Lovers and Clutter

Lovers and Clutter

 

I’ve always enjoyed working with couples and mediating their home organizing needs and goals. Psychologically, the issues they face with their stuff is linked to other parts of their relationship but I’m not a therapist, I only offer therapeutic solutions. I’m also very good at holding my chin with my hand while nodding and agreeing like a therapist as I figure out a suitable game plan.

 

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In advance of Valentine’s Day, SpareFoot conducted a survey and found some very interesting data regarding love and clutter. They used heterosexual couples as their base but all couples can benefit from the findings. Here’s what they learned: 

  • In relationships, men’s items are often the first to go – The study found that 56% of men in a relationship frequently stop their significant other from throwing out an item they want to keep.

  • In addition, 90% of Americans in a relationship admit if they knew there wouldn’t be consequences, they’d get rid of some of their significant other’s possessions.

  • A quarter of Americans and 44% of Millennials in a relationship currently have an item from an ex that they don’t want their significant other to know about.

    WOW! That’s a lot of secrets and clutter. Could make for a good dramatic movie. I think Cate Blanchett should play the woman in this survey and Ralph Fiennes can play the man. Gripping and dark (but Cate can also do comedy). OK, back to you, now what to do about the issues?

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SpareFoot suggests the following to relieve the stress of cohabitation:

  • Eliminate Clutter Before You Move: The most important thing prior to the move is to really do a thorough purge so you’re not bringing anything into the household that you don’t really want or love.
  • Take photos and measurements of the new place to help when choosing which furniture will fit. Go room by room and discuss what items you each own and what will work best in the new space.
  • Try out the piece of furniture, for example, in the new home before making a hasty decision. Keep an open mind and compromise. Sometimes the item looks better accompanied by different items.
  • You’ve purged and compromised, but you still have stuff that you want to hold on to — consider renting a storage unit or using full-service storage, but agree on a deadline to find a home for your stuff so that you’re not paying for off-site storage long term.

Please be careful about that last tip. Storage units are expensive and very easy to forget about once they’re locked and out of sight. If you’ve seen the Showtime hit Dexter, you know some creepy stuff goes on in storage units. Tread lightly with the use of them.

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The survey shows that almost half (48 percent) of couples who live together say they argue over clutter. If you’re struggling because of clutter in your home and you’re not seeing eye to eye, it’s time for a conversation. Talking points:
  • Discuss how you want to use each space and what items will “live” there.
  • Decide what space will be shared, and what space will be “owned” by one partner or the other — so that everyone gets their own space.
  • Agree on reasonable time limits for clutter and keep it contained.

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Finally…Remember what’s important:

  • Stuff is just stuff. You’re building a life with the person you love — not with your keepsakes from the past.

Exactly! Once you’ve got this figured out, you’ll have more time to dance and play in your home. Get going!

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And if all of the above advice fails to get you and your boo in a good place, feel free to call in the professionals. You know where to find me! jeni@cluttercowgirl.com

 

With love, light and less clutter…Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jeni

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with a friend who took her nutrition business from pretty good to completely awesome this past year. She and her husband are a team, work long hours, live in a small apartment with their adorable son and needed an organizing boost to keep trucking with their fantastic business trajectory.

My client decided that she could no longer make deals worth thousands of dollars when her desk was in total disarray. When I walked in, I observed that her actual life was not disorganized. There were places for things and she knew where to find certain paperwork but there was too much of it, no clear order and zero visually calming place to rest her eyes while she was focusing on making big bucks.

 

Here’s what the desk looked like before we started working:

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The top of the desk housed papers, business cards, little inspirational trinkets, two pairs of gloves, four cups of pens and other office supplies, greeting cards and a box of electronics. It’s a small desk, as you can see. That’s way too much stuff to be at your fingertips for a daily jump at productivity.

 

The drawers looked like this:

IMG_1626IMG_1625The top drawer held cords and disorganized supplies.

The bottom drawer held manuals, guides, important tax papers, insurance info and kid paperwork. It was piled on top of itself with no order. It was contained, sure, but had no discipline.

