Spring Clean While You Declutter

This time of year, it seems like spring cleaning how-to’s and checklists are everywhere! While an annual deep clean is a great idea, it can seem very overwhelming, especially if you know you’ve got clutter in the way! Who wants to waste time cleaning around and under stuff you know you don’t need?!

So what’s the answer? We could continue to put off both deep cleaning and decluttering because the whole thing just seems too overwhelming. OR – we could tackle the two together – making progress one space at a time. Why does this make so much sense? Because – step one of any good organizing project is to completely empty out the space you’re organizing! Whether it’s a drawer, a shelf, a cabinet or a closet, you have to take everything out so you can see what you have and make decisions on what to keep.

Once the space is empty, you’ve got the perfect opportunity for a thorough cleaning. This is also a nice break from thinking about what you’re going to get rid of and how you’re going to organize what’s left. So wipe down shelves, closet rods, and any other surfaces. Clean drawer dividers and other organizing helpers. If it’s a bigger space, give the floor and baseboards a good vacuuming and wipe-down.

With a clean space, you’re ready to get back to organizing. Only put back what you really need, use and love. The rest should go. Whether you put stuff out on the curb, post it online or pack up your car for the donation center – get it out the door as quickly as possible. Remember – the less you put back, the easier it will be to maintain an organized AND clean space.

Don’t panic if it feels like your whole house needs to be decluttered and deep cleaned. The key to success here is to keep your projects small. You’re not going to be able to clear out, deep clean and organize your entire basement (or any larger space) in one session. Just focus on one set of shelves, or the laundry area, or the workbench. Keep your projects manageable and you’ll be on your way decluttered and deep-cleaned!

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Do You Know Where to Donate?

Whether you’re cleaning out your closet or garage, or anywhere in between, the process isn’t complete until you’ve moved your donations out the door. Yet, this is the step where many well-intentioned clutter conquerors get stuck. One major reason is simply not knowing where we can or should donate certain items. The good news is that in most areas, there are many options out there. Just don’t overthink the process – choose what’s most convenient. If you wait until you figure out the absolute best place for each type of item, no one will benefit. You can always do something different next time if you find a new option.

Here are a few common donation resources that accept a variety of common household items. Just be sure to scan the guidelines for each so you’re not donating items they can’t use. There are many others out there – these are just a few ideas to get you started.

Cradles to Crayons – baby/children’s clothing and equipment

Goodwill – clothing and household goods

Savers – clothing and household goods

Vietnam Veterans of America – clothing and household goods – you can even schedule a free pick-up of your donations!

There are also lots of local opportunities to donate items. Keep your eyes open in your own community. Here are 3 of my favorite local spots:

Household Goods – Acton, MA – furniture, beds, household items

Restoration Project – Belmont, MA – clothing and household goods

Sister Thrift – Watertown, Burlington and Framingham, MA – clothing and household goods

Donating your unused items to organizations and people who can use them is one of the greatest benefits and joys of decluttering your space. So get started today – choose the option that works best for you or try different options and spread the love!

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The Secret to Staying Organized

Do you feel like you’re always trying to get organized? No matter how much you donate or get rid of, it still feels like you’re not making any headway! The answer may lie in looking at the other side of the stuff equation. You may be diligently working to part with unwanted items, but until you get serious about limiting what’s coming in, the stuff will continue to win.

Limiting what comes into your house is often easier said than done – gifts, papers, toys, hand-me-downs, freebies, junk mail, bulk purchases – it can seem like the influx is endless. However, with a little effort, patience, and practice, you can make changes to what comes in and finally gain the upper hand in the battle with your stuff. Here are 5 strategies you can try:

Pause before you purchase – When you think of something you “need” or want – hit the pause button before you purchase. Decide on a mandatory waiting period – at least 1 week, but better yet 1 month. Just like a food craving, if you create a little space, it may pass. If you want to keep a list, go for it – write down the item and the date. If after your waiting period is up, you still decide it’s a worthwhile purchase, you can make that choice. But chances are, your pause button will save you a more than a few unnecessary purchases.

Question everything – Before you buy something (even necessary items) or otherwise allow it into your house, give it a good interrogation. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? Do I need this now? Do I need I need this much of it? (this can help curb unwise bulk purchases)

Don’t go shopping – Limit your trips to stores, especially your trigger stores (Target anyone?). Just seeing an item in a store can make you think you might need it. Even if you don’t buy it then, the seed is planted, and you’ll find yourself thinking about it long after you leave the store – maybe I do need that? Maybe that’s better than the one I have? If you never see it in the first place, you won’t put yourself at risk and you’ll be just fine!

Unsubscribe – This one is HUGE! Unsubscribe from all marketing emails – even for stores you do shop at. Getting the constant sale emails creates an urgency to buy even when you’re not in the market for anything. The little deals and coupons are not worth it. If you are planning to make a large purchase, you can always sign up to receive a coupon when you’re ready to buy. Another option for these emails is to send them to specific email address (or folder within your email) that you only look at when you need to make a purchase.

Follow the “1 in 2 out” rule – When you do allow something into your house, make sure you are sending more out the door. We often fall victim to buying a replacement or upgrade for something and then allowing the old item to stick around…just in case. Don’t let this happen, start using the replacement and send the older item (and something else) on its way. It doesn’t even have to be like items – just use the new item as a trigger to find a few things to donate. It’s just physics, if you want less stuff in your house – the “out” has to be great than the “in.”

