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.

Get Organized to Grill

Our family loves to grill and eat outside on our patio. My husband is the grill master, and is super organized when it comes to his grill things. Here's how he does it:

  • Dedicated spot for grill things: We have one small shelf in a kitchen cabinet that holds skewers, trays, a cutting board, plus the BBQ sauces, seasonings and rubs. It's all in one place and easy to find.
  • Prep: My husband follows the culinary practice of "mise en place:" getting all ingredients prepped ahead of time, in a bowl, and ready to go. This is especially important since our grill is a flight of stairs down from our kitchen. Having everything in it's place helps avoid running up and down the stairs.
  • Smart storage: My husband has re-purposed a small metal rolling cart we used to have in our kitchen to hold all the grill things in the basement: tools hang from clips on the side, grill accessories are in the bin, and charcoal is in it's own special container on top. 

A Simple Shelf Solution for Gardening Tools

When I moved in to my house we set up a folding table in our basement and I unpacked my gardening things. I thought I'd use the table as a potting area, but nine years later, it was mainly used for storage. And not very good storage: tools and sprays were scattered around on top, while pots and soil bags were lost underneath.

One of my organizing matras for my clients is "use the vertical space," and I finally applied this to myself. The addition of a sturdy shelving unit (from Costco) made all the difference in organizing my gardening tools. With the shelving unit I gained more space, and it was less deep than the table, making it much easier to see what I had. Since the shelves are adjustable, I arranged them to fit my large bins on the bottom. My hand tools are out in a bucket at eye level so I can quickly grab what I need. 

These shelves provide excellent storage and I had used them in other areas in my basement. When you need to add storage, don't forget to think vertical shelves. Happy gardening!


Creative Door Mat Storage

It's Spring and a great time to freshen up your home. One of my clients likes to swap out her front and back door mats with the seasons. We had found some mats as we organized the basement, and were looking for a way to store them. 

My client came up with this clever solution: hang each mat from a plastic skirt hanger. This keeps the mats from getting bent and makes them very visible = easy to find! She can hang them in her basement and always be able to find the one she is looking for. 

It was also a good way to use those extra hangers. 

How Do I Get Rid of: Trophies

Soccer trophies. First place medals. Work recognition plaques. These tokens may be wonderful at the time we receive them, but years later they tend to be big dust collectors (aka clutter), sitting on shelves or packed away in boxes.

If you aren’t displaying them, then it may be time for them to go! (If you do want to display some, use a shadow box, hooks, clear case, or check out Pinterest for more creative ideas.)

First sort through all the awards. You may want to keep one or two, and that’s fine. You may want to toss them all, and that’s fine too.

How to get them out of your house:

  • Take a few photos of the awards as a keepsake; you can even create an online photo book
  • Consider calling a trophy shop near you to see if they could recycle or use the award
  • Mail them off to an organization that will re-use or recycle them - Awards Mall or Trophy Recycler are two choices
  • Goodwill and The Salvation Army may take them too

If you can’t give your awards away, see if you can break apart the materials to recycle the pieces. You also have my permission to toss them out!

How Do I Get Rid of: TVs & Computer Monitors

Older TVs and computer monitors can be heavy and bulky, and because they have cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, with toxic chemicals they can’t just go out with your trash. This means they end up in the corners of our homes gathering dust. I find often find them tucked under a chair or table in the family room, the office, or even the basement.

So how do you get these out of your house?

  • If you are getting a new TV delivered, many companies (like Best Buy) will remove and recycle the old one for you.
  • If you can’t take advantage of a take-away service, then check with your town to see if they offer a CRT recycling program. In my town you can bring your TV or monitor to the Department of Public Works and for a small fee, they will dispose of it for you. For a larger fee, the DPW will pick up the TV curbside in front of our homes, a few times a year.
  • Want to donate your old TV (especially if it still works) or computer monitor? The Salvation Army also accepts electronics/appliances, including TVs and computers, and many Goodwill locations are now taking computers.

You’ve got no excuses now to get your TVs and old computer monitors out of your house.

How Do I Get Rid of: Paint

My husband and I have been working to clean out and better organize our basement this summer. In the process we found many cans of paint that we wouldn’t use again (old colors), or were nearly used up and didn’t need to be saved.

Many people think that latex and acrylic paint is considered to be a hazardous material, but in my town like many communities, you can toss dried up paint right in the regular trash. Sounds easy…but how to dry out the paint? I had heard that cat litter would do the trick, but could take a while.

