Saturday, May 2, 2015

New Site for Organizing Tips

This blog site has now been combined with Organizing Tips for This Month.  To access it, simply click on the link below.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Organizing Tips for October

Fall is officially here.  In some parts of our country the weather may not show it, but it is time to get moving towards the season filled with decorating and entertaining. 

Buy your Christmas Cards now while selection is best and send out “Save the Date” cards for any holiday events you plan.  Update your calendar with all the special fall events taking place, put out your fall d├ęcor and get your yard ready for falling leaves.

This month we will concentrate on getting the dining room and/or eating areas organized and ready for holiday entertainment. 
  • If you have a dining room that is not used often, the table can become a dumping ground for items put there temporarily.  What starts out as the mail mutates into miscellaneous things coming into the  house.  Start today to make it off limits for the temporary put down.
  • Inventory your linens and purge what you haven’t used in years.  If some hold sentimental value, see if someone in your family can use them and give them the honor they deserve.  If some are in need of repair, make the decision to take care of that or to move them on.  Remember removing those that you do not use will make more space for those that you love and use.
  • Look over your dinnerware and remove pieces that cannot be used because of chips or other damage.  If there are odd pieces that cannot be used with other items, move them out, too.  Complete sets that are stored in boxes and never opened should be sold, donated or given to someone who wants them.   As with your linens, move on pieces that are simply taking up space.
  • Provide adequate seating for all those eating together.  Folding chairs can be used and stored in a closet or other storage area afterwards.  Wooden posts located on the wall of the garage can be used to hang them so they do not take up floor space.
  • Cloth or paper napkins can be placed in an attractive basket, bowl or tray and serve as a centerpiece.
  • Placemats are more versatile to use than tablecloths and can be left on the table as decorations or stacked in the center with a napkin basket.
  • Dinnerware, flatware and serving pieces should be located in an area convenient to setting the table and replacing after clean up.
  • Special occasion or seasonal dinnerware or silverware should be kept only if used and you have sufficient space for it.  .
  • Table cloths can be stored in shallow drawers or hung over a dowel or hanger covered with the empty roll from wrapping paper or paper towels.  Slit the roll on one side and slip it over the rod.  Hang it in a closet.  This will prevent additional wrinkles.
  • Additional linens can be stored in the drawers or shelves of dining room furniture such as chests or buffets.  You may also use a linen closet if one exists.
  • Consider placing a clothing chest with drawers in the dining room if no longer needed for clothing.  It is ideal for linens.

Additional Activities to make the dining room more functional
  • The dining table may be a good choice for homework if the room is good for studying.  A tote with desk supplies may be used and then stored when the work is done.
  • It may also used for craft projects or other art activities.  Cover the table with a protective cloth, cutting board or plastic before using it. Portable storage for those supplies make it easier to clean the area when done.
  • If the family needs home office space, reserving a corner of the dining room for that activity is a good use of space.  Choose a table or desk that compliments the other furnishings.  Some items can be stored in the furniture already there or in rolling carts and file trolleys that can be moved to a nearby closet when not in use. 
  • If there is not space in the family room for board games and card playing, those items could be stored in the dining room for use there..
  • When not used, keep the tops of buffets, chests and china cabinets clear and free of clutter..
  • Keep the table attractive when not used with a centerpiece and/or tablecloth.
  • Use washable decorative fabrics on surfaces to reduce the amount of dusting.

The end of the month also brings Halloween and the Trick or Treat invaders.
·          First you want to be sure the pathway to your door is safe. Remember to clean the driveway, sidewalk, steps and porch while it is still daylight. Fallen leaves can be slippery especially when wet so they should be removed as well as any toys, twigs, etc. Make sure this area is well lit by leaving your porch light and any other light fixtures on during the Trick or Treat hours.
·         It is recommended that you give only individually pre-wrapped candy. Since this is the beginning of flu season, you should not allow each child to reach into your container to get the candy since each one could be contaminating the other pieces with his hands. Rather, you should choose and drop the candy into each child's bag yourself.
·         As an extra precaution, you may want to use disinfecting wipes to clean your doorbell or door handles if you keep it closed between visitors. This can be done periodically during the evening or at the end when Trick or Treating is over. Keep hand sanitizer near the door and use it yourself as often as you think necessary.  It is a shame we need to be so careful, but it is always better to be safe than sorry and we want to do our part in keeping our homes and neighbors as healthy and safe as possible.

