Category Archives: General Organizing

Purge That Pantry

Canned Food - 1

It’s not always this obvious when canned food has reached its expiration date

Does the thought of having to deal with expired food in your pantry keep you from organizing your kitchen storage? Do you dread putting groceries away because there is no room in the cabinets?  This might be a sign that you need a pantry purge.

Food waste is a big issue in the US. We have a tendency to over-buy food then let it go to waste. Screw up your courage and take a swing through your pantry and fridge to re-familiarize yourself with your own inventory and make a plan to use things up before they go bad.

But when do things really go bad? The product expiration dates on food can be a bit confusing. Here’s how they break down:

Sell-by:  A manufacturer set date when to take products off the shelf; but they may still be just fine for you. Properly refrigerated milk, for example, will last 5-7 days past it’s sell-by date before souring.

Best if used by/before:  This is all about when maximum quality and flavor will expire, not safety – except baby formula.

Use-by:  This is basically the exact same as “Best if Used by/before”. It indicates the expiration of peak quality of the product, not safety (except baby formula)

How to tell if it’s really gone bad? 

According to food safety experts it’s ok to trust your nose and taste buds to tell if something has gone bad. Another handy tool is the Food Safety App from the USDA – a quick search by product will tell you how long it should be good for unopened AND once opened. Once you determine that a food item is no longer edible, remove it from its packaging and put it in the compost bin.

What if it’s is still good?

Drop it by your local food bank, or into a collection barrel at one of the major supermarkets, or don’t be shy to post it online to NextDoor or Freecycle and offer it to neighbors.

Did you know that it is far better to use up food from your panty than donate it to a food bank? Why? It saves the food bank precious resources: schedulers, drivers, food sorters, and fuel.
When you donate cash instead of food the food bank can purchase their most-needed items…and usually get $7 worth of food for every $1 of donation.

And, don’t forget to check for expired foods in your earthquake kit! Have your earthquake food be part of your household food rotation; re-purchase earthquake food every six months and donate the older food to a food drive orthrow a disaster preparedness party and invite people to share their earthquake food, tasting different food bars and ordering fresh supplies. Look for long-shelf-life foods…some bars last 5 years.

Are you ready to take the plunge and refresh your food storage? Take a bite out of your resistance and commit to tackling one shelf at a time.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Strategies

An Un-Cluttered Mother’s Day

mothers day - 1

I think of Mother’s Day as a time to honor my mother and all those who have nurtured me.   What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day?

If you want to give a gift to a nurturing woman in your life, ask them what makes them feel special.

If you are a mom, let your family know what you want.  How do you want to remember this special relationship?  If you dread getting gifts you don’t really want or can’t use, take charge (and help them out) by suggesting a gift of some kind of service.  Does getting a massage or a pedicure or a ticket to a concert help you feel loved and appreciated?  Does receiving chocolate just make you groan with regret because you know you’ll just eat the whole box – at one sitting?  Let your people know!

Sometimes a personal note, written on nice stationery or a card can mean the world to someone who has cared for you.  This is a low-clutter way to honor your special woman.  Write your own true thoughts. A simple thing to do is make your own haiku. (3 lines; 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.)

The one who loves you   —  though you not deserve it —  and the love lives on

– Willy King

Just spending time with Mom can make the day special.  Focus on her solely.  Don’t let her deflect the attention away from herself.  Ask her questions; What makes you happy?  What’s your best memory of your mom? What have you liked best about being a mother?  What do you dream about?

If you feel like your family never acknowledges you or doesn’t give you what you want, give to yourself.  Part of being a nurturer requires you to know how to care for yourself.  Chances are you won’t buy yourself a gift that you can’t use or don’t love.

Plan a party to honor your mother.  Even if your mother is no longer with you, it’s heartwarming to raise a glass in her honor and toast what she did right.

What’s your favorite Mother’s Day memory?

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Kids, Perspective

5 Ways to Make Letting Go Easier

Freedom letting go

Here are 5 of the most common hurdles we see folks face when trying to shed off things they no longer use and need:

It’s Too Precious for Goodwill

  • Find a charity you like and believe in and one you feel really appreciates your donations – it will help ease your attachments and satisfy that need for things to go to a “good” home.

It’s Worth Too Much To Give Away

  • Are you sure? What you paid for it and what it’s worth now are rarely the same. Get confirmation from an auction house (usually can text pictures or bring things in on a free appraisal day). If you find out it’s not worth what you thought, you may be willing to just donate. And if it really is valuable you can sell it through a buyer or auction house.

I Don’t Want It To End Up In Landfill

  • Try Freecycle, Craigslist, NextDoor for items that are not donatable (particle board furniture).
  • Take advantage of the Bay Area’s unique donation options such as Urban Ore, East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use, and SCRAP
  • Some things really are trash and we have to accept that. The only way to stop that kind of outflow is not to buy it in the first place!

I Could Use This Someday

  • Beware of prioritizing the future over the present. Having a space crowded with “maybe, someday” can keep you from living fully in the present. You need to weigh that cost against the cost of possibly having to replace something if you do actually need it later.

I Feel Guilty Giving It Up

  • Ah, good old guilt. So impractical, yet so tenacious! Sometimes it helps to put the shoe on the other foot…would you want someone else to hang onto a gift you gave them solely out of obligation if they really didn’t need or want it?
  • Try a little ritual of appreciation to help relieve guilt before releasing an object. For gifts, take a moment and recognize the good intention someone had when they gave it. For other items, acknowledge the pleasure or service the item gave you. For example, to let greeting cards go, our friend Maggie thinks of the person who gave it to her and gives the card/letter/Christmas picture a kiss before she puts it in recycling

There are no rights and wrongs in your own process; as usual, you get to decide how much to keep and what to let go. Beware how much of a project you’re creating for yourself and how much are you willing to do. Keep in mind your larger goal of how you want your home to function and feel and let that be your constant guide!

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What Flavor Of Organizing Do You Need?

 

Did you know organizers don’t just organize?  Professional organizing comes in all sorts of flavors. Some organizers are more generalists and cover lots of areas; others pick one specialty and stick to that.  Have a look at the variety of challenges where professional organizers can help:

  1. ADD/ADHD
  2. Bookkeeping
  3. Business development
  4. Children and teen organizing
  5. Chronic disorganization
  6. Closet design and organizing
  7. Coaching
  8. Consulting
  9. Corporate operations
  10. Digital organizing
  11. Downsizing
  12. Eco-organizing
  13. Estate management
  14. Estate sales
  15. Event planning
  16. Feng Shui
  17. Financial management/Bookkeeping/Bill-paying
  18. Garage sales
  19. Garages/Attics/Basements
  20. Hands-on organizing
  21. Hoarding behavior
  22. Home inventories
  23. Home offices
  24. Home staging
  25. Household management
  26. KonMari organizing
  27. Notary Public
  28. Online sales
  29. Paper management
  30. Personal assistance
  31. People with disabilities
  32. Photography/Memorabilia/Collections
  33. Project management
  34. Psychology involved in organizing/productivity
  35. Records management
  36. Relocation and move management
  37. Social media
  38. Space planning and design
  39. Speaking and training
  40. Storage units
  41. Task and time management
  42. Team productivity
  43. Technology
  44. Travel prep
  45. Virtual organizing

No matter the size or scope of your project, we can help you find an organizer with the specialty you need! Ask us for recommendations or go directly to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals — NAPO.net.

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Filed under ADD/ADHD, artwork, Bathroom, Bay Area Services, Bedroom, Business Organizing, children, Closets, clothing, couples, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Moving, Office, Paper, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, School, Seniors, Storage, Technology, Time Management, Travel, Wedding

Using a Storage Shed to Help You Declutter

Usually when we talk about shedding we mean purging – today we’re talking about storage!

Don’t overlook your side yard and back yard as places to expand functional storage. It doesn’t take a huge footprint to add in a decent capacity storage shed.

There are many vendors of pre-made sheds in all sizes, shapes, and materials. Some can sit directly on the ground and some need a foundational base of concrete or pilings. Often a handyman can help with the preparation and assembly or the company you buy the shed from may offer that service as well. As an example, it took our handyman 10 hours to fully assemble 3’ x 6’ shed that did not need a foundation. So, don’t forget to factor in the cost of labor in the price of your shed.

Things to consider storing in a shed:

  • Tools
  • Bikes
  • Sports equipment
  • Camping supplies
  • Yard/gardening tools & supplies
  • Car supplies
  • Emergency supplies
  • Holiday decorations
  • Ladders
  • Extra paint and building materials
  • Out of season or size clothes
  • Memorabilia
  • Archive documents

If you’re storing things like clothes, papers, or memorabilia, make sure they are in tightly lidded tubs.

Sheds go beyond pure storage and can be working areas as well.  Some can be wired with electricity, have flooring, and function as small studio or office spaces.

As with organizing any space, be very conscious about how you populate it. Use the vertical space as much as possible by adding in utility shelving or appropriate hangers for things like ladders and bikes. Use larger, stackable tubs to group small items where appropriate and don’t forget to label them. Painter’s tape makes a quick, large label you can write on (use a thick marker) and change easily if needed.

Having extra storage is grand but beware – sheds can be a tempting dumping ground and quickly get out of hand!

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Filed under Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, Products, Storage

3 Tips for Solving Clutter Conflicts with your Sweetheart

Romance - 1

Remember those days of luxury when you lived by yourself and had total control over every inch of your space? It may or may not have worked for you, but you were the only person it affected.  But now you find yourself sharing space with your honey…and crap is everywhere*? &#!  If you find yourself doing battle around the clutter in your shared home, remember these three tips:

#1 Neither of You is “Right”

When we choose to share space with others we give up some of those rights of autonomy in exchange for having to compromise and make the home livable for all who use it. Negotiate change from a perspective of how spaces need to function, not who is right.

#2 Allow for Personal Spaces

Whether it’s a single drawer or cabinet or an entire room, it’s helpful for each of you to have some space that only you oversee and get to keep however you want. Have clear boundaries about who is responsible for which spaces. And decide which spaces are managed jointly. Good fences make good neighbors.

#3 Manage Your Own Mess First

It’s so much easier to see where the other person has a problem. But step back and take stock of your own clutter collections first.  Managing your own messes will help disarm your partner and show them you’re committed to making the home better for both of you.

Easier said than done, of course, and sometimes these conversations get waylaid by emotional charge.  Tackle one small area at a time to build up the communication skills and get help if you get stuck! An objective party – a trusted friend, therapist, or professional organizer – can help you separate out and solve the practical issues of decluttering. Remember your goal: creating a home that nurtures your relationship and life together. Co-managing a home is one way to show love and respect for your sweetie.

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Marie Kondo’s Organizing Inspires Lasting Changes

marie kondo tidying

Marie Kondo is at it again with her new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. You may already be familiar with the KonMari method through her hugely popular book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

We live in a culture of consumption that really values volume. Coming from a totally different culture, Marie Kondo awakens us to a Japanese way of looking at our things. At the heart of her de-cluttering approach is the Shinto belief of animism– that objects have energy and a life force that should be acknowledged and honored. Usually the object of any de-cluttering method is getting rid of stuff. Kondo’s approach changes the focus of purging. Instead of analyzing objects for their functionality in our lives, she trains us to sense the energy within our possessions …and only keep those that inspire or create joy.

Explaining her process to someone getting overwhelmed Kondo says: “The point of this process isn’t to force yourself to eliminate things, it’s really to confirm how you feel about each and every item you possess.”

Kondo’s technique is very spiritual and holistic – gets you out of your head and logic and into your heart and emotion. She’s asking what you want to carry forward with you in your lives.The end result of the process is an uncluttered home and a clearer relationship with the things you own.

Key takeaways from the show and book:

  • Going through this process takes time and commitment! In the show, take note of how many weeks it takes to get through each scenario
  • Fine tune your ability to recognize how objects make you feel by holding things you know you love – pay attention to how you feel; it “sparks joy” for you
  • Tackle memorabilia last
  • You don’t need fancy organizing products to declutter
  • The KonMari method can work across all types of family structures and life scenarios.

Are you feeling inspired to try a new approach but daunted by doing it on your own? We can help…some professional organizers are trained in the KonMari method, including our own Katherine Korlacki! You also don’t have to implement the KonMari method exactly in order to make progress – use the parts that inspire you and get support to get through the decision-making process. Your de-cluttered life awaits!

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Office, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies