Do You Feel Overwhelmed About the Holidays?

The Secret To Peaceful Holidays

Everyone knows that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but how do you know where to start? After helping clients organize before, during and after the holiday season, I’ve seen first hand how a little preparation makes a massive difference in whether or not people enjoy the holidays. 

Whether you stay home or travel, have kids or not, work out of the office or at home, the holidays are stressful.

From the first of October to the end of December time flies by in a blur and most people would do anything to make it slow down just a little. 

But what if you could start now preparing and make it all a little more enjoyable, a lot more peaceful, and way less stressful.  

Click this link to get 5 things you can do NOW to enjoy the Holidays to get started. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Instant Upgrade: Closet

Is your closet looking “meh” and blah? Would you like for it to inspire you to have an awesome, productive day? Keep reading for some quick tips to give your closet an instant upgrade. Also, most of these suggestions are FREE!

  • Get rid of wire hangers. Get those extra wire hangers out of your closet now! They are taking up valuable space and are ugly. And unnecessary. Take them back to the drycleaners where they will be welcomed.
  • Recycle empty shoe boxes. If you’re not using the boxes to store your off-season shoes then get rid of the boxes. I know it’s tempting to hang on to them “just in case” but what are you waiting for? They take up space and collect dust. They are super easy to recycle if you take out anything plastic in the box.
  • Put a small trash can in your closet. Every closet needs a small trash receptacle for clothing tags, paper filler, old tissues, and unnecessary receipts. Otherwise, that trash ends up on the floor making your closet look messy and unkempt. Get a cute, petite trash can to hold the little trash pieces and make your closet look like a boutique.
  • Hang up your belts. Trying to hang a belt on the neck of a regular hanger takes too much time to put on and take off. Save yourself the energy and take better care of your belts by investing in a belt hanger. You’ll be able to see them all together and pick one out in 2 seconds when you’re dressing in the morning.
  • Re-group your clothes. Sort your hanging tops by sleeve length and then by color. Hang your skirts, pants, and dresses together by length. Just creating some uniformity will ease your visual clutter and give you a sense of calm.
  • Get appropriate & adequate hangers. While I love the velvet hangers for blouses, dresses, and trousers there are other hangers you may need to get for specific clothing. Skirts and shorts should be hung on hangers with clips at the waist band. This keeps them from getting wrinkled. Heavy coats need a wooden or heavy plastic hanger. Men’s suits are best hung on a suit hanger to keep the jacket and pants together and wrinkle free. It makes me crazy to see skirts flung over a hanger or multiple items on one. Each piece of clothing needs its own hanger!
  • Adjust your lighting. Maybe your bulb just needs to be changed but keep the lighting strong in your closet. Most of us have lower ceilings so we are stuck with a flush mount. But, there may be more than one bulb in there. Make sure you’ve got enough light so you can see what you’re about to put on. Those navy and black pants can look awfully similar!

Take a few minutes to make a few adjustments and you’ll be on your way to an upgraded closet in no time. Plus you’ll feel better being able to see exactly what you have in your closet. And your clothes will thank you by becoming less wrinkled. 😉

Happy organizing!

Organized Moving Tips so you don’t lose your mind in the process of packing

So moving is not on the top of anyone’s favorites list, especially mine. However, I do love helping people make it a less stressful and a bit more enjoyable. It is AMAZING how a little planning and a little forethought will ease this process tremendously.

  • Start early. Start as early as you can with planning, acquiring boxes, packing, picking your move date, hiring your movers, etc. The last minute is definitely not your friend here and you will pay literally and with your sanity waiting until the last minute. From the day you decide to move to the actual move date, do something every single day to help this process.
  • Declutter first. You will end up going through every nook, cranny, drawer, cabinet, and closet in the process of packing so you will have to declutter. Every item that you pick up to pack, ask yourself:
    • “do I want to move this?”
    • “Will this fit in my new home?”
    • “Do I love this?”
    • “Have I used it?”
    • “Will I continue to use this?”

The more you declutter now, the less you have to pack and the less you have to move. That saves you money with your boxes and other supplies as well as with your movers. It also saves you time packing and unpacking.

DO NOT TELL YOURSELF THAT YOU’LL DECLUTTER AFTER THE MOVE

Packing is THE BEST time to declutter because you are looking at all of your home’s contents with a fresh set of eyes. You are focused on your new home and new space. You get a chance to start over with your favorites and things that are truly special to you. Use this opportunity to focus on keeping the best and starting fresh.

Someone else can use what you no longer need so be generous with your donations and giving to your friends.

