4 Easy Ways to Stay Organized This Holiday Season

easy ways to stay organized this holiday season

As seen in Huffington Post

I love, love, love the holiday season, but I do not enjoy all the additional stuff it brings into my home.  If you’re looking to spread the holiday cheer without adding clutter I put together some great alternatives to traditional gifts that you can find here.

However, if you are past that point and know that you, your kids, your dog and your gerbil will be receiving an insane amount of presents this year, you’re going to need a strategy to deal with all of those things without your home looking like a department store.

Trust me, I feel your pain.  I know I’ve mentioned this before  but since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas the amount of new items that find their way into my home can be a bit overwhelming.  Especially with three kids in the mix.  

One In One Out

Tough rule, I know.  But it doesn’t matter how organized you are, if you have too much in your home you'll never be able to maintain it and it will always feel disorganized.

However this can be a great way to help your children learn the value of charity.  I try to frame it that they are so lucky to be getting all these new toys, but other kids are not so lucky, so we pick some toys that we aren’t playing with anymore so that other kids can have a chance with them.  Look in your area for places that will accept gently used toys and donate them.

Unfortunately you need to apply the same rule to the adults in the house; while that new scarf is super soft and beautiful I bet you have at least one in your collection that has either seen better days or that you don’t wear anymore.  Get it out of there.

Put It Back

One of the most important steps in maintaining an organized space is to put it back.  I go into it in more detail here  but it is a step that can be easily overlooked during the holiday season.  We are so excited to try on our new clothes or play that new video game or test out that new toy that before we know there is just stuff. Everywhere.  Enjoy your the new additions but don’t let all of the excitement get the best of you.  Once you’re done put it back.

Find A Home For It

This one goes hand in hand with the ‘put it back rule’, but sometimes it can be really hard to put something away if you don’t know where it goes.  Find a spot that makes sense for you.  Especially if this new item is something that you will use frequently in the coming weeks.  You want a space for it that is accessible and works with your routine.  This may require you to go through some of your existing stuff and declutter a bit.  I know you want to use that fancy new mug with great mouth feel that you just received but if your cupboard is already bursting at the seams you won’t have a place to put it.

Regift It

I can already hear the groans and gasps at this suggestion.  As good as the gift giver's intention may have been, sometimes they just miss the mark.  Think of the space in your home as valuable real estate.  Why waste that space on something that you don’t want, need, or love?

There is nothing wrong with repurposing that gift for someone else.  As long as you do it right:

  • Put a little post-it on the bottom of the gift with the name of who gave it to you

  • Only regift items that are in their original packaging and have not been opened

  • Only regift it to someone who you genuinely feel will appreciate it

  • Put it in a new gift bag/re-wrap it.  Nothing says “I regifted this” like a ratty gift bag and crumpled tissue paper.

  • Tell the recipient.  If you’re really feeling bad about regifting it then simply give it to someone that you feel would appreciate it and let them know where it came from.  ‘My aunt Sally got my this beautiful coloring book, but it’s not really my thing.  I thought you would enjoy using it’ Simple. Honest. Easy.

  • Donate it.  If all else fails, get it out of your home and donate it.  

 

Do you have an organizing issue you need to tackle? Get in touch with me here  and tell me about it.  Don’t forget to follow my blog  for the latest organizing advice.

Happy Holidays and Happy Organizing!

 

Stop Beating Yourself Up For Not Being Organized

stop beating yourself up

As featured on The Suburban and Huffington Post

While organizing a space isn't rocket science, it’s not always intuitive either.  I was with a client the other week who is whip smart, highly educated and has designed a beautiful home for herself, yet she continually beats herself up for  her lack of organizational skills.  

I had her sifting through some of her paperwork and she kept getting up to put them into the recycling bin, so the other organizer I had with me asked if she would like the bin next to her instead.  A simple step, like moving a recycling bin closer seemed so obvious to us, yet would never have occurred to my client, and she said just that.  And then felt dumb for not having thought of it herself.  But she wasn’t dumb.  Organizing just isn’t her forte.  

In the same way that I would never have thought to mix colors and patterns the way she does to create the beautiful home that she has, she wouldn't look at the eight junk drawers in her kitchen and envision a neatly organized command center.  We all have our strengths.  We all have areas we excel at.  Why beat yourself up for the the areas you don’t?

