Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Great Products: Doorganizer from See Jane Work

For those of you unfamiliar with See Jane Work - check it out. It's a site full of stylish office supplies. My theory is that when you enjoy the way your organizing products look, you'll be more likely to use them!

Anyway, I wanted to highlight a great product that is on sale - the Doorganizer. As school gets back into session and we all adjust to new routines, this is a great way to remind yourself or family members not to forget critical things on the way out the door. Simply stuff it with your keys, sunglasses, permission slips, dry cleaning claim tickets, outgoing mail - the possibilities are endless! Right now the Doorganizer is just $9 which is a steal.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Organizing Checkup: One Year Later

I wanted to share with you an update on a project I took on a year ago - a bedroom for a teenage boy. (Click here for the original story.)

I was curious to hear whether or not the systems I put in place stood the test of time, so I checked in to hear the latest.

"Here are those pictures I've been promising you - Tim's room one year later. It was actually really easy to clean. He purged some clothes that didn't fit anymore and some school papers from last year. All the organization areas you helped him set up were all still working fine. This past year, he had acquired a lot of sheet music that he had loose around his room, and he grabbed an extra magazine rack (you had given him extras last year) to keep all the music together (totally his idea)! We did some heavy cleaning, added some new linens, and he is all set for the new school year!"
Not too shabby! Cheers to Tim, and let's hope this school year is his best yet. The real test would be a "sneak peek" when he's not expecting an inspection...we'll have to see what we can do.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pantry Closet Makeover for Under $200

I drool over expensive closet systems as much as the next person, but sometimes it's not practical for a client. And sometimes, you can achieve organization by leveraging what you already have, and making some minor improvements.

Here's a pantry closet example. We cleaned this up for less than $200 and in less than two hours.

Before, the closet was packed to the gills and items were stuffed in wherever there was space. Food was mixed in with appliances, and plastic grocery bags and paper towels were plotting to take over the world.

However, the closet already had a decent shelving system and was deep enough to accommodate a lot of things.

So with a trip to The Container Store, we picked up the following supplies, and spent a total of $175:

This baby holds up to 30 plastic grocery bags - more than anyone should ever need.

By implenting this system, we took advantage of unused storage space on the back of the closet door, allowing for all of the food to be neatly stored in baskets.

3) Clear Storage Drawers, Medium, 4, $12.99/each
These drawers were narrow enough to stack next to the existing shelving unit, giving us space to tame the smaller loose items, like phonebooks, takeout menus, plastic cutlery, and kitchen wrap.

So by pulling everything out, discarding expired food, purging unused appliances, and putting everything into categories, we were able to put things away neatly for easy access.

Here is our final result. A more functional closet for just a little investment in time and money.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking My Own Advice

I'm sure people wonder if I can relate to the tough decisions that have to be made when it comes to cutting down on your stuff. Parting with treasured possessions isn't easy, and it can be easier said than done. Rationally, you might completely understand that it's time to let something go; but the emotional ties are often stronger than we think.

Case in point. The BB and I have acquired a number of furniture pieces from family, leading to a very eclectic household. Handmade tables from my father; an antique desk from The BB's grandmother; and our most recent additions, a hutch and buffet that belonged to my grandmother. We've discussed all of this furniture as we develop a household of our own, and we've decided that we really like how everything has meaning and history, and seems to come together nicely (despite the varied sources of it all). But the recent hutch and buffet influx has put me in a tough spot. It's time to part with some things that have been meaningful to me in the past, but don't have a spot in my future.

This hutch is as old as I am. It has been in my many homes for my entire life. As a child, I somehow knew not to open it and play with the breakable dishes my mom stored there. And when I was old enough to get my own apartment, she helped me paint it red and move it in. It has served me well, holding a lot of stuff and serving as a foundation for the rest of my decor. But now I'm looking at two hutches, and I'm making the tough decision to let this one go.

Sometimes we take hand-me-downs from family and friends out of a sense of obligation. The important thing to keep in mind is that furniture ultimately has to serve a functional purpose. Otherwise, it's just taking up valuable living space. So, faced with my dilemma, I realized that having two matching pieces from my grandmother would work better in our space. The BB and I carefully thought about it before taking the new (old) pieces in and made sure that we would be honoring them properly and enjoying them in our home.

