Category Archives: home organizing

Sorting Out Kids Clothes

Are your children growing like weeds? … and are their dresser drawers overflowing with clothes that don’t fit?

In anticipation of the new school year, hit the reset button and make space in their drawers for their new wardrobe. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about the ongoing need to purge items that no longer serve a purpose – and possibly pass them along to someone who can use them.

Cycling Clothes Between Siblings

Saving good clothes for a younger child when the older one has outgrown them sounds like a great idea: Re-use, Recycle, Reduce – right?

The reality can be a messy pile stuffed onto a closet shelf or floor, a bag with mixed-up sizes and generally an inconvenient hassle to actually find what you want to re-use. Sometimes by the time you find the clothes, the younger kid is already too big for what you’ve found.

The easiest way to cycle clothes between siblings is to use storage tubs pre-labeled with sizes.

For clothes to pass on to a younger child:

  • Get adhesive label pockets for the outside of a medium sized tub. The Container Store has a few kinds or you can get them from an office supply store
  • Create a set of labels that will go into the sleeves that cover all the sizes that your child will outgrow. For example if your child now wears a size 4, create label inserts “size 4”, “size 5”, “size 6”, etc. You don’t need a tub for each size…just 2-3 tubs
  • Store the extra labels behind the current label, ready to swap out when needed
  • If you receive clothes from friends/relatives for your oldest, create a few tubs with those larger sizes as well to store them
  • If possible, store the tub labeled with the current size of each child in their closet so that as soon as you notice something is outgrown, in the tub it goes!
  • If you don’t have room for tubs, grocery bags can work in a pinch

For those clothes you want to save for other kids:

  • If you collect clothes to pass on outside your family create a specific tub names for that special cousin or friend
  • Always keep a donation bag handy in a kid’s closet – when it’s full, move it straight to the car and replace it with an empty!

Middle School and Beyond

The transition from child to tween is often a time when folded clothes start needing more room than small dresser drawers.

  • Bulky items such as sweatshirts and jeans often do better folded on open shelving in a closet
  • If a closet has been used for toys it may be time to retire those and take over the space for clothes.
  • If the closet only has a hanging rod it’s a good time to consider a makeover to reduce the amount of hanging space in order to add some shelving.
  • Graduate to an adult size dresser

You can save money, save the environment and build community by recycling your children’s clothes and passing them on when they’re outgrown. Start today by at least setting up 2 labeled bags: one for donations and one for your oldest child’s current size; you’ll be on your way to a sorted system.

Have you come up with a great sorting system? Share it in a comment here!

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Filed under children, Closets, clothing, Decluttering, home organizing, Kids, School, Strategies

Beyond the Junk Drawer But Before the Garage

tools-864983_640

Ever gone to find a battery or screwdriver from the junk drawer and the drawer is completely overstuffed? Do you find that handy household bits are routinely left around the house? Stuff left out on surfaces is an indicator that either there isn’t a dedicated home for it or the space they are supposedto live in isn’t sufficient.

What do you do?

Sometimes the proverbial “junk drawer” isn’t big enough to accommodate all the handy items you like to keep nearby. It does make sense to keep a certain amount of what we call “light utility” items close by in the house rather than having to schlep out to the garage every time you need a piece of string.

The usual light utility suspects include:

  • String and light rope
  • Packing tape painters tape, masking tape
  • Adhesives/Glues/Glue Gun
  • Batteries
  • Bike repair
  • Electronics cables/parts/Chargers
  • Furniture sliders and floor protectors
  • Locks and keys
  • Picture hanging supplies
  • Light work gloves
  • Rags
  • Lightbulbs

If you find you’re dedicating multiple kitchen drawers; too much valuable real estate with this kind of stuff, it can be worth an investment in a system beyond the drawer.

Good options are:

  • Tall rolling drawer unit. It can be stored in a laundry room, a closet or a pantry.
  • Stackable drawers that sit on shelves
  • Clear lidded boxes on shelves or in cabinets
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Labeling makes all the difference!

If you can, it’s always better to subdivide drawers and label. We have a “Miscellaneous Household” drawer where we keep both floor protection and picture hanging supplies (fishing line, crown moulding hooks, rubber chair leg tips and felt pads). Sometimes “Miscellaneous” works just fine; there will always be a certain amount of leftover items that aren’t enough to make a full category grouping in a bin or drawer.

This is an IRIS brand rolling cart – sold at Target and online

This wood-composite cabinet can also be found at Target or Michaels

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These clear stackable shoe and sweater drawers from the Container Store also work well for household items

The most important principle here is to consciously create a home for the things you store that fits the reality of what you own.  Be realistic. If you have more stuff than fits in a drawer, redefine the storage.  It doesn’t work to make a tiny kitchen drawer do the work of a large tool chest.