Refresh Your Closet with this Easy Upgrade

It’s finally starting to feel a bit like spring in Boston! Wouldn’t it be nice to refresh your closet as you switch out the winter gear for lighter clothes? It can be easier than you think with this quick closet upgrade we recommend to all our clients!

First things first, it’s time to clear out what you don’t wear!

  • If you can, take everything out of your closet! We’re serious.
  • Donate everything you didn’t wear or wore but didn’t love this past season. Be ruthless – if you didn’t wear it this year, you’re not going to next year. Someone else will make good use of it, but only if you let it go!
  • Set aside winter items you’re done with for the season. Make time to clean them and store them away during the warmer weather.

Decide what’s going back into your closet for the spring season – think of this as April-June.

  • Ideally, you’re only putting back what you LOVE to wear – it fits you, makes you feel good and works with your current lifestyle.
  • Think of it as packing for a trip – what would you take with you? Probably your favorite and most versatile pieces.
  • Hopefully, you’ll end up with a curated collection that will make for happier and easier mornings!
  • If you’re left with a pile of things you’re not sure about, give them another look and add to your donate pile if you can. Box up the rest and give yourself a 3-6 month deadline – if you haven’t missed them, it’s time to let them go.

Now it’s time for the quick and easy upgrade!

  • If you’re like most people, you have a mis-matched collection of hangers ranging from dry-cleaner to wood, to plastic, to specialty hangers you thought would change your life. It’s ok – we’ve all been there.
  • But here’s the real game-changer – upgrading to 100% (or nearly) matching hangers will make-over your closet in an instant!
  • Choose a strong, simple, versatile hanger that can handle all types of clothes. My favorite are Huggable Hangers – they’re strong enough for a men’s suit and won’t let those tiny little spaghetti straps slip off. I recommend using only the suit-style Huggable Hangers since they work for both pants and tops.
  • The magic of uniform hangers is less visual clutter and better functionality! You will notice a huge change in how your closet looks and better yet, how you feel every time you open it. Are you ready for an upgrade?

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Five 5-Minute Projects for a More Organized Kitchen

Making use of those little pockets of free time that pop up throughout the day can add up to major progress on those organizing projects you keep meaning to get to. Try out one of these 5 simple kitchen projects next time you have 5 free minutes. Do one a day and you’ll be on your way to a more organized space in less than a week. Mini projects are also a great way to build momentum if you’re having trouble getting started! Ready, set, go!

  1. Clean Out Your Utensil Drawer – Empty the drawer or space where you keep your everyday utensils. Grab a cleaning wipe and give the drawer and utensil try a quick wipe down. Put back only what you use on a regular basis. Put duplicates, randoms and anything you just don’t use in a bag or box for donation. Done!
  2. Sort Through Your Plastic Storage Ware – Empty out the space where you store plastic food storage containers. Give the shelf or drawer a quick wipe down. Match up containers and lids. Recycle anything cracked or lid-less and donate excess items you just don’t need. Nest like containers and lids and use larger containers to corral smaller ones. Done!
  3. Review Your Spices – Take out and review your collection of spices and seasonings. Toss anything expired or that your family just isn’t using. Make a note of staples you need to buy. Give the shelf a quick wipe down and put everything back – grouping like items together. Done!
  4. Free up Fridge Space – Give your fridge a top to bottom review and toss old leftovers, condiments and any other unidentified or past-their-prime foods. Give any spills a quick wipe while you’re at it. Group all condiments together and create zones for other staples in your fridge – beverages, yogurts/snacks, etc. – whatever makes sense for your family. Done!
  5. Clear out the Clutter – Grab a box, bin or bag and walk through your kitchen gathering anything that doesn’t belong – papers, toys, sports equipment, etc. Spend the final few minutes putting things where they belong. Bonus – this mini project will get you some extra steps too! And Done!

Let these 5 minute projects inspire you to come up with your own and keep the organizing going!

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Organize Your Pantry with 3 Simple Steps

Do you dream of opening a clean, organized pantry where you can see exactly what you have and know what’s for dinner in a snap? Pantries can easily become cluttered and chaotic with bags, boxes, bottles and cans of all shapes and sizes. Open items go stale in days and forgotten items get pushed to the back causing you to re-buy things you didn’t know you had. Don’t let your pantry set you into panic mode! Shape up your pantry in no time with these 3 simple steps.

  1. Clear it out! If possible, clear out your entire pantry space or the cupboards where you store your pantry items. Toss out any expired food or anything your family’s not into at the moment. Unexpired/unopened items can be donated to a local food pantry. Set aside any items that don’t belong in your pantry and take time to relocate them when you’re done. This is also a great time to wipe down the shelves for a fresh start!
  2. Set up your zone defense! Having zones for the types of items you keep on hand is your defense against letting your pantry fall into cluttered chaos again. Think pasta and grains, snacks, drinks, canned goods, etc. Use whatever zones make sense to you, but in general try to keep all items of one category together. Also think about which real estate in your pantry makes the most sense for each type of item. Put frequently accessed items in the easiest spots and use top shelves for lesser used items or back stock of items you buy in bulk. Don’t forget to maximize your available space. Stackable bins or cupboard shelves can help maximize vertical space while a door rack can add miles of additional storage.
  3. Contain Yourself! Now it’s time to add some structure to keep your zones in place. Flour, sugar, pastas/grains, and even snack items work well in sealed containers to maintain freshness. Using uniform containers also maximizes space and minimizes visual clutter. Snacks, bagged items, bottles, and so much more can be corralled in open top bins. Try to limit one type of item per bin to keep your zones in play. It also helps to match your containers to the size of the items.

