Category Archives: Decluttering

Lego Reuse Made Easy!

lego

Toys in general can be a challenge to donate as many thrift stores don’t take them. Now, according to Joan Verdon of Forbes Magazine, parents can add one more resource for re-purposing one of the most popular toys – Lego.

Lego has launched a pilot program, Lego Replay, that lets you print out a free shipping label and send back used Lego’s. Lego’s partner in the pilot, Give Back Box, will receive, clean, sort and repackage the Legos for delivery to Teach for America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. The pilot program will run through spring of 2020 and hopefully be expanded to other countries.

Other toy recycling options:

  • Toy consignment
  • Lego Reseller Bricks & Minifigs
  • Posting for free on your neighborhood email group
  • Donate to after-school programs

Read the full Forbes article here.

To continue the cycle of re-use, consider procuring your upcoming holiday gifts through consignment stores or online postings!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies, toys

Are You Covered? 3 Must-Dos for Home Insurance

Angel Lax Insurance Agent - 1

Angel Lax • Allstate Insurance Co • 510-634-1171

While organizing homes and offices, we are often asked what kind of documentation is needed in case of a loss.  So, we asked our friendly Allstate Insurance Agent, Angel Lax, for her help. Here is her advice…

Document Your Belongings

  • A quick video showing the contents of the house, including closets and basements. In clothes closet, show tags on designer clothes. Save this to the cloud via email, google drive, Dropbox, even a flash drive in your Safe deposit box.  Update regularly.
  • Special items: make sure your insurance agent knows of valuables such as jewelry, fine art, musical instruments or collectibles. If your homeowner’s policy has limits on these items you may need an additional policy or rider. If you don’t call out these more valuable items (“scheduled” in insurance language) you’re limited on reimbursement.
  • If you don’t have a list of lost items, the company will give you ~70%, depending on the company, of the “personal property limits” listed on your policy. Most of the time, that will be less than if you have good documentation of what you lost.

Organize Your Documents

Create an “insurance” file either in paper or digitally or both

  • Include the name of the company
  • Named insured
  • Policy number
  • Deductibles
  • For big-ticket items, note serial numbers and take a picture of the receipts to keep with insurance documents

Review Your Coverage

Make sure you are covered appropriately…have you contacted your agent in the last year or two? The agent will evaluate the value of your home, based on the size, condition and quality of your components. The quality ranges from economy to standard to above standard to high end. This rating informs the amount of coverage you need to replace.  For older homes, some companies encourage a 150% replacement cost plan which covers you in case you need to bring items up to code in the event of a loss. Or, if there is a pricing surge, like there has been in Sonoma and Napa counties, the extra percentage can alleviate that challenge…or if there has been an error in evaluating the value of the replacement.

Use this opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with your things and maybe clear out a closet or two. Even if you only do a few of the items above or only manage to inventory some of your rooms you’ll be better off than not taking any action – progress is better than perfection!

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Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, Strategies

Are You Ready For An Emergency?

earthquake

The earthquakes this week inspired a re-post of this valuable info!

In California we live with the possibility of wildfires and earthquake disasters year round. Being prepared can provide peace of mind, even if we aren’t ever faced with an emergency.

We know we should be prepared for natural or personal disasters. But we lead busy lives. Who has time to deal with something that MIGHT happen, someday?

There are ways to upgrade your disaster preparation without getting overwhelmed.

Remember ANY amount of preparation is better than none.

Most Vital: Procure and Store Water

Following a disaster, clean drinking water may not be available. Your regular water source could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. Experts say that you need to enough water for a minimum of 3 days, that’s 3 gallons per person or pet. But it’s better to have a 2 week supply.

 

Now that we’ve covered the most valuable resource, let’s choose just three of the next most important preparations and accomplish them.

Step One: Get a kit

If you are busy, purchasing an emergency kit is easier and faster than making your own.

Here is a great option from EmergencyKits.com with all the supplies the Red Cross recommends.

 

 

Emergency Backpack - 1

There are many vendors for earthquake backpacks.  It’s good to be able to customize your kit.

This kit also provides both bags of water and water purification tablets. The bags of water are not enough for 72 hours (which the Red Cross recommends). So the tablets are crucial. But to use the tablets you’ll need a receptacle for holding water. Add this collapsible water container to your order and put it in your kit and you’ll have enough water for 72 hours or longer.

While you are reading this article, click and order, and you will have accomplished Step One! Store the kit in your car for quick evacuation or emergencies on the road.

