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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!

 

 

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!

elfa-sale

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

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

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