There you have it – follow these steps for a fresh start and practice a little routine maintenance and your pantry problems will be a thing of the past!

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Dream closet inspiration

Check out these stylish closets. Love the organization (of course!) and pops of color.   After you refresh an area of your home, you gaze adoringly at the space when you walk by, right?  You can (and should!)  feel that way about your closet.   I can help style and organize your existing closet or we can start fresh and create a new closet with a definitive organizational plan.

Top Organizing Tips for Closets

Check out these tips for organizing your closet.  Just in time for swapping out your fall/winter wardrobe for spring/summer clothes!   Our best-selling elfa storage solutions are featured in #4, #8, #10, our drawer storage units in #22 and our clear stackable shoe drawers are featured in #23.  [Note how the shoes are stored heel to toe.  This maximizes the use of space and you can see the front of the shoe plus the heel style at a glance.]

 

 

102 Best Tips to Get Your Home Super Organized

Lots of great tips to inspire you to get organized!  My favs: #2 organizing plastic food container lids, #3, organizing hot hair tools (that file box is The Container Store’s!) and #23 store your shoes heel to toe for maximum use of shelf space.

 

Organizing tip | Folded clothes

I recommend hanging as much clothing as possible but if you lack sufficient hanging space or just prefer to fold your clothes, here’s a tip.  If you fold your sweaters, t-shirts or jeans and stand them up in your drawer, you can more easily see what you have and find what you want.  If you stack clothes on a shelf or in a drawer, selecting the bottom item or one from the middle often results in a messy stack.  This tip works for storing and organizing scarves, too.


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Free Elfa installation!!

Receive FREE elfa installation when you spend $750 or more on your elfa design – but only through June 30th! Contact me to get started!

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Two year anniversary with The Container Store!!

Can’t believe it’s already been two years! I love meeting new clients and helping them create storage solutions that look beautiful and are easy to maintain. 
The only way to do great work quote

Springtime Garage organization

It’s spring and finally starting to feel like it.  Time to put away the shovels and sleds and get your garage organized.  Afterall, kids will be playing outside more and I’d rather be playing with them than searching for balls, bike helmets and other outdoor gear.

First things first. Sort like items together and purge.  I always start an organizing project with a few contractor bags.  It’s usually easiest to sort through the stuff you can do without.  Put trash into one bag and items to donate into another contractor bag or other heavy duty bag or box.

Properly dispose of old paint and oil cans and empty cleaning supply bottles.  Check with your town’s disposal facility to find out when they accept hazardous waste.

Once you have like items grouped together (i.e. gardening, car care, outdoor games, bikes and other ride on toys, helmets, other pads- like street hockey and skateboarding kneepads, chalk, bubbles, etc) think about where to store them.  I like to use plastic shelving like this InterMetro one from The Container Store.  Hard working shelves are 18″ deep (any deeper and items can get lost on the shelves)  and can hold up to 300 pounds per shelf!

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Frequently  used items used should be stored at eye level or below. Seasonal items should be kept on higher shelves. Choose ventilated shelves and drawers which allow visibility to what you’re storing — they also prevent dust and dirt from collecting. I use mesh handled bins like this one from The Container store to coral

  • baseballs and whiffleballs
  • chalk
  • bubble and bubble toys
  • street hockey balls and pucks
  • wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads
  • outdoor games

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Lacrosse sticks, baseball bats, hockey sticks, are oranized in a couple of tall mesh bins. Rollerblades sit on the shelf by themselves but get stored in clear bins during the winter.
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About 80% of items stored in a garage can be stored on shelving — the other 20% can be organized on hooks.  These items are usually handled tools including shovels, roof rake, and gardening tools.  Other large bulky items like garden hoses, ladders, strollers and backpack carriers can also be stored up off the ground on hooks.  To organize your entire garage, you’ll need a combination of shelving, drawers and hooks to keep everything organized.

I recommend kids’ bikes, sports equipment and toys to be closest to the garage door if possible and everything else deepest in the garage.  Create a “gardening station”, “car care station”, “winter station” to keep like items together. Once you’ve designated a spot to store everything you must be diligent and conscientious about returning everything to it’s proper place.

If your storage space is limited, consider storing items hanging from the ceiling, under a workbench, behind the door, and maximize vertical wall space. Utilizing The Container Store’s best-selling elfa shelving, everything from bikes to hedge clippers to screwdrivers can be in their own designated spot!

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The Container Store now makes house calls!!

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I am thrilled to announce that I have been selected to be one of The Container Store’s Contained Home exclusive professional organizers in the Boston market! My partnership with The Container Store is an extension of my neatspaces professional organizing business.  Here’s a preview of what The Container Store Contained Home service entails.

