Monthly Archives: December 2015

It’s All About the Human Touch

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The key element is the human touch; the sympathetic understanding that life frays nerves and leaves deferred decisions trailing in its wake. An Organizer’s clientele are often fragile and usually in a position of stress with impending home sales.

It’s my job to make things calm all the while achieving a world of change in the home to make it oh so much more viewable. Not an easy task when schedules are pressing. So an organizer is the essential human element that soothes, works hand in hand with the client, de-stresses and takes care of the methodical, exhausting, physical real world details.

You gotta know when a client has had enough. I find most days three hours is the gold standard before everyone is dribbling into a paper cup. So I send them off to regroup and come back when they’re ready. Meantime I keep at it – just me, a bag of almonds and a glass of water often for up to six hours at a time. I enter a kind of Tasmanian devil whirl that my clients have dubbed, “Steve Mode.” Realtors and clients who have brought me always say the same things at end of day – “I can’t believe how much we got done.”

It takes careful understanding of the human element, a great deal of humor, physical stamina, packing skills, moving skills, aesthetic skills to stage, motivational skills to give people a reasons to change beyond house presentation, connections to donate vast amounts of stuff and others services that make me look as good as I make the services that bring me in.

You have to see through their eyes to know what items are treasures and what items are so much a part of their lives they say things like, “If I get rid of this there will nothing left of me.” You can’t help be touched by the things people say – about their stuff, their lives,who they were dreams ago and the aspirations for things that never were.

Most of all it’s that human touch, interaction, knowing people are people and not machines. Respect that and they gladly go along for the ride and embrace change. It is respect for that element that makes for a good ally to declutter and organize a client home. rare skill set that. Glad I have honed it for thirteen years and not stayed in an office at CBC.

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Autumn Equinox: Leaves of Change Know When Your Biscotti Goes Stale

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Autumn Equinox: Leaves of Change

Know When Your Biscotti Goes Stale

We all know the moment when life loses its luster. We begin a process of yearning for ways to renew our passions for anything and take stock of the past now that we have sufficient past to take stock of. Time is slipping through our ever opening fingers and that leaves us with an evanescent yearning. You are aware that more things are coming to an end than beginning, yet there is still time for renewal and it’s important to get it right. Autumn with its third eye, melancholy perspective, born of time passing, clearly tells you exactly when your biscotti went stale; you don’t want to fight any more and you are poised to commit to change, whatever anyone else thinks. So why not go for it? The time for self-doubt is over; finally stop squandering your energies unwisely, running away from things negative and move towards things positive. To wax even more philosophical – now is the time and you are the place.
However, even though you’ve had enough of something doesn’t mean you have a place to go next or the energy, strategy or internal compass to get you there.
People need guidance. Not everything is innate. Also, we are all so hell bent on searching for meaning and a reconnection to the universe that we reach out to too many false promises. There are umpteen EZ-Magic-Bullet programs out there promising a happy shiny, better life. Usually it involves a 3 Step Program or a 6 Step Program, always a defined number as if life were so simple. We only embrace the EZ numbers for so long before slipping back into old habits. Remember all those external force, 3-Step diet plans and gym club plans we thrust upon ourselves or were thrust upon us? How long before you told them to kiss off, that nobody is going to tell you what to do and you’re going to eat cake and lots of it as a rebel yell. Real, long lasting change doesn’t happen from the outside but from within. The catalyst may come from outside – with knowledge comes power or empowerment but the art of changing minds lies in changing deeply rooted habits, sometimes lifelong habits. It doesn’t matter how good the advice, even mine, if you don’t absorb it, make it your own and tell yourself it is you who is calling the shots it won’t stick. Fortunately for all of us the adage “a leopard can’t change its spots” isn’t true. You can change – even late in life. Take heart and have hope all you reading this.

If spring is the time for renewal, and summer is the time to let fly with your inner crazy, then Autumn is definitely the time to cast off old habits for good if we are to reinvent our lives. Someone said, “Your life is the finest piece of art you’ll ever own. Sculpt it well.”

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Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Meow

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Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Meow …

An Organizer colleague of mine recently talked about a house she was doing with distinct odoriferous qualities pertaining to pets. It made me think about all the homes I do and how often pets can strike up the band smell wise and since it’s a normal to the owners, they never know it.