Go ahead and try it!  Set aside an hour, gather the tools and household bits, categorize and redefine your storage.  Take charge and make it work for you!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Laundry, organizing, Products, Storage, Strategies

Hiring An Organizer – Finding The Right Fit

Finding the right fit can take a little time, plan for that

You’ve finally decided to get some help tackling that closet or dealing with paper overwhelm.  How do you go about finding a Professional Organizer who will meet your needs?

Having been a part of an association of Professional Organizers for many years, both locally and nationally, we have met a lot of organizers.  We are struck by the wide range of differences between Organizers. There are varying levels of competencies, there is a tremendous amount of leeway in organizing styles and there are many different approaches to the work. Most important to realize is there really is no “right” way to be an Organizer; the perfect fit for a client comes from a mix of personality, skill sets, and process competency.

What Do You Need & Want?

The easy part is figuring out where in the home or office you need help. Closet design? Kitchen reorganization? Paperwork? Kid’s stuff? The harder part may be knowing who you’ll work best with. Organizing is such personal, sometimes intimate, work that it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about what personality types and approaches may work best for you.

Would you like working with someone who:

  • Lets you take the lead or is more directive?
  • Is high energy or more mellow?
  • Has a deeper psychological perspective vs. a “let’s just do it” perspective?
  • Can work virtually as well as hands-on?
  • Does all the work themselves or has a team of organizers?

An organizer for your closet project may not be the right match for your home office project. An organizer with a background in corporate admin would come at a problem differently than someone who comes from an interior design or counseling background. And then there are differences in rates, policies, and availability to consider. Getting clear on your desires and needs will help to hone in on the right questions to find a good fit for your projects.

Experience Matters, and…

There certainly is value in working with an Organizer with many years of experience, but someone who is newer to the field may have a rich work history which lends itself to organizing. Most people come to this career after having had a significant work or life experience where they used or developed their organizing skills.  Just because someone is new doesn’t mean they won’t be capable of handling a project; ask about their work or personal background to determine their approach and skills if you can’t ask for client references.

As our industry has developed, more formal trainings and certifications have evolved.  Some Organizers have chosen to go through a professional certification process which requires they pass a test and have met a minimum number of organizing hours (1500 hours within past 3 years). To maintain their certification, they must complete continuing education. These organizers will have a CPO® designation after their name.

How Do I Find An Organizer?

As with most services, word of mouth is the best way to get a great referral in your area – post something on Facebook or NextDoor to ask your friends and neighbors if anyone has a recommendation. Or look for reviews of organizers on Yelp or NextDoor. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals (NAPO) has a searchable database to find member organizers near your zip code: NAPO.net (national search) or NAPO-SFBA (SF Bay Area). NAPO also has a handy hiring guide on their website.

You’ll know you have a successful match when your Organizer’s style and experience blends well with your needs … and you work though projects efficiently and effectively. Remember, there’s no one “right” way to organize!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, professional organizer, Strategies

Nudge Yourself to Do the Right Thing

choices

Do you realize you’re being nudged when you drive within the lines on streets and highways? …or when you queue up in an orderly way at the theater because of the velvet ropes indicating where to stand?

“…a nudge is a way of framing choices that subtly favors the more desirable outcome. It can be a way of encouraging people to do what’s in their best interest, even when other perfectly human tendencies—such as the urge to procrastinate—are conspiring against them.” Nudge Yourself: Make Smarter Decisions with Your Money, Mark W Riepe, Charles Schwab

How can you use nudge theory to help you stay organized?

Kitchen: Using a silverware container with slots that match the shapes of the silverware.

Closets: You want family to help put things away…use labels! On shelves and containers in closets: pantry, linen closets, utility closets.

Entryway: Have dedicated hooks and/or cubbies or baskets for each person’s belongings…put their name on it if necessary.  If that isn’t enough, put an incentive in the empty cubby.

Garage: It’s easy to see where small hand tools go when there is a pegboard with outlines of the tool shapes showing exactly where each one lives. Tired of having bikes and scooters all over the garage?  Install bike racks and ball bins to make it easier to put things away.

Toys/Art Supplies: Dedicated containers for different types of toys and supplies with pictures on the fronts in addition to text labels.

Laundry: Tired of stepping over dirty laundry that didn’t make it into the hamper? Have multiple hampers in all the places dirty clothes get removed. One for each person if needed. Adding a basketball hoop mounted over a kid’s hamper is a great example of a fun nudge.

Mail: To encourage yourself to weed out the junk immediately when mail comes in, place a recycling bin, shred bag and trash can near where you actually stand to process your mail.

