Thursday, April 24, 2014

Collector Care Tips:
10 Garage Organization Tips for the “Everything” Room of Your House

Garage Organization

10 Organization Tips for the “Everything” Room of Your House

1. Hang a pegboard for easy-to-see storage. Choose the wall nearest to the door. Store small items in buckets or empty paint cans.

2. One item in, one item out. For every item you bring into the garage, take one item out for donation or recycling. 
3. Organize for accessibility. Store items you use most frequently on shelves at eye-level or drawers that are easy to reach.

4. Designate a place for tools. Choose one drawer for household tools like screwdrivers and hammers.

5. Get rid of junk. Toss, recycle or donate anything old, broken, unused or unwanted.

6. Plan a garage sale. Schedule it for a Saturday in spring near the beginning or middle of the month when most people get paid.

7. Create holiday storage. Buy clear storage bins for ornaments, lights and wrapping paper. Label each bin.

8. Don’t let laundry pile up. If your washer and dryer are in your garage, keep clothes from creating clutter. Sort everything into two piles: whites and colors.

9. Install a magnetic knife holder. No, not for your kitchen knives. Use it for small tools like hex wrenches and screwdriver bits.

10. Store garbage bags easily. Re-purpose a paper towel dispenser to hold a roll of heavy-duty garbage bags. 

Collectors if you are having problems parking your car, or getting started, hire a Collector Care Professional Organizer to help you get your Garage organized! We love garages. The more clutter the better! No job is too big or too small. We love creating storage, maximizing existing space and shelving, going through misc. bins, organizing holiday stuff, hauling away junk, you name it - we will try our best to do it! 925-548-7750. Licensed. Bonded. Insured.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Collector Care Interviews: Lee Shuer

Hello Collectors! I am super excited to feature Lee Shuer on our blog this month.When I first (read) of Lee's story I was touched. He is a Collector who has had the strength and courage to face his hoarding disorder full on , and the passion to help other Collectors do the same. I wanted to know how he did it, not so much the sorting process, but how he kept himself focused internally. As you know, I love self-help, positive thinking and affirmations. What did Lee tell himself during his battles and struggles that kept him focused?

Rachel Seavey: Do you still have urges to find and keep? How do you manage these?
Lee Shuer: Yes. I like stuff, I want stuff, and I still have urges to acquire. But they aren’t as overwhelming as they once were. Back in the day, I couldn’t walk away from a toy sale, free box, thrift store, or tag sale without bringing something home. Today I can go to those same places, confident that I won’t leave with unnecessary items. My priorities have changed.
Lee's "Old" Kitchen

What gives me strength to say “no,” when I need to is the perspective I’ve gained over the past several years of practice. I can see the bigger picture, and the patterns that lead to a cluttered home. I ask myself questions when I find something I want but don’t need. Some of these questions are, “Am I buying it because I can’t find the one I already own?” “Do I have a place to put this?” “Do I have a plan for immediately using it?” And the two most important questions, “Would my wife approve,” and, “Will this help me overcome my clutter problem?”

When it comes to saving things, I ask myself similar questions. Another question that helps in this part of the process is, “Does this item represent who I am now, and who I want to be in the future?” Much of what I have represents different phases of my life. Do I really need those things anymore? Or have I just neglected to look at them that way. I’m not the person I used to be, and I don’t need the same things anymore.
Most of the time these questions work.
Lee and his beautiful wife Becca

Sometimes, and this happens to anyone trying to overcome a long-standing habit, I don’t abide by my own rules. When I notice this happening, I don’t give up. In fact, I see it as an opportunity to put all my skills to the test again. I hear my peers cheering for me as I get back on track.

Rachel Seavey: Happy wife, happy life! I love the questions that you ask yourself, and how aware you are of your finding habit. During your journey, did you lose faith in yourself or the process? How did you regain it?

Lee Shuer: I haven’t lost faith in my process, because I believe that up’s and downs are a part of the process. When I start to have a hard time, I accept it, and use my action plans to move forward again. My WRAP for Reducing Clutter takes these natural patterns into account, and I take responsibility for regaining control.

