Batch Your To Do’s

I’ve written before about how to chunk or batch your to do’s and errands. Today I took my own advice and got 5 bags of stuff out of my house, all in one hour.  I’m fortunate to have found great local resources to take my unwanted items:

  • Dropped off my daughter’s outgrown clothes and a few toys at my favorite place, The Little Fox Shop
  • Donated a big bag of books at The Book Rack
  • Brought more clothes and miscellaneous housewares to the Goodwill drop-off site at the grocery store

Once you’ve made the decision to donate or pass on something, try to get it out of your house as soon as you can. If you need help finding local resources, email me today.

Organizing Pick-Me-Ups

Snow: that’s been the focus of the past few weeks here in the Boston area. Blogging has taken a backseat to shoveling, re-scheduling, more shoveling, and snow days at home with my family.

If the weather has been keeping you inside lately you may be feeling frustrated by some of those trouble spots in your home.

Here are 7 ideas for an organizing pick-me-up to help you move from chaos to calm:

If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Give me a call at 617.905.7762 to schedule a session or create a customized action plan for you.

De-Clutter & Donate: Coats and Winter Gear

It’s that time again, time to de-clutter your closets and pass on your unwanted winter gear. Here are two great resources where your coats will help families in need:

Feeling Stuck? Get an Organizing Buddy

My clients often save the most tedious tasks for our sessions – filing, planning, preparing for taxes, cleaning out that junk drawer, putting things away in the attic, or facing that overstuffed closet. In this case I serve as a “buddy” for my clients, helping them get through those tasks that are unbearable alone.  I make our sessions fun, keep them motivated, and ultimately they get done what they wanted to.

Why does this work? Judith Kolberg talks about the phenomenon of “body doubling” in her book, Conquering Chronic Disorganization.  The body double anchors the client to the tasks, and mirrors back to them patience, persistence and success. I may be sorting or handing the client items to go through, but my job is to be a calm presence.

Once my Bookclub got together and instead of discussing a book, we each brought boxes of photos to organize (this wasn’t even my idea!). Another friend has an annual holiday gift wrapping party. It just shows that tasks can become fun when you don’t face them alone.

Even if you don’t hire a professional organizer, get a friend to help you with that one task you really dread. Trade time with the friend – work at your house, then at hers. Maybe a family member can help. My husband and I can be very productive when we are both in our office quietly working on separate tasks. He’ll remind me of what I want to accomplish if I try to give up on my task, and we keep each other accountable.

So if you are feeling stuck, don’t give up - try organizing with a buddy.

“Unnecessary” Rearranging

I’m sharing a great post from my friend Casey at loft & cottage interiors about “unnecessary rearranging” projects. It rang true for me, does it for you?

When I have a lot to do, I often do "unnecessary" organizing projects...but it gets me ready for what I really should be doing. And for many of my clients, a bit of quick clutter clearing gets them warmed up to make the tougher decisions.

Thanks Casey!

3 Organizing Tips for Earth Day

1. Use your re-usable bags. The ubiquitous re-usable bags are everywhere now, but only keep those that you really use. And as I wrote about in a recent blog post, you can organize and carry bags in The Tote Buddy…and if you have more bags than you need, pass them on (or use them for items you plan to donate, see #3).

2. Set up your recycling center. Do you have an organized area to catch all the recyclables? Set up the bins and bags in a central spot, such as the kitchen or basement. There are also containers made just for recycling, such as these bins from The Container Store or these from Target. I also like this Simplehuman trash and recycling can.

3. Do a sweep of your closets, and donate any unwanted items. This is a great time of year to de-clutter and donate. Schools and non-profits may be looking for items for their tag sales or fundraisers, plan to hold your own tag sale this summer, or donate to organizations that will pick up like Goodwill or Vietnam Veterans of America.

Favorite Finds Part 2: Storage and Labels

Part 1 of of my favorite finds from the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference focused on keeping paper in order. Now in Part 2, I share cool products for storage and labels.


My first new find was the Bento Storage collection from Rubbermaid (now available at Target). These boxes come in a variety of sizes and have internal flexible dividers that snap out to create smaller storage within the container. Or push the dividers back against the box wall for an open storage space.

The Tote Buddy offers a stylish way to store and carry all those reusable storage bags that we collect. The Tote Buddy is a sturdy folder; simply stack your bags inside and close it with the strap. Never forget your bags at the grocery store again!