If you have the splendor of seeing the leaves changing colors in the fall, get out and enjoy it as much as you can.  It is one of the most beautiful times of the year.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Organizing Tips for September

This month marks a shift in the thinking and planning for many of us.  Summer vacations are behind us, we look forward to cooler temperatures and we plan for the upcoming holidays.  Below are some strategies to help us make in organizing clothing, bedrooms and closets.

Most of us have attachments to our clothing, especially those that were expensive.  I have had great success with a local consignment store and recommend them.  It is less hassle than a yard sale and you will get some return on your financial investment. 

Of course, I also recommend donating to worthy charities.  Not only will you make your space more livable, but you will be helping those who simply cannot afford purchasing clothing otherwise.  It will be a double blessing!
o       In the closet, remove all empty hangers first.  Look at each piece of clothing and make a decision to sort as follows:
o       It fits, I wear it—leave it in the closet
o       It does not fit—donate/sell pile.  It will probably be out of style when it does fit.
o       It needs repair--if it is useful, place in a repair pile.  If not repaired in one month, remove it.
o       I do not wear it or like it—donate/sell pile
o       I am not sure--place in separate pile, label and date.  If not worn in one year, donate/sell.
o       Clean the closet area, and reconfigure the rods, shelves if needed or desired.
o       Additional hanging space can be made by installing an adjustable hanging rod.
o       Replace wire hangers with more suitable ones but save a few if needed in garment bags when traveling.  Orderly Places has a tip sheet on types of closet hangers.
o       On closet shelves, clamp on dividers can be used to separate clothing or they can be placed in suitable containers.
o       Use hanging racks for the backs of doors or on rods to store bulky or specialty items.
o       As you return items, sort the clothes you will wear and keep by type-blouses, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. Sub sort these by colors as much as possible.  Place items worn together with each other.  This makes it easier to know what you have and find items easier.
o       Look at what you have and make a list of items you really need but are not there for future purchases.  Determine to buy only what is on your list.  One suggestion is to limit the number of prints and multi color designs and use mainly solids.  This allows more flexibility in creating outfits and using accessories.
o       Clothing in drawers or chests or on shelving should be organized with the same process as with closets.  Use dividers or containers to separate categories, colors, etc. in the drawers.
o       Some clothing can be rolled rather than folded to make sorting and access easier.
o       Shoes can be stored on hanging sorters or under shorter clothing in racks or shelves.  If they are stored in boxes, use clear plastic or label with pictures or descriptions.  I also recommend sturdy under the bed containers for off season shoes.
o       Evaluate the accessories you have to determine if they are still usable.  I had quite a collection of scarves back when Oprah made them popular and finally gave them up after taking my own advice.  If they ever make a comeback, they will be different, I am sure.

Additional unrelated tips:
In the next month or so, stock up on cold and flu products.  It is often difficult to find those you prefer when they are needed most.

This is a good time to purchase a calendar/planner if you use the write in type.  I prefer one that shows a week at a glance with the days divided into hourly spaces.  This is one of the best ways to schedule, plan and use time to the greatest use since you can see available hours in each day.

As much as I hate it, now is the time to plan for the holidays.  Pencil in some activities, gifts, meals, etc. in your planner.  More tips will follow in the months to come.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Organizing Tips for August

This month we are concentrating our organizing on Toys and Electronics

But first:

Back to School items are now on sale and families are getting kids ready for a new year at college or school.  Take advantage of great bargains on those supplies not just for the kids but for you home and office, etc.  In Virginia we also have a tax free weekend the first weekend of August on many of those items. 

With that in mind, we need to make space for new items.  Here are some tips to guide you along the way.

