12 Surprising Ways Clutter Is Ruining Your Life

The leaning tower of pot lids that spills every time you open the cabinet door, that stash of unworn shirts taking up precious real estate in the back of your closet, the intimidating mountain of papers obstructing the view of your desk:  clutter: It happens to the best of us.

But if you think clutter is just a physical nuisance, it’s not. Studies show that sheer accumulation of stuff also takes a toll on our everyday lives.

All that mess can prevent us from relaxing and wreak havoc on our day-to-day mood. Too much clutter can also threaten our safety, seep into our professional lives, derail our careers, and drag us into debt.

And it’s not just us – that chaos can affect our loved ones, too. Those with hoarding disorder have significantly high divorce rates. And children especially are sensitive to severe clutter, which can continue to distress them even outside the home.

Curious to learn more about clutter’s negative impact on your life?

Take a look at the below infographic from full-service storage startup MakeSpace. They analyzed various international studies, and also interviewed psychotherapists and physicians.

The result: A comprehensive look at the very real, very tangible effects that clutter can have on all aspects of your life.

Clutter infographic by MakeSpace

via MakeSpace

 

 

How Organizers Help Their Children

abs-coverHaving been in this business for thirteen years now, I have met many professional organizers like me who have children. I have been in their homes, heard their stories and it’s very clear that the organizational skills we possess are used not only in our businesses, but in our parenting skills as well. I was at one friend’s home last night and I had to laugh when I saw the “visual reminder” posted for her two young children in her kitchen. I recently put one on my own refrigerator to remind my boys of all the good/healthy things they should be doing every day; things that I find myself nagging them about constantly. To save myself some breath, I typed it up in a colorful professional memo. This list includes tasks like, floss, exercise, read a chapter in a book or an article, do something nice for someone else, etc. They are teenagers and I’m trying to get them to think outside of their own little world as well as to remember all the things I use to do for them when they were little.

So I thought about what our kids are exposed to in an organized household. There’s a lot of good there, but there is also a fine line. Too much structure, and the kids will rebel. So I’ve boiled it down to a few skills or lessons that you can learn from the professional organizer parent and apply in your own home if you are eager to calm the chaos and teach your children some life skills before they pack up and move away.

  1. Visual Reminders – Like the notes on the frig, anything that reminds a child to do something without mom or dad having to say it a million times is helpful. (I recommend the daily chore chart which can be downloaded from my Products page.) One of my absolutes is “put it where you use it.” So if your child needs to brush their retainer every night, put it on the bathroom sink. Need a bag for sports? Put it by your front door. But too many visuals can be overwhelming so limit the number.
  2. Routines – My daughter in college still likes to do her nightly routine. Her friends tease her as she brushes her teeth, washes her face, puts on PJ’s and starts to unwind. Many of them just crash in their bed whenever they get exhausted. But routines bring comfort. So help your children develop their own, like reading before bed, packing their lunch and schoolbag in the evening or cleaning out their locker every Friday. These routines will help their day and their weeks run smoothly.
  3. Time Management – As children get into middle school, help them find a planner that makes sense. Write down all their activities, part -time work and homework assignments. For long-term projects, help them work backwards from the deadline to meet certain milestones. Using a planner where they can see a month at a glance, a week at a glance and still have room for daily tasks will help them with meeting their goals. (Check out the Student planner on my Products page.)
  4. Goal Setting/Prioritizing –On more than one occasion I have sat down with my children and talked about their priorities. When so much is going on from exams to college applications to tryouts it’s easy to lose focus and get stressed out. It helps to talk it out and write it down. Ask questions like, what do you need to do first? How important is this? Limit the priority list to 3-4 items, so when daily stresses and decisions come up, they can ask themselves, “Is this supporting one of my priorities?” It also helps when they are bored and don’t know what to do. You can always do something to work towards your next goal.
  5. Decision Making – Any organizer will tell you that the crux of disorganization is the lack of decision-making. You can teach your children at an early age to make simple decisions. I encourage parents to do this with school art projects: go through the pile and let your child decide Yes or No to keep something. Then move on. They can do this with clothing, toys, etc. When they get older, it may be about activities to join, or colleges to apply to. Make sure they have some criteria for making the bigger decisions and that they think it through on the front end. Some people go through life avoiding decisions and second-guessing themselves, these people are usually unhappy.
  6. Money management – One thing organized parents do is give their children chores and pay them an allowance. This may be in the form of money or a point system. With a point system, the child can redeem points for extra screen time or a special treat. It all teaches them the value of work and money. When they start earning money through their part time job, it’s a great idea to have them put half in the bank and keep the other half for discretionary spending. Before they go away to college, make a budget plan with them. I suggested my daughter take the same amount of cash out of the ATM every week, this is her spending money. I discourage the use of debit cards because it’s easy to deplete your savings and not even know where the money went. It’s more “real” to spend cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Credit cards are even worse for college kids because they tend to live beyond their means, which is a bad habit to get into as an adult. As soon as they have a part time job, your kids could be paying for some of their living expenses like car insurance, and phone bills. If kids never know the cost of their own luxuries they will be in for a rude awakening when they start to live on their own.

So these are a few areas where I see many organized parents really instill good habits in their children. I hope you can take some or all of these tips and try them in your own family. If you think your kids won’t listen to you or if you want your kids to be more organized than you are, we are happy to work with your child directly. It’s my observation that children of really disorganized parents tend to be neater. And some children of perfectionists tend to rebel against the order imposed on them. So as with all things, moderation is key. If they have a good homework routine, and can make practical decisions, then dirty clothes on the floor may not be a big deal.

What organization skills have you taught (or would like to teach) your children?

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical Health

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical HealthOverflowing closets and shelves, disorganized desks and tables and excessive amount of stuff can be overwhelming. Clutter affects most of us and can get to the point when it’s dragging you down .Many people fail to address the aggravating problem until they start feeling mentally exhausted. The negative effects of clutter go beyond the messy home and impact your physical and mental health.

More items mean more cleaning. The excess of stuff can cause allergies by attracting dust, dander and mold or it can impose a risk of household injuries. Clutter can also increase your stress levels by influencing your routine.

The Origins of Clutter

You collect clutter for a various reasons. Maybe it has sentimental value or you spent a good amount of money on it and you feel reluctant to simply throw it away even if you haven’t used for some time. In other cases, the items may serve to fulfill needs like security, self-worth, comfort or excitement. Your belongings may turn into a connection with the past or a symbol of being loved. Whatever the case, it can be literally painful to give up of your possessions.

According to a study at the Yale University the two areas of the brain associated with pain –the anterior cingulated cortex and insula, are invigorated when a person is faced with the situation to let go of items. This means that your brain perceives the loss of a valued possession the same way as if something caused you physical pain. The more financially or emotionally commited you are to an item, the more you want to keep it around. Don’t feel ashamed about being a hoarder or “clutter bug.” It’s your mind that plays tricks on you.

Effects on Physical Health

Clutter can have negative influence on your day-to-day activities. You will have difficulties finding what you need in the huge pile of mess and often be late for work or an appointment. It may sound surprising, but clutter also decreases the odds for exercising. Not only that, it can make you fat. Researchers have found a link between overconsumption of things and overconsumption of food. In general, the clutter drains your energy.

Effects on Mental Health

The excess of things in your surroundings can affect your ability to focus and process information. Physical clutter can overload your sense and weaken your decision-making skills, making you more stressed and less creative. The disorganization constantly bombards your brain with stimuli, informing it that something is not finished. As a result you get anxious or experience more severe mental issues. Clutter may strengthen existing bad habits like procrastination. It may also prevent you from living in the moment or block out new things from coming into your life.

The Solution

Try cleaning up the clutter one room or category at a time. It often helps to have another person do this with you, whether it’s a trusted friend or professional. When you’ve cleared an area, enjoy the feel of that room. Treat yourself appropriately. Recognize that disorganization is not beneficial for you and let go of the unnecessary. Ask yourself, do I feel better now that I’ve de-cluttered? If yes, move on to the next area. After cleaning the mess, it is essential to set up an ongoing organizational system to prevent the things from piling up again. A good habit is to put things back to their assigned places at the end of each day or at least at the end of the week. Most importantly, you should break the habit of accumulating things you don’t need. Only shop for what you absolutely need and what brings you joy.

This is a guest post by Ella Andrews. More on cleaning and organizing read at: dagenhamcarpetcleaners.org.uk

Mind The Cents: Smart Tricks To Save Money

green home

 

In times of global economic crisis and shrinking employment opportunities, having some extra cash on the side is always welcome. Still, how can you save up without having to compromise on the bare necessities of modern life? Well, if you didn’t pay attention in your economics class or don’t know where to start cutting your bills, we have several tips and tricks on where and how to reduce your monthly costs to your budget’s advantage.

 

A vicious circle: Give up costly habits

Though you may consider yourself a frugal person, you probably have pet habits that cost you more than you can afford in the long run. For instance, if you’re a smoker, you’re probably losing hundreds to your vice on a monthly basis – thousands even in the course of the year. Similarly, regular beer intake can set you back a lot even with an ample budget, so you’d better find a more satisfying and cost-effective pastime.