**In about 90 minutes we discarded a lot of trinkets, pens, old paperwork, supplies that were not needed and inspirational items that were not exactly inspiring.**

My client does 90% of her billing online.

The only papers we kept filed were:

  • tax archives
  • life insurance
  • certificates of accomplishment with her business
  • family documents (passports, vaccinations and birth records)
  • current taxes/receipts
  • presentation materials
  • her son’s medical and school info

That’s it! It all fits into one drawer in neatly labeled hanging files. There is nothing too complex about this system and it allows her to keep the desk surface free for her laptop and notebook. There is still room to grow in the drawer should she need to expand but since almost all of her files are kept on her laptop, expansion will be limited. Here’s what it looks like now:

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The top drawer has less stuff and she can easily grab what she needs because we used two small boxes to separate and contain her supplies. We literally cut up a couple of empty granola bar boxes and stuck them in the drawer. There are thousands of products available out there but sometimes you can find exactly what you need in your own home for free!

Here’s the after shot of her desk now that we’ve said good-bye to all the unnecessary stuff that was dragging her down:

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Ah, so refreshing! She can see her beautiful view from the window. She can appreciate her adorable son’s photo. She can neatly tuck her laptop into the cubby at the end of the day. She now has exactly one cup for pens and one cup for other little knickknacks. Clarity and order prevail and more business success awaits her.

 

Is clutter getting in the way of your business? Is there always something clogging up the works preventing you from accomplishing your goals? There is a clearer way!

With love, light and less clutter…

Jeni

7 Health Benefits to Getting Organized!

I had the privilege of participating in a corporate health fair yesterday in downtown Manhattan where various NYC vendors ranging from dentists to physical therapists offered their advice and info to attending employees. People were curious when they saw my table with the words “Professional Organizer” typed out on my sign.

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I explained that my service isn’t just about putting shoes in clear boxes and labeling them, my service is about health.

Here are 7 health benefits to getting organized:

  1. Less Stress About Money! When you open your mail right away, you’re more apt to send bill payments on time and avoid late charges. You’ll spend less money when you’re not double buying things that you think you lost and then find weeks later buried in a pile. Keeping track of your finances with a handy site like Mint.com can offer you structure and less stress.
  2. Relationship Harmony! I can’t tell you how many fights I’ve mediated over the years in regards to clutter. Really, I can’t tell you, it’s confidential. When you and your special person are on the same page with keeping your home and life organized, you’ll spend less time arguing and more time cuddling! Oh yeah
  3. Mental Wellness! When you create order at home and at the office, you can stop running yourself ragged and crazy because you forgot something at work, double booked your messy schedule, zipped to the store for an item you already had shoved in the back of your kitchen drawer. Getting organized is about physical rewards that you see in your home but also, and sometimes more importantly, about the mental rewards of a clear mind. And if you want to take it one step further, an organized home frees up time for mindful meditation, another key to good health. Ohm….meditation
  4. Medical Awareness! Staying on top of your prescriptions and daily doses can be helped along with something as simple as a pill sorter. You can also be more in tune with your doctor visits, yearly exams and scans when you have an organized calendar and records of your medical history. Feel good in body and mind!
  5. Exercise Ease! Getting to the gym will certainly have fewer obstacles when your sneakers, headband, swimming goggles and gym bag are all in one easy-to-find spot. Less excuses, more sit ups and a firmer tush! ryan-gym
  6. Healthier Eating! When you’re organized your diet improves. Something as easy as a clean and tidy fridge will encourage you to buy fresh foods (and use them before they rot), plan meals and cook as a family more often. If you’re on an eating plan you will automatically be required to stay organized with tracking your food, going to meetings, checking in with your nutritionist, etc. Keeping your eye on your goal, whatever it may be, goes hand in hand with organizing. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you. Professional Organizer Peter Walsh wrote a book called “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?” linking clutter and weight gain.
  7. Better Sleep! So many of my clients list a better night’s sleep immediately after we’ve worked together. We’ve cleared old energy, gotten rid of dusty clutter (easier breathing means better sleeping). You will feel a literal weight lifted when you have fewer things around your home. With this burden gone, sleep becomes your friend and we know that catching dream time is the number one key to our best health

.Mid-adult couple sleeping --- Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis

 

What are other health benefits of getting organized?

