3 Common Excuses for Clutter & How to Stop Making Them

Many of the individuals we work with struggle with maintaining a clutter-free home. They truly want to have an organized home and life, but when it comes to the execution we often hear the same excuses again and again. While we understand that things do come up and that no one is organized all of the time, there are ways to minimize the excuses and get on a consistent organizing plan.

1) “It’s Not Me, It’s My Partner”: Occasionally this excuse is true, but often times both people are contributing to the problem in some way. With this issue, we recommend several strategies. First, work together to devise an organizing and cleaning plan. Both partners must contribute to the design and it should include responsibilities for each person. If need be, create a physical chart with check marks for completion of tasks each week. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, schedule a meeting to discuss what obstacles are getting in the way and how you can work together to achieve the goal. The second part of this plan is to reinforce when effort has been made. If you see your partner picking up the house, thank and compliment them. Expressed appreciation encourages continued effort more than anything else.

2) “I don’t have the time”: Many people are very busy with work and life, but typically the average person has extra free time that they just aren’t utilizing to the fullest. For example, while watching tv at night you can also be folding laundry or putting items back where they belong. The other part of this issue, is the ability to clean as you go. If you are cooking dinner for the family, try to wash a few pots along the way. At the end of dinner, all you’ll have left are a few plates and silverware, making the clean up process quick and easy.

3) “I don’t have enough space to be organized”: This is one we see a lot! The underlying issue is that for people like this, no amount of space will ever be enough. They accumulate to their max capacity and if they had a bigger home, they would do it there too. To rectify these situations we recommend a few tips. First, doing a major purge two times per year will help keep the possessions to an acceptable and livable level. The one in one out strategy is also great for individuals like this. For every new item that comes into the home, one must leave. This will assist you in maintaining the smaller amount of items after your first purge.

Clutter happens to everyone, but recognizing when you’re making unnecessary excuses for it can help keep the problem from happening in the first place.

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Common Questions (and Answers) for a Professional Organizer

When organizing people’s homes we often answer the same questions again and again. While our answers occasionally change based on the situation, we’ve also come up with general strategies and concepts that seem to ring true for most.

1) Should I keep all of the sizes I fluctuate between? This is a common problem. We find that many individuals with overflowing closets are often holding on to wardrobes in several sizes because of frequent weight changes. What we always tell people is that it’s easier to fluctuate between sizes when you have the next size up available to you. If your jeans were getting a bit tight and you had no larger size available, you might be more conscious of eating healthy and working out to make the current jeans fit again.

2) What do I do with the stuff I’m storing for family/friends? The first question to ask is how long have you been storing the items. Next ask yourself if there was a time limit placed on providing the storage and when the last time the owner mentioned the items. If you’ve had clothing from a relative for several years, chances are they don’t need it anymore and would be fine giving it away. If they truly want the items give them a deadline by which to move them and stand by it. Just remember, this is your home, not a storage unit.

3) How do I maintain the organization? This is the most difficult part of organizing for most people. They love the idea of getting organized, but struggle to maintain it after we’ve left. To assist in keeping your home tidy and organized, commit to a daily routine of putting things back where they belong. Each night, before you go to bed walk around the home and conduct a mini-reset. This will help keep things from getting out of control. Labels are also a great idea to ensure things go back to their rightful homes.

4) What papers do I keep and what can be tossed? In general, if you can find a copy of the document somewhere online, shred, recycle or trash the hard copy. For documents that are currently being used, maintain a inbox/outbox system that is reviewed each week for expired/unnecessary items. To determine what documents need to be stored long-term or for tax purposes, review Suze Orman’s Financial Clutter, What to Keep List.

5)  Am I a Hoarder? It is common for individuals using a professional organizer to feel like perhaps they are a Hoarder. The reality is that the amount of collecting or acquisition that it takes to become a Hoarder is significant and most people do not fit the clinical definition. That being said, there are many people with hoarding tendencies. If any of the following statements are true, you may benefit more from a mental health professional, than an organizer.

