Tag Archives: organizing

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

Get Organized for Tax Time

Tax formHave you broken out in your usual sweat anticipating tax time? Do you find yourself dreading the hours it’s going to take to round up the papers you’ll need to complete your tax planner? Being ready for tax time is all about having a system for keeping certain paperwork separate from others.

The most simple way to keep your tax paperwork separate from other papers is to create a box or file labeled “TAXES.”  If you want to get fancy, subdivide to create homes for:

  • charitable donations
  • childcare expenses
  • medical expenses
  • proof of income: W-2s, 1099s
  • tax documents

The home can be a file folder, envelope, or even a dedicated box. Anything that is easy to drop things into throughout the year.

If you’re keeping every single receipt and account statement, it’s worth asking your tax preparer to give you a list of documents you actually need to keep. Typically these are only receipts and statements that prove expenses you claim as deductions on your taxes.

For paper organizing, it’s important to understand the difference between a general living expense and an expense you can claim as a tax deduction. For example, gas station receipts are a general expense, but if you use your car for business they could become a tax-deductible expense. There may be other reasons you want to keep every gas receipt – budgeting, MPG tracking, etc. but you may not need them for taxes.

If you want to take your financial organizing to the next level, consider the following:

  • Use a money management tool such as Mint.com or Quicken® to categorize your expenses automatically so you just need to run a report at the end of the year (still need to keep your original deductible receipts)
  • Use FreedomFiler® to manage your filing
  • Have a professional organizer or bookkeeper come in and triage your 2019 taxes–and set up a sound system for 2020. You may also benefit from having help come monthly or quarterly to keep things straight

 If it’s too overwhelming to get a system together for 2019, begin now with categories for 2020!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Paper

The Perfect Holiday Gift – elfa®!

ElfaSale

Sale starts today and runs into February…

Stuck for a holiday gift that is both exciting and practical? Consider gifting a closet makeover! It’s that time of year again. Your closets are bursting, drawers are overflowing, and this is the year you are finally getting organized. You’re in luck, the elfa® shelving sale at the Container Store® is underway!

Why do we love elfa® closet systems?

  • Esthetically pleasing
  • Completely changeable
  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to install

CLEAN LINES, VARIETY OF LOOKS

There are several different finish options for your closet system – a ventilated wire shelf in white or platinum with optional wood edging, solid shelves in many different veneers…the variety means their systems fit lots of different tastes. See examples of the different styles on their best-selling solutions page.

PRICED TO FIT ANY BUDGET

Closet pricing can vary from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand depending on the size and complexity of the design.

  • A standard 6’ closet outfitted with one clothes rod and two 6’ shelves prices out at around $200 (during the sale!) — mind you, that doesn’t include their fantastic drawers or gliding shoe shelves
  • “Décor” edging and shelving, drawers, shoe shelves, tie racks, hooks, bins, and other accessories will add to the cost
  • The ventilated and solid melamine shelving are the most economical

Master closet before Elfa

This is the Elfa plan

After Elfa install - 1 (1)

This is how it really looks

NOT JUST FOR CLOSETS

The variety and adaptability of this shelving makes it perfect for many spaces – they also have free-standing elfa® units if you don’t have available wall space:

  • Garage, basement & attic are great places for shelving
  • Create a wall-mounted desk with shelves above
  • Kitchen pantry

COULD IT BE ANY EASIER TO INSTALL?

The design of the system makes installation super simple.

  • The whole system hangs from a single bar they call a top track. Once you get that installed securely, there is no further need for tools or the help of your handyman
  • It usually takes about an hour to install a basic 6’ closet
  • We must say that the Container Store’s® installers are friendly and quick.  They can handle demolition of the existing closet and can handle any adjustments needed for unexpected glitches in the planning process
  • If one is only installing a single closet system, the installers are a little pricey (they have a $180 minimum) so take advantage of this sale – installation is also discounted

BUT WAIT! Closet design isn’t the starting point.

How each closet functions is an integral part of how a whole house stays organized. Before you invest in a makeover of any one closet be sure that you’re storing what you really need and that you’re storing it in the appropriate location…should your boxes of photos and memorabilia really live in the master bedroom closet?

We offer closet and storage assessments to advise on how to maximize space. If you want help figuring out the best closet solutions for your needs, contact us!

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Filed under Closets, General Organizing, Products

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

 

Holiday OrganizingIf you regularly have a lot going on in life, the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load:

  • Where can the kids participate?
  • Can you invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping?
  • Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out?

Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a season that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself, “What could you do to avoid those pitfalls?”

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

Lego Reuse Made Easy!

lego

Toys in general can be a challenge to donate as many thrift stores don’t take them. Now, according to Joan Verdon of Forbes Magazine, parents can add one more resource for re-purposing one of the most popular toys – Lego.

Lego has launched a pilot program, Lego Replay, that lets you print out a free shipping label and send back used Lego’s. Lego’s partner in the pilot, Give Back Box, will receive, clean, sort and repackage the Legos for delivery to Teach for America and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. The pilot program will run through spring of 2020 and hopefully be expanded to other countries.

Other toy recycling options:

  • Toy consignment
  • Lego Reseller Bricks & Minifigs
  • Posting for free on your neighborhood email group
  • Donate to after-school programs

Read the full Forbes article here.

To continue the cycle of re-use, consider procuring your upcoming holiday gifts through consignment stores or online postings!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Empty Nest, General Organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies, toys

Are You Covered? 3 Must-Dos for Home Insurance

Angel Lax Insurance Agent - 1

Angel Lax • Allstate Insurance Co • 510-634-1171

While organizing homes and offices, we are often asked what kind of documentation is needed in case of a loss.  So, we asked our friendly Allstate Insurance Agent, Angel Lax, for her help. Here is her advice…

Document Your Belongings

  • A quick video showing the contents of the house, including closets and basements. In clothes closet, show tags on designer clothes. Save this to the cloud via email, google drive, Dropbox, even a flash drive in your Safe deposit box.  Update regularly.
  • Special items: make sure your insurance agent knows of valuables such as jewelry, fine art, musical instruments or collectibles. If your homeowner’s policy has limits on these items you may need an additional policy or rider. If you don’t call out these more valuable items (“scheduled” in insurance language) you’re limited on reimbursement.
  • If you don’t have a list of lost items, the company will give you ~70%, depending on the company, of the “personal property limits” listed on your policy. Most of the time, that will be less than if you have good documentation of what you lost.

Organize Your Documents

Create an “insurance” file either in paper or digitally or both

  • Include the name of the company
  • Named insured
  • Policy number
  • Deductibles
  • For big-ticket items, note serial numbers and take a picture of the receipts to keep with insurance documents

Review Your Coverage

Make sure you are covered appropriately…have you contacted your agent in the last year or two? The agent will evaluate the value of your home, based on the size, condition and quality of your components. The quality ranges from economy to standard to above standard to high end. This rating informs the amount of coverage you need to replace.  For older homes, some companies encourage a 150% replacement cost plan which covers you in case you need to bring items up to code in the event of a loss. Or, if there is a pricing surge, like there has been in Sonoma and Napa counties, the extra percentage can alleviate that challenge…or if there has been an error in evaluating the value of the replacement.

Use this opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with your things and maybe clear out a closet or two. Even if you only do a few of the items above or only manage to inventory some of your rooms you’ll be better off than not taking any action – progress is better than perfection!

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Filed under Decluttering, Guest Experts, 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