Tired of searching through a tangled mess of cords and headphones in your bag? Use the Gridit to keep it all organized. The Gridit surface is comprised of elastic bands that secure your items. You can see everything and easily find what you need.

New ways to label

3M™ shared lots of fun samples. I really like their new Post-It® Storage Container Labels  - they adhere to all kinds of surfaces but don’t leave any sticky reside behind. With the Post-It® Super Sticky Full labels the entire back surface is sticky and stays put.

The NACKit!™ reusable labeling system includes pre-printed or blank cards and self-adhesive pockets. Printed lines on the back of the card give you a space to inventory what’s inside the container.

Conference Time

I’m excited to be heading to Baltimore for the National Association of Professional Organizers Annual Conference!

Bill Rancic, the first winner of Donald Trump’s Apprentice contest, is giving the keynote address on Entrepreneurship. I’m also excited to attend sessions on organizing photos (digital and printed) and Feng Shui, among other topics, and will be checking out the latest and greatest products in the Expo. Look for posts on what I found when I’m back.

Pick a Project

Take the first step towards a newly organized 2012. Pick an organizing project and commit to completing it this month.

You know you'll feel better...and you may even find some inspiration and motivation to tackle those other trouble spots in your home.

Organizing Projects to Get You Going

  • Sort and purge your tupperware drawer
  • Clean out the fridge/freezer
  • Toss out the warranties/user manuals for products you no longer own
  • If you don't have a warranties/user manual file....start one now
  • Purge your nightstand
  • Clean out the medicine cabinet
  • Re-organize your bookshelf
  • Clear off the top of your desk (that means filing, recycling old papers, and returning the random items to where they belong)
  • Set up your bill system for 2012
  • Clear off your bulletin board
  • Purge your purse, briefcase or backpack

This was originally published in The Neat Sheet January/February 2012.

Love the List

Today one of my clients said, “Let’s make a to do list. I find if I write it down, I tend to actually do it.”

How true! I’m a big fan of the daily to do list, but it has to be short and sweet. It can be on an index card, a post-it note, or in your smartphone. List no more than 3-5 things to do and see how it works for you!

For more tips on lists, read these blog posts (can you tell that I love lists??):

An Organized Holiday: Gift Wrapping

Now that you have the gifts, it’s time to wrap ‘em up! But can you find the paper and bows? Get your gift wrapping supplies in order.

  • First consolidate all your papers and wrapping supplies in one area – then you know what you have, and what you are missing. Last year I noticed that I had so much wrapping paper. I realized that I’d pick it up after the holidays on sale…but now I have plenty to last me for years.
  • Do you always end up wrapping gifts on the dining room table? Then look for a drawer in an armoire or cupboard near your dining area and keep the supplies there.
  • I love my Rubbermaid wrap-n-craft container: the rolls of wrapping paper stand up, and it also has space for tissue paper and boxes. It stands in the closet in my family room since that is the area where the gifts end up.
  • Want to simplify? Come up with a signature wrap. I had a friend who wrapped everything in butcher block paper and fun bows, or think about shiny silver that works for the holidays, birthdays and weddings!
  • Many people I know are skipping the wrapping paper and only using gift bags. This streamlines the process…and maybe the gift recipient will use the bag next year.

An Organized Holiday: Decorations

Today I was a guest on the Martha Stewart Living Radio show, “Living Today,” and had a great time chatting with the host about getting organized for the holidays.

Since it ‘tis the season, I’ll be posting my favorite holiday tips this month. Today’s tips have to do with keeping those decorations in order:

  • Store decorations in one area of your home…not spread out in different places. You may be surprised by how much you have once you get it all together.
  • I love to store decorations in large clear bins. It’s easy to see what’s inside. If you like the red/green bins, be sure to label them!
  • Now there are also clear bins that come with colored lids that correspond to different seasons/holidays, red = Christmas, pink = Easter and orange = Halloween.
  • If you want to simplify, think about items that you can use throughout the seasons and holidays. For example, glass hurricanes can be filled with candies or shiny tinsel for this time of the year, and but then be filled with seashells for the summer.
  • Pay attention to decorations you no longer use. Are you tired of the same old ornaments, trying to simplify, or just have different taste now? Maybe it is time to donate some decorations. And while you are at it, get rid of anything that is broken.
  • Make some time to put the decorations away after the holidays. I know, it’s not as much fun as setting everything up. If you take the time to really put things where they go, it will make taking them out next time a whole lot easier.
  • And you don’t have to do it all at once. I often un-decorate in stages. First, I take things down and get them in the right box…and this may be over the course of a few days. Next, I get the boxes back up to the attic. They may not go into the attic right away…but at least they are moving in the right direction! My final step is to fully put the boxes back—where they go.

