Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Hit and A Miss

If you haven't already, I recommend if you have kids, and even if you don't, to do a quick purge of books, toys, clothes, accessories, and other household items to free up space for all of the gifts you will receive on Christmas or that you already have received during the Hanukkah season. We are a little behind doing our seasonal purge, but this morning I had my kids do a clean sweep of their rooms for a charity pick-up I have scheduled right after New Years. I nearly fell over, but my son asked if he could do a clean sweep of the family room. Yes, he is in the Christmas spirit! So after this purge of the bedrooms and main rooms in our home I feel like our home is in better shape to have company and also to fit the new things that we may get as gifts for the holidays.

So that was my hit, but my miss was, going to the Trader Joe's in Old Town at 3:00! It was crowded and crazy, and I went to get some of their boxed chocolates to give as gifts, but they were out! Oh well, I have a plan B and a trip to Trader Joe's is never a waste of time.

Don't worry, if you don't have time to do a quick room declutter and purge before the holidays, you can always do it right after New Year's when you get organized for 2011!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Shopping

Here it is December 10th and I don't have my holiday shopping list together. What? A professional organizer who doesn't have her shopping done, wrapped and ready to go by December 1st? I am a little bit behind this year, but being a very practical person, I tend to give practical gifts, so I figure it isn't going to take me too long to do my shopping. I also have been known to buy in quantity, if I like something and then give it out as my signature gift.

One year I gave everyone a coupon, saving Entertainment book tailored for their part of the country and another year everyone got a pizza stone with pizza fixings.

Here are some ideas to wrap up your shopping quickly to minimize stress so that you can really enjoy this special time of year.

1. Think about giving some high quality chocolate, coffee, wine or other consumable gift in a fun, festive container that the recipient can reuse.

2. If you are a baker, make some candy or other treat and create a fun label to show that you made it. You can buy a dish or unique container to hold your homemade treat.

3. Everyone is going to be thinking of getting organized after the holidays so give a gift card to the Container Store along with one of their unique stocking stuffers.

4. It appears that fondue is back in and the fondue pots are smaller and more attractive. Bed Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrel have nice options.

5. An easy way to knock out shopping quickly is to personalize a gift card, which is the way I am going this year. For example, most people like to read, so along with a book store gift card, give one of your favorite inspirational books, a unique book mark, or reading light. Also, have you seen those puzzle/maze gift card holders where the gift card is placed inside and the recipient has to solve the maze to open the gift card holder? I did pick up several of those at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

6. Another great gift idea is to buy a Washington ornament such as the White House ornament, Mt. Vernon or Congressional ornament.

I don't mean to minimize the importance of finding appropriate gifts. There are those expert shoppers out there that truly enjoy personalizing and finding just the right gift for everyone. I think as the years go on, it gets harder and harder to do so, and in some respects the gift giving becomes the emphasis, instead of the holiday, and time shared together with family and friends. I think the more we can think of ways to simplify our shopping, the less stress we will feel and we'll enjoy this special season more.

I wish you luck finishing up your shopping and hope that I start and finish mine up quickly!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shopping Nirvana

What is the most exciting place for an organizer to hang out, relax, take in the sights and shop? Of course, The Container Store! I just got back from what I wanted to be a quick excursion to shop for a client, and pick up a few things for me, and of course it wasn't quick at all. We all know that there is no such thing as a quick in and out for an organizer in the mecca for organizing products. I find the Container Store to be an uplifting store, because the under-lying promise of a sense of order, stress reduction and control come with the purchase of the tangible products.

I found most of what I needed, and a very helpful associate brain-stormed with me some ideas for categorizing quilt patterns, (my whole reason for being there in the first place), for my client's quilt studio. Together we ended up thinking of an idea, that I can implement for my client, by buying a product at another store.

My shopping excursion also gave me many low-cost ideas for small gift and stocking stuffer presents for friends and family. They have some unique options that you won't necessarily find elsewhere. No, I don't get a kick-back from the Container Store...just a 10% discount that I pass on to my clients!

So, as you make your holiday gift lists and decide on your budget, think small, creative and be as practical as you can. We all have too much stuff, as is evident by the popularity of stores like the Container Store selling products to contain all of our stuff! Really, as trite as it sounds, the best gifts are those given from the heart and that are practical and truly needed.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Look Out Here They Come.....

