How to Prepare for a Professional Organizer

Storage Containers

I’ve had many clients ask me what they should do to prepare for our organizing session. The simple answer to this questions is to do nothing out of the ordinary. More specifically, there are things that I do NOT want you to do before my arrival.

DO NOT:

  1. Straighten up- I want to see an accurate portrayal of your home on a typical day. I want to see where you drop your coat and mail when you walk in, where your put your dirty laundry, where/how your kids play with their toys. Straightening up distracts from the clear view of how you spend your day and where you naturally put things. Besides, there is a good chance I’m going to pull it all out anyways when we begin working.
  2. Be embarrassed- Every single person I have worked with has mentioned their embarrassment before showing me the space(s) they want to organize. It is nothing you need to be embarrassed of. There are many circumstances that result in homes not being in your ideal state. There are also different interpretations of what is ideal. I’ve probably also seen worse.
  3. Buy storage containers- This is probably the number one things people ask me if they should do before I come. The answer is almost always no and here is why: we don’t know what you need yet. We won’t know until we go through your home, decide what is staying and what is going, where you are storing things, what type of storage works best there, and what quantity you need. Everyone loves a good storage container, but if you buy too early you will very likely not end up with the proper one. All this does is create a return errand for you, extra clutter, and/or using a storage container because you have it and not because it’s the best for the space. If we need something, we will buy it after we are sure of what is needed.
  4. Stress out- This may be harder to avoid than the previous three, but please don’t stress out about our upcoming session. I know it may seem overwhelming, but I promise you I will make the process pain free and much more manageable. You may even *gasp* enjoy it!

 

Happy Organizing!

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Time and Sanity Saving Tools, for Even the Technology Challenged

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Anyone that knows me personally knows that I am not the most technologically savvy person. I didn’t even own a smartphone until about a year ago. I’d get laughs as I pulled out my basic slide phone to take down phone numbers. I was also pretty much the only person at the preschool holiday parties taking photos with my point and shoot and not my iPhone. I was okay with it though. More than okay, I actually took a little bit of pride in the fact that I was using basic technology and wasn’t staring at my phone 24/7.

Eventually, not having access to the internet and email on the go began to get very inconvenient. I was also losing out on things like great coupons, changes in social plans (I had no access to email outside the home), easy photo sharing with friends and family, among many other things. It was finally time to upgrade to an iPhone.

I’m starting to come around in other ways as well. My family has switched from a family wall calendar to an iCloud family calendar (although I still carry a paper planner). I’ve also started to take advantage of all the great apps and websites out there for things like navigation, accounting, and even grocery shopping.

Technology is also helpful for increasing productivity and keeping you organized. Obviously, this is a big appeal for me. Here are some of my favorites that I find useful for those reasons:

Calendar Syncing– Now that I have started syncing my calendar with my husbands, managing our schedules has been a lot easier. I simply use the calendar on my iPhone and created a family calendar that is shared with my husband’s phone. I know some people prefer to do this with an app like “google calendars,” but so far using the phone calendar has worked great for us. When I add an event, I choose to add it to the family calendar so it appears on his calendar as well, or my personal calendar where only I see it. I also like that when a new calendar event is added to the family calendar he receives an event notification that has to be confirmed. So basically, he can’t claim anymore that I didn’t tell him about an event coming up.

Online/App Grocery Shopping– Honestly, I use to think people who ordered their groceries were lazy but in reality, they are smart. I don’t generally have my groceries delivered, but I do order them online and pick them up in a sort of drive through. It’s a small fee to do this, but I save so much money in the process that it makes up for this fee and some. I order my groceries the night before and pick them up the next day. This method helps me stick to my grocery list and I don’t ever have to question whether I’m out of something, because I can just look. I can sit down and meal plan with sales ads, and add my ingredients on the spot. Pickup is so easy too. I usually just grab them on the way home from picking my son up from school. Seriously, I’m never going back.

