Category Archives: Strategies

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

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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

Capture the Story, Release the Object

still life marlin

While we are working with people who are downsizing or just clearing space, we hear the stories about many of the objects that they might be parting with. We’re always looking for ways to help our clients to make room for their next chapters and/or to let go of excess stuff. It’s often the attachments to “stuff” that holds people back from making that move to a more desirable area, to downsize into a place that feels more cozy … or to just have people over.

We were introduced to Laura Turbow of Still Life Stories. She and her partner Rachel Friedman, photograph and capture the essence of special items. Grandpa’s chair, a prized-but-bulky trophy, that taxidermied swordfish that just doesn’t fit any more (did it ever?). In the process, they honor an individual and/or the story behind it.

One of the goals of Still Life Stories is to help people hold on to what matters and brings them joy and to let go of the rest. That happens to dovetail with our work as Professional Organizers. We help people discern what our clients will bring with them into their future. And to keep what brings them joy.

Downsizing does not have to mean the end of things. Converting the ‘thing’ into digital photos and story that can be shared and remembered, that can survive fires, floods and disasters…while giving you the space you need. The April 4th post on the Still Life Stories Facebook page shows the power of a story when the history behind an object is shared.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Guest Experts, Memorabilia, Perspective, Seniors, Strategies

Make Your Home a Priority

superhero

Be a SUPERHERO in your own home!

Do you feel like there’s never enough time to get things put away, straightened out, picked up, cleaned out?

Guess what? There isn’t!

Maintaining your living space must be given priority in your regular schedule. We depend on our homes for our daily living but often don’t recognize how important it is to make regular time to keep the contents maintained. When your roof has a hole, you fix it. When your plumbing backs up, you fix it. We immediately recognize the urgency of these situations and prioritize them.

How about applying the same sense of urgency to a dining room table always full of mail? Or a pile of returns waiting to get to the post office? Or cluttered kitchen counters taking up prep space? Recognizing the urgency of these situations that we often just acclimate to and tolerate requires a shift in perspective.

Think about the quality of life you’d gain by:

  • Being able to get dressed quickly in the morning
  • Having adequate supplies for school projects
  • Finding ingredients for dinner when you haven’t had time to shop
  • Finding sport equipment for the next game
  • Knowing exactly which bills are due and where they are

How To Do It

The first step to making this happen is to make some time for it. Too much stuff and too little time is a recipe for disaster. Maintaining an organized home takes sacrifices because time won’t magically appear in our schedules unless we make it a priority.

If weekday schedules are completely full with work and school you may have to sacrifice some optional activities on the weekend. In our busy lives we often don’t realize that many of our fun activities are actually optional – book clubs, kid sports, outings, travel. It can be a little painful, but creating a short-term plan to carve out enough time to get caught up on problem areas of the home will pay you back daily when life is simpler and easier.

And it doesn’t have to all be done at once; prioritize the areas that affect your daily living the most. It feels great to finish one area at a time instead of chipping away in multiple areas. The sooner you see and feel the results of your efforts, the more motivated you’ll be to keep going.

Be your own superhero – make time magically appear by scheduling organizing sessions in your calendar. If you don’t own it, no one else will! Remember, just as you would hire that roofer or plumber if you couldn’t fix it yourself, get professional help with your home if you can’t tackle it on your own.

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies

Organized Travel – Planning Tips

Travel Planning

Summer is approaching, what are your travel plans? There are a lot of moving parts in travel planning: ideas, resources, and schedules.

Stay Organized, Create a System

Having any kind of system in place to manage the inflow of resources is critical to reduce overwhelm and help make your decision making more efficient. Organizing information is like organizing things in your house.  Having a dedicated space for your travel plans makes it easy to pick up where you left off in your planning efforts.

Choose one location where you’ll keep track of everything. This is critical to avoid having bits of information floating everywhere – random emails, scraps of paper, bookmarked website. Examples:

  • Evernote or Pinterest –online project management tools
  • Email folder and/or Documents folder
  • Spreadsheet
  • Notebook
  • Shared calendars or documents or folders if multiple people are involved in the planning.

Keep a running to-do list of planning tasks. In addition, create a checklist of major components: this includes transportation, lodging, activities … in addition to logistics: banking, credit, phone. Checklists help you know what has been handled and what is still outstanding.

Travel Checklist

Set Your Priorities

Sometimes working with the blank slate of an open 2 weeks is daunting. To help build out the structure of a trip it helps to determine your “have to do’s” vs. your “nice to do’s”.

  • Are your to/from dates set in stone? How much flexibility do you have around travel dates? Prices can vary a lot based on day of week you travel
  • Are there key sights or events that are MUST do’s? If so, are they available any time or are there limits? For example, if you’re traveling to Paris and getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower is a must for you – researching the availability of tickets for that may determine which day that has to happen.
  • Are you traveling for an event such as a wedding or concert/play/tour?

Your top priorities will be fixed points both for day and location that the trip planning will evolve around so figuring them out first makes planning more efficient.

Gather Resources

Planning can take a lot of time – start your research early – talk to friends, put it out on Facebook, browse travel websites. Find out what you shouldn’t miss! This will help give you a rich pool of things to choose from while setting your top travel priorities.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Many people have taken your trip before you…there are tons of travel advice and resources on the Web. A quick search of “things I need to do before traveling to X” will turn up a great list to build your Travel To-Do list.

Delegate

Delegating can make the trip more fun for you…especially if you’re not the only one responsible for logistics.  Share the burden and get your fellow travelers’ buy-in. Can you assign your partner to handle a component of the research and planning… or can your teen-age companion scope out fun things to do at your destination?

Stay Organized on the Road

As the date of departure approaches, tidy up.  Dispose of unnecessary bits of info and separate out the final itinerary details from all the planning materials.

You’ve worked hard to plan the trip – continue to reap the benefits of your organization the whole way. Create digital images of all your important documents and reservations. Keep one pocket of your carry-on dedicated to holding any travel plans. Have a backup also – send it to yourself in an email or make sure you’ll have cloud access to any summary documents you created. Make sure your traveling partner has all the info as well.

Just as being organized at home helps you enjoy your space better, organizing your travel planning helps you focus on the adventure ahead instead of being mired in logistics.

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, Holidays, organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management, Travel

Take Its Picture and Let It Go!

trophy - 1 (1)

We all know we hang onto more things than we really use, like, and need. According to a Nielsen survey, we have an average of at least 50 unused items in our homes, including clothing, electronic devices and toys.

But letting go of items with sentimental value can be the hardest! Guilt, memories, all kinds of emotional attachments often get in the way of clearing out the excess. Experience and research shows that one of the most effective ways of helping folks feel more willing to let go is taking a photo of an item.

One of the reason we keep things is that they trigger good memories.  What we really are afraid of losing by letting go of a precious item is the memories or feelings it generates. A photograph can be just as an effective trigger of that good memory as the object. It’s may not be as rich an experience as holding an object but often can be good enough.

A study done with college students moving out showed that when they took pictures of items, they were 35% more likely to let go them for donation than if they didn’t. That’s a big shift!

Here are examples of items to consider photographing instead of keeping:

  • 3D art and school projects from your kids – think dioramas, science fair projects, ceramic objects
  • Sport trophies
  • Thank-you plaques and certificates of achievement or participation
  • Baby clothes and objects
  • Family china or furniture

Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work so well for things we hang onto for reasons other than sentimentality. Keeping things out of a sense of frugality or necessity is a different issue altogether!

So, take a picture of that object that is taking up precious space and let it go!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Storage, Strategies