I was in Lowe's yesterday picking up some mulch and other home improvement items, and I was shocked to see they had their full Christmas display up. Why was I shocked you say and where have I been the past few years to not notice that holiday merchandising seems to go hand-in-hand with Halloween decorations? My kids were off from school, so they were very excited to see all of the twinkling lights and Christmas greenery. I didn't want to ruin their excitement, so I tried to be enthusiastic, and I don't think I quite pulled it off. My son, who is nine did ask why the Christmas decorations were on display before Thanksgiving. I was able to touch a little on consumerism and merchandiser marketing before his eyes glazed over.

I can't help but feel that there is something sad in rushing time and to force feed us holiday cheer when we don't even have our Halloween decorations put away. I also understand that in a down economy, merchandisers need to push a little more to get us thinking earlier about getting the best deal. Also, their job is to plant the seeds of the look of a perfect holiday which will get us to buy those amazing decorations, gifts and special toys for our kids if we truly want a "perfect" holiday.

Luckily we are all getting a little wiser and sometimes having less money forces us to be more practical and to be satisfied with less. We know that possessions are the extra stuff that can be nice, but having them doesn't necessarily make us happy. It is our relationships and memories and how we spend our time that gives us satisfaction and true happiness.

Please take your time putting away your Halloween decorations, as you ready your home for Thanksgiving. I know if we don't fall prey to creating perfect holidays we really will have warm, rich, and satisfying holidays that meet our needs and truly make us happy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Green it up!

There are always so many fun fall weekend activities to choose from in this area. If you are looking for something to do, and also want to learn ways to be more green, check out the McLean Green festival this weekend, from 9:00 - noon at the Brooksfield school.

As an organizer, I am always looking for ways to help my clients support green living that include recycling, repurposing and consuming less. A great website I came across that has a lot of good information is It has a short film on the life cycle of stuff which is very informative. Also, if you are looking for quick ways to be more green, they have lots of ideas.

I do believe more of us are simplifying our lifestyles and trying to consume less so that we can live a more enriched life. I look forward to learning more about green living and I'll share anything I find helpful via my blog.

Enjoy and be green!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Organized Move

Here is another segment from an interview I did a few weeks back. This particular segment focuses on how to prepare your home if you are planning to move and how purging and organizing your possessions, before you move can alleviate some of the stress associated with moving. Moving is a great opportunity to start fresh and create an organized, uncluttered environment that you can control. If time is on your side, organize on the front end, prior to moving, so that when the movers unload your possessions you will have piece of mind that everything in those boxes, is wanted and needed. Having an organized move can provide a sense of control during a chaotic and stressful time. If you are able to capitalize on the opportunity of moving, then as the boxes are unpacked in your new space you will already have a jump start to live an organized life in your new home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Personal Organization Contributes to Success

I participated in a series of radio shows on organizing and this particular segment focuses on the look and feel of personal organization. To be organized is a state of mind. I think once a person gets the connection of physical space and their mind then getting or being organized is easier to achieve. Being organized requires some changes to habits and behaviors, and it takes a conscious effort to maintain systems that support daily routines both personally and professionally.

There are so many benefits to striving for the organized mindset...some of which are reclaiming time, increasing productivity, improving physical and mental health, and improving clarity of thought. How many times do we all find ourselves reacting instead of planning out our priorities for the day? Having an organized mindset allows for more of a sense of control over work and life.

Okay, now tell me you don't want to try to have more time, more control and more happiness? Please listen to the interview to find out more.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What It Means to Be Organized

I was interviewed recently about the benefits of organizing and how important it is for individuals to develop a personal organizing system that provides the foundation for success both personally and professionally. This will be part of a series - more to follow.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School!

The best recommendation I can give as an organizer to get your kids in back to school mode is having them work with you to declutter their bedroom, playroom, and homework spaces. What does this have to do with school you ask? Going through this process has many benefits. Organizing is about making a space better, and making it function so that you can be your best. Productivity experts point to the connection of an organized space and its positive impact on productivity. As parents we want to make sure that we are giving our kids every necessary tool to be successful in school so that they can learn and achieve. I assure you this easy exercise of purging toys no longer wanted, clothes that don't fit, bits of paper and junk (2 garbage bags full in my 9-year old son's room) will help to that end.

