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!


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 or  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!!

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.



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.


  • 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.

command hooks2






  • 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









  • 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


  • 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. 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 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

Kitchen command center

Most families do other things besides preparing food and eating in their kitchens.  You probably pay bills, answer emails, and schedule kid activities among other household tasks.   So, the topic of this post will be how to create a kitchen command center.  We don’t have a home office on the main level of the house nor do we have a office nook in the kitchen.  Papers tended to collect in the corner of the kitchen near the refrigerator, so I sorted through the cabinet above that area and relocated the contents of the bottom shelf.  I moved wine and booze to the top shelf of that cabinet and the other less frequently used items (martini glasses, shakers, cocktail recipe books and cookbooks) to another cabinet.  Now I had space for my papers and supplies.

I bought a file box like this one from The Container Store and some pretty hanging file folders and interior file folders.  The file box sits on top of the counter next to my iPad, keyboard and telephone.  file box 2There are many desktop file boxes available in different colors, some don’t have tops at all.  I like this one because its lid stays attached, yet the contents are concealed. I have files for: to do, to file, recipes, to read, catalogs to unsubscribe, (more on that in the next post), and a file for extracurricular activities like sports rosters and information.

I hung 3M Post-It Pockets and magnetic strips on the inside of the cabinet doors.  Receipts go in one of the small pockets for exchanges/returns, tickets and stamps go in another small pocket, and school directories/change in dismissal forms go in a large pocket.  Invitations (after I have RSVP’ed ‘yes’) get hung on the magnetic strip along with anything else I might need to reference, like our town’s recycle center hours.  I try not to have too much stuff on the front of our refrigerator, so sometimes pictures or small artwork will get hung up on the magnetic strip too.   The strips come in square and rectangle shapes too, but these were too large for the inside of my cabinet door.  Two strips hung vertically provide enough space for me.

magnetic strips















I have two clear magazine files in the cabinet that store active notebooks (I use one notebook for my organizing business and one for volunteer work).  The second magazine file stores my label maker and extra cartridges.  Kids’ workbooks and handwriting paper are also in the cabinet.  A book end keeps them from falling down.

Last but not least, a desk drawer organizer keeps pens and other supplies organized.  My kitchen command center has been in place for about two years now and it’s been great.  Would do it again in a heartbeat!

Just do it!

There are really two parts to organizing any space. The first is to declutter and organize the space and contents and the second is to keep it organized.  When figuring out how to organize any space, solutions need to fit.  It needs to feel right for you.  You know whether or not you are likely to keep up a particular solution.  One solution might be a better fit over another.  For example, if you often misplace your car keys, do you think you can keep up with a solution of putting them in the same spot every time you come into your home? Or does putting them in the side pocket of your car door seem like a better solution?  You know what will work best for you.

The second part is maintenance.  Keeping up with the solution.   Making it a habit.  Once you designate a spot for your keys or    (fill in the blank)    you have to put your things away!   I say that a lot in our house!  It’s much easier to put things away when you know where they belong so just do it.  Make it a habit to put things away and encourage family members to do the same. When you are going upstairs, don’t walk empty handed, take some things with you that you know belong upstairs.  It takes discipline to maintain an organized space.


Chargers and cords

I have been holding off on updating our devices to the new iOS8 as I hear that one of the drawbacks to the “upgrade” is that your battery life is greatly diminished.  I’ve learned that when apps that use location services are running it drains the battery.  Saw a post on Facebook recently that recommended that you change your Facebook settings to “auto-play, only when connected to Wi-Fi” otherwise videos stream as you are scrolling through your newsfeed and drains your data.  So much to think about when it comes to devices!!

If your phone/iPad, printer cable or other chargers are falling down behind your desk or getting tangled, let me introduce you to CableDrops.  These nifty little adhesive dots adhere to the top or side of your desk, nightside table or just about anywhere and hold the cable in it’s place.  When you need to charge your device or plug in the printer cable you simple slide the cord, while still attached to the cable drop, and connect and when you’re done the cable stays put, it doesn’t fall to the ground!  The mini CableDrops are great for newer Apple devices with the lightening cable. cabledrops 1
















cabledrops 2












These handy cable ties, can help manage cords under your desk especially if the length of the cord(s) are longer than you need.  Simply wind up the extra length and attach one of these velcro cables around it to keep it neat.

cable ties


Storing kids’ sentimentals

I’m a sentimental person. I like to keep things that bring back happy memories.   I worked at Walt Disney World for a number of years and opened 2 DisneyQuests.  It was such a fun, crazy time that I’m proud of, but I can’t keep everything associated with that chunk of time.  Fast forward and I’m now married with 3 kids and there are a lot of happy memories and I know I can’t keep everything.  Removing unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded space does not mean that the item or the time associated with that item isn’t important to you.

Each child has a sweater box from The Container Store that stores their coming-home-from-hospital outfit, and other items like their Christening outfit and candle.  Ryan used to wear a blue Magnum-PI-style Hawaiian shirt my parents got him.  He LOVED that shirt. That’s in his box.  Like the schoolwork memory boxes, there is a finite amount of space, so you can’t keep everything.  Be selective in what you keep.  You might want to toss in a few cedar balls to keep pesky insects away. When (or if) they ever tire of their loveys, those will go in the box.  I can’t even imagine….

How to organize school pictures and kids’ stuff

Our kids had school pictures taken this week. I’m always excited to see them. We tell them to “smile easy”, sometimes they try so hard, their smiles are SOO big and their little faces are all scrunched.  Regardless of whether the pics are great or not-so-great, I like to store each year’s picture along with their class picture in a file box.  How do I keep ’em all organized?

Each kid has their own schoolwork memory box, I like to use the Stockholm letter file box from The Container Store.   Each box has 15 hanging files to accommodate pre-school through grade 12.  I printed out cute labels for each of the interior file folders to mark each year and I also print out 15 school picture memory cards on cardstock.  I always order (2) 5″ x 7″ pictures and when I receive them, I put one up on the refrigerator and save the other one.  I mount the photo to the picture memory card with double sided permanent tape and I mount the class picture to the back.  Here’s what the memory box looks like.  (this isn’t the Stockholm box– will update post with new pics soon)

School paper file box 1
















There is a limit to the amount of items you can store, proud parents, so think twice about whether or not you want to store the cute picture your child painted this week.  The Stockholm file box is about 17″ deep, so there is plenty of room for class pictures, report cards, and a few cute items from the school year.  Definition of “few”: a small number, a handful, one or two, a couple, two or three; not many, hardly any.  So, only keep the real masterpieces or what is really meaningful.  Like when our oldest wrote a letter to one of his sisters apologizing for something that happened, and says he’ll always take care of her, that went in the bin.

Here are the class photo memory cards:

















I get asked a lot about how to store kids school stuff, so I hope this helps.  It’s just a suggestion, might or might not work for you.  It’s hard to throw away the beautiful things your children have created.   I’ve worked with older couples whose children are grown and have families of their own,  and they want to declutter their garages and attics and I can tell you that not one of their grown children wanted the multitude of boxes of “stuff” that the parents had saved in big bins….  just sayin’. Now, you’re not going to be able to put the coming-home-from-the-hospital outfit into this box…. more on that next.

Almost time for ghosts and goblins!

If you ask my kids, they will tell you that Christmas, Halloween and Easter are their favorite holidays.  Who doesn’t love getting presents and candy?!  Soon, I’ll bring up the “Halloween bin”  which has each child’s trick or treating bag and Halloween decorations.  I use the Container Store clear bins to store holiday and seasonal stuff, so there’s a bin for Easter, Halloween, many bins for Christmas and a bin for summer seasonal stuff.   I store the bins on a shelving unit like this one  from Home Depot.  These shelving units are great, by the way, and can be easily assembled in 45 minutes or so.

If you store seasonal items like this, you can save time and money by not buying them again each year because you can’t find them or because you’ve tossed them since you don’t have a system in place to store them.   If you do have to buy a new Easter basket, look for ones with a collapsible handle, they’ll store much easier!

halloween storage

What does a professional organizer do?

Often times, when clients contact me they describe being overwhelmed or that they are living in chaos.  Being overwhelmed is hard- there’s so much to do but you don’t know what to do.  As a professional organizer, I assist in these situations by taking control of the chaos in the client’s life, which allows them to more effectively manage their time.  I work with clients to turn an overwhelming situation into manageable steps and develop custom organizing systems and teach organizational skills.

Clients often have busy schedules, so as part of my organizing services,  I schedule donation pick ups, and shop for containers and items necessary to organize their spaces.   I have a network of handymen, electricians, contractors and clean out companies and coordinate necessary appointments to assist with the organizing project.  Organizing sessions usually run 2-3 hours, long enough to make noticeable progress and to maintain energy and enthusiasm for the project.   Contact me if there’s an area in your home or office that you’d like to get better organized.  I’d be happy to chat with you!

organized playroom

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  He is one of the kindest, most patient, loving, supportive men I know.  If there is an organizing gene, I get it from him.   In grade school he got me my own Franklin-Covey planner.  There were cartoons down the margin, but I had one, nonetheless.   Not sure if that makes me a dork or geek or what, but I do know that as a professional organizer, I am doing what I love.  Thanks, Dad, I love you and thanks for teaching me how to be organized!

do what you love

Turn the “dumping ground” into functional space

So, you want to convert the “dumping ground” in your home into usable space. First, you have to clean out the space.  Decide what you are keeping and the rest goes!  Easier, said than done, right?  Well, while you may be able to take the trash and donation items to your local recycle center in several trips, you will be able to clear out the space more efficiently if you hire a clean out company.  There are many clean out or junk removal companies in the Boston metrowest area.  Clean out companies will take trash and reusable/recycleable items as well as hazardous waste (i.e. paint) and other large items such as refrigerators and microwaves.   Some clean out companies will dismantle larger items such as pool tables and home gym equipment.

