Backsliding Happens—How to Get Back on Track

timer-with-handCan you relate to this scenario? You’d been really good about keeping up with clutter and then came the holidays. Things got scooped up and hidden in closets instead of being put in their proper places. Since the New Year you haven’t even tried to tidy — you’ve been leaving items here, there and everywhere.

BACKSLIDING is a common occurrence and can be rectified relatively easily.  Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself and remember this is a temporary phase. We all slip back into less desirable habits at times but that doesn’t mean we will stay in that place. Think about how great you felt when you were keeping up; focus on those good feelings and the results.
  1. Play Beat the Clock. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can clean up before time is up. Make this part of your daily routine — in the morning or evening. On the weekend or when you have extra time, you can play for the 15 minutes and then decide if you want to continue decluttering or stop. You’ll be surprised by how often you want to go on!
  1. Beat the bushes. Again, on the weekend or when you have extra time, take those bags and boxes of jumbled, hidden clutter out of the closet, one at a time. Put items back in their assigned homes. Open old mail and recycle, shred, file or act on it, according to what’s appropriate.
  1. Can’t beat this reminder. IT’S EASIER TO KEEP UP THAN TO CATCH UP! Keeping this saying in mind, process your mail — daily at a minimum or weekly at a maximum. Be consistent playing Beat the Clock to keep clutter at bay.

By following these guidelines, I guarantee the next time you have company or want to clean up, you’ll quickly be able to deal with the minimal clutter. By putting items in their assigned homes, you will save time and eliminate angst.

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What’s Your Favorite Indoor Activity?

Woman reading at the beachBrrrr…it’s cold in most of the country. We spend more time indoors. What’s your favorite indoor activity? I bet reading immediately sprang to mind!

Is your book collection organized so you can find just the right book you’re in the mood to read? Excellent! Or like many folks, are books scattered around the house? Do you even know what books you have? Do you regularly purge unwanted books or let them continue to occupy valuable space and collect dust?

Now is a great time to organize your books. Here are 11 tips.

  1. By category, then alphabetically by author’s last name.
  2. By category.
  3. By author.
  4. By title.
  5. By author, then by title.
  6. Chronological, such as U.S. presidents for history buffs (Washington, Adams, Jefferson and so on)
  7. By color – or even limited to certain colors for a particular look. This may be a viable option for highly visual people, those who prefer aesthetics over practicality or the few who have a photographic memory.
  8. Put books where they’re useful, like cookbooks in the kitchen. (You’d think that would be obvious but you’d be wrong. I’ve organized people who kept cookbooks in the living room. Not surprisingly, they weren’t used.)
  9. Add a few decorative items on bookshelves to add design interest.
  10. Mix it up – separate some books by category and some by favorite authors.
  11. There is no right or wrong way. But there is just one way – the way that works for you. It’s about finding what you want when you want it. If your system doesn’t work, tweak it until it does.

My largest book organizing project was 17 years ago with my first client. In his library he had between 1,000 and 2,000 books. They were out of order. There were duplicates and triplicates. His library was completely nonfunctional. It took time, but after donating many of them and organizing the rest according to my client’s preferences, that massive job got done. My client was thrilled to have a functional library that looked great too!

For my personal collection, I mix it up. Fiction books are arranged in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Books in other categories (such as organizing, business and design) are separated by category but not in any order. Some books are vertical. Some are horizontal. Small framed photos and pieces of art add to the overall look. I donate books that no longer interest me. My book collection is functional and attractive. With a little time and effort, yours can be too.

Downsizing and organizing your books is worth doing. Then, when planning your next vacation, you can quickly grab the ones you want to read – much better than wasting time searching around the house or wasting money buying more at the airport.

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Transform your Wardrobe in Just 5 Hours

Do you ever open your closet and think, “I have nothing to wear!”? Do you ever feel like you have certain “go-tos” and you ignore the rest of your closet? Do you keep things because they might come back into style?

Imagine a different scenario. Imagine a closet filled with only those clothes that ‘spark joy,’ clothes that make you feel confident and amazing, clothes that are comfortable and cared for. In just five hours, it can!

The New York Times bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo, teaches you how. As a member of the first class of KonMari consultant trainees, I love spreading the KonMari idea of #organizetheworld. Please see below my own take on how you can tackle the clothing category using the KonMari method, step by step.

