Fay Wolf / New Order: Ask Me Anything Answers 2018
Here’s the first batch, everyone -- with more to come!
Barbara from Southern Wisconsin asked:
How to organize clothes in a 35" wide, 30" depth. 8' high clothes closet? You guessed it- we have a 100 year old bungalow.
Ah yes, a bungalow that is surely adorable--but not equipped with sensible storage. So first things first: always declutter like your life depends on it. When’s the last time you made brutal decisions about each and every piece? Is everything in there an absolute keeper? (Or at least 90% of it?) Now: even with massive decluttering, there’s still a reality to face if you have a small or awkward space. Sometimes there’s simply not enough room. Unless… you can get really creative! Feel free to reply and let me know the height of the current closet rod (if one exists), and if there’s a shelf above it. And what’s happening on the floor of the closet? A laundry bin? Room for any stacking bins or perhaps a freestanding shoe rack? Can you hang shelves or hooks outside the closet on nearby walls? What about an overdoor shoe holder that could store underwear, socks, scarves, ties, toiletries, you name it. Look around your entire bungalow... Where else have you tried to store clothing? Could you install a closet rod in the corner of a room? (Here a visual example of that.) Is there space for a freestanding wardrobe or garment rack somewhere in your home? Sets of drawers? Perhaps a simple Ikea bookshelf where clothes live in folded form? (Product purchases aren’t always necessary, but can really help after you know exactly what you have.) Could you get even more creative and store overflow clothes in kitchen or hall cabinets? (I know! It’s odd. But there are no rules!) As for the space inside the closet you do have, it really depends on what type of items need to live there. Dresses can store differently than t-shirts can store differently than hats. But hopefully some of these alt ideas can get you thinking. I’d love to know what you’ve tried and if any of this stuff ends up working.
Jennifer from Cape Town, South Africa asked:
I'm struggling to find the balance between getting things out of the house and selling them (which means they're there longer). We could really use any extra cash we get, but I wonder if it's really worth my time. We don't have lots of options like consignment here, so everything has to be sold on Facebook or Gumtree (like Craigslist) and it's a pain, but again, we could really use the cash. Which should I prioritize?!
I totally hear this struggle. Now: you say you wonder if it's worth your time. One of my questions back to you would be: How much is your time worth? Have you ever put a dollar amount on your time, i.e. what you usually make in an hour, or what kind of money the work you do could generate from an hour's work? You can also feel out that answer energetically or creatively. For example: is it worth more to me to sell these items that will make, say, $150, OR spend that same amount of time finally doing that project I’ve been putting off for years that will bring me more joy than $150 ever could? The formulas may not feel perfect, but whatever you decide is true for you--is true. For instance, if you decide your time is worth $100/hour, and you estimate it would take 3 hours of your cumulative time for the entire process of selling five items for which you could easily make $600 (which is double that), then perhaps it's worth it. So that's one way of looking at it and making a quick decision. Now of course I don't know your exact financial situation, but I have certainly been in life chapters of needing any extra cash I can get. But if you're not truly desperate for the money, then I might suggest letting go and starting fresh--and redirecting that energy toward the possibilities of what can come next. All this said, there's probably a little voice in your head that already knows whether this is worth it or not. If you'd feel immense relief just to get this stuff out of your life and move on, do it. If your family's well-being depends on these dollars, then make the selling project a top priority every day until it's done. First step of that? Create a detailed to-do list of each small step (taking photos in good light, uploading photos, writing descriptions, setting prices, etc. etc.), and schedule specific times in your calendar over the next month to attack each of those steps. Enlist a friend who will hold you accountable for the next 30 days. After that 30-day mark, your time's up either way. Anything left gets donated. ... There's no perfect solution to this. So choose an imperfect one. And do it wholeheartedly.
Besides referrals how do you attract more clients? (this question from a relatively shy organizer who doesn't like public speaking)
My first bit of advice would be to answer the following questions for yourself, in writing: What are you doing now? What have you already tried? How far did you get in those tries? Get really specific. For instance, if you left business cards at coffee shops, record how many shops and how often you went back to replenish the cards. Make sure you have a tracking system so you can eventually see what’s worth your time and what isn’t. When you launched your business, did you send out an excitement-filled mass email to everyone you know announcing your new venture? Did you offer a discount code for people to use? Did that discount code have a deadline to it? (Urgency works really well.) Have you gotten a second pair of eyes on your website to make sure that when people do find you they have a clear and inviting path to hiring you? Have you considered enlisting a marketing expert to run FB ads that target your ideal client in your location? Do you send regular emails to an email list and have an easy opt-in on your website? Have you joined NAPO and started connecting with other organizers? (If you don't live near a chapter, there's also a virtual chapter.) Are you a member of a local chamber of commerce or other membership group where you can position yourself as the expert in your field? If you don’t like public speaking, that’s totally cool. Alternatively, would you feel comfortable creating video or audio content from the comfort of your own home that you might share with an online audience or with newsletter subscribers? All of these questions reflect some of the many ways you can get clients to come a-knocking. Personally, word-of-mouth has been my #1 over the years. But that was only after I spread the word by doing a lot of the aforementioned things. Whatever you choose to try, know that you’ll likely have to invest some money and a lot of time in finding what works for you. Some names to Google for additional marketing know-how: Marie Forleo, Amy Porterfield, Fabienne Fredrickson. They offer a ton of free, valuable content. I also adore Paul Jarvis as a resource for all freelancers, and his course is recommended at the end of my current newsletter. Best of luck!