  • You acquire belongings to fulfill an emotional need
  • You hold onto excessive amounts of items with little or no value (i.e. newspapers, old magazines, trash, etc.)
  • Your belongings have taken over the space you require to live comfortably in your home
  • You are extremely reluctant to part with any belongings, no matter their frequency of use, value, or usefulness
  • The collecting of items has otherwise impaired your life or health

What are some of the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a professional organizer?

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Custom Closet Design & Organization: 8 Step How To

Recently, we completed a closet organizing project for a client, which included an Elfa-designed custom closet installation. The end result provided an excellent organizational structure, a significant increase in visual appeal, and overall better utilization of the space. We highly recommend that clients consider a custom design when conducting a closet overhaul. The option ensures that you’ll have specially designated space for all of your belongings and tends to encourage long-term organization. If you are considering a custom closet sometime in the future, we have put together the basic steps of how to go about the process. 

HOW TO DESIGN, INSTALL, & UTILIZE A CUSTOM CLOSET

1) Review the contents of your closet and dresser. Determine how much will stay, add in to the new closet space, and how much you’d like to purge.

2) Take measurements of all walls, angles, and dimensions in your closet. Get an accurate count of shoes, handbags, scarves, ties and belts.

3) Work with a closet design expert at The Container Store, California ClosetsHome Depot, or other company and decide on a design that works for your individual needs.

4) Prior to installation, conduct a major closet purge and donate all items that you no longer wear, like, or do not fit. Don’t forget to purge your dresser drawers at this time too.

5) The day of installation, ready the closet by removing all clothing and other belongings.

6) During the install, prepare your clothing and other belongings for reintegration – rehang clothes if switching hanger styles and wash anything that hasn’t been touched in a while.

7) Following the install, add clothing back into the closet, keeping in mind that this is your best chance to implement a new organizational strategy such as by color, style, frequency of use, or post-wash folding vs. hanging preference.

8) Enjoy your new closet and work hard to maintain the organization!

If you have any questions or would like to have us consult on your closet, please feel free to get in touch.

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Simple Ways to Feel More Organized

Organizing professionals understand that there are some small things you can work on that make a big difference in the level of organization you feel in your home. These changes don’t take a lot of effort and can be fairly inexpensive, but you’re certain to notice the positive effect in your home. Here are some of our favorite ideas.

1) New Hangers: Changing out your mismatched, old hangers to a complete set can instantly make your closet appear more organized. The process of replacing the old ones can also be a good time to complete a clothing purge and re-organization.

2) Junk Drawer Organization: This is one area of the home that is frequently out of control. Tidying it up with some drawer organizers can feel like a huge relief for most people, but the task can be fairly quick.

3) Implement a Mail Routine: Instead of opening the mail and letting it pile up on the counter for months, institute a daily routine where you open the mail over your shredder and near you filing system. Once mail has been sorted, shred the unnecessary items and file the rest in appropriate mail system folders.

4) Labels: It can be difficult for large families to all contribute to a new system of organization. Labels can help them stick to the system and remember where things belong. Use a label maker to identify where things live in the kitchen, medicine cabinet, office, play room, and anywhere else where items are frequently used and moved.

5) Create Return, Donate, & Repair Bins: Some of the most common clutter that accumulates in homes are items that are actually meant to leave, but never quite make it out. Creating a three bin system in your garage or car can help you move these items along more quickly. When an item needs returning, donating, or repair, simply place it in the correct bin and handle on a regular basis.

 

6) Contain Unsightly Cords: Use a cord organizer to discreetly contain and hide cords in your office or living room.

7) Clear off Elevated Flat Surfaces: By taking a few minutes to clear the surfaces in your home of clutter, you’ll feel a greater sense of organization throughout. All elevated flat surfaces count, so don’t forget places like dresser tops, nightstands, and kitchen counters.

8) Bathroom Cabinets: These spaces are often cluttered, but also underutilized. Measure the space and purchase bins or baskets that offer greater use of the full height and width. Organize using a like-with-like strategy.