Once the spaces are decluttered then make sure that your child knows where everything is suppose to go (make sure he/she is part of determining where things are kept). Then lastly, as you are purchasing school supplies, do an inventory of your child's homework space at home to make sure he/she has everything they need readily available.

So now that the environment is organized, talk with your children about rules, routines and expectations for the school year. This is always a positive thing to do and to together figure out ways to streamline routines. Having this discussion sets the stage for less conflict and less negotiation and hopefully less stress as our children start another school year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Did They Do It?

We had a wonderful, busy time on vacation last week in Williamsburg. We bought a bounce pass that allowed us to mix up our week so that we could spend as much time as we wanted in Colonial Williamsburg, and the two amusement parks, Busch Gardens and Water Country. Of course our kids, especially our 5 year old, wanted to only go to the amusement parks, but our son who is 9 was intrigued by the amazing, historic city of Colonial Williamsburg. It definitely helped that my husband and I had prepped both of the kids for what they were seeing and the museum interpreters did an amazing job of explaining life in Colonial times.

My kids got to participate in one of the main jobs that most kids of that time had to do....lug water from the well to their house. The interpreter explained there was no running water and she asked the kids, in the program, to think of how many times a day they turn on a faucet at home. She explained that it wasn't uncommon to have to carry 50 buckets of water a day to use for cooking, cleaning and general use. I couldn't help but wonder how people survived in Colonial times with the never ending cycle of work and the lack of modern day conveniences. How did they do it? I'm sure, just like we do, they developed regular routines and short-cuts for common tasks and built in relaxing time when they could. My kids did discover that kids did have fun in Colonial times too, and my son now loves the Colonial game, Shut the Box.

In the spirit of being in Williamsburg, and because we didn't spend that much time at our resort, we didn't watch t.v., the kids didn't play video games (okay, maybe we used it as a good behavior bribe once or twice), and we didn't check e-mail every day. It was so nice to be disconnected and to be focused in the present.

This wasn't one of the most relaxing vacations we've had (I find amusement parks exhausting), but we thoroughly enjoyed our time together, learning and sharing interesting aspects of our country's history and having fun.

Now it is back to reality that there are two more weeks of summer and a lot to accomplish before the kids are ready to be back in school.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Going On Vacation

My kids have been asking me for weeks, "how many more days until vacation?" It seems to have taken forever to get here and now we are going. I find there is always so much to do, both at home and at work, before I can shut down and relax on vacation. Luckily being a list person, I have my vacation to do checklist in Word that I pull up a few weeks before each vacation and a vacation pack list, which helps us remember all of the little things that sometimes don't make it into the suitcase. This takes some of the pre-vacation stress off of me.

I also am a big believer in fostering independence, so my son can almost be counted on to pack all the necessary essentials for a trip. My daughter who is 5 knows how to pack all of her treasures in her backpack that she just can't live without for a week.

We are going to Williamsburg and to prepare for the trip, I took them to the library yesterday to take out some children's books on that time period. I'm hoping that it isn't as hot as it has been these last few weeks so that we all can enjoy the amazing living museum of Colonial Williamsburg. Additionally, I hope that my husband and I can unplug and unwind and that we all enjoy and appreciate the more simplified time period in our history.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hanging Upside Down

I've come to realize I really don't like hanging upside down. My chiropractor convinced me that adding an 8 minute inversion table routine and a 10 minute stabilizing exercise routine to my morning would strengthen my back and postpone further disc deterioration. I'll tell you what, adding 20 more minutes of activity, that my doctor describes as necessary to my routine as "brushing my teeth",has been very hard. I'm more of a morning person, so getting up is not the problem. The issue is fitting these 20 minutes into an already tight morning schedule.

The solution I found is having a positive mindset, planning and modifying some of my existing morning routines. Just like wanting to be organized is a mindset, wanting to be healthy is one too. In order to be successful with organizing, there is a planing component. What I do is determine daily what needs to be done in the morning and then figure out what can be done later so that I can take care of my back in the morning. It hasn't been easy, but I have adjusted my mindset and have almost embraced that this is something that I need to do for my overall well being and health.

