Life Organized: The Blog

Tips & Tricks from Barbara

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

· Holiday / Entertaining

One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to get organized.  Yet, it’s easier said than done, and getting organized can be a tall order.  But, what if you could get organized in 5 minutes or less each day?  Here are my top ten organizing resolutions you can actually keep:

  1. Memorize the credit card number you use most.  You’ll be amazed at what a time saver this is.
  2. Register online with the Direct Marketing Association’s registry to keep junk mail to a minimum. Less paper clutter means less stress.
  3. Throw out any markers or pens that are out of ink…at work and at home.
  4. Throw out any mismatched socks.  If the mate hasn’t shown up yet, recognize that it’s probably long gone.
  5. Throw away all expired medicines from the medicine cabinet.
  6. Throw away all expired foods from the refrigerator.
  7. Discard all of the unimportant receipts cluttering your wallet.  Let’s face it; you can’t return the Starbucks latte, so why hang onto the receipt?
  8. Say no to the request that’s causing you the most stress. You don’t have to be a martyr.  Save your time and energy for things you really want to do.
  9. Make your bed every day.  Your room will look neater, and you’ll start your day feeling calm and collected.
  10. Throw away that box/bag of wires/chargers that’s been collecting dust in your closet for years.  If all of your electronics are functioning, there’s nothing there that you need.


You Got a What? Bringing Home a Pet

· Family

Yes…I got a dog.  I swore I would never get a dog because we all know what happens when your children/ husband/significant other promises to walk and feed the dog.  I didn’t have time to take care of a dog. I also don’t do anything unless it’s well planned and researched.  My life is predictable.  And then we got Charly.

It was the day after Hurricane Sandy struck, and my family was lucky enough to be unaffected.  In fact, we were all getting a little stir crazy.  So, my husband decided to take our children for a walk to the bookstore.  When the bookstore was closed, they ended up at a local pet store, and that’s when the unexpected happened.

My husband called to see if I wanted to meet at the pet store.  I don’t know why I said yes, since I clearly wasn’t getting a dog.  Yet, thirty minutes later, I was at the pet store.  My husband pointed out one dog whose eyes followed him wherever he went.  She was a small white, fluffy Havanese.  When we held her, we could tell she was skittish.  At 5 months old, she had missed important socialization milestones by being in a pet store cage for so long.   But, sometimes, the dog chooses you, and this dog had chosen my husband. He couldn’t turn away from her. And then, they both looked at me.  I said, “Do what you want, but remember this is ‘your’ dog.”  He was so surprised that I didn’t say no, that things started happening at warp speed. She was named (Charly), and all the things Charly would “need” were heaped on the counter: safety gates, a dog bed, a dog carrier, grooming supplies, food, bones, and toys. Meanwhile, I was getting heart palpitations as I wondered where I would store everything.

It felt surreal when we got back to our house with a puppy in tow.  It was decided that she would be gated in the kitchen, so that was where I would store her gear.  I designated one place for Charly’s leash, collar, wipes, and small toys and another place for Charly’s food and snacks.  We placed her crate in the kitchen along with her “wee wee pads”.  And then, we began to get to know each other.  Now, two months later, we are all madly in love with Charly.  My husband comes home from work to have lunch with her. My children can’t wait to walk in the door after a long day to see how excited she is to see them.  And, I spend hours a day grooming and talking to her (strangely therapeutic).  She sits under my desk at night and naps while I work, and I can’t imagine life without her.  So, if you’re thinking about getting a dog, I couldn’t recommend it more.  But learn from my experience and consider these helpful tips before bringing any pet home.

  1. Determine which parts of your home the pet will be able to access.  Will you need a gate or gates to confine the pet to certain areas?  Where will the pet sleep? Will s/he need a bed or a crate?  Where will the bed or crate be placed?
  2. Where will you store pet supplies?  For a dog, you’ll need a leash and waste bags which should be kept near the door.  You’ll also need grooming supplies, and toys.  Store these where you’ll use them.
  3. Pet proof your home.  Get on your hands and knees and look for things that could be dangerous if your pet chewed or swallowed them (e.g., computer wires or cords, electronic items).  You may need to install child safety locks on low cabinets to make sure your pet can’t get to what’s inside.  Also take note of any window treatments with log cords or tassels that could become strangulation hazards.
  4. Corral toys in a baskets or bins in various rooms of your house.  Then, you can quickly put them away (or train your pet to put them away) when guests are visiting.
  5. Determine where you’ll keep your pet’s food and water.  Consider purchasing a non-slide mat to keep spills to a minimum.
  6. Create a file for your pet that includes important information such as vaccinations, health record, microchip information, license, and pedigree.
  7. Just like babies, pets thrive on routine.  Figure out when it makes sense to feed and exercise the pet and who will be responsible.  Negotiate all of this before bringing the pet home.
  8. Add all important vaccinations and medication schedules to your master calendar.
  9. Have a plan in place for when you’ll be out of town.  Is there someone who can come to your home to care for your pet? Will s/he need to be boarded?  Where will that be?
  10. A pet can make your life so much richer, so enjoy every minute!


