Two years ago, I invited Bettina Blanchard into my home to help me clear out and paint my favorite room. At the time, she was still running her business All in Place and for the most part, helped people clear clutter, clean and become better organized. I had hired her three times before — once to help me organize my office when I worked outside my home and the other times as gifts to my daughters.
Bettina taught me a thing or two — about things you think you need that you don’t, for instance. When she tackled the bookshelf in my office, she asked why I had so many binders. All filled with paper. They were from various workshops and conferences I had attended. She asked if I ever referred to any of them. For the majority, the answer was no, but I might. The next thing I knew, we were emptying one binder after another. We threw the paper into the recycling bin and the binders went to Goodwill. It had never occurred to me that I could simply remove the papers and pass along the binders.
In my soon to become a library at home, she encouraged me to go through my stuff and put it into piles — keep, throw away, donate. And then, to take action. Don’t just leave the piles to deal with another day. I’m now working on cleaning out my barn loft and I confess that sometimes I forget that rule. When I don’t, it comes back to bite me. I was up there this weekend and peered into a garbage bag I’d filled with old papers a month ago. I was 85 percent sure I meant to burn everything but didn’t dare until I pawed through it all again. They’ve now been burned.
Bettina & Company
Bettina’s business is now called Bettina & Company. She still helps people organize and get rid of clutter and simplify their lives. Only now, as she puts it, “I stay focused on helping our clients make decisions and my staff members do the legwork.” She and her team help people move, get their house ready and staged to sell and/or learn to love where they live. Wherever they live she wants them to be happy and to enjoy their lives. Her motto: be organized to live, don’t live to be organized.
Her business tagline is Life Simplified — although I have to say, she is so full of energy and interested in so many things, her life doesn’t seem simple to me. In addition to running the business, Bettina also sends out a weekly newsletter called Life Simplified and an early morning email called A Daily Dose of Life Simplified. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from the daily dose.
- Make the important easy to implement
- Memories live in our hearts, not our closets
- Don’t put it down, put it away
- Just in case…means you can live without it
One thing Bettina can’t live without is music. In fact, she brought along her beloved accordion when she was at my house and serenaded us during our lunch break. (Sorry, no video.) The end of her song is not the end of her story, though.
Bettina is also a fellow BDN blogger. The name of her blog is, of course, Life Simplified. I grabbed some words of wisdom from a post about downsizing. These are her top 10 tips to help you downsize with ease.
1. Shift your thinking from how can this be useful? to can I live without it?
2. Do you love it? Does it fit and flatter? Does it spark joy? (thanks, Marie Kundo)
3. Keep fewer containers (including furniture) and you will keep fewer things.
4. Redundancy is overrated. Why keep two when one will do?
5. If an item has an emotional tug, take a picture, then let someone else love it.
6. Minimize the mementos and maximize the white space.
7. Find a charity or three, antique dealer or two, and give yourself a deadline if you are going to sell things yourself.
8. Don’t overfill your new home. Nothing makes something seem small than too much in it.
9. Moving is expensive. The less you take with you, the more you save.
10. It’s never too late to donate. Even as you unpack, remember that “maybe” means you can live without it.
And I’m not sure where she finds the time or the energy, but there’s yet something else she fits into her schedule. She also co-hosts a weekly radio show on WMPG with Ross Golberg. It’s called … what else? Life Simplified Radio.
How does she manage to keep her life simple with all that she does? She stays organized and she has fun. She’s also passionate about what she does and it shows.
But enough about Bettina. Let’s get back to my room. It was meant to be a library, but we ran out of money and time and energy. That was 20 years ago. Even unfinished the room always called to me. It’s small with angles and a little nook and a fireplace. The morning sun streams through the windows which overlook the backyard — bee hives and bird feeders. When my daughters were young they often used the room for craft and painting projects. I never worried about paint or glue or whatever dripping on the floor because it was a subfloor. Their works of art were taped up on the walls, which were unpainted. When I started to blog from home, it became my office.
Our vision was to have a wall of bookshelves, floor to ceiling. Filled with all the books we had stored in boxes up in the barn loft. Bettina not only helped me clear the clutter that had accumulated in the room, she also painted — at one point, scolding me for not helping more. I confess, I was just standing there watching her in awe. She’s a whirlwind.
With the room cleared out and walls painted a serene shade of blue, my husband and I decided it was time to lay down a floor and build the bookshelves. Under the guidance and skilled hands of my brother-in-law Bill Vondras, the two of them got the job done.
It might never have happened without Bettina. She lit the spark!
Can you see why this is my favorite room?