Time to Digitize

For years I have been helping clients around the Los Angeles area get rid of the clutter and belongings that no longer serve them. But what about personal keepsakes that could still bring joy but are inaccessible and unusable, specifically, the videos and photos rendered obsolete by our fast-moving technology?

Some of you may know that my sister is not well. Her battle with cancer has been devastating, and she will never be the same again. I don’t want to live in the past, but I desperately want to watch the home video of us from when we went to Hawaii. Of course, it is a VHS tape and I don’t own a VCR anymore. I know why I’m keeping it, even though I cannot watch it, and that is the spark for this blog post.

This is where Jeremy Suede from I.O.Solutions comes in. I know Jeremy from NAPO so it was a no-brainer to use his services. Here’s what he did for me:

1 - Converted all VHS tapes into iMovies on my external hard drive.

2 - Transferred all CDs (old photos and headshots) and DVDs (old short films from my acting days) onto my external hard drive.

3 - Transferred all items on my big, old, heavy hard drive to my sleek, new, mega-memory G Drive, then cleared the antiquated device so it could be donated.

I now have all my “stuff” in/on a 4.33” x 3.23” x 0.43” box/hard drive and can access it anytime I want.

 Jeremy and I at NAPO-LA’s Monthly Meeting.

Jeremy and I at NAPO-LA’s Monthly Meeting.

How it works…I called Jeremy and he met me at a Starbucks in the Valley, (which was closer to me then his office), where I handed over my precious items. I have to say, when he was walking away with all my memorabilia I had a pit in my stomach thinking, what if he never comes back?!

To put my ‘fear of lack’ to bed, Jeremy did in fact return 2 weeks later with all my “stuff” on my G Drive. I paid him a very reasonable fee through Venmo and we parted ways.

As soon as I got home I plugged my hard drive into my computer and cried like a baby watching the video of my sister and I from over 20 years ago. I couldn’t have been happier.

 My sister and I in Hawaii, early 90’s.

My sister and I in Hawaii, early 90’s.

Cautionary tale: Jeremy told me that had I waited any longer, the tapes could have deteriorated and the footage would have been lost forever. I am so grateful I have a physical reminder of a magical memory with my sister.

If you have memories that brings you joy, I urge you to digitize. Whether via hard drive or uploading to your cloud, you can keep more stuff in less space, and have it in a vastly more accessible way. Less clutter, more joy. Win-Win!

I’m thinking this would be a great gift this holiday season: a gift certificate to I.O.Solutions!

Don’t let the past clutter up your present.

I hope you create new wonderful memories this holiday season with your family and friends.

Happy Holidays!

Make Room for Summer Fun

It’s finally summer and feeling like it in Southern California. Not to complain, but it has been cold here in SoCal; Los Angeles is always sunny, but brrr. Anyway, the first hot day arrives and of course, we're clearing out a garage.

 Fun Finds in the Garage.

Fun Finds in the Garage.

My clients' miscellaneous items have been nonpaying tenants of the garage since they moved into their home many years ago. I see this cluttered storage issue all the time, so here's a pro hint: when we store stuff in the garage/attic/crawlspace to be sorted later, for that magical "I’ll get to it when I have more time," time, it’s a good sign the items may never see the light of day again. 

We found a great variety of items in boxes and crates, including old clothes, paperwork from a job that they long moved on from, and ancient electronics with outdated technology. We had some fun with the donations on this job...

 

 

The organizing part of this garage gig was easy, considering there were really only a few items my fab clients wanted to keep: a few nice pots and pans, family heirloom fancy glasses, some long-lost decor that is finally going to be used, and some items that belong to other family members that need to be returned. From there, we donated what we could, and then called 1-800-GotJunk for the rest. Presto! Space!

 Before and After of One Car Garage.

Before and After of One Car Garage.

 

We made room just in time for some summer fun in this garage... A new Mercedes!

Happy ending for my clients, but what if you actually use those DIY / gardening tools and yard equipment?  If you own a house and have kids it is a whole different ballgame: baby strollers, beach gear, camping supplies anyone? What about winter ski storage and holiday decor? How about bikes, helmets, scooters and surfboards?

 

 

 

 

Whatever the sport or season I’m here to help sort and purge. Once we figure out what is leaving your space, we take a look at what's left, and in the case of garage storage solutions, we call the experts. This is where the fun begins.

