An Easy Way to Organize Table Linens

Like bed linens, table linens are often crowded into shelves or drawers, making it impossible to know the size and shape of the tablecloth without unfolding it.

This Thanksgiving, a family member shared her new secret for organizing table linens: she stored each one in an XL clear plastic bag, and noted the size - whether the tablecloth worked with 1 table leaf, 2 leaves, etc. I loved this idea! 

This requires some work upfront, but will definitely save time later on. The labelling system makes it so easy to grab the correct bag rather than dig through all the linens. 

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Clear the Kitchen Clutter

One key clutter area for many of my clients is the kitchen island or counter. The kitchen is often the hub of the home, in constant use, and where kids drop their backpacks, bills are paid, and dinner is prepared. How do you keep this busy area clear?

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  • Get rid of the stuff that doesn't belong, every day. All kinds of things end up in the kitchen. Be relentless in weeding out the items that don't need to be on the counter. And this is the most important step: do this every day and you'll be able to keep the area clear.
  • Identify a home for the items hanging around. Relocate things to other rooms and put them away. If papers are piling up, try a desktop file box or paper sorter. Have a homework station for your kids that doesn't stay on the counter. Create a "landing pad" for your keys, phone and bag that isn't the counter.
  • Create a "drop spot" for your kids backpack, or use hooks by the door. Help kids learn a routine that works for your family, such as: unpack the backpack and lunch box, do homework, put backpack away. 
  • Keep only daily use appliances on your kitchen counters. Appliances used less often should be away in cabinets.

Once your counters get some breathing space, enjoy it! With a five minute daily routine of clearing the clutter, you can keep it that way.  

How to Clear the Corner Clutter?

Corners are magnets for clutter! Things seem to end up in the corners of our rooms, often in piles, bags, or boxes. If you really want to clear the clutter, take a look at what's hiding out in the corners.

Here’s how to get started:

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  1. Pick one corner to tackle. Set a timer for 30 minutes.
  2. Pull everything out. Toss and recycle what you can.
  3. Put items in categories, and put away what you can.
  4. Consider each item and why it ended up in the corner. Does it not have a place to go? Or is the place it goes over stuffed? Does the item require an action? Is it in transition to go somewhere else (to be donated, to a friend, to a family member)?
  5. Deal with each of the items. If they have to go into a space that is overstuffed, put it in the area and then schedule another time to declutter that space. You can also schedule time to follow up and make decisions or add the action items to your To Do list. If items are going out, put them near your door or in your car and resolve to pass them on within a week. 

Once you’ve been able to clear the clutter in your corners, enjoy your space! The room will feel more open and peaceful.

Backpack Storage

Problem: Your child's backpack ends up all over the house...in the kitchen, in the living room, near the shoes, but never in the same spot. 

Solution: Give the backpack a "home," a set storage place where it goes every day once it is unpacked. Yes, every day. This is a routine even young elementary school students can master. Even if you don't have a dedicated mudroom, you can find a place for the backpack. 

Backpack storage ideas:

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  • Give it a "drop spot" by using a basket placed on the floor. My 8th grader has been using this basket for her backpack since Kindergarten. Even when we were in the midst of a long home renovation project and the basket was relocated to a new spot, it was a visual cue for where to put her backpack.
  • Use a hook, at the correct height for your child to reach. 
  • Stash it in a cubby. Many homes have built-in cubbies, but make sure your child can reach it.

Organized Travel: Travel Essentials

This is one blogger's great list of her travel essentials, and her recommendations are right on track.

Having just returned from a two week trip to Idaho, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, I'll add that my new travel essentials also include a  small flashlight and a travel-size first aid kit. I knew we'd be doing a lot of hiking on our recent trip, so I brought along a small first aid kit. At the time I figured it may be excessive to bring, but when I was unexpectedly stung by a bee/bit by a fly (still don't know what happened), it was very helpful to have something to clean my arm and a bandaid to cover the spot...especially since the closest medical station was nearly 2 hours away. 

We didn't bring a flashlight on our last trip, but from now on I will. It would have been helpful for night walks and cave exploring; even if you aren't hiking, having a flashlight in case of lights out in a hotel or other place would be useful. 

 

 

Organized Travel: Packing Strategies for Every Kind of Trip

Want to try to be more organized while away? Here are a few strategies depending upon your trip:

  • Tour trip where you are in a different place nearly every night. For this kind of travel, you are packing and unpacking daily, which can mean in a few days your bag or suitcase is a jumble of clean and dirty clothing. Try this strategy: before you leave, create complete outfits for each day and put each outfit in a large 2 gallon clear plastic bag. Yes, this requires planning ahead of time, but it can completely streamline your morning routine while away. Take out the clothing for the day, and put in yesterday's dirty laundry. My in-laws recently were on this kind of trip and learned this idea from a fellow traveler. The woman who was using this strategy was considering finding a post office to mail several of her bags of dirty laundry home!
  • For a cruise or other vacation where you'll stay in a spot for several days in a row, you can unpack more into the room. Even when I unpack I like to keep clothing organized in these packing cubes, which I've posted about before. 
  • No matter where you go, choose clothing pieces that can mix and match easily, and bring layers. Don't over pack shoes (a common problem), bring a casual pair, a dressy pair, and sneakers or walking shoes. 
  • Don't forget to seek out laundry options along the way on your travels, so you don't have to take so many clothes. One family we often travel with likes to do laundry right near the end of the trip so they don't have to deal with all the laundry as soon as they are home. 
  • Read here for more tips to make the return to home easier. 