More often than not clients don’t notice their pets are under foot or more precisely under my feet or are capable of smelling less than delightful. Don’t get me wrong I love animals and they love me: cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, whatever beastie has full reign and run of the place is OK with me. But many pets slumph around like bags of peptic balloons releasing clouds that grip the throat. Some are also highly strung and ear piercingly vocal. They explode suddenly, like horses released from the starting gates, at the slightest movement or shadow. Dog day afternoons are filled with the sprightly anticipation of sudden coronary arrest.

Most owners are immensely charmed and amused by their pets and love to share. Some dogs demand constant patting, hugging and approval. Many are renowned dribblers who adore playing hide and seek with your shoes, gloves, tools and anything else you momentarily put down. Not all are so playful. One client’s dog was hugely aggressive so it was muzzled a good deal of the time. It looked like a canine Hannibal Lecter, eyeing me with bad intent, probably imagining how well my butt would go with a nice Chianti. I learned to not turn my back on him. He ran loose at all times and zeroed in on making it his mission to wait until I faced the other way before generating ram speed and plowing his wrapped snout up my derriere at 20 miles an hour. It was like having a proctology exam performed by a leather tipped baseball bat.

One client’s diminutive nightmare yapped non-stop during my four hour visit, like a somersaulting department store toy. He never took a breath once. As the client needed the creature with her at all times I was ready to stick a screw driver in my head by day’s end to make it all stop. I have since taken to carrying ear plugs in my kit.

Studies have shown that while a cat’s trilling purr has a calming effect on the human body, constant or abrupt barking can have demonstrable deleterious effects on the heart and nervous system. It’s why one occasionally hears a neighbor, living in close proximity to such a torture, shouting out windows in utter despair.

Fortunately, many pets are sweet-hearts the whole time I am there and I love them to pieces. I can’t help hugging the creatures. Those pets I like to refer to as…”trained.”

Cat Box Columbo

Cats are adept right angle runners who delight in cutting crisscross patterns full scramble across my path before plunking down right in front of me, especially on stairs when I am carrying something awkward like a box full of telescopes. Some cats are the kind you can pick up, purr to and set safely aside having shared a lovely little forehead to forehead bump. With others you risk pulling back a bloodied stump. Their telltale warning mrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr starts way back in their throat like a faraway ambulance and finishes in the heartbeat just before they slice your face off.

As an aside, some clever fellow should create an alarm clock that makes that cat-being-sick-guk-guk sound. It’s amazing how it makes you jump up from a deep sleep and dizzily scramble about on all fours for the sports section before part two hurls out at you…there’s always a part two. Sometimes if you’re real lucky you even get a part three.

Too often clients don’t get around to cleaning their cat boxes. They apologize now and then for the smell. I thought one client had used black earth in his cat box and told him litter is much easier for a cat to dig into. He shyly admitted it wasn’t black earth. It had been litter, once. He had just never cleaned the box. This is where your throat kind of clinches up. I can hear it now. I told the guy the cat is a creature that doesn’t like mess, so more than likely it had found new and more convenient places to make a deposit. This seemed to surprise him. I am surprised by clients who get surprised by the obvious. So we had to play Cat Box Columbo to search out the various locations. We found several deep beneath the mounded piles of clothes, discarded computers, and the upended this and that in his apartment.

You are wondering now, at what point do you not notice your pets have been unloading in multiple locations in your home? I remember a colleague of mine, Alison, recalling an episode of “Hoarders,” where a woman had a horrible fruit fly problem and traced it to two rotting pumpkins in her living room. “How bad is it in your house,” Alison pondered, “when you don’t notice you’ve got two rotting pumpkins in your living room?” The answer is: very bad. If you love your pets, tend to their facilities – and any errant pumpkins past their prime.

Excerpt from The Domestic Archaeologist: Confessions of a Professional Home Declutterer presently in edit and hopefully soon to be released upon an unsuspecting public near you. – Stephen Ilott is the lead Professional Home Organizer and President of Decluttering.ca serving the western GTA.

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I Have a Particular Set of Skills

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I Have a Particular Set of Skills

Now and then I feel like Liam Neeson on the phone with Realtors telling them I have a particular set of skills. These skills acquired over a long period of time make me an ally for Real Estate Agents like them.

