Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Use It or Lose It!

It's been a crazy month in my household, primarily because we're planning to put our condo on the market next week. As you might expect, I've always considered myself and my home to be fairly organized. However, preparing and staging a home for sale takes decluttering to a whole new level. In case inquiring minds want to know, here are the steps we're taking to hopefully showcase our space, not our stuff, for a speedy and top dollar sale.

1. Ruthless Weeding 
As a professional organizer, I'm pretty sure that regular weeding of my stuff is programmed into my DNA. We make routine donation drop-offs throughout the year. But if there's ever a time to step up the weeding, this is it! We forced ourselves to make the decisions that we'd avoided in the past and also to go through every space...big or little...in our condo to thin out the cabinets, closets, and of course surfaces. Not only was it the perfect time to do this (so as not to end up packing and moving things we don't want), but it was also key to making our storage spaces appear spacious and to make room to put away last minute surface items before each showing. One huge bonus is that it is so much easier to clean with less stuff to clean around!

2. Short-Term Storage 
For the first time in my life, we are renting a small storage unit to house items we want to keep but do not need to use in the next few months. This includes off-season clothing, infrequently used kitchen items, personal photos, books, and off-season outdoor gear. I've always been a believer that there is a time and a place for storage units, especially in the short-term...and this is our time and place. We won't keep the storage unit after we have a new home to move everything into. The interesting part of the experiment is that I'm guessing we will not miss many of the items we put in there. That's not to say that we won't be happy to see them, but it will be proof that if we needed to live with less, we certainly could, and happily so. Who knows, maybe we will decide to part with some of what we stored after our brief separation from it. 

3. Use It or Lose It
Last but not least, I have instituted a 'use it or lose it' policy for small items discovered during the ruthless weeding. This includes a basket of food items in the kitchen, some toiletries, desk/office supplies and some reading materials (newsletters, etc.). If they do not get 'consumed' before we start showing our condo, they're gone. It's been a neat experiment and again has shown me what I can and do live without!

Bottom Line: Whether or not you are preparing to sell your home - in which case I recommend you call your favorite professional organizer to help - we can all benefit from taking a 'use it or lose it' view of our space and stuff. What can you live without?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Putting Away the Holidays

Have you put away your holiday decorations yet or are they still sitting in your living room, partially packed or even still in place? If you've still got some work to do, here are some tips and tricks to help make this often not-so-fun task a breeze, both this year and for years to come.

1. Take a little time to do some winter weeding. If you didn't use it this year, get rid of it now. The only thing worse than storing something you're not going to use is finding it again when you open the boxes next year! Also be sure to toss anything that's broken. If it's worth fixing, make it a top priority so you can pack it away with the rest of the decorations before the end of the month.

2. Create an "open first" box with items you need early in the season. This might mean your tree stand, card-creating gear, cookie cutters, and decorations you like to get up early. This way you won't be hunting through different boxes to find what you need.

3. Store like items together. It may seem obvious, but in the haste of putting things away, it's easy to just "throw it all in" without much thought. Take the time to put all the parts of something in one container, or a bag within the container, store your ornament hangers with the ornaments, and all wrapping supplies together.

4. Make a list of what you need to replace. After the holiday shopping season, you may be sick of lists, but you'll thank yourself if you jot down things you ran out of or need to replace (lights, ornament hangers, wrapping paper). You can either take advantage of post-holiday clearance sales now, post your list in your "open first" box, or put it in your paper or electronic calendar for next year.

5. Choose the right containers. A mix of random boxes and bags might work, but a better solution would be a uniform set of sturdy boxes which will be easier to store and find. Plastic bins with lids work well for many decorations and will last for years. Be sure to pack fragile items with plenty of padding and dividers. Smaller sets of items can be packaged within a large plastic bin. For example, you can store each set of lights, neatly wound and secured with a twist tie, in a large Ziploc bag within a larger bin.

6. Label, label, label. This is organizing 101 and especially important with infrequently used items, like holiday decorations. You might think you'll remember where you put something, but we all know how that story ends. Be sure to label multiple sides of each box so you can easily see them no matter which way they end up stacked.

