so precious to me!!   Instead of having all these pieces of clothing packed away in boxes, they are now in a quilt that will be on my wall to see everyday and enjoy all the memories!

I originally did another post on this when I got this quilt. The Campus Quilt company did sponsor this quilt for me back in 2010.  They also made my pillow from my wedding dress. This post is not sponsored in any way, I just wanted to share another way to use your cherished things in a creative way.  I can highly recommend them… it was a simple process… .they send you what you need to decide where you want each piece, you label them and send everything back to them. They then send you your keepsake.

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Wedding Dress

February 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Family & Friends, Memorabilia & Keepsakes

What Do You Do With Your  Wedding Dress AFTER The Wedding?

We all love our wedding dress and only getting to wear it for one day and then never use it again is tough, especially for those who spent really big bucks!

Wedding dress

There are several options for what you can do with your wedding dresses.

1) Sell them – on Craig’s List, ebay etc
2) Donate them – There are plenty of woman who can’t afford a nice wedding dress and would LOVE your generosity.
3) Save them  – You can have them preserved by a cleaners
4) Recycle them

For my first wedding I did the whole (preserving) the wedding dress routine. I remember paying $75 at Swann Cleaners back in 1982 (which was a lot of money back then, to me) in order for my dress to be packed up in a box… not to be opened until it was to be used again by my daughter. It was sealed.

So I moved that big box with me to each of my homes throughout my almost 20 years of marriage, never opening it, never breaking that seal.  When my divorce was pending I knew (having four boys) that I wasn’t going to have a daughter to wear it, and also knew it was out of style anyway. Some of my friends in my neighborhood and I had a fun idea. Another one of the gals also was going through a divorce. We decided to get out our wedding dresses and put them on!  (That will have to be another post! lol)

I was shocked to find that mine (opening the seal for the first time in 20 years) had yellowed spots on it.  So I couldn’t sell or donate it anyway.

What I did with my 2nd wedding dress.

When I married Dave, I knew that even if I kept my dress, the chances of my step daughter wanting to wear my dress was so minimal it was not worth keeping packed away.

I seriously considered donating it, but when I had an offer to make a memory quilt I decided to use part of my wedding dress.  I sent my dress off and they used part of the dress in the quilt and they also used part for a pillow.

Wedding dress

I love my pillow… it captures the bodice of the dress that I loved so much.

This is the back of the pillow which reflects that back of the train of the dress.

Wedding dress

The quilt company sent the rest of my dress back, so I had plenty of fabric.  I did had Christmas stockings made for myself and my step daughter that matched by a seamstress here in town.

wedding dress christmas stocking

I got an “S” for my stocking and an “E” for her’s.

wedding dress stocking


I also had her make several “silkies” that I will be able to give my Grandchildren (God willing). She made them about 12″ x 12″. The wedding dress silk fabric on one side and then I got a soft flannel with a baby pattern and had her back them with that.  You know how babies love the blankets that have that silky feeling on them?

Where is Your Wedding dress?

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Jewelry Keepsakes

What Do You Do with Jewelry Keepsakes?

Are your divorce diamonds considered jewelry keepsakes?  What To Do With Them? I’m going to go over two different situations, much with the same results.

Here is my current engagement ring – Let me tell you the story behind it.

diamond engagement ring

I was divorced in 2001 after close to twenty years of marriage.  I had accumulated not only my engagement ring, but several other diamond and gemstone rings. I didn’t know what to do with them.

From my ex husband starting out in jewelry early in our relationship, I was shocked to see how little people actually got back for their rings if they tried to sell them back. Ebay or Craigs list was always an option.

I considered giving them to my son’s, but it just seemed like “divorce diamonds” weren’t a real great gift to give your boys to give to their future wives.

Dave and I discussed an option when we were dating, knowing we were getting close to being engaged. He knew I had a pretty good idea of a ring I wanted to have, and I knew he was a pretty frugal guy. We didn’t have a lot of extra money to put into an engagement ring.

Dave did want to surprise me (which he did…. another story) when he asked me to marry him. He did go ring shopping and picked out an engagement ring, but also told the clerk there was a really good chance he would be returning it.