Reduce you water and electricity bill: Cut shower time

Enjoying a long hot-water bath at the end of your day is not as budget-friendly as you may think. In fact, keeping your water-heater on 24/7 will add a pretty penny to your electricity bill, while a full tub will up your water consumption to the max with regular use. For optimal water temperature and lower energy bill, turn your thermostat to 120 degrees or less – that should be enough for a quick shower without wasted electricity and cold water-induced goose bumps. Check out some more tips on how to save money on utility bills.

Use ATM cards wisely: Use cash instead of plastic

With the plastic card era at its peak, most people don’t think twice before they whip out their payment card to pay for a grocery bill, especially if they know they have an extra dozen on their bank account. Even if you’re a hardcore ‘shopping list only’ enthusiast, you may be leaking money with your credit card payments. It runs out people are likely to spend more when using payment cards than when paying cash for services and goods because hard money feels more real than plastics, so sticking to cash may be a better option than flashing around your ATM cards at the counter.

Cost-efficient combinations: All-in-one TV packages

Most modern households have a TV, a compute, a landline and several cell phones per family members. That’s all fine and well until you get down to the bill figures: with separate phone bills, internet costs and TV packages, you may as well be burning money. If you want to save up on these modern utilities, try a combined TV and internet package that delivers the same service at lower costs. For instance, you may want to get a Compare Broadband Bundle that merges TV, internet and phone service in one cost-effective package and guarantees all time internet access with your favorite TV show on and your phone open for calls 24/7.

Turn off water when not necessary: A small splash goes a long way

Keeping your tap running while washing teeth or scrubbing the dishes is completely needless and it can also prove costly in the long run. A small splash can go a long way if deployed wisely, so turn off your faucet when you’re not directly using water from it – this will help you save some extra dozen or even hundred on you water bill without jeopardizing your personal and homeware hygiene.

Eliminate phantom power: Switch off unnecessary appliances and devices

Our household devices and gadgets discreetly use up electricity even when not in use. Cords and wires attached to outlets with connected devices on the off or stand-by mode leak energy, and so do the phone charges and similar gadgets which we usually live plugged in through neglect. To counter phantom power, unplug your coffee maker, printer, wall chargers and similar appliances when you’re not using them – you may be surprised by the trimmed down figure on your next electricity bill.
These are just a few simple solutions that could help you save money in the long run, so it’s crucial that you stick to them permanently and not just “once in a while.” Developing money-saving habits takes time much as any other. It might be a little difficult in the beginning but when you reap the rewards you’ll be glad you made them stick.

Guest blog by: John Stone, Editor, Smooth Decorator

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO SAVE MONEY? LEAVE A COMMENT:

How to Organize your Kitchen

How to Organize your KitchenThe kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. Whether you have just moved in a new home or you want to make some renovations, a lot of effort and planning should be put in the kitchen. What you want to achieve is have a kitchen arrangement that flows smoothly and allows you to work in there without too much trouble.

It is not always easy to achieve this, however, because you have to take into account the space in your kitchen as well as overall shape of the room. In order to create your dream kitchen, you can consider some clearance as well as creativity tips to help you.

  • Start with some home clearance – if there is one thing you cannot have in your kitchen it is things you do not use. The idea of the kitchen is to be practical, functional, a place where you can work fast and effectively and where you can have lovely family meetings at dinner and breakfast. For this to be true, you cannot afford to have a cluttered kitchen with outdated appliances and equipment you have used in the past but never recently. You can either give the excess to friends or relatives, or you can organize a garage sale. Also you can always consider donating to charity organization. Regardless of what you decide, you will be thankful for this clearance and see a lot of room for improvement in your kitchen.
  • Replace appliances and broken equipment – a great kitchen is one that does not have any flaws. If you think that there is faulty equipment in yours, or perhaps some tools that have outlived their usefulness, maybe it is time to let go of them and replace them. For this reason some clearance will be necessary. Give yourself a day to go through your entire kitchen inventory and see what needs replacing.
  • Consider what you use most often – normally you want to keep your most frequently used items within easy reach. That way you can have everything you need fast and have your kitchen organized in such a way to allow easy access to this equipment. As for things you rarely use, you can consider moving those to your garage, attic, basement, or elsewhere you consider fitting.
  • Consider the centers of activity in your kitchen – think of the most common activities you find yourself engaged in while in the kitchen, and organize it accordingly. For example, if you bake often, you should store the flour, sugar, all of your measuring cups and mixing bowls in one place so that you can easily take all of them out. Keep the napkins, trivets, tableware and dishes all nearby so that when time for serving comes you can easily take it out and prepare the table.
  • Keep your counter clutter-free – you don’t want to have objects constantly sitting on your counter, because this is your main workspace. It needs regular cleaning and for this reason you should try to find alternative place for objects that normally lie around there. Consider domestic clearance if space is a problem.

It is by following these tips that you can have a kitchen that is well organized and convenient. Definitely implement these suggestions and you will have a truly great kitchen.

Article granted by Ella Andrews-n freelance writer and home décor specialist – on behalf of: professional home clearance in Chelsea.

What’s your biggest challenge with keeping your kitchen organized? Leave a comment or question:

10 Tips for Using Visual Reminders

chartimageThe more I work with busy parents, the more I see the need for visual reminders. If you’re not familiar with this term, these are items that remind us to do something. It may be a box or bag with returns in it, or a simple post-it strategically place around the house so you don’t forget. I see that my clients have a need for this in their hectic lives but I also see that there is a point of diminishing return. If your house is packed with visual reminders that clutter up every flat surface, you’re not going to see them for what they are.

 

 

I consider myself a visual person too. I like to have a big family calendar in my kitchen, I use a Franklin planner so I can see an entire month at a glance – to me it’s like looking at a jigsaw puzzle as I try to see what I can fit in where. Sorry, but a dot on a phone calendar does nothing for me. So I use visual reminders in my day-to-day life but there are a few tips to using them effectively.

  1. The majority of your house needs to be straightened up and items put away in their assigned places in order for your visual reminders to STAND OUT. Don’t put a reminder on top of a pile of clutter.
  2. You need to put visual reminders in consistent places. For instance, if there are things you want to remember before you leave your bedroom, put a post-it on the mirror. If there are items you need to take out of your house, put them in your car or on a table near the door. I call this the GOING OUT TABLE.
  3. If you are going to be out and about running errands on a Saturday for instance, put items in the passenger seat of the car so you see them and take care of them. This could be returns to stores, or deliveries. Anything you are bringing home can go in the back seat or trunk to keep it straight.
  4. If the pile of TO DO’s on your desk is falling over, break it down further. You might categorize items into: calls, computer research, shopping or projects.
  5. Gift cards are a common item that I see people tuck away and forget about. So think about putting them in your wallet – they are like money! Or have one card-holder just for them. Or simply put the ones you will use on-line in the top drawer of your desk and put the others in an envelope in your car. The key is easy access when you want to use them.
  6. Dry cleaning and clothing repairs are another category that I find all over people’s homes. Put them in the same bag each week and place the bag in your bedroom until it’s full.
  7. If you are a major visual person who cuts out magazine articles for ideas on decorating, recipes, and home improvement projects, consider making binders for each and placing the articles in plastic sleeves.
  8. Realize that everything can’t be out. You have to prioritize and only keep out what you are going to work on in the next week or so. Use a planner (electronic or paper) for any projects that need to happen in the future. Label files clearly and you’ll be able to find what you need when you are ready. Leaving just a few projects out is less overwhelming.
  9. Have a “Pending” or “Waiting On” folder on your desk. This is a visual reminder of who needs to get back to you or what you are waiting for to come in the mail. I use this for on-line orders, invoices and anything related to a call back.
  10. If you use visual reminders for your kids, keep it simple. Use pictures for little ones and stick to three items. Check out the chore chart on my Products page for a way to keep everyone’s chores and activities straight in your family!

How to Make Your home Look More Organized

I’m always asked for quick tips and tricks on organizing. I usually answer that there’s no trick. There is a method, there are routines and it’s an on going process to keep your home organized. However I will tell you that if you are a visual person, one key to looking and feeling more organized is uniformity.

Let me explain. You can have a closet or shelf that is functionally organized, but it still looks off to you. It doesn’t feel neat and tidy even though you can find what you need.  Like this:

after closet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you put like things together and in uniform bins, it will look much better, like this:

shelf bins
shelf bins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try this with your clothes closet. Put everything on the same type of hanger.  My favorite is the new micro-suede hangers because they are thin and they grip silky materials. Put like items together: blouses, pants, jackets, dresses and see what a difference it makes. You will feel like you’re shopping at a store every time you get dressed! Better yet if you can have a little space between clothes.

hangers

 

 

 

 

 

You can also try this with your storage shelves in the basement or attic. Put everything in the same type of bin and label it uniformly. This will make finding what you need so much easier.

atticmaxx

 

 

 

 

On a smaller scale, try this with your file drawer.  Just by putting files in the same manila or hanging files and labeling them with color codes and in the same type, you will have a neat drawer that is so much easier to use.

FFSetUpHorizJPG

 

 

 

 

(This is an example of Freedom Filer labels which can be ordered from my Resources page)

What area can you improve with uniformity?

