Creating Space for Distance Learning

homeschooling-5121262_1920With the new reality of distance learning for children, it’s even more important to carve out space for them to do their work. Our colleague, Educational Coach, Lorina Daves Tornai reminds us that parents are scrambling to create more permanent schoolwork spaces at home…and fast! School is starting early!

Here are some parameters to follow when making space for homeschooling.

Create a dedicated work space

  • Try not to depend on a common-use table like the dining room table
  • Identify a location that is in a public area of your home. Children need supervision–especially when they are accessing the internet
  • Set against a wall with a stationery chair (rolling chairs turn into toys!)
  • Ideally long enough so an adult can sit with them to help when needed
  • A 2’ x 4’ folding table can be ideal, multiple tables can be put together for large projects
  • Small wooden desks are too limiting and kids outgrow them

    2 x 4' folding table - adjustable height

    This 2′ x 4′ folding table is height-adjustable and is available at ULINE, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc.

Create space for basic supplies nearby

A rolling drawer unit works well to hold pencils, markers, scissors, scotch tape, paper.

3-Tier-Cart

Contain paper

Magazine Files work really well for managing handouts and work in progress so paper doesn’t end up in stacks on the desk.

magazine holder

Declutter

You can enhance your child’s learning and attention by removing distractions. In the process, you’ll simplify your surroundings and make tidying easier for all.In addition, creating a intentionally designed schoolwork space helps both the parent and the child take learning seriously, supporting a lifelong habit of organization and growth.

Get help

If you need help reimagining your home and the potential it might have for multiple workspaces, consult an organizer.  We tend to think out-of-the-box!

 

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Filed under children, Decluttering, homework, Kids, organizing, School, Strategies

Make Space with a Custom Shed

1 Shed Project - 1

5 Shed Project finished- 22

I met with a client who has a small house but it has no garage. And even though he doesn’t need a whole lot of storage, he didn’t have a place to safely store his bicycles.

I suggested he build a shed in the yard. We asked the landscape architect to design a long shallow shed that would match his house – with wooden shingles. 

The bid we got from a contractor was over $25,000. 

We went back to the drawing board. After doing some research – checking out plastic Keter and Rubbermaid sheds (not sturdy or big enough) and Home Depot (styles not flexible enough) – we found that we needed to have a custom-made shed. We reached out to the Shed Shop, a long-established company based in Hayward. 

Since we had all the measurements and provided photographs of the area, the Shed Shop didn’t need to come out for a site visit. And the brick walkway was sufficient as a foundation for the structure. (Sometimes they need to pour a foundation and that adds an extra couple thousand dollars.)

Though many of the elements of the shed are predetermined by the Shed Shop, some of the features we could customize were:

  • final location of the shed
  • size and number of doors
  • the height of the shed
  • windows
  • paint color
  • roof shingles

Electricity was even an option. Since it wasn’t necessary, we didn’t need a permit to build the shed.

Once all the decisions were made, we made an appointment for the install. A couple weeks later, the Shed Shop team showed up with the components and built the shed on site in a few hours.

It turns out that we could get a shed that met the needs of the client and painted to match the house for under $5000.

We ended up with a roomy 14’ x 3’ shed that is 7’ tall and fits neatly in his side yard.  It stores all the things he would normally keep in a garage and makes his house feel much more spacious. 

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Filed under Closets, Garage, home organizing, Products, professional organizer, Storage

5 Closet Editing Tips from a Personal Stylist

Denitsa Shopova - Image Consultant - 1

We asked image consultant, Denitsa Shopova to provide some tips on how to choose which clothes to keep and what to let go of while organizing a closet.

Do you know what it feels like to go to your overstuffed closet in the morning to get dressed and feel you have nothing to wear? This is not uncommon!

#1 Store your clothes together

Have all your clothes in one closet if possible. You can do this!

#2 Make the most of your current wardrobe

Maximize the potential of your current wardrobe before investing in new clothes. You would be surprised what you actually own and can be restyled.

#3 Create outfits

Arrange your clothes into categories of different styles and color themes so it’s easy to grab and go that provides stress free mornings. It’s also inspirational.

