Helping Men Rightsize

This month is all about the most important men in your life. With Father’s Day keeping us aware of the male influence, it may be time to help your favorite masculine pack-rat renew (or discover) some control in their own environment.

Gender Bias for Clutter

There is a serious gender-bias when it comes to clutter. When clutter reigns, women are “messy” or “hoarders” and men are “eccentric” or are “just being men.” This fanciful misconception is propagated by the media, by cultural acceptance, and by the tendency of men to memorize rather than organize.

Men may forget where they left their glasses, when they have that next appointment, why they walked into a room, or when they are supposed to take their medicines (relying on feminine reminders for such things) but they SWEAR that they know where everything on their desk (or bedside stand, or the table beside the recliner….) is.

They also declare that any attempts to clean said areas will result in them never being able to find anything again… ever. They say so accusingly, usually through squinted eyes, while glaring at someone in particular.

Control Issues

Helping a man begin to embrace rightsizing is QUITE a task. The rat-pack type get all panicked and break into a cold sweat if you even suggest that they throw something away. Staying in control of their “stuff” is representative of staying in control of their environment and, by extension, their life.

So don’t tell them what they need to do or what they should throw away. Instead, help them to organize what they have. It makes the process longer and more exasperating for you — but it helps them to see the sheer volume of their possessions in a more realistic light. Once they realize how MUCH there really is, they will slowly be willing to part with a bit of it. Ironically, when everything is in disarray, it’s often easier to buy duplicates rather than finding the item sought — which only adds to the clutter.

I know that when I have ONE pen that I use, I always know exactly where it is. When I have a dozen pens, I can never find one when I need it. The same is true of most belongings.

Let the System Sell Itself

Once the man in your life can actually find things, they will be more accepting of an organizational “system” in general. They will recognize the waste of duplication and will like being able to find the things they seek without all the hunting.

Give the Gift of Organization

If you are doing this for an occasion, make the “gift” a specific task in a single area. Don’t try to take on everything at once — that’s overwhelming and is doomed to fail. Don’t even take on a whole room. Your approach matters, and the magnitude of the initial task can make or break future endeavors. Start in one simple area (for instance):

  • Closet – getting rid of things that no longer fit or are ripped/torn/stained. (Reason: “I’d like to make it easier for you to get into and out of your closet and get dressed in the morning.”)
  • Garage – Help him organize his tools. (Reason: “I’d like to help you get all your tools together so you can find them when you want to take on a new project or a repair, so it’s less stressful just finding what you need to do what you want to do.”) This also works for fishing gear, photography gear, camping gear, or whatever he deems most important.
  • Office – Help him organize his files. (Reason: “I know it frustrates you to not be able to find things and I’d like to create a system – tailor made to you – so you can find your important papers quickly, without having to rifle through stuff on your desk.”)

Remember: there is a learning curve for reorganization, so be sure you help them store things in the most logical places where they are going to look to find the items they need. Organize things in clear totes and easy-to-see places. Deal with visual clutter in the early stages of organization. Resist the urge to hide things away out of sight. Hiding their belongings will only encourage them to resist the process and will ensure that they never return anything to the designated place and the whole system will fall apart.

Would you want to adopt a new system that made life harder and made it impossible for you to find your stuff? Yeah, me neither.

It’s Not About You

Remember, you don’t have to agree with or even like where they use (and should therefore store) their things. You don’t have to agree with everything they say is essential. Listen to them and help — don’t argue and disagree. Eventually, they will tire of organizing the receipts that are several years old and then you might ask if they would like to just throw those away, since they are probably not going to be needed. They will probably agree to do so — even if they refused the same suggestion when the process started. It works. I promise.

It’s Not a Quick-Fix

This is not a quick “in a weekend” project. It’s not an instant fix. It takes time and adjustment — especially if your particular man is not accustomed to such systems. But, once your father (or husband, son, or friend) starts to see a difference, he will want to do more. He may even do some of the work solo — without you right beside him being a cheerleader. Give him the time and space to recognize the value of what has been done and encourage him to think of other areas that he would like to improve. Offer to help when he’s ready.

Evaluate Your Own Motivation

Make sure your heart is in the right place. People — male and female — get uncomfortable when they believe that someone is trying to take, discard or hide their belongings. It’s imperative that you don’t “sneak” and discard or donate anything and that the owner stays in control of the decision making process. This type of activity is a trust-building exercise as well as a clutter-busting one.

