If Not Now, When?

DSC_0024DSC_0040DSC_0012Later. Tomorrow. When I have more time. When I’m not as busy. After the holidays. I think you are starting to sense a pattern here. Procrastination is a fancy word for putting off things that you need to do but don’t really want to. And I get it. It’s normal to not want to do your taxes, fold laundry, write that thank you note, or pull weeds but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in accomplishing those things. Imagine what happens when you don’t accomplish those tasks and you move forward. Even though the task in question will ultimately benefit you, it’s not always easy to get started.

I also ask this question when it comes to larger, potentially life changing projects. I worked with a client this week who said that a milestone birthday was coming up and that’s when she was going to finally renovate her bathroom. It took a milestone birthday for me to leave my corporate job and join the entrepreneurial world so I get it. Sometimes you need that milestone to be a reward for massive changes. But I also hear from people that complain about the state of their homes and they say they don’t have time to get organized. They can’t take time to go through a closet or boxes that haven’t been opened since their move x years ago. They are too busy to make their home a place of refuge so it becomes a sanctuary of stuff. They don’t know what they have, don’t know where things are, spend excessive time looking for things, and end up frustrated, irritated, and financially drained spending money buying what they already have. Does this sound familiar? It’s ok, it’s a common phenomenon and there is a remedy:

Get your home in order. You live there now and it should reflect your life, interests, tastes, and needs. There is no perfect time to go through that closet full of unidentified stuff. Just do it and get it over so you can move forward. Not dealing with clutter makes you a slave to it and trapped in the past. Go through it and face it head on. You’ll discover that you either have new-found treasures that will enhance your home or you have stuff that needs to move on to another place. You deserve it. You’ve earned the time to go through this now. The space will then be in order and a pleasure to look at, not an eyesore that drains your energy. Wouldn’t you rather achieve this peace now and not wait for some arbitrary milestone to give you permission to move forward?

Do it for you. Do it now. Do not procrastinate taking care of yourself and your home. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.  Carl Sandburg

Happy organizing!

The Most Important Space to Organize

One example of a kitchen-based command center.
One example of a kitchen-based command center.

What is the most important space to organize in a home? Some might say the bedroom because that is where you spend (hopefully) at least 8 hours of your day. Some might say the kitchen because if if you’re constantly looking for something to eat or tools to make something to eat and can’t find what you need during the 3x a day you’re in there, you’re having a lot of bad days. However, I’m going to argue that the Command Center, frequently housed in the kitchen, is the most important place in American’s homes to have organized.

Why is that, you ask? Because this is where all activities are managed, bills are paid, supplies are stored, and paperwork is filed. This is not to say that all homes are like this but the majority of American homes built since the 1960’s have incorporated a work area with a desk, drawers, and a couple of cabinets for managing exactly these types of activities. Interestingly enough, as homes are now evolving to have a full time office space, there is still a need to have at least a corner of the kitchen carved out to be a Command Center. Some trends today are to use chalkboard paint to indicate this area and provide a place for notes and lists, using modular pieces like hanging calendars, magnetic boards, or hanging in and out boxes. Since the kitchen has evolved to be the center of activity in a home, it makes sense to have this go-to area located there, especially if you live in a house with children. More people to manage = more stuff to keep track of!

[houzz=https://www.houzz.com/photos/1449327/Classic-Kitchen-traditional-kitchen-dc-metro] [houzz=https://www.houzz.com/photos/57666/Gast-Architects–Projects-traditional-kitchen-san-francisco]

So what happens in a Command Center? It will be different for everyone because we all function a little differently but this is a great place to house the following:

  1. Car keys: Get a bowl or hook to put them so you’re not looking for them later.
  2. Cell phone: Put a charger here and plug it in when you walk in the door.
  3. Calendar: A visual representation of all important activities for everyone in the house. Little ones start to learn time management early by seeing their activities on a calendar.
  4. Computer: Especially if you have kids, a publicly located computer is great for homework, looking up recipes, listening to music, and so forth.
  5. Clock: You need to know what time it is and it’s important for that morning or afternoon rush to get out of the house.
  6. Mail: What doesn’t get tossed immediately can be kept here for reading later.
  7. Bills to be paid: It’s nice to have that visual cue that you need to take action. You could even clip them to your calendar until they are paid.
  8. Purse or wallet: Save yourself time and pain by knowing where it is at all times.
  9. Glasses and/or Sunglasses: If you need readers, this is a perfect place to have an extra pair. Sunglasses are essential for driving so I keep mine here.
  10. Stamps, pens, scissors, paperclips, scrap paper, tape, batteries, envelopes, coupons,

The most important part of organizing any area is assigning a home to everything in your home. The Command Center is a great place to house a lot of the supplies necessary to conduct your life stress- and drama-free, able to find what you need, when you need it so you can lead a happy life!

Any other ideas for how to best use your Command Center? Need help putting yours together? Contact Neatsmart to get started on creating the most efficient, functional, and stylish Command Center you’ve ever had!

How Clutter Costs You Money: Closet Edition

Not bad, but not great either.

Continuing with our topic of how clutter costs you money, we now move to the closet. Look at your closet the same way you look at your pantry: do you know what is in there? Are clothes neatly folded or tossed into piles? Do you know what is clean and what is dirty? Does everything fit? Does anything fit? Do you wear the same things over and over again and skip over other items consistently?

Taking care of the clothes that you have will save you money by not having to replace items constantly. A suit, for example, doesn’t need to be cleaned very often but aired out after wearing. If you leave it on the floor or in a pile it’s going to have to be sent to the cleaners prior to wearing again because it will be wrinkled and smelly.  Going to the cleaners costs money in terms of time and the actual expense plus you don’t have that suit for a few days. Frequently people pull something out of their closet to wear only to realize that it needs to be repaired. It goes into a pile or back in the closet thereby remaining un-wearable. They buy another one instead of repairing and add to the general clothing inventory. Wouldn’t it have been better to repair the item? Yes, it would have cost less money and you wouldn’t have multiples of the same item, confusing you as to what is wearable and what isn’t.

Do your clothes fit? Do you save multiple sizes of clothes “just in case…?” Staying a consistent size will save you money by not, again, having multiples of items in different sizes. I’d suggest a size larger and a size smaller is the maximum range you want to hang on to and even then pay attention to what you wear consistently.

Can you see your clothes? Do you have to go through piles to find a particular item? Keeping shirts, trousers, skirts, jackets, etc. on hangers will help keep your clothes not only in order so you can see them but wrinkle free, too. Sweaters, tee shirts, and other knits should be neatly folded so you can see them easily and, again, kept wrinkle free. Shoes should be paired together

Knowing what you have,  keeping it wearable, and organized saves you time, the non renewable resource we all want more of, by not having to stress over what to wear each time you get dressed. I know a lot of parents teach their kids to lay out their clothes the night before school so they know what they are going to wear the next day and don’t have to fuss with it in the morning. Adults should take this advice for themselves to eliminate the morning rush, time-wasting-cycle of trying things on, realizing they don’t fit/ are dirty/ need to be fixed/ let’s try something else. The time spent on this cycle of decision-making can be easily eliminated by clearing and organizing your closet. Eliminating situations that can cause anxiety will greatly reduce your (and anyone else’s living in the same home) daily stress level, which means more time for enjoying activities that you want to do, less money and time spent shopping for things you already have, and less time on wasteful, circuitous activities like figuring out what to wear. You have better and more important things to do!

LC closet after 4
Everything in its place
Clutter free closet
Clutter free closet











You have to go in your closet every day and how you start your day sets the tone for how it is going to progress. Start it on a positive, clear, and confident step so that they rest of your day is productive, enjoyable, and fulfilling. Remember: neat really is smart.

Happy organizing!

The best time to get organized is…

Trying to find the perfect time to get organized...
Trying to find the perfect time to get organized…

…tomorrow! At least, that is what any procrastinator will tell you. Tell me if any of these reasons (masquerading as excuses) sound familiar to you:

  1. I will have so much more time tomorrow. I believe Scarlett O’Hara said, “Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about that tomorrow.” 
  2. I’ll have more energy to put into getting organized later. Right now is just too busy.
  3. After the holidays, this meeting, company leaves, etc. I’ll be able to go through that closet.

You see, procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing at the outset. wWe have to prioritize our lives and do tasks when it makes sense and in order. You don’t cook dinner without getting the necessary groceries first. But attempting to schedule something that requires the mental energy and commitment of going through an organization process is tedious, tiring, time consuming and not really high on most people’s list of fun things to do. Yes, they want to have an organized closet or are tired of living in suboptimal conditions due to clutter but making that first step is the hardest. There are 2 key truths though about getting organized that you need to know:

  1. You have to start somewhere
  2.  It gets worse before it gets better

Now if that doesn’t make you want to hide under the covers I don’t know what will. You’ve got to start somewhere with this task and it really doesn’t matter where. However, making the decision to get started is the first and most important step. Once you’ve made that decision in your head, write it down as a goal somewhere you can see it. “I want to have a neat, easily functioning office space” or “I want a closet that is organized so I can find my clothes quickly in the morning when I am getting dressed” are perfect examples. Write the goal down so you can go back to it when the process of getting there seems to difficult to bear. Trust me, as you are going through that closet or office and you’ve got piles everywhere and it seems like there is no end to the madness, you will need a reminder of why you are doing this!

Which takes me to rule #2. Getting organized is messy work because you’ve got to clear it out before you can put it up. I think this is the number one reason why people fail at this endeavor. They can’t remember why they started this in the first place and they give up before finishing. This is also why many people hire an organizer: they need the accountability, support, and above all, an extra set of hands.

So my advice is to get started today. Maybe you don’t want to rip out the contents of your closets and drawers an hour before company is supposed to show up but you should start by writing the goal down. Then you can write down the tasks that will help you achieve that goal. This also helps build anticipation so that you are actually looking forward to getting organized or maybe that’s just me ;-). Once you get it clear in your head what your goal is, you will be unstoppable in getting it accomplished. So really, the best time to START to get organized is TODAY.

Happy Organizing!

Get inspired to get organized

Yesterday, my friend Heather came over to my house for a quick visit and we were lamenting the passage of time, how we sounded like our mothers (gasp!), and pending holidays around the corner. She is going to have a house full of company for Thanksgiving which is always a mixed blessing: you love having loved ones come and stay but there is a lot of preparation that goes into having it all happen seamlessly. Heather said, “I love entertaining and having people over because it forces me to clean up my house.” Truer words have not been spoken. There is nothing like friends or family coming and staying for a spell to force you to look at your home with fresh eyes.

  • How long has that pile of papers been sitting on that table that I never noticed until now?
  • Has this closet door always been difficult to close because it is stuffed to the gills?
  • Do we really not have a vent in our guest bathroom? (this is actually true in my house and will be fixed hopefully before company comes for Christmas)
  • Do I always just throw stuff in the guest bedroom when I don’t know where it should go?
  • Has this room/ closet/ flat surface really become my dumping ground?


Do any of these ring true? Sheepishly, I have to nod my head as well. The great thing about writing and reading online is that nobody is watching you silently agree that your house has gotten a little out of control this year. It happens to all of us because life is full of change and activity. If it weren’t we’d be static, boring people. Having clutter in your home is it is a bit like boiling a frog: it slowly creeps up on you and don’t realize the water is boiling or that your home needs some help. If you watch Hoarders, you’ll realize that these people didn’t start acquiring stuff yesterday; it takes time to amass and accumulate.

Fortunately we have these annual built in times of reflection like company coming over, spring cleaning, New Year, end of summer, etc. when we can pause and reflect on our lives and decide if we like how it looks, how it functions, and what we can do to improve. Shoving the boxes and bags to the back of the closet isn’t going to solve the issue of the clutter. You are going to have to decide if you want to change and, if so, when. Having a built in deadline like pending company is an excellent motivation for change. Use that inspiration to clean out that cabinet or closet but also try to find out the source of the clutter to begin with so you don’t have to keep facing the same piles repeatedly. Everything needs its proper place in your home or it shouldn’t be there. Now is the time to start clearing out what you don’t need so you can show your home’s beauty and relieve yourself of the stress of having to deal with excess stuff. Enjoy the time with your family and friends instead of hoping that nobody opens that super stuffed closet or scary drawer.

Ordered and ready to go for any craft project you can imagine!

Happy organizing!

Hidden Benefits of Organization

We all know that having an organized home and work area looks great but what about the additional, hidden benefits of organization? Once you’ve gone through the process of clearing the clutter and putting your space together in a cohesive, constructive manner, you’ll discover additional advantages that increase your return on investment. It tastes great and it’s less filling? Well sign me up!

  1. Increased inspiration: Your muse is calling and would like for you to listen. Now that you have an ordered environment to work in, you don’t have to worry yourself with finding the tools to work your creative magic. Your pens, papers, tools, bowl, or whatever is in place and waiting for you to exercise your genius.
  2. More time: Ah, the one resource none of us can buy and all of us want more of. I don’t even have to explain how wonderful it is to not have to run around the house looking for a cell phone, car keys, calculator, or clean shirt. That is time that is now yours to claim for your own.
  3. Less stress: Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone in your house about the condition of his or her or your things? Show them and yourself how much you love them by keeping the clutter under control and your home and office in order. This applies to children as well. With help, they can learn how to best organize their toys, clothes, and school stuff so that they’ll want to keep it in order. You can help build their esteem by showing they can handle the responsibility of ownership of their things. Happy kids=happy parents.
  4. More energy: When you can master a small organization task, you’ll be amazed at how that sense of accomplishment spreads to other parts of your life. You’ve conquered something that seemed like impossibility and now you can move on to a larger goal. That positive energy spreads to your work, relationships with family and friends, and overall view of the world. Your productivity increases, you are happier, and thus you attract more positive energy because you were able to master a difficult task. Remember, like attracts like so positive energy attracts more positive energy.

So in the beginning you may think you are just clearing out a drawer or closet but the aftereffects are numerous and extensive. Your investment of time and energy to get this task done will save your sanity in the long run because you have invested in yourself.

Plus, Neatsmart is always here to help you through this process ;-).
Happy organizing!

Wanted: loving caretaker of stuff I no longer need

This was the “before” picture for a client I worked with in July. Yes, the Christmas tree is still up.

So we’ve all heard of Craigslist, Ebay, Freecycle, Goodwill, and consignment stores but I’d like to show you a new way to sell the stuff that you’ve eliminated from your home or, better yet, “how my stuff can find a good home.” One of the biggest obstacles people have to shedding the extraneous “junk” from their lives is the feeling of guilt associated with letting it go. Hoarders especially will experience panic attacks that their gazillion thing aren’t being properly cared for or won’t be appreciated by anyone else. There is guilt associated with acknowledgng that you need to let go of something that might have cost you a lot of money or was given to you by a friend or family member. My very sweet and admirable grandmother at 94 won’t let a plate, bowl, or scarf leave her already crowded home unless it is going to be loved and appreciated by someone. I think we can all relate to wanting other people to share in the joy a previously owned object brings us (see post here on the 3 lives of a wedding dress) but remember it is just stuff. The stuff doesn’t define who you are; your experiences and how you choose to live your life does.

So here is another way you can let your stuff go that might make parting more sweet with less sorrow: https://www.shook.co. This is a site that allows you to buy and sell to your community of friends on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with ease and confidence that it will be seen. You can post your stuff easily or even just look at other stuff that is listed and share it with friends that might also like it, or maybe you just want to let them know what you’d like for your birthday. Shook.co also blogs about some of the objects posted to further explain or describe some of the objets d’art. I will say that I have not used this site personally but I plan to in the future. This is not a paid post but I just think it is a great idea and a little less intimidating than going through the lengthy Ebay posting process.

Let me know if you’ve heard of Shook.co or used them recently. Also, what do you think is the best way to get rid of stuff you’ve accumulated but want to find a happy home in which to place it?

Happy organizing!

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor (Day Weekend)

Happy Labor Day weekend! I know we are all excited about a long weekend but I seriously had to research online to find out the origin of Labor Day to find out why we had Monday off. Here is the definition from the US Department of Labor website: Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.  I personally find that definition a little weak so I am using this an an opportunity to come up with my own interpretation and invite you to join me in this expedition.

Have you ever noticed that you can get so much accomplished if you have a deadline (false or real) to work against? I don’t think I ever cleaned my room as kid more quickly than in the 5 minutes before I knew my mother was coming up to check. Oh, those dreaded footsteps on the stairs, counting down the seconds with each step for one more thing I could stash in a drawer, or more realistically, under the bed. Why didn’t I just, as my mother kindly suggested, just keep in clean in the first place so I wouldn’t have to rush around at the last minute? That is one of those questions I don’t think you answer until you are an adult and turn it around to your own children. Keeping things in order is something that does take skill that not everyone possesses naturally. I am also realizing the longer that I help organize clients, that there are more people that were never taught organization skills and even more importantly, how to not let clutter pile up in the first place. But we all know about those deadlines that keep us on our toes and cause us to run through the house like that tasmanian devil putting things in drawers that have been out for weeks and throwing away trash that has been sitting out by the trashcan for 2 days.

For Labor Day, I am having company for a short time and I find myself doing the exact things I write about now. Now is the time I finally get the guest room in order, the refrigerator cleaned out, and the patio swept. Why does it take these deadlines to get these things done? I know, priorities change and life happens but wouldn’t it all be easier if we didn’t have to run around at breakneck speed to get things in order for other people? Why don’t we do it for ourselves? Shouldn’t we labor to make our lives easier and not just to impress others?

I remember when I put my house on the market a few years ago and my real estate agent advised me to make a few changes in order to stage the home and increase its curb appeal. One of the things she suggested was to paint the exterior, which I had never really liked  the whole time I lived there. Although I grumbled about spending the money, the house really did look great afterwards and I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. I invested the money in the appearance of the house and I wasn’t even living there to enjoy it!

So on this lovely weekend with an extra day to honor those that have labored to help make this country great, take 5 minutes to go through your house and notice those little things that you’d want repaired, painted, organized, moved, etc. if company were coming or if you were about to put your house on the market. In those 5 minutes, you can make a list and at least start on making your home a reflection of you.  Enjoy your home today because you live in it today, not just tomorrow, or when the kids leave, or just when company comes.

I didn’t have a photo to go with this post so I’m using this one since it commemorates the start of college football season this weekend.

Happy Organizing!

Organization in 5 minutes

I have an article from Real Simple magazine (January 2011) pinned up on my bulletin board in front of my desk for inspiration called “If You Have Five Minutes” that has a list of 20 plus tasks you can do in 5 minutes or less. I love this concept because so often even the idea of “getting organized” seems not only herculean but also Sisyphean (great vocabulary word). This list, which I’ve unsuccessfully tried to find a link to on their website, provides great inspiration for those fleeting minutes when you can get a simple task accomplished, and usually one of those small, nagging ones that pile up incessantly. Just remember that those small victories add up and you’ll quickly have a smaller to do list so that you’ve got more time for what you want to do!

Which brings me to the title of this post which is organization in 5 minutes, the Makeup Drawer Edition. I realize I’ve probably lost any male readers at this point but, ladies, please keep reading. If you can take 5 minutes to go through your makeup drawer or basket or whatever you use to contain all of that stuff, you’ll be able to shorten the time it takes to get ready in the morning and reduce that AM anxiety.

