Category Archives: home organizing

Just In Case…Do You Know Where These Documents Are?

Checklist

Let’s have a show of hands.  Who loves to prepare for disasters and contemplate death?

…We didn’t think so.

Let’s have another show of hands. Who thinks of others and would like to make life easier on family and friends?

Here is a simple project to prepare for the unexpected. Regardless of the state of the rest of your house, these are the documents to keep organized and accessible just in case:

  1. Life or disability insurance policies and/or agent contact information. Don’t forget to include any coverage offered through your employer and/or auto insurance.
  2. List of assets and open accounts – you can gather sample statements or create a list of all accounts, loans, lines of credit, etc.. Make sure to include the safe deposit box key and information.
  3. Trust Document and/or name of your attorney
  4. Will
  5. Healthcare Directive and Financial POA
  6. Passwords and log-ins to unlock the phone or computer
  7. Medical cards and list of doctors/caregivers
  8. List of prescriptions
  9. Vital Records: Birth certificates, Social Security cards, marriage certificates, copies of drivers licenses
  10. If you own a business, who are the key contacts? What is your emergency plan?
  11. Funeral arrangements

Whether you are partnered or not, identify the person or persons who would be tasked with managing things in your absence and share with them the locations of these documents. It’s ideal to also keep a digital copy of these items and make sure your trusted helper has access to those as well.

Think of how much easier it will be for your loved ones, and better for you, if in the time of crisis they don’t have to dig through various drawers and files looking for information unsure what they may be missing. Creating a simple system for just in case is the kind of gift that provides peace of mind to you and to those who are left to take care of business when you can’t.

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, middle-age, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

5 Tips To Create An Organized Kitchen

Who doesn’t need a banana saver?

Kitchens are one of the hardest-working rooms in a home. They get used multiple times a day, often by multiple people. They have to house super high-use items such as cookware, dishes and silverware, and often very low-use items such as the ice cream maker or pizza stone.

If you’re lucky, when you moved into your home your kitchen was filled perfectly, where items you use the most were put in the ideal location, your bins and drawers were divided and labeled so everyone could find (and put away) what they needed.   Over time, even the best order in cabinets gets challenged by changes in the family needs and new additions to the stuff we own. Kids grow up, Tupperware lids get lost, cooking styles change, new equipment is brought in.

When it’s time to hit the reset button, follow these tips!

Tip 1:

Clear the counters or kitchen table so you have space to go through items. It can be helpful to have a few medium sized cardboard boxes on hand to group like items together until you find them all and have decided where they’re going to live.

Tip 2:

Work on one area at a time. Completely empty the shelves or drawers and give them a good wipe down. Refresh shelf liner if needed.

Tip 3:

PURGE! Toss out broken or chipped dishes.  Remove out of date food.  Take the time to match up all the food storage containers with their lids and toss the orphans. This is your time to re-acquaint yourself with your stuff – be realistic about what you use and create space to keep it by releasing things you don’t.

Tip 4:

Put things back in locations that makes sense and match the need to access them. The most accessible areas should house frequently used items. It makes sense to store dishes within reach of the dishwasher and large bowls near the prep area, for example.

Tip 5:

Use Organizing products to create more usable space.

Tiered Riser

Shelf risers maximize the prime real estate. And don’t forget that most shelves are adjustable; place the shelves where they make sense for YOUR stuff instead of just using their default position.

drawer dividers - 1

Drawer dividers help keep items sorted by size and use. In deep cabinets use drawers and pull-outs as much as possible. Bed Bath and Beyond and Container Store both sell pull-out shelves you can add to existing shelves. Custom pull-outs fully maximize the space.

Pull outs and drawers

Pantry storage containers and deep storage bins can be very useful to group types of foods.

If you’re going to tackle the entire kitchen in one session, plan for a full day. Otherwise set aside an hour per cabinet (2 to 3 hours for a pantry). Investing the time and energy into one of the most important rooms in the house will pay off every time you cook, put away groceries or go to set the table!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Products, Storage

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
IMG_8606

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

SUM_16_10009502_Shoe_Bin_R050516

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