Organizing and Letting Go of Books

Whenever I start talking with clients about maybe donating some books and organizing the rest, I know that I will get some strong reactions. Mind you, these are people who have asked for the help.

Many people feel strong connections to their books. Textbooks they had in college remind them of their classes and experiences in college. Old cookbooks remind them of meals and feasts they have prepared in the past even though they know they will not use them again. Some books just remind them of a time or place or memory.

One episode with Marie Kondo showed her advising a woman to part with books that she had read or likely never would read. To me, this sounds reasonable. A tweet went out about how you should fill your apartment and world with books. That every human needs an extensive library and not clean, boring shelves. The tweet went viral.

Other people, when considering their collection, realize that their interests have changed and that they are still learning and growing. They can pass on books from their past.

I have always felt that you could have as many books as you want if you honor them by making sure that each has a home on a bookcase. Having said that, I did have one client who not only had bookcases around almost every wall but in one room he called the “library” he also had bookcases running down the middle of the room – like a public library. Still, the books were on shelves!

I recently had a client from the past contact me because her books are blocking pathways in her home and the apartment complex has told her she is breaking safety codes.

When helping someone with their books, a great way to begin the discussion is to start by grouping books by genre. When we start some of these sorts, we almost always find some books that are duplicated. We also find books with similar themes, topics, pictures and can eliminate some. We may find books that are damaged and moldy and those usually go (and cannot be donated). We talk about how these books when mixed in with “healthy” books can ruin the good ones  We may find books that were bought on a whim or just because they buyer liked the author but the book not so much.

Knowing the “why” of keeping the book makes it easier to make not only the decision of if you really want to keep it but also where you will store it. My challenge to you is to really look at each book you own and remember why you are still holding on to it. It really might just be that it is still there because it was put there once and forgotten. It might be fun to clear the space either to enjoy some empty space or to allow something new to come in.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Priorities and Self Care

I love my work and I love my hubby. Sometimes it is important to put the work aside for a few days and just enjoy some “our time”.

I try to schedule a couple of days each month for us to just go off and play but sometimes a little more is needed. It’s great to put the daily routine aside and really let go and relax. I find myself laughing more, enjoying food I haven’t prepared, taking in different scenery, and just feeling grateful for this time. I feel healthier and invigorated. I know I’ll come back from vacation a renewed person.

Good memories are made on vacations. I’d rather have a vacation than a piece of expensive jewelry or a new gadget. When we vacation we experience new things and meet new people.

It’s important to take time to take care of yourself and enjoy vacation time. Vacations are healthy. When we return, we will both appreciate our home life even more.

Now, pardon me while I pack.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Card Clutter

Valentine’s Day has just past. The two cards I received this year are still up on the shelf in the kitchen where I can enjoy them every day. Depending on where you are in your life, you may receive just a few cards or a ton.

If you have small children, they may make you cards. If you are a teacher, you will receive cards from your students. You might have a secret pal give you a card at work. Special friends might send you fun cards. A very special someone in your life may give you a card with a lovely note inside.


Now, let’s think of 60+ years of receiving cards. What if you kept every card? Wow! You would have boxes and boxes of cards. You might have an old dresser filled with cards. Overwhelming!

But you say, “My children made these cards for me. My friends put a lot of thought into these cards. I love the reminders that people care for me”.

This is a very personal decision, but I am pretty sure you don’t want to dedicate a whole room just for storing cards.

Consider these options:

  1. Chose the most special – like the year your son wrote his own special poem in a card or your mother wrote you a special note. Then box these cards up in a lovely box and label it. Put the box on a shelf and revisit the box once a year.
  2. Spread out your favorite cards and take a picture of them. Then let the cards go.
  3. Make a collage of the best cards for each holiday and bring out this collage for decoration on the appropriate season.
  4. Pass on old cards to schools or nursing homes so they can re-purpose them in projects.

Remember that if you toss out a card that your mother or child gave you 25 years ago, you are not tossing out the person or your love for that person. So by all means keep a few very special cards, but not all.

Letting go of the masses of old cards will clear up space for more happy memories to come your way.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Controlling Your Holiday Budget

It is easy to get involved in all the excitement and joy of the holidays and get caught up in the flurry without stopping to take stock of our behaviors. We tend to overeat, under sleep, and way over spend.

Having a holiday budget is the best way to outsmart the overspending chaos. Much of our spending is tied to a combination of emotion and family traditions.

Before things get out of hand, do two things. First, develop a vision of what is really important to you this year. Then decide how much you can spend to make this vision happen. Once you come up with your big total, break it down into categories. Start with the categories that are really important to you and your vision. Is decorating your home a really big part of your vision? Is baking and giving your goodies as gifts a part of your holiday tradition? Is it important that gifts are a big ticket item? Would you like to give gifts that help make memories – like tickets to the Nutcracker?

Decide how much money you want to spend in each area. You may have to play with this as you go along but keep your eye on the big final total. Consider ways to make your budget work for you. If you like to give more expensive gifts for your family, you might arrange a system where you only buy for some of the family. Our family has a tradition among the siblings of only buying for one sibling and their family. We do this on a rotation system where we buy for a different member each year. When our parents were alive, we pooled our money for a big ticket item and then individually bought some small stocking stuffers.

After your budget is determined, really keep track of all expenses. Save all receipts and if there is not a receipt, write the amount on a piece of paper. Keep a running total as you go through the season. This keeps you on track and prevents you from stressing out about cash. Keep your priorities in order.

You’ll thank yourself as the New Year rolls in.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Holiday Presents

Buying and receiving presents is so personal. Every family has their traditions and even within the family there are differences.

One of the things I like about my family gift giving plan is that each year we give to a different family member. This year I give to my sister and her family in Washington. Next year I will give to my brother and his family in Ohio.

When I reflect on gifts I consider:

  • The gift should be personal. I like gifts that show you know the person. You are aware of their  interests and needs. I do not want a gift card unless it is for an event or an experience. As an organizer, I have seen so many unused gift cards floating around and I wonder how many just get lost. To me a generic gift card is just like giving money. You give me money. I give you money. This is not very special to me.
  • Gifting memories is better than gifting items unless the person you are giving to has some real needs. Using the gift money for a holiday get together or a special play or event beats a sweater.
  • Thought should be given as to if the receiver has a place for whatever you are gifting. A bread maker is not a good gift for a person with a tiny kitchen.
  • Consumable gifts are good. This might be special coffee, sweets, special soaps, or being taken to the spa or to a theater.
  • Once something is gifted, it belongs to that person to do with as they wish.

Now having said all of that, I do try to listen to the wishes of others in my family. If all my nephew wants is a gift card to Amazon – so be it. If my brother wants a gift card so that he can buy the books that he wants – OK.

I would love to hear comments on how you and your family handle gifting.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer