Wrestling with Rightsizing
Okay, so you’re thinking about selling your big old house stuffed with a lifetime of memories (as well as a lot of junk, probably) and moving to a more manageable address. But the task seems overwhelming. Who will help you do this? And will your favorite things fit into the new home?
“After years of calling it ‘downsizing,’ we now refer to it as ‘rightsizing,’” says Amy Rehkemper, owner of Simplify Organizing in Baltimore and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). “Think ‘keep the best and get rid of the rest.’ ’” We consulted Rehkemper and other experts on this potentially daunting life stage, including Caryl Siems, owner of Senior Move Success and a memver of the National Assocation of Senior Move Managers (NASMM); Nancy Brown, owner of Custom Moves and founding member of NASMM; Deb Clark, owner of Go to Girl Organizing Solutions and a member of NASM and NAPO. They offered these tips for rightsizing:
START EARLY: Even if you haven’t decided where you are moving, you should start rightsizing early so it isn’t such an overwhelming job when you do decide.
START SMALL: With the least nostalgic stuff (tackle your photos later).
PACKING IT IN: Find a room or a closet (an incospicuous spot) where you can put bins./boxes labeled with family members’ names as well as charity and garbage items, and start tossing stuff in. Then, invite family members over to go through their bins.
GARAGE SALE: Go through the garage and shed first, especially if you’re moving to a condo or someplace you wouldn’t have any maintenance chores. Ask friends or relatives with a house to come and see what they can use.
MAP IT OUT: Make a floor plan of your new place so you know what furniture will fit into your new space.
CALL CHARITIES: Save receipts for taxes.
REPURPOSE: The truly sentimental can take some comfort in repurposing memorabilia into creative function things- a quilt made from baby clothes or from sports t-shirts. You can also keep the memories by taking pictures of things you can’t take.
THE RIGHT GUY: Do the research to choose a mover. There are some good movers and some very bad ones.
SORTING THINGS OUT: Hire an organizer or senior move specialist if you find the task too overwhelming. Besides helping you sort, they can do floor plans and work with you to decide what furniture to bring and where it goes.
AN EXTRA HAND: If moving to a CCRC, ask what services they offer, such as supervising on moving day, helping with furniture placement, and decorating.
Best of Baltimore
Professional Organizer – Simplify Organizing
Feel like you’re losing your grip on life because of your own stuff? Might be time to call Amy Rehkemper, who for 12 years has helped client bring orger to where there was once chaos, whether it’s a bedroom, an office or an entire home.
Interior Design- Dorm Decor
To make a dorm room appear larger, Ashley Peters, a resident director at the University of Maryland, encourages incoming students to take stock of “all of the things you want to bring and then try to get rid of half.” She also says students should consider lofting their beds- that is elevating the sleeping space and placing the desk and dresser underneath- because it “instantly doubles the size of the room.”
Another space saver, says Amy Rehkemper, a certified professional organizer, is “dual function” furniture, such as an ottoman that can serve as a footrest, tabletop, seat, and storage unit. Rehkemper, who owns Simplify Organizing Services, also suggests over-the-door, clear, 24-pocket shoe hangers for school supplies, accessories- and yes, shoes.
What the room lacks in space can be made up for in style. Stores like Crate & Barrel are reaching out to college kids with their surprisingly afforable pieces like colorful melamine dinner plates, functional storage baskets, and modern picture frames.
Just leave some wall space for new memories, says Peters, “A few pictures of high-school friends are great, but you’ll be taking a lot more with your new friends!”
Need help letting go of your childhood tiddly wink collection? Amy Rehkemper, Simplify Organizing, LLC, 410-370-4109, can help free you from the clutches of clutter. Rehkemper, who has appeared on HGTV’s Mission: Organization, can work with you for a few hours in a single session or help you organize weekly. Unlike many services that leave you with the pile to donate to Goodwill, Rehkemper hauls it all away and distributes it to worthy charities such as House of Ruth and the SPCA. “I’m a modern day Robin Hood, taking away things that have become hazardous in my client’s lives,” sums up Rehkemper, “and delivering it to charities and people in need.”
Organizing Day Makes an Impact
Intensive care from a team of professional organizers relieved a few units from clutter, with measurable results that improve patient care and service.
Early this spring, select units in Women’s and Children’s Health were approached with an offer that most of us only dream about: A team of 11 professional organizers (right) volunteered for a day-long revamping of the department to make the physical space more streamlined, efficient and user-friendly.
Armed with label makers and file folders, the organizers worked with unit staff to conquer clutter, decrease stress and create an errorfree work environment. Organizing a patient care unit is about more than tidying up the space; it enhances patient safety and improves adherence to Joint Commission standards.
“We were in great need of an objective eye to rethink the arrangement of our rooms,” says Deborah Mordecai, RN, CNM, patient care services manager for Women’s Services. “The staff deserves organized workspaces with well-thought systems that are both easy to maintain and highly functional for our patient care teams.”
