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Do you have the kind of child who is always forgetting to pack certain things in their backpack? You know, a chronic homework-forgetter or lunch-leave-behinder? Well, I FINALLY solved that problem in our house! Only took me until the school year is nearly over to figure out …

chalkboard sign

I got this chalkboard sign from our local New Seasons about a year ago, but had never really found a good use for it until last week. It now holds Nathan’s list of things he needs to take to school each day. The key here? Nathan wrote the list HIMSELF, thus putting himself in charge of deciding what should go in his backpack each morning. OWNERSHIP OF THE PROBLEM, people!

chalkboard sign 2

Again, this solution took me 8 months to figure out, so I’m kind of embarrassed to be showing it to you (I’m also embarrassed at how badly our back door needs a fresh coat of paint). But hey, better late than never, right?!

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I recently had a lot of fun reorganizing a linen closet for a client. I like talking about linen closets, because they are the perfect space to ease into organizing, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of tackling an entire room in your house. Linen closets are easy places to start with because:

  • They are small
  • They usually don’t hold much emotionally laden items (ie. memorabilia)
  • There is not a lot of question over what should live in a linen closet, unlike, say, a home office. In other words, they are easy spaces to organize because they are not spaces where you will get stuck making a lot of hard decisions.

Here is the linen closet before:

Linen Closet beforeFirst, we pulled everything out so the client could figure out what to keep or toss. The client set the criteria for which types of towels and linens to keep. They decided that they would only keep things that were:

  • Stain-free
  • No holes, rips or missing hems
  • In coordinating colors. Good-bye, gaudy orange and lime green beach towels!

We grouped the other items by category. So we had categories of:

  • Towels
  • Sheets
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Underclothes
  • Socks
  • Handbags
  • Stuff to Be Ironed

Finally, we designated one shelf/half-shelf per category, and put everything away. Most frequently accessed categories went at eye level.

As a finishing touch, I made labels for each shelf or basket so the client would remember how we set everything up.

And voila! Here is the finished linen closet (pardon the crummy resolution of this photo):

Linen ClosetThis project cost next to nothing in terms of supplies — just $2.50 for a package of gift tags from Michaels that I used as hanging tags/ labels.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed by your house and need an easy organizing project that makes you feel like you have done SOMETHING, I suggest you start with your linen closet. Happy Organizing, Everyone!

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When it comes to home organizing, nothing is harder to organize than memorabilia. (Memorabilia are objects we keep because they remind us of past events in our lives.)

It’s not the sorting and categorizing of memorabilia that is so hard; it’s making decisions about what to keep or toss that makes it feel so overwhelming. Memorabilia brings up stronger feelings than just about any other object in our house, and it’s those strong feelings — grief, disappointment, nostalgia for the “good ol’ days” — that makes us avoid the task of organizing our memorabilia.

But sometimes an event in our lives, like a move, remodel or flooded basement forces us to deal with our stuff. What to do then? Here are some tips for dealing with memorabilia from a person who helps organize other people’s stuff for a living:

1. Everybody has a different amount of memorabilia. There is not a “right” amount of memorabilia to keep. Older people tend to have more memorabilia than younger people, simply because they have had more time to accumulate memories. People who have experienced a lot of loss, particularly the loss of people close to them, tend to have more memorabilia than those who have not had much loss in their life. I think this is because when we lose someone, holding on to their stuff is the closest we can get to holding on to them. The stuff becomes a proxy for our lost loved one. My point is, don’t compare how much memorabilia you save with how much somebody else saves. There is no baseline for how much stuff you should — and shouldn’t — save.

2. Do set a limit on how much you will save. Usually I recommend clients pick a bin size and decide how many bins of memorabilia they will save. Once the bins are full, the client has to sort through and pare down the bins if they want to add something else. This way, the amount of memorabilia you save can vary, but the amount of SPACE you devote in your home to memorabilia never expands.

3. Do make sure the memorabilia you save actually evokes memories. Don’t stuff your memorabilia bins with stuff you don’t remember why you saved. That is just a waste of space!

4. Along the same lines, you might choose to save memorabilia that evokes positive memories, not negative memories. Why save the love letters from your old boyfriend who broke your heart? Or the report cards from that year your child was struggling so much in school? Hang on to the memorabilia that makes you feel good, even good in that wistful, bittersweet sort of way, not the stuff that makes you feel angry, depressed or sorrowful.

5. Make sure your memorabilia is stored in plastic, airtight bins with lids so it will last through the decades. Rubbermaid bins are much more durable than Sterilite bins. And label those bins so you can know what is inside without taking the lid off.

I know some organizers seem to be “anti” memorabilia, especially if that memorabilia is simply going to live in a bin and not be displayed. But I don’t think all memorabilia has to be displayed to be worth keeping. The key is to be picky about WHAT you keep, HOW MUCH you keep, and HOW you store it. Happy Organizing, everyone!

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Beware of adorable stuffed Easter bunnies!

March 19, 2015

See how cute these Easter plush animals are, just staring out at you from the store shelf with their big, sad eyes? Wouldn’t your children just love a cute, cuddly, brand-new stuffed Easter bunny for Easter this year? Here is a bit of Easter-related organization advice: If your kid is like so many other kids, […]

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Easy DIY way to keep track of household projects + plan the weekends

March 13, 2015

You know that whole scenario where you have something planned for the weekend, but then your spouse surprises you with having other plans for the weekend? Meanwhile, that home improvement project that you started 2 months ago is still sitting out, neglected week after week? Here’s how we finally conquered that in our family: 1. […]

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Pics of my non-home office

March 9, 2015

Oh my goodness, it has been so long since I updated my blog! Suffice it to say, I’ve been busy. With what? Well, I’ve been organizing a lot of home offices lately. This made me realize I often get asked about my own home office and how a professional organizer sets up her workspace. So […]

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The 9-year-old organizer Feng Shui’s his bedroom

February 5, 2015

“Mom, I’m Feng Shuing my room!” hollered my 9-year-old son from the top of the stairs. Um, what? How does he even know what that is? were among the multitude of thoughts that ran through my head followed by: This I’ve got to see! So I went upstairs and saw where he had started to […]

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Must-have items for getting your family organized

January 28, 2015

Probably 65 percent of my clientele for my organizing business are families, which means I often find myself recommending the same storage products over and over. So I thought you might find it useful to know which products are essential for just about every family to get organized: *Totes for sentimental items: You know all […]

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Super easy way to organize kids’ schoolwork

January 7, 2015

Typically, I write about “how to organize kids’ schoolwork” in June. But recently, I have found that it can be helpful to do a big purge/sort of the kids’ schoolwork at the halfway point during the school year in order to keep the June sort/purge a much more manageable task. I also thought it might […]

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Reply to a person who wants to become a professional organizer

December 3, 2014

I recently was contacted by a person who wanted advice on becoming a professional organizer. I get asked about this A LOT, and when I have the time I try to share what I know. I decided to post my most recent response in hopes that it sheds some light on what I do as […]

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