  • Pack other seasons first. Whatever season you are NOT in, pack that one first. If it’s June, pack your Christmas decorations, holiday china, sweaters, boots, blankets, flannel sheets, etc. You definitely aren’t going to use these items anytime soon so there’s no question about needing to access them.
  • Label boxes clearly. It’s helpful to know the room the contents came from when you’re trying to figure out which new room to move it. If something is going to be stored, like holiday decorations, add STORE or BASEMENT to the box. The fewer boxes you have to re-move at your new location, the faster you’ll be able to unpack what you actively need.
  • Set up a staging area. While you’re decluttering and packing it is helpful to have a staging area for items that are NOT going to be moved. Whether they are being donated or given away, these items don’t need to be packed so they should be separated from what you’re taking with you. It’s helpful to have these items in a place that has easy access for someone to pick up like near the back door or in a garage. As you are decluttering and packing and you continue to find things that you aren’t taking with you, move it to the staging area. You may need to call friends to pick up or schedule a donation pick up and it’s easy to tell them where to come.

You may even want to have a separate staging area for trash and recycling. Since you are packing early (right?!) you’ll find trash and recycling all over your home. Keep it simple and designate an exterior location for all of the trash and recycling to go so you can focus on the decluttering and packing.

Above all, don’t wait until the last minute. The last few boxes feel like the law of infinite regression where the packing just NEVER ends. You can do this!

Happy packing!

Organizing Kids’ Papers

Oh, the rushing tide of papers that comes in with your child every afternoon as they come home from school! From permission slips to homework to worksheets, how do I keep it all organized? You need a system, quick, for the incoming and outgoing, but you also need a way to store the papers you want to keep. Here you go!

I’ve written about organizing Kids’ Artwork so if you’re looking for those tips, click here.

For the papers that come in but need to go out, set up an inbox for each child. This can be a cardboard box or basket but it needs to be large enough to hold the paper without them folding over or falling out. I like to use an inbox from an office supply store that is designed for the work environment. Select one in your child’s favorite color and put their name on it.

You also need a system for storing the paperwork that you want actually want to keep. Some examples are:

      • report cards
      • progress reports
      • samples of school work (emphasis on the word “sample“)
      • certificates of activity participation
      • school play, dance, or concert programs
      • important letters and cards from confirmation or kindergarten graduation
      • class photos
      • team photos
      • mentions in newspapers

For all of this I recommend getting a plastic file box with a lid (the one pictured here is from the Container Store or you can get it off of Amazon by clicking here) for each child. Get a different color of hanging files for each child’s box. Create labels for each school year/ grade and put them in the box. As these papers come in and you want to keep them, file them in the appropriate year. As your child grows you’ll be able to give them this responsiblity and eventually the whole box.

Click the photos below to see what I’ve used.

organized kids paper childs paperwork

THE PERFECT FILE BIN FOR EACH CHILD’S PAPERS

THESE HANGING FILES ARE GREAT QUALITY & COME IN LOTS OF COLORS

Just so you know….

          • there is no set rule for what you should keep
          • you’re not a bad parent if you throw some things away
          • not everything is a treasure worth keeping

Happy organizing!

How to Organize Kids’ Artwork

How do I organize my kid’s artwork?

What do I keep?

What can I throw away?

These are questions I’ve been asked almost on a weekly basis because it seems like every day kids bring home a new masterpiece to show you. Multiply that by 12 years of school and for just 1 child, you’re going to be overflowing in construction paper, string, flat wooden sticks, and macaroni portraits.

YOU CAN’T KEEP EVERYTHING

You can’t keep everything or even half of it. You’re not supposed to. Artwork from childhood should be enjoyed and displayed and fawned over. But as new pieces come in, you need to practice “out with the old, in with the new.”

You also have to curate and prioritize because you can’t keep it all. No 18 or 22 year old wants to have boxes of work that they created passed on to them. Keep the good pieces, the ones that have meaning, the ones that were special to them or special to you.

When new work is brought home, ask  your child about it so they can explain its significance. If it means nothing to them or they aren’t interested in art, it should make the editing process easier.

What you do decide to keep, make sure you date it on the back. Trust me, you won’t remember when it was created and neither will your child.

Here are some ideas on ways to display your kids’ artwork:

  • Tack it on a bulletin board in a mudroom, kitchen, playroom, or other room with some wall space.
  • Display it on the refrigerator. Classic.
  • Invest in inexpensive frames that you can slide out the old work and put in new.
  • Hang a line in a hallway or on a blank wall and use clothespins to display pieces. Show that you admire their handiwork and creativity.
  • Include their 3-D sculptures in your home decor. You can even designate a shelf for displaying these types of pieces.

When new work comes in, let your child be part of the editing process. It’s important that they see that you can’t keep everything and you have to prioritize.