The objective eyes were those of two professional organizers – Mora Babineau of Organize Me! and Amy Rehkemper of Simplify Organizing, LLC – who were looking to do some pro bono work in the community. Babineau’s husband, Timothy Babineau, MD, MBA, is senior vice president and chief medical officer of UMMC.
After touring several areas in the hospital in February, the two organizers chose three spaces in Women and Children’s Health where they could make the most difference in one day: the Labor and Delivery conference room, the Pediatric Intermediate Care (IMC) Unit medication/supply room and the pediatric nursing station and break room.
Hospital facilities and unit staff agreed to do some prep work – painting, purchasing supplies and assessing workflow – prior to the event on March 13, when Babineau and Rehkemper returned with nine colleagues for the big overhaul.
They split up into teams, each working in one area, with professional organizer Mary Helen Dennis floating between the three projects to help and to document and photograph the transformation. (See below.)
The results, below, include measurable improvements in work flow and patient care.
“Our room in the Pediatric IMC is still as organized as the day we did it,” says Mary Jo Simke, BSN, RN, manager for the Pediatric IMC and ICU. “It lasts!”
Labor and Delivery Conference Room Professional Organizing Team:
Leader: Amy Rehkemper
Nadine Sachs, Pamela Johnson, Katharine Hope
UMMC Team Leaders: Deborah Mordecai, RN, CNM, and Caryn Zolotorow, RN
This room, shared by a staff of 20, underwent a total transformation. After a month of planning by the organizing team leaders, hooks and shelves were installed to accommodate the coats and bags once scattered on the floor, and an ineffective binder rack was replaced with wall-mounted cubbies perfectly sized and labeled for the multitude of patient charts. The rest of the room was carefully divided into activity zones complete with specific supplies and systems for easy maintenance. Now the staff can enjoy a calmer, more productive workspace.
The time it takes for a nurse to locate a chart decreased from 5 minutes to less than 30 seconds.
Medication/Supply/Nutrition Room Professional Organizing Team: Mora Babineau and Sarah Carey
UMMC Team Leaders: Mary Jo Simke, BSN, RN
Nurses visit this fifth floor multi-purpose room an average of 90 to 120 times in a single shift! The team recognized that this multi-functioning room was holding a significant number of items that did not belong in it, leading to clutter and difficulty locating important items quickly. After conducting a workflow analysis, the organizers opted to relocate frequently used items to more convenient locations (positioned between hip and head level). All supply bins were clearly labeled and grouped according to usage, which allows for error-free supply retrieval. All cardboard storage boxes were removed and replaced with clear bins, in line with Joint Commission standards.
Location time for a supply item decreased from 5 minutes to 15 seconds.
Pediatric Nurses’ Station and Break Room
Professional Organizing Team: Norma Cobb-Dietz, Jen Dennis, Trish Hayes, Sherry Miller
UMMC Team Leaders: Andrea French, MS, CPNP, and Suzan Lewis, BSN, RN
The rooms were used for a plethora of activities – meals, writing reports, meetings and storing and reviewing charts. The staff expressed frustration in many areas of their space, but especially with unmarked and difficult-to-locate reference materials. Now, a single and consistent home exists for every item used and nonessential supplies were removed entirely. Additional workspace was created by replacing a table with a new, more functional wall-mounted counter. Ineffective shelves were removed so that the bulky Omnicell machine could be recessed into a corner alcove. Bulletin boards are now purposeful and supply cabinets are organized and labeled.
If you were out of the unit, could someone easily find one of your files? The answer is now, “Yes!”
Bravo Business Achievement Awards
Congratulations winners! SmartCEO recognizes and celebrates 25 dynamic business women in Greater Baltimore through the 3rd Annual Bravo! Business Achievement Awards. These women encompass what is a key component of success: entrepreneurial spirit. The many nominations received in the process solidified the role of women in business, but more importantly, illuminated women who are walking the extra mile in their communities. What characteristics does a Bravo winner possess? She has overcome business obstackles, financially outperformed competitors, displayed leadership and work ethic in and beyond the workplace, has used her business to benefit comminity fundraising, or has done something unique that has inspired a great story to be told.
Amy Rehkemper, Owner, Simplify Organizing, LLC
One lesson that I have learned as a CEO is that change is and inevitable. When I began my business, I was happy to be a single-person company splitting my time working hands-on with clients and performing the administrative duties necessary to keeping the business afloat. Year after year, my business grew, and with each change I was forced to redefine my role. Now, after seven years, my primary responsibilities consisted of marketing the business and training my staff, entirely different tasks requiring largely different skills than when I first started. Initially, I struggled with this change. I had difficulty accepting that I would no longer do everything. In time I realized that growth and change are synonymous and if my company were to grow, I must embrace change. Learn to be flexible so that when change happens you can make the most of it.