It seems that every listicle, Buzzfeed article, and Instagram post out there has a million “simple hacks” and “super-easy DIYs” to get you and your family organized.  Like if you read that article some magic spell will wash over you and *poof* you're organized.  And if you try these techniques and STILL can't get your s*&t together that you are some kind of failure.  You’re not.

What many of these articles tend to leave out is how personal an experience this can be.  And how the only way to truly make changes is to find what works for you and not try to mold your behavior so that you can finally make use of that DIY picture frame turned meal-planner-dry-erase-board that still doesn’t look quite like the “after picture”.

I get that this may be a bit of a strange article coming from a Professional Organizer and a blogger who frequently writes how-to articles on organization.  But I’m really tired of friends, clients and sometimes even strangers telling me how embarrassed they are of their kitchen drawers, linen closets or basement.  There is nothing to be embarrassed about.  But, if it’s not working for you then don’t be afraid to ask for help and change it.

It’s funny what society deems is acceptable to delegate or outsource to others.  You’re not embarrassed to having a weekly cleaning person come and wash your floors.  Or a company to come and mow your lawn.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or that you are incapable of doing these things.  You just recognize that your time would be better spent focusing on the things that you are good at.

There are so many things beyond our control that can contribute to a lack of organization.  Both major and minor life events can cause our plans to shift and our routines to go out of whack.  School ending, a change in jobs, the birth of a new baby, adding a family pet, the death of a loved one.  It’s not always easy to adapt to these changes without feeling overwhelmed.  So it’s okay to ask for help.  It’s okay to outsource the tasks you can’t or don’t want to do.   It’s also okay to not feel guilty about it.  We’re all in the same boat, we all have busy lives with different obligations pulling us in different directions.

If what you’re doing is working for you then don’t worry about what other people say or think.  But if it’s not then commit to change.  Reach out to a friend, or family member or even to a Professional Organizer.  Just stop beating yourself up about it.

 

5 Tricks For A Highly Organized, Super Relaxing Summer

As featured on Huffington Post

SUMMER ORGANIZING

Maybe its that I have it hardwired into my brain from having the summer off of school as a child but my mind definitely forms a direct line between summer and relaxation.  Unfortunately, my brain has yet to catch up with my reality.  With soccer for the kids four nights a week (at 6:15pm!!!), daily multi-location drop-offs and pick-ups, clients wanting their spaces organized, oh, and a 4 month old baby, there has not been a lot of downtime this summer.

I’m definitely one of those people that is way more relaxed when my space is clean and organized.  In fact, it’s the only way I can actually keep my sanity when things get super busy.  Here are some of my favorite summer organizing tips that will help keep you feeling like you can conquer this summer too.

Stop Cooking

Okay, I obviously don’t mean stop cooking entirely thereby letting yourself/partner/kids fend for themselves and consequently die of starvation. But I do mean to take a break from the same type of cooking you would do during the rest of the year.  The key to this one is really to plan your meals and try to re-use what you have.  If you’re marinating chicken for the BBQ double up the recipe and throw the rest in the freezer for an easy meal next week.  Opt for no-cook meals that can be thrown together in minutes.  Our family fave is “make-your-own-burritos”.  I even joked that because of the whole soccer all week during dinnertime thing that I was instituting a “sandwich only” summer long policy for dinner.  Then we actually had sandwiches only for a whole week.  It was unpleasant. But sandwiches once a week are ok.  Either way try to scale down the cooking and keep it simple.  If you need more inspiration check out Pinterest.  I always find great dinner ideas there.

Plan For The Morning Chaos

Summer = Sunscreen.  Every morning. On every child.  So make it easier on yourself and set up a sunscreen station for yourself wherever it makes sense for your routine.  For us we have two open baskets in our entryway.  One has hats and the other has sunglasses, sunscreen and bug spray.  The kids can grab what they need and we can help with the sunscreen application on our way out the door.  Once it becomes routine it becomes easier.

The other scramble in the morning is planning for special day camp/daycare activities.  Whether it’s remembering a bathing suit, craft project or running shoes.  A good way to avoid this is putting the schedule or special note on the back of the door.  If you are forced to look at it before you leave the house you are more likely to remember what you need.

Summer Car Kit

SO MUCH TIME IN THE CAR. Ugh. Best to be as prepared as possible.  Folding chairs for soccer, picnic blanket, paper towels, emergency snacks, wipes, sports gear, bug spray, bubbles (for bored toddlers);  whatever your summertime essentials are, try to do a bit of pre-planning prep work and keep them in the car.  There is no sense in taking them in and out all of the time if you don’t have to.  Be Prepared.