Children’s Toys

  • Children learn from their toys but there should be limits on how many they own and how many they can have out at one time.  Decide what that will be ahead of time and stick to it.  Encourage relatives and friends to give clutter free gifts to your children.
  • Toys should be more difficult to get out than put away.  Books that are stored upright on a shelf are easy to pull out and more difficult to put back in order.  A better choice would be a dishpan, bucket or basket that makes the child look for the book he wants but will be easy for him to drop it back in when he is done with it.
  • Depending on the age of the child, most toys should be kept in open bins arranged in cubes or shelves and labeled so that clean up easy.  Picture labels can be used for toddlers and large word labels for children learning to read.
  • Some special toys or games can be stored on a higher shelf where only a parent can reach it as a reward or incentive for cooperation, responsibility, etc.
  • Hanging pockets and plastic stacking drawers are good choices for small toys such as doll clothes, matchbox cars or train pieces.
  • Puzzles should be kept in their original box.  The corners may need to be reinforced with clear tape.  Another choice is zip lock bags with the picture included.  Color code the backs of the pieces for each puzzle with markers or crayons. Then the correct pieces can be returned to the proper box if more than one puzzle is out at a time.
  • Other storage options are over the window shelving to display some collectible toys, corner nets to hold stuffed animals and totes on wheels to transport toys that can be taken to other rooms temporarily and under the bed roll out containers or drawers.

     Most families have electronic gadgets all over the house.  We even take our cell phones with us out of the house.  Here are some tips to help manage and organize  those.

  • Label each end of cables and cords that they use.  A label maker or write on tape can be used to place the name of the electronic.  This makes it easy to identify when many cables are attached to power strips or if they are stored together when not in use.
  • Donate unused electronics with their cables, power cords, etc.  Best Buy and other stores will give you a receipt for tax donations purposes.  If you are concerned about privacy, have the in-store geeks clean them while you watch.  If you can locate and identify the storage disk in them and know how to remove the data, you can do that yourself before donations.
  • Resist the urge to have the latest and greatest technology.  In a few months it will be replace by yet another upgrade.  Try waiting until your current gadget is no longer usable.
  • Contain remotes in one room to one basket or box. Since many televisions are used for VHS, DVD, and several electronic games, label the remotes with the name of the item they control. 
  • Store the manuals near the electronics if possible.  Other manuals, receipts, etc. should be filed in the household reference files until the electronics are disposed.
  • Control the accumulation of cables for one device in baskets that can be secured under the device.  Some will attach under the table top, shelf or desk.  Look online for specific models.  This makes cleaning around the device much easier, especially if they touch the floor.
  • For the ultimate challenge, eliminate the TV, electronic reader and games, and the cell phone for anything but calling for one day.  You may have extra time to do the things you never had time to do.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Organizing Tips for July


      It is July and it is hot and humid as always.  I wonder if we spend as much time in air conditioning in the summer as we do the heated rooms in the winter.  Since we are enjoying our living rooms, family rooms or dens, let’s get them organized this month.  Here are some tips that might be helpful to you.
  • Arrange electronic items such as televisions, CD and DVD players and video games in one area so the wires and cables can be contained together.
  • Label each end of cables and wires related to the computer and other electronic equipment.  It will save much time in connecting or reconnecting
  • Use wire baskets that can be mounted under shelves or cable ties to contain wires.
  • Purge videos, CDs and DVDs that are no longer used.  Sell or donate them to a local charity, nursing home or hospital.  If you want to locate one again, they can be rented or borrowed from local libraries.
  • Renting or borrowing movies and games is an excellent organizational choice and sets a good example for your children in managing finances and spaces.
  • Store CDs and DVDs in their case vertically on shallow shelves or if space is limited, they can be removed from the case and placed in notebooks or cases with plastic sleeves.  Sort and arrange by category.
  • Videos can be stored vertically on shelves or in shoe box type containers.  Do not stack flat as accessing those on the bottom is more difficult.
  • Remotes and game joysticks should be contained in a basket, decorative box or container designed specifically for them.  Keep them within easy reach of the chair or sofa.
  • Place a table or shelf near every seating area.  Large coffee tables can take the place of several small end tables.  Choose one with storage shelves, cabinet doors or drawers.
  • Provide an area for playing with toys if you allow that activity.  A lower cabinet can be used to store those items or they can be taken back to the bedroom in a tote box or rolling crate.
  • For reading areas be sure to have a comfortable chair with adequate lighting and a place to store books, magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Books should be purged from bookcases.  Keeping fiction books that you have read serves no purpose except to prove you own them.  Sell or donate them knowing you can borrow it from the library if you have time to read it again.
  • Non-fiction books should be grouped by category.  Since information is always changing, using older books as reference many not provide recent findings.  Let them go and use the Internet to find the latest information.  The books are not your brain and letting them go will not cause you to forget what you have learned.  (Old age, however, may cause you to forget.  I speak from experience once again.)
  • Sets of encyclopedias are dated the moment you get them.  Use the Internet or library for research.  Use their encyclopedias if you want to teach your children how to use them.
  • Make friends with the library.  It is a wonderful place of knowledge and entertainment for your children and prevents book clutter from residing in your house.  Most offer excellent programs for adults and children.
  • Mix books, plants, attractive storage containers or photographs on bookshelves for more interesting arrangements.
  • Upper bookcase shelves and over the window shelving can be used to display collectables and photographs.
  • Collections of similar items are more attractive when grouped together in displays.
  • Keep an attractive container with pens, pencils, note pad and scissors in a convenient location in case they are needed.
  • Card tables can be used for board games, craft activities or other projects.  When you are finished it can be folded and stored under the sofa, behind large furniture or in a nearby closet.
  • If the family office is located in this room, reserve a space for a table or desk.  A drawer or attractive containers can hold desk supplies. 
  • If a computer will be located in this room, consider placing a wireless system in your home to eliminate having to connect all of the components with cables.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Organizing Tips for June

