Friday, May 28, 2010

Making Time (and Space) for What Matters

As we approach this long weekend, many people are looking forward to spending time with family and friends. This, along with reflecting on the service and sacrifice so many have given to this country, makes me think about what really matters. If you haven’t recently done so, I highly recommend taking time to actually write down what matters most in your life. Who are the people and what are the activities on this list? I’m guessing that your Blackberry, sitting in traffic, and watching a marathon of The Hills are not on your list, but I’m not judging if they are. Rather, the lists are more likely to include things like spending more quality time with family and friends, walking your dog, doing something you enjoy for a living, cooking healthy meals at home, or helping others.

Often, when people are looking to get organized, it is because one or more aspect of their lives feels out of control and prevents them focusing on what matters most. If this is the case for you, the first step is really to make that list. I wrote my list in a journal and refer to it regularly to keep myself on track. This exercise can be a key component in being able to clear the junk from your house and your schedule and keep it from creeping back in because it allows you to ask the question “Does this (item/activity) support what matters most to me?” Every item in your home and on your schedule is something that you have to manage. If you don’t have time and space to waste, make sure what’s taking up your real estate is worth it. Do you have piles of old magazines? Think about why they are (still) there and whether they are really contributing to the life you want to lead. Or are they instead taking up space and adding to your to-do list (“Read 50 magazines cover to cover and absorb all useful info”)? Are you constantly on-line and/or checking your email from the time you get up to the time you go to bed? Ask yourself the same question and see if you can tweak (or drastically change) your routine to free some time for a quality phone call with an old friend or an afternoon at the park with your kids (no Blackberry allowed).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Closet Rules to Live By

Last week, we talked about the elements of an organized closet and I gave you some tips and tricks I use in my own closet. Hopefully you were inspired to make some changes in your closet too! But the fun doesn’t end there - after you’ve whipped your closet into shape by purging items you don’t love or need and maximizing the space you have, you must follow some key rules to maintain it or your closet will slip back into chaos. Here are some closet rules to live by:

Store like with like. For most people this means sorting your closet by type of item – shirts with shirts, pants with pants, etc. Do what makes sense to you (some people like to sort by color) and maintain the system so you know where to find things and where to put them away.

At the end of the day, put it away! Taking time to put away your clothes at the end of the day is the most important step you can take to prevent closet chaos. Put dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and hang, fold and put away anything you plan to use again. It is NOT easier to leave something out because you are going to use it again soon – it will get buried or dirty if left out.

Fold and put your laundry away immediately. This is typically an issue of project completion for most people, but leaving folded (or worse – unfolded) clean clothes out will only cause more work later, not to mention causing confusion and making it hard to find what you need. Carve out some uninterrupted time to get it done and enlist the help of other family members to take care of their items - just make sure they actually put things away. The good news is, folding laundry is fairly mindless which allows for easy multi-tasking, such as hands-free phone calls or catching up on your favorite TV shows.

Follow the “one in, one out” rule. Having a closet that is not over-stuffed is key to being able to put things away and find what you need. But closets follow the basic laws of physics - stuff just doesn’t disappear and space can’t be magically created. To maintain order, the best policy is that if you get something new, you should discard something that has fallen off the favorites list. If you do enough regular weeding (at least twice a year) you may give yourself a little room to grow your collection throughout the season, but if you’re having trouble sliding hangers or closing drawers, it’s time to reconsider what you have.

Take a look at what’s causing your closet clutter – hopefully it can be managed by implementing some of our recent tips. If not, let us know what other closet issues are bugging you so we can help!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Scenes From a Professional Organizer's Home: My Closet

Today I thought I’d show you my closet – especially fitting since Tuesday’s post focused on my discovery of the world of consignment. So what are the elements of an organized closet?

Efficient Use of Space

If you’re like me and most others, you do not have infinite (or even ample) closet space, so it’s important to use the space you do have well! Look at all the dimensions – are you maximizing vertical in addition to horizontal space? Using walls and shelves in addition to hanging bar space? While not required (you’ll see I don’t have one), a custom-designed closet system is often the best way to make the most use of your space. The elfa systems offered by The Container Store are a great option, but there are plenty of others out there that offer different looks for different prices. If you’re on a budget, there’s certainly plenty you can do with do-it-yourself and/or free-standing bins, shelving, hooks, shoe storage, etc.

Great Hangers

One of the best investments I’ve made in my closet was to switch out all the hangers to Huggable Hangers® (the slim, fuzzy ones). I love them! Nothing slips off, they don’t leave hanger marks in the shoulders, and they work just as well for small and large clothing. I recommend buying brand-name rather than knock-off versions (sturdier and no issues with the fuzz or color). In addition to having hangers that function well, having uniform hangers is aesthetically pleasing and goes a long way toward making your closet appear organized!

Less is More

An organized closet must have plenty of space. So you may be saying, how can I accomplish that? If you’re already maximizing your space and you’re not adding additional space, there’s only one way to do this – evict items that you don’t love or need! Most people also need to store off-season clothing elsewhere – such as in plastic bins under the bed or other storage spaces. You’ve heard the rules, if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s time to move it along – donation, consignment, or swaps with friends are easy ways to do this. Review your closet twice a year (at the season changes) – if you went through an entire season and didn’t wear something, it’s time to go. This may seem scary at first for you savers out there, but you’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyable an uncluttered closet is. If you’re unsure, you can always try putting select items on “probation” – put them aside (but still accessible), set an expiration date, and if that date comes and goes without getting some enjoyable use out of the items, you know what to do!

Use the Right Tools

Since I don’t have a built-in system (aside from a hanging bar and shelf), I make use of the following tools to maximize space:

  • Bins – I use small, lightweight bins on the shelf that I can easily pull down to store items I use regularly, but not daily. I also use larger bins around the perimeter on the floor for bulky items like sweaters and foldable items like gym clothes. We just have to remember to keep the closet door closed so our cat doesn’t make these bins into a comfy nap spot!
  • Hooks – For belts and hats, I installed a rack of hooks on the wall behind the main hanging bar. Because the closet isn’t over-stuffed, it’s easy to see and reach these items.
  • Shoe Storage – Most people have more shoes to store than can fit along the floor of a closet. We make use of vertical space using shoe shelves as well as hanging shoe cubbies. You can also try over-the-door shoe cubbies or a shoe tree for additional storage.
I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration to improve your closet. You get dressed and undressed every day – why not make your life a little easier!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Refresh Your Closet with Consignment

I just bought my first item of clothing from a consignment store this weekend - a $14 pair of pants that fit me perfectly and filled a need in my closet. While I've been aware of the idea of consignment for some time, I feel like I've just opened a door to a whole new world...and closet!

As we've talked about before, some of the best ways to be green at home are to buy less stuff (or at least less new stuff) and to donate or recycle your unwanted items. Consignment is a great way to refresh your closet without buying brand new items and at the same time 'recycling' your gently used duds so someone else can enjoy them. The catch is that consignment stores can be pretty picky about what they will accept - usually less than 2-3 years old, must be in good or great condition and they may only accept certain brands. But shop around and you may find a store that will accept your items. Not only will you clear some real estate in your closet, but if your items sell, you will have some bonus funds to spend on some new used items. And while some consignment stores focus on high-end items, if you can find one that carries a selection of mid-range brands, you can score some great bargains while adding new life to your wardrobe.

Bottom line, if you'd like to refresh your closet regularly, but want to take it easy on your wallet and the planet, give consignment a try. Google stores in your area and check reviews to make sure clients and customers are happy with how they operate. Happy shopping!