Category Archives: organizing

Creating Space for Distance Learning

homeschooling-5121262_1920With the new reality of distance learning for children, it’s even more important to carve out space for them to do their work. Our colleague, Educational Coach, Lorina Daves Tornai reminds us that parents are scrambling to create more permanent schoolwork spaces at home…and fast! School is starting early!

Here are some parameters to follow when making space for homeschooling.

Create a dedicated work space

  • Try not to depend on a common-use table like the dining room table
  • Identify a location that is in a public area of your home. Children need supervision–especially when they are accessing the internet
  • 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, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc.

Create space for basic supplies nearby

A rolling drawer unit works well to hold pencils, markers, scissors, scotch tape, paper.

3-Tier-Cart

Contain paper

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

magazine holder

Declutter

You can enhance your child’s learning and attention by removing distractions. In the process, you’ll simplify your surroundings and make tidying easier for all.In addition, creating a intentionally designed schoolwork space helps both the parent and the child take learning seriously, supporting a lifelong habit of organization and growth.

Get help

If you need help reimagining your home and the potential it might have for multiple workspaces, consult an organizer.  We tend to think out-of-the-box!

 

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Filed under children, Decluttering, homework, Kids, organizing, School, Strategies

5 Closet Editing Tips from a Personal Stylist

Denitsa Shopova - Image Consultant - 1

We asked image consultant, Denitsa Shopova to provide some tips on how to choose which clothes to keep and what to let go of while organizing a closet.

Do you know what it feels like to go to your overstuffed closet in the morning to get dressed and feel you have nothing to wear? This is not uncommon!

#1 Store your clothes together

Have all your clothes in one closet if possible. You can do this!

#2 Make the most of your current wardrobe

Maximize the potential of your current wardrobe before investing in new clothes. You would be surprised what you actually own and can be restyled.

#3 Create outfits

Arrange your clothes into categories of different styles and color themes so it’s easy to grab and go that provides stress free mornings. It’s also inspirational.

#4 Complementary colors for eyes:

• blue eyes: gold, copper, peach, warm browns
• green eyes: plum, violet, wine, pink
• golden brown eyes: eggplant, lavender, magenta, lilac, sky blue
• red-orange brown eyes: turquoise, navy, emerald, seafoam
• almost black eyes: bronze, coral, sand, terra cotta

#5 To let go of clothes that don’t serve you anymore, ask:

• Does this suite my personality?
• Does this complement my shape?
• Does it fit me right now?
• Does this work with my current lifestyle?
• Is this in a good condition?
• Does this color suite me?
• Am I happy wearing this?
• Have I worn it in the last 12 months?
• Why am I holding onto to this item?

Editing your clothes is often easier if you sort by type first rather than going through things one by one. That also lets you see where you may have lots of similar items and can pare down to just one or two of that type. Remember your goal – make space for the items that make you feel great!

If you feel stuck, ask for help! An investment in a clothing stylist can save you from uncertainty and hours of time shopping because you’ll know what looks (and feels) good on you. And, Denitsa can work with your virtually!

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, clothing, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, Strategies

COVID and Hoarding

 

Sue Zee Poinsett, a long-time Professional Organizer and Hoarding Specialist shares a compassionate perspective on hoarding that we can all relate to during this health crisis.

COVID and Hoarding

I think most of us would agree that there is nothing good about Covid-19.  It seems to have tipped the universe onto its side and caused so much of what we knew to become unfamiliar.

Take the experience of going to the grocery store:  I have done it for many, many years and, until Covid, found it to be a rather mundane but necessary experience.  Now I worry about when to go, what to buy, and how much of it I need.  I have watched people leaving stores with baskets full of common items like water; that’s right, water, the stuff that comes out of the faucet. I have witnessed people racing to the personal care sections of the store and have seen rows of empty shelves because people wanted to make sure they have enough.