With light, love and less clutter…

Jeni

 

Honoring your loved ones

This past weekend I attended my beautiful nephew’s baby naming ceremony with my family. In the Jewish tradition, it is common to gather friends and family to welcome a new member of the tribe, say a blessing over him and explain the meaning behind his English and Hebrew name. My sister and brother-in-law carefully chose a name to represent various people they love who have passed on. These people embodied love, acceptance, humor, good values and unique personalities. By bestowing a name that evokes these dear souls, my nephew is, in essence, carrying on their beloved qualities. It’s a very beautiful tradition and I was so happy to witness the ceremony.

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Names can honor your past and so can things. When I work with organizing clients I often ask them to really consider if their sentimental items are truly honoring their deceased loved ones. Is a torn up old briefcase shining the best light on a father’s memory? If your mother hated her job but you’re keeping her office accessories, does that contribute positive energy to your own home? Probably not. When decluttering and organizing on your own, you can ask yourself if your relative or significant other would want to be remembered by this inanimate object that you’re holding onto or if they would prefer to be remembered in another way.

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This is a great article about saving memories without saving the actual item.

  • You can save one or two items from a specific time period without saving every single thing.
  • You can take photos of the items.
  • You can be creative and turn an item into something else. Like this t-shirt quilt idea.

Be kind and remember those whom you love but be kind to yourself and your home as well.

With love, light and less clutter…

Jeni

I grant you permission

Good Monday dear sirs and madams! I hope you all had a glorious weekend with family and friends frolicking in the sunshine making flower garlands for each other and delicately placing them on top of your beautiful heads. I spent a wonderful weekend in Upstate NY at a friend’s 90th birthday telling stories, eating amazing food, laughing and relaxing. The party was held in her home filled with her beautiful artwork, books, furniture, flowers from her garden and collectibles.

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Everything had a place and every item was shown the respect it deserved because nothing was crammed in sideways or covered in dust. She’s 90 and she knows what’s up. This environment made for the perfect peaceful setting for a party – pieces she had collected and created were fantastic conversation starters with other guests. I had a great time.  And the views from her home? To die for:

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A week ago I was invited to talk on my insanely talented friend Carolyn Castiglia‘s comedy/variety show Right Now! in Brooklyn. The theme of the show was Home and it was a lighthearted discussion about organizing, decorating and cleaning. My genius friend Danny Cohen, of Stencilicious, said during the show that he doesn’t sell his stenciling talent to clients, he sells his patience. I absolutely loved hearing that. When you try to do something yourself, it’s so easy to get distracted, frustrated, angry and annoyed. As a professional organizer who has been helping people make better use of their space in NYC since 2003, I’m not just selling my expertise in organizing but I’m selling my ability to listen carefully and then tell clients that it’s okay to let go. It’s OKAY to say good-bye to old habits that no longer serve you. It’s OKAY to create space for new experiences, feelings and comforts in your home. Even the most high powered executives, heads of departments and bad ass single mothers need someone to gently tell them that it’s within their rights to let go, think of themselves instead of others and say good-bye. I love that moment when their eyes widen just a bit, they relax their shoulders and they do, in fact, let go.

I was so thrilled to be listed as one of SpareFoot’s 11 Best Professional Organizer in New York City. It is an honor not only to give clients ideas and resources but to provide an emotional hand as they step forward and claim the peace and enjoyment that they deserve. Just as my friend Danny offers patience, I offer my ear and give people the literal and metaphorical space to talk things through so we can come up with the best solution for them, not for anyone else, just for them.

And with that, I’m off for a bike ride. I won’t be letting go…of the handlebars. See what I did there?