Starting a new habit: Despite good intentions, it can be very hard to start a new habit. Pair the habit with a routine task such as putting your vitamins by your toothbrush so you remember to take them every time you brush your teeth. You can also set a repeating alarm on your phone to nudge you to do a new task.

Remember, a nudge is an external cue that guides you to a particular behavior. It takes the decision to do something out of your conscious mind and makes the behavior more intuitive. Harness the power of your subconscious by setting up your environment to keep you organized.

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Linen Closet Rescue

LInen Closet Towels Folded

Opening the door to a neatly organized linen closet is truly a pleasure. Being able to easily put away sheets and towels, quickly find first aid or toiletry supplies…aaahh. Here’s how to go about it.

Start with a blank slate

Empty everything out into a laundry basket or nearby area and wipe down the shelves. Lining the shelves with contact paper is an added bonus. Follow the usual steps of SORT, GATHER LIKE ITEMS TOGETHER and PURGE really gets the amount down to what you want to keep. Toss out ratty towels or sheets and expired toiletries.

Towels

Separate hand towels and washcloths from bath towels. A basket or container can be useful to store these next to larger towels or they can just be folded on the shelf. Play with the folding of your towels to maximize how shelves are used. Folding in thirds often takes up less width of the shelf. Storing the towels with the folded edge facing out creates a very neat look.

If you know you or your family would never maintain a particular way of folding, don’t worry about it! Just make sure you limit your towel collection to what will comfortably fit on the shelf – no cramming and shoving to get them in there.

Sheets

There are different organizing options to choose from when it comes to sheets:

  • Rolled or folded together
    • Why bother folding at all? Space!  Wadded sheets that can’t stack or fit together tightly take up a lot more space.
  • OPTION: group each set into one of its pillow cases (fitted, flat, pillow case)
  • OPTION: group separate parts & sizes – all twin fitted together, all queen flat together, etc.
  • Consider keeping sheet sets in the rooms they go in to create more space in the linen closet
  • Low use sheets – such as for the guest bed or off-season, keep lower shelves or in the back.

Have you always wondered how to fold that pesky fitted sheet into a square?? Learn how here! (Thanks YouTube)

Toiletries

  • Open baskets or containers for often used or tall items.
  • Clear lidded (and labeled, of course) containers to separate by category – first aid, medicines, toiletries, travel size & accessories. The reason to use lids? Stackability! Use all that vertical space between each shelf.

Bath Mats, Beach Towels, Blankets and Pillows, Oh My!

  • Where possible use lower and upper shelves for these lower use items.
  • Zippered SKUBB containers have a bit more structure than the typical clear storage bags. These work well for pillows and blankets; you could even group together a guest’s favorite pillow and sheet set for their next visit
  • If your linen closet is crammed with your high-use items you may need to find homes for these things in other rooms or closets

Labeling

Label the shelf, the container with a tag. Painter’s tape or masking works well if you don’t have a label maker. Even if you aren’t channeling your inner Marth Stewart, labeling is especially useful to guide other people (spouses, kids, housekeepers) to help in putting away laundry and not making a new disaster out of the closet.

Try it for yourself!  Treat yourself to the luxury of an orderly and beautiful linen closet.

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Filed under Bathroom, Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, home organizing, organizing, Storage

These 3 Types of Paper Are Clogging Your Files

If you’re still getting these in paper form they are likely clogging up your filing system … or creating piles!

Pay stubs – They are informational only.  When you get your pay stub each period, check it over to make sure your vacation, sick balance and other deductions are accurate. If all is okay, you don’t need to keep it. Your W-2 form at the end of the year is the only record to keep for taxes. If you need written evidence of accrued benefits, keep your last pay stub of the year. That would have your year-to-date accumulations. If you get electronic paystubs, then for sure, shred the archived ones from long ago.

Expired insurance policies – once the term is over, the policy isn’t valid.  Having a claim or loss in the previous period, might justify keeping it. But most folks don’t have this issue and old policy statements can be tossed (shredded) when they expire. You’ll be surprised how many years back these bulky documents go. Hit all the categories – auto, home, life, umbrella, etc.

Monthly investment statements and activity confirmation statements. Once you receive the quarterly or annual statement, these documents are redundant.

 

BONUS! Banks and credit companies CYA privacy policies and term sheets. Have you ever had to refer to these in the lifetime of your credit card or account? They could trigger you to update your privacy settings with the institution (online or in writing) but if you know you will never get around to it, just let them go.  All these are available online.

Give yourself the gift of a clear desk or roomy files by removing things that just make you feel unsure and guilty. If you truly can’t imagine letting these items go, get them in a box (labeled, with a “date to destroy” in a reasonable amount of time) and store them far away from your active work space.