De-clutter & Donate: Furniture Donations to benefit the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless

Get that unused furniture out of your basement and attic this week! November 7-10, donate good-condition, unwanted furniture to benefit the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. The furniture drive is sponsored by the Greater Boston Association of Realtors.

Furniture can be picked up at your home! Or drop off at Olympia Moving in Watertown, MA.  Contact them today to arrange the pick up or drop off: or Mark McEwen at 617-231-1204.

How to Stay Sane? Tip 1: Make a List

I’m thrilled that the day has come for our kitchen remodel, but I alternate between panic, overwhelm and excitement.

How am I keeping my sanity? With two of my favorite strategies.

#1:  I have been making a list…or lists in this case. For this project my lists included:

  • what we needed to pack away
  • areas I had to clear out
  • what we needed to move to set up our temporary kitchen
  • miscellaneous things we needed to do to get ready
  • questions to ask the contractors
  • items we had to shop for

Keeping a list helps me keep it all together. And there is a the feeling of accomplishment when something gets crossed off. How do you use lists?

Stay tuned for #2 later this week.

Get it in Gear

If you have kids, you know that Fall is a super busy time. Besides school, many sports and classes start up again.

So get that gear in order!

  • Know which activities your kids will be doing. Make a schedule for each child, and put all activities on a master family calendar.
  • Use a separate bag to store the gear for each activity. If you do this already, now is the time to have your child clean out the bag from last year!
  • Take an inventory of what your kids will need for their activities. Do the soccer cleats or tap shoes still fit? Can you find both ice skates or the baseball glove?
  • Make a list of anything you’ll need to buy, and schedule time to purchase it.

Organizing for Emergencies: Be Prepared

Here in the Boston area this week we had the rare experience of an earthquake (I didn’t even notice it!), and now predictions are for a hurricane this weekend. And recently we’ve had devastating tornadoes in central Massachusetts, not a common occurrence. We just never know what mother nature is planning.

Today I was thinking about what we might need to do before the impending hurricane, and I heard some good advice from the local emergency management officials: Make a list of what you need to take inside during a hurricane, including bicycles, kids toys, lawn furniture, hanging plants, and awnings.

A list, music to my ears! And a great idea to make the list before the storm hits.

This got me thinking about other tips for emergencies:

  • Have a list with your insurance company name and contact information, and your policy numbers; even better – have a copy of your declarations page.
  • Know where your flashlights and extra batteries are.
  • Also have candles and matches handy.
  • Discuss an emergency plan with your family – where you would meet up if you were separated, where you would evacuate?
  • Have your first aid kit stocked.
  • If you did have to leave your home, what special items and photos would you want to take?
  • And of course, have some extra water and food on hand.

For more details on preparing for an emergency, check out professional organizer Judith Kolberg’s Organizing for Disaster and the website Hopefully you won’t ever need to use your emergency plan or supplies, but it’s much better to be prepared, just in case.

Reduce the Excuse….Plan Ahead

It is so easy to make excuses to avoid things we know we should do. I always had an excuse for why I didn’t exercise regularly or go to the gym.

That all changed a few months ago. After years of walking, yoga, and Pilates, I decided to  ramp up my routine when I heard about a “boot camp” workout from Karna Fitness. This is a VERY early morning class and I thought, why not? I won’t have anything else going on at that time…except of course for sleep! So I went from 0 aerobic exercise to a serious workout 2x a week, and I feel great.

While it’s hard to get going in the morning, my amazing instructor emailed with excellent advice before the first class: get your workout clothes together, have your sneakers by the door, fill your water bottle and leave a quick snack on the table the night before.

This routine has really helped me be able to get out the door at 5:40am. It’s the planning ahead that helps me reduce the excuses and take care of myself.

What are you making excuses for? Can planning ahead help?