Enjoy this gorgeous day and enjoy your gorgeous home. You deserve it!

With light, love and less clutter…

Jeni

Father’s Day

Hello!

What a terrific weekend visiting my dad Upstate in New York and seeing friends and family for a variety of celebrations. My dad lives in the cutest two bedroom house in Andes, NY and he’s constantly paring down his stuff to live a more streamlined and organized life. After many years of collecting and storing his finds in his home, he is becoming more focused on the handful of things he truly enjoys doing when he’s not working. He has been upstate for about five years and his various interests (woodworking, reading, Netflixing, gardening, tinkering) are all contained in his one little cottage with care. I noticed a new labeling system he created for his records. IMG_8208

Sorting by genre works for him! It’s not micro organized where it becomes complicated and tedious, but it’s categorized enough where he can find what he needs. Nice work, dad! I guess that’s where I get it from.

You can ask yourself these questions to figure out how to pare down your own collections:

  1. Does this item still work? Is it functioning?
  2. Does this item still speak to me? Do I find meaning in this item right now, not because it’s a piece of nostalgia?
  3. Do I have something similar to this item and this is merely a duplicate?
  4. Do I truly need this item to make me happy in my home?

Happy Father’s Day to all the fun, silly, serious, organized, messy, loud, quiet, fat, skinny, sporty, nerdy and loving dads out there. We love you!

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With love, light and less clutter…

Jeni

Sneaky Storage

I work with clients every week who have massive apartments. Allow me to clarify, they have massive New York City apartments. That means, even with three bedrooms (a mansion in borrough terms), they’re still trying to find tricks to maximize their storage and have room for all their great stuff. That means that the rest of us with tiny apartments (one bedroom or less) are truly scrambling for fun ways to be creative with our space.

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Part of what I do when I first walk into a new client’s home is I survey the situation, I come in with fresh eyeballs and mentally circle free space that can benefit the project. It’s like the reverse of those nasty sorority girls who circle new recruits’ body fat with a Sharpie marker. Or not, I don’t know, I’m fresh out of metaphors today. The point is, I see storage opportunities when the client is too deep in their own perspective to see clearly. And here’s an article about 10 clever storage ideas I contributed to for 6sqft, a blog about NYC real estate and related topics:

http://www.6sqft.com/10-clever-creative-and-unexpected-storage-ideas-for-apartment-dwellers/

Even if you live in a large home where nobody lives above or below you (LUCKY!), you can hopefully find some value in these tips. No matter the size of our home, we can always benefit from some sneaky ways to tweak our storage and live a more harmonious life!

 

Love, light and less clutter…

Jeni

 

This is 40

I know what I want. I always have. But now that I’m 40, please, hold your applause, I know you’re surprised that this is the face of a 40 year old adult grown woman. sillyselfieNow that I’m 40, I really, really know what I want. That means I know the kind of people I want to spend time with. That means I know what food I like to eat. That means I know what I want my home to feel like, look like, smell like. No, I don’t like gardenia candles, I know that for sure.  No, I don’t enjoy washing my body with bar soap. No, I don’t like American cheese slices wrapped in plastic. I’m not an animal, for Bette Midler’s sake. I DO love goat cheese omelets and Earl Gray tea with almond milk. With age comes wisdom. And with age comes really good cheese. Back to my house…

So, it’s October and I have a lot more cozy time inside to fully evaluate my crap, I mean treasured posessions. Fall is an excellent season to look around my apartment and see what suits me for real. What do I know for sure about my things and my space? Things I enjoyed a few years ago, might no longer be “my thing.” Even though, at the time of purchase or receipt, we are very excited about a particular thing, that may no longer be the case and we need to forgive ourselves for naturally outgrowing something that we once enjoyed.

