Closets are Not the Only Place to De-clutter

Happy Halloween! With the holiday season creeping up on us, it is the perfect time to get organized. Most of the time we start with the closets, usually thinking about our clothes, but what about that cold closet in the kitchen? You know, where you store the perishable and the perished things, the things that spend most of their time in the dark, until you open the door to gobble and guzzle? Of course, I'm talking about your refrigerator.  We know how it goes - cartons, condiments, and containers full of sometimes-scary-stuff get pushed back on those shelves so deep that they may never see the light of day for months.

I remember house sitting for my mom when she would holiday in Italy for a few weeks, or even just for a weekend in upstate New York. Right after the hug good-bye, the first thing I would do is clean out her fridge. I would get excited because, for me, the messier it was, the more fun it was to organize! As I think back on those times, I realize more and more that it has always been my calling to be a Professional Organizer.

Anyway, I could never understand why there was always so much food in her fridge; who was going to eat it? And when? With only her and her husband living in the house, when would they possibly consume a full pound of grated parmesan cheese? And was that mold? Why, yes it was. So the answer to that question was...never. 

Ok, ok, my mom would be upset if I kept talking about her moldy cheese, so let's talk about how you can get your fridge ready for all the good eats coming your way for Thanksgiving.

The best way to start any organizing job is to take everything out first, so go ahead and empty that fridge. As you are removing all the perishables, begin to put like items with like items: all your condiments together, vegetables, sweets, sodas/drinks, leftovers etc. While you are doing this, check all the expiration dates. Every time I'm helping a client, we find a handful of condiments that are way past their expiration date; it's just something you don't tend to think about. Have a garbage bag handy, and start throwing out anything that has seen better days. If you can recycle any bottles and packaging, please do :).

 Before and After 

Before and After 

That is the first step, and you will find your contents slimming down. Next is the leftovers. We all start with good intentions. None of us like throwing food away, so we put the leftovers in tupperware for the next few days... and often never eat it... sometimes it even gets pushed to the back of the shelf, and by the time we open it again, we can't even recognize what it once was! The rule of thumb with food is, "when in doubt throw it out." For me, the best leftover solution is this: after I make a nice meal, I portion out the leftovers into one-cup plastic containers and freeze them. This way I'm not eating the same thing for 3 days in a row, and when I need a quick meal, I have something ready to go.

Finally, toss anything that you know you and your family are not going to eat. Maybe you were on a diet last week and now won't go near that cottage cheese, or your kids wanted to try the latest fruit drink but they didn't like it. Go ahead and get rid of it; it will eventually go bad, and since you won't consume it, why wait? Also, make sure to check for flat sodas, old wine, bad juices, and anything else that hasn't been tasted in a while.

Since everything is out of the fridge, give it a good scrub; you never know when this is going to happen again;)

When you put everything back, add some organization.

1 - Keep all condiments on the door or use a lazy susan

2 - Keep like items together; cheeses, sweet stuff, yogurts, etc. Use these bins to help keep these similar items together. I also like to keep my wines, olives and mixers on the bottom shelf on the door, or you can use these holders for wine.

3 - Pick one day a week to do a quick scan of the items in your fridge, and throw out anything that is about to go bad. Preferably, do the scan right before you go food shopping, so things don't get out of hand.

4 - If you have leftovers, try to write the date on it with an erasable marker, a marker with masking tape, or these labels, so you don't have to remember when you stored it.

You have three weeks before Thanksgiving. The countdown is on! See if you can set a few hours aside and clean out the fridge (and be ready for all those leftovers and pies).

Happy Halloween and Happy Organizing!

Being More with Less

Last Tuesday I made the Los Angeles journey from Mid-City to Santa Monica for the Tiny Wardrobe Tour. NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) Los Angeles Chapter was promoting the event, "Project 333: Be More with Less." that was featuring a minimalist fashion challenge created about six years ago by Courtney Carver, who was looking to simplify her life in every area - including her closet. 

I was pretty skeptical about this concept of living with a wardrobe of only 33 items for 3 months (Project 333, get it?), which includes jewelry, accessories, and -gasp- shoes! I even felt justified in my quick judgement as the speaker approached the front of the room clad in a plain, white, v-neck tee and simple black skirt; I was thinking I would have wore something with more pizazz for the presentation. During part of her talk, Courtney mentioned that most people really don't care or notice what you wear, which in that moment, did not ring true for me - just earlier, as I was coming down from the parking garage, I got a complement on my shoes from the woman in the elevator. Not that I get dressed in the morning for compliments, but they're always welcomed, and my fellow lift companion certainly did notice what I was wearing, and was inspired enough to share with me.

