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.

It's Spring: Get Your Garden Tools Ready to Go

This week I helped a client (a landscape designer) to organize her garden tools and supplies! It was such a treat to think past the snow and towards gardening.
Top tips for organizing garden things: 

  • Use your vertical space. This client had a small section of the basement for her garden supplies, but she used the wall space efficiently: she had one rack for long handled tools, and was planning to purchase 2 smaller racks to hold hand tools.
  • Hooks also help maximize wall space. I loved how this client used a hook, cinch strap and zip ties to keep her favorite hose organized for the winter. 
  • Use bins to corral small items. We used plastic and metal bins to keep gloves, hose parts, and seed packets organized. 
  • Label the bins for easy reference. 
  • Only keep what you really use. Broken tools and planters need to go or be recycled.

This article was first published in the March/April 2015 edition of The Neat Sheet newsletter

Spring Checklist

Today was a huge milestone: I took the ice scraper and other winter gear out of my car! After last winter the warmer spring weather is a very welcome change.

As the weather has improved I keep thinking of more to do’s: take ice scraper out of car, put out patio chairs, sweep porch, spring clean up in the yard, wash the windows. I must have spring fever. I started to write the ideas down on different post it notes around the house, but the notes were multiplying quickly. I then realized I should do what I’d tell my clients: make a checklist.

I created a document with all the Spring/Summer House To Do’s and will turn it into a Google doc to share with my husband (he needs to know what’s on the list, right?). Having a checklist means I don’t have to keep thinking about what to do. When I have time to work on the projects I can consult my handy list.

Do you have checklists for your home? I like creating my own, but if you want pre-made checklists, here are a few to try:

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.

Letting Clutter Go…for FREE

If you aren’t up for a tag sale to get rid of your unwanted stuff, how about giving it away? Your “trash” truly can be someone else’s treasure.

Here are some ideas for how to get things out for free:

  • I love Freecycle and it’s rare that I can’t get rid of something through my local Freecycle network. This is a real resource, and I’m continually amazed at what I can give away that others want: old magazines, blinds and curtains, and old filing cabinets for example.
  • The free section of Craigslist if you have one in your city.
  • Find or create a Free Table. While walking to dinner with a friend last week, she excitedly pulled me across the street to see the Free Table in her neighborhood. Well known in the neighborhood, the Free Table is a folding table that is always out front of one house, rain or shine. Locals come to drop off items and pick something up. It’s a great way to recycle and keep things out of the landfill.
  • Other friends had a similar idea when they were decluttering before a big move: they created a Treasure Bench. The bench was loaded with items they were ready to part with, and if you came to visit or attended the going away party, you had to leave with an item. I picked up some great kids books for my daughter, and a label maker…and I wasn’t even a Professional Organizer yet!
  • Finally, if you are on the busy street, don’t underestimate the power of leaving something on the curb with a “free” sign. I cleared out three working but un-needed air conditioners from my basement just by putting them out on the curb last summer.

Of course if you are the one shopping for free things, please be sure you really need the item. It’s easy to pick up something saying you’ll use it but if you don’t, it quickly becomes clutter. Donate it or pass it on.

Tips for Tag Sales

It’s Tag Sale time here in New England! If you’ve done the hard work of purging and sorting items, be sure you are set up to have the best sale possible.

Check out the helpful tips in this segment from The Today Show, including:

  • Hang clothes from an inexpensive garment rack
  • Organize items by “departments” such as electronics, kitchen, or clothes
  • Use a corkboard, shelves and stands to display items at eye level
  • Provide as much information as possible on the tags, including size and materials

Featured in the segment are the fabulous all-purpose aprons from Raw Materials Design, designed by my cousin and That’s Neat! blog contributor, Janna.

Need more inspiration to get organized for a tag sale? Janna also wrote this post for my blog with her great ideas on how to hold a successful tag sale.

Happy Sales!

TAG (Sale) – You’re it!

'Tis the season for tag sales. Read these tips from guest blogger, Janna Lufkin. 

Garage sales, tag sales, yard sales - whatever you call them – they can be fun, profitableand give you your garage back.

Summer is the perfect time to tackle this project. If you encourage your family to pitch in, by the end of the day you’ll not only have a few extra dollars in your pockets, you will have cleared some much-needed real estate.

Here are a few tips and tricks to organizing these weekend money-makers:

  • Give yourself time to organize. A month before your sale, clear your house and garage of saleable items, go room by room clearing out closets and drawers and don’t forget to look under the beds! Box and price as you go.
  • Choose a sale date that is NOT a holiday weekend. Families often leave town during these typical summer holidays. You’ll want as many people around as possible to attend your event.
  • Purchase tags or stickers in different bright colors. Assign each family member their own color. When an item sells, keep the tag (stick or staple it to a sheet of paper so you don’t lose it.) At the end of the day, each family member will know just how much they sold.
  • Make sure all electronics are in working order. Have an extension cord handy for potential buyers. Nobody wants to purchase something only to get it home and find it doesn’t work.
  • Group items together. Set up tables for smaller items such as vases, knick-knacks, dishes and glassware. Group larger items as well, tools, garden items, furniture, kids toys, etc. Make sure everything is clean and in working order.
  • Advertise your sale. Craig’s List is a great way to get the word out. Bright colored, large, neatly printed signs work well to grab a neighborhood passerby as well as a classified ad in the local newspaper.
  • Have enough small bills and loose change on hand when the sale starts. Wear a carpenter’s apron to keep money handy and safe. Every few hours, stash the cash you’ve made in a secure place away from the sale site.
  • Set up a free coffee table in the morning. Turn it into a .25 cent lemonade stand in the afternoon and get the kids to help. They make a little money – or – you could donate the proceeds to a worthy cause.
  • After the sale. Immediately pack up and donate unsold items. Don’t put them back in the garage!
  • Last but not least. Park your car in the garage – it’s a great feeling!