Making Halloween Organization Less Scary

· Holiday / Entertaining

As a child, the whole concept of Halloween seems too good to be true.  You get to wear a costume, knock on strangers’ doors, and ask them for candy.  Then, you pretty much eat as much candy as you want for an entire night. As a parent, Halloween can be downright scary.  Your pre-schooler changes his mind 4 times about his costume, your tween wants to trick or treat with friends (and no parent), and your teenager’s costume seems to be exposing an awful lot of skin.  And, you haven’t even started thinking about the costume you’re wearing to your friend’s annual Monster Mash. So, how can you enjoy the holiday while making sure it’s fun? Here are some tips that are sure to help.

  1. Take out your Halloween decorations two to three weeks before the holiday.  If you’ve gone to the trouble of buying and storing the decorations, enjoy them for a few weeks as excitement for the holiday builds.
  2. Begin to think about Halloween costumes as soon as the “back to school” fervor fades.  If you’re going to order a costume online, leave yourself enough time for it to be shipped to you and returned if the size isn’t correct. If you’re planning on making a costume, start early enough so you can enjoy the process with your child.
  3. Buy your Halloween candy early.  The prices for candy are the highest in the two weeks before Halloween.
  4. This is the perfect time to sort through your child’s dress up clothes.  Maybe you can find a costume your child wants to wear or some accessories that can be used.  It’s also the perfect time to purge the costumes that no longer fit.
  5. Sort Halloween candy by type and store in glass or clear plastic cylinders of different heights.  You’ll be amazed at how pretty the candy looks when stored this way.
  6. After trick-or-treating, invite your child’s friends over for a cake or cupcake decorating play date.  Unwrap the candy and place it in bowls in the middle of the table.  Then, give them each several frosted cupcakes or one cake to decorate.  The candy will stick to the icing, the children will have a great time, and you’ll be rid of the candy by the end of the afternoon.
  7. November 1st isn’t too soon to take down the Halloween decorations.  All things Halloween related should be put away by the weekend following the holiday.   Halloween books, pumpkin carving kits, Halloween decorations, and costumes should be stored in a clear plastic box with a lid (size and number of boxes depends on the quantity you have).  This should be put away, out of the way, until next year.
  8. Be realistic about saving costumes.  If you have a child that loves playing dress up, add it to the stash.  However, if there’s little chance the costume will be worn again, donate it.



Back to School

· School / College ·

As the long, lazy days of summer dwindle, moms everywhere start to feel stressed about “Back to School”. There’s scheduling after school activities, planning carpools, shopping for clothing, finding babysitting coverage and attending the never ending orientations, class breakfasts, and curriculum nights (multiplied by the number of children you have) that schools love to host. It’s a lot for even the most organized of moms. So, before you throw in the towel, here are some tips to get you through the fall frenzy.

1. Edit your children’s clothes. Before you buy anything new for the fall, revisit all of the heavy, winter items that you saved from last year, eliminating anything that doesn’t fit. Check your stash of hand me downs to see what does fit. Once you’ve edited and purged, make a list and buy your child just what they need…and maybe just a few things that are so cute you can’t resist!

2. Create a study space in your home. This is nothing more complicated than having a clear surface, good lighting, and essential supplies. Use stackable paper trays that can be filled with lined paper, white paper, and colored paper. Then, use small plastic drawers for highlighters, binder clips, post-it notes, tape and glue. Pencils and pens can be kept in a decorative mug or cup on the desk. Where your child does his/her homework is less important than having supplies that are accessible.

3. Use a master calendar. Whether you affix a calendar to a wall, post it on the refrigerator, or keep track of your family’s activities electronically, what’s important is that every activity for each family member is recorded in one place. This guarantees that you’ll avoid the stress of double booked activities, impossible logistics, and overscheduling.

4. Institute weekly family meetings that prepare each member of your family for the upcoming week. Young children might remind you that they need to bring cookies for the bake sale, older children might remind you that they need to be driven somewhere, and you can remind your family that you won’t be home for dinner on a particular night.