Step Two: Make a plan

An emergency plan refers to knowing who to call for help, how to get in touch with loved ones, and where to go if you need to evacuate your home.

Print one of these emergency card templates for each member of your family. Fill them out together as a family activity. Keep the cards in wallets or backpacks.

Step Three: Get informed

Next time you wait at the doctor’s office or are put on hold by AT&T, put these key contacts in your phone and copy them into your wallet. They are valuable sources for information during a disaster.

  • Safe and Well Website. To let your friends and family know you are safe, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Website. You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and select the prompt for “Disaster” to register.

Now that you see you can accomplish three major steps in disaster preparation, visit Ready.Gov to learn more emergency preparations you can incorporate into your life.

Thank you to NAPO-SFBA and Emily Fox for inspiring this post.

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Filed under Bay Area Services, Decluttering, Guest Experts, Perspective, Strategies

5 Containers Every House Should Have

 

Container for loose change (1)

A place for loose change. A change bowl, a basket, a pouch – it’s possible you need one in each room.

A place for dead batteries and fluorescent lightbulbs – dedicate a location to safely gather them.  Every city has regulations on how to dispose of these items.

A junk drawer — a place to put the miscellaneous utility things.  This also applies to kid toys…one miscellaneous box for the little bits that you find around.

An adequately-sized laundry basket.  The basket can be pretty, but it needs to accommodate the laundry you produce between wash sessions.

A donation box – make sure the container can be easily transferred to your car and replaced easily.  And keep it in the house, somewhere accessible.  If it’s in the garage, things will accumulate in the house and you’ll have a mess.  Especially with kids who are growing quickly, you need a place to catch outgrown clothes. It can be as simple as a grocery bag in each person’s closet.

Honor the fact that the container is a limiter; once the bin is full, it needs to be addressed:

  • Take the coins to Coinstar, or make an outing to spend your coins on an ice cream date.
  • Make a plan to go to your local hazardous waste facility to drop off stuff you can’t just put in the trash.
  • Regularly edit your junk drawer so it doesn’t become a complete mess.
  • Create a regular schedule for laundering to keep clothes at bay.
  • Set up a donation schedule. As soon as the collection bag is full, get it into the car and schedule yourself to drop it off…with a fresh bag in the closet to collect more cast-aways.

Try baby steps:

Monday – gather your coins into a container

Tuesday – label a baggie DEAD BATTERIES and dedicate a location to collect them

Wednesday – assign a junk drawer and clear out the true junk

Thursday – size up your laundry pile and procure baskets for each room

Friday – use a Sharpie to label a grocery bag and give one to each member of the family (and a general bag for the utility room)

Saturday – Congratulate yourself!  You’re organized!

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, home organizing, Strategies

6 Tips for Creating an Effective Homework Space

Study Habits

As Professional Organizers, we’ve literally been inside thousands of people’s homes, many of those families with school-age kids. One of the most common things we hear from parents is the frustration about having added a desk into their kid’s room for homework but then the desk ends up covered in stuff — clutter, toys, collectibles — and is used for everything EXCEPT homework!

We consulted Educational Coach, Lorina Daves Tornai, to identify the ideal components of a homework space. Here is what she shared:

Number 1

Keep screens out of the bedroom and in a common area to allow for casual supervision.

Number 2

Create a dedicated work space if possible, rather than use a common table like the dining room table.

  • 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 for $79

Number 3

Create space for basic supplies near the table – a rolling drawer unit works well to hold pencils, markers, scissors, scotch tape, paper.

Number 4

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

Number 5

Have visual and auditory aids to help with certain subjects.

  • Children’s dictionary with pictures and other reference books provides a tactile experience
  • Map of the world and of the US (laminated) helps them visualize geography
  • Wall calendar supports their understanding of days of week
  • Analog clocks support their ability to tell time
  • Using a clock or timer to split their time between different subjects teaches good time management
  • A 12 x 18 whiteboard with markers in the workspaceenables kid and parent to brainstorm/key words/map out stuff prior to actual writing process. Also useful for working out math problems.

Number 6

Make sure they eat before they do homework– protein is better than cookies…feeds the brain and provides sustained energy.  Think less bread, more nuts and cheese.

Back to that messy room desk covered in tidbits – that cluttered desk may be a symptom of a different need for your child – creative and display space! Is there dresser top, or bookshelf, or display shelves, or all 3 where they can lay out their collections and trinkets? Oftentimes the desktop ends up being the only space where they get to express their personality and show off their special objects.

Creating a intentionally designed homework space helps both the parent and the child take schoolwork seriously, supporting a lifelong habit of organization and growth.

 

Lorina Daves Tornai

Lorina Daves Tornai owner of Solutions for Learning, is an experienced tutor and dyslexia specialist with over twelve years of professional experience helping students ages 5 to adult in Reading, Writing, Spelling and Math.

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Filed under children, Decluttering, homework, Kids, School

3 Strategies for Sharing or Renting Your Home

organize your home for sharing - 1 (1).jpg

A great reason to declutter and organize your home is the possibility of leveraging it to rent or share or swap. Seeing your home through the eyes of guests can motivate you to pare down essential areas, streamline your own living style and in the process and create a more attractive place to live!

House swapping (HomeExchange) is a great way to eliminate lodging cost from a vacation. Short term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO) are a great way for empty nesters to earn some extra income. It can take a lot to get your space prepared to share – even partially – but comes with the added bonus of giving your home a refreshing makeover to make it more livable for you…and your family and friends.

Imagine someone walking into your home and saying, “What a nice place to stay!” You can achieve this effect without turning your house into a hotel. A few improvements can make a huge difference…and inspire you to do more. Here are 3 strategies to make this happen:

1 – Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

On visible surfaces — in the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom — clear out everything but the basics

  • Excess products put away or discarded
  • Clear the nightstand of dusty books and paraphernalia
  • Simplify the décor
  • Develop systems for managing laundry
  • Take care of any outstanding repairs that create safety issues

There’s quite a range from being very clean, neat, usable, but looking very lived in to making it look more like a hotel…very sparse. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but usable. If you are renting you can charge more for a more hotel-like environment.

2 – Create Space for Overflow and Personal Items

  • Make the house easily transformable to reduce the hassle of preparing to share. When you want to make it “guest ready” for yourself, for a relative coming to stay, for a party, or for a short term rental or house swap.
  • Make space in a closet or part of a room where you can secure your personal or valuable items for things you would put away when someone is using your space. You can even dedicate an extra room for this purpose and have a locking door.
  • Make space in cabinets or closets to store overflow items neatly but out of the way.

3 – Making Key Supplies and Info Accessible

  • Prepare an “Welcome to Our Home” cheat sheet with key emergency contacts, and basic instructions for things like TV use, internet access, and trash/recycling.
  • Make sure you have clean towels and sheets available and visible
  • Consider stocking the kitchen with a few basics such as coffee/tea to make guests comfortable

If you’re considering doing short term rentals, there are other considerations re supplies that renters might expect.  Places like AirBNB provide convenient list of things you should have stocked in your home

Not sure where to start? An organizing assessment with a Professional Organizer can provide you a punch list of things you could do, give you advice on the viability of sharing and also give you tips on what to tackle first.

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, home organizing, Kitchen, Living Room, Memorabilia, middle-age, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

5 Solutions For Bike Storage

wall storage from the Container Store

 

We love our bikes. But wouldn’t you love to use the real estate that your bike is taking up for something else?  Here are some options to storing your bike(s) that keep them tidy and out of the way. We hope these creative options inspire you to better integrate bike storage into your space, whether it be in your garage or your living space.

Walls

Bikes can hang by the tires perpendicular to the wall or can hang by the frame. Some wall mounts even pivot to the side so you can tuck your bike close to the wall. Check out Steady Rack.

SteadyRack

This system by DaHANGER mounts the bikes by the pedals. The bikes tilt away from the wall.

DaHANGER cycle storage

This system by MonkeyBars incorporates bike racks into their options for garage storage. (Note that this fits 4 bikes because they are staggered; 2 are hung by their back wheels which is harder to lift.)

Monkey Bars Bike Rack solution

Freestanding

No need to use a wall when you utilize tension poles. This pole, made by RAD Cycle Products can be adjusted to suit the height of your space.

These truly freestanding racks made by DeltaCycle are called “gravity stands.”  They can accomodate 2 or 4 bikes.

DeltaCycle Canaletto Free-Standing

 

Ceiling

Hang bikes from the ceiling and maximize your floor space. You can use simple hooks or pulley systems. This system is made by RAD Cycle Products

Ceiling hooks are another way to go.  This family stores multiple bikes on the ceiling of their high garage using simple utility hooks.

Floor Storage

Simple Floor racks like this one made by Swagman create a dedicated parking space so bikes don’t inadvertently end up in front of other things. Good as a last resort or for young children’s bikes so they can easily get them out themselves.

Do you have a great solution that’s working in your garage? Send us a picture!

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Filed under Decluttering, Garage, Kids, organizing, Products, Storage, Strategies