I love partnering with monkeybarstorage.com an amazing garage storage systems company. The local LA location is who I will collaborate with and figure out just how many bins and hooks you will need to fit all your sports equipment and baby gear for your growing family. Presto again!

So whether you're an outdoor junky with an extreme sports habit, an active family on the move, or finally getting that dream car, take a look at your space and then give me a call.  Together let’s create some more space to love this summer!

4 Piles to Pitch: Win Back Your Storage Closet

Yes! Clean out that storage closet once and for all. I just helped a client do this, and I want to share a few things that might be useful for the closet you have been ignoring... and the skeletons inside.

My client had recently moved, and didn't have time to purge or organize before transitioning from old place to new.  As a result, her storage closet was riddled with random items (because it had a door to close and hide it all behind). Sound familiar?  Well, it happens all the time. Time to reclaim your space!

To get started, take everything out of the closet. As you remove items, sort them into piles with similar types of items - put like items with like items.

With my client, as with most clients, the piles looked something like this: the first pile was composed of packing supplies, including empty boxes, bubble wrap, tubes for posters, etc.  A second pile contained decor items that worked in her old place but didn't work in her new home, including items that needed to be returned. Off to the side, we had a pile of stuff that was to be sold on eBay and Craigslist, and finally, my favorite pile, the bag of bags. Over 90% of my clients have at least one of these piles:)

We also had piles of old makeup to go through, bedding to make decisions on, and office supplies to sort. However, the 4 piles I want to focus on are the four piles mentioned above: packing supplies, things that aren't working, stuff to sell, and the bag of bags. By just dealing with the items in these four piles, you will reduce clutter by half.  So, in no particular order, give yourself permission to let go of ---

1 - Items that are not working in the new (or current) space. This is often a frustrating endeavor, but it's time to realize that even alternative facts won't make your drawer organizers from your last residence fit your new space, and those pictures that looked great on your former living room wall don't catch the light in the same way in your new (or now) house. Yet, these items get tucked away in the storage closet in hopes you will find someone to give it to or eventually sell it. A big crutch in the letting go process is the "waiting to give it to someone who will need it" crutch. We always want to help someone out (or in some cases, pass the obligation of the item onto someone else), but then the unwanted item ends up chewing up valuable real estate in your space for way too long. So go ahead, give yourself permission. Donate it. And those things that need to be returned that didn't work for the new space that got shoved in the storage closet to collect dust and be forgotten? Put them in your car with the receipt and make sure it gets returned before it's too late.  Or donate them. 

2 - The eBay and Craigslist pile. My client had fancy and pricey dresses; some still had the tags on them, plus other items she thought could be worth selling. Of course, I'm all for donating it. Too often the ideal amount you think you can get for a given item is a lot more then what you can actually get for it. With my client, we started looking up how much similar dresses were selling for online and found that they were going for $20 or $30, and some were being stolen at $10. So I ask, how much is your time worth? $10/hr? $20/hr?  Because the time you use listing the item, the time spent in sale limbo/haggling with a stranger, the time and energy physically exerted in shipping the item... is the sale really worth the trouble and your time?  I suggest establishing a minimum listing item price of $50 or more to make the listing worthy of your time. If you can get at least $50 for an item, then list it.  If not, donate it.

3 - The pile of packing supplies. It will be easier to let these items go when you realize you are donating most of the stuff you thought you were going to sell. The act of breaking down empty boxes from deliveries alone (ahem...amazon) will reclaim a significant amount of space.

4 - The bag of bags, or should I say the whole closet, considering how they seem to fill up space like some magic growing jello. Like many people, my client was keeping every bag that was ever given to her, and all the ones she paid for like the ones from Ikea, etc. We looked through them all, and kept a select few that were in good shape.  We used some to bag donation items, and, get ready, donated the rest.

How many shopping bags does one household need? If you go shopping and use about 5 recycled bags, then keep that amount in your car, and get rid of the remainder.  Rest assured, more reusable bags will come into your life; someone is always giving away a free bag. Oh! And if you get paper and plastic bags every time you go to the grocer's and keep them for trash, then take one bag and fill it up with other bags; whatever doesn't fit in that one bag, you recycle. You will keep getting more every time you go shopping; have faith that you will not run out.

