Category Archives: Strategies

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

5 Organizing Myths Banished

These are common myths that we tend to tell ourselves. They can hold us back, make us feel bad and make organizing harder than it needs to be.

1. I just need to try harder. This is a simple thing… Just do it!!

Not everybody is a linear thinker.  You need some linear thinking to do the process; getting the macro view helps to identify what to do first or second or last.  You might need some coaching help to identify your vision and how to prioritize things. It’s not about being lazy or industrious, it’s more about how your brain works and gaining objectivity about your own stuff.

2. I could knock this out in a couple hours if I just put my mind to it.

If you usually find organizing pretty challenging, it’s not reasonable to expect you can handle an overwhelming situation in a short period of time. And, if you think a week of solid work would do the trick, can you imagine how exhausting it would be to shift to “organizing mode?” and make it last for days? Be realistic about your time estimates and plan to work in stages.

3. My partner/spouse/children will be absolutely delighted when I get organized.

The fact that someone isn’t experiencing the clutter as a problem might mean they won’t be invested in the solutions.  Everyone has a different tolerance level for clutter.  If they don’t experience it as an issue, they might find it disruptive if you go and make changes independently.  It’s good to do some legwork, but try to get buy-in on what the solution will look like so you’re not imposing your vision on someone else and expect them to maintain it.

4. I need pretty (and expensive) bins to be organized…and bins will automatically make me organized.

Buying containers put the cart before the horse. You need to know what you’re storing, why, and where before you know how to contain it. A shoebox can work just as well as an attractive woven basket. First focus on the function that the container needs to fulfill and then buy or repurpose one that fits your budget and style.

5. If I’m not born an “organized person” I will never be organized.

There’s lots of way to get help: blogs, accountability buddies, or working with a professional organizer. Part of our mandate as professional organizers is to transfer skills to the client that they can carry forward.  Even though organizing can be easiest for those who naturally think a certain way, techniques can be learned by just about anyone.  Working with a professional can help you acquire those skills.

Give yourself a break and ask for a helping hand. It might not take as much as you think to get past your roadblocks.  You’re not alone in this, help is available.

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies

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

Trouble Letting Go? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Declutter QuestionsIt’s easy to get stuck when you’re trying to pare things down, either just to clear clutter or in anticipation of a move. As organizers, the coaching we do with clients helps them slow down their thought process and ask objective questions.

Here are some questions to help frame your perspective as you consider the true value of items in your home:

  1. When is the last time you used this?
  2. Would you buy this again today?
  3. Is it worth the time/energy/money to pack, move, and unpack this item?
  4. How does this add value to your life?
  5. Would you really care if this was lost in a fire or flood?
  6. How many of this item does it make sense to move/keep?
  7. Could you replace this in under 20 minutes for under 20 dollars?
  8. What do you gain or lose by keeping this?
  9. If you keep it, will you remember you have it?
  10. What’s the worst thing that would happen if you let this go?

This process isn’t about letting go of everything, it’s about having clarity about why you’re keeping things.  To spark reflections and interrupt your immediate response to the question, “should I keep this?”  For most of us who tend to hold onto things, the answer is “YES!” because we haven’t put the thinking into it.

Our possessions tell our story – edit what you have to keep the best story of yourself. Think of writing haiku instead of an epic poem like The Odyssey!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Moving, Perspective, Strategies

Make some S.P.A.C.E. – a Technique to Get Organized

Pantry_tips

Do you have an area of you home you want to organize but don’t know where to start? The S.P.A.C.E. technique, coined by organizer Julie Morgenstern in her first book, Organizing From The Inside Out, is a tried and true way to go about it.

The acronym breaks down the organizing process into 5 simple steps anyone can follow. We’re going to walk you through the steps using a kitchen pantry as an example but the steps apply to any space you’re trying to organize – a single drawer to a whole house!

Sort

The first step in organizing any space is a sort. Gather like things together in order to see how much you have of similar items.

Empty the pantry onto a large table and sort by types of food:

  • Canned goods
  • Nuts, dried fruits, small bagged snacks
  • Rice, pasta, grains
  • Boxed cereals
  • Baking items
  • Packaged food mixes

Purge

Look through each group of your sorted items and get down to what’s relevant to life now.

  • Expired foods & spices
  • Boxes and bags with just a tiny bit left
  • Extras from overbuying because you forgot you already had it (think food bank!)
  • Items you thought would be delicious but now don’t seem so appealing

Assign a Home

This is the core of the work. Clutter happens when items don’t have an assigned place to live. Using labels makes all the difference here.

  • Make sure high-use items are in the most accessible shelves
  • Decide which sorted groups are “friends” – would you like your jars of tomato sauce to live near your pastas or other jars and canned goods?

Once you have clarity on your groups, their use, and where they should live you can make smart choices about whether containers make sense for them to live in…

Containerize

Shop smart and save yourself time and money by saving the containerizing until the end of the process.

  • Use small boxes on shelves to group loose bagged items together; the box functions as a mini pullout shelf
  • There are numerous organizing products to help maximize shelf space and visibility. Do a quick search on Pinterest to get some ideas
  • If you don’t have the perfect container you can always use a cardboard box, Ziploc bag or other temporary container until you find the perfect permanent solution

Equalize

Life isn’t static. Getting organized isn’t a one-time process. As life changes – sizes, interests, jobs, etc. your organizing systems may need to shift and change to keep up. Make time each season (or at least each year) to inventory your possessions and update your systems.

Try it out yourself.  Start small as a test. Pick a single drawer or cabinet shelf to create S.P.A.C.E.   See how it goes and report back!

Need more help? The Container Store has a page with tips for organizing your pantry.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Kitchen, Perspective, 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