10 Things This Pro Organizer Wants You to Know

cover shotAbout a year ago, Reader’s Digest published a list in their “Who Knew” section entitled, 13 Things A Personal Organizer Won’t Tell You. I like to think that I do tell my clients these things when we meet in person and when we are in the process of getting organized. For those of you who haven’t worked with me, here are my tell-all nuggets that I have picked up over the last 12 years:

  1. Yes, many of my clients “know” how to organize. I don’t think you’re stupid. In fact most of my clients are smarter than me. But there’s a reason why you called me and just by making that appointment and having me work with you, we will get to the project that has been escaping you, for whatever reason.
  2. Most clutter is just post-poned decisions. I’m going to press you and play devil’s advocate just to get you to decide. If you say, “keep it for now” you’re postponing again!
  3. I know your stuff may have been worth a lot of money when you bought it, but the reality is that it’s probably not worth much now. (With a few exceptions.)It’s easier,and I believe better, to donate what you don’t want or need. If you’ve got classic antiques, we’ll check those out but clothes and household trinkets are just not worth selling.
  4. I don’t recommend yard sales. Like consignment and trying to re-sell items, it takes a lot more time and energy than it’s worth. That being said, if your neighborhood is having a sale day and someone does the advertising and marketing to get people on your street AND it’s going to be a fun day outside for you and your family – go for it. If it’s only you, think twice.
  5. Your closet is full of “someday” items and “wear only with ___” items that are really just taking up space that could be filled with “I love this” items. Keep clothes that make you feel great and look great. Everything else can be donated.
  6. Don’t be afraid to have your kids help with purging. When you start them young, they learn that sometimes you should let go of things. If they are the type that is emotionally attached to everything, you hold up the item and ask for a YES or NO decision. It keeps things moving.
  7. Don’t make your systems too complicated! Some of my perfectionist clients do this, and then they can’t keep up with their own system. So use bins, files – things that are easy to dump things into. If you are designating a single category to each, it’s easy to keep up with. For example, in a linen closet have a bin of household refills, another for medicine. Keep files names general until they get too big, then sub divide.
  8. There’s no magic to keeping up with organization. It’s a matter of having routines. You can do them daily, weekly or monthly. I suggest paperwork & mail – deal with it daily. Straighten bedrooms & family rooms daily, clean weekly (or bi-weekly) and clean out monthly or seasonally those areas that you don’t use all the time. (garage, basement, attic)
  9. Hiring an organizer is a luxury, we know. But if you need someone to keep you focused, give you different ideas, help you haul stuff out, and teach you systems and strategies, that may free up valuable time for other things in your life. Don’t feel guilty that you need help.
  10. If I’m taking donations out the back door, don’t keep bringing new stuff in the front door. Learning to live with less stuff can be very calming. The less you have, the less you have to categorize, purge and re-arrange. One simple tip is always shop with a list of what you need.

What’s your experience in working with an organizer?

The “Be” Attitudes of Organizing

candlelight

 

 

As I prepared my lesson for Sunday school this week, I was inspired to put a twist on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel. In it, Christ gives us a roadmap for living a happy life which have become known as the Beatitudes.

So I submit to you that there are ways to be organized so as to live a happy life:

 

Happy are the minimalists for they shall have abundance in other ways.

Happy are they who purge for they shall make room for the good stuff in life.

Happy are those who see only fresh, healthy food in their kitchens

For they shall waste not

Happy are those who donate to the poor

For they shall want not

Happy are those who straighten daily and clean weekly

For cleanliness is next to godliness

Happy are those who teach their children how to help out, let go and pick up

for they will be passing on a life skill

Happy are those with routines for they shall not forget

Happy are those who write everything down, and do one thing at a time

for they will have focus

Happy are the simple for they will live with less stress

What be-attitudes do you have to add? Leave a comment!

Absolute #8 – Finish One Thing Before You Start Another

secretaryLong before any one heard of ADD, mothers across the globe were telling their rambunctious children to “finish one thing before you start another!” In our world full of distractions today, we adults would do well to heed this mantra.

As a professional organizer, much of what I do entails keeping my clients on task. Just by standing next to them, I encourage them to finish the pile in question, sort it, make quick decisions and then move on. Some don’t like this, they would rather cherry pick – do the task that looks interesting or fun. “We’ll get to that,” I tell them, all in good time. So I always have a plan when organizing with clients and that includes following my own absolute of finishing one thing before we start another. If we are focused on a room, items that belong elsewhere go in a pile or bin right by the door. We don’t leave the room until we are finished. They we move things around. If we are focused on a certain category, like photographs, we don’t worry about the bookshelves in that room. We just do photos until they are under control.

Take a look around your house. Just for fun, try to find all the projects you’ve started and not finished because you got distracted. If you can, put them in a bag or box and mark it. Then prioritize the projects. Next, get out your planner and make an action plan to get them done. If they are a bunch of little things, try to finish all of them in one Saturday. With larger projects try one per week or month. With these projects complete, you’ll have less clutter and more room for fun stuff!

But finishing one thing before you start another also applies to consumable products. Do you have 5 half squeezed toothpaste tubes in your bathroom? Six different shampoos or lotions open? How many ketchups do you have in your fridge? Just sayin…I once cleaned out a fridge that had 10 half gallons of ice cream in it. Some were freezer burnt so the homeowner would never feed those to guests. I suggested that if it’s not good enough for guests, it shouldn’t be there! When you do a kitchen or bathroom clean out, remember to keep the best, toss the rest and don’t buy anymore of that item until you really need to. If something is getting low, put it on your grocery list.

By following this rule, you can stay focused on tasks, feel a lot more productive on a daily basis and waste fewer products around your home.

What is it YOU need to finish before you start the next project?

Absolute # 7 – Subtract Before You Add

imagesIf you remember the “order of operations” in basic arithmetic it went: “My Dear Aunt Sallie” which stood for: multiply, divide, add then subtract. Well I’m flipping that around because my dear Aunt Sallie has a lot of clutter! So I suggest she subtracts before she adds. This can apply to a lot of operations we perform while organizing.

First example, lets take the clothes closet. Many of us do the seasonal clean out in the fall and spring. You really need to look at every piece of clothing, make sure it fits, it makes you look beautiful or feel wonderful and you are going to wear it! Those clothes can stay. Everything else should go to an appropriate donation center. So you subtract what doesn’t work for you. Then comes the fun part. Make a list of what you need to replace and any basic items that you don’t have (like a little black dress or a blazer) and go shopping! That’s the adding. You also want to take out clothes before you buy any bins, dividers or organizers for the closet. Too often people rush out to buy bins before they have pared down. Rookie mistake.

Another example of subtracting can happen in the kitchen. Why would you go food shopping if your refrigerator is stuffed so full, there’s no room on any shelf? Most likely you’ve got some old stuff in there that needs to go. Or if you have a ton of leftovers that don’t look appealing to your family, get creative. Mix some veggies and rice together with a sauce and cook fresh chicken or steak to go with it. Or if you have meat leftover, consider making a fajita, or stir fry dish. Just adding something new makes it so much better! Leftover fruit goes great into a smoothie or milkshake. Of course anything with mold should be tossed. Then you can go food shopping and add. One thing I like to do on food shopping day is take all the half-eaten snacks in the house and put them in a divided party dish. Those are the snacks for the day and until they are gone, we don’t open anything new.

One more example is with paper. Don’t just look at the piles you have and buy bins or file drawers to fit everything. First categorize & purge them. Then you can see what you’re left with and you can go buy file drawers, bins or file folders to put them in. And always take care of the backlog before you filter in any paper that has just come in.

I hope you remember this rule as you tackle your next organizing task.

In what ways do you subtract before you add?

Wrapping up the School Year in 6 Steps

As we approach graduations and the end of school hoopla, it’s a great time to pull together your child’s memories of their school years. The problem is, many of these papers, pieces of artwork and awards and ribbons are all over the house in bins, files and maybe hanging on refrigerators and bulletin boards. Here are a few steps to pulling together and savoring all your child has done and accomplished this school year:

 

  1. You have to be reasonable about what you keep. It’s often said that the key to organizing is making decisions. I completely agree with this statement and have seen it with many of my clients. The people with the most clutter and the most “old stuff,” can’t seem to make a decision and let go of the past. When it comes to savoring your child’s life with little pictures, and tokens of their stages of growth, it’s best to do it on a year by year basis. Think of it as finding the “best of” that year. Chose the best, toss the rest and move on! There’s so much more ahead.
  2. Only save the happy memories. Believe it or not, there are people who save mementos of unhappy occasions. I have seen people save bloody blankets from when their dog was hit by a car, newspaper clippings of national tragedies and obituaries, and pieces of casts from a broken arm! And I have to think, “Why?” Why would you want to be reminded of something sad, tragic or unhappy? I guess it’s a matter of opinion and preference but I would like to think that if you are saving things for your child, you would want only the happy memories to be preserved. So when considering what to keep for your child, ask yourself and your child, “Does this bring a smile to your face?”
  3. Gather it all together. If you’ve already accumulated a bunch of memorabilia for your child or children, to get it under control and organized you’ll have to gather it all in to one room. If you have more than one child, do this for one child at a time. It’s a great excuse to have some one-on-one time together!
  4. Finding time. Make sure you have allotted a few hours for this process because you may get lost in your reminiscing and that’s okay! If you don’t think you’ll get through it all, make sure you have an area where you can leave the stuff until you do finish your project.
  5. Use my Categorize, Purge and Re-Arrange (C.P.R.) process. Your categories might be: photos, artwork, baby blankets & clothes, baby photo albums or scrapbooks, trophies & awards, religious articles, schoolwork and stuffed animals, just to name a few. Of course your personal categories will depend on the age of your child and how much you have saved thus far. As you categorize, ask your child “Do you want to save this?” If the child says “No” you’ve got to honor that. You can also decide if something is necessary to save just by your child’s reaction. If there are lots of “oohs” and “aahs,” and “I remember this!” You probably want to keep it. If you get, “what is that?” it’s probably a toss.
  6. Create a Memory Box. Once you have looked at everything and made your decisions, create a memory box for each child. I recommend a trunk that can be left out in their bedroom. This way they can add to it easily.  Or a plastic tub in their closet works well too.  If you collect lots of papers (awards, artwork, cards) consider putting them in a scrapbook. Summer break is a great time to review, reminisce and refresh your memory box. You can also take some time to put together a scrapbook of all you’ve collected over the year. The first time you do this, it’s a big project but if you continue each year, it becomes a seasonal clean out.