I recently lost a close family member, and since then, my clutter has reflected the emotional event. I don’t feel like I’m failing, I feel like I’m feeling. I know that this is a part of my grieving process. I’m not acquiring more, but I’m letting things get messy. I know that grief is a trigger for complications in several aspects of my life. Clutter is just one. I know that eventually I’ll start to feel better, and so will my home.

Rachel Seavey: Grief is quite often a trigger for our clients to clutter. It's important to give yourself a break when you are going through a hard time. Backsliding is very normal, and with a positive attitude you can get back on track easier with less guilt. The more you understand yourself the better. It's important to take small steps every day towards your decluttering efforts. This is in order to learn a new routine and so that you don't overload yourself with your own high expectations.
Lee, what steps do you take daily to work on your decluttering? 

"Kaya Lu Bug" and "Honeybee Violet Shuer"
Lee Shuer: Daily maintenance is the key to sustaining a life less cluttered. Am I great at this? No! Am I getting better at it? Yes. I know that one of my biggest challenges is putting my “toys” away after working on a project. Art supplies, music gear, video equipment, electronics…if I don’t re-organize them after I use them, they end up getting piled on top of each other. And so the cycle of chronic disorganization continues. When I clean-up, I break the cycle.

Some concrete chores can help me keep my confidence high and the clutter at bay. Tasks like making sure that the recycling goes out on trash day, or that dishes are cleaned and put away, or that the rug is vacuumed, help me take more pride in my home. My goal is that on any given day, if the doorbell were to ring, I would be proud to give my guest a tour of the house. Every room, every closet. Basement to backyard. A month ago, my home looked great. Today, I’m not as happy with it. A month from now? I know it will look great again, maybe even better than ever! For me there is no real failure in recovery, just opportunity for self-discovery and growth.
Lee's "Old" Home Office

Rachel Seavey: Making a list of daily chores and sticking to them is an important part of learning how to become more organized. Thank you for being specific on your chores, and so honest about your personal process.  How long has this process taken you? When did you start and when do you plan to finish?

Lee Shuer: I started working on reducing my Finding and Keeping habits back in 2005. Becca, my wife of one year at the time, gave me the ultimate ultimatum: let the stuff go, or I go. This had a lot to do with there not being room in the home for her to have a life. No place for her identity. No space to display her art, or her aesthetic. I had too much stuff.

Lee's Home Office
I accepted help, and started to let things go, and stopped my constant acquiring. That was 9 years ago now. Just this January, Becca said to me, “Finally, this year, I’m happy in our home. Every year we’ve said that next year will be better. It’s finally better.”

That feels great. I’ve worked on this for both of us (and for our three fluffy cats who now have more room to play!) I think I’m past the hardest part of my recovery. My desire to acquire and save will probably never diminish completely, but my skills will be enough to keep those impulses in check.

A big part of my recovery process has been peer support. The folks who have attended the trainings and workshops that I run give me strength and inspire me to be a role model. I am driven by their energy. I want to do as much as I can to help myself and others, through the creation of new interventions and support group models, like the Buried in Treasures Workshop, and Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) for Reducing Clutter.
Lee's "Old" Living Room

Rachel Seavey: Most of my clients have the hardest time finding where and how to begin. What is your advice for someone with hoarding disorder who does not know how to begin?

Lee Shuer: Ask yourself, “How will life be better if I reduce my Finding and Keeping?” Your answer will be the prize that you keep your eyes on. When the road gets bumpy, and the light at the end of the tunnel seems dim, this hope may keep you moving forward.

I can’t tell anyone how to succeed, because I’m only the expert on myself. But I’ve seen this help a lot of people.

You’re not alone. Millions of us know what it’s like to have too much stuff, and the complications that it leads to. There are options for support and skill-building. Whether you find a Buried in
"Buster Friday Williams" one of Lee's Cats
Treasures Workshop or join a WRAP for Reducing Clutter Group, find a compassionate therapist, have a loving friend or family member, or join a Clutterers Anonymous group or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy group, help is out there. This is an amazing time to begin working on reducing your accumulation. You may even be the support that someone else needs to have success.