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Filed under home organizing, Office, Paper, paper organizing

The Reality of Tiny House Living

Hillary's Tiny House outside

Could you imagine living in a house this small?

Small and tiny houses have increasingly become popular and known. Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters TV shows have heightened the public’s interest in this style of living.

Tiny houses on wheels are often compared to RVs. However, tiny houses are built to last as long as traditional homes, use traditional building techniques and materials, and are aesthetically similar to larger homes. A tiny house is often considered one that is under 400ft2.

So, what’s it really like to downsize and live in a tiny house? We interviewed our friend Hillary who’s been living in one for the last 6 months. Her space is under 200ft2. The footprint of the home is 8.5’ x 18’ and it sits on a trailer.

Why did you choose tiny living? Basically, the cost of living. It was a creative way to afford rent, and work to live instead of living to work. Also, I was interested in the environmental benefits and owning less.

What surprised you most about tiny living? How comfortable it feels. I’m getting along really well! It took a leap of faith but there have been more positives than negatives. I’ve realized I don’t have to own a lot to be content.

What has been an unexpected benefit? Buying less stuff. Even less food. I don’t go to home stores anymore for random décor. I’ve saved money and affirmed to myself I don’t need as much stuff as I used to.

What has been the hardest part? Finding the right place to put my tiny home took about a year.  I ended up finding my landlord through an East Bay Tiny House meetup. He has 3.5 acres in Diablo Valley area so I am surrounded by nature but also able to connect into utilities. My water comes from a hose line. I have a direct electricity and sewer line hook up. I have propane tanks for heating water and gas stove.

Another challenge is the lack of space for food and clothes. Clothing storage has been the hardest. I still use some offsite storage at my mom’s house but hope to gradually eliminate that.

What was the process of downsizing your possessions like to prepare to move here? I’m still transitioning through the downsizing process because I’m still storing some furniture at my mom’s. Also, most of my book collection. I’m an English teacher and I’d really like to have my books with me but I haven’t figured out how to integrate them into the space. I still need to sell or donate extra stuff. I feel like I haven’t yet had the cathartic moment of truly releasing things that didn’t fit. Other people I’ve talked to in tiny houses have described how freeing it is to let go.  That said, I do realize that there are lots of things I haven’t needed or thought about for 6 months. I still want to take on the personal challenge of only owning what will fit in my space.

Kitchen, sleeping loft and bathroom

Tiny House Living Room and Entry

Kitchen, Living Room, Entry

STORAGE

Let’s talk about storage – how do you get by without a garage? Right now, I’m not fully addressing that; I still store low use items such snowboarding & camping supplies offsite. There is some space underneath the trailer where I can store tubs – I have my backpacking gear in a heavy-duty tote as well as extra blankets & shoes.

How have you had to modify your shopping practices? I shop more often and buy smaller amounts of things when I do. I’ve had to become more aware of what I’m buying. I still buy a few things in bulk and use the storage area adjacent to my sleeping loft to hold low-use pantry items such as baking supplies.

Storage loft with overflow pantry items

How do you get by without a closet and a dresser? The home does have a really thin closet – 1.5’ wide. I have to be very selective about what gets hung. Reducing clothes was hard because I like to have options of what I wear.  I use open crates in the sleeping loft for folded clothes.

Has living in a tiny house changed your relationship to stuff? Not dramatically, but I feel like I have a higher level of awareness of nice-to-haves vs. have-to-haves. And I’m OK with that. I realized I’m not feeling the loss of giving up on the nice-to-haves as much as I would have thought.

LIFESTYLE

How has the move affected your social life? Not too much. I do have folks come over. I haven’t had big gatherings but I have outside space so that could be used in good weather for gatherings. Having 2-3 people within the house is tight. Having over one extra person is pretty comfortable. I find myself sitting outside more often both when I’m alone or with others. Seating inside a little cramped, especially for tall or larger guests.

Do you have a full bathroom and shower? The toilet and shower are separate and spacious enough. They are average size. I have an on-demand water heater and originally I had a composting toilet but then was able to connect into the landlord’s sewer line so I replaced it with a regular flush toilet.

What life circumstances would have to change for you to feel like you have to move? I feel like I could live here indefinitely if I was living alone. Cohabitating with a partner doesn’t feel very feasible to me here.  If I had a child it feels like it would be feasible maybe for the first year or so.

What are people most curious about? Mostly they just want to know – “Is this working for you? Are you comfortable?”  Anyone who comes to visit quickly sees how doable it is!

Want to watch the entire interview? Let us know!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse