Summer To Do List

Can you believe summer is officially here as of Friday and that half of the year is over? Me neither. So how is your New Year’s resolution to “get organized” panning out? Do you feel like you’ll never get there? Do you start an organization project just to abandon it after a few frustrating hours or minutes? Even if ‘getting organized’ was not on your resolution list, I would be willing to bet that you’d like parts of your home or office to have fewer stacks and piles, to be more clean and ordered so that you’re not wasting time looking for things and wasting money buying what you already have. Fear not, it is never too late to get started. Here is a list of suggestions for quick, mini- organization tasks you can do right now to get closer to your goals of calm, reduced stress, and more time to do the things that you want to do:

Keeping a refrigerator in order means you don't waste energy poking around looking for food.
Keeping a refrigerator in order means you don’t waste energy poking around looking for food.

When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator? Can you identify what’s really in that old takeout container? Take less than an hour and toss out the bad stuff, clean out the shelves and drawers, and put the good stuff back where it belongs. Here is a link for detailed instructions on how to store food in the smartest spots.

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

What is the state of your command center? Do you know what a command center is? Learn more about why it’s essential to your sanity to have this part of your home in order.

Get some type of box for storing tax documents

Do you have a place for gathering tax documents for 2013? Designate a folder or box now for storing receipts, car tag statements, donation receipts, medical statements or whatever it is that you’ll need to locate next year to file your 2013 taxes. Also, don’t completely file away 2012. You’ll need to refer back to it if you do your own taxes or your accountant may need to review it as well. (no IRS jokes, please 🙂 )

Don’t store clothes without cleaning them first.

Did you put away your winter sweaters without getting them cleaned or washing them? Food and sweat is what attracts moths and other bugs so make sure they are clean and not stored in plastic. Wool and cashmere need to breathe. On that note, take your winter coat(s) to get cleaned. Don’t forget scarves, hats, and gloves if they are not leather. Just take them out of the plastic bags when you get them home.

Get your OWN filing system.
Get your OWN filing system.

How is your personal filing system? Do you know where your mortgage statements, bank statements, EOBs, and appliance warranties are? Set up a personal business filing system in a desk drawer or file box with labeled hanging files and folders. If you have kids, how are you storing their school papers? Put together a file box for saving report cards, certificates, school pictures, programs, etc. Or ask Neatsmart about creating a “Box of a Lifetime.”

Another example of a car filing system

Have you ever cleaned out your glove box in your car? Are you the kind of person that just shoves your insurance card in there with your repair receipts and takeout napkins? In less than 30 minutes, you can separate and file your car’s paperwork into a document wallet so you can find all the necessary documents when necessary. Hopefully you don’t have to show that proof of insurance frequently.


All of these tasks are a good jump start to propel you towards more order less clutter. When you’re ready to go all the way in getting your life organized or you want to continue with the momentum you’ve started with this list, give Neatsmart a call. We’ll be there to take your home to the next level of organization so you can live more efficiently, have less stress, and more time to spend doing what matters most to you.

Happy organizing!

Organization Client Case Study: Shared Workspace

I recently worked with a repeat client and it is so interesting to see how a person’s life improves after getting just parts of their home organized, even if it’s not all at once. In the spirit of honesty, I will disclose that this client is my lovely and talented sister, Laura, creator of Mixonian Institute and expert communicator, who helps me infinitely and also was a key inspiration to my starting Neatsmart. “So, you’ve worked with her more than once, does that mean she is a hoarder  living with 14 cats and a Red Sea pathway through her house?” No, quite the contrary: she lives with minimal contemporary societal trappings (meaning she doesn’t have a lot of excess stuff), has great appreciation for aesthetic beauty, is well educated and highly intelligent, eloquently charming and funny BUT she can be disorganized. Disorganization exists on many levels and in fact we are all disorganized about something in our lives so don’t think you are immune. There is only so much time in a day to get all the things done that we want to accomplish and organizing stuff is not something that most people want to allocate a lot of resources to do. I, on the other hand, love sorting, purging, organizing, etc. which is why I do it for others.

But let’s keep talking about Laura and how her life improved by getting organized. By Manhattan standards, her home is enormous. By Southern standards she has a small, efficient house that she shares with her husband, sometimes 3 children (one has graduated college and lives away, one is in college but home for the summer, and one is in high school), and 2 dogs.  Every piece of furniture has to be functional and everything in her home needs to serve a purpose. In reality, that’s the way it should be for all of us. An object’s purpose might be to look pretty but that is a valid purpose; we need to surround ourselves with things that we love, that serve us functionally, and that we find to be beautiful, as I mentioned in this previous post.

When I work with clients, one of the first thing I need to know is what is the order of priority;  what area is giving them the most headache and will thus have the greatest impact on them.  The first priority here was to get the office in order. There is the desk area in their living room with the computer, printer, supplies, files, and there is the personal work area which contains her laptop, cell phone docking area, books and magazines for research. While this might sound unconventional to those who have a designated room for their office, I know this set up is common for households that do share a computer. Her desktop computer is in a main part of the house and needs to be tidy (not an eyesore) because of its public location and service for work and homework. She needs this area to be an inspiring environment where she can be productive, find any supplies or files she needs in a split second, and have space for others to store their office and homework necessities.  It is the ultimate shared workspace.

Workspace Before
Workspace Before

So what did Neatsmart do to get this shared workspace in order? I solved the majority of her desk clutter issue by installing a bookcase to store office supplies and her filing system. It is essential to any office space to be able to easily find stamps, envelopes, paperclips, scissors, extra printer paper, notepads, construction paper, glue, tape and anything else you, or anyone who uses that area, might need. They also need to know where to put it back once they are finished. In short, everything needs a home that is easy to find. If everyone would spend about 15 minutes a day putting things away, the entire world would be tidier and less stressed–talk about a butterfly flapping its wings.

Bookcase to the rescue
Bookcase to the rescue!

We also got rid of things that didn’t need to be there or that weren’t being used–this has a huge impact because you realize that you have more space and can breathe! One of those things was the analog phone that had been collecting dust on the desk. They got rid of their house phone number but the base unit was still there. Why, you ask? Because nobody had time to disentangle it from the mass of other cords and cables under the desk. Sound familiar?

And finally, we sorted papers, notebooks, and files so that similar subjects and topics were stored together. Laura has several businesses she operates, including a non-profit organization, Charleston International Music School, so she needed to keep each entity’s materials but easily accessible.  So everything needs a home but you also need to keep things together that belong together. We created distinct areas for Mixonian, CIMS, Coaching Clients, Books in progress, in addition to the regular files like bills, financial statements, school papers, and medical information. It is essential if you work from home that you have a separate filing drawer or cabinet for your personal and home related files. You definitely don’t want to co-mingle your EOBs, credit card bills, or mortgage statements with your Client Files!

So how has organizing her shared workspace improved her life?  Here is what she had to say:

Laura Camacho“I feel better and am already more productive. Seeing your workspace neat is a major motivator. Seeing that one space can be organized shows you that anything can be organized and orderly. You feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment.”    Laura Camacho

Happy organizing!

An Unconventional Home Office Organization Project

Here is another example of a home office project that I recently completed that I wanted to share. This office was a little unconventional in that my client works from home at her dining room table and travels across the country. She needed to have her work materials easily accessible and had 2 cabinets in a buffet (remember this is her dining room) set aside for office storage.  No problem. The issue was that it was very inconsistent with what was put in these cabinets and office supplies ended up being scattered throughout the house. The printer was next to the kitchen, extra paper was in the living room, personal papers like medical records and bills were mixed in with client papers, books were stacked with work related items, and you get the picture. There wasn’t a huge amount of chaos but it was just cluttered which is where I think a lot of us live. We aren’t about to be featured on Hoarders but we end up wasting a lot of time looking for things and then spend money buying things that we already have because we can’t remember where we put something. Starting to sound familiar?

Here is the office storage. I didn't crop this picture like I normally do. The round lump in the lower right hand corner is a cat.
Here is the office storage. I didn’t crop this picture like I normally do. The round lump in the lower right hand corner is a cat.
Closeup of the cat. She was not happy to see me.
Closeup of the cat. She was not happy to see me.

So here is how we fixed the problem:

Right cabinet before
Right Cabinet Before
Left Cabinet Before
Left Cabinet Before

Separate work from personal– It doesn’t matter where you work you must separate personal stuff from work stuff, even if you work on it in the same room. This can mean a separate drawer or box in the same cabinet but you should not mix these types of papers in your filing system. You should also store personal books separately from “work” or business books. It is important to have defined spaces in your home for where you store and manage specific information so that you know where things go and how to find them later. This is critical for the home based executive or entrepreneur so that you are establishing boundaries between work and home activities. In this project, the first thing we did was to clear out the personal books, bills, mail, bank statements, etc that didn’t have to do with her day job out of the 2 cabinets and located them elsewhere.

Cleared out personal stuff and got a shelf to make good use of vertical space. Binders are labeled so time isn't wasted wondering what is in each of them.
Cleared out personal stuff and got a shelf to make good use of vertical space. Binders are labeled so time isn’t wasted wondering what is in each of them.

Utilize your vertical space-This particular cabinet was a decent size but most of it was vertical. We got 2 shelves from the Container Store that fit perfectly in the cabinet (measure twice, shop once) which allowed us to store notebooks on the shelf and smaller items on the bottom. You have to be careful when retrofitting shelves into an existing piece especially an antique, to make sure you have the right size and you don’t damage anything. Be careful of sharp edges and corners.

Labeled binders for traveling to client locations are now stored together.
Labeled binders for traveling to client locations are now stored together.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”– This client travels extensively for work so we created separate notebooks for each area that she visits regularly, expanding on her existing organziation system that works well for her. She had started notebooks for each location but some were makeshift folders or old binders that were falling apart. Now each place she visits has its own labeled binder that is easy to find and put away when she comes back from her trips.

Filing cabinet for personal information, printer, paper, and ink cartridges. Talk about neat being smart!
Filing cabinet for personal information, printer, paper, and ink cartridges. Now neat really is smart!

Keep your personal life in order– This project did necessitate the acquisition of a filing cabinet which served 2 purposes: a place to store personal files and documents and it holds the printer and extra paper and ink. These items had all been stored in different rooms of the house because no home had ever been assigned to them. I can’t tell you how important it is to designate a home for everything in your life. Think about it, you need to know where to put your cell phone, keys, winter clothes, gift wrap, scissors, tape, and so forth. The same applies to your office and really any room in your house. Now my client has an easy filing system for her bills, medical information, financial statements, etc. and a place for all of it. Her printer is now located close to her work area which means no more traipsing through the kitchen to pick up a document that was printed. Extra paper and ink cartridges are stored in top drawer so no more going to the living room to find backups. Even better, the filing cabinet is on wheels so it can be moved when she entertains….talk about multitasking!

This was an example of one home office that is a little different from those that are in specified rooms and now it functions really well for my client. She reports that she’s very happy with the results and has saved time getting ready for trips because she can find everything easily. Also, she feels more motivated to get work done because her office isn’t so cluttered and her materials aren’t scattered in different, possibly unknown locations.

I think she’s found out that neat really is smart and now it saves you time and money as well!

Happy organizing!

6 Dollar Store Organization Products For Every Home

I’m all about saving money whenever possible and not spending more than necessary when containing clutter and eliminating disorganization. Dollar stores can be an invaluable resource when it comes to finding storage solutions for your home. I think it is best to start inexpensive and work your way up for most products but there are exceptions, of course. Today, though, we are talking about some fab products I found at my local Dollar Tree but you may have a different type of “dollar store” (f.k.a. “five and dime”) near you. This post is not endorsed by anyone but me. 🙂

Stackable Storage Bins
Stackable Storage Bins
  1. Stackable Storage Bins–While you may not love the bright colors in every room of your house, the size and shape of these are great for kids’ toys, tools and hardware supplies, socks and underwear in your closet, under sink storage in the bathroom, and craft or art supplies. You can color coordinate if you want to go that extra step or just pick your favorite and get several of one color. Colors are also helpful for kids as well as labeling: cars, pencils, blocks, etc. 
  2. Small Containers with Lids
    Small Containers with Lids

    Small Containers with Lids–I’ve written about these containers before but they are still my favorite in the kitchen for small amounts of leftovers. They also come in round shapes if you prefer that but I’m partial to the easy stacking with the rectangular ones.

  3. 4 Cup Containers
    4 Cup Containers

    ~4 Cup Containers–There are more expensive versions of these at your grocery store and they aren’t crazy expensive there but you can’t beat the price of $1 for 3 of these. They are great for leftover food, dried beans, supplies under the bathroom sink, containing cords in your desk drawer, and taking your lunch to the office. What I love about this type of container is being able to label and stack them anywhere. These are 3.8 cups each which is great if you make and freeze stock–that’s usually the minimum a soup recipe requires.

  4. Wire
    Wire Drawer Organizer

    Wire Drawer Organizer–These are perfect for separating small items in your drawers like socks, underwear, scarves. They are also great in drawers for keeping kitchen utensils in place, separating items in your desk or utility drawer,

  5. 3
    3 inch boxes

    3″ Boxes–Is there anything better for keeping hair accessories in place? What about paper clips, staples, and other office supplies? How about keeping lipsticks in place in a makeup drawer? If you do not need all of them at once, you can keep the extras stacked in place. You can even have them by the door for storing your keys with a color for each person.

There are 2 other products I am going to mention here that aren’t for containing things but are part of general home-keeping and making your life easier:

Brown Kraft Paper for gift wrapping
Brown Kraft Paper for gift wrapping

Brown Wrapping Paper is your solution to all of your giftwrapping woes! It can be used for any gender or occasion and provides a perfect foundation for your creative embellishment such as  a simple ribbon or baker’s twine tied around it, cut flowers and greenery from your yard, burlap, newsprint or just draw a bow with markers!

Felt Pads
Felt Pads

Felt Pads should be used under all of your furniture legs if you have hardwood or tile floors. This will not only protect your floors but make it easier to slide furniture around if you need to move it. They are also helpful placed in the corners of the backs of your picture frames on the wall to keep from scratching your paint finish. It’s amazing how much damage your pictures can do to your walls, especially those near doors that are opened and closed a lot. I also think they are good under lamps. Protecting your furniture and walls will help them last longer.

The main goal here is to find a home for your clothes, food, supplies, and tools and a way to contain it all attractively, efficiently, and easily. 

Do you have any dollar store products you like to use in your home? I’d love to hear your suggestions and comments below.

Happy organizing!

Home Office Organization Project

It’s amazing how our homes have evolved through the past few years to no longer have formal dining or living rooms and instead a home office is absolutely imperative. Forget about formal entertaining and guest rooms; we need a place to set up a computer, phone, supplies, etc. It’s the same in my house but our problem is that we have 2 people who work from home. I’m sure there is some social evolutionary commentary that could be made but I’ll leave that to you readers.

I recently worked with a client who needed her home office organized so she could find what she needed at any particular time. Although she knew where things were (roughly) there was no method to the madness and the stacks were getting higher. Here is her Must Have list:

  1. Catalogs from suppliers
  2. Samples to send out – business cards, pens, notepads, totes, cups
  3. Order files
  4. Project files pending later date
  5. Project files I am working on now
  6. Rush order file
  7. Printer supplies – ink, paper
  8. Idea files – for my creative thoughts that happen spontaneously during the day or night…ha ha
Fortunately, she had plenty of available space in the office with built in bookcases and cabinets. We didn’t have to buy any furniture either. I just had to figure out the best way to maximize the available space and designate homes for all of her different supplies, catalogs, files, orders, etc.
Cabinet had become a disorganized dumping ground for all kinds of supplies. She wasn’t even sure what all was in here.

Another cluttered cabinet. She knew some of what was in here but the space wasn’t designated for anything specific.
Desk area before. Her papers kept falling out of the stacking file and the stacks were starting to take over.

So you’d probably agree that this wasn’t the most inspirational place to work, let alone be productive. That’s one of the hidden costs of disorganization: you not only spend valuable time looking for things but you also have to work harder to motivate yourself to work in a cluttered, draining environment.

After discussing her needs and work patterns in more detail, I got a better idea of what she needed to have access to on a regular basis and what her day typically entailed. I was able to designate specific areas for some of her important tasks like sending samples to clients, accessing vendor catalogs, storing office supplies, storing shipping supplies, tracking current “active” projects, and my personal favorite, a calendar so she can easily determine ship times, current and future activities, and other important dates.

Office supplies now have a home. This includes software manuals, tape, paperclips, special printing papers, etc.
This is where samples to be sent out are stored next to shipping supplies thus grouping similar activities together. Smart and neat!
Nice desk. All active project information is easily accessible in stacking file holder.

But I ask you to take a look at the finished product and tell me how you feel. Isn’t neat, organized, and clear smart? I thought so. 😉

Happy organizing!