When  hiring a clean out company, have 2 or 3 different companies come by to give you an estimate.  Make sure they are licensed and insured.  The estimate should include how many people will come to clean out your space and what type of vehicle they will use to clean it out (pick up truck, van, dump truck or box truck?)  Ask how long they think it’ll take to clean out the space.   Ask if there are additional charges for removing paint, referigerator, or other bulky items or for dismanteling any larger pieces.

I’ve been using Beantown Clean Outs at my clients for a while now and they have always done a great job.  They are reliable, efficient and fair.   (781) 620 2623  Tell Bill I sent you!

clean out



Donate those clothes, toys, household items!

There are several organizations that will pick up used clothing, toys, small furniture, and household items.  As a general rule of thumb, they will not take anything that requires 2 people to move, i.e. a sofa or china cabinet.  Also, even if you think the article of clothing is hideous, they’ll take any clothing that isn’t torn or stained.  Most organizations will not take televisions, computer monitors or microwave ovens.

Some organizations like, Vietnam Vets, are on a weekly schedule by town.  For example, they come to Wellesley on Wednesdays, Newton on Tuesdays.  You can go to to schedule Vietnam Vets to pick up donation items.  You choose where you will leave the items, for example on the driveway or front porch.  Items are requested to be out by 8 AM, so it’s often easier to get them out the night before, but beware of a rainy forecast when scheduling donation pick ups, or cover with nylon/plastic drop cloth if you have one.  You can print out the donation pick up confirmation and tape it to one of the donation bags/boxes to clearly identify what’s being picked up.

If the Vietnam Vets donation pick up schedule doesn’t work for you, or you just want to see what other organizations might be in  your area, check out   Here you’ll create a free account and you can schedule a pick up from your organization of choice or schedule a donation pick up by date.

Often times, my clients get started on an organizing project, but then they lose momentum when they can’t get the donation items out the door, and those giveaways get shoved into another closet or some other dumping ground, so I often schedule donation pick ups for them and/or take small amounts to our towns “take and leave” recyclable area.

These organizations will take smaller donations (1-3 bags/boxes) medium sized donations (4-15 bags/boxes) or even larger donations (15+ bags/boxes).  If you have larger items, such as furniture and appliances, you may need a clean out company to help you organize your space.  More about that next….


Fall is here!

Now that it’s getting a little cooler, my kids are looking for their long sleeved shirts and pants and leggings.  Time to change over the clothes.  It’s a task that takes longer than you might expect but if you follow a few steps you can not only organize their dressers and closets so that they can find what they are looking for, but you may save money by only buying what they actually need.   What you’ll need: a few sturdy shopping bags or heavy duty kitchen bags, approximately 50 gallon clear bins (1 per child), 1″ painter’s tape, a Sharpie, note pad and pen.

1.  Working with one child’s wardrobe at a time, take out all the shorts and short sleeved shirts and tanks and summer dresses.  I do leave a few short sleeved shirts (especially for my son who will wear them year-round with a long sleeved shirt underneath) and I do leave a few sports-type shorts for the kids, ie. soccer shorts and for gym.

2. Sort these clothes into two piles. Use the shopping bags or kitchen bags to hold the clothes that won’t fit next summer, and one into a clear bin for next year.  Put a piece of painters tape on the top of the lid and along the side of the bin and label. I label with the child’s name and season.  We get hand-me-downs from older cousins, so I label the bins with the child’s name, season and age.   If you get hand-me-downs too or if you shop a season ahead, guesstimate the child’s age when the clothing item will fit him/her, don’t go by the size of the clothing.   This is particularly important when you are storing baby clothes.   Our youngest daughter does get hand-me-downs from her big sis, and those clothes go into a bin and are labeled for her.

3.  If you’ve done something like this last year, pull out the clothes for that child for that season.  Take another look and discard any items that look dingy or too small.  Hang up fall/winter clothes or put into dresser drawers.  I like to hang as much as possible because I think it’s easier for them to see what they have and make a choice than to rifle through neatly folded clothes in their drawers, because they won’t look so neat after they rifle through them!

4.  Assess what your child has for fall/winter clothing and make a list of what’s needed in his/her wardrobe.  It’s easier and  more cost effective to shop this way when you know exactly what they need.