Everything You Need to Know About Spring Cleaning & Organizing

Welcome to the eBundle that will have you organizing and spring cleaning your home, schedule and home based business! In these 23 eBooks, you’ll find tips, support and know-how about working from home, cleaning, organizing and mom support along with printables!

Organize365 All Organized Ebundle 23 ebooks to organize your home and home based business for $20

The All Organized – Organization eBook Bundle is available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

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Organizing your home

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This 6 eBook mini eBundle will have you breathing a sigh of relief as you move through getting your pictures organized, know what paper you need to keep, help for homemaking and getting to less stuff & living more!

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The ‘Working from Home’ mini eBundle will help you stay sane and productive when the kids are home and you need to work. It will also help you organize your direct sales business, and, along with an eClass, to learn about establishing office hours and a schedule that will help you run a family and a business. And, if you’re looking into starting a home business, or already run one, there’s an eBook about how to be a work at home mom.

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This mini eBundle will help all of us with meal planning and involving the kids in cleaning so we can work and live more efficiently. There’s also support here for the mothers of special needs children and those in the military to organize their homes even more efficiently than their military service.

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This ‘Scheduling’ mini eBundle of 6 will help you create a schedule, arrive on time and provide simple strategies that work for your entire life. With the planner printables included, you will be able to make a plan that works for YOU!

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The Fine Print: We have all the nitty gritty details over on the Frequently Asked Questions Page, but here are a few highlights:

  • Download and back up your eBundle right away! We all know how busy life can be, so don’t wait! We can renew download links until May 9, 2014.
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  • Have questions about the eBundle? Check out the FAQ page for support!

Start Fresh On Monday with my Special Offer!

I’ve something I want to share with you and it’s coming Monday.

It will help you organize, freshen the house and your life and with Spring we’re all looking for fresh starts.

Want a hint?

Coming Monday, March 24th, the All Organzied eBundle.  A refreshing way to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s information on:

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So come back Monday, March 24th at 8am.

 

Keep Only What You Use – rule #3

 

Those of you who read my first book might remember that I have 10 Absolutes of Organizing These are rules that organized people follow in all aspects of their life.

My third absolute is perhaps the motto of minimalists. Why keep something if it is of no use to you? Think about that for a minute. Especially if you are moving, why would you box something up, move it, and unpack it if you don’t USE it? Or, you’re in the midst of organizing and yet you want to hang on to something you haven’t seen or used in years for SOME reason. It may be guilt or wishful thinking or unrealistic expectations.

Here are some reasons I’ve heard from people for keeping something that they never use:

  • my mother(best friend, sister…) gave it to me
  • it’s worth a lot of money
  • some people collect these
  • I could turn that into a ___________
  • And the ever popular: I might need it someday

To which I say, “really?” Are you really going to do something with this item we found at the bottom of a box in your basement? Or if it is so valuable, why has it been hidden for so long? And if you’re only holding on to it because of who gave it to you, ask yourself the next question, “Do you like it?” or “Does it give you pleasure to look at it? If you answer yes to either of those then okay, keep it but put it somewhere so you can enjoy it. That might be a display shelf or a memory box.

I really don’t force clients to throw anything out, I just ask the right questions so they can take a realistic look at what they keep and what they toss.

When all is said and done, after you sort through a particular closet or room, you want to be left with those belongings that you use, you love and you want. Everything else can be donated, given to someone who really wants it, or recycled.

To each of the reasons above, I say:

  • Don’t worry about the person who gave it to you. They have had the pleasure of giving and have most likely forgotten about it by now.
  • If something is worth a lot of money and you got your use out of it, so what? Pass it along if another can use it. A $300 dress from the 80’s is really not worth $300 today.
  • For collectibles, check into what the real value is today. Believe me the antiques market is not what it used to be even 20 years ago.
  • If you want to turn something useless into something else, make a plan to do that in the next 2 weeks – or let it go!
  • And if you think you might use it someday, think again. If you let it go and “someday” comes, will you be able to find that and afford it? If yes, then let it go. (think of the theme from Frozen and sing it to yourself as you do it!)

WHAT HAVE YOU LET GO OF RECENTLY? 

Little Projects with Big Impact

Sometimes I’m amazed at how a little organizing project can have such a big impact. I have had clients overjoyed with a neat linen closet, weep over an organized pantry and hug me after organizing their coat closet. And I’ve even been excited over little projects I do at home like cleaning out the gift wrap/card organizer. So I thought I would share some little projects I’ve done that have a big impact.

Medicine cabinet: A couple times a year it’s a good idea to go through your medicine cabinet. Take everything out and sort it into categories: first aid, pain relievers, lotions, etc. As you do this, look at expiration dates and toss anything that is outdated. How you put things back depends on what you are using; a wall cabinet or a shelf in a closet. Either way, you can use plastic containers to keep like things together. The size of the container should be big enough to fit one category and to fit on the shelf. Label the containers so that everyone in your house knows where things go. When you are finished make a list of what you don’t have but need. Then go shopping

Benefit: seeing what you have, stocking what you need and being able to find the right meds at the right time.

Refrigerator: This could be a monthly project or just seasonally. I like to clean mine out before a vacation or after the winter holidays.  Take everything out one shelf at a time. Wipe down the shelves and any messy jars. Discard anything that is outdated, moldy or just plain old! Then designate one shelf for leftovers at eye level so you can see them and use them up. It’s also great to have shelves or bins dedicated to fruit, meats & vegetables, and ready snacks if you have kids (or snackers).

Benefit: Fresh food, easier to prepare a well-rounded meal, seeing what you have and what you need

Coat closet: A seasonal clean out here should be enough – once in the Spring and once in the Fall. You can put one person’s coats all together, getting rid of any that don’t fit. And you can create bins for each person’s scarves & gloves so all they have to do is grab the bin and get what they need. Hooks are very helpful on the sides and back of the closet. I use mine to hang umbrellas and tote bags. Slide a plastic boot tray in the bottom for wet shoes and you’re all set! I think it’s best to keep these closets simple with a hanging bar and a shelf.

Benefit: not being embarrassed when guests come over, having a place for everything

Wrapping Paper/Cards – It’s great to have all these gift wrapping supplies in one place. There are many types of organizers you can purchase from cardboard to zip up containers that fit under a bed to a stand up Rubbermaid container. Whatever you use, keep this in a location where you will most likely wrap presents.  Begin by pulling everything out. Trash the old, wrinkled wrapping paper. Put gift bags together by size or by occasion. (I like to keep all my Christmas bags together) And make sure that the rolls of wrapping paper fit in your container. Cards w/envelopes, scissors & tape, gift tags and a pen can go into a small container or a pocket in your organizer.

Benefit:  being able to find what you need and get birthday cards and presents out in a timely manner.

 

What small projects have you tackled with a  big impact?

New Year’s Day is a Clean Slate

If you like new beginnings, second chances and setting goals – this is a beautiful time of year. Never mind the cold, grey weather. Just sit down by your fireplace by yourself or with your loved ones and dream about how great this year can be. Better yet, grab a piece of paper or a white board or your computer and write down your plans! This is how all great projects get started.

Now think about what went wrong last year. For our family, lack of vacation time was a stress point. I’d like to correct that this year if possible. So we are planning a long weekend in the spring, some time at the beach in the summer and a fall weekend in the mountains. Not a lot of details yet but that’s okay. These are our goals for fun time.

My oldest child needs to make more money before she goes away to college. Instead of leaving this to chance, I suggested she decide on her summer activities and then sit down with her boss to discuss how often she can work. If one place cannot give her enough hours, she may have to look for a second part-time job.

My middle child needs to get more involved in extra-curricular activities so we’re setting a deadline for him to join something by January 15 or we are going to sign him up. Everybody is motivated differently and believe me, we’ve tried to urge him before.

Everyone in our family has deadlines and appointments so we selected a beautiful calendar to hang in our kitchen so we all know what’s going on from day to day. Individually we also have planners. Now is a great time to let your students select a planner – daily, weekly or monthly – that makes sense to them.