Rachel Seavey: Collectors you are not alone. Lee I love the question you suggest to ask yourself
“How will life be better if I reduce my Finding and Keeping?”
Collectors I love this question! It inspires me to transform it into an #affirmation of 
"My life will be better if I reduce my Finding and Keeping."
Lee, thank you so much for stopping by and giving such great answers! I hope our readers find the inspiration that you have found.  

To find out about the most current research and support options for people who collect and clutter go to or Lee Shuer's website,

Power to the Finders and Keepers!
Lee's Living Room

Lee's Bio: I am a Certified Peer Specialist, and an Advanced Level WRAP facilitator. I partnered with Dr. Randy Frost to create The Facilitator’s Manual for the Buried in Treasures Workshop. I created WRAP® for Reducing Clutter, based on Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan®. I authored The Mutual Support Workbook, for training mental health workers, as well.

Over many years, I have learned to live successfully with my own mental health challenges, and since 2000, I've strived to integrate the best of clinical and peer services. My work has been featured on,, Seoul Broadcasting System, Scientific American,
Nature, The New York Times, Le Monde de I'ltelligence, Canadian Public Radio,  WFCR,  P.E.E.R.S. Network Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and through speaking and training engagements across the United States (and Sydney, Australia, in September 2014!) 

I proudly received citations from the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives for developing meaningful employment opportunities for people living with mental health challenges in 2010, and was awarded the Outstanding Advocate award from the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, for raising awareness about peer support and developing self-help groups for people who collect and clutter, in 2013.
I live in Western Massachusetts, USA, with my wife Becca and our three cats.
"Honeybee Violet Shuer"

Rachel Seavey, Professional Organizer (and blogger) For Collector Care

Collector Care specializes in Hoarding Disorder, Chronic Disorganization and Professional Organizing. We  love what we do, and  provide realistic expectations and timelines. Please visit our website at  or call 925-548-7750
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Collector Care Chronicals: Extreme Cleaning and Hoarding Cleanup

Here at Collector Care no job is too big or small! What happens when squalor or squatters take over a foreclosed or abandoned home? We come in and clean up, that's what happens! I love hearing real estate agents and home owners gasp at the makeover of  the home after one of our deep cleans.
When we arrived to the location of our job we rang the bell but no one answered. I knocked softly, and then harder. Tony gave three hard "police" knocks. "Collector Care, we are here to organize your home this morning" I shouted in my high pitch voice. Shuffle shuffle shuffle we heard some noise behind the door. A small round shadow peeked through the crack of the door "Just a minute!" she shouted "I need to get dressed!" From the crack of the door 50 fruit flies escaped, and we could smell it was a level 5 hoard. We put on our hazmats suits and finished our coffee (not in that order). 15 minutes later she came back to the door, flung it open, and retreated to the back of the house. Taking that as our invitation, we entered the home. The smell of rotten food was overwhelming. It hit us right in the face like a baseball bat when we walked in. Barely getting the front door a foot open, we shimmied in sideways onto two feet of garbage in the foyer. I caught my balance on the side of the wall that was completely covered in black mold and spider webs. Phew, That was a close one, she had a full size broken mirror with glass on top of the hoard and I almost stepped down directly onto it. The commotion of us coming in caused three cats to scatter in all different directions, sending piles and piles of paperwork into avalanches throughout the front room. I think it was the front room, but I could not see any furniture. It was all covered in what looked like clothing, paperwork, food, garbage and human waste. Yes Collectors, when you are an extreme cleaner your nose can tell the difference between human waste and animal waste. I am a mom with pets also. Ok so, we still don't know where our client is but we have our bearings and it aint a pretty sight. "Good morning!" I shouted trying to figure out where she was (my clients love my high pitched voice by the way - especially first thing in the morning).
Our entire crew of six was now at the front door waiting for our instruction - and we needed to all come in and begin work. "In here!" I heard her grumble from the kitchen. You see, she was not excited to see us. Her landlord had told her that she had to clean her place up in 30 days or get out. She had lived there 20 years and the thought of moving elsewhere paralyzed her. She had two days left when she called us. There she was, in her robe, hair a mess, making herself toast in a squalor-ous (or at C2 we say "hoarderific" ) kitchen. My eyes scanned around and saw cockroaches, rat droppings, fruit flies and their droppings, silverfish, lots of pain killers, a ton (literally!) of unopened mail dating back to 1990, 4 trays of rotten strawberries (that's what I smelled!), and the rest kind of just blended in. The garbage heap was quite higher in the kitchen, at this point we were both about 3 feet up. I heard the crew coming in, and setting up in the front room. "The bathroom is broken. I am going to take a nap. Do what you have to do. Take everything but the cats." And there she went with a basket of strawberries in hand. I could see her go into her bedroom (she could not close the door on us due to the garbage) and lay down on top of a completely soiled mattress.  Within minutes I realized what she had meant about her bathroom. There were five gallon buckets throughout the home filled to the brim with human waste. By the end of the day we counted 15. There were cat boxes all over the place, with human waste inside of them. Some were overturned and soiling whatever was below and around it. Bedding and clothing were mixed in, jewelry, bags and bags of loose pocket change, food wrappers, rotten food and rats nests. Full size black widow families were in every corner of the ceiling, draping down there webs to the doorknobs of closets that had not been opened in years. Just another day at Collector Care. Determined to fix the situation we busted our tushies yall, and needless to say we pretty much flipped the place. Her inspection three days later passed, and the landlord personally called with extreme gratitude and amazement. Do you think your situation will shock us? Doubt it. We are non-judgemental, well trained and discreet. Our efficiency and attention to detail is what I pride our company on, as well as being sensitive to all of our clients needs. Call us. We are here to help.