By focusing on items in these 4 piles, and not worrying about the organizing part yet, we saw a huge difference in reclaimed closet space. My client even had drawers in the closet that (I didn't know she had) she could never get to, now ready to be filled with items worthy of storing. 

So, what can you donate today to win back your storage closet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Minimize Clutter

I can't tell you how many times I'm working with a client, and we are organizing under the bathroom sink, and we find 10 tubes of toothpaste, 7 sticks of deodorant and multiple shampoos and conditioners.  They start to get mad at themselves for letting their toiletry supply get out of hand. The truth is, it's hard not for it to get out of hand, and here's why...

First off, many people buy things in bulk. You may be one of those people. "But it was such a good deal" you say, as we are throwing out the oversized, expired containers of ketchup. Here's something to consider when buying at a wholesale/warehouse store: say you like tuna, and you eat it about once every one to two weeks, so you buy the package of 24 cans and get a great deal. But here's the rub: those cans will be in your pantry for the next 6-12 months. You may have the space for the tuna, but for larger bulk items this starts to max out the pantry in no time at all. For items with a shorter shelf life, you may be wasting your money in the long run, and for the average household, many sundries are unnecessary in bulk.

Solution - When buying in bulk, ask yourself how long it will take for you to consume the whole thing. Will it expire before you use it? Do you have the room to store it? 

Example two: you receive monthly orders of hair and beauty products delivered right to your door. For instance, from my own personal experience is Wen hair products and Cindy Crawford Meaningful beauty. I remember being excited to start using these products, but come a few months later I was surrounded by enough cleansing conditioner and under eye cream to last me over a year. So I called to cancel and they did everything in their power to persuade me not to. After another month of smaller shipments, I finally stood my ground and canceled, knowing I could always start up again if I wanted to. However, some of my clients don't realize that they never canceled in the first place, and are still paying for and receiving products they don't use anymore. This extends beyond beauty products; another client had water delivered faster then they could drink it, and giant jugs were swallowing the living room. Don't forget about those magazines you're not reading. Sure, a magazine doesn't occupy that much real estate, but I bet I don't have to tell you that they stack up quick.

Solution - Keep like items with like items; that way you realize how much you have and how much you're using. If it's too much, then call and cancel the subscriptions. The convenience of automatic delivery is not always the best.

Common-clutter-maker #3: You don't know what you have, so you keep re-buying things you already own. You frantically search for something you know you probably have, but give up after 5 minutes and remember that Amazon Prime can get it in your hands the next day. I can't stress enough that everything in your home needs to have a home. When every item has its place, then the next time you need it, you can find what you're looking for in the first place you look. It may seem daunting, but go through ALL of your stuff; decide what to keep, what to donate and recycle/trash. Then choose the best home for your items, so the next time you need that specific hair tie or food dehydrating tray, you know right where it is. Pro tip: hiring a professional organizer can greatly alleviate the stress of de-cluttering your personal inventory. ;)

Solution - Find a home for everything in your home. This takes time but in the long run you will save yourself time, money and aggravation.  

Lastly, and perhaps the hardest, you don't want to throw out something you paid a lot of money for, yet you don't like it and will never use again. It's hard for my clients to put that piece of clothing in the donation pile that still has the hefty price tag on it, or throw out the expensive makeup they only used once but wasn't their color. At the time of purchase it was a good idea, but now it is a good idea to get it out of your space. If you don't love it, lose it; whether you donate, recycle or sell it, you will not regret letting go of things that don't serve you.

Solution - Don't hold onto things because of their monetary value. Know that every item in your home holds energy, and items you don't love could be costing you a lot more then they're worth. 

The silver lining to this is, while working with my clients during the de-cluttering stage of organizing, they start to visualize their spending habits vs. their consumption habits. After this, they are changed forever. Now, they make better decisions about what to buy in bulk; they know not to buy another white t-shirt because they know where the 7 they own live, and they can better choose what periodicals actually need to show up at their doorstep.

Stop the clutter before it starts.

Or start stopping the clutter.  

Thanks for reading and happy organizing:)

5 Ways to Label Your Stuff

Labeling is the last step in the organizing process. It happens after you've set aside time for dedicated de-cluttering, after going through all your things and getting rid of the stuff you don't want or use, after you're left only with the things you need, use and love. The label goes on after your trip to The Container Store for a stylish upgraded storage solution, and after every item in the process has been nestled in a location that is intuitive to your lifestyle. Now. Now is the time. All you have to do is label.

As a professional organizer in LA, I know that if you label your stuff, it will save you time and aggravation. Here are some ways to get you started with the final step in organizing, labeling: 

Easily the least-tedious and hand-touched way to label is to utilize containers with blank labels already on them. I love using these Jars (above) in the pantry; they have a clean look and they're air-tight to keep your food fresh. Tip - Cut out the directions from your favorite pantry items and place it in the jar with the expiration date on it.

Sticker labels are another way to go. I like using the chalkboard type for easy re-purposing, and I use them just about everywhere: kitchen, bedroom closets, hallway closets, etc.

Hanging labels are great when you can't use labels with adhesives. I often use the chalkboard gift tags but there are tons of different types. I primarily use hanging labels for baskets, but they also come in handy at parties to label beverage servers, favors, etc.

Of course, I cannot get through this blog without talking about my organizing companion, the P-Touch. I got my first label maker over 10 years and I still use it. It's great for canisters in the pantry, folders for the filing cabinet, for craft bins and drawers. The P-Touch-80 is easy to use and it's light weight. And 10 years. That's longer than most of my relationships.

About a year ago I upgraded to Brother P-Touch D400AD - don't worry, P-Touch-80 is thankful for the shared workload. The P-Touch D400AD offers more personality then the P-Touch-80, boasting nifty boarders, basic clip-art-like pictures, and a variety of fonts. If my clients are game, I ask them to choose the pictures and boarders to personalize their space. 

Of course, if you don't want to get too fancy, you can just print on address labels and call it a day. I employ this method for larger jobs for efficiency and to avoid hand cramps, and to corporate clients for a more professional, less personal touch.

In the end it doesn't matter what method you choose, but take my word as a professional organizer; labeling your items will make your day-to-day life easier: imaging finding exactly what you are looking for in the first place you look for it, every time.

Find this helpful? 

I'm always looking for knew ways to label things. 

Have a great method? I'd love to hear it! Thoughts on labeling? Leave them below! 

Thanks for reading, and happy organizing!

 

3 Ways to Organize Baby Clothes

For new and expecting moms, it can be overwhelming with all the baby items that come into the home. Many of the items are baby clothes. You see cute outfits at the store, or there was a great sale and maybe they're four sizes too big, but you get them anyway because they'll eventually fit, right?! And it's not just you, friends and family give baby clothes as gifts or bags of hand-me-downs that can range from all different ages. But what do you do with the clothes in the meanwhile? For this blog we are going to concentrate on clothing storage solutions for newborn to two year olds. 

I've found the best way to get started is to make piles of clothes by size. We know the first two years are broken down into newborn and/or 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months and then 18-24 months. First we separate, then we decide what we want to keep. Even if that skull-and-crossbones onesie was a gift for your darling Penelope, or the threadbare hand-me-down was given by a cousin you don't see enough, it doesn't mean you have to keep it. Focus on what serves you, and what will be right for your child.

Now that we have our "keep" piles, separated by size, we can decide how we want to organize the clothes. You can use one or a combination of these ideas, but I like incorporating all three.

  • Baskets with chalkboard labels.
  • Dividers for hanging clothes.
  • Clear airtight plastic storage bins with labels. 

The baskets with chalkboard label method is great if you have a lot of shelf space; I encourage storing the baskets on the shelves in a closet or bookshelf. Pro Tip: Don't forget to measure your shelves before buying any baskets to make sure they will fit properly. Adhere chalkboard labels on them if they don't already come with them.

This method is great because as your child grows, you can easily swap the sizes. The baskets in the picture below did not come with labels, so I purchased chalkboard gift tags from The Container Store, trimmed them to the shape I wanted, and used this double sided tape to attach them. Personalize it: there are oodles of baskets and labels to choose from, so you can add your own style to your organization endeavors.

The hanging clothes with dividers method is terrific if you have lots of hanging space. You can use clothes dividers, pre-labeled by month/size, or use plain ones. With the latter of the two, using a label maker or chalkboard labels for each divider, allowing an easy change of the sizes as your child gets older.

The third method works for the months to come. The labeled, airtight storage allows for long term keeping, and knowing your baby's clothes are staying clean, and bug and dust free, is especially great if you are storing in an attic, basement or shed. This is also wonderful if you plan on having more children. When you are done with one size, replace it with the next size up, and the first size goes into storage.