Bottom Line: I don't know too many people who love putting away holiday decorations, but if you do it right, you'll enjoy the process that much more when it comes time to break out the holiday cheer next year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Make 2012 Your Year to Get Organized

Now that we've made it through the December hustle and bustle, we turn our sights to the New Year ahead. That's right, 2012 will be here before we know it - Sunday, in case you've lost track. The year's end is a great time to reflect on the year past and look forward to what lies ahead. For many people, this means New Year's resolutions...when we take stock of our lives and resolve to make changes to improve upon them. They can be big or small, but what gets us professional organizers excited is that so many resolutions can and do involve organizing! January is Get Organized (GO) month and we're ready and waiting to help. Here are some fun examples to give you some resolution inspiration:
  • This winter, I resolve to park my car in my perfectly good, but over-stuffed garage! As long as it's not frigid, set your sights on a garage clean out and you can have a place to park in no time. Call ahead and schedule a charity donation pick up so you'll have a firm deadline.
  • This year, I resolve to ditch my decades-old wardrobe! Give yourself the gift of a closet makeover. Donate or consign what you don't wear and spruce up your space with matching hangers and labeled bins or go "big" and re-do your closet system with the help of a professional.
  • This year, I resolve to give myself more free-time to spend with family, friends, or just myself. Check out this great article revealing signs that you're over-booked. Identify areas of your life that could use some simplifying and organizing and start crossing things off your calendar or to-do list for once!
  • This year, I resolve to cook healthy meals for my family! Start with a fridge, pantry and cupboard decluttering, then work on a simple meal planning strategy. This could be as easy as listing out 3-4 meals for the week, then creating a shopping list for those meals. I do this all on the notepad of my smart phone. If you build in left-overs, you'll have quick, easy lunches too!
Bottom Line: There are endless opportunities to weave organizing into your New Year's plans. Think about what could be easier in your day to day routine and GO for it. So what's on your list this year?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Home Stretch

If you've been following along with our blog and newsletter, you know we've been talking lists and tips, savvy shopping and party preparation to help you cross those holiday tasks off your list. But now that we're in the holiday home stretch, we wanted to remind everyone (including ourselves) that while this week might be crunch time to finish up your holiday preparation, it's also now or never to sit back and enjoy the holiday anticipation.

If you're like me and you enjoy the lights, the music and the holiday cards from friends and family, don't forget to take it all in. Before we know it, it will be January and we'll all be on to the next thing. We managed to get a tree up in our house last weekend and one of my favorite ways to wind down in the evenings is to sit on the couch and enjoy the warm glow and wonderful scent of our tree...preferably with a glass of wine. So take a moment to remember your favorite holiday pleasures and make time to get your fill over the next couple weeks. If that means scribbling out some to-do items that just aren't going to get done, I give you absolute permission to do so.

For full disclosure, I'll tell you what won't be getting done on my list. My updates to the family recipe book (a project I did a few years ago using Tastebook.com), while in progress, won't make it under the tree. I'll just send them out as soon as I can reasonably get them done. Our holiday cards will also be festively "late" - hopefully arriving before Christmas weekend, though I am blaming Shutterfly who over-promised and under-delivered on the delivery timeline. Oh well!

More importantly, what will be happening...we will be spending Saturday night with friends who live in the next state and we don't get to see as often as we'd like. We will be helping my mother put up her tree this weekend so she can host us all for Christmas in style. We will continue to enjoy our tree, eagerly open holiday cards from friends and family, and show our 6 month old daughter the sights and sounds of the season.

Bottom Line: While you're waiting in the line at the Post Office, try not to tap your foot or look at your watch with steam coming out of your ears...it's not a good look. Instead, take a moment to send a message to a long lost friend or simply enjoy watching the world around you. Most of the time, it all goes by too fast!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gifts That Keep on Giving

It's that time of year - time to kick your holiday shopping into high gear. This year, why not give friends and family gifts that help them get and stay organized?! They're the gifts that keep on giving! Here are some fun ideas for different personalities on your list:

For the Chef...

Spice Stack Organizer

Tubby Countertop Organizer

For the Ladies...

Jewelry Stand

Hair Accessories Organizer

For the Guys...

Golf Rack Organizer

Remote Control Caddy

For Techies and Travelers...

Plug-in Charging Shelf

Cord Wraps

GRID-IT Gadget Case

For Families or Grandparents...

Childrens Art Cabinets

For anyone and everyone...