How you approach the project is important too. Remember, you aren’t “getting rid of all this junk,” you are helping them to live a better life. You aren’t there to judge and dictate what that means. You are there to help and to offer suggestions and choices and then to accept their choices and keep them moving forward.

It’s like being a study-buddy or a diet pal — you are there for moral support, not to judge. If you want to help them, rather than simply wanting to eliminate their stuff, your good intentions will shine through in time and they will recognize it and appreciate it (and you).

Enjoy the process and give the man in your life a great gift this month — time with you, a helping hand, and the ability to improve his life without feeling the need to protect his territory!

May is for Mothers (And Grandmothers!)

I was talking with my mother earlier this month about Mother’s Day. Historically, I get her something that I’ve heard her mention that she wants or something I think she would like. For the past several years, it’s getting harder and harder. There’s nothing the woman needs or wants. She knows it, I know it. And the last thing I want to do is give her something to “keep” that just becomes another obligation to display and maintain. It’s not fair to her.

Recently, she’s started decluttering. I’m ALWAYS working on the clutter issue for myself, but she’s spent most of her life collecting. She’s now swimming in 60+ years of collections, and she’s tired of juggling it all. I’m thrilled. I’ve been preaching simplicity for years, but she’s been highly resistant. A few years back, she admitted that she liked the idea, but didn’t even know where to begin. She needed help. I’ve tried to help as I can, and as she will allow. She’s finally embracing the rightsizing concept!

This year, there seems to be a breakthrough! I told her that I couldn’t think of a thing she wanted or needed for Mother’s Day and I actually needed her help. She said that from here on out — for all occasions — I was not to bring her things, but was to TAKE things. It was a horrible, awkward moment. (You see, I don’t want her stuff.)

I declined as gracefully as I could, and offered to come help her sort and make a trip to the local Goodwill. Instead of taking in tangibles, I went and spent the day with her. Now, maybe I did go to the best European bakery in the area and buy an amazing fruit tart (a tiny one) and hand carried it to her — but old habits die hard — but nothing more. I plan to limit any future gifts to consumables — small, immediate, amazing consumables. She loved it! And, she loved the afternoon together. So did I.

Instead of carrying in gifts for your own mother or grandmother, why not help her instead? Spend time. Help her clean or organize. If you can’t be there yourself, give her a gift certificate for weekly maid service or hire her a professional organizer.

If you want to offer a more traditional gift, why not take her for a manicure or to a hairstylist? If she can’t get out or you can’t get home, find one that makes house calls.

Buy her a handyman service for an afternoon — be sure you have a few things on the list for him to handle, just in case she doesn’t have one already created. Eliminate some of those things that need tending that she can’t do herself.

Sometimes, the best gift is even more simple…

Why not schedule and an appointment to place a phone call to her? My mother calls her own mother between 9 and 9:30 every evening. Sometimes they talk for five minutes, sometimes for an hour. But my grandmother looks forward to that call EVERY day and has told me how special it is.

My grandmother doesn’t get many visitors, and having that regular, dependable contact makes her days more measurable — preventing days from running together — and gives her something to look forward to. Even if you can’t do the phone call every day yourself, you can look into a service that will do daily check-in calls and you can follow up with a personal call from you once a week.

Whatever you decide to do to make your mother or grandmother feel special this month… make sure it continues throughout the year and that you take extra steps to help improve the quality of her life, not the quantity of her possessions.

RightSizing® is federally registered trademark and property of Smooth Moves for Seniors. Use of the term without written permission is violation for federal law.

Decorating Small Spaces for Enjoyment and Safety

Glass tables and a smaller scale loveseat (instead of a couch) and a chair with legs instead of upholstery dropping to the floor all keep this smaller living room need and spacious. Window treatments encourage natural light.

When you “rightsize” your life, you often “rightsize” your living quarters. When moving from a large house into a smaller one, decorating can sometimes be a challenge. If you are concerned about safety as well, you can address both space and safety issues at the same time when decorating your new, smaller space.

Remove the Clutter

If you have moved from a larger house, hopefully, you culled your personal belongings beforehand. Doing that first – Gifting items to family and friends, donating to those less fortunate and throwing out what you no longer need will make packing easier and will greatly improve your “moving in” experience on the other end.

Select a single, larger work of art instead of a mass of smaller framed photos to clear visual clutter from the walls. If you have favorite photos that you want to keep close, invest in an archival-quality photo album and keep it nearby for review when you are feeling nostalgic.

If you are holding on to items because of the memories attached to them, consider taking photos of those items to retain the memories and placing those photos in a memory album and giving the item itself to someone for whom the item would hold a special meaning for them. The joy of objects is often in the memories attached, not in the item itself. Freeing yourself to keep the memory and to quit storing, dusting, moving and maintaining the item can be liberating!