I investigated options at our local hardware store and found that we could simply get a paint hardener to add to each can of paint. This is the one we used, but the hardeners are also available (and probably cheaper) in bigger containers. This was super easy and we cleaned out shelves of old paint from our basement.

Note: oil-based paints (and paint solvents) should be disposed of as hazardous waste. Check with your local town hall for more information for hazardous waste collection in your area.

How Do I Get Rid of: Bicycles

Last year my daughter outgrew her bicycle. As I started to stash it away, I realized that we had 3 bicycles – all too small for her - taking up much-needed space in our basement. I had been hanging on to her first “real” bicycle for purely sentimental reasons, but it was finally time to let them all go.


If you have old bikes that could use a new home, here are a few ways to pass them on:

  • Donate: The local organization, Bikes Not Bombs, comes to my town’s annual Community Collection Day and was very happy to receive our bicycles. Bikes Not Bombs collects used bikes and bike parts, and then sends them to countries overseas as part of economic development projects. If you are in the Boston area, this is a great way to feel good about passing on your bicycle.
  • Another organization to try is Bicycles for Humanity, which has a chapter in Boston and other chapters across the US. Also check out this website with organizations that may take used bikes.
  • Of course, you might know of a friend, neighbor or relative that could use your old bike.
  • Bike Swap: Recently a bike shop in my town held a bike swap event; the money raised went to support our local education foundation. I think “sellers” donated their used bikes for sale, and the funds from the purchase went to the foundation. It’s not exactly a bike swap, but is a creative idea. Check with your local bike shop to see if they have any programs to help sell or pass on used bicycles.
  • Sell: If your used bicycle is in good condition, consider selling it on Craigslist. Check out the Bicycle Blue Book website for their database of bicycle values.

How Do I Get Rid Of: American Flags

Do you have a torn or worn out American flag that’s been in your basement or garage for ages? In honor of Flag Day this month (June 14th), I’m sharing ideas for the proper disposal of the American flag.

US Flag Code states that unserviceable American flags should be “burned in a dignified manner.” I’m not sure how often this is feasible (or allowed by local law), so here are several places to bring your unusable flag for appropriate disposal:

  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post
  • American Legion post
  • Your local post office or police station
  • Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops may be able to help
  • This flag company will take your flag for proper disposal, and will give you 10% off the purchase of a new flag

And for more American flag etiquette, check out this site from the VFW.

De-Clutter & Donate this Spring!

Are you spring cleaning and finding things that you don’t need anymore? There are many options for your unwanted goods to benefit others:

  • Cradles to Crayons: I’ve written before about this amazing organization that helps kids from infants to age 12.  My daughter and I volunteered there recently and learned that Cradles to Crayons is in most need of: kids sneakers, baby board books and infant items, girls clothing up to size 3T, and boys clothing size 2T-18. Please consider donating any items during their Spring Greening campaign! 
  • Got lots of baby and child items? Sell them at the LexFUN Annual Consignment sale this May 17th. Half the proceeds from every sale go to the Seller, and the other half to support LexFUN’s programming
  • We Sell Possible: This youth-development organization will take your unwanted designer clothes and handbags, electronics, and collectibles. Entrepreneurial students will sell them online with the funds going to support programming at The Possible Project.
  • Nave Gallery Flea Market: Support this volunteer-run gallery by donating your goods. More information here.

Label Fun

Actual photo from a client’s basement!

The client and I had a good laugh about how she had labeled her box.

While we chucked at the “stuff” label, you should avoid using such a general term (“Misc” is not my favorite either). It will be hard to remember what is actually in the box later on. Be as descriptive as possible when labeling your containers.

Apparently there is another box called "Junk and Stuff" in the client’s basement closet that we haven't found yet.

Cleaning Up as a Family Affair

Last week I heard a great idea from a client.  Once each month, on a weekend, her family has a scheduled Chore Day. On Chore Day the whole family is involved, working from a list of chores, including putting things away in the storage areas, cleaning out cabinets, and general tidying up. The client reported that “having a scheduled chore day each month means I don’t feel guilty the other three weekends about having lots of fun.” Brilliant! In my house I may schedule some time for myself to work on the basement or the attic, but it’s more haphazard…and it’s not usually a family event unless I rope my husband into it at the last minute or get my daughter to clean out her art supplies. And in between all my daughter’s weekend activities we do have a lot of fun…but the mess in the basement is still there. But now I’m very inspired by the idea of Chore Day, and will try it with my family: maybe just half a Saturday each month to get us going on that nagging list of To Do’s. Would a set Chore Day work for you?