Contained Home organizers can:

  • Develop an organization plan for closets, home offices, pantries, kids’ rooms, craft spaces, garages and other storage areas in your home.
  • Organize all areas of your home & maintain your organized spaces through regular visits
  • Unpack and organize your new home
  • Repurpose a space after a student has left for college
  • Downsize for empty nesters
  • Transition spaces from toddlers to teenagers
  • Stage your home for sale
  • Prepare a baby’s nursery

For more info on how the Contained Home service works, click here.

Thank you for your support, encouragement and referrals over the last 9 years!  It means the world to me.  So excited to start on this journey with The Container Store…. stay tuned for more on elfa, The Container Store’s best-selling sleek shelving system and TCS Closets, The Container Store’s exclusive custom built luxurious closet.

 

Spring is in the air!

Spring is here. Really it is.  Hard to believe when you’re still sending your kids off to school in full winter regalia.  Days are bright and sunny and the air is crisp.  Perfect time to clean out and organize your closet and wardrobe.

Many clients have told me when they attempt to do this, they get overwhelmed and end up stuffing all the clothes back in the closet and shoving shoes and accessories into any nook they can find.  If you do a little bit at a time  you’ll be more successful.

Step one: Purge current season’s clothes. You know which pieces you love and feel good in.  Those obviously stay.  If there are any pieces that you didn’t wear or that you didn’t feel great in, put them in a donation pile. I often use shopping bags with handles or contractor bags so all the donation items are ready to go.  If there are pieces that need laundering/dry cleaning/repair set those in a separate pile.  Take care of them before you store them.

Step two: Purge and organize tops.  Go through spring and summer tops and remove any that are dingy or that you don’t love.  If you have 15 black t-shirts,  pare ’em down.  If you have hanging space in your closet, I recommend hanging as much as possible. It makes it easier to see what you have vs. going through a pile in a dresser drawer.  Hang them in majority color order: reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, purples, browns, blacks, whites.  Within the color hang by sleeve length: tanks, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve. I like to use these low profile non-slip hangers from The Container Store.  Using only one type of hanger provides a uniform look making your closet neater.

Step three: Purge and organize bottoms.  Same process as for the tops, for shorts, skirts, capris, ankle length and long pants.  I keep shorts, capris and jeans on shelves in my closet and hang skirts, dressier pants and dresses.  I like these hangers from The Container Store to hang skirts because they save space.

Step four: Purge and organize shoes and accessories. I hang my scarves in color order on the back of my door with a rack like this one from Bed Bath and Beyond. I have earrings on a jewelry stand like this available at the Container Store.  I don’t have a ton of earrings, so this sits on my dresser.  Again, I like to see what I have. It makes getting dressed easier.  Sterling silver jewlery is in a closed jewelry box on my dresser so they don’t tarnish.  If you have shoe shelves in your closet, you can use those or a shoe rack like this one.  Most of my frequently worn shoes for the season are in the hall closet on the main floor and not-so-frequently worn shoes are in my closet.  You can sort and hang belts on an organizer like this.  I like to stand purses on a shelf (in their dust bag if you have it).  These shelf dividers keep them separated and from falling down.

You don’t have to sort and organize your wardrobe in one go.  You could do it in four smaller chunks of time.  Once you’ve organized and sorted your wardrobe, it makes it easier to know what you need to shop for!

 

 

Less is more when Decluttering

Often times when thinking about areas in your home that need attention and organization, people become overwhelmed because they think of the big projects, like the basement, the attic or the playroom. If you take smaller “bites”, you’ll be less overwhelmed and more successful.

Here’s a list of 50 areas to declutter. Most should take 20-30 minutes. Print it out and get started. Decide if you are going to tackle one task per day or one task per week and get it done! Don’t forget to schedule donation pick up for those items that haven’t been used or worn in over a year. Find next available donation pick up in your area at www.GoodDonor.org. Happy organizing!

1. Kitchen silverware drawer
2. Kitchen utensils
3. Canned goods in the pantry
4.Tea/coffee/mugs
5. Pots and pans
6. Baking sheets/pans and ingredients
7.Tupperware or other like containers
8. Sports bottles/sippy cups
9. Kids’ lunchboxes
10. Food storage wraps/foils/bags
11. Kitchen towels, linens, placemats
12. Under the kitchen sink
13. Fridge
14. Freezer
15. Glassware
16. Vitamins/medicines in the kitchen
17. Coupons and gift cards
18. Stationary
19. Bills/mail area
20. Junk drawer
21. Batteries/light bulbs
22. Cookbooks and recipes
23. Dry storage
24. Trash/Recycling area
25. Mudroom or entry way shoes/boots
26. Hall closet
27. Catalogs, magazines and newspapers
28. Family room coffee table/end tables
29. DVDs and gaming console games
30. Laundry area
31. Guest bathroom linens
32. Bedroom nightstands
33. Scarves/purses/bags
34. Jewelry
35. Sock drawer
36. Athletic clothes
37. Pajamas
38. Bathroom beauty supplies
39. Bathroom shower/tub
40. Cough/cold/first aid supplies
41. Bed linens and towels
42. Craft supplies
43. Sports equipment
44. Holiday decor: Valentine’s
45. Holiday decor: Easter
46. Holiday decor: Halloween
47. Holiday decor: Thanksgiving
48. Holiday decor: Christmas/Hannukah
49. Cleaning supplies
50. Car

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New Year’s Resolutions

Are you making New Year’s resolutions to get your home more organized?  If so, then you will probably need some products like bins for clothes, toys and food storage, hooks, hangers, folders and other organizing tools.  Luckily all of thees items can be found in one location, one of my happy places, The Container Store, which has various sales that run throughout the year.