Think about what you loved last year:  A great vacation? The division of chores in your household? Projects that were completed? Repeat or expand on them this year. If you’re sprucing up your house, take one room per month and do what you can. A new coat of paint, rug or curtains can really update a room. You’ve got twelve months so if you budget your time and your money, you could have the house you’ve always dreamed of next year at this time! My method of project planning is to:

1. Brain storm

2. Prioritize

3. Budget

4. Write a task list

5. Get started

Cheers – to a great new year with all its infinite possibilities!

What do you have planned?

Two Methods of Organizing

I get asked all the time, “How do I keep my house this organized?” especially right after I finish with a client. Organizng is a project first and then it’s a process. Many of you have probably taken a day or more to clean out a room in the house , only to find that a week  – the clutter is back! Life doesn’t stand still so neither does your stuff. The trick is to keep up with things like paperwork, cleaning, laundry, food storage on a regular basis. And if you want to keep up, I believe you’ve got two methods to choose from: The Full Barrel, or the Daily/Weekly Routine methods.

The Full Barrel – I love this term (which I borrowed from a book on food allergy reactions) because it’s so visual. You know what a full barrel looks like. And when it comes to organizing many people use containers (bins, baskets or boxes) to contain their clutter. So the method is that you contain one item or category to a container and when the container is full – you clear it out. That means sorting, purging and taking care of the items or putting them back where they belong. For instance, many people use this for laundry. You have a basket and when it’s full, you do wash. You can also think about a recycle container for newspapers. When its full you move it to the curb.

This system works well for visually motivated people and those who don’t like to live by a strict schedule. Be warned, however that the barrel may spill over at an inopportune moment. But you also don’t have to do any of these tasks until the bin is full so let it go and move on to something else!

The Daily/Weekly Routine – On the flip side, if you don’t want to wait for barrels to spill, and if you like predictability in your life, try the routine method. Invariably there are tasks that we all do every week like; food shopping, laundry, cleaning and taking out the trash. By assigning each task to a certain day you know that once a week these areas will be back to normal. This frees up your other days to do other things. For example, if you food shop on Sunday you can plan ahead for meals, lunches etc. and every week spend about the same money. If you run to the store every other day it’s more expensive. I also believe  if your family has seven outfits, it’s okay to do wash only once a week. Have somebody fold it and everyone can put their own clean clothes away. It’s not hard if it’s only once a week.

Then there are the daily routines like checking email, US mail, cleaning up the kitchen, walking the dog, etc. Delegate where you can so one person is not doing it all. Also set a timer for things like checking email so you don’t let that effect the rest of your day. Whatever is a priority do it first. For example, if you want to go to the gym and work out, don’t turn on your computer or answer the phone before that. Trust me, it will set your whole day off schedule!

Speaking of which, this system works well for people who like a schedule. If your life is such that you don’t have one – then make one! Be your own boss and set hours for certain things like exercise and reading if that’s what you want to do. When left to chance these things will not get done. But don’t forget to leave a little white space in your daily and weekly routines because if you’re over scheduled you’re over stressed!

What routines do you have that keep your home or office running smoothly? Leave a comment.

Organize Your Beauty Routine

Sure organizing can make you feel better. But can it actually make you look better? I submit that it can!

Take, for instance, your vanity or medicine cabinet or bathroom cabinet – wherever it is that you keep your lotions, potions and make-up. This is one area that can be quickly organized and cleaned up. I would give it 2 hours plus any shopping time for containers. When you have skin products and make-up that is organized, clean and fresh your skin is going to look world’s better wearing it!

If, on the other hand you have held onto make up for years, just because it’s not finished or if you have skin care products from various manufacturers, you are doing your face a disservice. Follow these steps for a beauty routine make- 0ver and see the results for yourself:

1. Take everything out of your cabinets and categorize – make-up, cleansers, moisturizers, toners, facial scrubs, perfume, bath soaps, specialty products, nail products, and brushes – for starters.

2. Toss anything that is discolored, watery, or has an expiration date that has passed. Bottles that are covered with dust might indicate that they’re pretty old too.

3. Take a second look & toss more. Even if you don’t have expiration dates, you know how old certain items are. In general, make-up is good for 6 months to a year. Eye products should be tossed after 3 months so the next time you buy mascara, put a label on it with your own expiration date! Lotions last about 1 year.

4. Look at your categories. How many cleansers do you have? One is enough! Using products from one skin care line is optimal because they are formulated to work together. For example, a Clinique cleanser can remove Clinique’s foundation. If you mix companies you might not get desired results or you might overload on one ingredient causing a reaction.Choose your brand and get the complete set.

5. Take the products that you use every day and put them in one drawer, bin or on one shelf. Then take other products by category and put them in their own container. Plastic is the best because canvas or wicker bins will get wet at some point.

6. Clean your brushes with soap & water then let them air dry. Repeat this once a month at least.

7. Put all your toiletries back in the cabinet from which they came. If you have travel size (admit it you’ve got a collection!) toss any old ones and keep more recent ones in a travel bag in the linen closet.

Stand back and be amazed by how clear your bathroom is, and how easy it is to do your routine the next morning. To be super efficient, put all your daily products on the left of the sink and as you use them, move them to the right. That way you won’t miss a step!

What’s the toughest part of keeping your cosmetics under control? Leave a comment.

Be Prepared for Anything!

September is National Emergency Preparedness month and to be honest, I never really thought about this too much. I’m not the type of person who panicked at the year 2000, in fact I laughed at people who basically stocked a bomb shelter days before New Year’s Eve that year. But as a Professional Organizer and someone who naturally plans ahead, it would make sense that I should know a little something about preparing for natural and man-made disasters. Since 9/11 our area certainly has had our share of them! And quite frankly, while we haven’t had real disasters, there have been plenty of times when my house and my neighborhood has been out of power for 4 days or more. Each time I vow there is something else I’m going to do to be prepared. So, I recently attended a class on this with my fellow organizers in Philadelphia and I’d like to share with you what I learned.

The Plan:

1. Verify the information you are receiving about any disaster. Lots of rumors spread among neighbors; make sure you are only acting on information from a credible source.

2. Have a list of emergency numbers posted in your home and on your cell phone. This may include: local Red Cross, School Info Lines, Power Company, Water Company, Telephone company. That way you can call immediately for an outage or to get up to date information on that utility.

3. Pick a safe room in your home in case you need to shelter in place. Choose a low room for a tornado, high for a flood, a bathroom for hurricane or earthquake.

4. Create an emergency plan/checklist for your family to help. One person can close windows, shut off water, gather pets, etc. so everyone is not running around bumping into one another. Locate water, electrical and gas shut off valves in your home and mark clearly.

5. Practice your plan just like you would a fire drill. Kids do this in school all the time now. It makes it calmer and easier to do in the real situation. If necessary, involve your neighbors in your plan so you can share resources.

6. Pick a meeting point for your family in case you get separated.

7. You can preserve refrigerated food with ice in a cooler, so it’s good to have an extra bag of ice in the freezer at all times.

The Emergency Supply Kit:

1. A gallon of water per person per day is the rule of thumb. Listen to authorities about whether or not it needs to be purified before consumed.

2. A battery operated radio to get news reports if no electricity.

3. Candles, flashlights and extra batteries, or a crank flashlight

5. Non-perishable food, and a manual can opener & plastic utencils

6. Medicine and/or baby  supplies for 3-5 days

7. Fire extinguisher, gas grill for cooking

8. Comfort & convenience supplies: blankets, sleeping bags, change of clothes, cash and credit card, medical insurance cards, important documents in safe box, simple games to pass the time in a black out.

The auto kit:

1. Blanket, coveralls or extra sweatshirt

2. jumper cables, flares, triangles

3. shovel, rock salt and sand (for snow)

4. tire repair kit

5. maps

6. AAA card if you are a member

Important numbers/resources:

(These are local numbers so make sure you have the ones for your area)

  • Fire/Police
  • Poison Control
  • Red Cross
  • Department of Health
  • Electric Company
  • Phone Company
  • Water Company
  • Out of town relatives/friends where you can stay if evacuated

Finally, I suggest you contact your county’s Department of Emergency Services for a list of instructions on what to do in the case of various natural disasters or emergencies. Keep it in a central location in the home where everyone knows where to find it. Or for more information check out http://www.ready.gov/God willing, you will never need to use these resources but if you’re prepared, even a little power outage will not feel so devastating.

10 Steps to the Perfect Summer Party

I am currently winding down from a great Memorial Day weekend. The weather was great (although not as warm as I would have liked) and we had the perfect combination of things to do this weekend, including a play, some sports, our annual party and downtime.  If life could just be this perfect all year!

About 10 years ago my family decided that we would host a Memorial Day picnic and celebrate my two older kids’ birthdays at the same time. Their birthdays are mid May and mid June and to get this big gang together twice in the same month is a little difficult. Memorial day happens to land in the middle and we thought, “What a great way to kick off the summer season.” Because none of my family members have beach houses, this works perfectly. And the more we do this party, the easier it gets! I remember being frantic the first few times fretting about what food to serve, what kind of cake, where to put everything, and what if it rains? As an organizer, I strive for simplicity in all I do so a little experience and simplifying came in handy as we effortlessly had a party for over 30 people and still had time to enjoy our weekend. Now I can not take credit for all of this. It takes team work, and my husband and kids all chipped it to make this party go off without a hitch. Hopefully you can learn some tips to help you throw a great summer party this season:

1. Decide the date and start time and let everyone know via E-vite, text, or email. Ask for an RSVP 5-7 days prior to the party. This way you know how much food or drink to buy.