Children’s rooms, Keepsakes and Travel

June is filled with activities and it is difficult to think about organizing. The best approach is to work in the areas that are already requiring time. Since it is the end of the school year and the children or grandchildren will be around, one subject to consider is their spaces and the keepsakes you have been saving for them. Of course travel is on the mind of most of us, too.

Children's Rooms
An avalanche of school papers may be arriving for you to handle this month.

My best advice is to let the child decide which to keep. Keepsake boxes or binders can be used for these.

Give one to each child and let it be the only place for special saved items. If it gets too full, let the child decide what to keep and what can go.

Resist the urge to get more or bigger boxes. Think about how many things you really need from your childhood to remember the good times.

Of course there are items they have made that you will store with your keepsakes, but be selective.

Children now have time to go through their rooms and eliminate items they have not used or no longer want or like.

Clothing that no longer fits can be sorted for sale or donation. Children grow quickly and by fall most of what they wore during the past year will not fit. Thankfully not much variety in clothing is need for the summer months.

If you are storing clothes for younger siblings to have later on, remember to label them as to sex, size and season.

Children need limits on everything except love and affection. They should not be allowed to collect an unlimited amount of matchbox cars, Barbie clothes, t-shirts, flip-flops or anything else.

Let the space determine how much can be easily organized in the given space and draw the line there. You will be teaching them good organizing habits and a lesson that there are limits in life.

Should they want a new item, remind them something they already have must go. This is the “one in—one out” rule that we all should follow.

Too many of anything means none of them are special. This includes collections such as china, dolls, salt and pepper shakers, stamps, etc.

If space is limited and many of these items are stored in the attic or closets, consider saving only those that have special meaning and letting the remainder go to other family members or donate or sell them to anyone else who will appreciate them and has room for them.

Storing keepsakes out of site does not honor or respect the memories that go with them. Put those that you choose to keep in a place where they can be enjoyed and given the honor and respect they deserve.

Photographs are another source of keepsake clutter.

Save only the best from each activity. No one needs 100 pictures of the beach vacation. A few special pictures are all that is needed to capture that special time.

There are lots of ways to sort and save them in colorful scrapbooks and online in creative formats. I am not a scrapbooker, but I do admire the projects and products available from Creative Memories and other sources.

If you will be traveling this summer, create a permanent travel kit with activities for yourself and family. If it is only used for travel, the items will appear to be almost new and more interesting.

If you travel often and if you have storage space, create a permanent supply box or bag with items you always need. Some of these may be duplicates of items you use everyday at home but you will not need to disturb those.

A permanent travel checklist that you keep on your computer or in a convenient notebook is a great strategy to prevent forgetting items you always need. I keep one just for quilt retreats, my favorite travel experience!

For information on organizing your suitcase, check out this article I posted for the local newspaper:

Make a point of enjoying the outdoors while the weather is nice. Keep outdoor umbrellas closed when not in use. It will extend their usefulness and prevent damage during high winds or thunderstorms. I have personal experience with this one.
And speaking of storms, this is the beginning of hurricane season. If you live in an area affected by hurricanes, high winds or rising waters, you should review the list of necessary emergency items and secure those now. Be sure to update your household inventory. More information on it can be found on a previous Blog I posted:

Enjoy this month of weddings, graduations, flowers and outdoor opportunities. June is special in many ways.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Organizing Checklist for May

photo from
No one wants to be inside in the month of May. Flowers have been blooming, the weather is mostly nice and we are tired of being in the house. This is a good time to work on organizing the garage and getting the outdoors ready for summer activities.