Chatbooks While I store most of my photos online, I still love printing out some of my photos into photo books. Chatbooks is a great way to easily create photo books that area printed and sent to you. They are smaller books that don’t take up as much space, are priced great, and with their app you can easily grab photos from your phone and social media accounts. It can also sync with your social media and automatically create the books as you go. It’s not a fancy customized book that you spend hours creating, but sometimes simpler is better. http://www.Chatbooks.com

Artkive Artkive is a great app that is use to scan and store artwork. All you have to do is take a picture of the artwork and Artkive will store is along with the child’s name and age. The art can then be printed into books or other awesome things like pillows and shower curtains. Apps like these are great for people like me who have children who create A LOT of artwork. I always save my favorites, but now I can throw the others away without as much guilt. http://www.Artkive.com

Banking Apps- I was skeptical about this one at first. I’ve used online banking for years, so I didn’t think I really needed an app for it. Plus, I was slightly worried about the security of it. I gave in one day because I didn’t feel like going to the bank and wanted to try mobile check depositing. I love it now! It’s so easy to use and no longer needing to drive to the bank to deposit a check is awesome. There are other great features of the app as well, but it’s worth it for the deposits alone.

I may tend to be a little late to the game with new technology, but I am always willing to embrace something that makes my life simpler, saves time, and my sanity. I’ve found these do just that.

You’ve Decluttered, Now What?

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This time of the year, many people go into Spring cleaning mode. This may involve some (or a lot of) decluttering and removing items from your home that you no longer want taking up space. But what is the best way to get rid of these items?

I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of options available for getting rid of all those items you are ready to part with. I’ve broken it into two sections: ways to sell and places to donate.

Sell them:

Yard Sale- Spring is a great time of the year to do a yard sale, or even an estate sale if you need to. It’s a pretty simple way to get some extra cash and get rid of things that you no longer want in your home. Simply advertise your sale, price tag your items, and host your sale outside your home (or at a community yard sale if that’s an option).

Craigslist/EBay- Another option for selling your items is to use Craigslist, EBay, or another of the many websites available to sell items. Craigslist doesn’t involve shipping your item like EBay does. Just be careful to be aware of scammers on Craigslist. It is also best to meet your seller in a public location when possible.

Facebook Yard Sale Group- To find one of these groups search Facebook for your state and “yard sale” and a variety will pop up. For example “Maryland Yard sale.” These groups are great because you can sell a variety of things to others in your area simply by uploading a picture and posting it on the Facebook page.

Consignment Store in Person- Local consignment stores will take a variety of different items. Some will even pay upfront for items. Others will put your items on consignment, so that you get a percentage of the sale WHEN they sell. This is usually the case for higher end items like designer clothes, handbags, or furniture.

Consignment Stores through Mail/Online- There are many online consignment stores these days. My favorite at the moment is Thredup.com. Simply request a bag on their website, fill it up, and drop it at the post office. They will pay upfront for the clothes they want to sell, consign (pay when someone purchases) higher end items, and donate what they don’t want. You have the option to have the items they don’t want returned to you for a fee.

Amazon- Amazon is a good place to sell items such as used books. Many books also have the option to be traded-in for Amazon gift cards.

Donate them:

Depending on where you live, there are multiple locations that donations can be made of just about anything. Smaller, local donation centers are great because the items donated usually help serve individuals in the areas you live. A quick Google search will help you find some local options. Donationtown.org is a website that will schedule donation pickups and deliver to donations centers in your area.

Some other donation options that are available in most cities are:

Goodwill- Supports employment training and job placement. Accepts most items. Pickups available. (Free pickups must be scheduled a decent amount of time in advance. Priority pickups are available for a fee. www.goodwill.org. Amazon also has a partnership program with Goodwill called the give back program. Delivered Amazon boxes can be filled with donations and shipped to Goodwill free of charge. All you have to do is request a shipping label from http://givebackbox.com/amazon, fill up your Amazon box, and ship for free.

Purple Heart- Donations help fund programs to support veterans and their families. They accept clothing and household goods. Pickups are available. www.purpleheartfoundation.org

Habitat for Humanity ReStore- Provide shelter for those in need around the world. They accept donations of new or gently used furniture, appliances, housewares, building materials and more. They offer pickups of larger items or large amounts of donations. www.habitat.org.

Lupus Foundation Household Goods Program- Proceeds from donations are used to support programs in the fight against Lupus. They accept most household items and offer small or large pickups in many cities. www.lupuspickup.org.
Also, if you don’t already know what Lupus is, please learn more here: What Is Lupus??

Diaper Banks- There are many diaper banks across the country and they usually accept much more than just diapers. Many also accept items such as: unopened baby food and formula, bottles and accessories, baby clothing, adult hygiene products, and more. Check with your local diaper bank for a complete list. If you are in the DC Metro area the DC Diaper Bank is a great place to donate these items.

Craiglist Free Section/Freecycle Network-  Craiglist’s free section and The Freecycle Network aren’t tax deductible charity donations, but they are still a good way of finding a new home for something you no longer want/need. Simply post the item you want to get rid of for free and wait for someone to respond that they would like it. Many times items are simply placed outside your home or “curbside pickup” for easy pickup.

These are only some of the great options out there for taking items you no longer need and putting them in the hands of those that do need them.

What are some of your favorite ways to sell or donate the things you no longer need or want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Experiment with Minimalism

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I am not a minimalist. I love having all my items organized, and I routinely declutter my home, but I do not fit into the category of a minimalist by any means. I have been stumbling across a lot of articles recently on minimalist. The more I read about it the more I find the concept appealing, especially when it comes to kids toys. This has nothing to do with not wanting to pick up after my kids. I just truly do believe that kids can get easily overwhelmed by too many things in front of them and as a result their creativity goes out the window. Even though I know this, I am completely guilty of buying too many toys for my kids. When my kids show interest in something new, I often find myself searching Amazon for a new toy to go with this new interest. I have even bought a new toy simply because I want a new toy to play with them with. Ugh.

The other day my daughter and I walked into the playroom. She looked around at all the toys and said, “Hmm..I don’t know what to play with?” This statement really bothered me. All these toys, but she wasn’t sure what to play! I wanted to bring down a donation box and put 90% of the toys in it at that moment. Instead of being that drastic, I decided to have a little experiment. I took about half the toys from the playroom and put them in a spare closet. I already use this closet to house some toys for a “toy rotation” but this time I put a LOT of the playroom toys in it.

The next day, my kids and I went to the playroom to play. They picked a toy and played with it for an hour and a half! It was one of those magnetic building toys, but that day it was played with in numerous ways. It became everything from alphabet letters to a bowling game. It was eye opening to see how differently they played after I narrowed down their toy options.

Now, this still hasn’t converted me to becoming a minimalist. It’s not my personality. I have far too many cookbooks and will never have a “capsule wardrobe.” However, I have decided to continue limiting the amount of toys that are accessible at any given time and rotate toys on a more frequent basis.

A Closet Is Not Just For Clothes

I love using spaces around the home in unexpected and unique ways. My son has a fairly large closet. Hanging clothes in it doesn’t make the best use of the space given how small his little pants and shirts are. So instead of hanging them and wasting all of the very usable space, I easily fit them into a dresser and converted the closet to a usable play space. He loves to draw and write books, so I simply repurposed a train table we already owned as a large desktop so he could built, draw, and make a mess, and I could simply close the doors to put it away at the end of the day. Over time it became used mostly as an art table. It was his own little creative nook. Perfect for a preschooler!

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Since my son is getting older, I decided it was time he had an actual desk to sit at. The closet “office” has been working so well for us I found a desk that fit the closet space and allowed for plenty of area to spread out his projects. The Ikea Pahl desk works great for us because it fits well inside the closet and easily adjusts in height, so it will grow with him. I almost added an additional shelf for storage but decided it might end up looking cluttered. The inside of the closet is rather wide, so I decided to add shelving on the sides of the closet inside, when I eventually need more storage space.

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This is just one different way to use an otherwise unused closed. Closets make great craft spaces, reading nooks, toy storage, bars, mud rooms; the possibilities are endless. Here are a few beautiful ideas I’ve seen:

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BHG

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Pinterest

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Sweeten

Happy Organizing!
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Organizing School Papers to Save

School has started for most of the kids around here. My son’s preschool starts in a little over a week so I’ve been preparing for his first days. One of the things I’ve been meaning to do all summer is get a system ready for the papers and art that come home. I’m not the type of person that keeps all the paperwork that comes home to start with, but the things I did keep I put in a folder and set aside. So after some thought, I decided that best way for me to sort these papers is by creating a school file box.

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I already had a file box that wasn’t being used and some cute folders I picked up at Target. Each year at school will get a folder. I sorted through the folder of papers I kept from the previous year and decided what to keep and what was expendable. I saved the artwork and other items that were meaningful to my son, meaningful to me, or had a lot of effort put into it.

