Routines: The Secret to an Organized Morning

Mornings can be the hardest times for families. Parents need to get ready themselves, AND make sure their kiddos are ready to go.

One client, who also happens to be a teacher, made this simple but effective chart for her son. It hangs right near their front door, and is a reminder of the key things he needs to do before they leave the house. With velcro squares underneath each task, the son can move his Batman sticker along and remember what needs to be done.

What I love about this kind of chart is that it can build a child’s independence, and also save the parents from having to repeat the same things morning after morning. While this may not work every day, it is a great tool to use.

Here’s are similar checklists my husband created for my daughter to remind her of her morning and bedtime routines. What works to help your kids stay organized?

 
Checklist Bedtime.JPG
NoaKidsSchedule.jpg
 

Crafty Storage

Craft closets are one of my favorite organizing projects! I love turning the jumble of items into cohesive order, which then helps my clients be more creative. If you can find your supplies, you can work on your craft projects!

This client had different kinds of craft items to corral, including paper projects, stamping, wrapping paper, beading, and balloon making. I forgot to take the “before” shot, but we enjoyed looking at the “after” once we were done.

Fortunately the client had a reach-in closet which makes it very easy to see what she has - at least once items are stored in bins and the excess was cleared. We also tried to store items that get used together next to each other.

Here’s another post on how I organized my own craft closet. If I can help you boost your creativity by organizing your craft or hobby supplies, send me an email.

20190316_163721802_iOS.jpg

A Super Simple Way to Organize Memories

No time to scrapbook? Try a “scrapalope”! This fun idea came from a client who, pre-kids, had more time to save memories in a scrapbook. Since life has gotten busier, she’s adopted a new system: she uses a clear, plastic envelope to store memories and calls it the “scrapalope.”

I love this super simple way to organize memories. She can have an envelope for each of her kids, one for herself, even one for special events or trips. And she told me that if she has time someday, she’ll have all the items together to put into a scrapbook.

Right now she’s creating one for her kids by date, and including special artwork, notes, and other little items she wants to save.


20190316_144629557_iOS.jpg

Organizational Keys to Kindergarten: Getting Ready for School Days

This week I was helping a client get organized before her daughter starts Kindergarten this fall. This can be such a big transition for a family, and may even be harder for the parents than the child! A child starting school for the first time can mean a whole new set of organizational demands for a family. Now there are backpacks, papers that have to go back to school, and even bus schedules to contend with.

Here are 3 key organization challenges to plan for, before back-to-school:

  • Where will the backpack go? Is there a hook or cubby where your child can put her backpack each day? My daughter started putting her backpack in a basket in elementary school and this still works for her in high school. Having a designated spot helps you - and your child - know where to go each morning for the backpack.

  • Where will the jacket/coat/shoes go? You may have this set already, but if not, consider hooks that your child can reach. As your child starts school, you want to build their independence not only at school, but at home.

  • Where will the papers that come home from school go? This can be a huge challenge for families. You’ll need to find a spot for the school work/artwork to go (recycle some!), and a place for papers that you need to send back to school. And don’t forget about papers that come home that you may need to reference again. A desktop file can be a great way to keep these papers sorted.

If your family is feeling overwhelmed with back-to-school set up or routines, I’m here to help! Contact me today.

DeskTopFile.jpg

Organize Souvenirs in a Jar

Young kids love to collect rocks, sand, and shells while on vacation. When you return home, put those special objects in a jar. (Bonus tip: always tuck a few plastic bags into your suitcase when on vacation; the bags are helpful in many ways, and give you a place to stash those rocks and shells!)

I kept a few jars of shells and rocks on my daughter’s bookshelf. Now a teenager, she had the idea of using those jars as bookends. They are mementos and functional.

 

IMG_0886.JPG

Snowed in? Get Organized!

Home with a snow day today? Once the French toast is done, and the movies get old, try an organizing project to clear the clutter and make you feel better. 

Here are some of my favorite ideas to get you started:

 

markerjars.JPG

Get Rid of the Front Door Shoe Pile

How do I deal with all the shoes? It's one of the top questions I hear from clients. If you have piles of shoes by your front door, here are some tips and products to try:

First, reduce the pile of shoes by the door. Keep only the pairs you wear regularly by the door, the rest need to go into your clothing closet or other area. This may mean keeping only 2-3 pairs per person in your house. 

