Recently, after a great day boating with friends, we decided to meet at my house for drinks before having dinner at a nearby restaurant. Some of our guests were on the boat with my husband and I, and others would drive to our house. They would arrive before I did, so there would be no time for a last minute clean up. Since I’m a professional organizer, that didn’t pose a problem for me. My house is almost always company ready. However, if you’re not like me, what can you do if you get a call that friends “are in the neighborhood” and will be there in 20 minutes? Tilly Rose, founder of TenancyCleaning, a cleaning service in London, offers these tips for de-cluttering your home when it needs to done quickly.
Continue reading “Unexpected Guests” »
Over the past several months, I’ve organized several kitchens with my colleague, Lara Metz. One of the issues we’ve been seeing repeatedly is the duplication of items in the refrigerator and pantry. Here’s our advice on how to avoid this in your kitchen:
- Start by purging all of the foods that have expired in both your refrigerator and pantry. This should be done on a weekly basis prior to going to the grocery store. Then, in an accessible area, store a pad or a white board to keep a running list of what needs to be replaced. Let your family know that this is everyone’s responsibility, not just yours, so even children are in the habit of adding to the list when they take the last bag of pretzels.
- In order to maintain organization, group all similar items together. In both the kitchen and pantry, there should be zones for different food categories. In the refrigerator, take advantage of built in compartments. For example, put all fruit in the fruit drawer and produce in the produce drawer. Then, store your products in straight lines with like items one behind the other.
- Use organizing products that will make your refrigerator and pantry functional and look great. Here are some of our favorites:
- White taper bins can be used to corral individually wrapped products. For example, if you have multiple types of tea and tea bags, store these in a bin along with a jar of honey. Use another bin to store snacks like chips and pretzels.
- Pantry bins are helpful to separate items and keep them them neat.
- For storing dry goods like cereal, flour, and sugar, I recommend using canisters like these .
- If there’s a hard to reach corner in your pantry, consider a Lazy Susan.
Studies suggest that people reach for what they see first, so to encourage wellness in your home, position fruit and healthy snacks at eye level.
Here are some helpful tips for getting through the holidays…
- Be prepared with suggestions when someone asks what you or your kids want as gifts. If you’re at a loss, ask for a gift certificate. Return the favor and give gift certificates whenever possible.
- Display holiday cards until New Years Day, then discard them. You’re not expected to keep pictures of children other than your own.
- Don’t keep gifts you don’t want. If you can’t return it, give it away. You won’t feel any better about disposing of it in a year or two, so you may as well do it now.
- Now is the time to clean out the playroom and children’s bedrooms. Tell your children that they can’t get anything new unless they make room on their shelves by donating what they no longer use.
- Teachers like to send home all of the semester’s artwork just before winter vacation. It only takes a few minutes to look through the pile when it comes home. Most of it should be discarded. If you don’t do it immediately, you’ll end up shuffling the same pile around for the next 6 months. Then, you’ll discard it anyway.
- When packing for a holiday vacation, think light. New airline regulations levy a charge for suitcases that weigh more than 50 pounds and most charge extra for more than one piece of luggage per person. If you’ve been accustomed to traveling with large heavy pieces, invest in some lighter weight canvas/nylon carryalls.
- Before starting your holiday shopping, search your closets for those gifts you bought throughout the year and then promptly forgot.
- Keep a supply of hostess gifts and gift wrap handy. A bottle of wine is always appropriate and can be put in a pretty bag in seconds.
- If you entertain, keep a list of everything you prepare or order. Make notes about what you’ll need more or less of next year.
- Create a spreadsheet of all of your addresses in Excel or another similar software program. This enables you to make labels for holiday cards that can be easily updated each year.
- Distribute your holiday tips a few weeks before the holiday. The recipients will be able to enjoy the gift when it’s needed most, and you’ll be able to cross one big thing off your list.
- Get ready for next year by keeping a list of all of the holiday gifts you give this year. In addition to family, include your hairdresser, housekeeper, nanny, doorman, garage attendant, secretary, teachers, and postal carrier. You’ll no longer have to wonder if you’re forgetting anyone, whether you’re giving anyone less than last year, or how much you need to budget.