Drop Zone

I don’t know what it is about kids and dropping all their stuff the second they come in the door but they do.  Backpacks, lunch bags, towels, rocks (why do they even need to come in at all???), toys.  Everything gets thrown on the floor in the front.  At least in my house it does.  Even though we have hooks and a bench, the gravitational pull once they walk through the door is just too strong and it all hits the floor.  To combat this phenomenon try putting a large bucket in the front ( or some type of bin, heck, even a laundry basket would work). The goal is to have one place to put all the crap that you can then grab and put away in one trip.

Go Bag

Whether you are heading out to the pool, park, or just to a friend’s house, have a “go bag” ready.  It’s like the older kid version of a diaper bag.  Change of clothes, spare bathing suit, extra hats, suntan lotion, water, snacks,  all of the essentials.  Nothing is worse than having the kids all ready to leave while still running around prepping the gear.  If you miss that very small window when their sandals are on and they’re not trying to kill each other you may never get it back.  If you let one kid go back for “one more toy”, your whole schedule goes out the window.  Go Bag. Trust me.


Wishing You All A Happy And Organized Summer!

 

5 Things To Think About When Organizing Your Entryway

I don’t know about you but if my entryway isn’t tidy and free of clutter it doesn't matter how clean the rest of the house is, it just feels messy.  Call it what you want, the vestibule, mudroom, foyer, it’s the first impression you have of a home and if you don’t have a good organizational system setup that works for you and your family you will constantly be fighting a losing battle.  

Much like any other room that needs organizing there are many factors that come into play that will help determine what is going to work for you.

Who are you organizing for?

Do you have an adult only home? A few small children? A very wide age-range of people living with you? Do you have visitors over often?  Really stop and think about the needs of the room and the people that pass through there.

Think Vertical

Using the vertical space in a given room is a great way to increase your storage space.  This is especially true in the entryway.  A row of hooks on the wall for extra jacket storage, a shelf to store baskets; both can really help you get the most out of your space.  Just be sure that your are factoring in the height of the people who live there.  Hooks at the right level for children can really help encourage them to hang up their coats on their own and  easily get them before leaving the house.  If you don’t have a lot of wall space, think about the vertical space you do have.  Look at the inside walls of the front closet. You may be able to put some hooks there.  You can also try using a closet doubler (basically a rod that hangs from your existing closet rod)  for increased coat storage.

Accessibility Based on Frequency of Use

You really want to try to make items that are used frequently as accessible as possible.  In the winter this means your hats, scarves, gloves.  In the warmer months those items will switch over to the sunhats, sunglasses and sunscreen.  You can store these items out of the way while not being used. While they are in high demand you can try open basketa or bins or even cute bags on wall hooks.

Have Defined Spaces

Try to think of defined spaces for your things in the same way that directions help us to get from point A to point B.  When a path is clear it is easy to follow.  This can be as simple as having a mat for shoes and boots, or labeling the storage containers.  It is hard to blame the members of your house for leaving stuff all over the floor when they come in if it isn’t clear where to put it.  For your older kids, whose school bags end up all over the house, having hooks with their names or open-concept lockers may do the trick.  Pinterest is my go-to website for inspiration. You can find all kinds of ideas depending on your decor and budget.

Don’t Forget Your Guests

When organizing your space don’t forget to have a bit of storage wiggle room for friends and family.  This can be as simple as extra hangers (and enough space for what you will be hanging) in your front closet. I’m a “no shoes in the house” person.  I blame it on my microbiology background and knowing how easily gross outdoor bacteria can get tracked inside and then directly into my children’s mouths as they drop their food on the floor and then eat it.  For that reason I keep a basket of slippers in the front closet in varying sizes for guests.  That way I have something to offer them when I kindly ask them to remove their shoes before coming in.

 

When it comes down to it, this high-traffic area is just like any other space in your home.  You want to try and think through how you are using it and what specific organizational issues you are having.  Try not to go against your natural tendencies.  Instead, find a way to work within them.  If junk mail ends up in a pile near the door, then perhaps that would be a good place for a wastepaper basket.  If your kids take off their socks as soon as they walk in, then consider having a small laundry bin handy.  Organizing is personal and unique to each space and family.  You just need to find what works for you and it will be nearly effortless to maintain.

Happy Organizing!