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.
As featured on Huffington Post
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.
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.
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.
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!
As seen on Huffington Post
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*** 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.***
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.