Friday, September 30, 2011

Saving for the Future?

Saving things for the future ("but I might need it some day") is one of those typical organizing no-no's that a professional organizer would usually warn you against. But organizers are real people who lead real lives too and I think most would agree that there are some circumstances when it makes sense to save items for the future. For example, as a first time mom, I now have the challenge of what to do with outgrown baby items - some of which I will save for the likelihood of a next baby, while others will be donated. However, keeping stuff for the future is a very slippery slope! In order to save yourself from being buried alive by the future, here are some key questions to ask and answer to help decide if something is worth storing:
  • Do you have the room to store it?
    • This should be the first question you ask. It seems straightforward enough - if you don't have the space, you can't keep it. But we all know this is how camping gear ends up in back hallways, bread machines end up in closets and exer-saucers end up being tripped over in offices for years.
  • Is there a reasonable chance that you'll use it again in the not-so-distant future?
    • For example, if you plan to have another child in the next few years, it might make sense to save some essentials and favorites.
  • If so, will this item still be up to par?
    • Keep in mind that there will almost always be new and improved versions of most things. Be honest with yourself, if you will likely upgrade even if you have the need for an item again, it doesn't make sense to store the older item.
  • Is it a favorite and/or essential item and also in good condition?
    • Don't waste time and space storing items that you didn't really use or like the first time around or items that have been so well used you won't want to or won't be able to use it when the need arises again.
  • Is it easily replaceable, physically and financially?
    • In many cases, it doesn't make sense to keep relatively expensive, easily replaceable items. This is especially true if you are paying for off-site storage! This might apply to items like clothes or office supplies.
  • Is there a better use for it in the meantime?
    • If you decide it doesn't make sense to save something, most items can be donated for someone else to use immediately. And even if you do decide you want to save something for the future, you may be able to lend it to family or friend who can make use of it now and give it back to you when you need it again. Of course, this is best for durable items that can handle additional wear and tear and you have to be prepared that you might not get it back.
A few other things to think about when deciding whether or not to save something...
  • In general, it's not a good idea to save things for other people. This is especially true if they don't know you're saving something for them! Of course if you have a specific agreement to store something for a family member or friend, just make sure you keep tabs on the item and the timeline.
  • Will you be moving (and thus have to move the items) before you'll likely use them again?
  • If you are storing items in a paid storage facility, think extra hard about whether saving it makes sense...particularly financially.
  • If you do choose to save something for the future, be sure to store it properly. Make sure it is clean and dry and remove batteries to avoid corrosion. Choose an appropriate container and don't forget to label it. And last but not least, make sure to save with it any instructions and hardware.

Bottom Line: Saving for the future can be a legitimate way to re-use items you already own. Just make sure to ask yourself the key questions above before you stow and go!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Taking a Fresh Look at Your Space

As a new mom, I've encountered more organizational challenges over the past few months than I can count. One challenge that recently came up when chatting with other new moms is the issue of baby-proofing our once adults-only homes for our soon-to-be crawling little ones. We were talking about how tough it's going to be, especially with our sleep-deprived brains, to think of all the potential hazards our crawling cuties could get into.
Since baby-proofing is not an option but a must-do, we quickly started talking about solutions. Of course there are books on the subject and do-it-yourself checklists online, both of which can highlight the generic pitfalls that all homes have and make you think about other potential issues. There are also baby-proofing professionals you can call in to do a personalized assessment and even take care of the process from start to finish - we all agreed this could be a great option!

I was most fascinated by another clever solution someone brought up. How do you know what potential dangers to a baby exist in your home? Get on the floor and crawl around! Seriously! You will immediately begin to see what looks shiny and interesting, what you could pull down, and what might be on the floor in your way. I thought this was just brilliant!

And while taking a baby's view of our condo will be part of my baby-proofing plan, my mind immediately turned toward how this suggestion applies to organizing and decluttering. Taking a fresh look at your space is a great way to help you declutter as well. Now, this doesn't mean you have to get on your hands and knees (but this is certainly a valid option). It just means you need to take a different view of the 'stuff' that tends to fade into the background when we cruise through our homes on a daily basis. When a new view opens your eyes to all the stuff you've been walking by or maybe even tripping over, ask yourself these questions:
  • What is it?
  • Why do I have it?
  • Do I need it/use it/love it?
If the answer to the last question is "no," it's probably time for it to go. If the answer is "yes," ask yourself whether its current home is the best place for it. If not, find a new home that makes sense. I have a feeling I'll be finding lots of new homes for things during the baby-proofing process!

Bottom Line: Whether you get on the floor or you call in an outside set of eyes (note: a professional organizer might be a better option than a judgemental family member or friend :), take a fresh look at your space and you'll no doubt find things that have over-stayed their welcome. Get ready to say hello to reclaimed space!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making the Switch

Here in Boston, we're getting our first taste of fall weather. I don't know about you, but I'm loving it. That said, it always seems to happen quickly and can easily catch you off guard. Just like the cooler temps should make you think about switching your closets and drawers so you can find your jeans, sweaters and other toasty items, it's also the right time to make the switch in your other storage spaces - think garages, mud rooms, storage closets, etc.

Sad to say, but it's time to put away the pool and summer camp gear and dig out the rakes, sports equipment, and if you're really prepared, even find your basic winter item, such as ice scrapers so you don't get caught empty-handed at the first frost. Here are some basic tips for making the switch:

1) Review your summer gear as you make the switch. Don't bother storing items that you will likely replace or not use again next year. Reccycle, donate or trash items as appropriate.

2) Make sure items are clean and dry before you pack them away. Drying large items can take a while, so plan ahead and pick a sunny weekend when you can let things air out completely. Just think how nice that will be when you unpack everything next summer.

3) Pack smaller items in plastic bins with lids that are well-labeled. Large items may stand alone with or without packaging. Try to find a storage space that can accomodate all your seasonal items in one space...I know, easier said than done.

4) If your fall and winter gear needs cleaning as it comes out of hibernation, be sure to do that ASAP - don't wait until you need it!

5) Create zones in your home and garage for items like fall sports gear, yard/car equipment, and hats/gloves, etc. Labels will help everyone know where to find and put things back.

Bottom Line: Grab yourself a pumpkin latte and embrace the brisk temperatures as you make the seasonal switch in your storage spaces.

Friday, September 9, 2011

School Supplies "Emergency" Kit

Now that the kiddos are back to school, you may be breathing a sigh of relief while also realizing that the faster pace of the school year is ready to catch you off guard! This year, be prepared for the last minute project and homework panics by keeping a well-stocked school supplies emergency kit. This kit should contain school supplies your child might lose or run out of on a regular basis as well as the items that are usually needed for special projects. Depending on your kids' ages, your kit might contain basic arts and crafts supplies, school supplies like pencils, paper, an extra notebook, and computer/printer supplies such as ink/toner, paper, and a memory stick. Your kids' teachers should be able to steer you in the right direction if they haven't already provided a list of must-haves.

If you have more than one child, you can keep one kit stocked for everyone or make separate kits, especially if there is a large age difference. A clear bin with a lid and handle makes a good container. You might need a smaller container or pouch within the kit to hold small items like pencils and scissors. Use something you already have or check out these options from The Container Store:

Clear Handled Cases

Translucent Totes

Two-Sided Compartment Storage Boxes

Small Hobby Case

Warning: Be sure to check your kit(s) on a regular basis and re-stock as needed!

Bottom Line: Keeping a well-stocked school supplies emergency kit will keep everyone happy and prevent late-night or early morning trips to the store to save the day!