Next, find the right storage solution:

20180121_191226268_iOS.jpg
  • Several clients have had good luck with the slim IKEA shoe cabinet. It's small enough to fit in even the narrowest of hallways. 
  • A shelf can be practical, but be sure it is sturdy wood or metal with at least two levels and that your shoes can fit the shelves. Don't get a shelf that snaps together as they tend to not hold up.
  • Try this modern rack for shoes and accessories, and can even accommodate heels 
  • For kids shoes, this caddy keeps 3 pairs upright, making it easier for any child to find the shoes they need.

Make it routine: If you have a new place for shoes, be sure to tell your family and help make using the new container routine. Here's a creative reminder a client used with her family. 

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:

BackpackBasket.JPG
  • 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: 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!

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? 

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

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. 

Stylish Storage for Stuffed Animals: 4 new Options

I’m excited to see Target has a new line for kids’ rooms called Pillowfort, with super stylish bedding, furniture, and my favorite—storage.

Check out these awesome options for storing stuffed animals (or dolls, blankets, balls). The bins come in many different colors and shapes (tall, round, square).

And if you are ready to pare down and donate some stuffed animals, read this post from my blog series, “How Do I Get Rid of…”

Organizing for School Lunches

School starts next week in our town and I’ve already been hearing many mom friends lament that it will soon be time for the arduous task of making school lunches. For many this seems to be quite a chore, so here are 5 ways to streamline school lunch-making:

 

  • Have your fridge and pantry set up for easy lunch making. Here’s one idea for using clear bins in your fridge. I have a “snack” bin in our pantry; my daughter knows that she can select 1-2 items from the bin for her lunch.  Also have your containers and wraps easily accessible in your kitchen. Here’s my organized food container drawer, which makes it easy to find what we need.
  • Devise an easy “recipe” for school lunches. As I mentioned, we came up with a formula of 2 fruits, 1 veggie, 1-2 snack items + sandwich and a drink. Find a formula that works for your family. You may end up packing nearly the same thing every day and if your child likes it, great!
  • Empty lunchboxes when kids get home from school each afternoon. There is nothing worse than opening a lunchbox or container and finding the smelly remnants of a previous meal. If lunch boxes get emptied and cleaned every day (have your kids do this!) they will be ready for filling that evening or the next day.
  • Have your kids buy lunch at school. This plan saves many families, even if the kids buy lunch only 1-2 days a week. At my house I print out the monthly lunch calendar and my daughter looks ahead and circles the days she wants to buy lunch.
  • Finally, don’t forget to get input from your kids on what they want for lunch. Sometimes my daughter has asked for surprising lunch items based on what she’s seen friends eat at school.

What are your clever solutions for school lunches?

How Do I Get Rid of: Dance Costumes

My daughter has been dancing (so far) for 8 years. 8 years = many, many dance costumes.

When she was little we recycled dance costumes into dress up outfits, and costumes for Halloween and parties. But after all these years, the little kid costumes aren’t going to fit anymore.

We decided to save a few (like one of her first outfits, pictured right) as keepsakes. We also donated a few costumes to a friend with two young girls for their dress up box at home.

Could we donate dance costumes? This year at my daughter’s dance school we learned about a great charity, Traveling Tutus, which donates dance wear to children overseas. Traveling Tutus partners with orphanages, children's homes, hospitals, foster care centers, and non-profit organizations in different countries. Their mission is “to provide gently used dance attire to children around the world to instill confidence, self-expression and joy through the gift of dance!”

After hearing about Traveling Tutus, I started to research a bit more and also found another organization, From Our Hearts to Your Toes, which aims to “Bring smiles, uplift spirits, and build confidence by collecting, donating, and distributing gently used costumes and shoes to dance programs serving children in challenging environments.”

I really love the idea of our outgrown costumes helping other children. Consider sharing your unwanted dance costumes with these organizations. If you find more options for donating, please let me know.

Game On: Organizing Board Games

My family loves games....and games aren’t just for kids anymore! Many of my friends have game night and have tons of board games. But finding the right game and all it's pieces from a jumbled pile is no fun. Here’s your game plan to organize your games:

Your first move: Make sure you still play the games you have. Kids (and adults) interests and tastes change - are all the games you have your favorites? Move less-used ones to another storage spot or consider donating.

