Just installed a desk system the other day for a teenager who is starting her freshman year in high school. Her parents recognized she had outgrown her small work space and needed storage for files and a desktop that was big enough to spread out paperwork; a multitude of textbooks that seem to be growing in number and size these days; and her computer. Not to mention the supplies! Every student should have supplies at their fingertips: highlighters, erasers, rulers, scissors, scientific calculator, sticky pads, graph paper, ink, protractor, and the list goes on…We love the elfa desk system from The Container Store which you can customize to your specific needs. You can have rolling file carts and/or drawers underneath and shelves above that are adjustable and come in multiple depths. They also have desktop collections that allow you to have the same look and uniform feel to all your desktop storage solutions – visually attractive, and for teens they have fun, bright colors to liven up any room! Add a splash of color to the wall, and you’ll be all set. The desk went in, the daughter is ecstatic and is off to pick up a funky bulletin board – thankfully the days of the plain brown cork ones are long gone! Happy studying.
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I’ve just read Marie Kondo’s book, The life-changing magic of tidying up, and while I found it interesting, I agreed with some practices and have contradictory perspectives in other areas. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Kondo when she says “when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.” However, I do believe the means to the end is different for every client, and there is not a standard set of rules that can be laid out as a one-size fits all approach.
Know what works for you.
Everyone is different. Our thresholds are different – what some may call clutter, others may call collections. Some may be bothered by a few clothes on a bedroom chair and want things to be tidy, others may say it feels comfortable. Are you a minimalist and like everything stored away neatly, or do you like sugar canisters, utensil holders and appliances gracing your countertops? Do you feel lost when your papers are filed away in folders out of sight; do you feel like you might miss something?
Know your space.
Do you have space? Maybe you acknowledge that you have too many salad bowls and serving platters, but if you have the kitchen cabinet space, is there a problem? My answer would be no as long as you use them and love them, unless you are indeed moving to a smaller home.
Do you want to live in the past or present or a combination of both? Many of my clients have boxes and boxes of photos, personal letters and what we refer to as mementos. Mementos is by far one of the more dangerous categories. I find as I work with a client that we start a box and label it mementos. As we go through room by room over the course of several sessions, when the client picks up something they don’t know what to do with, they often say put it in mementos. So, too easily the memento box can become more than one, and then they are moving all their tangible items that bring back the memories such as travel logs, personal correspondence, and tchotchkes that they have bought over the years….. That is when I have to remind them that the memento box is not a storage unit with unlimited space! I agree sometimes letters and photos do bring back memories of an event that you had since forgotten. Yet, after reviewing the letter, ask yourself am I ever going to look at this again? Does the memory fade when the letter is gone? Is it an important memory to keep? How many letters is a realistic number to have as keepsakes? Typically, we tell our clients limit yourself to one large plastic see through memento box of very precious correspondence, awards, gifts from a grandchild or loved one, diplomas, yearbooks, and thesis.
Take a look at your life. When it comes to clothes or entertaining, keep this in mind. Do you have a closet full of long gowns, silk dresses (some with shoulder pads maybe?), and high heel shoes that you can barely walk in without twisting an ankle? Maybe you don’t attend so many galas and benefits anymore and can donate or consign a lot of your clothing. Are you a stay at home Mom, and your closet is stuffed with blue and black business suits from your banking days? If you return to the work force in a few years, isn’t the fashion or business culture going to be different? Maybe your new company will have casual Fridays and many of the suits can be donated as you probably will buy new ones if ever needed again. The same holds true with entertaining. Do you have lots of formal dinners? If you have three sets of formal china (of which one set is probably your Mother’s or Grandmother’s), determine which set you love and use. If you hate Grandma’s china, then ask family members if they want it, and if not give yourself permission to donate it. Grandma’s intention was not to have her china sit in a box in your basement. If you like it, use it, and if not let it go!
Does the item bring you great joy? Be realistic. If you were to never see the item again would you be heartbroken? For some items, you will clearly say yes! For others, they might be a gift someone gave you that you don’t really care for and find it hard to donate. Or, an item that you spent too much on and certainly can’t give away! Or conversely, an item that was a bargain and you just have to keep it! It comes down to not where or how you purchased or acquired the piece, but present day, does it bring you joy?
Why did you ask for help? Why do you read so many books on how to organize your life? What is the specific challenge you face? Ask why it became this way and how can it be solved? You have obviously reached out for a reason and that is the first step in conquering clutter.
I typically tell clients to take a room by room approach to organizing or de-cluttering. However, there are exceptions. The other day, I was working with Marie. She loved her books, and it seemed they were as one would imagine spread out among several bookshelves in multiple rooms and a few piles lurked on the floor next to furniture. We were trying to make space on the bookshelves for other items that needed a “home” so we needed to sort through books and start a donate pile.
When you focus on one category whether clothes, vases, Tupperware or books, it is helpful to see in entirety what you have in order to determine what can be donated or given to a friend. You may find you have 12 pairs of similar black pants among your closet and the guestroom closet and a few old pairs that have been sent to the attic. If I were to ask you initially, you may find yourself telling me you have 5 pairs of black pants. More
It seems like it is everywhere – the topic gracing the cover of every magazine cover with the latest solutions on how to organize your closet or home, to the thoughts late at night that clutter our mind as we try to fall asleep. Oftentimes it greets us as we walk into our home, or up to our attic. It is never well received. However, there is clutter that may live in your junk drawer. That’s o.k. You know it’s there and it is contained. Yet, there’s also the clutter that drags us down, that interferes with our home being a sanctuary and welcome relief after a busy day at work. It can invade our home and by doing so invade our life. There are solutions of course. Not quick fixes, but over time clutter can be de-cluttered and contained so that it no longer is a burden. Over the course of the next month, we are going to share tips on how to deal with clutter one step at a time.
Where to Start?
First, define one space where you want to start. This should be the space that you encounter in your every day life. Is it your home office that is littered with paper, and you have trouble finding important documents? Or, is it your dining room where you can’t serve a family meal because your dining room table has become a dumping ground for everything that comes into your home. Or, maybe your priority is planning a Saturday night dinner party but you are too embarrassed to have anyone over. Define the space, come up with a positive vision of how you would like the space to function, and set realistic goals. Keep that positive vision with you as you work towards achieving your goal. That is the first step to conquering clutter.
Have a clear, defined, achievable goal. Maybe, the clutter isn’t impacting your everyday life, and has been pushed aside to the garage or attic. And, every time you see it you can’t muster the energy to attack it. No matter where it lives in your home – gain perspective, and define your goals. You can conquer clutter – it doesn’t need to conquer you.
Not to think worse case scenario, but oftentimes a little helpful planning can make a bad situation at least palatable. My daughter recently left her wallet in the seat pocket of an airplane. She didn’t realize it until a few days later, and I’m happy to report after a call to Jet Blue, we were told it had been turned into Lost and Found. This particular story has a happy ending but not all do. Over 1,000 wallets are stolen every two minutes. Do you have copies of important information that lives inside your wallet? Think of what we carry in our wallets – drivers license, checks, credit cards, health insurance cards, library cards, frequent shopper cards, gift cards – at times, it seems like your whole life! So, be smart. Only carry what you need. A wallet is not meant to be a home for your social security card or passport. Even consider carrying just one or two checks, not your entire check book. Secondly, be prepared and back-up. Set aside 15 minutes some Sunday afternoon and while you are organizing your pocketbook, take copies of the front and back of every card you have. In the unfortunate event that you lose your wallet or it is stolen, it will be much easier to call each company to report a lost card. You’ll have all the information at your fingertips. You can also consider scanning some card information as long as you have the correct security and password protections in place. It’s such a simple step to take and will help alleviate some of the stress if this is ever to happen to you.