The Container Store’s promotions typically run for 6-8 weeks although the specific dates change each year.  Some sales include Elfa products and installation of Elfa is usually applicable for the sale (but this is subject to change).

The Annual Elfa sale is happening now!  It started December 24th 2014 and runs through February 11, 2015. The promotion is 30% off all Elfa products and installation.

Work Smart Office Sale:  typically starts right after the annual Elfa sale and goes through mid-March.  The Work Smart Office sale includes various discounts on office products.

Spring Organizational Sale: typically runs April through May and provides discounts on spring organizing items (think closet!)

I recently designed an Elfa system for a client for her daughter’s closet, and a kitchen pantry.  Working on a design for a basement entryway right now.  Let me know if you have any questions or would like help getting more organized!  Happy organizing!

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One last purge

With the holidays fast approaching and new toys sure to enter your home, I encourage my clients to walk through their home (or at least the kids’ playroom and bedrooms) and donate any toys that are no longer used.  Use contractor bags to gather donations.  They are sturdier than regular trash bags and you cannot see through them, so you’re more likely to get the items out the door. If the items are visible, you may get little hands pulling toys back out of the bags claiming that they are their most favorite toys that they can’t live without.   Don’t let the kids sabotage your plans to stay organized!!   I also like to have a few clear bins on hand for storing new holiday toys.  I usually have a few shoe size boxes and a few sweater size boxes from the Container Store on hand to coral all the pieces to a new game, toy or craft.

You can schedule a donation pick up in advance by going to GoodDonor.org or scheduleapickup.com.  If you schedule a donation pick up in advance of doing your walk through, gestimate how large or small your donation will be.  Scheduling a donation pick up in advance will make it more likely that you actually go through your home and collect items to be donated.  You can’t really blow it off once it’s scheduled, it gives you a deadline for your last purge of 2014.  It’s kinda like working out, you may not initially feel that enthusiastic about doing it, but you’ll feel great after it’s done. :)

10 Strategies for a Stress Free Holiday Season

1. Shorten your to-do list.  Ask yourself, “If I don’t do this, what will happen?”  I’m usually a get-it-done-now-so-you-can-relax-later kind of girl, but in this case, see what you can put off until after the holidays.  When things get crazy and hectic, I ask myself, “will my kids/family/friends remember I did this?” and if the answer is “no” it gets knocked off my list.

2. Limit gift giving.  Not being Scrooge here, but try limiting gift giving to children only and consider do a “Secret Santa”.  You’ll only have to shop for a few kids in the family instead of all the cousins, nieces and nephews!

3. Wrap as you go.  Wouldn’t you rather spend Christmas Eve with a mug of hot chocolate (or hot toddy) instead of doing a gift wrapping marathon?  Label to/from right away, and use sticky notes if necessary to keep track of gift contents.

4. Buy, don’t bake. We bake and decorate Christmas cookies each year, but to save time, you could buy plain sugar cookies from a local bakery or supermarket for the kids to decorate.  I buy a pre-assembled gingerbread house that the kids decorate (baking and or assembling our own house was NOT contributing to the joy of the season!)

5. Use labels for addressing Christmas cards. Last post was about using labels to address your Christmas cards.  If you do it this year, imagine how easy it’ll be next year!!

6. Scale back décor.  We still get a fresh Christmas tree each year but there are several reasons why folks turn to artificial trees. It’s efficient (the lights are already strung), it’s less expensive over the years, and is environmentally conscious.   You can display a pretty door wreath instead of doing large scale outdoor lighting, and a tabletop tree instead of over-the-top entire home decor.

7. Put home projects on hold.  Wait, what?  Yup, just close the door on the messy office or spare bedroom that’s become the dumping ground.  Put off the organizing and house projects until after the holiday season.

8. Downsize dishwashing. Maybe you still want to use your fine china for Christmas day, but hand-washing fine china is no fun, so use everyday dishes or paper plates for other gatherings.

9. Less is more.  Consider serving a variety of appetizers and finger foods instead of a entree and sides.  We’ll always have a Christmas turkey at my in-laws (LOVE it!!) on Christmas day but for other gatherings during the holidays it’s easier on the host to do several appetizers than a big sit-down dinner.  Hosting a pot luck would make it even easier.

10.  Be a homebody. Staying close to home beats holiday travel any day. Staying close to home allows you more time to do the things you really want to do with your family.

Happy Holidays!!
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Christmas cards!!

Some friends feel strongly that they want to hand address their Christmas or holiday cards. While I admit, it does look more personal, depending on how many cards you send out, it can take A LOT longer to hand address them vs. printing out some cute address labels. Also, even if you hand address cards a few at a time, after writing out a few addresses, I don’t know about you, but I would not like what my handwriting looks like! Plus, I’d rather get the whole job done at once vs. doing it over a few days, but that’s just me.