2. Decide on the menu, and opt for something that can be set out on a table, and then forgotten. Order food or purchase it a few days before the event. If it’s hot food, use a warming tray. Cold food – put a tray of ice underneath. If you have air conditioning, set up food and drinks inside so guests can help themselves. Don’t offer too many choices. Two entrees, two salads and a couple kinds of snacks are generally fine for any size crowd. Incorporate fruits & vegetables in a fun way so those who are vegetarians have options.

3. The day before or the morning of the party, do all food prep that can be done. Straighten the house – but only clean sinks and toilets. The floors will get dirty so clean those AFTER. If you have children or children are coming, put away anything valuable that you don’t want touched or knocked over.

4. One hour before the party, set up table cloths and serving bowls & trays. If someone is helping you with food, you can put a post it on each tray or bowl so they know where everything goes. Have one table for snacks/desserts another for main course and then tables with chairs for where people can sit and eat. Set up a drink area and label one cooler for beer/wine and one for soda if you are serving both.

5. Use disposable utensils and plates. Put a permanent marker with the cups so people can write their names on them and use one cup the whole day. Set up a regular trash can and a recycle can outside and label accordingly.

6. If you love theme parties, try www.myperfectparty.com. It’s a great way to coordinate the menu, decorations, drinks and games all around a theme. Once you purchase your “party in a box” you can use it again and again. This year, instead of our usually patriotic flare, we went with a Hawaiian Luau which was left over from my daughter’s Sweet 16 party.

7. During the party do a sweep through the house and throw out any trash you see. If serving dishes are empty, refill them or put them in the sink. Don’t clean until guests have left! As you do your sweep, chat with guests in each room. Ask if anybody needs anything.

8. At the end of the night., ask kids to clean up the toys scattered all over your yard or playroom. Blow out any lit candles. Once the bulk of guests have left, put food away in plastic containers, get dishes to the kitchen and basically consolidate the mess.

9. Load the dishwasher and run it. If you’re not going to hand wash dishes, at least rinse them and put them in the sink. Wipe down plastic table clothes and let them dry over night.

10. The next morning survey the outside of your house, put everything in it’s place. Wash dishes & linens and sweep and mop the floors.

If there’s an extra serving of food or piece of cake – take that as your reward and take the rest of the day off!

What are some of your tips for a great summer party? Leave a comment.

 

Boomerang Kids: What to Do When Your College Grad Moves Back Home

Guest Post by Paul Benjamin

Paul Benjamin works for EZ Storage, a self storage company serving the Philadelphia area for over 40 years.

If you are one of the many who’s children have “re-nested” after going away to college, take heart. You are not alone:

  • The Pew Research Center reports that more young people between the ages of 25-34 live at home with their parents at the highest rate (20 percent) since the early 1950’s.
  • A recent study released by Northeastern University estimates that 53 percent of young adults under age 25 with a bachelor’s degree were underemployed or unemployed.
  • In late 2012, the Economic Policy Institute pegged the unemployment rate for high school graduates somewhere around 53 percent.

While these harsh realities say one thing to the young generation, they mean an altogether different reality for their parents. Many parents understand changing economic and cultural dynamics that make it necessary for grown children to move back home. They love their child and want to provide the support necessary to help him or her regroup and regain their independence.

Nonetheless, it’s critical to strike a balance between the desire to help an offspring and your peace, happiness and style of living to which you’ve become accustomed.

Here are some considerations that will aid you in making the transition:
1. Move-in and Exit Strategy

All parties involved need to have a clear understanding of the expectations prior to the scheduled move-in date. Many experts recommend that you establish a lease agreement that defines the “rental period” (i.e. month-to-month) and house rules. You should also charge rent.

It is also important that you set expectations or house rules that go beyond the lease agreement, such as:  assisting with chores, paying for groceries or entertaining friends.

Outline the exit strategy at the start. Define whether that means finding a job, returning to school or other situations.  Schedule a meeting to determine if they will be able to move-out at the end of the period or need additional time.

2. Handling Storage Issues

A child moving home from college or from their own apartment accumulates quite a few things over the years. Take steps to minimize the impact of having the person move their belongings back into your home, cluttering your space and well-organized home.

Before the move is made, encourage your children to go through their items and donate, sell or otherwise dispose of anything they no longer want or require.  If you need to create more storage space around the house find a place where they can store their things and not mingle them with your own. This could be a garage, attic, shed or extra bedroom.

Make good use of storage boxes. You can find stack-able boxes in all sizes, shapes and materials. Plastic containers provide protection against water mold and rodents.  Arrange the items —furniture, books, dishes, appliances— according to how or where you intend to store them and always clearly label the boxes.

You should also group and prioritize things according to frequency of access to reduced disorganizing the space when looking for things. For example, put the most used items on top or in the front of other boxes. Sturdy shelves to hold storage boxes also make it easier to remove one box at a time.

3. Renting Storage Space

In some cases, creating storage space in your home is not a workable option to accommodate the personal belongings of an adult child.  In this case, discuss renting a storage unit to store their furniture and belongings until they need them again.

Make a list of the items you want to store, which will help you get the correct size and plan the organization and associated costs.

The good thing about renting storage units is the flexibility. You can use this solution for one month, six months or an entire a year based on your situation. If you choose this option, consider the rental fee and what it includes,and also the firm’s policy for access.

Remember, when an adult child moves back home your primary objective lies in minimizing the impact on your finances, your lifestyle and the organization of your home. Ultimately, you want to facilitate the child regaining their independence while maintaining a harmonious home environment and relationship.

If you’ve got “boomerang kids” let us know the good, the bad, the ugly! Leave a comment:

 

The Organized Home

When you are a professional organizer, you often get this question, “So is YOUR house really organized?”  To which I always reply, “Yes.” It’s not perfect, my spices are not alphabetized (in fact, neither are my files) but it functions well.

Recently my husband was asked that question and he replied “no” without hesitation! Really? I thought. All the work I do to keep this family running smoothly and you don’t consider our home really organized? Maybe he was just embarrassed to say yes. Or maybe he was thinking of his work space which is off limits to me.  Early on in our marriage I found out how much I could push him to be more organized and where I had to give in to the “systems” that worked for him.  He likes things out so he remembers them.  I like everything tucked away. So we decided to leave out what we use every day.  He has a plethora of reading material that I used to find piled up all over the house. I bought him a nice magazine rack for the living room.  When they started to pile up in the bathroom, I bought him one for that room too. It was like I was chasing him with containers!  But those seemed to work.  Likewise, when we had children and they started to accumulate big toys, I used a small room off the back of our house as a toy storage area. Toys could come out all day, but at the end of the day or whenever we wanted to clean up, they had a home.  When the kids got bigger and toys got smaller, I designated a “Little Stuff” bin for each child. All their little toys went into the bin at clean up time. When the bin got full we cleaned it out.

In addition to creating bins for all our clutter, I believe our home is organized for additional reasons, namely:

1. Everyone in the family knows where to find things here. From batteries to clean clothes to snacks, we do HAVE A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING.

2. We are on time for school, work, and activities. This is achieved by keeping a family calendar in the kitchen and HAVING MORNING & EVENING ROUTINES which give us a method for getting what we need to get out the door in the morning.

3. We pay our bills on time. Some people say “Never pay retail.” I say, “NEVER PAY A LATE FEE OR INTEREST.” We limit credit card purchases to what we can afford every month. (barring any crazy circumstances)

4. I can compile my business tax information in about 15 minutes. This is because I HAVE A SIMPLE FILING SYSTEM that has worked for me since I was out of college. Two file drawers: one for business one for personal. They get cleaned out once a year and finances are kept balanced monthly.

5. The weekly tasks of running a home like: laundry, food shopping, cleaning, and trash removal are all done on a schedule with all family members pitching in. Daily tasks are much the same.

So you will not find months worth of laundry all around my house, piles of papers with bills buried, or duplicates of sundries all over the bathroom in our house. Sure there are times when things get hectic, but with a few hours and our family routines, our home can get back to normal.

Not sure where my husband’s living but I am proud to say we have an organized home.  If it wasn’t, how could my clients trust my expertise?

Living this way keeps the chaos at bay and makes me happy to come home after a long days work or a vacation away. My home is my sanctuary and I’m happy to help others achieve this too!

What stresses you out about your house?  Leave a comment:

 

 

 

Are we having fun yet?

If the chaos of December is putting a “ba-humbug” in your holiday, it’s always best to start with a plan. There are little things you can do before, during and after the holidays to ensure you have it all under control.

 Before

    1. Start with a good list of who you need to buy gifts for and a budget for each person. Once you have gift ideas, make a list of stores where you need to shop so you can hit them each once.
    2. If you like to shop on-line, do it early and save the receipts in a folder marked, “Waiting On.” That way you can keep track of what should be delivered. It’s easy to forget in holiday rush!
    3. To budget your time, make a list of the eight most important things to get done for Christmas. Do two a week.

During

  1. If you’re sending greeting cards it’s easiest to have a file with mailing labels on your computer.  Then, as you receive your holiday cards you can make note of any changes in people or addresses right on your file so you’re ready for next year.
  2. If you’re hosting the holiday dinner, make the entrée and one side dish. Ask those who are coming to also make a side dish or dessert or bring the wine. Everyone sharing the load makes it a lot easier on the host and most people are happy to oblige!
  3. If you’re going to grandparents’ house, bring something for the little ones to do: a craft, a movie or one new toy.