They begin with acute listening and communication skills. Listening to client needs hurtles you forward in getting things done. I go on to say, in the least number of words, that I have a certain physicality that many Home Organizers need in the sheer volume of things to get packed up, moved about, pre-staged with or without the Realtor stager and often with the Realtor themselves on site. I bring methodical, roll-up the sleeves, Organizational skills to a home in need of “Listing Prep.” After 14 years and over 800 houses I have been called the Wayne Gretzky of Home Organizers. One realtor called me the “Asset” one sends in to sort out things quick, fast and to a budget. Everyone has a budget. And in a world where overpriced services abound to the grimace of all I come as a breath of fresh air.

I surround myself with other services that are useful to Agents like knowing good metal collectors, cleaners, repair people, painters, floor people, Real Estate Lawyers, storage options, junk options and coordination and of course fantastic stagers who I love to work with. I also have vetted and can bring a team of organizers to set upon big, big jobs as well as relocation services like helping clients and their family sell furniture and possessions.

My company is open to one or two day get ‘er done rushes to multi-week whole home sort outs. Read my articles regularly for more insight into my world and above all call me back. Reach out. It’s what we should do to click things up a notch in getting that listing. People don’t need slick generic sites and ghost written guidance. They want real. People now want real services to make their lives so much better. It’s what I do.

So if you want to work with me, tell me; I will look for you, I will find you, and I will satisfy you.

Stephen Ilott – is a Professional Home Organizer living in Oakville with his fantastic wife. Serving all locations up to an hour’s reach in any direction. 416-460-8098 – http://www.decluttering.ca.

 

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Realtors Know all About the Stuff Sellers Leave Behind…

junkIt’s a significant part of an Organizer’s job – the picking up or sorting out the pieces left behind from lives gone off track: a family member loss, a divorce or simply life in a tangle. Every now and then as was the case this past week I am called in to help sort out a mess of another kind – the one where a new home buyer has inherited a world of junk left behind by the previous owner.

It’s the bane of every realtor – dealing with a less than pristine closing day property. Despite assurances and deadlines, even notes of holding back partial offer amounts, people still leave stuff behind in little and large amounts.

If the seller had been living a cluttered or hoarding lifestyle they may not see the forest for the trees and think things are just fine while the new owners stand in abject horror at the state of what they are expected to move into. Then there is the cost of simply getting rid of stuff. It’s expensive. And you can’t always parcel out 40 bags of trash a bit at a time to city services every two weeks or worse share the wealth with your new neighbors. It doesn’t engender good will.

As a Professional Organizer I often act as a sub-service to realtors to help transition their clients be it a full relocation or to help with sales and post sales set up. I am frequently asked to dive into to help defray a situation where buyers have descended into a mess not of their doing and should not have to deal with on top of the usual new home chores. An organizer can clean up most things, often on all fours -everything from bagging heaps and heaps of loose paper to broken dishes to hauling rusty filing cabinets to coordinating the removal of decrepit and soiled furniture  – even haul off ancient three foot thick TV’s and primordial appliances. Each abandoned item has an option, some easily dealt with – others not so much: I have found takers for dated furniture and given old appliances and electronics to metal guys who pick up for free. But the real cost of making piles of pure junk go away is a wake up call to most and that an organizer often does not drive a vehicle large enough – why should they? Organizers can get a lot gone alone but there’s a limit. More often than not one has to book and hire a truck.  With the added cost of city dumping fees and time, time, time. It’s an old formula, time or money or time and money. Some of my realtors offer some of my time as a service to their clients. Even just that time  is pure value for the small investment towards restoring nerves and the situation to the perpendicular.

A deft realtor also knows how to get people communicating. Hiring a multi-talented Organizer who knows homes, organizing, getting stuff gone and has connections as well as delicate people skills is a sure step in spreading a little salve on the hurt when a client’s new digs require unexpected digging.  – Stephen Ilott is that talented Organizer working anywhere within an hour’s declutter from Oakville, Ontario Decluttering.ca 416-460-8098 info@decluttering.ca.

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To Speak or Not to Speak…Speak

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Love it, love it love it. It’s my favorite form of marketing – something I have been honing for over ten years – giving very fun lectures all about Decluttering your life and reinvention and the myriad ways of not being overwhelmed by your stuff.