Keep the Walkways Clear

Not only for safety, but also to improve your enjoyment of your new, smaller digs, you should keep the walkways clear and clean. Eliminate cords. Toss out throw rugs and area rugs, which are not only trip hazards, but also break up the expanse of the floor, making the space appear smaller.

Furniture Should Do Double-Duty

Your old furniture may or may not work in the new place. Furniture in smaller rooms needs to be scaled to fit, and should also do double-duty as much as possible. Use vertical space for storage to preserve open floor space and remember that glass or solid doors on cabinets will help eliminate dusting and maintenance. Glass doors are preferable since they don’t visually block displays and create an open, airy appearance to storage spaces.

Consider using glass-top tables to avoid visually blocking your space. Avoid boxy furniture without storage space in favor of seating areas with built-in storage (think of window seats with storage tucked away underneath or chairs with open legs for a more spacious appearance.

Painting furniture the same shades as the wall will make even large armoires “disappear” leaving a small room open and storage space readily available. And beds with drawers built in underneath eliminate the hassle of cleaning under a bed, while offering additional storage that is easy to access and neat in appearance.

Let There Be Light!

If you opt for glass cabinets, make sure the contents are well-organized, attractive and well-lit. Consider having cabinet lights installed, which will also serve to expand the space with light.

Consider light colors for decorating and avoid busy patterns. Shades of cream in a room will at textural interest without competing and will result in a more open, larger looking space.

Pass on the thick, heavy curtains and window treatments for lighter, sheer fabrics which maintain your privacy inside, while allowing natural light to flow in from outside. Eliminate any dark corners, hallways or storage areas by installing ample lighting. Falls are reduced by well-lit areas and lighter, brighter living space appears larger.

Embrace this New Phase in Your Life

One of the keys to enjoying life in a smaller space is to keep it organized and easy to clean. Do that by thinking carefully before moving anything into a new room in your new smaller house. If it’s not a perfect fit, or if it doesn’t add to the room, consider finding it a home with someone else, selling it or donating it.

Your home should be open enough to encourage new experiences and joy to come in during this next phase of your life — not so crowded with old stuff from your past that new opportunities are smothered out.

RightSizing® is federally registered trademark and property of Smooth Moves for Seniors. Use of the term without written permission is violation for federal law.

Baby Steps to RightSizing Yourself

Ok, you want to simplify. Life is out of control. You are tired of trying to figure out where to put things ? Do you find yourself buying something that you know you already have (somewhere), just because you can’t find it? Are your collections out of control?

Do you want off this roller coaster? Here are the baby steps that can help you begin.

Pick An Area – ANY Area!

If you can pick one area of your life to lasso, just one little corner to gain a foothold, you will have the strength to take the next step.

Only YOU know what one thing makes you crazy every day. Yes, there may be dozens of things, but pick just one. It may be that the kitchen or dining room table has become a “dumping” ground for whatever is in your arms when you come through the door, because it is (or once was) a clear surface. It may be the nightmare of figuring out what to fix for dinner every night.


Maybe you are tired of searching the desktop and attached drawers to find what you need to work efficiently. Maybe getting dressed in the morning has become a chore because, although there is a closet full of clothes, there is absolutely nothing in there that looks, fits, or feels right anymore. Maybe your daily frustration is simply trying to find your keys — which always seem to be somewhere that you are NOT.

Make a rule that NOTHING goes on the dining room table other than the plates at mealtime. Create a simple two-week menu. Clean off/clean out your desk. Organize your closet. Hang a hook by the door for your keys, or buy a keyring that will clip them to your briefcase or bag – or whatever you ALWAYS take with you. Quit throwing them in the bottom of the bag, on the table, or sticking them in your pocket.

If things have one place to be, and you never put them anywhere else, you can always locate them. Train yourself.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking on some specific RightSizing projects in more detail, but for now… we need babysteps. It only takes ONE to start making you feel a little better.

Make a List (Just Do It!)

If you are reading this blog, you probably have a mass of things that need to be done — so many that you find it incapacitating. If the myriad of tasks in front of you are daunting… making an exhaustive list may give you some sense of control. Yes, add “make a list” to your tasks — then move it to the TOP of that list and start it now.

Simply writing them down as they occur to you (keep the list with you at all times for a couple days) will help you to release the stress of juggling them all mentally. Once the list is made — or in progress — you can begin tackling the items. Some will be big, some small. There’s no sin in picking small ones to complete first — just to get the ball rolling. Progress is progress and it makes you feel accomplished and more “in control” of life.