Happy travels!

Easy Paper Organizing: Deal With and Done Boxes

This clever idea comes from a friend who recently moved. She set up this new paper management system near where she opens mail and pays her bills.

Here's how the simple system works: she opens her mail, weeds out all the junk, and then puts the paper in the appropriate box. "Deal With" means just that = paper that needs to be acted upon (bill to pay, form to fill out) and "Done" = file. When Done is overstuffed, she knows it's time to file the papers she wants to save. 

This is a great system for people who need visual reminders, and helps combat the creation of piles. The boxes can also be quickly tucked away if needed. 

"Drawer Day" Organizing Strategy

Recently one of my clients announced that we were going to have "Drawer Day" at our appointment. She picked a few drawers that hadn't been touched in a while to clean out and organize. 

This "theme" for our organizing session made it more fun, and helped us focus on some neglected spots for quick organizational wins. We've organized drawers in the kitchen, dining room, and master bedroom. We've also used "Drawer Day" as a break from our larger organizing projects, especially when working on papers. 

This can also be a great project to start when you only have 15-30 minutes. 

Hidden Labels

Want to let everyone in your house know where things go, but don't like the look of everything labeled? 

Try putting the labels inside a drawer or cabinet. A client and I set up these useful labels all along the inside rim of her utility drawer. Now the whole family will know where to find what they are looking for.

Recipe Organization: There's an App for That!

We all love to cook in my house, so we have a good-size collection of cookbooks and a few favorite cooking magazines. I also have lots of paper recipes I've saved from websites and torn out of of magazines. My recommended method for keeping paper recipes is a binder system.

If you have folders or boxes of recipes and want to get rid of the paper, consider digital options:

  • Pinterest: While I wouldn't trade all my paper recipes for electronic versions, I have come around to using Pinterest. I've got all kinds of recipes pinned and categorized. I love how easy it is to use, and so visual. 
  • Paprkia Recipe Manager: This app works on all your platforms, and includes cool tools like built-in timers and the ability to cross off ingredients as you use them.
  • All Recipes Dinner Spinner: I often find recipes for a specific ingredient on the All Recipes website , so it makes sense that they offer an app. The app includes shopping lists and you can sort by favorite recipes or type of food. 
  • Your phone's scanner: You can also use your phone to take photos or scan paper recipes you want to save.

Getting Rid of Sentimental Items

My girl and her doll in South dakota

My girl and her doll in South dakota

My daughter has been cleaning out her room to make more space, and asked for my help to sell some of her American Girl things. I've sold doll clothing, furniture, and accessories (she's keeping her dolls). My daughter played for hours with her dolls, even taking them across country on some of our trips. 

While it was sad to see some of the items go (the cute little bed!), I'm excited that another set of kids will use and enjoy her doll things.

Often when we are clearing out sentimental items, the emotions and memories associated with the items hold us back from truly letting go.

Here's how I try to deal with things that hold a special sentimental attachment:

  • Can it go to a family member? Many sentimental items are inherited, and we hold on to things we never use, that are not our style, or don't fit in our home. For example, I had a small writing desk from my grandparents for many years, sitting in a hallway. It was nice to look at once in a while, but wasn't really used. However, my sister jumped at the chance to take it and turned it into a makeup table. It looks great in her home and is getting the love it deserves. 
  • Can it go to someone who can really use the item? If yes, then I try to focus on the benefits the item will have for it's new owner.
  • Can I get a tax deduction? If the item has a lot of life left in it and can be donated, sometimes the idea that it can be a tax deduction can help move it out of the house. 
  • Take a photo. Don't forget that you can always take a photo of your sentimental item before you pass it on.

What are you strategies for dealing with sentimental items you want to let go? 

Cool and Clear Spice Organization

 

Always searching in your cabinet for the right spice container? This cool product makes spotting the spice you need even easier. 

SpiceBands are like headbands for your spice containers! Put them around the edge of the lid so you don't have to pick up the jar and read the label. If you have to store your spices in a cabinet, I still recommend a tiered shelf for spices, like I use in my kitchen. The colors and clear printing on the SpiceBands also help with visibility. 

And for more ideas on spice organization, read my previous post on creative spice organization

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Secret Storage for an Organized Bedroom

Is your bedroom peaceful, calm and organized? If not, consider furniture with secret storage. 