Step One:
Find a time in your schedule when you can get five hours, distraction free. No kids. No husbands. No phones. This is YOUR time.

Step Two:
Pile every item of clothing on the bed.

  • Make sure ALL of your clothes are washed.
  • Drag those off-season clothes out of the basement.
  • Bring up those coats from the entry-way closet.
  • Pull out those old bridesmaid dresses.

Take a ‘before’ picture!

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Step Three:
Divide the clothes into broad categories like: Tops, Bottoms, Skirts, Pajamas, etc. Don’t worry about deciding what to keep yet. Focus on sorting, not discarding.

Step Four:
Now this is where the magic really comes in. You are going to take each and every item of clothing in your hand and ask yourself: Does this spark joy? Pay attention to how the garment makes you feel. Does it give you a jolt of happiness? Do you love wearing it? Or do you frown, think about feeling frumpy, or have a bad memory?

A few tips:

  • Get quick wins
    Start with a smaller category so that you can feel the momentum.
  • Make notes
    As you go, write down items that need to be replaced or upgraded.
  • Take a break
     Midway, take a 15-minute break. Have some tea and a light snack.
  • Take stock
     Take stock at the four hour mark. You might need to leave a few categories for homework, like shoes and bags.

Step Five:
Put all of your donations and items to sell right in the car! While you have them sorted, you can even enter the donations into an app like It’s Deductible or onto a printed Goodwill checklist. You can save thousands at tax time with donations!

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Step Six:
Put all of the clothing that sparks joy back into the closet and folded in their drawers. To learn how to do Marie Kondo’s special folding method, visit this video. Think about using all that extra space in your closet to display your favorite items. I put my favorite books and my grandmother’s milk glass on the top shelf of my closet, where all of my bulky sweaters used to fall over onto each other. Some people hang artwork inside the doors or display wedding photos.

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A few tips:

  • Someday = Never
     If you find yourself thinking, “I might wear this someday,” think again. Think about your life today.
  • Don’t get bogged down on sentimental items
     Set aside sentimental items. Can you turn that fabric into a cool pouch? Can you display it?
  • Beware of the temptation of ‘selling’
     It’s tempting to want to sell your items. Be aware that consignors are VERY selective. Often, you will get more back by donating the item and cashing in on a tax refund.

Now sit back, take that after photo, and enjoy! After just five hours and six steps, you’ve created a closet that gives you joy, easy mornings and a boost of confidence.

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CAN WE LIVE A SIMPLER LIFE?

I don’t know about you but I often think about how I can simplify my life so I can spend more time doing what I want to do. For me, living simply means that there is less stuff which means less clutter. When there is less, it truly means that you have less to do by means of cleaning, organizing, storing and overall less mess.

There may be different reasons why you are seeking simplicity in your life. Regardless of that reason, there is the desire to attain simplicity. I have challenged myself over the years to have less in different ways, and I know I will continue to challenge myself. It’s not a once and done event.

If you are overwhelmed with clutter, it’s because you have too much stuff. Maybe it is time to challenge yourself. Below are my challenges for you:

DO shop less. When you shop you accumulate. Period! This may be the hardest challenge but it is at the top of the priority list.

DO shop when you have a need. Make sure it’s a need.

DO make a list when you need to go shopping. Only buy what is on your list as you’ll spend less time shopping and less money. This could be from grocery shopping to clothes shopping. Lists keep you focused.

DO let go of the old when bringing in the new. Otherwise, you will add to your belongings which leads to clutter.

DO tackle one room at a time and complete it in its entirety. Keep the room simple. The more you have the smaller the room looks and the more time you spend tidying and cleaning up.

DO know that if you haven’t touched something in years, most likely, you won’t use it. It’s time to let it go.

DO organize your stuff after you have decluttered. Keep your organization simple and easy. No need to overcomplicate it.

DO donate your items so they can be used in a new home. There are so many charities available and in doing so, you will feel such joy about getting rid of your stuff while giving to others.

DO continue to challenge yourself. It’s ok once you’re done to circle back to that room and declutter even more. Sometimes you just need to get into the rhythm of letting go.

MAKE 2017 the year to have less so you can be more. That more can be anything you choose, so go ahead and challenge yourself to live life more simply.