What we did, was to go to a jeweler that I knew and trusted and we designed my ring.  I took in the several rings that I had, including my engagement ring and we did an exchange.  Dave would not agree to let me use the main diamond from the old engagement ring (we picked one out together) but we did use all the little diamonds from the different rings in my new ring.  To get the perfect sizes etc the jeweler actually exchanged them out evenly so none of the exact same diamonds are now in this ring.  He also used the gold from those ring for the gold in my new ring.  So we only had the cost of the main diamond and the jewelers time.  The rings also helped pay for some of the other costs.

engagement ring

I got the ring I wanted and ended up saving Dave over $2,000 from the ring he originally had picked out for me.

The ring has both yellow gold and white gold in it (which I wanted). I kept my wedding band super simple since my engagement ring was fairly ornate. It is cut to fit snug to the engagement ring, but isn’t in these pictures.

There is scroll work on the sies of it (that is hard to see in these pictures) and the jeweler was so pleased with it, he made it one of his “signature” rings. He won’t repeat the same ring, but he said he has only chosen about 50 pieces in his long career that he has made his signature pieces. It has his initials in one of the small gold circles on the sides.

engagement ring

My Mom and Grandmother’s Engagement Rings

My Mom passed away in 1999.  Her engagement ring was slated to go to my older sister.  Mom had her ring, and she also had a one diamond out of the double diamond ring of her mother’s (my Grandmother).

My sister doesn’t wear rings much at all, and she was going to take Mom’s diamond and make a necklace out of it.  I was going to get Grandmother’s loose diamond and make a ring out of it.  So she decided the best thing to do was to give me Mom’s ring and she would take Grandmother’s diamond.


We found Grandmother’s engagement ring in Mom’s jewelry box, with the two empty shanks where her diamonds had been. (one diamond had gone to Mom, the other to her sister). Kathy was fine with me having Grandmother’s empty ring also.

I decided that I wanted one ring – with both Mom and Grandmothers engagement rings attached.  I took my idea and the rings to several jewelers. One wanted to do some fancy ring that didn’t look anything like their rings with the materials I had. I told him that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the ring to look just like their rings. It was in their memory.

I had another jeweler tell me that would look dumb. I left.

Then I went to Michael of Jewelry by Michael. He was nice, he worked through what I wanted and he made me a ring that I cherish and wear everyday on my right ring finger.

memory ringMom’s ring is the single diamond and Grandmothers is the double ring.  The rings are both white gold, but I wear both yellow and white gold so I had him put yellow gold inbetween them to attach them.  There isn’t a time that I look at this ring and  don’t think of Mom and Grandmother.

These rings could have sat in my jewelry box, gather dust… but instead I wear them everyday in memory of my Mom and Grandmother.

See if there is a solution for special keepsakes to actually enjoy them and use them.   As for the divorce diamonds, you could also give the rings to a child (if you can’t use them) and have them exchange the materials for a ring for someone else (if you are comfortable with that).

Just be sure to find a jeweler that you can trust and that you know will do right by you.

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From Babies to Adults

January 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Family & Friends, Memorabilia & Keepsakes

My four boys “Then and Now”

While my two oldest boys were home from boot camp I did what moms do.. took pictures. On Christmas Eve while at my Dad’s house, they got goofy while I was trying to get a family picture. They remembered a picture of the 4 of them, lined up in a picture from when they were smaller. They started cracking up and lined up on the floor.  I still don’t remember the picture myself, but I will have to search for it.. just to be sure.

boysAfter they did that I said to them that I wanted to dig out some of their old pictures from when they were small and have them get in the same positions for pictures!!

About 10 minutes before I was to take my 2 oldest to the airport to go back to Basic training in Ft. Sills, OK I said, “Hey guys… we never did the pictures” and I took off for the basement.  I grabbed their old pictures and told them to just give me 3 of them… “Please!!!”

Boys being boys… they will do anything for their moms.. (most of the time) and they did.

boys collage 1994Keep in mind we didn’t have a lot of time to really pose… but they sure had a good time doing it!  They were almost 2, 6, 9 and 11 on the left. Now they are 18, 22, 25 and 27.

My youngest was not quite a year in this picture…

LOL.. cracks me up!  You can’t even believe how hard they were laughing for this one!

Then I asked them for a nice one of them…. My boys are so great!

Then we went outside… to get a few more with Joe & Drew in their full uniforms. They can’t wear their hats inside.

I asked Joe and Drew to get together for a shot.. and this is what I got…

John says… I”m ready…. take the picture!

Then we get… “Fine… I’m off to boot camp!”

and this is what he was doing to his brothers…..

My boys…. Then… and Now! I’m so Proud of all of them! Wow… (Joe & Drew are switched in this picture..)