What are your favorite quick organizing ideas?

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5 Steps to Help You Actually Start & Complete that Project

We all have projects and tasks that we’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Those items at the bottom of our to-do lists that for one reason or another we’ve procrastinated getting done. Perhaps it’s an organizing project or maybe it’s finally getting to that filing from last year. No matter the task, we’ve outlined some basic steps to help get you started.

1) Review the Project: Although you may have a general idea of what needs to be done, it helps to get a fresh look at the scope of the project. Determine how long it will take, what you need to complete it, and how you will work.

2) Make a Plan: Once you have a basic idea of what needs to be done, it helps to have a specific agenda or outline of how you will work. For example, if the project is to organize your filing cabinets, decide ahead of time, how many years of documents you will keep, what types of docs will be trashed vs. kept vs. shredded, and if you will need input from others during the process.

3)  Schedule the Time: Putting an allotment of time on the calendar is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure completion of a project. If the task will require several chunks of time, schedule the entire process. Don’t forget to leave yourself enough time before and after to keep distractions from creeping in.

4) Gather What You Need: Before you start the project, gather the necessary tools, supplies, and information. This will keep you from using the excuse of not having what you need to put the project on hold mid-process.

5) Focus on Completion: Once you finally get into the actual work, commit to seeing it through to the end, or the pre-determined stopping point. It’s easy to get distracted or frustrated with things, but if you mentally commit to a goal you’ll find it easier to see it through. We also find that a timer set in brief, but effective time intervals can help.

We hope this 5 step process helps to inspire you to get some of those bigger projects started this year. As always, if you need a little extra help, The Well-Organized Woman is happy to assist.

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Guest Post: Harmonize Your Home for the Holidays in a Hurry

As the holidays draw near, it seems we’re all getting busier by the day and more stressed by the hour.

Still need to rearrange furniture to make room for the tree?

Maybe you’ve worn grooves into the linoleum from pacing around the kitchen in anticipation of that dinner party you’re going to host?

Whatever your situation, you might think it’s too late to get your home into Santa-style shape.

You would be wrong.

Here are five steps for de-cluttering your home in time for the holiday festivities.

1. Focus on the main rooms. Pick the rooms where your family and visitors are likely to linger, mingle or dine. Concentrate on the dining room, living room, main bathroom and coat closet, for example, before you worry about the kids’ bedrooms, the tool shed out back or the canning cellar under the stairs (shout-out to my family back in Appalachia). Remember — you can always go through other rooms once you’ve handled the main ones, but if you’re pressed for time, don’t set unrealistic goals. Concentrate on the important, the reasonable, the achievable. Once you’ve picked your targets, make sure you take on just one room at a time.

2. Out with the old. It helps to organize and arrange what you want to keep by removing the items you don’t. Gather boxes and label them “donate,” “junk,” and “maybe.” Then, start filling the boxes. Use the “maybe” container for the things you know you should toss – like that decorative “glam rock” rudolph statue you thought was a good idea back in December of ’86 – but don’t have the heart to let go. It’ll help get the ball rolling without causing hesitation or regret since you can make those tough decisions later.

3. Think big. Once you’ve cleared out the clutter that has to go, look at the furniture and larger items in the room. Rearrange before you do anything else. For example, if you need to move the couch to fit the tree into its proper corner, or if you have to slide a random floor cabinet from the dining room to clear space for a kid’s table, do that now.

4. Details matter. Now that you’ve handled the big, space-hogging furniture, take a second look at the room. Notice dirt or dust one the floor where the couch used to be? Are there any stray DVDs, books, papers or other eye-sore-type clutter laying around? If so, sweep the dirt and put the movies back where they belong. If they don’t have a proper place, create one. You can always hide a stack of DVDs under an end table with a floor-length table cloth. Get creative and hide any unsightly clutter that you can’t get rid of. Just resist the urge to bury your husband’s full-size Christmas Story leg lamp in the backyard. Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a peaceful time. Avoid inciting World War III.