People are never sure they have enough because every day someone suggests that another thing we count on may not be available, so they rush back to the store to get more eggs, butter, meat, and always toilet paper.  In the early days of this pandemic there were long lines, short tempers, and I think we all experienced some form of “better pick up an extra just in case…”

The reason I bring this up is that I think this is an opportune time for us to gain some emotional understanding of hoarding disorder.  It would appear that the virus has caused us to develop a disposition for hoarding, and I am hoping it might also help us better understand those who always have too much stuff. Although the word hoarder is often used in the sentence; “I have a lot of stuff but I am not a hoarder”, I think many of us have now had first-hand experience of an emotional component that activates hoarding behavior.  Some of us have become that person who worries about having enough and who feels comforted by getting more; the person who forgets what they have bought and buys more “just in case.”

Our need to buy and keep too much stuff in response to this pandemic does not rise to the level of hoarding disorder but can inform us of what goes on inside those who do actually hoard.  The need to feel we “have enough” is very human and at times of stress the concept of “enough” becomes a bit tricky.  Those who hoard feel they never “have enough” and continually get more “just in case.”  Feel familiar?  (I have even tried freezing milk since I became worried there might not be enough for my morning coffee.)  Then there is the idea of keeping things, just in case.  That frozen milk is still in my refrigerator, just in case; and I still have the 17 masks I have been given or bought, even though I mostly wear a bandana.

There is more to be understood about hoarding behavior than there is to be mystified or repulsed by, and I hope that we can all look at our behavior over the last few months and see the very human part of wanting, getting, and keeping too much stuff.

__________________________

Sue Zee Poinsett, MA (Masters in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling) began her career teaching in junior and senior high schools in the Los Angeles area.  She moved on to a career as a mortgage broker and then earned a Masters Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling as well as one in Education. For the last 20+ years she has worked as a Professional Organizer specializing in work with adults with ADHD.  She became particularly interested in hoarding behavior in her work as an organizer and was one of the founding members of the Marin County Hoarding Alliance and has been an active member since its inception over 10 years ago. Her understanding is based on research and study and is informed by her many years of professional organizing.

Her email is suezeep at att.net

 

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Filed under Decluttering, disaster, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Seniors

Make S.P.A.C.E. in the Pantry – VIDEO

 

Pantry Organizing

CLICK to watch the full 4.5 min video

The pantry is another area that you can tackle while you have time on your hands. It might be both entertaining and educational for young children to help with this. Again we will use the the S.P.A.C.E. process for organizing, developed by best-selling author and organizer, Julie Morgenstern. You can organize anything using this system.

SORT – Pull out everything (ideally) or by shelf or category and sort into category groups. It helps to make temporary labels to make the process go more quickly:

  • grains, pastas, beans
  • packaged mixes/sauces
  • baking related: flour, sugar, baking soda & powder, cocoa, decorations
  • snacks: chips, cookies, crackers
  • dried fruit, nuts
  • canned goods
  • oils and vinegars
  • spices
  • cereals
  • teas
  • coffee
  • paper products

You’ll often find that there are different categories of items (hardware, for example) stored in unorganized places like a pantry.  Separate those out and dedicate a location to sort and store those items later.

PURGE – eliminate expired items and items you had good intentions around but know you’ll never eat. Offer non-expired items to friends or drop-off in a food collection barrel available at many supermarkets.

ASSIGN A HOME – Re-evaluate the available real estate of your pantry. High use items do best in easily accessible places.

CONTAINERIZE – There are a few different products that can help with maximizing space in a pantry. Tiered shelves work well to keep canned goods and spices visible. Lazy susans work well to keep oils accessible, shelf risers are a great way to maximize vertical space in a cabinet, and small open bins are a nice way to group and contain bulk packages or soft packaged items.

EQUALIZE – Remember, life isn’t static and you’ll continue to have new influxes of food supplies regularly. As tastes and eating habits change, so should your pantry system. It’s good to plan a reorganization at least once a year – this is the step to EQUALIZE your systems with your stuff!

Experience the joy of an organized pantry that, especially when shelves and bins are labeled, everyone can contribute to keeping tidy.

Pantry Before and After

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Kitchen, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Storage, Strategies

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