I use Avery #18863 clear labels or Avery #5163 white labels to address our holiday cards. (I used them for birth announcements too!) There are 10 labels per page. The thing about using labels for your holiday cards, is that you can play with fonts and add images. I like to use a larger font for the recipient name, usually in a fancier script andimage then the address in an all caps font for contrast. These Avery labels are large enough to accommodate the use of different size fonts as well as including an image if you wish, such as a wreath or Christmas tree.

I use the Word template that corresponds to the labels and make address changes and additions to the list each year. Not in a bah-bum-bug scroogey way, but there are also a few deletions each year too. For example I don’t send Christmas cards to teachers from previous years and their sport teams change too, so I don’t necessarily send them to their previous year’s coaches or teams in their entirety either.

I used to print out return address labels, but a couple of years ago I ordered a return address stamp from Tiny Prints. They offer a variety of styles. Ours has a script “B” in the middle and then our family name and address in a circle around the “B”. I like how it looks and love the efficiency of it!

You can save yourself a trip to the Post Office by ordering your stamps in the mail. They’ll charge you a nominal fee, which can be worth it instead of waiting in a long line.

Can’t wait to see our friends and family’s holiday cards this season!

 

Christmas and holiday gift organizing

I cannot believe Christmas is less than 30 days away!  I’ve already created a gift list for each of our family members and others who we give gifts to, including teachers, our cleaning lady, and sitters (we don’t call them “babysitters” any more!).   I start with a list of gift ideas for each person. My husband and I go through the list together and make edits.  For the kids, we like to choose different types of gifts, for example, we try to have a gift that encourages movement (like a hockey shooting pad or a chin up bar), creativity (crafts), education (books, science or STEM activity sets) and good old fun (such as Wii games).  Listing out all the ideas makes sure we get a variety of  types of gifts and to stay within our budget for each child.  Once we have decided what we are going to get, I list out where each item can be purchased, whether it is online or at a brick and mortar store.  I prefer to do online shopping as much as possible, as I have already transitioned into my “stalker” strategy when looking for a parking space– I look for someone coming out of a store and ask them if they’re leaving and then follow them to their car.  Santa will not be nice to people who steal parking spaces from others who were patiently waiting. I digress.  The holiday season is about spending time with family and friends and joy and happiness.  In the end, whether you get your child 10 toys or 2 toys, it’s the time spent together as a family that they’ll remember.  image

Timeline project

My daughter, who is in 2nd grade, just completed a timeline project.  The project required writing out a plan, finding the right tools (pictures) and putting it all together.  It got me thinking about planning for the holidays.  Thanksgiving is coming up in just a few days and Christmas is about 30 days away. (Eeeak!  Gotta get to my Christmas shopping which I’ll talk about in the next post.)

Whether you are cooking the main course or bringing sides or dessert, making a plan will help make it less stressful.  Each day you should plan what you are purchasing and from where.  At this point hopefully your orders are already in from stores that require pre-ordering.   More specifically, you should plan what you are cooking/baking and for how long on a timeline.  You can’t double book your oven!  Unless you have two ovens, in which case I’m envious!  You should also plan what serving dishes and utensils will be used for each food item. I  like to put a small Post-It note inside the serving platter/bowl with what I am planning to serve in it.  It ensures I have enough serving pieces and the right serving pieces.  An added bonus is that when it all comes down to putting the food out, it’s easier for others to lend a hand.   Also, make sure you have enough food storage containers to store leftovers.  I prefer rectangular shaped ones, as they stack easier in the refrigerator/your kitchen cabinets.

Hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to my favorite meal of the year.  More importantly, I am so very grateful for my husband and our beautiful children, our families and our health.

 

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Garage organization. Getting ready for winter!

Just finished a project at a client’s home this morning. We had purged and organized items in the garage and decided what was going where.  I ordered an Elfa system for her from The Container Store (passing along my 20% professional organizer discount) was installation went well yesterday.  Today we got everything up off the ground. Nine bicycles in various sizes, 2 balance bikes, 3 scooters and 1 tricycle hang on one wall, along with all the helmets. One spot is was designated to hang wet snow coats and snowpants.  Gardening tools and shovels are along one wall and there is additional storage on shelves and in pull out bins for off season items like coolers, summer toys and gear, car accessories and cleaning supplies.  We both agreed, it was extremely satisfying to see the finished project.  Here are a few pictures for inspiration.  Now they can park their two cars in the garage before the snow comes!!!  IMG_2505[1]IMG_2508[1]

Gift card, store credits and coupon organization

 

How many times have you been out shopping and wished you had remembered where that gift card or store credit is?  I don’t really cut coupons but I do use store coupons for a % off at retailers and I’d rather use store credits and gift cards than to let them go to waste.   You likely receive gift cards and certificates for birthdays and other special occasions.  You may receive loyalty rewards at retailers that are as good as cash.  You probably have store credit for something you bought that you decided you didn’t want/need, which is a good thing if you returned it because you are reducing the clutter in your home!  How to keep them all organized?  If you truly only have a few, maybe less than 10, you could keep them in a small zippered wallet or change purse.  You probably already own something that can be repurposed.