5. Teach and preach. This is probably the most important step. If you don’t tell your kids or spouse where things go, they won’t know how to put things back. Stay on top of everyone and let them know that clutter and messy rooms won’t be tolerated (until after the holidays, at the very least).

Bonus Tip: Get your family to help. By “get,” of course, I mean force, threaten, bribe or anything else you can do to get them to chip in. Let them know that you are NOT going to do this alone. The more they help, the more likely they’ll be to stay on top of the upkeep afterward.

Once you’ve finished, sit back and soak it all in. After all, the holidays only come once a year (thank God).

 ——

This post was generously was written by Dan Reidmiller, Creative Director for College Hunks Hauling Junk. College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving is a national junk-removal, labor services and moving company, with franchises serving 45 markets in 25 states, including areas such as Central PA, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Northern NJ, Tampa Bay, Washington DC and now Miami.

 

Guest Post: How to Stick to Your Grocery Budget

You’re probably sick of hearing people complaining about how “Money doesn’t go as far as it used to”, but the sad fact is that there’s truth in those complaints.  The cost of living is going up, but it’s not just luxury items that are getting more expensive, basic groceries are rocketing in price too.  Today, we’re living in a world where people make calls on iPhones, and cook in designer kitchens with Maia worktops, yet struggle with the weekly food shop because the cost of essential staples such as bread and milk has skyrocketed.  Here are a few tips to help you stay within your budget, and still eat well:

Just Because it’s On Offer, It Doesn’t Mean It’s a Good Deal

Supermarket offers can be deceptive. Often, a supermarket will increase the price of something for a week or so, then “discount” it to a price that’s lower than the expensive one, but still overpriced.  So, soda that has been at a certain price for months may go up in price a little prior to going on offer, and then be advertised as being on a special “Two for One” deal; that offer is cheaper than the most recent expensive price, but it’s not a good deal compared to the earlier price it was selling for.  If you need the soda, check another local supermarket for it.  If you don’t normally drink soda, don’t be tempted by the not-that-great offer.

Don’t Buy More than You Can Use or Freeze

Promotions such as buy two, get one free are also designed to make people buy things that they wouldn’t normally pick up.  You might feel like you’re wasting money if you buy only one gallon of milk when there’s a buy two, get one free offer on the bottles, but what’s the point of paying extra for milk that you won’t drink quickly enough?

With that said, bulk promotions are great if they’re for items with a long shelf life, or for things that you can freeze.  Consider allocating a small part of your budget to buying long-lasting items which you’ll be able to defrost or dig out of the cupboards during hard times, or when bad weather prevents you from getting to the shops.

Learn to Cook Creatively

Meal planning is a good start towards savvy shopping, but restrictive meal plans get boring quickly, and they can cause trouble for you if the store runs out of your favorite staple, or droughts/floods/earthquakes cause a key ingredient to soar in price. I know this from experience, since unusually wet weather has made the price of bananas go up, making my banana and oatmeal smoothies a luxury item, rather than a breakfast ritual.

If you learn how to cook a range of dishes, and learn to experiment with different ingredients to create a meal out of whatever you have in the kitchen, then you’ll find yourself with far more options next time you go shopping.

Try Store Brands

One thing that frugal shoppers love to remind us of is that many store brands are actually made in the same factories as the big name brands.  It’s possible that you could save a lot of money just by downscaling the brands you buy.  Sometimes, there’s a clear difference in taste or quality between brand names and white label products, but that’s not always the case.  Try changing one brand each week – if you like the cheaper brand, that’s money in your pocket.  If you hate it, you can go back to the more expensive brand next week.

Grow Your Budget With Savings Elsewhere

tead.  Fit energy saving light bulbs.  Cut your water bill by showering instead of taking a bath.  There are lots of ways that you can cut costs, letting you spend more on the things you love.If you’re a devoted foodie, and you don’t want to scrimp and save on your shopping, then why not look for savings elsewhere in your household budget?  Stop using that expensive free-standing heater and try plinth heaters ins

This post was written by James Harper on behalf of The Kitchen Appliance Centre. To find more great money saving ideas please visit their site.