 

After

  1. After the holiday shopping is a great time to clear out your pile of catalogs and magazines. Scan the magazines for any great ideas and place those in a folder or binder.  Recycle the rest and get ready for a whole new year of new ideas and things to buy.
  2. As you are packing away the holiday decorations, take a look at what’s left in boxes. Toss or donate the decorations you did not put up this year. Places to donate: schools, libraries, senior centers or local theatre groups.
  3. Make a “use it or lose it” date for your left-overs. Sure those turkey sandwiches taste great but a week or two later all should be gone. Give your refrigerator a fresh start too. I recommend square & clear containers for the refrigerator.

What do you do to keep the holiday peaceful?

And so this is Christmas…

Many people might wonder what does a Professional Organizer DO? And isn’t it just a luxury to be able to hire someone to organize your home? Well, yes,in some ways it is. But in many ways the career of a Professional Organizer is filled with much more rewarding circumstances than you might think. Take my association, the National Association of Professional Organizers (Greater Philadelphia Chapter). We recently embarked on a project that was amazing, fun and rewarding. Here is the summary that I wrote about our experience:

Nine professional organizers invaded the home of Master Sergeant Susan Springsteen on sat. Dec. 15th armed with sticky notes, bins and labelers. It’s not the kind of invasion MSGT. Springsteen was used to, having served three tours in Afghanistan. But it was a welcome day of organizing her home which she won on Veteran’s Day as a prize through “Project Thanks.” This contest was a lottery-style drawing open to all active Delaware Air National Guard Service Members deployed away from home in the last 18 months, made possible through the generosity of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Greater Philadelphia Chapter. (NAPO-GPC)

The NAPO-GPC organizers came once to assess the project which was to organize the home office, creating a paper filing system and doing something with the plethora of family photos and military plaques that Ms. Springsteen had not had a chance to put up and display.

After the assessment they set to work ordering needed supplies like bins and shelves and even finishing touches, like curtains, pillows and frames. It was easy to round up volunteers who wanted to offer thanks to our military servicemen and women. When project day came, much more was accomplished. The eager organizers did go through boxes of paper, sorting, shredding and filing with meticulous accuracy. They also culled favorite photos and created framed collages while categorizing and filing the rest. They hauled away clothing and household items meant for donation. They organized closets, pantry and laundry room.

To some people this may sound like a nightmare, to others, a dream, but MSGT. Springsteen seemed to take all this free help graciously. In 6 hours (54 woman hours) the team of Type A’s had whipped the home into one worthy of a military inspection. The organizers, who all own their own businesses, had a chance to collaborate and learn each other’s systems while MSGT. Springsteen received the benefit of their expertise, energy and enthusiasm. Everyone left exhausted but feeling good for the work that was done. NAPO-GPC plans to make this an annual event between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a way to give Thanks to our military service men and women.

Leave a comment:

Getting Beyond Overwhelmed

 

 

 

Where do I start? is one of the most frequent questions people ask when they start thinking about getting their home totally organized.

 

Create a “Home Projects Plan”

My answer is usually, “start with a plan.”  Sounds simple enough, but here are the specifics on how to create a Home Projects Plan for your situation. whether your plan will take a week or years to execute this plan will be there to guide you so you always know what the next step is.  The most important thing is to write it down. Don’ assume you’ve got it all up in your head and you’re ready to jump in. Use a simple copy book or a binder to keep everything in one place.

The Walk Through

First, go with you’re spouse (and maybe even the children) through every room in the house.  Discuss how your family will use each room.  In other words, identify the function of each room and try to limit the functions to three.  Any more than three functions, and the room often becomes chaotic and crowded. Write down everything you want to change in that room. I would include in this plan, not only organizational projects but also home improvements.  If you are browsing in catalogs or home improvement magazines, you can cut out pictures of what you like and put these along side your “to do” items.

Estimate your costs

After you’ve written it all down, estimate the costs.  This may be as easy as pricing something in a catalog or sales paper.  But for contracted services like plumbing and electricity, you’ll want to get a minimum of three quotes.  My husband and I tend to go with the middle range of costs unless one of the contractors is significantly better than the others in terms of quality or customer service.  Many times you just have to choose whomever you feel more comfortable with.   Consider purchasing items like lighting and plumbing fixtures yourself and just hire someone to install them.  This can often save you money. Once you have all your quotes, you can ballpark the cost of doing each room.

Know your budget

Budgeting is another step that I think many couples skip.  If you’re lucky enough that cost doesn’t matter, then you can just keep going until your whole house is done! But most families have to work within a budget.  You definitely don’t want to be in the middle of a big project and suddenly find that you’re out of money. When we moved into our new house, we knew there were some immediate fixes to be done.  We looked at our annual income and expenses and figured out how much we could put aside for home improvements.  When the money was gone, we had to stop. So we were realistic about how much we could do in that first year.

Another option might be to take out a loan.  Whatever your situation, it’s important that you and your spouse are in agreement with how much money can be spent in getting your home organized and updated. Decide on the total amount you can spend and then prioritize your projects.

 

Prioritize

The other purpose of the Home Projects Plan is to help you prioritize. There are different ways to prioritize and no way is right or wrong.  Some common ways to choose which room should be first are by using superlatives like:

* the worst room in the house,

* the most used room,

* the most visible room,

* the easiest room,

* the least or most expensive room to do.

Much depends on your personality.  Doing the worst room first has its benefits because all else will seem easy.  Doing the easiest room first might build your confidence to continue on.  Doing the most-used or most-visible room first may help you feel that “at least we’ll look organized when people come to visit.”  Whatever your motivation, choose the first room and stick to it until you’ve done everything you planned and can afford right now.  Roughly plan out the order in which you would like your rooms to be finished.  Of course this may change along the way, but better to have a plan of where you are going next and change it, than to have no plan at all!

Absolute of organizing:  Finish one thing before you start another.

 

5 Tips to Maintaining Your Home Office

Once you’ve set up the office of your dreams. How do you maintain it? Here are 5 suggestions for maintain order in any home office:

1. Consider the method

I believe the maintenance step of organizing can fall into two methods:

  • Routines – You create them based on your natural tendencies & out of necessity and then you just do it. For instance, checking your email, filing papers, sorting through mail, making phone calls and shipping out items all need to be done, so when will you do them? Daily, weekly, or will you delegate some duties?
  • The full barrel method – This is when you use a container to pile things like orders, filing, bills, etc. and you do them once the bin is full.

Nothing wrong with either method but I strongly suggest you don’t leave everything to the full barrel method. That is the point of overwhelming piles and that is when we professional organizers usually get the call for help.

 

2. Don’t let the kids touch

If your home office is going to be used by your children because there is only one computer in the house, make sure your work and important papers are filed away and maybe even locked away when you are finished working.  This is a great motivator for keeping your desk top clear!  When the children use the computer or materials there, make sure they only have access to what they are allowed to use.

3. Set a schedule for working your home-based business

If you’re lucky enough to have your own office with a door, then it’s easier to be disciplined about your starting and ending time.  When you finish for the day, have everything you need to do tomorrow in your “To Do” bin and written in your daily planner, then close the door.  If you don’t set up boundaries and routines when working at home, it is too easy to let your work time spill into family time.  If you work while the children are home, communicate with them about when you are working and what’s expected of them. You may want them to play by themselves, watch a movie or you may have a babysitter there that can attend to their needs instead of you.  Make sure when you finish working and switch back to your mommy job, you give them your full attention.

4. Set time in your daily or weekly schedule for managing the necessities:

  • When it comes to the day-to-day management of a family, it’s best to do it every day so it doesn’t pile up on you.
  • Paying bills is a top priority so it’s worth the effort to schedule it and write it in your planner or set up an automatic bill payer. You can write it down as soon as you receive a bill, such as “Send Visa bill” on the 10th if it’s due on the 17th.  You can set a specific day of the week when you pay them.  Do this weekly, bi-monthly or monthly if you coordinate the due dates with your utilities and credit cards.
  • Phone calls can take up a lot of a mother’s time in any given week.  Instead of just calling someone when you think of it, make a list on a daily or weekly basis of who you need to call.  Then you can be efficient about your time, call when the house is quiet like when the kids go off to school or when the baby is taking a nap.  You’d be amazed how many calls you can make in a half hour when you have focused time.   Even if you’re just leaving messages, you can get your calls out there and only answer the ones your are expecting back throughout the day.  If you’re in the middle of doing something else, use the caller id or answering machine to screen your calls.  Only answer if you have the time to talk.
  • Filing is something you can do in about 5 minutes per day.  If you don’t receive a lot of papers to file you may be able to wait and do it once a week.  This is one instance where the “full barrel” method can apply.
  • Reading may be another function that can take place in your office area.  These would be periodicals for your business, information from school or kids’ activities.  Again, make room in your schedule to read your incoming papers every day and it’ll only take 5-10 minutes.  If you let it pile up, not only does it take longer but you’re less likely to want to tackle that pile.
  • When you have special projects you’re working on, these should be considered when you are using your daily planner.  Try to work on one project per day if possible.  Create an action file for each project and pull that file out when you’re working on it, then put it away when you’re finished for the day.

