Back to school is the perfect time to get all of your school-aged children’s belongings organized & purged. Here are the top five areas that we recommend getting organized as the school year kicks off.
Area Number One:
A lunch packing station in your kitchen. If your children are old enough to help pack their lunch, creating this station low enough for them to be able to reach everything is the first step. You’ll want to house this close to where your food storage (baggies & containers) are located since those are typically used for packing lunches as well. Make sure and purge any worn-out or stained lunch boxes that need to be replaced as well as any mismatched or broken food storage containers. Then gather everything you’ll need to make this space complete: lunch boxes, water bottles, thermoses, food storage containers specific to your children’s lunches, plastic ware or silverware only used for their lunches and a notepad and pen/marker for writing them a note if you like. Often a large pull-out bin drawer is best suited for this station. The goal is to eliminate stress caused by having to pack lunches the morning of or the night before school. Make it streamlined and easy with drawer dividers or bins that fit the space you are utilizing. Don’t forget to measure before you buy!
Area Number Two:
Your mudroom. This space in your home is usually off of the garage and the first and last space within your home that you see when going in or out to the garage. It’s a high-traffic area and can easily become cluttered with shoes, coats, hats, gloves and the like. Start by sorting and purging the space, getting rid of items that are worn, torn or too small. Get the backpacks cleaned out or move in the new backpacks. Create a bin for hats, gloves and scarves either for each person or by category depending on your family. Make sure that only the shoes used every week are stored in the mudroom, try keeping the rest of the shoes in each respective person’s closet if possible. Give each person a station for coats, book bags and extracurricular activities bags whether that’s a hook, a section in the closet or a section on a built-in. Make sure that everything that remains is truly what your family needs, loves or uses. Labels are a great way to keep your mudroom organized throughout the school year so don’t forget to do that at the end!
Area Number Three:
Your children’s keepsakes. Back to school is the perfect time to create space for the keepsakes that will inevitably be coming home from school with them. We recommend creating a tote/bin for each child stored in the basement storage room on a shelving unit where their keepsakes can live. Within the bin, you can organize the keepsakes (artwork, schoolwork, awards, etc) by grade if you like. If you already have this established for your child now is a great time to purge it. Sometimes we keep things that seemed special at the time but once revisited we realize they don’t hold a special meaning. You can also make the tote/bin your boundary, explaining to each child that once his or her bin/s are full it’s time to eliminate some stuff. Help them identify which items they love the least and make some room for new ones to come in. Another option is to create a file for each child in your home office or home office station in your kitchen and then add to it throughout the year. At the end of the year, you can then move the full file to the tote/bin located in the basement. Do what works best for you and is the most realistic based on time and motivation.
Area Number Four:
Your children’s closet and dresser, more specifically their clothing and shoes. Now that the school year is about to begin or is beginning new clothes and shoes are bound to come in to kick it off. It is the perfect time to sort, purge and reorganize each child’s closet and dresser. Start by sorting and purging, getting rid of the items that are again, worn, torn or too small. Sort the remaining items you’re keeping like with like. For example, all leggings together, all tank tops together, all dresses together, etc. Once you have the closet and dresser emptied begin to evaluate where each category will best fit. For example, dresses are better hung than folded and leggings can easily be file folded in a drawer if hanging space is limited. Go the extra mile and invest in matching slim hangers. We love the children’s velvet or acrylic hangers the best for little ones and older teens the adult size velvet or acrylic hangers. Take the tags off of new clothes so that it makes it easier to get ready in the morning and the tags don’t become trash littering the floor of the closet or bedroom. Utilize shoe racks to maximize the space on the floor of the closet so that shoes that aren’t in the mudroom as weekly wear shoes have a good home. Organize each category of clothing by color using ROY-G-BIV as your guide. This makes the closet look great but also helps your child find what they need when they need it.
Area Number Five:
A homework station. Whether it’s in a central part of the house or each child’s bedroom creating a designated space where they can do their homework and store school supplies will help them achieve success in school and create a calm environment for them to do homework in. You could organize a desk with drawers using drawer dividers grouping everything like with like. Make sure there is a charging station for electronics and a lamp for them to see by. A bookshelf next to the desk is also a great option, giving them additional storage but also a place for their books to live.
Creating a lunch packing station, organizing your mudroom, getting keepsakes collected from throughout the house, sorting and purging clothing and shoes and designating a homework station will create the environment your child needs to feel good about the new school year. It will also have a ripple effect on the rest of your house too; once you get these areas organized you’ll want to keep going! Not sure how to do all of this, or feeling overwhelmed with getting started? We can help you with all of this and more, just get in touch with us to schedule your discovery call and we’ll talk through your needs and figure out the best place to start.