I love shopping, and I pride myself on not getting sucked in by sales and not buying what I don’t need. But, based on the closets that I help organize everyday, most people are easily sidetracked and end up buying too much and not the items they need. So, for those of you who may be shopping on Black Friday or any other day, here are my tips for an efficient shopping experience.
- Don’t be sidetracked by items you don’t need.
- Check that inventory tags have been removed before leaving a store.
- Have gifts wrapped at the store when possible. Also have them shipped whenever possible.
- Don’t go into a store without knowing what you want and how much you want to spend.
- Ask for help. If it appears that an employee is clueless, disengage immediately
- When shopping in a department store, start on the top floor, get everything you need there, and work your way down.
Everyone has clutter, even the most organized person. The reasons behind the clutter; however, are different for each person. What does your clutter say about your personality? Are you…
1. UNABLE TO MAKE A DECISION?
Many people hold onto things/clutter because it’s easier then deciding whether or not to keep it or where it should go. In fact, an entire organizing industry has arisen to meet the demands of this group. Often, they’ll label and contain instead of eliminating.
2. A PROCRASTINATOR?
This group of people constantly put off sorting/purging their things because it’s not fun or enjoyable to them. They would rather do ANYTHING other then pare down possessions, so they never get around to it.
3. EXTREMELY SENTIMENTAL?
This personality type thinks EVERYTHING is worth saving…every scribble from their child’s nursery school days, every photo (even blurry ones), every dish, and every item of clothing.
4. SEVERELY TIME CHALLENGED?
Many people don’t have difficulty making decisions and they’re not procrastinators or overly sentimental. This group of people is so stretched for time, they simply can’t get it done. When they do have a block of time, they easily and happily de-clutter. It just doesn’t happen often enough.
Because I spend so much time organizing children’s playrooms and bedrooms, I’m often asked what my favorite products are for these areas. So, here’s my list….
1. Alexandra Ferguson House Rules Pillows
2.Herman Miller Eames Hang-It-All Coat Rack
3. Neiman Marcus Lucite Dachshund Bookends
4. Restoration Hardware Storage Armoir
5. Mabel’s Labels Clothing Label Stickers
6. So Luxe Luggage Tags
7. Ubabub “Book See” Shelf
8. Sandy Vohr Animal Paperweights
9. Sandy Vohr Animal Bookends
10. Skip Hop Stroller Organizer
11. Organize It Baby Closet Dividers
12. Amazon LEGO Storage Brick
13. Pottery Barn Carolina Grow-With-You- Craft Table
14. Minimalist Desk
15. Land of Nod Wire Ball Bin
16. Bed Bath & Beyond Fabric Covered Picture Frame
17. Container Store Felt Hangers
18. Pottery Barn Mini Lazy Susan
19. Bigso Box
20. Offi Rockabye Storage rocker
21. Poppin Starter Desk Set
22. C Wonder Monogram Jewelry Box
23. Three Sprouts Laundry Hamper
24. Wisteria Kaleidoscope Wastebasket
25. Iomoi Lucite Tray
26. See Jane Work Bella Leather Desk Blotter
27. Hector Serrano Seletti’s Desktructure Organization System
28. Picture wall Photo Frames
30. Etsy Baby Keepsake Memory box/ Frames
31. Vitra Uten.Silo I
‘Tis the season of many parties, and as invitations start appearing in your mailbox, you can’t help but be confused by the dizzying display of dress codes. There’s business casual, casual chic, country club casual, dressy casual, resort casual, and just casual. There’s also black tie, festive, cocktail, and my personal favorite, “dress ↑”. Dress codes, like Henry Ford’s Model T, used to be a lot simpler. Now, even when there is a dress designation on your invitation, it’s unclear what to wear. So, what can you do? Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll be dressed to impress this holiday season.
- Who’s on the guest list? If it’s an office party, you might dress more conservatively than if the party will be attended by your still wild and crazy college friends.
- What will your host/hostess be wearing? There’s no shame in asking when you’re really not sure.