Do you dump your mail on the kitchen counter when you walk in the door? Do bills get lost and go unpaid? We suggest having a specific mail sort center so you put your mail in the same location every day. Better yet, take 5 minutes to open it. Have a recycle basket and a shredder right there and as you open the mail you can immediately make some quick decisions. Chances are a lot of it will be “junk mail” and can go right into the recycle bin. Have a basket to keep all your catalogs, newsletters and magazines you would like to look at some day which are not immediate action items. Then, we suggest having an open upright file box that contains manila folders with labels such as calls to make, to file, to read, to scan, bills to pay, pending. Each member of the family should have their own action and read (or fyi) file. We like this system because then when you do make time to pay bills and make some phone calls, you can just grab the file box and take it to your office. Here’s a quick video we took to show you exactly what we would recommend.
It looks like most of us survived the blizzard better than expected, and we were very happy we didn’t lose power! Between shoveling and snow blowing, it was a perfect day to get organized and deal with some household projects. Deb has a really big driveway so she spent a lot of the day behind the snow blower, and I enjoyed catching up on computer work and cleaning up some of my computer files and contact information. We have often shared tips on organizing, and somehow a snow day is an organizer’s dream because it means life comes to a halt and one actually has time to spend at home with no guilt, no other commitments, and can hopefully tackle some projects. Here are our top 5 tips:
- Refrain from going crazy on Amazon. The stores are counting on you to sit and buy, buy, buy! And, if you can’t resist, we did come across the Ebates site which gives you discounts for on-line purchases. We haven’t tried it out yet, but we did sign up. You might as well save some money if you are spending it!
- Go through your paperwork. A recent NAPO survey found that 29% of Americans consider their home office and den to be the most disorganized room in their home, followed by the master bedroom and kitchen. Tackle those piles of paper clutter. Spend an hour or two to pay bills and FILE or shred. While you are at it, start thinking about organizing receipts and paperwork for taxes. You’ll be amazed at how accomplished you’ll feel and may be inspired to keep going.
- If office paperwork is not your nemesis, start some donation piles. Choose an area in your home that really bothers you, and start de-cluttering. Call Salvation Army or some other charitable organization and schedule a pick-up. We like Salvation Army because unlike others, they don’t require you to leave items curbside. However, most of the donation companies need advance notice so get on their list now.
- Yes, of course the shoveling and snow blowing are a necessary evil waiting for you. Just think of it as good exercise.
- Enjoy the change of pace and take a nap!
In the realm of organizing, there are many tricks to the trade some which are original and some that we all pick up from magazines and others along the way. At Ship Shape Organize we always like to use what clients have before rushing off to The Container Store or Target to purchase bins and baskets. I was on a walk recently and came across this mailbox with bungee cords right after I had drafted the article below. So, here’s one more way to utilize those bungee cords that are hanging around your basement. More
When organizing your bags, first categorize them by color. Color is typically the first criteria when choosing which bag to use, after that you can sort by smaller clutches, pocketbooks that are better suited to daytime use vs. pocketbooks that are more suitable for evening events, and finally your more casual tote bags. Of course, there are lots of organizing tools for handbags. Given we are not fans of the plastic look, we found the linen bins from The Container Store to be useful for storing smaller clutches. You can turn them to hide the bags with the taller end facing out and there is a spot for a label, or you can turn the bins so you can visually see the bags. They look elegant and are functional. We placed the bins on the floor so the client could easily see some of the smaller clutches. The bigger bags were placed on the top shelf of the closet and clear shelf dividers were used to separate the bags and keep them from falling down. More
There are many tools we use to help clients organize their closets and our first rule to having a presentable space is to use similar hangers. We particularly like the velvet ones that are slim to reduce valuable space and we also find that blouses and dresses that might slip off of plastic hangers work really well with the felt ones. More