5. Don’t be afraid to say no…to heading the school bake sale, play dates your child doesn’t want, and activities that are simply inconvenient. Volunteer if you’d like, but choose what you’ll enjoy and what won’t overtax you. For example, by volunteering to plan the parents’ night out, you can ensure that its location and date work for you, and you’re not roped into a year-long commitment.

Selecting and Organizing Your Beach Bag

· Seasonal Organizing
  • Beach bags should be large and lightweight. Even when you travel light, you’ll need a least a few towels and t-shirts.  Avoid any unnecessary hardware on the bag that would weigh it down.
  • Use brightly colored cosmetic bags for smaller items that you want to keep dry such as such as your money, cell phone, keys, lip gloss, band aids, hair ties, and ibuprofen.
  • Carry only what you truly need.  Bags get heavy, so eliminate what’s unnecessary.  You might want one sunblock for your face and one for your body, but you don’t need any more than that.  You may want to leave your wallet at home and just bring cash, identification, and a credit card.
  • Let your children carry some of the load. Even young children can tote water toys, a shovel and pail, and blow up rafts. This shouldn’t be in your beach bag!
  • Keep essentials stocked. Leave the sunblock and lip balm packed in the beach bag, so you can be ready for a day at the beach in minutes.
  • Plastic bags come in handy. Use one for dry clothes, one for sunblock (in case it drips), and keep a few empty ones for wet bathing suits.   There also great for keeping your book, magazine, or kindle dry!1
  • Baby powder isn’t just for babies.  It’s the best way to rub sand off your body before travelling home.


Organizing Before and After Camp

· Seasonal Organizing

The first year I sent my children to camp, I began preparations several months in advance.  I ordered the camp logo items, purchased horseback riding boots, and soccer cleats (for a child who hates soccer and thinks horses are smelly), and had labels sewn into every last sock. Now, five years later, I pack two days before the trunks leave, and it couldn’t be easier.  Here are some of my tips for organizing for camp without the hassle.

  • Forget ironing or sewing on labels. Arm yourself with a Sharpie laundry marking pen or stickers that affix to the label of any item of clothing.
  • Go light on the toiletries.  Remember there’s a fully stocked infirmary with band aids, Neosporin, ibuprofen, or anything else your child might need.
  • Buy extra socks and underpants. When you’re purchasing the 18 pairs of socks and underpants required for camp, buy an extra dozen of each. Have these in your child’s drawer for when s/he returns from camp.  Whatever makes it home after the summer will be ripe for the trash bin.
  • Use plastic travel bags to contain clothing. Put socks in one, bathing suits in another, t-shirts in another.  When things aren’t strewn around the trunk, it will make unpacking easier for your child.
  • If it fits in the trunk, it’s not worth the fight. Your adolescent girl will want to take a hair dryer, flat iron, nail polish, and most of the clothes in her wardrobe.  Let her.
  • Keep camp specific items separate. Camp towels, linens, clothing with the camp logo, “bunk junk” (small games, flashlights, canteens) should not be integrated into the linen closet, utility area, or playroom.  When packing next year, you’ll have it all in one place.
  • Sneakers don’t come home from camp. Tell your child not to bring home any sneakers or shoes except for the ones on his/her feet.  They’ll be so vile, you’ll just be tossing them the minute they get home anyway.
  • Schedule the lice check. When your child gets off the camp bus, take him/her for a lice check before s/he enters the house.



Kids Camp

Packing for Summer Camp

· Seasonal Organizing, Travel Tips

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Reich, age 12

Kids Camp

This blog is about packing for camp.  Unlike my friends’ moms, my mom doesn’t start a month in advance; she does everything in two days (for me and my brother). She packs in one afternoon. Here’s how she does it.

  • Any clothes we want to take to camp are piled in our playroom. I want to take all of my clothes, and my mom wants me to take only what the camp says I need. I bring more than the list says, but not as much as I want.
  • Using stick on labels from, my mom sticks a label on each article of clothing.  She uses a Sharpie to write initials on socks.
  • She types a list of every single thing I bring to camp. I’m not sure why she does this.
  • She separates t-shirts, pajamas, sweatshirts, socks, and every category of clothes and puts them in soft, plastic zippered bags. She folds everything perfectly which is a waste of time.
  • All non-clothing camp supplies are stored in a separate closet in our playroom.  She takes this stuff out, labels it, and puts it in a second trunk.

