Magical Move Ins

How to Organize your Kitchen


There is a trend in moving now that was even discussed by one celebrity in a Howard Stern interview. This trend is a dream come true for both the person or family who is moving and professional organizers across the country. I like to call this service, “The Magical Move-In.” It’s like when you go to a Disney resort and your bags magically get to your hotel room from the airport and you don’t have to lift a finger!

Basically what happens is that a professional organizer or team of organizers moves you into your new home. You and your family can walk through the door on Day 1 and everything is put away in an organized manner and you can begin your new life. Who wouldn’t love that? Especially after all the stress of selling a home, buying a home, packing up and relocating.

Benefits for the family

I want to share some experiences my team has had while working on a “Magical Move-In.” My first experience with this service was with a family. The mother and father had very high-level jobs and were in the process of relocating  for work. They also had two small children who were being uprooted from the only home they knew. The parents’ goal was for their children to walk in, feel comfortable and have their bedroom and play room set up. Clothes were put in the closets, beds were made, towels were hung in the bathrooms, food was placed in the pantry…you get the picture. For the children, this meant their new space would look a little like their old space because all the furniture and toys and linens were the same. For the parents, who had to move and get right back to work, this meant they didn’t have to take a week off to get settled. It also meant that no matter what the old house looked like, this new place would be organized from the start. How many people can say that?

Another client we worked with was a single dad. He traveled for work and really didn’t have the time to set up his townhouse. So my team and I unpacked, hung artwork, built shelves, got rid of duplicate kitchen utensils and household items and he continued with his life while we did this. He was happy to come home after a trip and find his new home all set up. Except the TV and stereo – that was his area of expertise.

Why Organizers Love It

From the organizers’ perspective – this is a dream job! We have a clean slate to start with and depending on the amount of direction or free range we receive from the client, we can really have a ball setting up an entire house. It’s a chance for us to suggest uniform bins for closets and shelves, set up a kitchen efficiently, organize the toys and do a little decorating too. We can also help the homeowner get rid of anything they really don’t need, want or use. Ideally this step is done before the move but we realize, that is not always possible.

What it takes

For an average size home with an average amount of stuff, a magical move in can take anywhere from a couple days to a full week with 2-3 organizers. If you are working and can pay the organizers less than what you make in a week, I think it’s worth the investment for your comfort and peace of mind. Something to consider the next time you make a move.

Organize Before You Move

boxesMoving out of your home and into a new space is one of the most disconcerting events in someone’s life. Even the most organized person can be stressed out at the concept of boxing up your life and moving it. There is an emotional side to the transition and there is also a very physical and practical side to a move. Regardless of the reason for moving, look at it as an opportunity to “right size” your belongings and create a fresh start to your life.

I have helped clients organize their current homes as they are boxing up and preparing to move. On the flip side, I have also helped clients set up their new homes in an organized, functional way so they can feel settled in their new space as soon as possible. Here are some tips on how you can organize before your move to make your transition a little easier:

  1. Do the math:

  • If you have your moving date, plan backwards from there. Count the number of rooms in your home and figure that each room is going to take 1-2 days to pack up. Of course bigger rooms and those with more “stuff” in them will take more time. A room with more furniture and fewer small items may only take one day. If you work full time and are only packing at night, figure on 2 days per room just to be safe.
  • Have the measurements of each room in your new home so you can determine what furniture will fit. Identify what is moving with you and what furniture will be sold or given away. You can do this with a list or by putting colored stickers on the furniture, one color for keep and one for give away.
  • Have the measurements of closet space for every room in the new house. If your bedroom closet is half the size, you may have to part with half of your wardrobe, or consider where out-of-season clothing will be stored. Don’t rely on eyeballing it. Size really does matter in this case!
  1. Start with storage areas:

  • Your basement, garage and attic are the places in your home where you can downsize the most. Obviously, much of what is stored there is not used on a regular basis so start by categorizing and purging here. Box up what you definitely want to keep (I suggest uniform plastic bins for storage areas) and label the box with where these items will be stored in the new home.
  • If you have items in your storage areas that belong to other people (your grown children for instance) label the boxes with their names and give them a deadline for coming by and going through their belongings. Or make a phone call and ask what they want you to do with it. Respect their decision and let it go!
  • Designate a spot in one of these storage areas for donations. As you pack up your home, move donations to that place so they can all be hauled out at once.
  1. Work your way around the house room by room:

  • Once storage areas are organized and all boxed up, go through one room at a time and categorize what you have, purge what you don’t need, want or love and then box up what you will take with you.
  • Label boxes with the category and the room to which it will go in your new home. Leave the boxes in the room where they are.
  • If your move is 2-3 weeks away, only keep out what you will use in that time frame. You may need to be a minimalist for a while, but that’s ok. It may feel good.
  • Determine how many boxes you will need to finish up the room and leave empty boxes there for the last minute pack up.
  1. Last minute items:

  • A day or two before the movers come go around to each room again and pack whatever is left. Label boxes with, “daily essentials” so they are easily identified when you get to your new place.
  • Linens and towels can be easily packed in extra large SpaceBags. Just make sure you have your vacuum handy to vacuum seal them!
  • Put remaining clean clothes and personal items in a suitcase, as if you were packing for a trip.
  • Bathroom sundries should be packed in plastic bins and labeled by category (i.e. medicine, makeup, first aid)
  • Schedule a pick up for donations if you have a large amount. Otherwise, drive to your local Green Drop, Goodwill or food pantry.
  • Clean out the refrigerator, and put out any trash or recycling.
  1. When you arrive at your new home:

  • Set up your bathroom with a trash can, hand soap, toilet paper and towels.
  • Set up your bedroom with linens and the clothes & personal items from your suitcase.
  • Set up your kitchen with any food that you’ve transported, everyday dishes and utensils and some paper products like cups, plates and napkins.
  • Make sure each room has a light in it and window coverings.

Take a deep breath, sit down and don’t try to set it all up in one day. If you’ve done a good job of paring down, and labeling the moving boxes, all you have to do is make sure each box and piece of furniture gets to the correct room. You’ll have your necessities out for the first few days so you can eat, sleep and use the bathroom. Use the room-by-room approach once again as you unpack your boxes and start living in your new home.

Organizing Your College Student

Most of what parents talk about when moving a child to college is all the “stuff” they need. I have never been an organizer who focuses on the products – I focus on the process first. And so it was with moving my daughter to college. All summer her friends where buying bins, containers and bookshelves and we waited until a couple weeks before her move to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going to the Container Store with her and buying some pretty stacking bins and then some new bedding at Bed, Bath  & Beyond. But I first talked with her about her chosen major, career development and money management. We also talked about social issues and what she might see in college that she hadn’t seen in her sheltered life here at home.

So life skills that I believe college students need to know:

  1. Budgeting their money – There are basics like writing a check, keeping a ledger and balancing your account. With debit cards its very easy to loose track of what you’ve spent.  If you give your student a lump sum to take with her and put into a new account, also give her a weekly budget. For example:  If you have $1000 for a semester (16 weeks) you can spend $50 a week and still have $200 left over at winter break. Other points with money:
    • if you have a meal plan, don’t waste money on other food
    • If you have to spend more than your weekly allowance, call home and we will discuss
    • Don’t get a credit card while in college
    • Do take a part time job on campus if it doesn’t interfere with studies
    • Make sure you know your cell phone plan so you don’t run up the bill
    • It’s good to have a job at home you can come back to on winter break and next summer
  1. Keeping themselves safe – There are certain things that we do for our children to keep them safe at home, so remind them:
    • Lock their dorm room doors at all times
    • Travel in groups
    • Keep the locator on their cell phone
    • Report suspicious people to campus police
    • Know the fire escape route in the dorm
  2. Staying healthy – College students notoriously beat their bodies up so go over good every day habits like:
    • Stay hydrated
    • Wash your hands
    • Take vitamins
    • Eat fruits & vegetables
    • Boost your immune system with vitamin C, exercise, sleep!
  3. Making major decisions – Bill Rancic and I do the same thing, we make pros and cons lists when making a big decision. I also tell my kids to talk it out:
    • If I do A, what will that look like? Feel like? Will that effect other people? If I do B what will that look like? Etc.
    • Do I need more information to make this decision?
    • When does this have to be decided? Can I sleep on it?
    • What is my gut telling me?
  4. Finding a career – Probably the biggest decision your child will make in the college years is what to major in. For my daughter who has a talent and passion for theatre I said, “Do what you love and figure out how to make money at it.” Some parents might not agree with me and that’s okay. But her passion earned her a scholarship so that got her in the door. Now she needs to learn in four years how to make a living at it. That might mean taking on a minor or a dual major. Or it might mean switching her major before she graduates. All of this is common today and I told her not to worry about in the first year. What I did tell her was:
    • Just do the best at what you’re doing right now.
    • Take advantage of every opportunity or career connection your school has
    • Ask people in the business for advice
    • Have a plan B