 

The picture of the shed is from a client that has four boys. We wanted to keep all the hand-me-downs organized, so when she is ready for the next size up, she knows exactly where everything is. We also did bins for shoes for the kids by size. 

Did you find this helpful? Comment below with your thoughts, and I would love to hear how you organized your children's clothes!

 

So Organized it's a Little Creepy

My screenwriter friend from New York is staying with me here in LA while he pitches his new script around town. He was settling in last night and heads to the bathroom. He asks, "Can I borrow some toothpaste?" I say, "Sure thing, it's in the medicine cabinet". I heard him call out from the bathroom "Oh my god, it's so organized in here it's a little creepy." Not a reaction I ever thought I would get.

Am I that organized that it's a little creepy? After he was done brushing his teeth I had to go in there and take a look. I opened the cabinet and thought...actually, it could be even more organized then this, I'll fix it tomorrow. Oh no, maybe I do have a problem. Wait...is being over organized even a problem? I'm not OCD.

Last month's blog was about organizing a medicine cabinet, but the one you usually have in the kitchen because you have kids. Well this one, now that my friend brought it up, is about the bathroom medicine cabinet. The next morning he was off to meetings and I went in the bathroom to straighten up. 

I approached this as I would if I were one of my clients. I went through everything and got rid of items that were expired and wasn't using anymore, or had a better home somewhere else. I didn't get rid of much but it still made a difference.

I'm a fan of the medicine cabinet organizer in there. It makes things so much neater. There are always the small tubes, tweezers, scissors, q-tips, etc., that take up so much horizontal space, and then they are usually falling out when you open up the cabinet, so annoying. The organizer that I have is from a few years ago, and I think I bought it as a desk organizer, but decided it worked better in the bathroom. If you wanted to get one, the Container Store has something similar with a small drawer in it, even better. I also recommend the magnetic toothbrush/cosmetic holders you can stick on the back of the door. Get them on Amazon. I had them in my last place but this door is wood.

Anyway, back to the reason for this blog ... can you tell the difference in the before and after? I think it looks better and feels better. 

Oh, and do you think I'm too organized? 

Slim Down your Closet for Summer

Decisions decisions...What gift should I buy for the graduate? What to get dad for father's day? What am I bringing for the 4th of July picnic?  

Anybody want to add, What clothes to keep in my closet? to that list?

While shopping for the perfect gift and making fun summer plans with your family and friends is not a chore, I don't think cleaning out your closet has to be either. It can be fun and really rewarding. It's like giving yourself a gift and everyday you get dressed will feel like a holiday.

All you have to do is ask yourself a few simple questions about the clothes that you have in your closet.

Of course, if you don't like the garment anymore, just donated it. However, not all pieces of clothing will be that easy to decide on. 

Below are three questions to ask yourself. 

1. Does it fit me? Right now? Today? Not two months from now or two months ago.  

2. Am I holding on to it out of obligation? If someone bought it for you and you really don't like it but feel bad getting rid of it. 

Also, I didn't say in the video another thing about obligation, is when you paid a lot for clothing but don't like it. You had a bad day and went out and bought an expensive outfit, harmless. Now, a year later, it's still in your closet with the tags on it. You know you're never going to wear it. You've even tried it on a few times hoping it will look as good as it did in the store but it just doesn't work. However, you won't let it go because of the money. If it makes you feel guilty or bad it's still costing you.

3. Have I worn this in the past six months? Did I wear it this past season? Every new season is a new opportunity to purge.

Bonus tip...I would wear it but I need to get them fixed first. They need to be hemmed, the button fell off or it needs to be taken in. Any unfinished project is unnecessary clutter for the brain. Put the items in a bag by the door and set a day with in the next 3 weeks to get it done or off to Goodwill it goes. You will feel so much better either way.

I added before and after pictures from a past client for some motivation. 

So, if you're feeling motivated, the way to start is by taking everything out of your closet and before you put the items back ask yourself the questions above. If you're keeping them put them back in the closet. If not, have a bag ready for donations and another for mending. It also helps to have a "maybe" pile, something you're not sure you want to get rid of yet. If that is the case, you can give yourself more time to decide at the end.

I always say, "if your not wearing it, it's best to give it to someone else that really needs it".

Also keep in mind, as you're slimming down your closet, you're making room for new and better things to come into your life.

It's a win win!