If you have more than 10 or so gift cards/credits/coupons, consider using a coupon organizer.  I found one at Bed Bath and Beyond that looks like a zippered wallet, but has a bunch of divided sections and a note pad and pen holder.  I labeled the sections, “Restaurants”, “store coupons”, “store credits”, “BJ’s” and “CVS”.  The wallet “lives” in a drawer near my command station in the kitchen.  When I am going out shopping or think I might use a restaurant gift certificate, I grab the wallet and bring it with me.  I keep it in the drawer, because as I receive mailings with loyalty rewards/coupons I can easily file them away. Life is busy, so if I can’t put it in right away, the reward/coupon goes into the drawer and when I have a few of them, I file them away.  It works for me to remember to bring the wallet with me when I am going shopping, than another solution, like leaving it in my car.  It might be more likely to have it with you if you leave it in your car, but keeping up with filing your gift certificates/rewards/coupons would be more difficult nevermind the fact that it might not be secure in your car.

I also keep a fine point Sharpie marker in the organizer so that when I have partially used store credits, I can write the remaining balance on the back of the card. It eliminates wondering how much if any value is left on the card.  Happy shopping!
coupon organizer

 

 

 

 

 

What’s my password??

There are so many different user names and passwords to create.  You probably have at least one email account, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, among other social media networks, Amazon, and countless other online shopping sites, eBay, PayPal, probably some banking, Wi-Fi, professional and home computer network access and likely many more. How do you create a unique, strong password for each of these accounts that you can easily remember?

For security reasons a “strong” password contains different character types such as uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. Here’s the problem. There is simply no way you can remember all your unique, strong passwords…or is there?

What happens is that people tend to use the same one or two passwords for all their accounts. They use children’s or pet’s names or birthdates which are hackable. Even with using these predictable passwords, sometimes you’re not sure which one password you chose, right? So you go through the few different passwords you typically use  hoping to get in and that you don’t get locked out of the account. Easy to remember?  Sort of.  But are your accounts secure? No.

What I recommend to clients is to create a mini-password that includes uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. For example, “Jb12*”.  Let’s say we are creating (or changing) an Amazon account password.  Determine an uppercase/ lowercase pattern the name of the account, Amazon, for example “aMAZON”, “amazoN”, or “aMazon”. Let’s call this the sub-password.  Then add the mini-password to the sub-password.  So, for example, if you’ve choosen “aMAZON” as the sub-password + mini-password “Jb12*” = “aMAZONJb12*”, a unique, strong password. How is that easy to remember? This is what your Facebook password would be: “fACEBOOKJb12*”.  This is what your Container Store password would be: “cONTAINERJb12*”.  Your mini-password stays the same added to the beginning or end of the sub-password for the account.

You could also use a good old fashioned address book to store your various user names and passwords, but you’ll need to keep it up to date and you’ll need to dedicate a place to keep it where it’s safe and where you’ll always be able to find it. There are also password manager apps but you’ll also need to create a user name and password for that account too!password_1

How to STAY organized

Depending on the scope of a project, it can take anywhere from one hour to a couple of organizing sessions to organize a space.  In order to keep it organized, you need to work at it.  It’s similar to weight loss and exercise.  Once you reach your ideal weight, you still need to consciously work at eating right and exercising to maintain that weight.   Once you organize a space, you need to actively keep it organized.  Research shows that it takes consciously acting on a new behavior for just 15 minutes a day for 21 days could create a habit, to do something “automatically.”

So, whether it is keeping your email in-box organized or keeping your children’s playroom organized, you need to actively do something to maintain it.  I’m not a fan of Post-It notes because often it is used along with some other organizing to-do list/app/planner and when you have more than one system in play, things can get lost.  In this case of creating new habits, you could write one or two words to remind yourself of the habit you are working to create.  Stick the Post-It note somewhere highly visible and make tick marks for 21 days as a visual reminder and self encouragement.

post it notes

Schedule time to organize!

Whether you work with a professional organizer or you are motivated to do it on your own, you have to schedule time to get it done.  Just like working out and exercising, it’s not going to get done by itself!  Finishing an organizing project, large or small, is quite rewarding.  You can find what you need when you need it so you aren’t overwhelmed and you’re feeling less stressed.  Having 3 young children and busy schedules is stressful enough! Being organized helps you have the energy to do the things you really want to do and the time to accomplish more.

My clients are often energized and hopeful after an organizing session. I encourage them to schedule one or two hours per month to tackle an organizing project.  The project can be as big as organizing the basement or as small as one drawer in the kitchen.   In order to maintain the enthusiasm and forward momentum, take small steps and work only the amount of time you dedicated–one or two hours.

If you need some help to get jump started on your organizing projects, I’d be happy to help you!  Feel free to call or email to set up a telephone consultation.  Happy organizing!

schedule time to organize

Organizing girls’ hair accessories!!

My husband is one of 3 boys.   We have 2 daughters ages 7 and 5 and more pink and purple girly things than he could have ever imagined.  We have a fair amount of head bands, barettes, clips and hair ties.  How to keep it all organized?  I’ll share how we organize ours, and a couple of other ideas.