- Where’s the party being held? If the party is being held in a fancy hotel you can dress more formally then if the party is held at someone’s home or a more casual restaurant.
- When is the party? Weekends, especially Saturday nights call for more formal dress than a weeknight party.
- Why stress when you have a Little Black Dress? There’s a reason why this wardrobe staple has stood the test of time so well. No matter the occasion, there’s never a time when your LBD isn’t perfectly appropriate. Change your lipstick and your jewelry, and you can step it up or down in minutes.
Party on…and dress ↑!
Lazy days spent by the pool, long weekends exploring new towns, and afternoons interrupted by the mailman delivering camp letters – we’re all going to miss that summer haze that has us sighing with relaxation. But before you become utterly overwhelmed thinking about life getting a bit more hectic, here are five quick fixes that can tremendously simplify your life.
Learn to say no! We all want to be completely immersed in every event involving our family and friends, but we can’t. When every child invites the entire class to their birthday parties, it’s not necessary to attend them all. Decline parties that are not truly important to your child or just simply inconvenient. Similarly, don’t overextend yourself with volunteer jobs. Pick wisely. Determine which event is your child’s favorite, and take on the task of planning that one event every year. The event will be more meaningful because your child really cares about the celebration. Plus, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – you only have to plan the event once! Save the decorations in a box so next year’s celebration is a no-brainer.
Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Never leave the mail on the counter for later, because we all know later never comes when we get bogged down with other tasks. Immediately flip through the mail so it doesn’t grow into an exploding pile that takes over your counter. Junk mail and envelopes should have a one-way ticket to the recycle bin; letters, invitations, and bills should be placed in a designated “inbox” to be addressed when you have extra time. Emails can be simplified as well. Instead of deleting spam, unsubscribe to the website’s mailing list so you don’t receive any more emails from the site. A twenty-second act can save you up to five minutes daily of deleting unwanted advertisements.
Technology is your friend…as long as it’s used for good, not evil. As you simplify your life, your smart phone should be no different. Purge your app list of addicting battery drainers such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds. Also, remove the myriad of unopened apps that you downloaded per friends’ suggestions. Replace these with apps that will do what technology is meant to do: enhance your life. Use the ‘Reminders’ app to alert you when an appointment or birthday is nearing. Applications such as LastPass and One Password keep all of your passwords in a secure app so you don’t need to remember every password to your different shopping logins, and bank websites. For those of you who are technologically challenged, a friend can easily teach you to streamline your phone calendar with your computer calendar so you never miss an appointment – even if your phone dies.
Keep celebrations stress-free! Store various gift cards in different denominations for every caliber of friend so you don’t have to spend time finding a gift for every birthday party. Likewise, keep generic cards in the house to avoid a rushed trip to the card store. When it’s your party, keep the after party just as simple. Open gifts with a notepad in hand to prepare for thank you notes. When it’s time to write them, have a set template so the writing process takes half the time! Thank you notes should be completed within the week so your guests receive them within two weeks of the event. While opening the presents, create two piles: gifts to keep and those to return in the next few days. That way, all of your post-celebration obligations are completed by the next week, and you can bask in the glow of a party well done.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Many of us rely heavily on to-do lists; however, consider rethinking the effect of your list on your well being. For example, if you put the bank, grocery store, and organizing your house on the same list, that list will take a month to accomplish, and you will get into bed each night feeling discouraged. Form two checklists instead: short-term tasks and long-term goals. On your short-term list, write smaller tasks for your lengthy goals. Instead of “organize the house,” try, “organize kitchen drawers.” This is a realistic goal that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. “Organize the house” is daunting, seemingly never-ending, and will usually be pushed aside for quicker options like going to the bank. Choosing to tackle small tasks within your larger goal, without losing sight of the big picture (specified on your long-term goals list), will help you to accomplish both your short-term and long-term goals without feeling overwhelmed.
While fall is still weeks away, implement some of these ideas, so you’ll be more relaxed when summer ends. Before you know it, school will be back in session, sports practice will begin, carpools will be a way of life, and homework and tests will be dominating your children’s evenings. And until then, take a deep breath…summer is yours to enjoy for another month!