This weekend my mom is picking up the red hutch. It turns out that she has the perfect spot for it in her dining room. So that made parting with it even easier. So, goodbye for now, old friend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Tax-Free Holiday Weekend Treat

Here's what I am treating myself to this tax-free weekend in Massachusetts:

The elfa® Mesh Gift Wrap Cart. I have looked at it longingly for far too many months. With my NAPO discount and no tax, this will run me a cool $157. Don't tell The BB!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cool Stuff From This Month's NAPO Meeting

Every month, I attend a the monthly NAPO-New England chapter meeting. Last night's was packed with some great resources and products that I wanted to share.
A representative from Smead gave a one-hour presentation on exciting new products and smarter filing solutions for businesses. Among the highlights:

In addition, I heard about restoration and conservation services from Gentle Giant. They can repair water and fire damage to furniture and restore paintings.

Finally, if you need packing materials and boxes, try Box XPress. They will pick up and deliver, and sell used boxes, too, which is great for recycling and reusing materials.

$20 Credit from DIRECTV for paperless billing

The BB and I just signed up for DIRECTV (for the NFL Sunday Ticket, of course), and just for signing up for paperless billing, we've been given a $20 credit on a future bill. Not a bad incentive for something that I love to do anyway! I think more companies should be looking at creative ways to encourage people to step up and go paperless. It's good for the environment, AND it's easier to stay organized without a mountain of paper.

PS: Go Pats!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hire a Professional Organizer, or Go It Alone?

A common thing I hear from clients is, "why couldn't I just figure this out on my own?" In fact, many people wonder whether they actually need to hire a professional organizer, or if they can get organized on their own.

If you're having a similar debate, I offer up a few considerations. Working with a professional organizer can actually help you get organized faster. Sometimes a client will want me to get them started on a plan of action, and then he or she will work independently, with some checkpoints throughout the process. Though I have seen this work well in a few cases, it generally goes much slower if you are on your own.

  • Having a PO by your side will keep you motivated, focused, and on track. You'd be amazed at how much faster you can sort through clutter if you are being held accountable. Plus, you are financially invested in the time - which can be a strong motivator for making progress.

  • Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to get "homework" done in between check-in sessions with your organizer. Life gets in the way, and it's too easy to procrastinate or keep putting off your organizing effort.

  • A professional organizer will also offer you valuable tips and advice during your organizing sessions.

  • When you're on your own, it's easy to become paralyzed by the decision making process. I have seen clients decide to get rid of items, but then lose the ability to decide where they should go. Would the local church use the item, or should you save it for potential future use? Without someone by your side to insist on a decision, the clutter won't leave.

  • An organizer can help you work through your natural energy cycles and be most efficient with your time. I can sense when a client has had enough for the day, and I know that it will take us longer to deal with the process, so I will often suggest stopping for the day or moving on to a different task.

  • Ultimately, it's great to have an extra set of hands and a companion as you go. A professional organizer is a cheerleader, energy booster, confidant, accountability partner, and more.

No matter how you choose to proceed, remember that getting organized is an ongoing effort and takes continuous improvement and adjustments to your lifestyle and habits.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Makeup Drawer Solved!

Lucky Knitter sent in some before and after shots of her makeup drawer. "Hi Wendy, I took your advice and wanted you to see the results. I was at Joann's yesterday and I saw these small dividers and thought they would be perfect for my make up drawer. Total cost $2.00."
Nice job, knitter!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Top Ten Yard Sale Tips

Another suggested post from the email for a successful yard sale.

As a professional organizer, and even in my life before this career, I've run yard sales a-plenty. And I've learned a lot along the way. Here are my top ten yard sale tips to make yours a winner.

1) Set your expectations appropriately.
This is probably the most important rule, and one of the most difficult to follow. Remember that the primary goal of your yard sale has to be getting rid of extra stuff - not necessarily "earning money." You're not likely to get the full value of your items at a yard sale, when people are looking to wheel and deal. If you have higher end collectibles or furniture to sell, put a price on them that you think is fair, and stay firm. Just realize that if the items don't sell on yard sale day, you'll have to bring them back into your space. Otherwise, explore consignment, ebay, or for other vehicles for selling valuable items.

Yard sales can be a lot of work, but they can also be an effective way of cutting down on your clutter and getting some money back to invest in your new space.

2) Advertise aggressively.
The key to a good yard sale turnout is effective promotion. List yours on and include photos of some of your big-ticket items to woo in the hard core yard salers. People who head out early on the weekends in search of the best deals like to do their research ahead of time. Don't forget to post signs. One safety tip is to not include your exact house number if you're worried about the early birds showing up and banging on your door or peeking in your windows. If you have specialty items available that attract a certain audience (e.g. craft supplies, tools, old toys, etc.), make sure you highlight those.