#4 Complementary colors for eyes:

• blue eyes: gold, copper, peach, warm browns
• green eyes: plum, violet, wine, pink
• golden brown eyes: eggplant, lavender, magenta, lilac, sky blue
• red-orange brown eyes: turquoise, navy, emerald, seafoam
• almost black eyes: bronze, coral, sand, terra cotta

#5 To let go of clothes that don’t serve you anymore, ask:

• Does this suite my personality?
• Does this complement my shape?
• Does it fit me right now?
• Does this work with my current lifestyle?
• Is this in a good condition?
• Does this color suite me?
• Am I happy wearing this?
• Have I worn it in the last 12 months?
• Why am I holding onto to this item?

Editing your clothes is often easier if you sort by type first rather than going through things one by one. That also lets you see where you may have lots of similar items and can pare down to just one or two of that type. Remember your goal – make space for the items that make you feel great!

If you feel stuck, ask for help! An investment in a clothing stylist can save you from uncertainty and hours of time shopping because you’ll know what looks (and feels) good on you. And, Denitsa can work with your virtually!

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, clothing, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

5 Organizing Myths Banished

These are common myths that we tend to tell ourselves. They can hold us back, make us feel bad and make organizing harder than it needs to be.

1. I just need to try harder. This is a simple thing… Just do it!!

Not everybody is a linear thinker.  You need some linear thinking to do the process; getting the macro view helps to identify what to do first or second or last.  You might need some coaching help to identify your vision and how to prioritize things. It’s not about being lazy or industrious, it’s more about how your brain works and gaining objectivity about your own stuff.

2. I could knock this out in a couple hours if I just put my mind to it.

If you usually find organizing pretty challenging, it’s not reasonable to expect you can handle an overwhelming situation in a short period of time. And, if you think a week of solid work would do the trick, can you imagine how exhausting it would be to shift to “organizing mode?” and make it last for days? Be realistic about your time estimates and plan to work in stages.

3. My partner/spouse/children will be absolutely delighted when I get organized.

The fact that someone isn’t experiencing the clutter as a problem might mean they won’t be invested in the solutions.  Everyone has a different tolerance level for clutter.  If they don’t experience it as an issue, they might find it disruptive if you go and make changes independently.  It’s good to do some legwork, but try to get buy-in on what the solution will look like so you’re not imposing your vision on someone else and expect them to maintain it.

4. I need pretty (and expensive) bins to be organized…and bins will automatically make me organized.

Buying containers put the cart before the horse. You need to know what you’re storing, why, and where before you know how to contain it. A shoebox can work just as well as an attractive woven basket. First focus on the function that the container needs to fulfill and then buy or repurpose one that fits your budget and style.

5. If I’m not born an “organized person” I will never be organized.

There’s lots of way to get help: blogs, accountability buddies, or working with a professional organizer. Part of our mandate as professional organizers is to transfer skills to the client that they can carry forward.  Even though organizing can be easiest for those who naturally think a certain way, techniques can be learned by just about anyone.  Working with a professional can help you acquire those skills.

Give yourself a break and ask for a helping hand. It might not take as much as you think to get past your roadblocks.  You’re not alone in this, help is available.

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies

COVID and Hoarding

 

Sue Zee Poinsett, a long-time Professional Organizer and Hoarding Specialist shares a compassionate perspective on hoarding that we can all relate to during this health crisis.

COVID and Hoarding

I think most of us would agree that there is nothing good about Covid-19.  It seems to have tipped the universe onto its side and caused so much of what we knew to become unfamiliar.

Take the experience of going to the grocery store:  I have done it for many, many years and, until Covid, found it to be a rather mundane but necessary experience.  Now I worry about when to go, what to buy, and how much of it I need.  I have watched people leaving stores with baskets full of common items like water; that’s right, water, the stuff that comes out of the faucet. I have witnessed people racing to the personal care sections of the store and have seen rows of empty shelves because people wanted to make sure they have enough.

People are never sure they have enough because every day someone suggests that another thing we count on may not be available, so they rush back to the store to get more eggs, butter, meat, and always toilet paper.  In the early days of this pandemic there were long lines, short tempers, and I think we all experienced some form of “better pick up an extra just in case…”

The reason I bring this up is that I think this is an opportune time for us to gain some emotional understanding of hoarding disorder.  It would appear that the virus has caused us to develop a disposition for hoarding, and I am hoping it might also help us better understand those who always have too much stuff. Although the word hoarder is often used in the sentence; “I have a lot of stuff but I am not a hoarder”, I think many of us have now had first-hand experience of an emotional component that activates hoarding behavior.  Some of us have become that person who worries about having enough and who feels comforted by getting more; the person who forgets what they have bought and buys more “just in case.”