I reposted this post from my Chat with Sandy blog. It was originally posted 1/4/11

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How To Organize Photos

How Do You Organize Your Digital Pictures?

Digitally Organizing Photos

Just as in real life, digitally we need to be organized.  You may wonder why, since there isn’t any physical clutter associated with our computer or laptop.  But we can still have “clutter” on our computers.  Photographs can be a big culprit.  Do you load your pictures onto your computer and forget them?  Can you find them when you need them, or do you just have to scan, scan, scan until you see it?   There are some simple ways to make browsing and sharing your photos easy.

5 Ways to Organize Your Photos Digitally

Step 1: Up Load

Load your pictures onto your computer.  There are many applications you can use  on your computer (ie: iphoto, picasa, photoshop)  but pick one and try to stick to it.  Do not use several different ones on your computer and have your pictures in several different locations.

Step 2: Sort

Just as in real life, we need to “sort” our things, and in this case pictures.  You do not need to keep ALL the pictures you take.  With digital cameras we tend to take a lot more pictures than we used to.  It is alright to delete a picture!  If you have 15 pictures of the same subject. Pick the best one, or maybe 2 and delete the rest.  Remember, these pictures can be copied, shared and saved – so you can break away from the “running out of syndrome”.  You don’t ever have to run out of copies of a digital picture.   Keep your best ones and delete the blurry ones, or ones where you cut off the top of someone’s head.

Step 3: Label

Label your pictures.  Try to do this as soon as you upload them onto your computer.  You have the best memory of the event soon after it happens. Add dates, people’s names, events and thoughts.

Here are some other labeling methods

Face recognition: You can label a photo via faces with some computers. (this is from iphoto on Mac)  If there are people in the photo you label a square that is around their face with their name. Your computer photo software then remembers this face and recognizes it in subsequent photos so labeling becomes easier.  The person who views the photo later can place their cursor over the picture and the persons name appears.  Here is a picture of what a Face folder may look like in your computer.

iphoto uses Faces to label.

Step 4: Separate

Separating your photos into folders enables you to find them quick and easily.  If you just have all your pictures loaded but not separated in any way, you can be searching forever for a particular photo.

Here is an example of folders from a PC.  But I have all the folders labeled and dated for fast and easy referencing.

PC folder method

This is iphotos folder method.  I used to have a PC and loved how I organized it.

I like having the picture on the front of the folder along with labeling below. As you use the scroll bar to scroll down the pictures you also get the letter of the category you are on. I have mine in alphabetical order.  But it can be more difficult to access these pictures when you are wanting to use a picture for a blog post or to put on Facebook. The text labeling do not show up on that screen.

You can separate your photos into broad events:

Holidays, sports, Vacations

Or you can separate them into more specific events (this is my preferred method)

Christmas 2009, Thanksgiving 2008, Youth Football 2006, San Antonio Vacation 2010

You can separate your folders by dates, events, alphabetically or by place.  That is up to you. But which ever method you chose, be sure you can find your pictures fast and easy.

Step 5: Share and Store

Sharing your photos is what taking pictures is all about. There are so many avenues to sharing with social media today; Facebook, Flicker, Kodak Gallery, E-mail, being able to find your pictures easily  makes sharing them a breeze.

The m-series Kodak cameras even have a Share feature on them. You can mark how you want your photos shared, (Facebook, Kodak Gallery, email) and when you connect your camera to your computer they are automatically sent.

Store – Back up those photos! Be sure to not store your photos on your camera, get them off your camera and onto your computer to use them. But be sure to back them up with flashdrives, external hard drives or an off-site back up company so that you do not have to worry if your computer crashes or is stolen.

Digitally organizing your photos is not hard.  It does take a little extra time when you initially load your pictures onto your computer. But that time will be made up ten-fold when you want to find a picture later.  As with any organizing project, maintenance is required. (But well worth it!)

I originally  wrote this post for Kodak last year.

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Keepsake Box

It’s Ok to save a little

You can tell your teen (or yourself) that it is ok to keep a few keepsakes.  Keep in mind however that if they are really special, they should be on display somewhere so you can enjoy them.  But to display things – do it in small numbers.

However, if you would like to have a great way to give your teens some freedom to keep some things (thus making it easier to purge other things) – the easiest way is to have a defined limit on how much can be saved.

Keepsake Box

Find a container. It can be a box – from shoebox to larger box.  Be sure it is not too big to fit on a shelf in your basement or closet. I would suggest a clear box, so you can see what is inside.