My Experience With Baby Steps

After a recent move, (before which, I should have reduced my clutter footprint much more than I did) I finally tired of feeling like I’d never get anything of value done on that mountainous mental list I was carrying around. I gave up the memory acrobatics that an invisible list required and started putting pen to paper. (In my case it was stylus to iPad, but you get the idea).

SEVEN pages later, I had everything I could think of written down. I was appalled at the length and the depth of the list. One line-item, for instance, was to organize all my tools. That was going to require FINDING them all, and making a decision on where they should be stored and replacing any that are MIA from the move. Then I’d need to create an intuitive, organized way to store them so I could find them. This ONE item could easily take several days of focused effort. Others were as easy as “Call the Dump and find out their business hours.”

Yes, the list itself was overwhelming, but at least I could LET go of all that stuff floating around in my head, taunting me. It helped.

Unexpected Success!

After the list-making, the most amazing thing happened… I actually got three of the things on my list DONE on that same day. I just did them! The joy of striking those three things off my list was DELICIOUS! And, it made me feel like the day held progress, even though I didn’t get everything done that I’d hoped to do that day. Three digital lines across that iPad made me feel in control and productive for the first time in weeks.

I’ve always been a list maker. Often I have found that I get so involved in making lists that I don’t get much past that. In the past, I’ve made too many lists. I’ve been too specific on the creation and too lax in the execution.

Not anymore. If one of the items is a weekend project, it may still be a one-liner. Once the time comes to tackle that, I may break it down into bite-size parts on another list, but more likely, I’ll put the list down and start the work.

The next step is to use the list to minimize the amount of “stuff” I have to maintain and manage! ;)

RightSizing® is federally registered trademark and property of Smooth Moves for Seniors. Use of the term without written permission is violation for federal law.


Rightsize With Technology

The day has now arrived for a veritable library of reading material to be contained in a thin, easy to carry and store ebook reader. The first few attempts fell short — but those days are over!

If you want to rightsize your life, you can clear a tremendous amount of required storage space by getting an ebook reader, a Kindle or an iPad.

In addition to rightsizing and eliminating stacks of books from your home (perhaps even reducing the the amount of space you need to live comfortably), you will also have a way to bump up the font size and even the style of font you prefer. Now you can pick up your device and read without having to find your glasses. Don’t squint, just make the text bigger! Keep several books going at once – and bookmark the place you left off so you never have to search and you always have the “type” of reading material you want with you.

There are hundreds of free books available (especially the classics!) and programs for borrowing ebooks from individuals and even from your local library are now available!

You can buy, borrow, or download for free nearly any book you want from any location: at home, on the road to visit the grandchildren, even when vacationing! And you can pack so much lighter with a single device than with an armload of books.

If you don’t want to continue to acquire “stuff” to maintain around the house, you can let loved ones know that ebooks are what you want. (Chances are pretty good they will listen.)

Another great (but little-known) benefit is the ability to download most user manuals for appliances in PDF format to store on the device. No more file folders stuffed full of the “how to” manuals required for living in the modern world — and a quick search in the search box will find it for you! (You don’t have to try to remember where you tucked it away, and you don’t have to sort through a stack of papers to find it.)

If you go the iPad route, like I did, you can also keep up with email, surf the web, look things up (think weather, stock market, the answer to that trivia question), and even do some shopping with amazing full-color, high quality images — probably of a better quality than on the last computer you saw!

I also read magazines on mine (they are so pretty) and I no longer have that stack of magazines sitting around my reading chair. I have the Wall Street Journal delivered much faster to my WSJ app than I have ever had a paper copy delivered – and it’s searchable! I’ve even been known to play a game or two on it. Did you know that some of the games are set up for multiplayer? How would you like to play a game of checkers or chess across the miles with a grandchild, anytime you want? You can.

When family sends you photos, you can download them to the device and view them whenever you want — even setting it up like a digital photo frame cycling through all your favorites anytime you like.

The book pages (at least in some of the apps – like the iBook app) turn just like a real book, so you still have the feel of reading a paper copy (although I hear that the display on the Kindle is easier on the eyes).

So, if you are looking for a way to pare down paper possessions and still have them at finger-access to enjoy a dozen times a day, this may be a rightsizing step you will want to take!

RightSizing® is federally registered trademark and property of Smooth Moves for Seniors. Use of the term without written permission is violation for federal law.