I’ve been considering replacing my 5 year old Ikea living room bookshelf with something more modern and open. Until I decide if I’m investing in that large piece of furniture, this past weekend, I took the time to purge and rearrange so I can see the situation a bit more clearly. I spent a couple of hours working my bookcase. I ALWAYS advise people to organize in a small chunk of time, not the entire life span of a weekend. It’s a good thing I absolutely love to putz around my house, I love to rearrange my things, get rid of unwanted do-dads and trinkets. This is what it looked like before I starting purging and sorting:FullSizeRender (2)

Generally, it looks pretty good. It’s organized and contained. There are baskets and boxes to house things I don’t want out in the open but it’s a bit overstuffed and I’m tired of looking at these things everyday. Candles and picture frames and excess books get pretty tiring after a while. I live in a small one-bedroom apartment, I can’t avoid looking at it.

For the purging process, I use the same speeches I give my organizing clients:

“That friend who gave this to you will never ask where it is.”

“You have no use for this in your current life.” I hold that thing in my hand for a minute. Give it thanks and say good-bye.

Because I do this process every six months or so (or whenever the mood strikes, really), the process was not monstrous. The cards and photos (in the organge and green boxes) took the most time because there were more of them.

Questions I asked myself as I went through the cards:

“Is this person meaningful in my life?”

“Did this person write something sweet, funny, memorable or did they just sign their name?”

“Does this card bring up yucky feelings of a past relationship?”

Those were the parameters for keeping or tossing cards. Photos were all about clarity, duplication and, again, yucky or great feelings. If I had four photos of the same church in France with nobody standing in front of it, they all got tossed. Sorry Notre Dame. If I had four photos of people from high school standing in front of that church and I don’t speak to any of those people anymore…tossed. You get the picture. Get it? Picture? This is evidence of sorting and purging in progress:

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Next came the books. I already purged around 40 books in the Spring but I’m not kidding around and I purged about 35 more on Saturday. It felt awesome.

Questions to ask myself while purging books,

“Will I EVER read this thing?”

“Can this info be found online?” The answer was “yes” when I held a Suze Orman finance book in my hands. Never gonna read that thing as much as I love Suze.

“Am I keeping this for sentimental reasons that are ridiculous?”

“Can I get this book again if I truly need it?” The answer to that last question is almost always a loud YES…library and Amazon will save you if you absolutely need something you threw out.

After I put those 35 books on my building’s front stoop for looky loos and treasure finders to nab, I immediately felt like I lost 5 pounds. (Let’s just pretend that I did because that would be awesome.) I personally love to color group my books for a little bit of a visual effect. Something you can do with hardcover books is remove the book jacket and enjoy the pristine binding underneath. Book jackets can be tossed immediately. You don’t own the first copy of Moby Dick so let that sucker go. Do it.

Here’s the pared down, re-arranged but not wildly different bookcase experience:

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There are fewer books which leads to more free space. Good candles are now in a closet grouped in a large Tiffany box. Mostly-used candles got tossed. A frame is now on my bedside table. The large basket that took up an entire shelf is now holding kitchen goods on top of my refrigerator. The small green box got switched for a small basket from my closet that held sunglasses. Now the green box holds the sunglasses.

I used to love lots and lots of color but now I’m veering towards Eileen Fisher neutral territory. So those orange and green boxes are going to be replaced with tan boxes in the next week or two. Is this a reveal worthy of Extreme Home Makeovers? No. But it’s a small change that makes me feel better about walking past this bookcase every day. And guess what? The whole thing cost zero dollars (until I buy the tan boxes which cost a hell of a lot less than a new bookcase). So I’ll live with this until I save up for a new piece or I’ll do some more changes. It’s really up to me. Because at the end of the day, I know what I like. And I like that I know that.

 

With love, light and less clutter

xo

Jeni

Goals are GREAT!

Howdy! It’s been a little while since I’ve checked in here. I’ve been busy working with some really terrific clients who are all going through various life transitions with different goals in mind.

 

My client “R” is about to welcome her second child any day now. In her small two bedroom Brooklyn apartment we set out to create space for the new arrival by purging old toys and clothing and by reworking the furniture layout in her son’s room. We moved a bulky rocking chair to the living room to fit the new baby’s crib. It’s amazing what can be done in a few hours with a fresh perspective. Moving furniture around can actually create space and breathe new life into a room. In just one session and armed with a detailed list of homework, “R” felt ready for her baby girl’s arrival and much closer to her goal of creating a functional space for her new kid.