Ugh. What a mess. And I can’t find what I need.
  1. Start with a clean slate. Take everything out of the container and clean it. It is amazing how much hair, dust, and general ick accumulates in something you use everyday.
  2. Take inventory. Look at every product and ask yourself, “do I really use this?” I have some super cool, gold, liquid eyeliner that I really just do not use. I’d like to think that I go out clubbing so much that I’ll need something like that but it’s just not the case. Also, get rid of old makeup that has seen better days. Replace it with something new for your own safety. While I am normally one who wants to pass things on to others, I do draw the line at cosmetics. That is too personal unless it is something you’ve never used or you have a sister who doesn’t mind. 🙂
  3. Pack for a trip. Huh? This is supposed to take 5 minutes. Really, think about what you would take if you were going on a trip and not checking luggage so you can only take the essentials. What products are absolutely required for everyday? You want to make sure those are within easy reach. This also helps with #3 because you see what you really do use.
  4. Group like with like. With the remaining products, group your blushes, eyeshadows, lipsticks, etc. together so that they are easily found tomorrow morning when you start this process all over. This also means to put elsewhere stuff that doesn’t belong here like bandaids, combs, cotton balls, etc. Everything needs a home and needs to be in that home.
  5. Make it pretty. Use attractive containers to store your products together and don’t limit yourself to just plastic, square boxes. Shop your house for baskets, bowls, trays, and odd shaped containers to store items together. If you must keep it all in 1 case, put items in zippy bags or fabric bags to separate the items.
Real makeup drawer, organized and ready to go.

There, all done now. Doesn’t that look better? Just think, you’ll start your day refreshed and with at least one part of your routine functioning well. This makes you neat and smart!

So, how do you store your makeup? What task can you suggest to get done in 5 minutes?

Happy organizing!

5 Quick tips for organizing kids

Being organized for kids is something, like good manners and gratefulness, that needs to be taught. Of course, the best way to teach kids organization skills is to lead by example but that has its own challenges. Sometimes it is actually easier to organize someone else instead of yourself and having an organized child will make your life as a parent much easier.

Here is an example of a kid’s closet that I worked on recently. This lovely young lady had a closet, most likely the coat closet, all to herself for her crafts and creative projects. As you can see, it was needing some attention as I was afraid all of its contents were going to tumble out on me when I opened the door.

Yipes! Hard hat area!

Here are 5 quick tips for organizing children, all used in this one closet:

  1. Clear out what is not being used. Kids like to amass their toys but they don’t actively play with everything. Keep what is being used and loved and put away (for a rainy day or donate) what isn’t being used. In this closet I found a lot of toys that this child had outgrown in the piles. These were set aside in a separate box for donation but your child should clear these things out on a regular basis.
  2. Keep toys and arts and crafts accessible to your kids. Don’t store things for them on high shelves. Unless you want them pulling out chairs and other pieces of furniture to climb on, just keep their things at their level. Save yourself ER visits.
  3. Label where things go. Actually, this set of drawers had been labeled but she had outgrown a lot of the toys that were in here so that gave us room to move things around and relabel what goes where. This alone eliminates the “I don’t know where it goes” excuse for not putting up toys. If your kids are not reading yet, use colored boxes or containers and pictures as labels. You can print out clip art, cut pictures out of magazines,  or try your hand at drawing the picture on a notecard to tape on to the drawer or box. Super achievers can take digital pictures, print them out, and attach them to the appropriate drawer or container.
  4. Keep similar items together. Activity books go together as do pencils, markers, colored pencils, and paper. Tape, glue, paperclips all go together. You’ll have to look at what you have and find the categories that bind like items together. A professional organizer can help you with this as well :-). This will make it so much easier for your child to find the right medium to express their creative inspirations!
  5. Go through things regularly. This can be a task that you do with your child to make it a little more fun. Find out what they want to keep and what have they outgrown. Make them a part of the donation process so they get to choose which toys or books get passed on to needy children.  Interests do change and the fact that they haven’t played with a toy since taking it out of the box is a good indication that it should go to someone who would like to play with it. If the whole family is going through their closets to find donations, it can be more enjoyable as a group activity.
ahhh, calm, clear, and easy to find (slightly fuzzy iphone photo)

This is the cleaned closet with probably 75% less stuff in it. The drawers are clean, with the contents clearly labeled. Everything in the drawers is currently being used and loved and can be easily retrieved. I was able to re-use the drawers they already had which was a great way of saving money, too. I have a happy client and they have a happy, organized child,

Happy organizing!