Our need to buy and keep too much stuff in response to this pandemic does not rise to the level of hoarding disorder but can inform us of what goes on inside those who do actually hoard.  The need to feel we “have enough” is very human and at times of stress the concept of “enough” becomes a bit tricky.  Those who hoard feel they never “have enough” and continually get more “just in case.”  Feel familiar?  (I have even tried freezing milk since I became worried there might not be enough for my morning coffee.)  Then there is the idea of keeping things, just in case.  That frozen milk is still in my refrigerator, just in case; and I still have the 17 masks I have been given or bought, even though I mostly wear a bandana.

There is more to be understood about hoarding behavior than there is to be mystified or repulsed by, and I hope that we can all look at our behavior over the last few months and see the very human part of wanting, getting, and keeping too much stuff.

__________________________

Sue Zee Poinsett, MA (Masters in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling) began her career teaching in junior and senior high schools in the Los Angeles area.  She moved on to a career as a mortgage broker and then earned a Masters Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling as well as one in Education. For the last 20+ years she has worked as a Professional Organizer specializing in work with adults with ADHD.  She became particularly interested in hoarding behavior in her work as an organizer and was one of the founding members of the Marin County Hoarding Alliance and has been an active member since its inception over 10 years ago. Her understanding is based on research and study and is informed by her many years of professional organizing.

Her email is suezeep at att.net

 

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Filed under Decluttering, disaster, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Seniors

What To Do With Your Old Cell Phones?

old phones - notes from the junk drawer - 1

Check out our video interview with Mac/Apple Coach Ben Rosenthal of Sustainable Computing as we discuss all the options for dealing with old phones – how to clear your personal data and what choices you have for getting rid of them!

What to do with old cell phones? - 1

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Filed under General Organizing, Guest Experts, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Technology

Pandemic Purge – A Closet Story

closet clutter

Is junk getting in the way of a clear view?

This week we share the firsthand account from one of our clients who used her time at home to tackle the bottom of her master closet where lots of household stuff had accumulated. She used the S.P.A.C.E. technique developed by Julie Morgenstern where she completely emptied the area and did a sort before she put things away.  We hope you find it inspiring, let us know if you need any help making a plan of attack for your own closet!

The Pandemic Purge

There were no excuses this time.. the plethora of stuff shoved in my closet behind all the hanging stuff was lurking, and with more dead time than normal I decided to take on the job of the one closet I so avoided on every prior cleaning endeavor. Let me back up, I am the type Kondo would disown as a friend about five days into the upkeep of prior organizational tasks. But I figured if things were purged, they wouldn’t be there to reappear.

I vowed to give it 2 hours a day, and a 5-day timeframe. And stuff I debated, left out to re-think the next day and hopefully move to the discard pile. And that I would commit to “trash day” and be done by our pickup day.

What I discovered was 3 teenager’s worth of paperwork, some old projects that were not ever going to be missed, old report cards (with C averages that we wouldn’t necessary be sharing at a dinner party anyway), and an ex-husband/and ex-boyfriend worth of photos and random cards I once felt too guilty to recycle. Tons of old random frames I took old photos out of and scanned. And gifts I thought about regifting (don’t grimace, you’ve done it). All badly boxed and shoved in miscellaneous areas.  Skeletons or past lives in the closet? Ya. Pretty much.

What I ended with was three small folders to give our now 25 and 26 yr. old’s, and no “baggage.” I felt SO liberated and the peace that comes with being mindful of recognizing this stage in life, embracing where I am it, and what components of it are meaningful. Narrowed it to four simple small boxes that I labeled.

Great to know I have a functional closet, but the unanticipated reward was closure and the weight off in that space that I never knew I was carrying.

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Make S.P.A.C.E. in the Pantry – VIDEO

 

Pantry Organizing

CLICK to watch the full 4.5 min video

The pantry is another area that you can tackle while you have time on your hands. It might be both entertaining and educational for young children to help with this. Again we will use the the S.P.A.C.E. process for organizing, developed by best-selling author and organizer, Julie Morgenstern. You can organize anything using this system.