How Organized Are You?
by Amy Rehkemper
A cluttered desk can result in lost information, incomplete assignments, and missed deadlines. Your desk should be an open space to work, free of distractions and clutter. To achieve this, remove everything from your desktop and replace only the most important items: your computer, telephone, daily-used tools (stapler, pencil cup), and daily referenced items (contained in binders or vertical files). Allow no more than two pictures or decorative items to reside on your desk. Display the rest on a bookshelf or office wall.
How long does it take to find a file?
If it takes you over a minute to find a document, your office file system needs some refining. Start by cleaning out your files. Schedule time to purge all unnecessary paperwork and materials. Do not keep anything that can be easily found on the internet. Next, categorize your files. Choose broad categories and assign each one a different file folder color, i.e. marketing-red, clients- yellow, financial- green, vendors- blue. Then, file by subject or alphabetically within.
How often are you interrupted at work?
If you spend half your day fielding calls and emails and chatting with visitors, you need to become more protective of your time. Reduce unnecessary interruptions by positioning your desk so that passers-by will not be able to catch your eye.
A report by Boulder County Business found that, on average, an American is interrupted by email about nine times per hour. Don’t process email continuously, set up specific times and turn off your in-box alerts. Likewise, do not answer the phone just because it rings. Instead, plan a portion of your day to take calls and leave the rest to be picked-up by your secretary or voice mail. This will allow you quiet, focused time to strategize, work up an estimate, or prepare.
Do you have a place for everything?
Everything in your office should have its own specific home. From paperclips and rubber bands to your keys and briefcase, a consistent place must be designated for each to “live” when not in use. Work your way around the room assigning a home for all “orphan items.” Create a place to store things to read, papers to file, and phone messages to be returned. Ask yourself things like, “Where is the most sensible home for receipts,” and “Where will my coat and cell phone be.
Once a place for everything has been achieved, it’s time to containerize. Containers are essential for making your “homes” more reliable. They provide structure and maximize your space. To containerize, try adding drawer dividers to your desk drawers and horizontal paper trays to your supply cabinet. Secure clear, plastic wall pockets near the entrance of your office-one for outgoing items, one for incoming. Buy full-extension cabinets for files and multi-drawer caddies to stow supplies. Hang shelves to better utilize the vertical wall space that is often overlooked. The last and most important step to creating homes and containerizing, is labeling.
If you would like attractive, uniform adhesive labels, purchase an electronic labeler. Identifying each home with a label eliminates confusion and creates permanence.
In order for your office to stay in order, either put items back immediately after use, or set up a 10-minute appointment with yourself at the end of each day. For organization to become a constant in your office you must not only change its appearance, but your habits and behaviors will need to change as well!
Keeping It Simple
She Brings Order to Chaos
Not everyone has the gift of organization. Many of us feel overwhelmed by the excess clutter filling up our lives. That’s when Amy Rehkemper, a professional organizer, steps in to help keep things simple and orderly.
Armed with a homemade flyer and a labeler, Rehkemper started her own organizing business, Simplify Organizing, in 1999 out of the spare bedroom of her Loch Raven Village town home. (Originally named, A Place For Everything.)
Rehkemper grew up in an artistic and creative home that was also quite cluttered. “After spending 18 years in a disorganized environment, I decided to make it my life’s work to help others escape from the negative impact of excess clutter,” she says. “Clutter can lead to anti-social behavior, depression and a sense of hopelessness,” she adds.
Over the last five years, Rehkemper, who admits to being a workaholic, has been busy organizing attics, basements, kitchens, closets, garages, offices, classrooms and more. She was also a featured organizer on the Home and Garden Television program, “Mission: Organization.”
Rehkemper truly believes that less is more- more time, space, clarity and a chance to focus on what really matters in life. So she coaches her clients, helping them decide what they really need and what they can pitch.
“Roll the jobs of an efficiency expert, interior designer, cheerleader, teacher and occasionally a therapist into one, and you’ve got yourself a professional organizer,” Rehkemper says.
In 2001, Rehkemper co-founded the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers, a Baltimore-based group that provides networking opportunities and education to both new and veteran professional organizers. She served as the president of the group for the first 3 years. She is also a member of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, and the National Association of Professional Organizers.
Rehkemper’s husband, Dave, helps her with the operational side of Simplify, and has had his own career in advertising and marketing for the last seven years.
Simplify Organizing has recently expanded to a 1,050 square foot office in Towson, serving clients in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area as an organizing office and training center.
For Rehkemper the best part of her job is not just the dramatic transformations of rooms from a complete mess to an organizational oasis, but more importantly it’s the transformation of the person who changes from frazzled and frustrated to calm and optimistic.
“There comes a time when the things we own begin to own us,” Rehkemper says. “It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, everyone needs order in their lives.”