It also didn't help my willingness to embrace the presentation that there was a woman in the audience who was loudly and emphatically determined to be a minimalist; she was pushing desperately to get rid of everything in her home. The zealous-like energy and the extreme minimalist mentality upset me and put my guard up.  For me, having nothing is just as bad as having too much. It is said that you shouldn't define yourself by how much you have, but I say don't define yourself by what little you have either.  

As Courtney was speaking I was stuck thinking, "This 33 thing just can't be possible." I work with a lot of clients that purge so much stuff, and are still left with way more than 33 items. I started tensing up as I imagined my own closet, and envisioned getting by with only 5 pairs of underwear and maybe 2 pairs of socks, to at least allow for some variety of shirts - or what if I went commando and just wore sandals?!? It came as a relief as she explained the project in more detail and revealed that sleepwear and workout clothes are each counted as one, and you don't include undergarments.  Phew. 

As Courtney went deeper into her story, the tension knot between my shoulder blades eased, and I couldn't help but be inspired by the way her health and happiness had improved, how her family downsized from a house that was too big for them into renting a smaller and more functional unit, and how they are debt-free and she is earning a living by doing what she loves: teaching and inspiring people all over the world. And by now, she's right; I don't care that she is wearing a boring white tee. Courtney inspired me. 

I had to investigate my own wardrobe. The next day, I had a friend come over and we started cleaning out, what I felt was already, my paired-down closet. I tried on every dress, shirt, pants, and even every pair of underwear, just to ensure nothing was in my wardrobe that didn't make me feel good or didn't fit properly. I work with my clients on this de-cluttering step all the time, and yet I still had unwanted items lurking in my space. (Skeletons in my closet? No?)

After removing the pieces that did not serve me from my space, I am lighter and freer.  I even took inventory of everything that remained. Since Courtney had encouraged us to tailor the project to fit our individual needs, I came up with this: if I group my shoes, outerwear and jewelry as one each, then I can get the number close to 33. Well...ok, maybe not that close, but certainly closer at only 74 items, and if I had a garage or basement to store my off-season pieces, then it would be more like 60 items. Courtney said 33 may not be the number for everyone; 60 is a doable number for me. Instead of dwindling down my wardrobe to 33 items, I actually got rid of 33 items, and it felt great! 

In the end what it comes down to is this: love yourself more, and love your stuff less, and always make room for new things to come into your life. Always make space for love. 

Stay Organized in Your Bathroom & Take Back Your Morning

What would you do if you had extra time in the morning, without having to change your wake up time? Would you make yourself a cup of coffee with extra care, and actually have the time to enjoy it?  Would you write that friend you don't see often enough?  Would you journal, meditate, yoga, or even catch a few more precious Zzzs? Like in any area of the home, having an organized bathroom will save you time and money.  A well-planned bathroom will also reduce anxiety in your morning routine while saving you time, so you are set up to have a good morning, every morning.

So let's take our mornings back!  And let's start with the first stage of organization bliss: de-cluttering. To get started, and I can't stress enough, you must de-clutter first. Go through every individual item, pull what you use and need, then get rid of everything else. Most people tend to collect and hold on too many products, especially makeup. This is usually done with the best intentions; we don't want to be wasteful and there is a chance we might use the product again. I'm guilty of this...I think I might want to wear that purple eyeshadow for a girls' night out or Halloween. Of course, I bought it about 3 years ago, and I haven't worn it once; so, in the trash it goes. It's also good to keep in mind that makeup has a shelf life of about 3 months to 2 years; check out time frames in this article at popsugar.com; you'll be surprised how soon you should be ditching that liquid eyeliner. 

So you've de-cluttered; now it's time to organize what's left. Since we were on the topic of makeup, these are my favorite acrylic drawer organizers from The Container Store. Measure the drawer in your bathroom to find the best fit and arrangement. I also recommend using grip drawer liners to help the acrylic organizers stay in place.  I love these drawer organizers because they can be used for so many different bathroom items...your toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss etc., and if something spills or leaks, you only need to take out one caddy for easy cleaning.

Let's take a look at the sink area; bathroom counters are a prime spot for clutter. Cluttered Counter Syndrome usually occurs because we like to keep out what we use everyday to get ready in the morning. On the whole, CCS makes sense, but I like to give my clients a basket or bin, and the morning routine goes inside, so things like body lotion, deodorant, hair gel etc., are not lingering on the counter tops. I recommend storing the basket/bin under the bathroom sink, so you can grab the b/b in one motion after your shower, get ready, and then tuck the b/b back under the sink when finished, and, voila! No CCS. 