My best suggestion is to take pictures of their work throughout the school year. Jot down a note on the back of the piece if there is anything significant about the piece like it was their favorite or they especially loved creating it and why. Taking pictures of the pieces helps to preserve the memory of it without needing to rent out a storage unit to keep them all.

At the end of the school year, review the pictures, select the best ones, and create a photo book for the year. You can use Shutterfly, iPhoto, Mixbook, Snapfish and I’m sure there are other options.

In addition to photos of artwork, I suggest including the following images to make a more complete documentation of their year.

  1. Sample of their handwriting
  2. Pictures of them holding pieces
  3. Pieces that they love
  4. Pictures of 3-D Art
  5. Pictures of the artwork on display in your home

As a part time artist and someone who used in innundate my parents with work not only from school but also from afternoon art classes, I know that you don’t really want a catalog of everything ever created to weigh you down as an adult.

I’ve had to cull through my own pieces from college and have gradually edited out what wasn’t truly wonderful or significant. The pieces that I loved, I have framed and I do have on display in my home. You can’t keep everything, nor should you. If everything is a treasure, nothing is.

Happy organizing!

Mail Management Made Easier

mail management tips

One of the biggest challenges I hear from clients and on social media is how to manage mail. Even though most of what’s in our mailbox is junk, it comes everyday and deposits more and more on our already lengthy to-do list.

While we all thought paper was going away 20 years ago, it is here to stay and has a much stronger effect on our well being that we realize. If we don’t deal with it in a timely manner, we can face late charges, fines, fees, in addition to a mountain of papers cluttering our home.

To manage your mail most effectively you need to set up a system for storing and processing it quickly and easily Here are my tips to make it easier on you so you can go do something fun!

  1. First and foremost: do not bring junk mail in your home! Go through it if you can before you bring it in the door and throw away any junk. Drop it in the recycle bin so you don’t have to process it again.
  2. Get a pretty basket or bin that you can use to put the mail when it comes in your home. It should be large enough to hold magazines and large envelopes so get something that’s at least 10” x 14” but no taller than 4”. The larger it is the more stuff will get dumped in there.
  3. Open mail as soon as you can. It’s good to separate the bills and important financial statements from the personal and toss any unnecessary paperwork like extra envelopes or fillers. 
  4. Designate a location and time for paying bills. The location should be close to where you will actually pay the bill so that might be your desk where your computer and/or checkbook and stamps are. Once you pay the bill, file the statement in the appropriate folder (see #6).
  5. Process personal mail as soon as you can. Put social occasions and appointments on your calendar. I like to keep the invitation and personal letters for a while on a bulletin board but it’s not necessary. 
  6. Set up a filing system for the bills and mail that you want and need to keep.* Life is much easier when you can just drop the statements or letter in a labeled, open top hanging file. The more actions you have to complete to put papers away (such as pulling out boxes, opening lids, lifting papers out, etc) the less likely it is to be completed. 

Overall, it’s best to minimize the amount of unwanted mail you receive so that there is less to process. To take yourself off of credit card and insurance offer lists, go to optoutprescreen.com and register your address to opt out of receiving credit or insurance offers. For catalogs, call the company’s Customer Service department directly and ask to be taken off their list.

While people aren’t sending as many personal letters these days (hey, let’s bring that back!) we certainly do have more papers coming in to our mailbox than our parents did. Take a few minutes to set up a system and you’ll spend less time dealing with it later when you’d rather be doing something fun or productive!

Happy organizing!

*If you’re not on the list already, go to Neatsmart.com to get your copy of my Paperwork to Keep resource which tells you how long to keep important papers like bank statements or financial documents.

 

Happy Spring Cleaning!

organized closet

Who is thrilled that Spring is here besides me? I love spring so much because the weather is perfect (not too hot, not too cold, and usually sunny), people are in better moods, and the blooming flowers and trees are gorgeous!

I also love spring because it signals a new season of growth which makes me think of shedding anything old, worn out, or tired. I’m more excited about spring organizing than spring cleaning and I love anything that makes organizing easier.

I put together a list of 51 Things You Probably Have Too Much of and Can Get Rid of to help you (really me) purge the excess and stuff that is old, worn out and tired that you no longer need. Don’t let the long title scare you! Having a list to use makes your spring organizing work more focused and effective because you’re not just wandering through closets wondering what you’re looking for.

Go through the list of 51 Things You Probably Have Too Much of and Can Get Rid of and mark off anything that you were able to get rid of. There is nothing more satisfying than marking things off a list!

Oh, and remember that “getting rid of” can mean giving away, donating, recycling, or throwing away. Someone may need exactly what you no longer need so try to find a good recipient. Here in the Atlanta area, I love taking things to the Sandy Springs Recycling Center because they also have donation resources there. You can search for “recycling center” and your town or county name to find something similar in your area.