5. Repeat for each child and if you’re feeling really ambitious, tackle your own wardrobe next!

Where to donate clothes and toys coming up next….

Mom, what’s my special today?!

The kids have specials every day at school including art, music, library, and gym. They need to wear sneakers on gym day and return their library books on library day.  Now, how to get them to remember what happens on what day?  I printed a chart, laminated it and posted it by the door leading out to the garage.  Days of the week go across the top, kids names go down the first column oldest to youngest and then I filled in each child’s special for each day.   Shoes go in a toy box turned shoe storage and library books are either in their hanging file (see previous post) or on the coffee table in the family room.   Occasionally, they’ll  forget to bring their books on library day, and when I realize this, I will not bring them to school for them, they gotta remember and learn to be responsible!

Control the clutter *before* it enters your home!

Here are a few tips and strategies for taming the clutter before it enters your home.

1. Just say “No.”  I mean, just say no to free stuff. Do you really, honestly want that free T-shirt, promotional mug, or hand me down bicycle that’s too small for any of your kids? Don’t feel bad saying, “No, thank you.”

2. Shop smart.  When you are shopping, ask yourself:

  • Do I (we) really need this?
  • Can this replace a worn out/broken fill-in-the-blank? If yes, the item should go straight into the trash or “donate” bin.

3. Set an example. Start a tradition of giving experiences and consumables vs. items that can clutter a home.  Share your reason behind giving experiences or consumables with the gift recipient and ask that s/he follow your lead.  Here are some examples:

  • Instead of kitchen gadgets or gear, give homemade treats or gift certificate to a restaurant at a chef’s table.
  • Instead of toys, give a membership to a local children’s museum, or a gift certificate to an arcade or bouncy house facility.
  • Instead of clothes or jewelry, give a gift certificate to a salon or for a manicure/pedicure.

5. Be appreciative. Always acknowledge when someone gives you or a family member a gift with a heartfelt “thank you” but don’t feel bad about giving it away. What is important is to show appreciation for the giver’s thoughtfulness and gesture. It’s better to give something away for someone else to truly appreciate and enjoy than keep it in your home where it causes clutter. Of course, there may be times when it’s important to keep a gift because of family heritage or because it was handmade, for example hand-knitted items.

It’s so much easier to keep the clutter from entering your home in the first place, because once it’s in and isn’t being used, it’ll get in the way of all the things you actually value.


Getting kids up and out the door and avoiding the morning madness.

There’s so much to do in the morning to get the kids ready for school or daycare. We’re about 2 weeks into school and I’ve started waking up 30 minutes earlier than in years past and it really does make a difference. I can get myself ready and usually have a few quiet minutes with one of our 3 children before everyone is up.   Those 30 extra minutes has helped eliminate a lot of stress in getting out the door.  I whole-heartedly agree with #3 have the kids pick their clothes out the night before and #10 have a designated spot for all the essentials, like backpacks, home/school folder, keys, purses, etc.  Read the entire article here.



Now that the kids are back to school, here’s how to stay organized.

The kids are back to school and clients often ask for my help on how to keep all the paperwork organized.  I often recommend the Pottery Barn daily system.  It is a versatile system, available in white, mahogany, black or stainless steel finish that can be customized for your family or household.  The “letter bin” is great spot for kids’ home/school folders and paperwork.  I recommend designating one slot per person in the family.  The white board calendar is a great visual reminder for kids’ activities.  The “corkboard” or “linen pinboard” is a great place to post items such as party invitations or the school lunch menu.  The “office organizer” component is a great place for keys and as a landing place for sunglasses. Perfect system to create a family command center!   Click here to see all the options.


Spring Cleaning!

I recently worked with a client who wanted to organize his garage.  He knew he wanted to get garden tools and shovels off the ground and was open to suggestions.  First we talked about how he wanted to use the garage.  There were two alcoves.  A refrigerator was already in the larger alcove and he wanted to add a chest freezer.  Both parents work outside of the home and he wanted to be able to store extra meat and other frozen foods.  After talking about the benefits of a standing freezer and utilizing vertical space, his mind was changed and he knew he would shop for a standing freezer.  The smaller alcove was close to the garage door, so we ultimately decided to tuck the lawn mower away in that nook and mount the snow rake and extension and shovels to the wall in that alcove.   Next we determined what items in the garage could be discarded or donated.  Then we measured the length of the walls we planned to use to hang the tools and items and took iventory of what was going onto the walls.  That was the end of our first session.  Here are a couple of “before” pictures.

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Armed with my list, I headed to one of my favorite stores, The Container Store.  I ordered Elfa Platinum Easy Hang top tracks and the accessory hooks and scheduled installation.  Easy peasy.  Done just in time for spring gardening!  Here’s what it looked like “after”.  Now if only it would start feeling like Spring!!

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