I just came back from delivering another lecture to a great room filled with ladies of the Brampton Probus club. What a receptive and enthusiastic audience. I have to say the ladies are the best. Sorry guys: you’re fun but for knowing nods and laughs the ladies have you topped.

They are one of many I have had the pleasure of giving my brand of performance lecture to. I love adding stories and voices and making it a very interactive and physical presentation. And I’ve lost count how many I have done now; I’ve spoken to umpteen branches of The Toronto Public Library who always fill rooms when folks hear a ‘Professional Declutterer’ is coming to speak. What a common problem! I’ve presented to: Rooms full at Mississauga Public Library and Sheridan College, done Rotary Clubs, raised money by giving workshops for United Way – Big Brothers, Big Sisters, lectured for The Council of Jewish Women in Toronto and Thornhill, Retired Armed Forces and RCMP, The Young Achiever’s of Halton, The Mcmaster School of Nursing, Speaker’s conferences, Toastmasters (I used to love winning the Tall Tales Competitions),The American Women’s Clubs in Thornhill and Oakville, The Oakville Milton Realty Board, also speaking as part of Realtor panels and presentations, Metro Toronto Convention Centre Wellness days, various corporate wellness days, Comedy Club impromptu speaking nights, Senior Living Centers, Professional Organizers in Canada conventions and meetings, Time Out for Moms groups, Halton Parent Child centres,several branches of The Retired Teachers of Ontario, The Newcomers Clubs, lots of Probus clubs, ADD/ADHD support groups as well as the CADDAC annual convention for people with ADD, Home and Garden Shows, Zonta (MC’ing two of their gala events to raise funds for abused women and cancer hospices) – even MC’d the Presidents Dinner for the American Ambassador to Canada for the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. I’ve spoken on CBC Metro Morning and Cross Country Check-up, CHCH Morning Live, CHML Radio 900 (for over an hour) done Webinars on Liquid Lunch and Rick Green’s Totally ADD.

And ya know what? I can’t wait to do another one and another. It gets in your blood this jumping up in front of crowds for an hour or two to interact and have a little fun. I just gotta post some of these I have managed to tape on my web site. I only have smatterings on YouTube. That’s gonna change soon. If you know of a group who’d love to have me – I’d love to have them. And be part of realtor panels and help promote what we do in our business and along the way change a few lives for the better.

Stephen Ilott is a Professional Home Organizer/Declutterer working from his company Decluttering.ca in Oakville, Ontario working homes for Realtors in need of a clean slate and home owners reclaiming their lives from clutter throughout the GTA – going into his 14th year and over 800 houses and umpteenth lecture.

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Realtors LOVE Metal Guys

metalguysRealtors LOVE Metal Guys

They appear out of nowhere – as if responding to a sub-sonic horn blown somewhere calling, calling them – Arrrrooooga-Arrrrooooga!!

You bring something metal to the curb and within a remarkably short hiccup of time, even before you can retrace your steps back into the house, a scruffy parade of men and women materializes to nab up whatever you have.

The truck careers to a halt in front of the fresh scrabbling pile of metal you’ve left by the curb. Out they hop, and grapple with the tangled web of entwined and rusted Bar-B-Q, hangers, pots and pans, bikes, bed frames, long past their prime garden chairs, fridges, stoves, swing sets, ski poles, cheese grinders, ancient curtain rods, banged up rakes, tool boxes, robots – anything metal.

Triumphant they fasten a great, mangled dead fall of metal high up into the cage kitted out on the back of the pickup or trailer and off they go like silent rangers. I call them ‘Scrappers’ and I love them – my realtors love them. I make a point of chasing them down and get their names. I cultivate good ones – the ones who’ll show up at job sites when I need them at homes I am working on. They snap up the huge piles of metal I bring out for them from basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages – anywhere metal hides and needs to be gone so a Realtor can open spaces up and list His or Her client’s house ASAP. And boy does it save home owners and realtors money because the metal guys do it for FREE.

They make me look good and I make the Realtors smile.

Often the city encourages this hurricane reality show a day or two ahead of a big item pick up day to entice the metal pickers, to roam the back streets in their jalopies in search of free scrap metal to salvage and make an honest, albeit meager, living or extra bill paying income. But I need them at all times,not just big item pickup day and their muscle to help me carefully haul out the odd relic.