Cara from Brooklyn, New York asked:
Despite my initial inclinations to ‘rebel’ against structure, I actually thrive with it as a freelancer. After decluttering my space and giving ‘homes’ to my most treasured items; I am now applying this concept to my time and money as well, so that I can focus on the most important things in my life! There has indeed been a learning curve with creating my own time structures and budgeting (though YNAB helps a lot, thanks to your suggestion!). I just read a book The Power of When about chronotypes and our biological rhythms. Dr. Breus is a strong proponent for waking/sleeping and eating at the same times each day. I love this concept and the changes I have been able to adopt have improved my situation so much! But, that being said, the life of a freelancer can still be pretty amorphous at times, and trying to have ‘set times’ without a 9-5 is proving a bit of a challenge. Do you have set times of the day that you do certain things (i.e. songwriting)? How do you setup your daily schedule as a fellow freelancer who juggles different creative avenues?
Hurray for structure! And congrats on making changes that are helping. The first thing I'll say is that my schedule is always changing. Indeed, the freelancer's life. But setting up the structure is what helps me the most--even when I deviate from it. Lately what works for me the most is a weekly schedule by day: assigning certain things to certain days--and then trying not to worry about the things that aren’t assigned to that day. (I’m hoping Dr. Breus would approve.) For example: Songwriting on Mondays, Clients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Admin on Fridays, etc. Now again, this doesn’t always work out. But if I had zero structure in place, I’d go off the deep end. Two things that also help tremendously are my Sunday Policy and my Business Hours Policy. My Sunday Policy: No clients on Sundays. Never, ever. So even if I have to move around some puzzle pieces during the rest of the week, I give myself Sundays free from any in-person obligations. (For some, ‘No Sundays’ may sound like a no-brainer. We all need a day of rest, right? But I see SO many freelancers who are “open for business” 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and it’s such a recipe for burnout.) My Business Hours Policy: Communication (that is non-time-sensitive) gets replied to M-F 8-6. Again, this may seem normal for some. But for many creatives / freelancers, we’re responding to texts, emails, social media comments, etc. at all hours. (You wouldn’t expect to reach a dentist’s office at 9pm, so why the heck should you be able to reach me?) Keeping these policies in place allow me to feel freer when switching things around and deciding when to do certain other things at specific times. More examples of the kinds of things to assign to certain days of the week: Grocery shopping on Thursday evenings, Dance Class on Tuesdays, Laundry on Fridays, Prospective Client Calls on Tuesday and Thursday mornings only, etc. etc. ... So you create the structure around the recurring tasks, and then roll with punches when needed. If a new three-month project means that Grocery Day has to switch to a different day, fine. Or maybe for that three months you pay to have your groceries delivered, because you're just too underwater. In the same way David Allen suggests a weekly review of your to-do list, a regular review of your schedule is a related goal. Change will always happen. But laying that groundwork can allow for a little less confusion and a little more relief. Hope this helps and is something worth attempting for you.
Beth from outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania asked:
How do I keep it from coming back? It always does, no matter what!
On the one hand, it’s supposed to come back. (Sorry!) We can declutter the crap out of a clothes closet, for instance, but we still might have the habit of throwing our clothes in various piles around the house. We may give our mail pile a stellar look-through, but we’re still going to get more mail every day. So regardless of the next points I make, I think it's a daily practice to accept that life keeps going and going in these ways... There will always be another load of laundry. There will always be another surface to declutter. (And what relief in this acceptance!) Now. On the other hand, using those same examples… if you declutter a clothes closet, choose homes for the items you're keeping, and then you’re pretty good at the practice of putting things away, and it still feels like it’s all “coming back”, then I’d be really keen on defining your "no matter what". I’d love to know what you’ve tried thus far. How deeply have you decluttered? How brutal have you been with donations? Can you go even further? Have you curbed your shopping habits? Accepted gifts you don’t really need? Have you unsubscribed from paper mail? Do you have a trusted budget set up? (That will bring you face-to-face with any spending that results in more “stuff.”) I know: this can feel like a long list of overwhelming tasks. And I'm not expecting that you've ticked all these boxes. I also realize: sometimes we can’t control it... Without your knowledge, a family member throws something somewhere it doesn’t belong or you get added to a new mailing list without your consent. It just ain’t perfect. And this practice isn’t always easy. It's a life direction that can take weeks, months, years to feel like you're ahead of it. But if you break down the steps and get brutal about it, it does get a little better... and then sometimes a little worse again... but then even more better after that. (P.S. If you haven't already read, Chapters 1,2 & 3 of #NewOrderBook outline specific how-to steps for physical clutter and paper.)