 

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Decorations

Holiday decorations are an important part of the season. They help to get us all in the holiday spirit and bring a touch of fun into our homes. While each family has their own traditions for how and when they will decorate, we’d like to offer some suggestions on how to prepare for the decorating process in an organized manner.

Before you decorate:

  • Remove your holiday decorations from storage and review the contents. If anything is broken or needs repair set the items aside and take appropriate action. Then determine if there are gaps in your collection that need to be filled or if there is anything special you’d like to add this year. Take care of all decoration shopping before you start the actual decorating process.
  • Decide if you have a particular theme or type of decoration that you’d like to highlight this year.
  • Check your Christmas lights to ensure they are working properly.
  • Double-check that you know the location of miscellaneous, but important items, such as the Christmas tree stand or stockings.

If you are limited on time, there are several local options for enlisting help for your decorating needs:

  • Tradition Trees in Metro Atlanta offers a service that will deliver, install, remove and recycle your Christmas Tree. They can also provide wreaths, roping, and other related items. Prices vary depending on tree size, so visit their website for details.
  • The Christmas Light Pros also in Metro Atlanta provide professional holiday light hanging services, including installation and removal in January. Call for a free estimate.
  • And of course, The Well-Organized Woman offers full interior holiday decorating services, including decoration purchase, concept design, and organized packing following the holidays.

For more tips and ideas about the holiday planning process, check out our recently released Holiday Planner eBook on Lulu.com. The printable planner is filled with helpful worksheets, checklists, and timelines to assist in your organized planning process.

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Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Hurricane Sandy currently has a lot of people in the Northeast frantically making last minute preparations for the storm. As planners, we’d prefer to ready ourselves for possible inclement weather before it is ever an issue. In order to help prepare for future weather-related emergencies, we’ve put together a list of must have items. This checklist was developed in part from the emergency preparedness lists of FEMA and the CDC, as well as our own recommendations.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS SUPPLY LIST:

Baby

  • Diapers, 5 day supply per child
  • Baby Wipes, 5 day supply per child
  • Formula or baby food, 3 day supply per child

Clothing

  • 3 day supply of clothes per person, accounting for cold and warm weather
  • Rugged or distance type shoes

Documents

  • Copies of S.S. cards, birth certificates, marriage records, immunization records, passports, and drivers licenses for all family members
  • Copies of insurance policies for home, health, and vehicle
  • Checking & savings account # information
  • Current photo of each family member for identification purposes
  • Written phone numbers and addresses for important contacts

First Aid Kit & Contents:

  • First Aid Kit Box with contents inside
  • Tweezers
  • First aid booklet with CPR ‘How To’
  • Two pairs of latex or other sterile gloves
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ipecac syrup (induces vomiting)
  • Needles
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Razor Blade
  • Cleansing agents or soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Burn ointment to prevent infection
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications for family members that need them, check expiration dates every year
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant to prevent dryness, chafing, or cracking of the skin during extreme weather conditions
  • Calamine lotion (sunburn/insect bites)
  • Prescribed medical supplies
  • Nonprescription drugs, such as non-aspirin pain relievers, feminine supplies and personal
  • Antidiarrheal medications, antacid for upset stomachs, and laxatives

Food & Water

  • A 3-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day; more if you live in a warm climate)
  • A 3-day supply of ready-to-eat foods, such as canned meat, canned fruits and vegetables, and ultra-high temperature milk (also called UHT milk)
  • High-energy foods such as peanut butter, nuts, dry cereal, granola, and crackers
  • “Stress foods” such as hard candy or cookies
  • A manual can opener
  • Eating utensils and supplies (for example, paper plates and plastic forks, spoons, and knives)

Hygiene:

  • Tampons or pads
  • Towlettes
  • Bar soap
  • Tooth Brush and Toothpaste for each family member
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer

Kids:

  • Games and activities for children

Medical:

  • Extra prescription eye glasses, contacts, hearing aid or other vital personal items

Money:

  • Several hundred dollars in small bills
  • Quarters for phone calls

Safety:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Hand crank-powered radio
  • Dust masks for each family member
  • Batteries in several sizes
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic garbage bags and ties for sanitation
  • Flares
  • Candles
  • A whistle
  • A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (such as water or gas)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape for sheltering in place
  • Universal or wind-up cell phone charger
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Emergency reference materials, such as a first-aid book or a photocopy of such a book or manual
  • Warm blanket or sleeping bag for each person
  • Rain gear – ponchos or rain jackets, umbrellas
  • Paper towels
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A tent
  • A compass
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Signal flares
  • Paper and pencils
  • Medicine dropper
  • Household chlorine bleach, which you can use as a disinfectant to clean surfaces (mix nine parts water to one part bleach). In an emergency, you also can use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water.
  • Eyedropper for bleach
  • Backpack, bin or other portable bag for ‘Go Items’
  • Ziplock Bags to keep everything separated in the bins
  • Pocket knife
  • Safety ladder for second floor evacuation

We encourage all of our readers to work on putting together their emergency supply kit as soon as possible. You never know when it might become needed.

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Guest Post: Storage without Stowaways

It’s finally that time of year when we’ve had enough cool, crisp autumn days to pack away our summer clothes and bring our jackets and sweaters out of storage. This year, like every other, I approached the task with the anticipation of wearing some of my woolly favorites, only to find a less pleasant surprise when I opened the drawer: the unmistakable signs of case-bearing clothes moths.
As an art conservator who owns a pet and lives in an old building with the accompanying drafts and dust, I’m especially aware of pest control challenges and follow vigilant preventive measures. While the single moth casing I spotted means that these silent, destructive insects are nothing if not persistent, it’s possible to prevent a damaging infestation with non-toxic, inexpensive materials and a few easy steps.
● Prevent clothes moths from entering your home. Seal gaps in windows and doorways. Keep your home as clean as possible by clearing cobwebs and vacuuming regularly to remove dust, hair, dead skin cells, and other moth-friendly treats.
● Wash or dry clean your clothing before storing it. Developing moth larvae feed mostly on protein-based fibers but are more likely to be found among items containing sweat, skin cells, or food stains.
● Moths prefer humid environments. Control the humidity of your home and storage areas. This can be challenging here in the South, so I recommend the purchase of an inexpensive temperature and humidity monitor.
● DampRid makes a great series of inexpensive, moisture-absorbing products for use in closets and small storage areas. Silica gel packets, great for inserting in drawers and sealed containers, also control moisture and are available in different sizes for online ordering. It’s a good rule of thumb to change these when rotating your seasonal items. In addition to preventing moths, you’ll control the growth of mold and mildew.
● Traditional moth balls are effective but toxic. Along with lavender and clove oil, cedar blocks, shavings, and oil provide effective and inexpensive alternatives. For an easy DIY solution, simply purchase a bag of cedar shavings from a pet supply store, fill the feet of old pantyhose with shavings, and tie off the top of the “sachet”. Place the sachets in drawers, containers, closet shelves, or suspend from hangers to repel moths.
● If clothes moths, casings, damaged textiles, or other signs of infestation, are identified, inspect the affected area and all stored items thoroughly. If possible, check your stored items every two months or so for signs of pests.
● Insect infestations, mold growth, and climate control problems affecting art and artifact collections are best handled by an art conservator. Likewise, any major household pest control problem is best addressed by a professional exterminator, following with the steps listed above to prevent recurrence of the problem. For additional help in recognizing and controlling moths, check out this article.

 

This post was generously written by Erin Kelly.

Erin L. Kelly, M.A., C.A.S., M.Ed.

Art Conservator / Educator / Outreach
[email protected]

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