Once I get to camp, I’m not that neat.  But, here are a few of the things that I do:

  • I fold my clothes, so I can see what I have and fit more in my cubbies.
  • I pick a spot for my stationery, my flashlight, and books.  I put things away, so I can find them.
  • I put my laundry away as soon as I get it, so it doesn’t get dirty before I wear it.
  • I write down what my friends borrow from me, so I can make sure everything gets returned to me.
  • I spray stain remover on my clothes before putting them in my laundry bag.
  • I don’t put wet clothes in my laundry bag or cubbies. Otherwise, everything will smell.

Even though I do all that, when my mom comes into my bunk on visiting day, she can’t help herself… she rearranges and refolds EVERYTHING!  And when I come home, she washes everything and folds it again!

Hold On, I Can’t Find My…

· Purging

There’s nothing worse than rummaging through your purse, looking for your cell phone, while someone watches, witness to your disorganization, as you miss a phone call. When your purse is organized, you’ll feel in control and more powerful. So, here are some tips for organizing your purse:

• Never buy a bag that doesn’t have at least two internal pockets. You need one for your cell phone, and one for keys and other items that you reach for often.

• Avoid bags with dark linings. It’s very difficult to find things when they’re inside a dark bag.

• Use brightly colored cosmetic bags for smaller items such as lip gloss, band aids, and ibuprofen.

• Carry only what you truly need. Bags get heavy, so eliminate what’s unnecessary. You don’t need 5 pens, 2 phone chargers, or 6 packs of gum.

• Don’t save unimportant receipts. Don’t clutter your bag with Starbucks receipts and the receipts from the dry cleaner.

• Carry store credits in your bag. You can’t use them if they’re home in your night table drawer.

• Make a photocopy of everything in your wallet (front and back). In the unfortunate event that your wallet is stolen, you’ll have a record of what you’re missing and which credit card companies you need to call.

Party Favors No More

· Holiday / Entertaining

At least twice a week, I’ll find myself on a ladder in the uppermost recesses of someone’s coat closet pulling out a crushed shopping bag filled with the extra party favors from a party hosted five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years before. Now, it’s clearly garbage, but the interesting thing is that it was even garbage at the time the party was hosted. People are just too caught up in the moment to realize it.

Today, party favors have morphed into elaborate giveaways that cost way too much money and, in my opinion, are wasteful, not useful, and not necessary. Let’s take the trophy party favor as an example. It’s bad enough that children get a trophy for playing on a team or getting a haircut, but do we have to give them trophies for attending birthday parties? The trophy saying “I Had Fun at Ethan’s 6th Birthday Party” is definitely on my list of all time worst party favors. And it’s not just young children getting party favors. Bar mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteen parties now end with giveaways ranging from sweatshirts to pajamas to MP3 players. And, even adults attending benefits and bridal/baby showers receive party favors. Clearly, this trend has gotten way out of control.

Let’s end the trend of giving party favors. You can start by eliminating party favors when you’re the hostess. Or, at least think edible and/or easily disposable. A bag of candy or an iTunes or Starbucks gift card work for everyone. Then, when on the receiving end, leave the party favor behind. Only take the favor if it’s given to you directly by the hostess. Then, follow the 24-hour rule: the party favor leaves your house within 24 hours. In the case of children’s party favors, this is plenty of time for your child to have fun with it, but not long enough to become attached to it. And for you, it’s just enough time to realize that you don’t need a chocolate lollipop shaped like a pacifier, a cheap picture frame, or yet another tote bag monogrammed with the name of a corporation or club. So, you get the message. Don’t give or accept party favors. Just say NO to the unnecessary expense, unnecessary clutter, and unnecessary effort!

Organizing for Tweens and Teens

· Family

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Reich, Age 12

Growing up as the daughter of a professional organizer has its pros and cons. Since I’m extremely messy, my mom constantly nags me to put my stuff in the right place. Is it easy? No! But, there are definitely advantages to keeping things in order. Here are the tips I learned from the pro (my mom):

1. Put things away. If you leave your new necklace on your night table, you may not be able to find it when you want to wear it. When things aren’t put away, they get lost.

2. Keep similar items together. If you have headphones scattered about your room or the house, you’ll never be able to find them when you need them. You also might keep buying more because you think you don’t have any. Instead, have one place for them.

3. Label everything. That way, there’s never a question about where the tennis outfits belong and whose charger it is.

4. File loose papers. You’ll always know where your homework is and where to find the notes for the test that may be tomorrow.

5. Keep your room clean. When you have stuff all over the counters and the floor, your room can’t be cleaned properly. And living in a pigsty is just gross!