Also pass on those games you never play. We keep these around thinking we’ll use them, but we don’t-so get rid of them. If your game has missing pieces, can you get replacement pieces or use something as a stand-in? If not, toss the game because no one can play a game without all the pieces intact.

Next move: Take a few moments to look at game boxes.  Triage torn boxes with clear packing tape. Plastic game saver boxes are also made to last. (See also the plastic drawer storage idea below.)

Move #3: Strategize your storage options.

  • My favorite way to store games is in a dedicated closet. While I don’t have this in my 1890s house (sigh), this is a possible solution in many newer homes. With adjustable shelving you can fit in a lot of games.
  • The next best spot if you don’t have a closet is to keep games in a cabinet.  Base cabinets for bookshelves in a living room or play room work really well.
  • Another option is to use a low bookshelf. Our living room has a built-in shelf and that's where our most-used games go. Small cubbies can work as well.
  • A storage ottoman also makes a great spot to keep games close, but out of sight. We love the IKEA Ektrop footstool.
  • This Mom suggests off-loading games into clear plastic drawers and other bins.  A fun idea if you have the space.

Final move for the win: Pull out a game to play and enjoy!

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of The Neat Sheet. Don’t get the Neat Sheet? Sign up here.

Laundry List: How to Un-stick Your Laundry Process

Confession: I don’t mind doing the laundry. I use it as a “background” task while I’m doing other things around the house. I also enjoy folding and putting it away.

Most people don’t feel this way, and that often the laundry gets stuck at various points in the process. Here are some tips to keep it moving along:

  • Problem: Hate going into your laundry room? Solution: Clean it out, maybe even give it a fresh coat of paint. Read more in my laundry room essentials post.
  • Problem: A mountain of clean laundry that never gets put away. Solution: Is the problem where the laundry goes…are dressers and closets over stuffed? Clean them out and make room. Donate or give away those pieces you never, ever wear. Also, be sure you have dressers that open easily—especially critical for kids if you have any hope of them putting their clothes away.
  • Problem: Sorting laundry takes forever and never seems to end. Solution: Do laundry for each person on a different day. Many families find this works really well. If you are washing and drying one person’s laundry you also avoid the sorting step!  One mom I know uses mesh laundry bags and throws the whole bag into the washer. She uses a shout stain catcher so colors don’t mix.  Another idea: get others in your family to do their own laundry.
  • Problem: Socks without a mate. And the huge pile of socks to be matched.  Solution #1: Each person gets a zipper mesh bag just for socks. Put dirty socks in the bag, then put the whole bag into the washer. Solution #2: Buy all the same kind/color of sock. Trust me, this works. Solution #3: Try Sock-Locks to keep your socks together before they get washed.

If you can’t face your laundry room or want some new ideas on the process, contact me today. Email elizabeth@thatsneatorganizing.com.

Creative Clutter Solutions: Race Mementos

I’ve only been running for three years and I’ve already amassed a collection of race bibs, medals, t-shirts and other finisher gifts. While some of the items (beer glass and t-shirts) are useful, some end up cluttering my closet.

IMG_4902_thumb.jpg

On a recent run I was chatting with my running gals about what they do with their mementos. Several said they toss out their race bibs and don’t always keep the shirts, which is definitely OK! For the first time I just donated a few of my early race shirts. But for some reason I’ve been holding on to all of the bibs and medals—so far.

This got me thinking and searching online for creative ways to use and display race mementos, so they aren’t simply more clutter in your home. Here are my favorite ideas:

  • Make your t-shirt collection into something else. My amazing and talented friend Barb Patrick at Bitty Birdie Design can turn shirts into a quilt or pillow.
  • The company Mile 22 can take your bibs and create a custom messenger bag, tote, or backpack. For crafty DIYers, there are also instructions for making a tote bag yourself on Pinterest.
  • Also on Pinterest I found ideas for turning medals into a wind chime!
  • You can also use medals as holiday ornaments.
  • For those who really want to organize their race bibs, put them in a scrapbook or use the  album.
IMG_6948.jpg

You can also donate your marathon, half-marathon, or triathlon medals to Medals 4 Mettle, a non-profit which gets earned race medals into the hands of others fighting life challenges, such as serious illness.