Now, the under-the-sink area can get a bit cramped, so I've become obsessed with these Like-It modular drawers, because they take full advantage of usable vertical space.  With these modular drawers you can store items with double or even triple the space, and with the variety of sizes, you can find one or two that fit even in the smallest of under-the-sink spaces, and still have room for your morning routine b/b.

So take some time to invest in taking back your morning, and save yourself future aggravation. 

Happy organizing:)

 

 

 

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!

 

4 Tools to Organize the Kids' Craft Closet

With the summer just around the corner and school letting out, it's a perfect time to get the kids' craft closet/area in order. There is nothing worse than knowing you have projects to entertain the kids for the afternoon, but can't find the things that go together: you located the paint but not the brushes, you have the glitter but no glue, you have all-the-beads-in-the-world but no string. 

I was helping a client get organized in Malibu this week, and came up with some tools to get organized that will work for any child's craft closet:  

  • Plastic Bins, with or without lids
  • Modular Drawers with inserts
  • Stackable Paper Drawers
  • White Dry Erase Clingboard

I'm always at The Container Store where there is a plethora of plastic bins. I picked these basketweave bins in white because the size and style worked for this project, and I needed vertical clearance in order to store larger craft items. I used the 6.5 qt bins with lids to house the sidewalk chalk and other outdoor toys. Bonus with these bins: if you leave them outside it's okay; they're waterproof...as long as the lid is put back on;)

The second tool, modular drawers, are fab because they are sturdy, they come in many different sizes, and can be arrange in a variety of ways. I added small and medium inserts to these drawers to better organize brushes, scissors, sticks etc. 

Stackable paper drawers make the list because they are perfect for craft paper, tape, glue, stamps and stickers. I like that the drawers easily come all the way out; you can take the whole drawer with you to the craft area! When crafting is complete, everything goes back in the drawer for easy clean-up. Another stackable version that click and stack are great for pens, pencils, crayon and markers.

The fourth item I added for fun...well maybe fun for me, because I like making lists.  How often, when it comes to craft time, you're not sure what you have?  You forgot what you bought and now the babysitter is here, and you need to rush off to an afternoon appointment, but can't remember what to tell the sitter? With the dry eraser board, you write down the fun craft projects as you buy them, before storing them. Creativity can be more impulsive when you know what you have and where to find it!

To finish up the Malibu craft area, I labeled all the drawers with a p-touch label maker...I'll talk about how to make labeling fun in my next blog.

Did you find this helpful? 

I'm passionate about organization! I'm always interested in new ideas; what do you do to keep the craft area in order?

 

 

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!

 

A Few Ways to Store Your Purses

Living in Los Angeles, I get to work with a lot of opened minded clients, that let me try different organizing ideas to discover what works best for them. After I finished organizing this client's closet, the last thing to consider was her many purses and bags. 

It would have been fine to keep the bags neatly on the top shelf of her closet, but I was concerned about the dust and not being able to see the purses that were in the duster bags.  For me, out of site, out of mind; I forget I have, and I feel this is the same with my clients. 

So, off to The Container Store I went, in search of a solution to the problem of dust, seeing all the bags, and time ... I don't want to spend the time looking through duster bags to find a purse for the evening.

I don't know why I find such joy out of using an organizing tool for something that was actually designed for something else ... anyway, I found sweater storage bags, small PEVA Chest Clear 12" x 9" x 6", just big enough for one or two purses, and the storage bags can be stacked; I love it when you can use more vertical space. 

Ok, that works, right? Well ... now you can see the bags but all the black and brown ones look the same. So, I went back to the old picture trick. It works great for shoes, and now I will be using this for purses as well. I don't have a polaroid camera anymore, but I did have 8168 shipping labels. I took pictures of all the purses on a white background, printed them out on the labels and cut them with a paper cutter for a straight edge. They stick on really well, so no peeling corners over time.

What I also like about the pictures, is if you want to store the purse in the duster bag that it came with, you can and still know what is what in your closet. 

Of course, there's not only one way to organized purses. Here are some other tools to use. I like these Cubbies that are made for shoes and purses, as well as Hanging Canvas Shelves; these are great for clutches.

Like these tips or have a great one to share? Let us know in a comment below. 

If you have a storage dilemma, I can help! Email me at info@spacetolove.com.