Key and Letter Holder

Label Maker

And of course, there's always the gift of getting organized. Order your Organizing Boston gift certificate today!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Closet Confessions

About a month ago, I wrote about practicing what I preach by giving my closet the old backwards hanger test. One month later, it's time to do the initial review to see which clothes I actually wore in the last month.

So here are the results. Out of 78 total hanging items, I wore 25 of them, which leaves 53 backwards hangers remaining. Not too surprising. We all have our favorites and tend to wear the same things over and over.

I said I would do an initial review and weed out what really needed to go, still leaving a "maybe" group on backwards hangers until the end of the year for a final judgment. I took out 6 items for donation and 2 that should have been put away with the summer clothes. I was proud of myself - a few of those 6 items were things that I'd let hang around for waaaay too long because they were good quality or a seemingly classic/useful item, but the reality was, I was not wearing them, and I knew it. So I took the plunge and evicted them from my closet. Even better, I took them to a donation place immediately, along with a few other items I'd already accumulated. It felt great to create some space and finally say good-bye to items I knew I shouldn't be keeping. So instead of a bag of clothing I don't wear, I now have a donation receipt for tax time.

If you're keeping up with the math, that leaves 45 backwards hangers or clothing items on probation to either wear or evict at the end of the month. To be fair, that number includes the majority of my sweaters, even favorite ones, because the weather has been so unseasonably warm around here. So I will definitely give them a chance.

One bonus of this process is that it tends to open your eyes to what you own and make you work a little harder to expand beyond your favorites by making an effort to wear things you like but don't tend to reach for. That will be part of my challenge this month. But at the end of the month, the hangers won't lie. Of course I'll be sure to stay accountable and report back on my progress.

While I'm confessing, I also have 3 bags of better quality clothes I'd like to consign that are currently cluttering my car. The consignment place I've used before closed, so I'm giving myself one week to make some calls and set up an appointment. If I can't get my act together or find a taker, I will go ahead and donate them too. They've already been out of my closet for at least a month and I'm not missing them, so it would be silly to move them back in.

Bottom Line: Setting deadlines and holding yourself accountable to someone (even yourself) is a great way to actually make progress when it comes to clearing clutter and finishing unfinished projects. Stay tuned for more updates!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prevent Holiday Clutter with a Simple Solution

As we all get ready for the holidays and particularly holiday gift-giving, it's a great time to remind ourselves of one of the cardinal rules of staying organized: the one-in-one-out rule. It's as simple as it sounds - if you bring something new into your space, you must send something old on it's way. Most of us don't live with lots of extra storage space - empty drawers, shelves or closets. So the one-in-one-out rule is really the only way to keep our homes from becoming over-stuffed.
The problem is, it's easier said than done for most of us. The reasons for this are simple - often, we just don't take the time to take the step of finding something to donate. We may not even think about it, or we may think, "I'll do it later." And we all know how that ends. Or we may not realize the true impact of bringing new things into our home one at a time.

Is it okay to save up your donations for a couple time a year - making it more like 25 things in-25 things out? That depends. The answer might be yes if:
  • you have the room to take in the new things that inevitably make their way in while only purging a couple times a year and
  • you make sure to schedule some time to sort and purge your belonging a couple times a year.
Another option is to make a habit of doing a monthly donation drop off. You can keep a box or bag handy to deposit your donations throughout the month and then do one drop off a month at a local charity. This is a great way to make it possible to follow the one-in-one-out rule. Just be sure to schedule those regular drop offs so your donation box doesn't become part of the clutter!

The holidays are a great time to teach kids about the one-in-one-out rule. Kids often get many new toys and clothes at the holidays, which they are usually very excited about. Capture this excitement and teach kids about giving to less fortunate children by having them choose several things to donate before the new presents arrive. Remember, gently used or even un-used items are best for donation.

Whether you're a kid or a grown up kid with some new toys, don't let too much time pass before you find new homes for your new things. Finding an equal number of items to donate is the easiest way to make this happen. Last but not least, don't forget to take care of returns and exchanges as soon as possible so they don't linger and become clutter in your home and on your to-do list.

Bottom Line: Sticking to the one-in-one-out rule is an easy way to keep the fun of new holiday things from creating clutter, which you then have to resolve to get rid of in the new year!