I bought a decorative basket at HomeGoods that measures around 15″ x 12″.  The headbands “sit” along two sides of the basket in rainbow order, which makes it easier to find one to (hopefully!) coordinate with their outfit.  I actually repurposed packaging from two Melissa and Doug crafts (Decorate your own heart box or something similar) and placed them inside the basket to keep large hair ties, small hair ties, metal hair clips, small jaw clips, and other hair clips organized.  You could also purchase a divided tray like this one at The Container Store.   Ribbon and other “stretchy” headbands hang on a couple of 3M Command hooks.   This hair station is in the bathroom on the first floor, where they often do their hair right before breakfast.  You could also place the divided tray into a bathroom drawer and hang headbands on a few 3M Command hook inside the cabinet door or on the wall.   Our hair brush and detangling spray sit inside the basket.  You could use a divided tray like this one that has many sections and separate small hair accessories by color.

I found this hair accessory organizer on Etsy– hair clips get attached to the ribbons which I like because you can see each one, headbands get hung on the rod at the bottom.  You can hang this kind of organizer with a clear Command hook and use a small tray acrylic or other decorative tray to hold brush, hair detangler and small container of hair ties.  Sometimes brushing their long beautiful and tangly hair is so painful (to me and to them!) finding a hair tie or barrette shouldn’t be!

hair station

 

 

3M Command hooks! Love ’em!

One of my favorite organizing products are 3M Command hooks.  If you are not already familiar with them, seriously, this is going to be life changing.  If you know about them, hopefully I will share a new use with you.  3M is the same company that makes removeable Post-it notes and their revolutionary product allows you to hang hooks without drilling or hammering and they come off cleanly without damaging the wall or surface whether it’s paint, wood or wallpaper.  I swear I am not being paid to endorse their product, I just love ’em!  Each package comes with the special adhesive strips and additional strips can be purchased.  Hooks can be moved and repositioned as needed.  Small hooks hold up to 1 pound, medium hooks up to 2 pounds and large hooks up to 3 pounds.  They come in clear, white plastic, colored plastic, brushed nickel and silver.   Here are some uses in our home.

Kitchen

  • Inside kitchen cabinet doors to hang pot holders and aprons.
  • Under kitchen sink cabinet for dishwashing gloves, water bottle brush and mini dustpan and broom.
  • Inside cabinet doors for stand mixer accessories.

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Bathrooms

  • Medium command hooks are used for each child’s face cloth.
  • Mini command hooks for the kids’ flossers.  God forbid they use one another’s flosser and get cooties!
  • Mini command hooks mounted horizontally for their toothbrushes.
  • Various hooks inside the medicine cabinet (are they called that anymore??) door to hang my eyelash curler, tweezers, cuticle scissors, black hair ties, “fancy” hair ties…. I could go on and on.
  • Inside the bathroom closet door to hang my hairdryer and another to hang my curling iron (I just drape the cord around the hook once or twice).
  • Inside bathroom vanity door for girls’ hair ties and headbands although headbands seem to reproduce in our home so we’ve moved on to another system (more on that in next post). command hooks3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids’ bedrooms

  • 3M hooks in my son’s room to hang various medals and participation ribbons (don’t get my husband started talking about that :)
  • Medium hooks to hang baseball hats.
  • Numerous 3M hooks, various sizes in my daughters’ bedroom and my bedroom on the side of our dressers to hang necklaces and bracelets.
  • Small hooks inside my closet for thin belts.

3M hooks1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closet

  • Two large command hooks are on the inside of the hall closet.  One is designated for my purse and the other is for things I need to return/exchange.
  • A few other hooks are for broom, Swiffer and dustpan.

Hallway (we don’t have a mudroom)

  • 3 large hooks have withstood the test of time and not-so-gentle kid use.  They’ve been up for over a year and are for kids’ packpacks

Office

  • Inside closet door or side of desk to store frequently used charger cables
  • Mini command hooks to keep cords/cables along the wall instead of jumbled on the floor

I am probably missing a few here and there, but I highly recommend that you stock up on a few packs in different sizes.  It wasn’t that long ago that my husband was out playing paddle, kids were in bed and I was organizing the bathroom.  I put them on the inside of the medicine cabinet and I went to bed a happy girl.  He’s playing paddle again tonight, I’ll have to see if I can find some more uses for them!!

 

Tame the paper clutter!

The kids bring home lots of school work and notices to parents and then you add the mail and all the junk mail which can lead to a lot of clutter!  In an effort to tame the paper clutter, I go through the mail each day while standing in front of the trash can.  I sort them the mail into these categories.

  1. To do (bills to pay, invitations to respond to)
  2. To file
  3. Unsubscribe!
  4. Trash

Pretty self-explanatory, right?  I have file folders for to do, to file, and unsubscribe. Higher priority ‘to do’ items go to the front of the ‘to do’ file folder and I go through the folder at least every couple of days. I throw away all the junk mail except the catalogs I don’t want to receive any more.  For those catalogs- I tear off the back page that includes the source code and key code and file that one page into my ‘catalogs to unsubscribe’ file folder and toss the catalog. In fact, there aren’t many catalogs I actually want to receive.  If I want to see the new season’s stuff, I go to the store or to the store’s website.

CatalogChoice.org is a free site where you can unsubscribe from a zillion different mailings.  Once there are a bunch in the folder, I logon to my Catalogchoice.org account and unsubscribe and then toss the catalog cover.  It’s been very useful and I felt environmentally responsible to successfully unsubscribe from the ginormous Restoration Hardware catalog.  There are one or two pesky catalogs I can’t get rid of like Oriental Trading company, but overall I highly recommend Catalog Choice to reduce the paper clutter from even entering your house.

catalog choice