5. Clear out your office each year

  • Pull out your tax related info, total up expenses and income for both personal and business tax forms.
  • Empty your “Charitable Contributions” folder with all those receipts and total them up too.
  • If you’re someone who likes to have an idea of where the money went this year, take credit card statements and your checkbook log and categorize your expenses in a simple spreadsheet.
  • If you use Quick Books® or similar software pull an end-of-the-year report for your budget totals.
  • For any reference files you have, take a look through each one and toss what is outdated or unnecessary.
  • Clear out your children’s school files at the end of the school year.
  • If you have a business that requires you to keep inventory, tally up the cost of that inventory for your taxes.  In some cases you may want to have an end-of-the-year sale to clear the shelf.

The secret to maintaining an organized office is to keep all your office materials in while keeping toys, food, and extraneous stuff out!  Do this on a daily or weekly basis so it doesn’t pile up and you’ve got a functional home business – even if that business is simply managing your home and family.

If you like my tips, please share on Facebook or Twitter!

Organize Your Odds & Ends

Sometimes those odds and ends can accumulate all   over the house, and we just don’t know where to put them!  In order to truly have a “place for everything” you must identify those items in your house that don’t have a permanent home. To do this, take a walk through your house and play the game of “one of these things is not like the others…” This will help you identify what’s in a room that doesn’t really belong there, like a sewing needle and thread in the kitchen, or a vacuum in the bedroom, or gifts that need to be wrapped on the office floor.  Gather those items together and think about the most logical place to keep them. Here are some examples of mini-categories you might encounter and some options for where to keep them.

Wrapping Paper/ ribbons

Most moms have wrapping paper and ribbons on hand at all times because you never know when someone will need to go to a birthday party. There are several products on the market now that are made especially for these items. There are hard plastic stand up bins or soft vinyl tote organizers that will help you contain all the wrapping items in one place. Some stores who sell these are: Rubbermaid, Lillian Vernon and Improvements Catalog.

You could also create an organizer for yourself out of a box from the liquor store. These boxes usually have dividers for bottles that work just as well for large rolls of wrapping paper. You can remove some of the dividers to make space for ribbons, scissors and tape. Either way, you need to assemble and contain your wrapping materials and find a home for them. Think about where you usually do the wrapping. Is it in the den, your bedroom or in the living room? Find a closet in or near that room that has enough space for whatever container you choose. Make the decision to keep wrapping paper there and let the whole family know where it belongs.

Extra gifts

If you have the luxury of a completely empty closet or empty shelf in your home, you can shop in advance to have gifts on hand, ready to be wrapped. One client I had devoted an entire custom closet in her office for just this purpose. Another client I had used one shelf in her linen closet for extra gifts. With this category, you really need to adapt to your living space. No extra room in the house — no extra presents. You will have to shop for gifts as needed. However, it is a good idea to look at your monthly calendar and consolidate your gift shopping for that month. If you only have a handful of presents to buy, you could probably find somewhere to stash them before the event. With little children in the house, it’s best to keep these out of sight so curious hands don’t open the gift prematurely! Like any of the big categories, have all the gifts in one place so you remember what you have! Decide where this will be: your linen closet, an empty closet, your bedroom closet or in the attic (if it’s climate controlled) and don’t tell the family! Let this one be your little secret place.

Items that need to leave the house

This category could include mail, donations, things that are going to a friend, or items you want to return to a store.  After seeing many clients of various income levels, I have come to this conclusion: the more you shop, the more you return.  Piles of returns might start to grow in your garage, your car or your bedroom. If you are returning household things for size, make sure you measure next time. If you return things for color, maybe take a sample of what you are trying to match. If you are returning a lot of clothes, make note of the new size you or your children need. A little planning ahead can save you a lot of time on returns! If you do need to take something back, make sure you keep the receipt with it until that decision is made.

To keep the return piles out of your living space, try these options:

1. In your car – There’s nothing like going right to the finish. Put the items on your passenger seat so you see them every time you get into the car. Visual reminders are great.

2. On a table near your door –Let them stick out like a sore thumb so you’ll return them soon. You might even designate a “going out table” that is just for this purpose. If you tuck them away, you’re more likely to forget about them.  Also, write it in your planner to “do returns.” And then you can have the satisfaction of checking it off your list.

Gift certificates and gift cards

One of my pet peeves is people who never use their gift certificates! Why don’t they use them? Usually because they can’t find the certificate or they don’t make a plan to use it.  There’s a couple of ways you could remind yourself to use these.

1.  If you think of gift cards as money, put them in your wallet. When you go to that store and open your wallet to pay, you’ll see the gift card and use it.

2. Keep gift cards and certificates for on-line shopping in your top desk drawer.

3. Keep retail gift cards in an envelope in your car. If you forget to bring them in, you can at least run back to the car before you check out.

4. Keep certificates for places that need reservations in your planner.

What odds & ends are cluttering up your home? Leave a comment or question.

 

How my family survived a Four Day Power Outage

Well it was not fun. Everything took a lot longer to do but I know our family can survived like the pioneers of colonial times (okay not that bad). Here are some tips on how we “organized” for the impending storm, Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012, knowing that we would lose power for several days as we normally do in any kind of storm

1. Plan ahead – We bought food, but the kind that doesn’t need to go in the refrigerator. We also bought water bottles and three bags of ice to leave in the two refrigerators so they could act like a cooler for a day or two if necessary. We checked flashlights and batteries, charged our cell phones and laptops and had everyone in the family take a hot shower on the day the storm hit. Candles and matches were at the ready.

2. Connect with neighbors – Our neighbors are a life line especially in times where we are stuck indoors or at least in neighborhood.  One year I hosted an impromptu blizzard party for 9 families a week before Christmas. Following suite, one neighbor texted me minutes before the power went out and said “Bring the kids for a Hurricane party at 7 pm.” School had already been cancelled for the next two days so what else are you going to do when the lights go out? We all brought drinks, food and candles. The kids watched a movie on someone’s laptop and played cards. So the first night went fast. We hoped for the best.

The next day neighbors with whole house generators offered to let us take showers, wash our laundry and store food in their freezers. We began to appreciate how good it feels to be clean and warm!

3. Decide your priorities – For each of us it was different. My husband needed a place with power and Wi-Fi to work. I needed a hot cup of coffee and a hot shower to feel human and get my family through. The kids needed entertainment to keep them sane. So once the coffee was found on day 1 and 2, I could think clearly. My husband ventured out to work at a nearby Starbucks. By the end of day one, my boys went to friends’ houses which had power. I decided to forgo the shower and just don a hat for day one.

4. Stay on top of the utilities – Make sure you contact the utility companies if power is out. Don’t assume they know, or assume that if your neighbors power goes back on, yours will too. Who knows how these “grids” work? All I know is that our whole neighborhood could be lit up and six houses, including mine will be out.  One summer I drove up to our electrical workers in the neighborhood, offered them lemonade and a swim if they promised not to leave until my power was back on. Keep calling and getting the update on when power will be restored, so you literally have a light at the end of your tunnel!

5. Count your blessings and remain calm – Living in the dark ages is stressful. Remind yourself and your family of what you did not lose. In natural disasters I would venture to say there are usually more people worse off than you are. Make sure everyone has what they need and then just be patient for others to do their part. Re-locate if necessary; farm the kids out to friends’ houses; live simply even if for a few days. Make sure your basic needs are met and then be thankful your situation is not worse.

How did your family survive the Hurricane? Please leave a comment.

Fall is a Great Time to Organize Your Garage!

I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.

  1. They’re not just for keeping cars – we use garages to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, extra raw materials (like pieces of wood…)wood for fireplaces, tools – all kinds of stuff.
  2. For a lot of people this is our entrance way into our house – so we might keep shoes, recycles, trash, And this might be our motivation for trying to keep it organized! Because we walk through it all the time. And it bugs us if it’s a mess.
  3. It’s usually one big room when we move in and that’s hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things.  We have to do it from scratch.

So if you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, here’s my CPR process that I discuss in my book ABSOLUTELY ORGANIZED. And this can be used for any room in your house by the way:

  1. You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal (pizza & beer works well for my friends)

(That’s one of my absolutes or rules: If you don’t plan it – it’s not going to happen)

  1. CATEGORIZE: Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn.  Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes… And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
  2. PURGE: as you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore.  (for items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it) For chemicals or gasoline call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections)
  3. RE-arrange:  Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible.  For the kids toys and sports equipment we use colorful plastic tubs on the floor.  For our lawn chemicals we put them in plastic bins up on a shelf.  Keep things in their categories and create zones.  Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back where you want them by the end of your organizing session.
  4. Now you can go shopping for what you need:  industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a garage makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need.  Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high end to places like GarageTek.  I’ve even seem people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage.
  5. To keep it that way, you have to straighten it on a weekly basis – teach your kids where things go.  And then clean out on a seasonal basis.  Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late Spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and accessible and then once in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out (shovels, rock salt, sleds). Because we do this twice a year we can do it now in LESS THAN 2 HOURS.   The kids complain…we put on music…let them play a little; give them little jobs and then we take them to McDonald’s afterwards. Everybody’s happy and it’s a great way to spend a little family time on a nice day.