Category Archives: organizing

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

Identifying Root Causes of Clutter

root causes

You know the clutter in your house is making you feel terrible and you want it to change. But are you aware of why it’s happening in the first place? Often the first thought is self-loathing…”I used to be able to handle this, what is wrong with me?”

You’re not alone. Clutter is a fact of life for many people, people don’t feel good about it, and they put blame on themselves.  As organizers, we try to get a sense of why the clutter is happening in the first place. Before you descend into guilt or run out to buy containers, think through the why a little more thoroughly…when clutter happens, it can be a symptom of bigger things going on in your household.

SITUATIONAL BUILD-UP

Sometimes the clutter is completely situational – the change could be major or minor. Minor disruptions include:

  • Returning from a trip and haven’t had time to unpack
  • Family members have been sick recently
  • Being consumed by particularly busy period at work
  • Hosting visitors

Major life events include:

  • Home remodels
  • Having a new child
  • Getting married or divorced
  • Death in the family
  • Change of job
  • Major injury
  • Extensive travel
  • ADD or other new diagnoses

These events can tax the bandwidth that you used to have to clean up the house AND changed life situations always require a revisit of your organizing systems.

LACK OF HABITS

Staying abreast of clutter build up requires implementing new habits of getting things back to their homes. We often say that being organizing doesn’t mean you HAVE to be neat but being organized gives you that option when you want to do clean-up/pickup. To avoid minor build up turning into a major dig-out effort, you have to create routine habits of putting things back where they live.

If you go to clean up and find yourself thinking you don’t really know where it lives or there’s no good place to put it that’s a clue that it doesn’t have a good home – see the next section!

NO GOOD HOME

“Don’t just put it down, put it away”…easier said than done if there is no assigned home for things. How often have you heard (or spoken) the phrase, “Go clean your room!”  Well, if the room hasn’t been set up with good homes for their things, you might as well say, “Go build a rocketship!” Everyone needs to learn the basic principles of organizing.

A good home is created by design rather than by default.  The home should take into account the who, what, when, where, and how: what is it and how is it used? by whom? where does it get used? how often? Creating a good home for things may require purging unused things that are taking up valuable space where your active things should live.

ASK FOR HELP

Once you identify that clutter is beyond you…you can’t get a handle on it, this is one reason to work with a trained professional…and not just a friend.

You may not be able to solve the root problems, but being aware of them helps to bring empathy and compassion to the situation. Ask for help.

As Professional Organizers, we are experienced in being able to recognize the multiple layers of influences that are contributing to the disorganization in the space.  Once we’ve toured the space, we can help identify the root causes, prioritize the different aspects of the project and let you know what’s possible…and sometimes refer you to others who can resolve the issues.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Heart Art: Saving Cards, Photos and Souvenirs

heart art 2 - 1 (1)

Special photos and cards can be transformed into art pieces.

A fan came up with a great way to preserve paper memories in a fun, compact, art project…

Here it is in her words:

Early in January, I faced a dilemma I think I share with many people: what to do with the lovely holiday cards I’d received from friends and family. Many of these cards include pictures of people I love and it’s always psychologically difficult to throw them out, so they usually go into a box never to be seen again. I must admit that I also sometimes hold onto graduation invitations, birthday cards, and paper memorabilia from events or trips (I’m going to get to that album one day and the cool ticket from X museum, etc. will go in there!)

Suddenly a project occurred to me that I could quickly do which I dubbed, “What holds my heart together.”

  • I took a piece of thin cardboard and cut out a rough heart about 3″x3” and used it as a template to cut out the most key part of each card.
  • I piled them on top of each other and then bound them all together with several brightly colored rubber bands.
  • For those who don’t like the funkiness of the rubber bands, a single nice ribbon would work.
  • If you don’t like the idea of it sitting somewhere, glue a magnet to the cardboard back and stick it to the fridge.

Use collage techniques to create art out of memorabilia

Now they’re all a funky little conversation piece that can sit on a bookshelf. I know where it is and can take it apart and look at them anytime I please as well as adding to it at a moment’s notice, so this ephemera does not have to pile up in a ‘to do’ pile anywhere.

The ‘art’ of this is, of course, not the key part for me. I was amazed at how much relief I felt at not having to throw them away or find a place to save them.It encouraged me to work on a small stack of paper from my last trip.I cut out the brochure pictures and tickets I wanted and threw away all the rest without any conflicted feelings and with, again, that great sense of relief. My heart is still very thin, but I can see adding to it from here on out. It’s a great de-clutterer for me!

For those who get a ton of holiday cards, I’d suggest making each year’s haul into a single decoration for your tree. 

Many thanks to Audra for sharing her great idea! Have you come up with a different way to handle memorabilia?…we’d love to hear it!

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Filed under artwork, Decluttering, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, organizing, paper organizing, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Overwhelmed? The Power of List Making

to do lists

It happens to all of us: that creeping feeling of overwhelm as the tasks pile up, coming in via mail, email, voicemail, texts. Your head is over-stuffed with details and surely you’re going to forget something!

There is an extremely simple tool which is the starting place for any task or time management system: the LIST. The power of this basic tool is manyfold:

  • Gathers all your tasks in one place
  • Gives you a birds-eye view on everything
  • Allows you to categorize and prioritize tasks visually
  • Can create as many or few lists as needed to manage the different projects in your life
    • Work projects
    • Client follow-up
    • Home design/repair ideas
    • Travel plans
    • Kid’s activities

How you create and manage a list is up to you – a simple piece of paper works just fine! If you want to get fancier, here are more options:

  • Task/List Apps: Trello, Google Tasks, Wunderlist, Evernote, OneNote
  • Bullet journal
  • Post-its on a wall, on a paper in a file, on a white board
  • White boards for temporary lists
  • Project management apps: Asana, BaseCamp, Microsoft Project

Going digital with your list has some advantages of being able to share with others, color code, and to include formats beyond text. Each mode has pros & cons; pick a mode that works best for you. And don’t be afraid to go as simple as possible.

To start, grab a pad of paper and do a big brain dump of everything on your mind and on your plate. How do you prioritize?

  • What’s stressing you out the most? Ask yourself: “If one thing got done on here, that would make me feel a relief of pressure, what would it be?”
  • Which things have an actual deadline and what’s due next?
  • When feeling unmotivated to get things done, look at the list and pick a few short, easy things to knock off just to reduce the volume.

And yes, you do need to keep updating them! This process of having to re-write your list is actually a valuable part of the process. The act of reviewing and revisiting tasks gives you the opportunity to reflect on their priority.

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, organizing, paper organizing, Strategies, Time Management

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

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