BREATHING SPACE: the zen of clutter management

Joanna Rueter

Make a space that helps you! In addition to hands-on help, Joanna Rueter will meet with your group or collection of friends to discuss your particular organizing and space dilemmas. Any question is worth asking if it makes your life easier. Call or email your questions to Breathing Space c/o Planet Vermont Quarterly or Toll Free 866-277-7223 or email

Dear Breathing Space,

I’m sure you won’t like hearing this BUT I hate doing yard sales! It takes hours of work to set up. Then people come at the crack of dawn before the sale starts, and almost knock the door down trying to get the best bargains so they can go sell my stuff somewhere else for more. The rest of it just creeps along. I hate spending my whole day selling old stuff when it doesn’t make much different in the cash flow in my house! I have so little time with my family as it is. What can I do?

Truly annoyed.

Dear Truly,

It sounds as though you are someone who would be better off donating your “stuff” to a good cause. Find a yard sale/rummage sale being run by an organization you support or just take your unwanted belongings to a Good Will, Salvation Army, Hospice or Community Center that can help recycle your stuff in a way that gives you a tax deduction and doesn’t take up your time. Yard sales are a fun and practical event for some people—but definitely not for all. You were smart to ask.

Breathing Space

Dear Breathing Space,

I have so much stuff! I’ve decided that this year I will finally have the Yard Sale I’ve been threatening. Do you have any suggestions on making it worth while?

Thanks, Ready to sell.

Dear Ready to Sell,

For some people yard sales are a fun event. Sometimes a multi-family yard sale works very well as a group endeavor—with more human-power to cover all the tasks. You can take turns watching over the stuff on the actual day of the sale and make a kind of party out of it. As always- be prepared to have some glitches.

You definitely should price items before hand so you don’t have to figure how much something should be on the spot. You can always reduce prices if things are going too slowly OR keep them high if that’s what you need to get to feel good about having made the sale. Remember that the price is absolutely up to you and your desire to sell items. Sometimes a high priced item is purchased right away. It all depends.

It’s good to have a planned rain date and include it in the ad. Some newspapers have a special rate for advertising tag sales. Some will give you special signs for posting.

Hope this helps- enjoy!

Dear Breathing Space—

We are planning to sell our beloved house that we’ve lived in for 22 years! We are moving to a much smaller house out West so there’s no way we can take everything with us. Suggestions?

Westward Ho.

Dear Westward,

You have probably heard this before but it’s very hard to be objective about your own house—especially one you’ve lived in for a long time. You could invite a couple of friends over and ask them to pretend to be buyers and be absolutely honest about what they see as they move about your house— what they find appealing and what they feel needs some work. Perhaps they could take notes and then sit down with you and discuss their reactions over tea. Often realtors are willing to do this. It’s also something many professional organizers like to do.

One client who was focussed on building a new house asked me to simply come in and get her house ready for showing. She didn’t have the time or interest in making the changes herself. It was fun for us both. I packed up a bunch of her belongings to make more space and then placed the remaining furniture and knick knacks differently. I warned her that it wouldn’t feel like her house but she found that she really enjoyed living in the new look and the house sold soon after.

Feel free to call or email me for further thoughts—and best wishes for the next era!

Breathing Space: Making Your Space Work For You 802-365-9600 or Toll Free: 866-BRSPACE (277-7223)

Cover     Archive     Editorial mission     Information for advertisers     Links     Directory     Calendar     Submission guidelines    

Suggestions? Send us email