Really, the only thing I need to figure out now is where to put the extremely large, medieval looking inversion table in my house so that it isn't a focal point. Now that is a design challenge that needs to be solved so right now it sits in our master bedroom taking up a lot of necessary space!

Monday, July 26, 2010

More About Frogs...

If you didn't see my post last week about frogs or procrastination, check it out first.

It is a universal phenomenon that people tend to think that their frog, or unfavorable challenging task/project is going to take too much time, so it sits on our task list as a priority of some sort, and time passes. We don't start it because we are waiting for a big pocket of time to open up in our crammed schedules. What ends up happening is, even if we don't think we are stressed about not doing it, we are, and adding more stress to ourselves is never productive.

What we need to do is just get started...even 10 minutes tackling it and maybe we'll discover that it really won't take as much time as we think. So really, as the folks at that famous sneaker place say, "Just Do It" and you will benefit ten-fold by reducing your stress level, increasing energy, happiness and productivity. You will have eaten a frog or two off of your task list and it won't taste too bad either.

Good luck!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eat Frogs This Summer!

A friend and colleague sent a motivational video clip to me on tackling our toughest project or task first thing each day, because she knows as a professional organizer that is something I advocate. I truly believe that once we knock off our tough task each day it provides more energy and motivation to be more productive.

Brian Tracy, best selling author and motivational speaker, has written books on this topic, and this video clip Eat That Frog! | Eat That Frog Movie is a great synopsis of how to combat procrastination directly by working on our tough task 1st thing each day. Procrastination and its sister clutter, can make us avoid tasks we know we need to do. Procrastination is something we all do...even organizers. It drains us of energy, motivation, enthusiasm and happiness.

I tell my residential and business clients to figure out their hard task or frog as part of their end of day wrap up (planning period). The next morning set a timer for 15 minutes and start on the frog. I guarantee when the timer ends you will continue your project.

Good luck as you chip away at your summer to do list by eating those frogs!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Love Our Earth

In celebration of Earth Day tomorrow I wanted to share some information on recycling electronics and other products we use every day that contain chemicals that are potentially hazardous to our health and the environment. See the links below to gain access to the how, where and when of disposing of electronics and other hazardous items in your home that are no longer needed.


General information on rules and regulations of recycling in Alexandria.


General information on recycling in Fairfax County.

Upcoming electronic recycling days.

I just became aware of a company called PCRecycler. They have a truly green approach to recycling electronics...mainly computers. The company does a free outreach to the community the 2nd Saturday of every month where consumers can bring their computers to their office in Chantilly and they will properly delete all information and recycle and dispose of unusable parts. Their website is

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Design Event on Saturday, April 24th

Simplify for Life is a new business partner with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Alexandria. I believe there is a synergy between my company's mission - to help people gain clarity and time through the process of organizing, and the ReStore's mission to support the Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia's mission to provide affordable housing to low income families in the area. A significant part of organizing is purging and letting go of items no longer needed and a good way to do so is by donating them to a charity.

This Saturday, April 24th, the ReStore is partnering with the Metro Washington DC Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to host the third annual BIG Sale starting at 9:00 at the ReStore in Alexandria - 7770 Richmond Hwy (behind Gold's Gym). Members of ASID are donating items that will be sold at up to 75% off retail. Items being sold include: wall hangings, fabric, trim, cabinets, blinds, shades, architectural details, countertops, curtain rods, furniture and much more.

I will be there for some of the festivities because, as you are all aware, not only does organizing make us feel good and help us gain clarity and time, but it is also a critical design element.

See you Saturday-

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clear the Clutter to Find Your LIfe

It is so uplifting to see everyone working on their yards, and to hear the sounds of nature and lawn mowers in our neighborhood. Spring is here finally after our long, hard winter! I feel the need, more strongly this year, to purge things from the inside of our home. I want the weight of unnecessary things removed from our newly renovated home. I am really trying to push my agenda of simplicity which sometimes is met with resistance from everyone else in my family.

One of my favorite columns to read in the Post is Michelle Singletary's, The Color of Money. She wrote this past Sunday about spring being the season of rebirth and that it is a good time to get busy throwing out the stuff clogging our homes, office, minds and spirits. I was very intrigued that a financial columnist was writing about decluttering and how clutter not only weighs us down, but it can cause us to be late on bills, contribute to debt and impact our finances in a negative way. Her April book she is recommending is Gail Blanke's, Throw Out Fifty Things - Clear the Clutter, Find your Life. The book is divided into four parts:

  • Get rid of the unused stuff in your home (connect to my resource list to find out where to donate it)
  • Attack your office, both home and work, to get rid of unnecessary items and clutter which may be impacting your ability to be productive
  • Get rid of mental cluter
  • Once you have gotten rid of 50 things in your home, office and mind, you'll be ready to contemplate what you want in your life
I bought the book and I look forward to reading it. As an organizer I understand and see first hand the power of letting go and when the old goes out, the new comes in as positive change. I have seen personally and through clients how cleaning up and making sense of our physical space, impacts our mental space which then impacts in a positive way our lives.

Let's have this beautiful season of spring help us bring positive change to our homes, minds and lives.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community Reuse and Recycle Event This Saturday!

I meant to post this info earlier, but it has been busy. A large Shred and Share event is planned for this Saturday, March 27th from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. It is a collaboration of the City of Alexandria, County of Fairfax, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Landmark Mall, ProShred and McEnerney Realtors. ProShred will have a shredding truck to shred and recycle your old personal documents and the ReStore in Alexandria will be accepting donations.

Shredding Details: Shred up to 5 medium-sized boxes of personal documents per vehicle. Only documents with personal information such as tax documents, medical or financial records will be shredded. Junk mail, newspapers, magazines and other forms of paper will not be accepted, but can be recycled through your normal recycling system. Please remove all paper from binders and remove all paper clips, binder clips and rubber bands. This event is for paper shredding only, and ProShred will not shred information stored on film or computer discs.

The Shredding locations are Landmark Mall (Duke Street entrance) the Sears Parking Lot and the South County Gov't Center, 8350 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria.

Share Details: Recycle your new and gently used building materials and household improvement items.

Share Locations are: Landmark Mall (Duke Street entrance), Sears Parking Lot, ReStore Alexandria, 7770 Richmond Hwy (behind Gold's Gym), and the ReStore Chantilly location - 4262G Entre Court, Chantilly.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Critical Hub of the Home

A client friend of mine sent me a link to some good products for organizing the kitchen. We have been working on her kitchen recently, and like most of us, her kitchen serves many purposes beyond cooking. We have been working on streamlining her desk that is in the kitchen, reworking her cabinets so that the shelves and cabinets that are most accessible hold items that she uses most frequently, and purging items that don't work for her any longer.

The kitchen is such a vital room for most families because it is the gathering room, entertaining room, homework room, and place for cooking and eating together. We redesigned our kitchen last year and it is so great to have a gathering place that now functions so well.

One common issue that I see a lot of people have is where to store paper that is needed regularly...such as school work, bills, etc. I always recommend to clients to carve out a cabinet or two to house all of the administrative files, paper, and accessories that can clutter a kitchen quickly. In our kitchen redesign, I had the electrician put an electrical outlet in my designated administrative cabinet so that we could hide the clutter when we are charging phones and also have a convenient place to plug in the electric pencil sharpener.

I love that my son can do his homework in the kitchen while I'm cooking. He knows where all of his homework supplies are kept and some of the hassle of getting started is removed because he has a set place to do it and the tools to get it done.

The kitchen is the hub of most homes and because it is such an important room, it is helpful to spend the time periodically going through systems to make sure they still work, and make adjustments if they don't so that this well used room functions well.

Here's to some spring organizing in your kitchen!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It Feels Like Spring

I don't know about you, but yesterday with the sun shining so brightly and the temperature in the high 40s, it almost felt like spring was in the air. Just as nature changes for the better (in my opinion) in the spring, many of us feel the urge to bring positive change to our homes, schedules and self. With spring, comes the desire to make our homes lighter and brighter. Additionally, we look for ways we can free up some time to enjoy the longer days and maybe make some positive self changes a long the way...especially if we have long forgotten our New Year's resolutions.

Several new clients have reminded me of the amazing, uplifting power of letting go of clutter. For one client in particular, we had two storage units to clean out, and what I estimated would take several days, ended up getting accomplished in 1 day. A lot of it was due to her readiness to let go of things that she wasn't using and that didn't hold any particular significance now. She was able to gain great satisfaction knowing that these perfectly good items were going to be reused by people who need them now. She was able to move at a quick pace because she was highly motivated to clear out the clutter and she was mentally prepared to face whatever was in storage. By the end of the day she was beaming, and though we were tired, it was such a good feeling to witness her sense of satisfaction and happiness.

Organizing does have many benefits, and a significant one is through the process of letting go of clutter, it does enhance happiness. I have seen time and time again how organizing can have a domino effect whereby a person becomes more motivated to focus on personal goals such as undertaking a job search, working on a weight management program, or going to the gym regularly.

We all want more time to do whatever it is that makes us happy. Organizing can help us find extra windows of time in our day so that we can direct our time. Okay, so I realize we have a way to go until spring, but for now, I'll enjoy these first signs of it and smile as I hear the birds chirping out my window. Let's be prepared to embrace spring when it gets here!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Days....

I think it is safe to say that we all are going a little stir crazy! Having an unexpected snow day in the middle of the winter can be fun, and can break up our routines, but too much snow, and too many days off from school (and work) can wreck havoc with our over packed schedules, create stress and sometimes be very demotivating.

Our neighborhood streets are still pretty bad since we haven't been plowed. I have been able to get out, but on a limited basis. Yesterday, I worked out at home and after my surge of endorphins kicked in, proceeded to organize my office closet, and knock out a few work to dos that I've delayed getting to. While I was busy doing my work, I told my kids, who were home from school again, that I'd take them to Krispy Kreme donuts if they got their rooms picked up and sheets changed on their beds. My daughter needed some help because she is only 5, but my 8 year old brought his laundry down to the laundry room, made-up his bed and picked up his room so that I could dust and he could vacuum. Though he will usually grumble when I remind him to clean-up his space, I can tell he has pride in his room and things, and I feel good knowing he is learning essential life skills. We all felt great that we had accomplished some things before heading off to get their donuts. It was a miracle that I was able to resist getting one...I think the work out helped with that.

I think a major winter snowstorm and the way it encourages neighbors to reach out and help each other is a great teaching tool for parents. My husband and I talked with our son about how proud we were that he had on his own, tried to help some of our neighbors with their shoveling. We talked about how important it is to help neighbors who live by themselves and who may not be as physically able to deal with the snow.

I hope the schools reopen tomorrow...unlikely, but if they don't, I am hopeful that I will work on some other projects I have been putting off. And who knows, maybe I can get my kids to work on cleaning up the playroom.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Three Elements to Organizing

I am sometimes asked by a client why a room that we have worked on together still gets disorganized. Sometimes it is because the system needs tweaking, or it may be time again for a good purge. Though, sometimes it is because there are some habits or behaviors that if modified, could help support the system.

Usually the first phase of organizing focuses on the physical space. This is where the most change happens. In order to organize a space, items need to be sorted and purged. Once a client has identified the remaining objects in a room, then the room is zoned, items are grouped by type and then a home is found for each item and/or group of items. We then talk about storage and strategize on ways to keep the system up.

This is where we talk about types of behaviors or habits that help or hurt the system. I encourage clients to have simple, uncomplicated systems that support their habits and behaviors. Don't have a mud room? Create one and have an area for each person in the house to put their briefcase/purse/backpack, etc. Have it become a routine to place your important bags and necessary items needed for the next day to minimize the morning, "where is my homework?" Have an issue with mail piling up? Does the system you have created for processing the mail work? Maybe you need to create a routine to process the mail.

Probably one of the most important aspects of organizing is the end of day 15 minute pick-up and next day planning. This is really important to maintain a sense of organization and order, especially if kids are part of the equation. An effective way to stay on top of your priorities is to plan ahead and figure out what your most important tasks/to dos are for the next day. In order to make things happen, a person has to have a plan.

The reality of life is rooms get messy, but if the right systems are created, it should not take a lot of time to pick them up. Have a plan so that you are reacting less and are checking things off your to do list.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2nd Chance

I have spent many hours in the month of January down at the Alexandria ReStore and I've gotten to see first hand the many great items that have been donated from individuals, stores and contractors, that are no longer needed. I have also seen ReStore shoppers who see these same items as a great new addition to a room in their home. They are giving these used items a 2nd chance and the ReStore benefits by raising money for the NOVA Habitat for Humanity Building projects.

For the Wellness/Organizing Event held at the ReStore this past Saturday I put together a family room using their furniture, and then I brought in new storage pieces and accessories. I got a chuckle, while I was putting it together, because several shoppers were wanting to buy both the "old" furniture and the "new" accessories. As an organizer, I wanted people to see the multi-functionality of the pieces I had selected and see how adding some proper storage could make them function better. For the ReStore, I wanted to highlight what I viewed as being great pieces of furniture.

I am so pleased that the ReStore had great sales on Saturday and raised money from the event raffle. It was a great opportunity for me to talk with people who came to the event, and the other wellness professionals about the connection between getting organized and being healthy. Disorganization can increase stress and worry and adversely impact a person's health. Additionally, disorganization can contribute to financial stress by incurring late fees on bills not paid on time, making duplicate purchases and over buying.

A lot of what I do for clients is help them figure out what they no longer need in their space and if the items are in good condition, it is an opportunity to donate the items to a charity. This is the ultimate in recycling and repurposing when items are given a 2nd chance.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How Do I Get Organized?

The first step to getting organized is knowing why you want to get organized and knowing what you want. I always ask my new clients many questions to get them thinking about their motivation and goals for the specific area they want organized. Some of the questions center around what they do in the room, and then we figure out what items are needed in the room to support those functions. Next we figure out how the existing storage needs to be modified to store the items, so that the room looks neat and uncluttered.

Once you know your motivations you are ready for the 2nd step - modifying existing storage and identifying all of the possible storage options in the room, some obvious, and others not so obvious. Many times it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see that shelves, drawers, etc are not being utilized to the fullest. Freeing up space in existing storage is very important and hopefully identifying additional underutilized storage, is a critical component for success.

Then the not so easy part starts...the sorting and purging. I recommend starting around the perimeter of the room or divide the room in quarters and focus just on one quarter of the room. Everything out in the open should be dealt with first, then move inward. Have 3 main categories 1. trash 2. donate 3. keep. Set a timer for 30 minutes and go at it. Don't leave the room to move items that you think belong elsewhere in the house, just put them in the keep pile. Move the items that belong elsewhere in the house at the end of your sorting and purging adventure.

Once you finish sorting/purging the first section of the room, move the trash and donate bags as they are probably full (please say they are) and get new bags to tackle the next section. If you have scheduled a charity pick-up place the donate bag(s) by your front door and if not, do so anyway so you will have a visual reminder to call or drop them by a charity. Continue on if you can and you may need to reset the timer. The timer helps hold you to task and makes you move along quicker making decisions of what to donate and what to keep.

Once the room is sorted and purged the fun part starts of putting your room back together. Some helpful organizing principals are:

  • Every item should have a home
  • Put like items together
  • Place items where you use them most
  • Put frequently used items at eye level & in prime space
  • Group small like items and if necessary put into containers and label
  • Organizing is an on-going process
  • Remember the 80/20 rule - we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time; kids play with 20% of their toys 80% of the time; & 80% of what we file, we will never touch again
More to come....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting Organized in the New Year

January is the month that the National Association of Professional Organizers designates as "Get Organized Month". Most family/women's magazines feature a clutter buster or organization article since they realize most people have the innate desire to start the year fresh, organized and positioned to feel balanced.

As each year passes, I realize first hand, and through my clients, how getting organized can help us meet our New Year goals. Many of us have getting organized as a specific New Year's resolution, but really getting organized is the foundation to support whatever goals we have set for ourselves for 2010. I think the process of getting organized innately goes with our desire to have control, to get things in order and in its place before the onslaught of our busy year hits us.

The retail stores frame getting organized with buying the right organizing products or closet system. Though the right storage is important, there is a huge process a person has to go through to get organized. In my blogs in January I will focus on different aspects of getting organized.

Meanwhile, mark your calendars to come out to the Alexandria ReStore on January 23rd for the organizing/wellness event that Simplify for Life is co-sponsoring.