Collector Care Professional Organizers & Extreme Cleaners
Serving Northern California, and anywhere else in the world. 925-548-7750
Licensed. Insured. Bonded.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

4.5 Natural Remedies To Keep Pests Out of Your Hoarded Home

Hello my Hoarding Disorder Collectors out there! I absolutely love working with you all. However, I don't like working with all the unwanted bugs and critters in your home. One problem I come across a lot are pest infestations. I have personally dealt with bed bugs, roaches, fruit flies, black widows, mice, rats and raccoons. I come home with random bites and swollen marks all the time.

And - I know you don't like waking up with a mouthful of fruit flies. I know you know something is scratching every night in the other room.  Let's talk about some easy, inexpensive solutions to help keep those critters out.

Disclaimer: We are not exterminators, we suggest that you please seek professional pest control help first.  Unfortunately (we hear this a lot ) pest companies will not come out and help you if there are not pathways, or clear access in your home. If you find yourself overwhelmed, try these natural remedies:
  1. Essential Oils: Using essential oils such as lemon, orange, clove, peppermint, and mint around the home will deter most bugs as they are turned off by strong odors.(
  2. Organic Ant Control. Spray ants with vinegar water. The low pH kills them without
    damaging most furniture. This is a great way to clean surfaces while you’re at it.
  3. Silverfish. Aromatic spices like sage, bay leaves and cloves are easy repellents for silverfish, because of their strong smells. You can put these spices inside porous sachets and use hooks to attach them inside your closets or behind your washing machine. You may also fill some decorative baskets with these sachets and lay these baskets near your baseboards.
  4. Rodents. Peppermint and Peppermint Oil. In just about every home remedy circle, you will hear that mice cannot stand the scent of peppermint or peppermint oil. Soak a cotton ball in the oil of peppermint and place it at a suspected entryway.
  5. Remove Food Supply. These pests are here for your crumbs and left
We hope you try out these natural home remedies for the pests in your home. If you still need help call us, and we will come over and help you. We will help you clear a path for maintenance repairs and pest control. We will throw away your urine/feces/whatever infested stuff and deep clean and sanitize your home for you. We will wash the fruit fly droppings of your walls and scrub your kitchen and bathroom clear of silverfish. That's how we roll. No judgement. It's time you start living a little better Dear Collectors, try starting with clearing your home of unwanted pests. 925-548-7750
Collector Care Professional Organizers are Licensed, Bonded and Insured.