Happy Spring organizing!

Organized Food Containers

glass containers 2Do you dread putting away or needing to find a container for your leftovers? Have you been injured by an avalanche of plastic containers and lids? Do you feel like you are always buying new containers because you can never find the right size or lid to match up? I have the answer to your food container problems right here!

Invest in glass containers with lids! I just picked up some new ones from IKEA but you can find them in many locations such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. I’ve also seen them sporadically at Home Goods and AtHome.

What makes this solution work is that you are investing in something that will last much longer, is more durable, and won’t overwhelm you. Plastic has all kinds of issues but my main concern is that it keeps you spending money on something that won’t last. They melt, get stained, lose their lids, and generally just fall apart. Because they are cheap, you just buy more and more and more until they take over your space.

Investing in something once, even if it’s just a food container, will save you so much money, time (another currency), and frustration (immeasurable). 

Most important, though is how you store them! Put them in a cabinet or drawer or shelf with the lid on the container. You can still stack them but you don’t have to worry about getting everything in perfect alignment. They will stack well by themselves.

I understand you may want to hang on to some plastic containers and that is totally fine. I just like these for the long haul. They are great for taking leftovers to school or work and can go from refrigerator to microwave. They can also go in the freezer or the pantry.

Because they’re clear you can see what is in them. No more mystery containers shoved in the back of the refrigerator.

If you need to label the contents you can use painters’ tape or frog tape and a sharpie.

While investing in glass containers will cost you a little more in the beginning, it won’t take long to reap the benefits. 

Happy organizing!

Anti-clutter gift list

Gift buying and giving is a stressful task that most of us wish we could pass on to someone else. That is why everyone puts together their gift suggestion lists and even Amazon lists: to make the selection process easier and more efficient.

But what if I told you there were great gift options that would be loved and needed by everyone on your list? These options work for just about anyone on your list and are guaranteed to fit! No regifting closet necessary.

  • Gift of experience. This is even better if it is something that you can do together. It could be going to a museum, concert, sporting event or play. Or something adrenaline fueled like driving a race car or skydiving or driving golf balls. The experience and time together is the true gift which creates long-lasting memories.
  • Service gift. This could be a gift certificate for a treat like a manicure or massage or even car wash. These gifts are thoughtful because they may be a luxury that the recipient wouldn’t normally indulge in.
  • Framed photos. This is one of my favorite gifts because it creates a piece of art from a shared experience or memory. Last year I gave my husband a framed picture from a concert we attended together and it always brings up fun memories when either of us looks at it. Go through your photo archives to dig up a treasured time together and frame the image.
  • Photo books. Similar to the framed photos, these books are a way of preserving the memories in a visual format. These are great especially  if you’ve taken a trip or together or went to an event where lots of pictures were taken. You can add annotations to personalize them further or just let the pictures speak for themselves.
  • Gift of learning. Whether you’re giving a gift of a series of lessons or showing someone how to listen to podcasts, the gift of learning is never returned and always appreciated. Also the gift of audio books is a perfect option for someone who enjoys reading but doesn’t have time or can’t see as well. You may open someone’s eyes to whole new levels of experience just with showing them a new skill or hobby they never thought about.

I love all of these suggestions because they require you to think about the person you are gifting and consider their needs and wishes with a little more attention. 

These are all a variation on the gift of time which is the only non renewable resource we all share. 

Happy gifting!

The Best (most versatile) Storage Solution

This is the storage solution you need to keep in your home at all times. It is inexpensive, versatile, flexible, and easy to find. I have used these for a variety of organization conundrums and keep a stash in my car at all times in case of emergency. So, what is this genius solution?

Extra Large Zipper Bags

I use the ones from Target’s Up & Up brand and they are called Jumbo Slider bags. I’m sure there are other brands available but I like these best. They are approximately 14″ x 16″ vs 10″ x 11″ for the gallon size so you can put larger items in them. They have the zipper closure, a white space for writing the name of the contents, and are a great price.

Here are some of the ways I have used them:

  1. Storing puzzles & games. Cut the cover off of the box and put all of the pieces & boards in the bag to keep them together.
  2. Storing manuals and warranties for washers & dryers in the laundry room.
  3. Storing costumes for kids & adults. These kept the costume & all of the accessories together.
  4. Packing for trips. I put all of the same clothing item in a bag and it made it easy to keep everything together and to know where it was. Great for kids & adults!
  5. Keeping dirty clothes together during a trip.
  6. Keeping items together like envelopes, stamps, cards, and markers while sending cards out.
  7. Keeping craft project materials together.

Run out and get a box of these to keep on hand. I know you’ll come up with even more ways to use them!

Happy organizing!