SORT – Pull out everything (ideally) or by shelf or category and sort into category groups. It helps to make temporary labels to make the process go more quickly:

  • grains, pastas, beans
  • packaged mixes/sauces
  • baking related: flour, sugar, baking soda & powder, cocoa, decorations
  • snacks: chips, cookies, crackers
  • dried fruit, nuts
  • canned goods
  • oils and vinegars
  • spices
  • cereals
  • teas
  • coffee
  • paper products

You’ll often find that there are different categories of items (hardware, for example) stored in unorganized places like a pantry.  Separate those out and dedicate a location to sort and store those items later.

PURGE – eliminate expired items and items you had good intentions around but know you’ll never eat. Offer non-expired items to friends or drop-off in a food collection barrel available at many supermarkets.

ASSIGN A HOME – Re-evaluate the available real estate of your pantry. High use items do best in easily accessible places.

CONTAINERIZE – There are a few different products that can help with maximizing space in a pantry. Tiered shelves work well to keep canned goods and spices visible. Lazy susans work well to keep oils accessible, shelf risers are a great way to maximize vertical space in a cabinet, and small open bins are a nice way to group and contain bulk packages or soft packaged items.

EQUALIZE – Remember, life isn’t static and you’ll continue to have new influxes of food supplies regularly. As tastes and eating habits change, so should your pantry system. It’s good to plan a reorganization at least once a year – this is the step to EQUALIZE your systems with your stuff!

Experience the joy of an organized pantry that, especially when shelves and bins are labeled, everyone can contribute to keeping tidy.

Pantry Before and After

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage, Strategies

Location, Location, Location

Be choosy about where you let things live in your home

Be choosy about where you let things live in your home

Do you feel trapped at home and the need for more space? Tackling some of your organizing projects is a good way to take control and free up some real estate. Have you ever looked around your house and thought about the value of the different storage spaces inside your home? Particular drawers and shelves and closets?

Have you consciously chosen where items live? Or do they end up living wherever they happen to fit?

Places in your home that are easily accessible and highly functional are PRIME PROPERTY! Things that reside in these prime locations should be items you use frequently and are of high value to your life.

Often we see cabinets and drawers filled with items that aren’t very active – crowding out active items onto counters and floors or into hard-to-reach places.

Prime real estate includes:

  • The top 2 row of drawers in any cabinet or desk
  • The center 2 shelves in upper cabinets or closets
  • The spaces within arms reach on your desk when you are sitting
  • The top drawer of a 2-drawer filing cabinet
  • The 2 middle drawers of a 4-drawer filing cabinet

Storing high-use items in the most accessible places in your home makes life easier. For example, if you prepare lunches daily having your sandwich wraps and/or lunch containers both near your food prep area and in a higher drawer make lunch-making more convenient.

So, when you’re putting things away…after a move or after a grocery-shopping trip, ask yourself:

  • Where will I want to find this?
  • What other collateral items will I need to use with it? (see Friends with Friends post)
  • Do I use this often enough that it needs to be more more accessible?

Take a fresh look at how you’re using your storage spaces and replace the things that don’t belong with items that earn their right to live in your prime real estate.

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Filed under General Organizing, organizing, paper organizing, Perspective, School, Strategies

Trouble Letting Go? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Declutter QuestionsIt’s easy to get stuck when you’re trying to pare things down, either just to clear clutter or in anticipation of a move. As organizers, the coaching we do with clients helps them slow down their thought process and ask objective questions.

Here are some questions to help frame your perspective as you consider the true value of items in your home:

  1. When is the last time you used this?
  2. Would you buy this again today?
  3. Is it worth the time/energy/money to pack, move, and unpack this item?
  4. How does this add value to your life?
  5. Would you really care if this was lost in a fire or flood?
  6. How many of this item does it make sense to move/keep?
  7. Could you replace this in under 20 minutes for under 20 dollars?
  8. What do you gain or lose by keeping this?
  9. If you keep it, will you remember you have it?
  10. What’s the worst thing that would happen if you let this go?

This process isn’t about letting go of everything, it’s about having clarity about why you’re keeping things.  To spark reflections and interrupt your immediate response to the question, “should I keep this?”  For most of us who tend to hold onto things, the answer is “YES!” because we haven’t put the thinking into it.

Our possessions tell our story – edit what you have to keep the best story of yourself. Think of writing haiku instead of an epic poem like The Odyssey!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Moving, Perspective, Strategies