3) Get the neighbors on board.
Nothing gets a true yard sale fan more excited than the thrill of a multi-family yard sale. If you can line up some neighbors or family members to participate, then you can bill your event as a much larger sale. Plus, it builds camaraderie and can be a lot of fun. If you choose to set up your sale in the same area, color coded stickers are a great way to differentiate different families' items.

4) Organize your stuff ahead of time.
Collect yard sale items throughout the year, and store them in a staging area somewhere in your house - garage, basement, attic, etc. Price your items as you go, so that you're not left with a mountain of stuff to price the night before the sale. Or, just have everything set up and let people make you offers.

5) It's all in the merchandising.
By setting up your items in an organized fashion, you will appear to have higher quality stuff available for sale. Place furniture/big ticket items out in front, visible from the street for the slow-rollers who drive by and size up the quality of your sale from the comfort of their car. Try to categorize your items and set them up together, like "departments." Throughout the day, consolidate piles and break down empty tables so that the sale doesn't seem picked over.

6) Price strategically.
Decide what you're willing to take for each item, and then mark it a bit higher so that people have room to negotiate with you. Leave price tags on new/unopened items so that it's clear that they have never been used. Offer up smaller items in bulk, like 3/$1, to make it easier to process sales.

7) Pick your day carefully - and start early.
Yard sales are typically seasonal and often fall in the spring and fall. Choose a non-holiday weekend when people are likely to be in town. And despite what you might think, the more yard sales going on that day, the better! It's less about competition and more about leveraging the activity. People are likely to travel to multiple sales on a given day. Also, resist the urge to sleep in. Your best sales will happen before 11:00 am, so plan to start yours early - by 8:00 or 9:00.

8) Watch the weather.
Plan a rain date. Tent or no tent, a heavy rain can put a real damper on a yard sale. I've tried it in the rain and it just doesn't work.

9) Offer snacks & refreshments - a great way to earn some extra cash.
It's also a great way to have the kids involved.

10) Have fun!
It can be a bit exhausting to haggle with people over a quarter for your favorite pair of socks. Try to keep your emotions in check and enjoy the day. Make sure you have some friends and family out there with you to keep you company.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Great Products: Crosley® Songwriter Recordable Turntable

One of the great benefits of being a member of NAPO (The National Association of Professional Organizers) and NAPO-NE, the New England Chapter, is the collaboration and sharing of ideas that occurs amongst professional organizers.

Yesterday, on the NAPO-NE email list, an organizer recommended this product for transferring LPs and cassettes to CD. At about $400, it's a bit expensive - but a great gift idea for the audiophile in your life.

It's a great way to capture your favorite albums in a convenient digital format so that you can enjoy them anywhere. And who knows, maybe you can let go of some of those LPs and gain some much coveted storage space.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ask The Organizer: Managing Your Makeup

Thanks to Lucky Knitter, I have my first "Ask The Organizer" question. I invite anyone who would like advice or a helpful tip on a particular topic to send an email to, and I'll address it here in a future blog post. Feel free to include photos of your space or challenge.

Now, on to the knitter's dilemma - the makeup drawer. Organizing your makeup can be done fairly easily, and without spending a lot of money. Step one is to review your makeup collection, and sort it into categories. Put "like with like" - all of your lipsticks in one pile, foundations, eye shadows, nail polish, etc. Next, purge items that you haven't worn or that are expired. For ideas on makeup shelf life, visit Essentially, mascaras are good for up to four months; concealer, foundations, cleansers, and nail polish will last a year; and eye shadow, lipsticks, lip liners, and powders will last longer.

Be sure to be honest with yourself. Are you really going to wear that "slightly too bold" red lipstick again? It can be hard to toss expensive products, but if you're not using them, they are just taking up valuable space. And unfortunately, letting them sit there won't get your money back. Avoid future impulse buys and make sure that you test colors before you buy them in the future.

Once you have pared down your makeup, the next step is to put things away in an easy-to-access place, so that you can quickly find what you are looking for when you are pressed for time (and not quite awake) in the morning. If you have a designated makeup drawer in your vanity, pick up an inexpensive drawer organizer with compartments. If the drawer is deep enough, try one that has multiple layers so that you can store your everyday items on top and special occasion items underneath. You can pick drawer organizers up anywhere - especially office supply stores or even Target.

If you don't have a makeup drawer, any type of caddy or container that will fit under your sink or on a shelf will do just fine. If you have sufficient counter top space and your bathroom is private, try a small "desktop" organizer to sort your everyday items so that they are in easy reach. This one is from The Container Store:

Finally, if you have extra items and do a lot of traveling, you can create a travel-only cosmetic case, pack it up, and you're ready to go at a moment's notice.

Remember to set limits for yourself and check expiration dates regularly.