Here’s to a successful and organized school year!
Congratulations! You’ve bought your first home. Now it’s time to get it organized! If you start on the right foot in your new home your day-to-day stress will be lower, you’ll save money and you’ll enjoy the space more. So, where to begin? Here are the top tips for getting organized after buying your first home:
When unpacking, sort similar items together before deciding on a home for them. Too often people pick a home for storing a category before completely unpacking, only to find out the space they chose originally isn’t big enough for how much they have. As a result, similar items land in multiple places throughout the home. Instead, sort everything first to get a birds-eye view of what you have overall, and then pick where each category goes. It will save you time and will also help you purge an excess amount of a category that you have too much of. Let's use kitchen spatulas as an example. Once you see all of your spatulas together, it will be easier to let go of the partially melted one when you see you’ve got three others still in great shape. Sorting first is hard because it does look like it’s getting worse before it gets better but I promise it’s the right way to do it and so worth it. This is especially important if there are two people’s belongings getting merged for the first time. Sort like with like every step of the way. If this feels especially daunting but you know it's important, this is the perfect opportunity to seek help from a professional organizing company.
Unpack every box, yes, every box. I know it may seem daunting but cardboard is not your friend (it gets moldy and musty quickly in basements) so move your belongings out of the moving boxes ASAP. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have organized homes where there are boxes that have never been unpacked after years of living in the home. They will come back to haunt you, so it is best to start out on the right foot and unpack every box. Have a box of keepsakes? Transfer those to a plastic tote with a lid to keep those treasures safe. Did you turn a kitchen drawer upside down and dump the contents into a box? Methodically unpack, sort, and redistribute the items to the correct room. You can do it! Your future self will thank you.
Purge as you unpack. If you didn’t purge before you moved, now is the time to do it in your new home. Even if you came from a smaller apartment, odds are there are items you can purge. Be honest with yourself about what you need, use, and love, and get rid of what you don’t. Look for items that are worn, broken, or don’t fit anymore. Expired food should get tossed, and anything that doesn’t look appetizing should move out. Get rid of cookware you have duplicates of if you’re merging two people’s belongings. You’ll feel lighter and more free after your purge, and what better time to do it than with the clean slate of a new home?
Invest in matching hangers. Remember that closet where you just organized everything by type and color? Now it is time to go the extra mile and get matching hangers.
We often recommend velvet hangers, but any slimline matching hangers will do. Make sure the metal of the hooks match and the color of the hangers match.
It will transform your closet once you take this extra step.
Don’t fill a space just to fill it. This is your first home so you may not fill every cabinet, shelf, or drawer. This is okay! It is organizing gold when you have empty spaces because it allows for room to grow. You’ll get new belongings down the road (housewarming party, holidays, birthdays, and shopping) so leave some space for the items that haven’t come into your home yet. Just because you have space doesn’t mean you have to fill it with something. It’s okay to let an open shelf be an open shelf until its purpose surfaces organically over time.
Keep things tidy in your new home long-term by picking up as you go. For example, when you do your hair in the morning, instead of leaving the hairbrush, curling iron, and hairspray out on the counter, put those things back in their home (once cool to the touch for the curling iron) in drawers and cabinets. You’ll be amazed at how much faster it is to just pick up as you go instead of spending entire days on the weekend trying to backtrack and pick up what you didn’t put away. It takes just a few seconds to put something away the moment you’re done with it. This will also help you find the items faster the next time you or someone else you live with needs them.
Invest in a label maker. They are worth having, especially if you live with another person/other people or have ADD/ADHD. Labels are a map and if everyone is reading the same map they’ll get to the same and correct destination. Pantries, basements, garages, closets, bathrooms, and nurseries are all some of the spaces that we regularly label. We love our Brother P Touch label maker and recommend it all the time. It will make life so much easier!
There you have it, those are the top tips for a first-time homeowner to get organized. If you follow these tips now and for all of your future homes you’ll be thankful, will have lower stress, and will save money. Feeling overwhelmed about where to begin or how to do these tips? We’ve got you! Just give us a call and we’ll help make your first home cozy, organized, and fresh.
We all know that feeling of moving into a new home, unpacking and then realizing there were some things we should have paid closer attention to. Here are the Top 3 Mistakes to avoid while buying or selling a home from a Professional Organizer's perspective.
Mistake Number 1: Underestimating how much storage space you need.
You want to ensure you choose a home with enough storage in the basement and enough closet, pantry, kitchen and garage space for your family's needs. People often get swept away with the size of a home, architectural features or zip code. If the primary bedroom closet is a nightmare or you have nowhere to store your holiday décor or children's sports equipment, your new home will feel cramped. Storage space is essential, so here are some questions to keep in mind:
Mistake Number 2: Underestimating how much stuff you need to move.
Now is the time to really get down to the nitty gritty of exactly what you own in your current home. A lot of people, especially those that have lived in their homes for decades, underestimate just how much stuff they have packed into every nook and cranny from basement to attic. Get realistic about it and start going through each room evaluating what you no longer need, use or love and purge those items now. Not the day before the movers come, or the day before you’re supposed to start packing. Not once you move into your new home, but now. This will do a couple of things. It will help you know how much storage space you truly need in your new home, and it will stop you from moving literal trash or donations into your new home. How nice will that be? Go room by room and delve into every drawer, every cabinet, every closet, every dark corner of that basement and attic and unearth your treasures and trash. It is worth doing. It will help you have an honest conversation with yourself about the volume of belongings in your home.
Mistake Number 3: Skimping on Staging.
This means listening to your realtor when they suggest decluttering your home and taking down personal items. Hire a professional organizer and a home stager to help you maximize the flow of your home, show off its best features, and above all, help you prepare for the move. Why take the time to declutter and stage your home? It helps to sell your home faster and for more money. The proof is in the numbers, just ask your realtor. Make sure that you remove worn out or unnecessary furniture, and consider renting furniture or decor that suits the space from a professional stager. Make sure each room is well lit so that the house doesn’t feel dark and depressing. Once again, declutter to show off the counters, the floor space and the storage space so that it doesn’t look cramped and overcrowded. You want potential buyers to feel good when they walk in your home, not overwhelmed by clutter. Have you been meaning to paint? Now is the time to get that done too. Fresh paint can brighten a room and cover up any blemishes that may have happened while you were living your life in your home.
Avoid these 3 mistakes, and buying or selling your home will be a breeze! It’s hard work but so worth it for the long-term benefits. Not sure where to begin? We can help you out with that! We’ve got a starting point figured out and know exactly how to tackle every home, no matter the square footage or volume of belongings. Let us make your home, new or old, Utterly Uncluttered!
Happy buying and selling,
Are you a realtor overwhelmed by clutter in your client’s home? Are you, yourself, overwhelmed by the goal of decluttering your realtor has given you? We are here to help and have some tips and tricks to help you get your home ready for those beautiful photos to get your home listed, as well as for packing & showings.
Tip Number One: Clear clutter from the counters.
Cut the clutter by being honest about what you actually need out on counters. Begin by eliminating the obvious trash, recycle items, and start finding new homes for the items you’re not using daily. You want clear, open spaces for the photos to list your home to maximize the appearance of how large your space is. A cluttered counter truly makes a kitchen or bathroom look smaller than it is. Time and time again, our clients are amazed by how much bigger an organized space looks and feels. Keep your counters clear by creating homes for everything within cabinets and drawers. This also makes it easier to be prepared for open houses and showings. Instead of scrambling to clear counters at the last minute, they will already be ready for visitors.
Tip Number Two: Make sure your floors are clear of clutter.
No dirty clothes on the laundry room floor, no toys strewn about the playroom floor, and no shoes all over the mudroom floor. Not only does this make the space look bigger when the floor is clear of clutter but it’s safer for you and others walking through your home since there aren’t tripping hazards. Create more permanent homes for those items like a hamper in the laundry room, cubbies with cubes in them for toys in the playroom, and shoe racks in the mudroom for shoes. The way your floor looks changes the look of the whole room and in turn your house. Nobody wants to step over dirty laundry during a showing.
Tip Number Four: Take down personal items.
Most realtors will tell you to do this but we’re going to reinforce this rule, start taking down and storing anything specific to your family. Family photos, plaques with your last name on them, vision boards, anything that makes it hard for someone to see their family living in your space. While you’re at it go ahead and purge any that you don’t see yourself using in your new home. Items that you’ve outgrown or just don’t suit your taste anymore are great contenders to move out of the space. You want someone to be able to easily imagine their family in your home when they walk through it.
Tip Number Six: Sort items like with like and to the room you use the items in.
Even if you hire us to pack your items for you (which is a service we offer) this will make the packing process so much easier if you do this throughout your home. This way, similar items are packed together and labeled with the correct room on the box for where they belong. This will also allow you to purge more readily as once you see how many you have of one item it becomes easier to let some of them go especially if there are a few that are more worn out than others. Think of each item as a category and sort your home this way to make life easier on both sides of the move.
Tip Number Seven: Unpack and purge old boxes from your last move.
Do you still have boxes or totes from a previous move that never got unpacked? Why would you move those again? Now is the time to go through that storage room and unpack those containers. If you haven’t used the items since you moved into your home you likely won’t use them in your new home. Anything that you want to keep should get stored on shelves in totes clearly labeled making it easy to move and store in your new home. Storage rooms can become a catch-all, and this is the time where every door in your home will be opened by strangers. It’s time to get honest about what you are keeping.
Tip Number Nine: Create a good flow in each room.
Staging your home is really important. Make sure the room’s pathways are clear of unnecessary items and furniture. Eliminate any furniture (you can put it in storage) that makes a room feel cramped or smaller than it is. You want each room to clearly show its purpose and create a welcoming environment. Create a cohesive look by clearing the clutter on bookshelves and creating vignettes where things are grouped in an aesthetically pleasing way. Organizing books by color is an eye-catching way to organize a space, for example. You’re creating a space that looks great in photographs by staging it well. A few matching throw pillows, a blanket, and a rug that ties the room together can make all the difference. Healthy plants can also add depth and character to a room and create warmth. You want your home to feel welcoming and clutter-free.
Feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to accomplish all of this? We’re here to help you in all aspects of preparing your home for sale, maintaining it during showings, helping you pack once you’ve sold it, and getting you organized in your new home. Schedule your discovery call with us today to find out what availability we have in the next two weeks as well as further out in the future if you’re a planner. No matter what stage you’re in, we're here to help. You’ll be grateful for the organization and will love showing off your home. Happy selling!
- Melissa Fortino
Getting Organized for the Holidays: How to Save Yourself from Holiday Stress
Do you find yourself loving the time with family during the holidays but dreading all that comes with it? Decorating, gift giving, cookie making, Elf on a Shelf, the list goes on of all the tasks that come with the season of gratitude, merry-making, and cheer. What's the best way to make life less stressful so you can slow down and enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey, Hanukkah moments & the Christmas lights? It's by getting organized for the holidays ahead of time.
Here are our Top 3 Tips for Getting Organized for the Holidays and staying that way into the New Year.
Tip Number 1:
Organize your holiday décor. Are your holiday decorations spread-out in nooks and crannies throughout your whole house? Or is it piled up in unmarked boxes with that smell of mildew in your basement storage room you can't walk through? Or worse yet, is it shoved into that scary crawl space above your garage where only the bats lurk? It's time to gather all your holiday decorations from throughout the house and take an honest look at them. Ideally, this would take place in your basement. Start by sorting like with like, each holiday in its own area and subcategories within that. For example, you would categorize all Christmas items, all tree ornaments, all mantel décor, all the kitchen decorations, and so on. Make decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of by keeping only the items you need, use or love. Is it broken? Haven't used it in years? Does it only hold sentimental value but it isn't something you'd put out? Those might be items to get rid of or in case of the latter move that item to your keepsakes/memorabilia bin, which should be stored separately from your holiday décor. Once you've sorted and purged everything, tested all the lights, and made the tough decisions it's time to organize the décor. We recommend utilizing plastic storage totes with lids for your holiday décor. Clear is always the best option but some people love doing color coding so black & orange for Halloween, red & green for Christmas, blue for Hanukkah & so on. Gently wrap all fragile items in tissue paper or bubble wrap, pack the totes the way you sorted the subcategories within each holiday, and then clearly label each tote with the holiday name and what's inside but be broad. I've even put Christmas PJs, headbands, sweaters, etc. all in one tote for families, especially when their closets and dressers are maxed out. This way you're not battling the Christmas PJs in July when you're putting laundry away. If you don't have shelving units for your basement storage room now would be the time to get some. Line your basement storage room with shelves and even in the center if there's room, think of how the grocery store or library sets up their shelving in aisles, you can do the same. Now place your totes on the shelving units in the order that holidays occur. For example, start with the calendar year beginning with January (New Year's) and end with December (Hanukkah/Christmas). If you think about your year in terms of the school year, start with September (early fall décor/Halloween) and work your way through to July/August (4th of July/summer décor). Organize the totes from left to right. Now take a step back & breath in the organized bliss that is now your storage room. It's breathtaking!
Tip Number 2:
Make lists, and check them twice…it's not just for Santa Claus. Take a moment before everything gets hectic and make some master lists.
The top lists I recommend are:
Gift-giving list. I include whom it's for, the gift requested/idea, and the goal dollar amount to spend. Once the gift is purchased I update the list to the actual item purchased and the amount spent. You can use this list for future years to help budget and to make sure you're not giving the same things over and over.
Gift receiving list. This is where I track the gift ideas for gifts that I'll be receiving. I write down the idea/s and to whom I gave it. You can do this for yourself but also for your spouse and children as well. This way you don't give the same ideas to everyone and when you're asked for ideas you have thoughtful suggestions that you can give right away. On a side note, I highly recommend asking people for their wish lists; I even go so far as to ask what they don't want more of. It's a great way to make sure the gifts you give and receive don't end up in the donation pile by New Year's Day.
Menus and ingredients lists. If you're hosting or bringing a dish to the party this is an easy way to stay calm when the party approaches. Make a menu list spelling out everything that will be served noting which dishes you're making. If you're bringing a dish just skip this step. Then, in a separate list or as bullet points to each dish make a list of the ingredients you need for each dish checking them off if you've already got them in stock. Use this list when you go grocery shopping closer to the party date.
To-Do List. What are the extra things you need to do surrounding the holiday season? It can be a brain dump where you just get it all out and then add items to your calendar from there. Think schedule cookie making with sisters, shopping for gifts, decorating the tree, and the list goes on. Getting it all out in a list will help lower your anxiety and will help you stay organized…it may also help you become more realistic about all you're trying to accomplish in a short amount of time. You just might take some things off your list when you see it all in black & white.
To make your lists use whatever method works best for you, for some that's a dedicated notebook for the holidays, for others it's the Notes App on their iPhone (that's me). Make sure you update your lists as the holiday season progresses and don't forget to cross off what you've accomplished for that oh-so-wonderful dopamine rush!
Tip Number 3:
Gift-wrap early. Start by organizing your gift wrap just like you organized your holiday décor. If you have enough room in your home for a gift wrap station complete with a flat workspace for wrapping gifts on, even better! There are tons of gift-wrap station organizers out there and it all depends on your space and budget. As you organize take inventory of gift wrapping, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons, bows, and tags. Throw away the scraps and anything you won't use and make a list (there's another list!) of the items you need more of. Then, as you buy each gift, wrap it! Don't wait until Christmas Eve to do all the wrapping, divide and conquer and wrap those gifts as you buy them. You'll thank me later!
If you organize your holiday decorations, make master lists to work from, and gift wrap early, you'll be able to put your feet up and sip some hot cocoa more often than ever before during the holiday season. Organizing takes time, but it gives you time back, which is the best gift! Save yourself from holiday stress and get organized this holiday season.
Not sure where to begin? We have a full list of recommended products HERE! Need some help getting your home ready for holiday guests? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your basement? We've got you covered. Reach out to us today, and we'll be your elves helping you this holiday season.
It’s still summer, but back to school has already hit the shelves at the stores, which means it’s time to get ready for back-to-school at home. Be a star-organizing student with these back-to-school tips & tricks. When it comes to starting the school year on the right foot it’s all about the organization. Thinking ahead and creating a space for everything that’s coming into your home is key but also purging that old stuff from last year is just as important, don’t skip the latter to get to the fun of the first. Always start by purging the old. Once you’ve done that, I’ve created three steps to follow to help you get organized for the school year. Doing these three steps will lessen stress and free up time, something we can all use more of!
The first step is creating a command center in your home.
This should be in a centrally located area of your home, like part of the kitchen or mudroom, for example. If you’re lucky enough to have a desk area off of your kitchen this is a great space to do this in. You’ll want to have key items that are essential to making your day go smoothly located here. For example, cell phone chargers are a good item to have on hand. A wall calendar outlining the week or month is an excellent addition. The new school schedule can be posted on a bulletin board or cork board. Important school papers (ones to be signed and returned, outlining upcoming events, etc.) can be either on display on the bulletin board/cork board, in a desktop document holder, or filed in a file folder holder on the counter or desk. It all depends on whether or not you’re a visual person as to where these documents should be kept. They’re either in sight or filed away, but either way, they shouldn’t get put into a permanent file drawer if they’re an action item as out of sight out of mind is a real thing. If you opt for the file folder option, you can give each child a folder.
PRO TIP: Make each child’s folder a different color to help those that are visual.
Keeping pens, pencils, and highlighters organized in this area is also helpful. Sticky notes, notepads, and even a lined journal will help keep you on track. If envelopes for cash or teacher notes are something you find yourself reaching for regularly, this is a great item to have in your command center. You’ll want to use drawer dividers if you’ve got drawers to store these items in or even create drawers if you’re using a cabinet by purchasing small acrylic drawers to stack in the cabinet. At the end of the day, everything that you need, love & use to make your day start on the right foot should be easily accessible in this area. Keep it clear of clutter and keep the command center organized for its purpose: to make your life run smoother.
The second step is creating a system for school papers.
We’ve already touched on where those important school papers should live: in your command center in your home. Those are the action-item school papers that need to be returned to school with a signature, that outline an upcoming event, or remind you of something important. Those can be on display, in a desktop document holder, or in a file folder holder. Everything should be labeled if it’s going into a folder; for example, the folder label could be each child’s name. Now what to do with the rest of the papers: the ones you want to keep long-term but don’t need in the command center? Those should be divided into two categories: memorabilia or administrative reference. If the paper is, for example, a completed A+ homework assignment or piece of artwork that you want to keep as a keepsake, that falls into the memorabilia category. I recommend having a clear plastic tote with a lid for each child labeled with their name and the word memorabilia on it to store these treasures in. You can organize the tote by grade if you like, although that’s not necessary for everyone. Keep the tote in the basement storage room on a shelf so that it’s out of the main living area but tucked away for safe-keeping to pull out for their high school open house or another fun event. If you'd like, you could create a memorabilia folder in your hanging file system in your home office to store items daily, and then weekly or monthly empty the folder into the memorabilia tote in the storage room. Often children end up with more than one memorabilia tote by the time they are teens, but if your space is limited you can always use the tote as a boundary and select items to purge once the tote is full. Your space should dictate how much memorabilia you keep. Space is maxed out? Limit it to one tote per child. Have a huge storage room? Have as many totes as you need. Now for the administrative reference paperwork: this is the paperwork you don’t need in your command center daily but that you need to store long-term in case you need to reference it later. For example, a list of classroom phone numbers or names. I recommend creating (if you don’t already have one) a hanging file system in your home office and creating a file for each child that holds these documents. At the end of each school year go through each child’s file and purge what needs to be removed and leave it fresh and as empty as possible for the following year. Be sure to alphabetize your file system as well. Don’t have a home office or file cabinet? No worries! You can get really cute hanging file holders that look great on bookshelves to create this space within your home. You don’t need a pile of papers cluttering up your command center, kitchen counter, or other surfaces because you might reference the paper in a couple of months. Instead give it a home to retire to until you need it, one that is tucked away but still easily accessible.
The third step is creating a homework zone or study space for your studious ones.
It can be hard to find a space to focus when a home is full of clutter so that’s why it’s so important to organize a space for homework ahead of time. The possibilities are endless. I’ve seen homework stations created in bedrooms, dining rooms, playrooms, and living rooms. The key is that there’s a place to sit, a desktop-like surface to hold their laptop, tablet, or books, and some storage for supplies. This is important because the child should be able to sit down and have everything they need for study time within arm's reach. Using a craft cart is always a good option for spaces lacking storage. The items you keep in this area are going to be different depending on the child’s age but some examples are pencils, erasers, and scissors. You’ll want to keep the desktop area clear of clutter, which is why storage is so important. Have a clock in this area too so they can check the time without looking at a device which can lead to distraction if their assignment is to read a book, for example. It’s also fun to let the children have some input on their study area. What colors do they love? Do they have some special items they’d like on the desk or hanging on the wall? Do they need noise-canceling headphones or music playing to focus better? The homework zone should be an oasis for peak studying and that will look different for each child.
If you create a command center, set up a system for school paperwork, and create a homework zone this year, you’ll find yourself with a lot more time and a lot less stress when the school year is in full swing. Not sure how to implement all of these suggestions? Utterly Uncluttered is here to help. We’re just a phone call away and can help you achieve all of this and more so that you’re organized and ready for the school year to begin. Remember to get rid of the old and start organizing what’s left, following these three steps to be a star organizing student!
Here’s to back to school time!
One of the top questions I’ve been asked since becoming a professional organizer is how do you organize your life’s schedule? My answer is always, I keep it simple but have key go-to apps and rituals that make my life organized. Here are the top 3 that I use, they’re either free or inexpensive and it’s easy.
Number One: A calendar
It’s amazing how many people don’t use a calendar. Whether it’s a planner or an app doesn’t much make a difference so long as you always have it with you and use it consistently and accurately. I’ve used both an actual planner and a digital calendar and find benefits to both. For those who are super visual, having an actual planner can give you a big-picture view of your week or month. Look for a planner that is large enough to write everything in it that you need, I prefer planners that have full letter-size pages. Currently, I use my Google Calendar on my phone to track everything from my work schedule to appointments to dates. Get-togethers with family go on there, weddings, showers, vacations, workouts, and tasks like dropping off donations. Anything that has a date and time associated with it goes on my calendar. The key is to have one calendar for everything whenever possible so that you have a big picture view of your life. It may make sense to have a work and personal calendar, especially digitally, but putting your work schedule blocked off on your personal calendar helps you stay realistic about how much time you actually have to get things done. You can even block off the time you allow for sleeping if it gives you better boundaries and a visual reminder that there are only so many hours in the day. The key is to update the calendar whenever something changes and to always make sure you add events in the first place. I always used a pencil and eraser when I used a physical planner so that I could easily make changes.
Number Two: The alarms on your phone
I use these alarms a lot to keep me on track and not just for waking up in the morning. The best part about the alarms app on your phone is that you can name the alarm with a label so it tells you what to do. I use this for things that I don’t want to muddy up my calendar with. For example, there’s an alarm for the following on my phone:
Number Three: To-Do Lists
I have two ways of planning my day and making to-do lists. The first is just simple paper and pen. I prefer lined paper and a nice pen. I use this for my personal tasks and planning my day with the finite things I don’t want on my calendar and that don’t have a set time that I can set an alarm. I always put the top priority items first that need to be done that day, then things that need to be done that week or month for if I get to them. I use the previous list to make the next list if I didn’t get everything done on the previous list.
My other method is the free Notes app on my phone. I am also a personal assistant in addition to being a professional organizer and I keep my To-Do list for this job on the Notes app so that it’s always with me and I can easily edit it. I have the list broken down into things I do daily and things I do weekly on specific days of the week. I also keep grocery lists on the Notes app both for myself and for my client for whom I’m a personal assistant. I love the checkmarks option for the grocery list, it makes it super easy to see what I’ve gotten and what’s left. I keep other lists as well on the Notes app, like books to read, books I’ve read, places to check out. All sorts of lists are handy to have with me at all times so that’s what I use this app for.
If you implement these 3 tools, calendar, alarms, and to-do lists, your life will become more organized and you’ll be carrying less around in your head which will decrease stress. We must use the tools we have to declutter our brains the same way we declutter our physical belongings. I hope that you start using these three tools today to see what a difference they make in staying on task, organized and to give yourself a big-picture vision of your schedule. It’s always important to know what lies ahead so we can plan.
Here’s to an organized you!
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of moving because of all of your belongings? Is being at home stressful because your clutter is suffocating? Do you have a hard time finding items in your home? It may be time to consider the joy of living with less and lighten the load you’re carrying.
I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime and have always lived in small spaces. From a house that was less than 600 square feet to a studio apartment that was 400 square feet, I prided myself on being able to make small spaces warm and inviting yet organized and clutter-free. You don’t have to live in a small space though to live with less. You can do this in any size of home. What are the benefits of living with less?
It makes it easier to move. When the time comes to move you can easily pack your belongings knowing that you’re not moving things you haven’t used in 20 years that were never unpacked from previous moves. You can pack faster and smarter. The less you have the less you spend on movers. Stay away from storage units. They just become a place where your belongings go to die, often never used after being stored for a long time. Move what you Need, Use, and Love, and that alone will make your load so much lighter. When your home is organized your move is organized, you can pack things room by room and unpack the same way. No more mixed-up boxes of miscellaneous items all jumbled together. This brings joy into your life because it makes the moving process so much less stressful. Moving can be joyful when done in an organized way.
Another benefit is that it’s better for your mental health. I’ve worked with clients that don’t enjoy being in their homes because the clutter is suffocating, making it hard to focus, causing fights amongst family members, and all in all, being a joy killer. Living with less frees physical space so that you have the mental space to enjoy your home. A clutter-free space brings calm and peace into your life. It makes it so that you can enjoy your home, entertain in it easily, make dinner without having to clean first, get ready faster, the list goes on and on. “Outer order, inner calm” is one of my favorite sayings from author Gretchen Rubin. It’s so true, as the outer space comes together and you live with less it truly brings an inner calm to your mental state. It creates harmony amongst family members. And it saves money making stress go down as well. What’s more joyful than that?
Living with less also means that you’ll find your belongings when you need them. The Pixie Lost & Found survey finds the average American spends 2.5 days each year looking for lost items, collectively costing U.S. households $2.7 billion annually in replacement costs. This is a lot of time and money lost throughout the years of your life just because of disorganization. Living with less will save you time and money, and a whole lot of it in the end. Imagine having a place for your keys, your charger, and your purse. Everything that you use throughout the day has a home and you know not only where to find it but where to put it when it’s not in use. No more cleaning before the cleaning lady comes over. No more panic-stuffing items into clothes baskets and hiding them behind closed doors when company comes over. No more buying multiples of items you already own because you can’t find them. That is the joy of living with less.
I hope that this sparks some motivation for you to get moving towards living with less. A 400 square foot studio apartment may not be in your future but moving easily, feeling joy in your home, and finding what you need when you need it most definitely is. May you find joy in your home today by living with less!
It’s that time of year when we get a new beginning again. The weather is starting to warm up, the snow has thawed and we’re all itching to get outside. What’s the best way to celebrate Spring? With some spring cleaning! Get your house fresh and clean with these easy tips and you’ll spring into an organized home. Do these 3 steps one room at a time.