Since the Garage is never first on our list of projects, let’s begin there. During the winter it often becomes a temporary dumping ground for items. If this is the spouse’s territory, be sure to work together as a team. God forbid that you should purge or arrange items that were “special”. I have found the most effective way to motivate a spouse is to begin purging and organizing your things. Sometimes the guilt factor is motivating. Sometimes. Regardless, you never really can win a battle with a spouse.
 Try to visualize zoning items you store in the garage. Plan locations for gardening, sports equipment, tools, automotive supplies, etc. so they are together and separated from other areas.

 Take advantage of systems that will allow you to organize your items off the floor. It is much easier and faster to clean with fewer items on it. 
 Check out the home improvement stores for hooks, peg boards or shelving units to hold items that are now stacked on the floor. For pennies or hundreds of dollars, you can invest in organizing solutions that will work for you.

 Be sure to label bins and cardboard boxes used for storage.

 Move out items you no longer need. Only things you continually use should be kept.

 Boxes of old magazines, newspapers, etc. should be recycled. Let’s face it. You didn’t have time to read them before and you won’t later on. There are too many new ideas coming at us everyday and those articles are outdated.

 Review the sporting equipment to see if it is still needed. Move on any you no longer use.

 Look for specialty hooks, bags and shelves to store the equipment you save.

 Be sure to keep children’s things at lower levels so they can access them without your help.
 A great plan would be to make room for the car if you have not already done this. Your automobile is probably the second most expensive investment you have made so take care of it.

 Mark off a space for the car on the floor. Identify a wall item or hang a string or chain from the ceiling as a marker for how far you should pull forward.

 If outdoor, yard or garden items are kept in the garage, garden tools and accessories, look over each one and evaluate keeping, cleaning or removing it.

 Remove rusted, broken or stained plant containers, stepping stones and other garden fixtures.

 Create racks or hooks for the tools and locate them together in one area.

 Specialty items are available to hang rakes, shovels, etc. so they do not get tangled together or take up floor space.

 Outdoor furniture may need to be cleaned before using, so check over each piece.

 Toys that are outgrown or no longer needed can be moved on.

 If you have water sports equipment or pool accessories, try to store those in good condition in their own area for convenience when they are needed. 
 Yard art is becoming very popular but be careful you do not allow it to take over. It can become clutter just like anything else. There is nothing more beautiful then flowering or luscious plants, shrubs and trees, so make them your focal point.

 Adding hanging baskets or a border of blooming flowers can make a significant impact.

 Once your garage is cleaned, you may consider a Garage or Yard Sale. Here are some reminders.

 **Collect, clean and repair items weeks ahead as you purge spaces. 
 **Check prices of similar items. Put on price tags and store in a common area. (Preprinted price tags can be found in some stationery stores, dollar stores, etc.)
 **Choose a sale date. Join with neighbors if possible for a common date.

 **Check community rules and get permits if necessary.
 **Arrange for charity pickup or make plans for items not sold.

 **Write ad for newspaper, Craig’s List, newsletters, etc.
 **Make signs and flyers for bulletin boards and curbs where allowed.
 **Obtain sufficient tables, racks, etc. for items to be displayed.
 **Get change for large bills and newspaper, bags, etc. for fragile items or large sales.

 **Use extension cords for testing electrical items.

 **Place pens, paper, calculator, extra price tags, tape, and stapler at check out table.

 **After sale, remove signs, clean area and dispose of unsold items as planned earlier.

A few other reminders for May:
 Change the a/c filter and have a routine inspection of all its components before the scorching days of summer arrive.

 Clean ceiling fan blades and give other fans an inspection.

 Clean the carpets and floors. They were used and abused all winter and deserve a thorough cleaning. If piles of clutter or stacks of items are on them, consider moving the items to shelving, cabinets or tables. 
 Floors are easier to keep clean when only furniture is on them. 
If you get all of this done in May, you are exhausted and need a vacation. Thankfully summer will be right around the corner and you should take advantage of it. Have fun!