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!

Downsizing

I feel like I'm hearing that word, "downsizing," so much more these days.  The mono-word turn of phrase is getting some social acclaim as of late, and as a de-cluttering pro, I can't help but do a little happy dance every time I hear or see the word in public.

Example: A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching an advanced screening of Matt Damon's new film Downsizing; what a great movie! If only we could shrink down our trash like those brilliant Norwegian scientists!  My head was spinning from the imagined possibilities. Then the word popped up again! This time in a book title from one of my favorite people and clutter organizers, Peter Walsh. His new book Let It Go, Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier life will be in my hot little hands come January at the event his is hosting for NAPO-LA.

Practice what you preach: I did some serious downsizing myself over the summer. I moved from a 1000 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment, to a 400 sq ft studio, because "why-am-I-in-a-two-bedroom-apartment-when-it's-just-me-and-I-can-move-to-a-better-neighborhood-for-half-the-cost?" was a question that plagued me for a good six months. I didn't have room for the question anymore, and it was time to let go - of it, and my possessions!

I got rid of 75% of my stuff! Me! I'm already a minimalist by most people's standards, but even I was surprised at what I didn't truly need.  So, what did I do with the 75%? I decided to have a yard sale while I was downsizing.

My clients often ask about hosting a yard sale with their purge, and having never done one in Los Angeles, I believed they deserved a first-hand account of the hassle and shenanigans involved.  To give an honest answer from someone who's "been there," I decided to endure the process. And document it. For posterity. You're welcome.

 

Spoiler: We may have had fun making the video.

I walk you through the yard sale process in the video, but in case you just want to read the highlights, what follows are the steps and outcome from our endeavors (which I like to imagine printed up on a trifold pamphlet you might find at your doctor's office entitled):

So, You're Going to Have a Yard Sale...

1. Sort and stage - Here is where the bulk of the work comes in - good time to call your friend or family member (or trusted de-cluttering professional, ahem) over for the often overwhelming decision-making portion of your downsizing. Going through all of your belongings can be daunting to say the least, and I highly recommend the buddy system when going down the dark path to clutter freedom. If you have a garage, use it! The separate location can be a great staging area for your former treasures, plus you get the unwanted items out of your space sooner. Unfortunately, I didn't have a garage to keep things in neat, like-item'd piles, so I made due by opening up my organizing tables in my living room, and I stocked them with the goodies I wanted gone the night before the big event. Setting up the night before made the following early morning pretty easy; we just carried the tables out onto the lawn, ready to go.

2. Price - how to price it can be tricky. No one is going to pay what you paid for the item, or even what it's worth, so let that fantasy fly away with your limited-edition left-handed Frisbee. If you paid $100 retail, you'll be lucky to get $10 for it at the yard sale. (Side note, this part is sometimes painful, especially if you're forced into downsizing rather than choosing it.  Haggling with strangers over possessions you're forced into giving up can be a truly horrible experience, and to me there is nothing more hurtful than feeling devalued. So going in, know this, you are not valued by your stuff-don't take it personal!) Use the round stickers to price everything out. I priced things out for a few dollars each, knowing people would talk me down. Speaking of down, get your wares off the ground; take care to place items on a table or blanket. I happened to have a clothing rack which came in quite handy for displaying my former wardrobe.

3. Advertise - Place an ad on Craigslist/your local paper, and put up signs in your neighborhood.

4. Get change - You will need some cash to start. Get $1's, $5's and even quarters. Yes, it will come down to change.

5. Have fun! It's going to be a long day, might as well make the best of it. Make a video:) and it wouldn't hurt to have some ice cold Coronas on hand; your comrades will thank you.

The outcome from my yard sale experiment: It turns out that I didn't have a lot of the items people were looking for at yard sales. Many would-be patrons came early, between 6-7am, looking for electronics, microwaves, jewelry, gold/silver, and men's clothes. If you're dripping with these items then I say go for it! Put on that yard sale and make that sweet sweet cash.  As for me....I made a whopping $48.

Not everything sold at the yard sale (go figure). I ended up selling the larger items on Craigslist and OfferUp, which yielded $555. Adding the yard sale's $48 totaled me out at $603.  But wait; there's more - I donated the remaining items to the National Council of Jewish Women and got a tax receipt for $768.

Offer up and craigs list items.jpg
National Council of Jewish Women.jpg

Downsizing = Worth it!  Yard sale = Not! -  Hindsight is alway 20/20. I would have saved myself (and my loving pals) a lot of time and effort if skipped the yard sale and sold my stuff on Craigslist/OfferUp and donated the rest. I would have, but now I can authoritatively say that unless you have the right items, yard sales are not worth it! Again, you're welcome!

Creating More Space

We all want more space, well most of us. Ever the minimalist, I'm in the middle of downsizing from a mid-city 2-bedroom unit to a Culver City studio apartment; I'm just one person. Not like my client in Los Angeles with a growing family, totaling 8 people.

I've been working with this client for a while now. We've put systems in place to maximize every cabinet and drawer with organizers.  We've de-cluttered every thing that was not used or will never be used in the near future. Not one extra ladle took up valuable drawer real estate, not one mismatched plate in sight, no extra bottom pieces to Tupperware without a matching lid...you get my point. 

So on our latest work day, when I arrived to find my client attempting to put items away from her latest Costco run, all I could think of was, "No, no; these items are never going to fit!" We had maximized her space, but still couldn't accommodate her necessary bulk buys.

I'm a problem solver by nature, but boy, did I need to solve a bulk-sized issue that day. I looked around thinking that there had to be a way to make this work. Where could we add shelves or more storage?  My eyes settled on an unoccupied wall in the kitchen, and the answer appeared. After taking measurements, we concluded we would need something less then 13" deep. I knew it would be tricky, but not impossible.

Looking online, Ikea is always a go-to for me. That's where we found this shelving unit  and wouldn't you know it, perfect measurements! I was off to Ikea.

Did I mention that I build Ikea furniture:)

Did I mention that I build Ikea furniture:)

I do love building things. It was so rewarding to haul this unit in, build the structure, and fill it with items conducive to my client's needs!

Before and after close-up - The shelves are a perfect fit!

Before and after close-up - The shelves are a perfect fit!

Before and after wide view - They actually make the kitchen feel bigger!

Before and after wide view - They actually make the kitchen feel bigger!

We created so much usable vertical space! Now there's room for the extra protein powders and baby formula. The kids' lunch boxes have there own space instead of on top of the refrigerator, and the cook books are actually accessible. Paper towels - stored! Napkins - tucked away! Extra pancake mix - bring it on! 

After Picture front view

After Picture front view

The fun add-ons for better organization we used included: clip-on baskets for bread and produce, bottle rack for the wine:) and baskets for linen and party goods.

It was a great workday solving problems and creating more space to 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 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!

 

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?