Step 1: Clear the Clutter
Start by evaluating what you Need, Use & Love. Donate, sell, recycle or throw away the rest. Just getting the trash out of your home will lighten your load. And yes, every home has some garbage they can get rid of. It’s amazing what you unearth when you go one item at a time. Think about moving out expired foods from your pantry, the old leftovers in the back of your fridge, the mittens that no longer fit your kiddos, the list goes on and on. Every room should get an organizer’s touch during spring cleaning. Leave no item untouched. As you clear items out, give cabinets and drawers a wipe down and sweep out those pantries and closets once you can see the floor you don’t normally see. Doing the cleaning during sorting & purging is the best feeling as you’re creating a clean fresh slate to launch into step 2.
Step 2: Put Systems Into Place
The organization you do in your home should work for you, not against you. Everything should be placed as close as possible to where you use the item. Set up bins in your pantry, for example, categorizing food into salty snacks, sweets, canned goods, dinner, breakfast, grab-and-go, and so on. Closets should be organized by type of clothing, so all pants together, all long-sleeved tops get grouped, tanks and short sleeves, and so on. Within those categories organize in rainbow order or ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) with browns, blacks, greys, and whites at the tail-end. If space allows, mudrooms should get bins or baskets for hats, gloves, scarves, coats, and shoes organized by person. Have a spot to drop unopened mail with a wall-hanging organizer. Put kids' items down low so they can reach them and help to put things away. Each room should get systems like this put into place at this point. And last but not least label; label everything so that anyone that can read knows where to put everything.
Step 3: Show It Off
Walk your entire family through the organization that you’ve done. Talk about how the organized space makes you feel and how you hope it makes them feel. Ask them how it feels to be in an organized space. Explain the placement of everything and show them the labels. Explain that this is an all-hands-on-deck situation and that everyone needs to maintain this spring clean-up and overhaul all year long.
Not only will this freshen up your space, but it allows you to drop the unwanted items from your life without bringing them into future seasons. The systems you set up should carry you throughout the year and will do the thinking for you. It’s time to spring into action and organize your home!
A lot of people feel as though they just don’t know how to organize or that their brains don’t work that way. They feel as though they don’t have the "organizer gene". But can you learn to be organized? The answer is yes, you can! It takes hard work and a lot of focus but you can learn to get and stay organized. Here’s how:
Take a look around and be honest with yourself about what you need, use & love in your home. It’s important to start with decluttering your space because it doesn’t make sense to organize things that should be donated, recycled, or thrown away. Learning to throw trash away right away, for example, is a key step to getting and staying organized. That tag on those new jeans you bought that you’re keeping? It’s trash. The TJ Maxx receipt in your wallet from 3 months ago? Trash. The box from three cell phones ago that’s just chilling in your basement? Time to go. Often people say things like, “I don’t have any trash in my home,” but when it comes time to sort & purge they start filling trash bags. Learning to let go of this stuff faster and sooner is the way to go. Throw trash away right away.
You have to also learn to organize every day. Organizing is something that needs to become a habit where you pick up as you go during your daily tasks. It should become as much of a habit as brushing your teeth or eating healthy. Instead of leaving your makeup out after you’re done or the kitchen torn apart from cooking dinner pick up as you go and put things back into their homes right away. This will significantly decrease the amount of time you have to spend cleaning up during your free time. Why wait until later when you can put things away in just a few minutes or less right after you’re done using them? Not sure where things go? Then it’s time to create homes for everything you’ve kept.
Learn to organize like with like. This means categorizing your entire home. Create a space for each item by storing it with similar items. Remember the "Sesame Street" segment about one of these things does not belong? Find the items that don’t belong with the others and move them out. Help them find their families. When you look into your kitchen cabinet, there shouldn’t be 8 different categories jumbled together. Pasta shouldn’t be spread amongst 5 cabinets. There should be a categorized pasta section within the food portion of your pantry. From the basement to the attic your home should be a map for where things live just based on where like-items are. It should make so much sense that everyone in your family can follow the organizational system set up. Think about how stores or libraries are categorized. Not sure what room to store an item in? Choose the room where you use the items you’ve kept. Use it in multiple rooms? Choose the room where you use it the majority of the time.
If you can learn to throw trash away immediately, pick it up as you go, and store everything like-with-like, then you have learned how to organize. When you get in the flow of doing these three things every day it becomes meditative. Your space will begin to support you instead of work against you. Best of all if everyone in your entire family does these three things every day your home will stay organized. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation and it takes everyone to be committed to the end goal of an organized home to get there. So yes, everyone in your family can learn these three things too, even the little ones. Learn how to get and stay organized today and have a more peaceful, clutter-free tomorrow; you can do it!
Helping feed your urge to purge clutter from your life!
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