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I also included in the file the picture of his class and any other pictures I had from his school. In addition, I created a sheet that can be filled in yearly with information about my child that year such as his favorite activities and food. I think it will be nice to look back at these things down the road.

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Now I am ready for all the awesome art and other things that come home this year.

 

Lego Instructions Organized

I was playing Lego’s with my son the other day, and I noticed a problem. We had a bunch of Lego instruction manuals that were just being shoved in with the blocks and some of them were even ripping. So I found a solution. Make a Lego instruction binder!

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All I needed to do was insert the Lego instructions into some protective sheets and put them inside a binder. While I chose to place each individual step into the sheets in order, this could also be done by putting each whole manual inside a protective sleeve. This may be a better option if you have a ton of different Lego sets.

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Ta da! No more ripped and lost instruction manuals!

 

My favorite organizing products for kids rooms.

There are tons of home organization products on the market these days, including many geared towards controlling kids clutter. While there are many great items, here are a few of my favorites for organizing kids rooms.

The Ikea Kallax Shelving Unit-

There’s a reason you will see these shelving units in playrooms across the country. It is a great way to house plenty of toys, books, and clothes. The shelves can be left as is, or baskets can be added to conceal anything from toys to pajamas. There are many cube shelves on the market, but I like the Kallax because the cubbies are larger than most other brands. Ikea also offers many different styles of storage boxes that fit snugly inside the cubes.

Wall Hooks:

I love using hooks to organize my home. Hooks are a nearly effortless way to organize things and get them up off the floor. Putting hooks at kids level makes it easy for them to get things down when they want them and put them away once they are done. There are lots of cute hooks out there but I think these gemstone hooks from Land of Nod are adorable!

BEKVÄM Spice Racks:

These spice racks are used for way more than just spices. They are perfect for holding and displaying children’s books. Put a few racks next to some pillows and create a book nook in your child’s room. They are also great for holding stuffed animals, small toys, school folders, picture frames, and many other items.

 

 

Ikea Glis Boxes with Lids:

These sturdy little boxes are perfect for corralling smaller items such as small toy pieces, hair clips, and arts and craft supplies. At $3.99 and $2.99 for 3, it is easy to stock up.

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Ikea

 

The Playroom-Finding a home for kids toys

Toys. I have a love-hate relationship with them. Love-that they teach my children marvelous things, occupy them while I have cup of coffee, and are just all around fun to play with. Hate-that they have the ability to multiply in the blink of an eye and seep into all the rooms of the house. We are lucky to have a basement playroom that houses most of the toys, but it’s a regular mission of mine to keep it under control. Every so often (especially around holidays) I do inventory of the toys and decide if the room is working well for our family. This process consists of three steps: reviewing, sorting, and storing.

For me, sometimes the first step will involve pulling everything out and going through things one by one. Other times, I will just sort through baskets and bins and pull out things that we can get rid of. These are things that are either inappropriate for their ages, are broken, or simply aren’t played with. If I’m on the fence about a specific toy, I put it away in my rotation (more to come on this) and pull it out again later to see how much action it gets. Toys are put in piles to either donate, sell, or trash/recycle (if it’s broken).

Next is the sorting stage. This is simply putting all the stuff that belongs together, together. If you have the space for it, dividing your playroom into zones, is helpful too. Pretend play/dress up in one area, books in another, building toys in a third area. There is a reason preschools divide their classrooms this way. Children play better when they know where to find things, and they put things away better too.

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Craft Zone

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Kids Art Gallery

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Reading Zone

Now, it’s time to store it all. There are many baskets, bins, boxes to choose from but in general children have an out of sight out of mind mentality. For this reason, clear boxes work really well. They can easily see what’s inside. Canvas boxes work really well too if you want to conceal a bit to appear less cluttered. Personally, I do a mix of this as well as putting some toys out visibly on shelves. Large toy boxes sound like a good idea, but they are trouble. This is where toys go to be forgotten. Not only will your child not be able to find that barbie that is somewhere in the bottom of the box, but if you do find her, she will probably be broken. Big boxes are for big toys.

Now, congratulate yourself on a job well done! Sit back and enjoy watching your kids explore, learn, and play.