My favorite metal guys are two rough and tumble fellas names Mark and Jack. I encourage Realtors to tuck them in their back pocket for metal pickup. Find Mark at (289) 933-3978. He’s out of Hamilton and comes to any job I have in Burlington, Oakville, and parts of Mississauga. Here’s a big thanks Mark and Jack. Tough as nails and the nicest, most polite guys you’d want to meet.

Stephen Ilott is a Professional Home Organizer/Declutterer working in the Western GTA getting houses sorted out since 2002 – Owner of Decluttering.ca (416)460-8098, info@decluttering.ca.

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There WAS a Mouse in my Glove Box

eekmouseThere’s a MOUSE in my glove-box. Ah got your attention do I? (see update below)

Of all the things one takes away from a client’s house, one thing you don’t expect tucked away in the box of clothes and danky stuff is a dark eyed, nose twitching stowaway. We organizers take away carload after carload of household goods, clothes, even furniture. And one does one’s best to vet the stuff before taking it away. I break hearts all the time when I tell my clients the moldy box of clothes sticking to the basement floor isn’t donatable. They simply don’t understand. After all it’s perfectly good stuff – see, look here and here and…SQUEEK!!

So I did a realtor client home and moved it forward towards getting listed. This includes getting rid of a world of stuff to open up the spaces. As a rule I only take away things I can donate. Trash I bag and coordinate the options: free city pickup or the 1-800-it’s Your Junk-You-Have-to-Pay-to-Get-it-Taken-Away.

But I broke my rule to help a client and three days ago I took away four quite musty boxes. The moment I got home I immediately put them out for city garbage and they were spirited away. But somewhere along that initial ride home a passenger got out at a stop not punched on his ticket.

So yesterday while driving to pickup a cheque from one of my realtors, at a local Real Estate Office I thought it would be a good idea to drop some of my cards off too. I leaned over and popped the glove box lid. Up it slid and so rose the curtain on the villain of the piece. There he was center stage for a heartbeat, caught in the limelight. His eyes went wide,his mouth dropped. My eyes went wide and I must have mouthed something to put him off the cheek full of Kleenex he had tucked away. A wee puff spit take was followed by a scurry into a crack in my dash. I veered and swerved.

His tail stuck out for a millisecond but instead of grabbing it and tossing the blighter into traffic I chose to steer the car away from the oncoming light pole.

Yup, tried to catch him when I got home, half expecting another rodent Parkour demonstration. Elusive little rascal. I even sprayed stuff into the vents and made more noise than a Sherman tank to flush him out. Tried shop vac-ing.

Last night my wife chose to not sit in the front seat on the way from the train and this morning, not trusting he had found his way to the forest in back of our house in the night, decided to once more give the dashboard some distance.

It’s just this kind of sudden movement that makes you spill your coffee.

So I just ambled outside and cautiously opened the door to my Rav once more. Crossing my fingers I pressed the glove box button and once more up it slid.

And guess what? There was a mouse in my glove box. Any thoughts people? What’s plan B? I await your thoughts with baited breath. Maybe the bait is peanut butter. Cheese is so been there done that.

Mouse addendum Update: Nabbed the little bugger. I had been desperate to get him out of my car and yes I did lay down snappy traps. BUT every morning there he was comfy and nestled between them on a Kleenex bed, with all the food eaten and the traps undisturbed. But I learned a few tricks too. I taped over his dashboard escape route this time. I poised my shop-Vac just right, braced myself with a flashlight and in a pre-dawn raid flipped open the glove box door and before he could make a break sucked him into the tube – whooosh, thump.

I am kind of glad now he didn’t opt to sit on the trap when eating the hummus and chocolate and almonds I laid out for him. Big eyes and such. I upended the shop-vac across the street and he scurried off into the grass. So he’s fine. Now my wife will sit in the front seat on the way to the train. Isn’t life grand?

Stephen Ilott is a Professional Home Organizer and Declutterer living in Oakville. He’s also a writer looking for more great avenues to write for if you need a fun article for your newsletter. www.decluttering.ca 416-460-8098 silott@cogeco.ca – info@decluttering.ca.

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