5 Things You Need To Know About Toy Organization

As featured on Huffington Post

toy organization

I absolutely love organizing toys, I find it one of the most satisfying projects.  I also absolutely hate organizing toys, because it can be soooo frustrating.  I feel like if you're a parent and reading this you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the same feeling that you get right after you spend hours getting the house tidy, and everything is put away and the floors are clean and it has that nice fresh feeling to it. . . and then the kids come home.  And it is all ruined.  Instantly.  Organizing toys is kind of like that, all your hard work can go right down the drain before your eyes.  

Now, I’m not saying that playroom disaster is inevitable (even though it kind of is) I’m just saying that you need to have realistic expectations of the outcome.  So with all that being said, here are 5 things that this Professional Organizer wants you to know about organizing toys.

1. This Isn't A One Shot Deal

Remember that movie “Groundhog Day”, the one where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again? Well, it’s kind of like that. Kids needs change and interests change over time. So you're going to have to do this again and again. The way that I organized toys for my older kids when they were babies and toddlers is quite different for the way I have them now at age (almost) 5 and 7.  And then when you throw my 11 month old into the mix all bets are off.  Be prepared that you’re going to have to adjust as you go and also as they grow.

2. You're Going To Piss Off Your Kids

Well, maybe.  Unless they’re like my kids and have become accustomed to me uprooting their toy system on a regular basis.  Your kids will probably be annoyed, but I can almost guarantee that they will play better with the stuff they have once your have curated their collection and they can actually find what they're looking for.  Kids don’t need a lot of toys or games to play happily and productively.  Just look at what happens every time you give them a giant cardboard box. They tap into their creative little minds and happily play with it for hours, if not days.  So take solace in the fact that organizing their toys into a way that makes sense will pay off in the long run.

3. You May Have To Be Sneaky

I'm not usually an advocate for getting rid of people’s stuff behind their back and you should try to let them play a role in some of the decision making process of what stays and what goes.  But you may have to throw some actual stuff out without telling them. Let's just keep in mind that their brains are not fully developed yet so their ability to make decisions about what to keep/donate may not be reasoned. Heck most adults can barely make those decisions.  You do want to consult with them and have them be engaged in the process but just remember who the adult is in the situation.

4. Set Realistic Expectations

My 8 month old knows exactly where to put her toys back when she's done playing with them.  Said NO ONE EVER! Micro-organizing your baby’s toys is just asking for trouble.  All kids do at that age is put things in their mouths and dump their toys out of the bins that you so diligently set up.  So while it’s perfectly realistic to expect a 4 year old to put the ‘pretend play’ items back in the right spot, or a 6 year old to put his action figures back in their bin, the same is obviously not true of the really little ones.  I like to try and keep baby/toddler stuff accessible and at their level and not stress too much about if their blocks are commingling with their animals.

5. Don’t Believe Everything You See On Pinterest

While I love Pinterest for its amazing ideas and awesome inspiration it can sometimes be a bit too good to be true.  Headlines like ‘10 Genius Toy Organization Hacks”  and “Super Easy DIY Toy Organization” can be a bit misleading.  Not everything works for everyone and I often find that when my clients try some of these pinterest-perfect ideas it leads to feeling of disappointment and failure.   Just because a system works for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you and your family.  Try to think critically about the way your kids play with their toys and if this pretty image you’re seeing will work in the space that you have.  Take different element of different ideas and morph it into something that makes sense for you.

Good Luck & Happy Organizing!

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!

 

Why I Labeled My Fridge (And You Should Too)

As seen on Huffington Post

fridge label

Professional Organizers and Labels go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly (or nut-free soy butter and jelly, depending on your allergies).  So, it is shocking to me that it took me this long to put labels inside my refrigerator.

For 6 weeks after I had my third child I didn’t work. By this I really mean that I worked exclusively from home and didn’t do any on-site client visits.  This meant that I spent WAY more time in my house than I normally did.  After the haze of newborn sleep deprivation started to wear off I began to notice things again.  All of the sudden the consequences of the exhaustion of 3rd trimester followed by the demands of a newborn caught up with me.  The “maintenance” step of my organized home had fallen through the cracks and I started to walk through the house and every closet I opened or room I went into was making me crazy.  I actually said those words so often that it became a running joke between my husband and I.  I would walk into a room and say “Oh my gawd Ben” and he would always reply with “let me guess, the room is making you crazy?!?!?!”.  I became fixated on the fridge though.  As a nursing mom to a ravenous newborn I am constantly hungry, so I spent many frustrating hours searching through the fridge looking for food.  One day I just couldn't take it anymore and I pulled EVERYTHING out.

There are few things more satisfying to me than emptying a space thoroughly cleaning it out and putting everything back in an organized way.  It was almost better than a nap.  Almost.

Empty & Organize

fridge label

Since organizing items into zones had been working so well in the pantry I decided to implement the same strategy in the fridge.  These zones will be different for everyone depending on the types of foods found in your fridge.  To help determine your zones group like items together as you empty the fridge.  Keep all the salad dressings together, the sauces, the leftovers, etc.  We tend to have five or six types of mustards open at any moment so that is a zone that needed a designated space in our fridge.  Maybe you have a hot sauce obsession.  Whatever it is, make the system work for you.

Trash It

Now that you have everything organized into groups check all you expiry dates.  Now obviously food doesn't immediately turn bad the day after it “expires” but if we are six months past the date on that BBQ sauce and you don’t even remember buying it, let alone opening it, it may be time to say goodbye. Anything moldy or stinky has got to go too, so open those leftovers and be ruthless.

Clean It

Now that you have emptied the entire fridge take a few minutes and give it a serious wipe-down.  Don’t forget the shelves on the door and the fruit and veggie drawers.  Might as well take advantage of the empty fridge and give it a good clean.

Assess

Take a look at the size and height of your food containers, bottles and jars.  The fridge is empty so it’s a great time to move around the glass shelves to accommodate all you food.  Try to envision where everything will go and keep the most used food items in front.  If you’re not sure if something fits try it out.  Adjust the shelf if needed.  Move things around if it’s not working. Try a Lazy Susan or clear fridge bins to help you organize it and make it accessible.  It’s your fridge, make it work for your needs.

Put It Back

Normally I would have you label things at this step, but that may take a few minutes and since it’s your fridge we’re talking about and your items are perishable that doesn't really make sense.  So put all the food back before it spoils .  Try to use temporary labels like post-its with tape to keep your fridge in order until you have more permanent labels.

Label It

I know it’s a bit weird to have labels in your fridge, but without proper direction you won’t know where to put things back or find them after.  What has really worked for us is to label some zones, but not all.  For the most part the food is grouped together by category but there are some items that are just going to have to hang out together because they are all tall or bulky.  So instead of doing a “miscellaneous” label (ie an organizer's nightmare) I left it blank and crossed my fingers that common sense will prevail.  

labels

*** For the labels I used the FreeStyle Script font in MS Word, printed it out on Full Sheet Clear Decals from Avery and then covered the labels with clear Con-Tact shelf liner to make it washable.***

Maintain It

They key to any organizational system is proper maintenance.  Put it back where it is supposed to go. Period. For more on why this is so important click here.


Don’t be afraid to change things up if the system stops working for you.  Habits change, food preferences evolve.  One system won’t work forever, so don’t forget to reassess every once in awhile and shake it up if needed.

Happy Organizing!

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!