  • Many beds come with storage drawers underneath. This is great for kids - and adults! The deep drawers are perfect for tucking away linens, or bulky clothing like sweaters and sweatshirts.
  • Want a clear dresser surface? This cool dresser (see photo) has a top that lifts up to reveal shallow storage perfect for jewelry.
  • Don't forget about ottomans with storage. They not only provide a place to sit, but do double-duty providing a space for blankets or clothing. 
Hidden jewelry storage

Hidden jewelry storage

Organizing for Homework

Does homework cause stress in your house? One way to help is to create a homework bin in your kitchen, or wherever your child does her homework. Making it easy for your student to find the supplies she needs will go a long way in reducing homework anxiety and stress.

When my daughter was little we had bins for arts and crafts supplies in the kitchen since that's where we tended to do crafts. Over time the bins evolved into a homework supplies bin. This week my daughter cleaned out her bin. 

Now she's got a bin with what a middle-schooler needs: pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, extra loose leaf paper, book covers, and the all-important index cards.

Help your student by identifying what supplies they need regularly to do their homework, and then find a spot to store them. Even a single bin or basket can help keep supplies contained. Keep the bin stocked so your student will be ready to tackle homework!

Sorting in process, lots in the recycle bag!

Sorting in process, lots in the recycle bag!

Finished bin

Finished bin

Create a Closet

Many houses don't have a large entry closet, and some may not even closet at all! During a home and garden tour last year, I noticed how one homeowner got really creative and created a closet with curtains. 

In a shallow alcove near the front door, a shelf went across the length of the space. A sturdy curtain rod was attached to the shelf, and two heavy curtains hid the "closet" behind it: rows of hooks for bags and coats. Open the curtains for easy access to the items, pull them shut to close the "closet door."  

With just the shelf and curtains, this nondescript corner became a closet. Don't overlook even small spaces in your home to help you get organized.

 

Receipt Organization: The Shredder Solution

While working with a client to de-clutter his bedroom, we discovered that one problem area was receipts. Like many men (my husband included) the client emptied his pockets in his bedroom, which meant that change, small papers and receipts ended up on the flat surfaces, stuffed into drawers, and all over the space. We brainstormed strategies to keep the surfaces clear, including bowls to hold change and receipts, a wastebasket, and even a shredder.

When I returned to this client's house I was thrilled to see that he had a low cabinet in place now, providing room for a charging station, a bowl for change, and a small sleek shredder! The Bonsaii Desktop Shredder is small enough to fit in the space, and its modern styling is a perfect fit for this client's decor.

This illustrates an important organizing concept: keep the tools you need (shredder, wastebasket) as close to where you use them, even if this means you have duplicates. The client had a shredder in a downstairs office, but the process of gathering receipts and taking them downstairs to shred was cumbersome and just didn't happen. The client was determined to keep his bedroom surfaces clear, and this receipt shredder is a perfect solution.

Organizing the Craft Closet

The sorting process

The sorting process

At the start of the new year my girl was busily weeding out the "kid stuff" from her room to make more space for new books and holiday gifts (I know, I'm lucky...she also likes to sell the things she outgrows, but that's another blog post). I took a cue from my daughter and decided to clean out our craft closet, a space that doesn't get used as much as it did a few years ago. It also holds our inflatable guest bed and wrapping paper, and had gotten a bit overstuffed.

I took everything out (even the hard to reach corners) and started to sort. As I sorted I asked myself, what did we use? what hadn't we touched? what craft kits or projects had my daughter outgrown?  I had a good pile of things to go away and a stack of containers to go back in. The stuff in the containers was fairly sorted, but I did a quick once over and got rid of some old construction paper, party decorations and used-up markers. 

Clearing the space meant there was more room on the shelves for the items I wanted to keep. I made sure they all had accurate labels to help everyone in the house know what was inside. I also had removed enough stuff from the floor that the inflatable bed fit better on the left side, and now I had easy access to my wrapping paper. 

All done!

All done!

The whole process took me about an hour. It was a closet I had avoided for months, but focusing on this one space meant I was able to accomplish the task. 

3 Quick Tips to De-Clutter Toys before the Holidays

If you have young kids, after the holidays there may be a lot of new toys coming into your home. Here's how to get ready and do a quick de-clutter your child's room or the playroom:

  1. Throw out any broken toys or toy parts that have been hanging around.*
  2. Are toys left out? Don't spent a lot of time, but see what you can put away. If there are toys that just need to go back on their shelf or in their container, do it. Put books back on their shelves. Games go back into their box. As you do this consider if you need better storage for toys and books. 
  3. Do a quick culling of toys. Donate or pass on any toys that your kids have outgrown, or they no longer enjoy playing with.

After the holidays you'l be happy you did this kind of de-clutter triage and it will be easier to integrate the new toys into your home. Your kids will be happy too!

*Bonus tip: If it seems that you have toys that you want to donate that have missing parts, start a "missing parts" bin. Put in the toy or random piece and see what you can collect. Put a note on your calendar to check the box in three months and see if you can match anything up. Leftover parts and unusable toys should be tossed in the trash.