Many kids have no idea what job they want to do. For them I say, look at big categories of careers and decide what you don’t want to do to narrow it down. Think about:

  • Health care
  • Law
  • Business
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • Computers

Once you have a short list of possible career industries, look at schools that offer all of those and start with general courses. The fact is, there are jobs out there that you’ve never heard of. Once you get into different subjects in college the light bulb might go on!

Where to Keep Your Memorabilia

In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, I’m thinking about memories. So many times when I’m working with clients, we find memories in the strangest places – garages, basements, closets, even kitchens. I believe the key to really treasuring your memorable objects is to give them a place of honor. Display shelves work great if you have the room. But usually you have years worth of memories that won’t fit in a scrapbook or on a shelf. So what do you do?

Here’s a guest blog that I did for Organize 365. It comes at a great time of year – end of school and beginning of some children moving away from home. Any move or transition is a great time to look back at our sentimental items…but first you have to gather them and give them an important place in your home. And so we have the “memory boxes.” If your sentimental items are taking up space in your cupboard or your drawers, you may need to give them a new home. Check out all the possible uses for a trunk that also doubles as a time capsule:

organizing memories









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!)


Two bits of advice on de-cluttering

I’ve been sounding like a broken record lately with my clients so I thought I would put out this advice to the universe. With 10 years of experience in organizing and helping my clients de-clutter I’ve learned a few things that can save you some time and energy in the long run. Here they are:

DO NOT HAVE A GARAGE SALE TO SELL YOUR JUNK – Despite what you see on TV about people doing a clean sweep and getting lots of cash to redecorate, this is not the norm. Remember those shows have a TV production crew drawing people to their sale and most times, they come up short anyway. Yard sales & garage sales are a lot of work for the owner. You have to get up early,set your stuff out, price it, haggle about those prices with everyone, spend a day outside and then you have to do something with all the left overs at the end of the day. You also have to get people to show up which is no small task. My only “unless” would be that if your community or neighborhood is doing one big sale and it’s going to be social and someone else is doing the marketing for you or if you live in a heavily trafficked area, then go for it. It might be fun and you’ll earn some spending money in the process.

I told this to one client who was downsizing and her husband insisted on doing the sale. He and a friend looked forward to it. Then the Saturday came and it rained. They sat out all morning made about $50 and had to haul all the junk back to the house or put it in the trash. I went back on Monday and they said,”It really was a waste of time.”

DO NOT THINK YOUR OLD CLOTHES OR FURNITURE ARE WORTH $$$$$– Yes there are a lot of consignment shops popping up. Clothing consignment stores are very particular about the brand name, condition and style of clothing they will consign. Do not be offended if they don’t take your stuff. You many have paid $300 for a suit in 1985 but it’s not worth that today. Consignment shops sell stuff cheap. And even if your items get accepted by the store, there’s no guarantee they will sell.  Case in point. I have a client with well- made dresses from the 80’s. They served her well and she thinks they are worth something. Actually they were worth, on average, $40 a piece at a local consignment shop. But in two months, only one item sold. So now she wants them back to try to sell somewhere else. This could be a vicious circle, taking my time and hers to move clothes around that she does not wear anymore.

The same goes for old furniture and household items. As one auction director said to me, “It’s a simple case of supply & demand.” Just because your grandparents told you something was worth a lot of money, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is true today. People are not buying antiques the way they used to even 20 years ago. And the baby boomers are downsizing and flooding the market with this stuff so supply is high, demand is low. That’s the hard truth.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Donate the items or don’t expect to make a ton of money. Be thankful to find someone who will come pick up all your unwanted household goods and clear out your house. Whether you’re downsizing or staying you will feel lighter once they are gone.

