Tag Archives: family

Clutter-Free Gifts

As Professional Organizers, we meet people who are anxious about what to give their loved ones that are personal, valued and “green.” One solution is to give “consumable” gifts. The advantage of a consumable gift is it gives the recipient a special experience, doesn’t take up any room and doesn’t leave behind any clutter.

food gifts

Edibles and Drinkables

  • Gift baskets of food – nice fruits, cheeses, nuts, chocolates. Who wouldn’t want to try a variety of yummy foods put together by you…or from your favorite vendor? The SF Bay Area is home to many artisan chocolate and food makers; a basket of local treats makes a personal touch.
  • Your parents might appreciate a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant or one you think they’d like.
  • Gift an invitation to dine out with you at the hot new restaurant or a known old favorite – your treat of course!
  • Teens love gift cards to Peet’s, Starbucks, ice cream, lunch food.
  • How about a wine or beer club membership?

 

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Entertainment

  • Consider an outing to an Escape Room – a group game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles.
  • Tickets or gift certificates to movies, dance, theater, museums or sports events can be prized by people who can’t seem to justify frivolous expenses.
  • How about Poetry by Request?  My colleague, Claire Tompkins brings her trusty Royal typewriter to events and creates personalized poetry on demand.
  • Subscriptions to entertainment services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix can provide easy access to movies and entertainment at home.
  • Gift of a special outing with you: ice skating, a picnic in the park, a visit to a children’s museum, the zoo or an amusement park.
  • Annual pass for a ski resort or for a fun place like Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Lottery tickets make great stocking stuffers!
  • Did you know that AirBNB offers gift cards?

cooking-class

Education

  • Get cooking!  Kitchen on Fire offers a variety of classes. Cooking lessons are fun to do with a group or with one special friend: either at a store, a cooking school or in your own kitchen.
  • A stack of specialty magazines on gaming or weaving or architecture – whatever they’re into – are a treat!
  • Would your giftee love an art or other adult education class?  Offer to take it with them!
  • How about a subscription to a meditation website such as Headspace – a gym for your head?
  • A block of classes at the local pilates or yoga studio can inspire them to get going on their health goals.
  • Sign them up for a historical tour of a local hot spot

relaxation

Pampering

  • Massages, facials, and nail services are always welcome treats
  • A thorough and expert housecleaning session is great for folks who always do it themselves
  • Hot tub session at a place such as Piedmont Springs
  • Do you know someone who complains about the state of their closets, garage or playroom? Give the gift of a session with a professional organizer!

 

personal gift certificate

Your Time

  • What do YOU do well? Offer a session with your loved one sharing your skills and time with them: interior design help, personal shopping, gardening, back rubs, clutter-clearing, cooking a meal or teaching a cooking technique, a personalized sight-seeing tour, iPhone instruction-sessions…the sky’s the limit!

Remember to follow up with your giftee. Sometimes people forget about gift certificates. Put a reminder in your calendar for a couple months in the future to touch back with your recipient. Re-invite them to take you up on your offer of a fun experience or remind them of the gift certificate you gave them.

Have a great consumable gift idea? Share it here!

 

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Spooky Storage Solutions for Halloween

halloween organizing tips (1)

Halloween approaches and, as with any holiday, it’s an opportunity to revisit how you organize all the supplies that go with it. Drag out all the bags and boxes where your Halloween stuff is lurking and give it a fresh look!

Costumes

  • Set aside outgrown kid costumes to hand-down to friends & family or donate.
  • Repair or discard damaged/broken props and costumes.
  • It can be useful to separate small props/accessories from larger costume pieces.
  • Ziploc bags or smaller boxes within a larger container are helpful.
  • Give your future self a gift and label all containers.

Decor

It’s a good idea to keep décor in a separate container from costumes. It makes decorating easier and you may need costumes for other parties/occasions/general dress-up play. It makes sense to have them live in different locations.

Party Supplies

There’re basically 2 options for Halloween specific party stuff– keep them with other Halloween supplies or keep them with other party supplies.

  • Halloween friends: Sometimes these end up stuffed into the same box as décor. That can work if you don’t have that much but do yourself a favor and at a minimum use large Ziploc bags to keep paper goods separate from house décor.
  • All party friends: Store all holiday/party specific paper goods in a container together but keep them separated by holiday/event within that container.

A word about containers…

Don’t forget the concept of container as limiter! What containers you choose depends largely on where you decide to store Halloween supplies and how much room you’re willing to give over to it. Lidded tubs are great because they’re deep and can stack and be labeled easily.

Some décor (such as giant inflatables and yard props) are too large to contain in a tub and must have some shelf or floor space. Remember, you get to choose how much is enough in each category – contain it appropriately then live within.

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Filed under children, Closets, Decluttering, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids

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

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
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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

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