The Limit – They can keep no more than what can fit into their keepsake box (you can make up your own name for it). One of my clients and I named it her “Happy Box”.  If they have more than one box…then they have to make decisions.  Which item is it that is really worth saving?

Remind them that they can take pictures of items they give up.

Keep the goal in mind: To clear out the clutter. To have a room that is peaceful and calm – a place to think and getaway.

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Campus Quilt Review

I Love My Quilt!!

campus quilt
I can’t say enough about Campus Quilt Company and how happy I am with this family keepsake.  There are so many times we keep special things…but they are bagged or boxed up and we might see them every several years and have a happy memory for a few minutes…and then repack it.

The best way to honor a special memory is to display those most special memories. Not everything….but just those special few. This is one great way to be able to display many in one spot. They specialize in T-shirt quilts…I just gave them a hum-dinger!
They are very generously giving away a $150 gift card towards a quilt or pillow. (Please keep in mind this will not be finished by Christmas)

To Purchase:  To to Campus Quilt Company

To Win a $150 gift card for your T-shirt Quilt or pillow:

Go to Campus Quilt Company and tell me which size quilt you would order. Come back here and leave me a comment.
** Your e-mail needs to be either on your comment or easily accessible in your profile.

For Extra chances to Win:
**Each of these HAS to have a separate comment written please. (I know its a pain, but other wise you won’t have as many chances if you don’t)

1) Subscribe to my Organizing blog with the feeder or by e-mail. (use feedburner button or go to 5 extra chances.
2) Subscribe to my NEW Blog Chat with Sandy 5 chances
3) Follow me on Twitter
4) Follow me on Linked In
5) Tweet out this giveaway up to 3 times per day. Write a comment for
each time you do with the link.
6) Add any of my 3 buttons (Organize with Sandy, Reviews, Chat with Sandy) to your sidebar and come back to let me know. Separate
entry for each one you add.

See….lots of ways to enter to win!

This is open to US mailing addresses only. One person per mailing address only.
You will have 48 hours to reply to my e-mail if you win to be eligible. If I don’t hear back then I will go to the next winner.

Disclosure policy

Campus Quilt generously provided me with the making of this quilt and pillow.

e.l.f. Medium Makeup Collection (ends 12/23/09)

e.l.f. Medium Makeup Collection (ends 12/23/09)

Consumer Reports Best Baby Products Book (ends 12/21/09)

Consumer Reports Best Baby Products Book (ends 12/21/09)

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Sorting Keepsakes, Heirlooms and Memorabilia


This is the statement I hear time and time again. I have to say that I am not immune to it either. There are always things that are special from our loved ones, that we do not want to part with. I am not saying you have to part with all of it either. But there needs to be a limit to what you keep.
The problem lies when people can’t get rid of any of it. If it isn’t something that you are able to have out and enjoy to remember those who gave it to us, owned it before us or made it…then why keep it?
I will tell you what my husband said to me just today as we were going through a box of his departed fathers belongings…(I posed the same question to him). He said,….”So that I can keep it packed in a box and every 10 years or so go through it and remember it.” But really…think about it. Is that really worth the space it may be taking up?
I suppose if you have the extra storage space for it…that would be fine, but many of us do not have the space.
It is the memories we want and cherish usually more than the actual item.

So what do you do?
1) Evaluate how important it REALLY is.
a) Do you love it? Or do you feel “obligated” to keep it?
b) Can you use it or display it?
c) Is it valuable?
d) Do you have room for it?

2) If you decide to keep it you need to decide:
a) How can I use it?
b) Do I have room to display it?
c) Do I have room to store it?
d) If I think its worth something, then how will I get that value out of it?

3) If you decide to store it you need to decide:
a) Where?
b) Why?
c) How will this benefit me in this box? (Limit yourself to 1 box per family member)
d) Does it bring a positive memory? Let go of things that bring a negative memory.

How can I keep the memories without keeping the item? Here are some ideas.
1) Take pictures of it. Works for artwork too, pose your child with their pictures & take a picture of them.
2) Take small items and use in a display or shadowbox or display cabinet.
3) Pictures can be made into jewelry. Here is an Etsy site that I think is great.
4) Make it into a quilt. (Watch for an upcoming review and giveaway of one of these!)
5) Make a memory notebook or album. You can use pictures or small items in it.

You do not have to have the item to have the memory.

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