Clothing is the easiest thing to donate. Don’t be picky about where your clothes go. Trust that the homeless or less fortunate will appreciate your old clothes and put out some good karma. If you have a specific charity that helps people get back to work like Dress for Success or a half way house, they would love dress clothes – male or female.

Furniture is actually a little easier to consign. If you think you have some treasures, by all means have an auction house in to do an assessment. Get a couple quotes and then choose your best. Someone who will take the whole lot, not charge you for the pick up and give you one price is the most efficient way to go. It’s out in one day and you’ve got a little mad money in hand.

You can waste a lot of time second guessing your organizer, the auction house or consignment shop. If your goal is to eliminate clutter, downsize your home and move, then don’t loose sight of your goal. You’ve decided you don’t want or need these things so “Let it go!” What you see on Antiques Roadshow is not the norm.

Can anyone identify with what I’m saying? Please share your story.

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:


May is Moving Month!

May is moving month so if you are one of the lucky ones making a fresh start in a new home, you might want to think about paring down what you have and only taking with you what you use, love and want in your new home. In fact, that is one of my absolutes about organizing.

Moving is one of those times that organizers love. It’s a great excuse to minimize, box up and label everything you have. While this exercise is daunting to many people, you really have to embrace it as an opportunity for a fresh start.  Here are 10 tips about how to approach the overwhelming task of packing up your home, no matter how big it is.

  1. Make a House Plan book for your new home. Take a simple copybook with you as you walk around the new place. Write down each room and what you intend to use it for.  For instance, a spare bedroom might be an office, a workout room or a craft room. Deciding now will help you with the set up later.  Also make notes on any improvements you need to make in each room. These may include: repairs, painting, overhead lighting or ripping up rugs.
  2. Decide which furniture will go into each room in the new house. Anything that doesn’t fit should be donated or taken to consignment. In my area of Philadelphia I recommend for donations or trash and Consign and Design in Broomall for furniture Consignment. These items can be picked up close to the move date.
  3. Pack up storage first. Look at areas like the basement, garage and attic where you store things that are not used frequently. If you’re lucky, these things are already boxed and labeled. If not, take a look through, box what you still want and label them accordingly. Also write on the label the name of the new room where they will go. Of course, anything you don’t want can go to trash, donations or consignment.
  4. Box up what is in closets. These are items that you might still need until the day of the move, but when that day comes it’s easier to put a bunch of small bins in a big shipping box than it is to box loose items. You might even continue to use the bins in your new home.
  5. Plan on packing one room a night during the last two weeks before your move date. Take down wall hangings, curtains and display items. Live with the bare minimum for a few days before the move. In your kitchen, keep the everyday basics out but pack up the rest. If you have children, you may want to leave their rooms until the end. Moves are tough enough on kids; you don’t want them to feel like all their stuff is going away.
  6. During the last week before your move take a walk through your current house again and make sure that what’s left in each room has a box it can go into, and that you’re able to clear this room in about an hour. Check with movers or anyone who is helping you with the move to make sure you have enough man power and vehicles. Confirm the timing.
  7. The day before the move, box up all remaining items into labeled boxes. Plan on take-out food for breakfast, lunch and dinner that day. If you have helpers the easiest thing to do is have pizza and bottled drinks for the food break.
  8. If you have children it’s best to let them go to school if you are staying in the same area. If not, have a close friend or family member take care of them and keep them out of the move area for most of the day.  Bring them to the new home once their bed is set up and a few of their personal items are unpacked.
  9. In the new home, make sure each room is labeled with what you are calling it. “Tommy’s Room” or “Office” might make sense to you but not the movers. Make sure the room labels match what’s on the boxes.
  10. Unpacking is done in reverse. Unpack the everyday stuff first, and then eventually you can get to the storage boxes. One room at a time is the only way to take it – another one of my absolutes of organizing.

If you have a plan and you systematically pack up each room, taking with you only what you use, love and want, your move will be less stressful and you’ll be able to find what you need in your new home.