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Another client, “K,” and I steamrolled through her bedroom closet. She was hesitant to sort through it alone as her cats had found a mouse in there just the previous week. I pretended I was totally cool if we found a mouse or not as she plugged up the mouse hole with steel wool and we got to work. After two hours, the jam packed closet was now 4 garbage bags of stuff thinner and we were able to tuck her very large laundry caddy inside so she didn’t have to wake up every morning staring it in the face from her bedside. There’s nothing romantic about dirty laundry greeting you each day as you attempt to get out of bed. The accomplished goal of clearing that closet was just what “K” needed to motivate her to attack the rest of the bedroom on her own (without the help of a cute and furry friend – the mouse, not me).

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A third client I’ve been helping is prepping her 4-bedroom Manhattan apartment for sale. After 40 years of residing in her home, she’s got a lot of items that need to be stored, thrown out, appraised, given back to her adult children, donated and kept for staging. A project of this size (and really all projects) need to be conquered in stages. After three 3-hour sessions of purging, relocating items in better areas and boxing things up for short-term storage, she’s now having a moving company remove large pieces of furniture that won’t be needed for staging. I’ll return for more purging and organizing in round 2. Sometimes with a project of this scale it really does take a village – of paid professionals. Her goal is within sight and she should be placing her home on the market in the next two months.

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I share these three snippets of my work to show you that when your goal is clear you can digest what you have to do with clarity and focus. My job becomes achievable when I figure out exactly what it is the client wants to do with their space. Visualizing the finished project keeps us on task and allows me to better serve the client’s needs so I know what to recommend and what to hold them to. Goals keep the project moving smoothly towards a destination and the end result is very satisfying.

 

What’s your goal for your home organizing project? Make more space for a home office? Finally get rid of your storage unit that you are tired of paying for each month? Welcome a new partner into your home? Or are you seeking some peace in a cluttered environment? I’d love to hear!

 

Love, light and less clutter!

Jeni

Spring Recycling Event

Many times, after I’ve worked with clients and we’ve purged a lot of hard-to-chuck-items from various parts of their home that cannot be donated or sold or given to a friend, we’re often left with the question, “well now what do we do with this worthless junk?” Well, if you’re in New York City, you’re in luck because the annual NYC Safe Disposal Event is rolling into town just a few days after Earth Day. If you have old radios, busted TV’s, leftover paint cans, chunky nail polish, dead cell phones and creepy buckets of odd liquids (don’t ask), hold on just a couple more weeks so you can dispose of these items properly and responsibly.

 

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This Spring, the city will have a recycling event in each borough starting on Saturday, April 26th in Queens. Sunday, May 4 will be in Brooklyn. Saturday, May 10 is in da Bronx. Sunday, May 11 is in Manhattan (Happy Mother’s Day mom, I found you this burnt out toaster oven!) and Saturday, May 17 is in Staten Island. Visit the site below to learn about what you can and can’t bring to the events and how to bring it there and what to wear so you’ll be the cutest thing in any borough dumping poisonous materials in a safe way. Might I suggest a kicky gingham print blouse? You, too ladies!

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/events/bwprr_safe.shtml

If you’re not fortunate enough to live in the best damn city in the world then google your area’s Department of Sanitation to see what fun party they’re throwing in your neck of the woods. If they don’t have a recycling event like ours, write an email to your mayor or call and ask what’s the hold up?!

And if you haven’t prepared for THE event of the season, take this opportunity to sweep through your home to say good-bye to any unwanted items. If you have a basement or a garage, I know there are cans of something weird you can bring to drop off. Why wait a moment longer when you can get rid of these headaches now and enjoy the extra space that those leaky containers and sad electronics were consuming. Happy Spring Recycling!

 

With love, light and less clutter

Jeni