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An Organized Car for 2017

car_blog_picIt’s January again, which means New Year’s resolutions and packing away holiday decorations. January is also considered ‘GO Month’ aka Get Organized Month in the world of organization. We all set new goals of what we would like to achieve, but what if this year we focus on one location where we spend more time than we think; our cars. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Americans spend, on average, over 290 hours in our car EACH YEAR. If I’m going to spend the equivalent of seven work weeks driving my car each year, I want to make sure I am comfortable and prepared. Organizing your car is an accomplishable goal that will enhance your everyday life and can be achieved in an afternoon. Below are a few easy steps to follow on cleaning out your car and what supplies you need for safety and convenience.

Step One
Clear everything out of your car…and I mean every penny and empty coffee mug! Sort everything into three piles; ‘Toss’, ‘Put Away’, and ‘Keep in Car’. The ‘Toss’ pile is all the junk you want to throw away; wrappers, receipts, bottles, etc. The ‘Put Away’ pile might mean it goes in the house, back to the office or needs to be returned to a friend. The ‘Keep in Car’ pile is everything that belongs in your car. Cross-reference the list below to decide what stays and what goes.

Step Two
Clean the car inside and out.  Start by vacuuming from the top down, including the upholstered ceiling since dust builds up on soft surfaces. Don’t forget to remove any floor pads and vacuum under them and the pads themselves. Next, dust all of the hard surfaces and wipe down the windows. I use Swiffer dusting wipes and I usually buy the generic brand at the local dollar store, they work great! After dusting, I use ArmorAll Original Protectant Wipes ($10.79 for a 3 pack at Target) on all of the hard surfaces and glass wipes for the windows and windshield. You can also use a damp rag or any other car interior polish you’d like. For really dirty jobs you may want to consider shampooing your upholstery.

I like to do this stage at my local self-service car wash. This way, I don’t have to worry about lugging a vacuum in and out of the house or hooking up the hose. I keep the interior wipes along with some window wipes in my car at all times so I can just roll up and pay a few dollars for their vacuum and then wash the exterior and be on my way.

Step Three
Now we address our three piles.  First, throw away anything labeled ‘Toss’. That was easy! Next, anything that was deemed ‘Put Away’ should be contained in a box or a bag and immediately brought inside.  If your like me and decided to clean the car off site, make sure everything is contained to be brought inside and put away. Now it is time to put the ‘Keep in Car’ pile away.  Below, I have provided a list of what every car owner needs and added notes and suggestions on how to use each item and where they are best stored.

Car Essentials

  • Paperwork – insurance card, registration, title, inspection, license, mechanic info, emergency contacts, car manual, & photocopy of drivers license (keep in glove box, console, or under the front seat)
  • Safety kit (listed below)
  • Quarters/Emergency money (keep out of plain sight)
  • Umbrella – back of seat or door storage
  • Pen & Paper
  • Ice Scraper & Shovel
  • Trash bag
  • Dedicated phone charger – NEVER leaves your car

SAFETY – Almost all of this can be kept in the trunk

  • Maps
  • First aid kit
  • Blanket/towel/thermal blanket
  • Jumper cables
  • Flares/Reflective triangles
  • Water
  • Rope
  • Flashlight & batteries
  • Life hammer (breaks glass & cuts seat belts/keep in center console)
  • Matches/lighter
  • Multi-tool
  • Tire jack & spare tire
  • Duct tape
  • Important prescription medications
  • Energy bars
  • Materials for tire traction – sand or kitty litter
  • Work gloves
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pepper spray – keep in center console
  • Change of clothing/walking shoes/winter coat

CONVENIENCE ITEMS

  • Sunglasses – should never leave the car
  • Air freshener
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Disposable grocery bags
  • Paper towels/napkins/tissues
  • Auxiliary cord
  • Optional Health & Beauty pack (do not include anything that could melt)
    • Hair ties
    • Oral hygiene items
    • Feminine products
    • Makeup
    • Wipes – disinfectant or baby
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Lotion

Follow these three easy steps and you’ll be ready to plan your 2017 road trip! Happy New Year!

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There’s No Place Like Home

rubyslippersRelocation is one of those infamously “stressful” times of our lives. Even those of us who are veterans will admit to the fact that the sheer amount of facets that need to be managed during a move adds some level of anxiety.

Whether moving near or far, change is part of the package – new people, new schools, new jobs, new neighborhoods, new neighbors and yes, a new home.

My husband’s corporate job moved us (a family of five) around the U.S. for a period of over 20 years. I realized from the very beginning that this would be a way of life for our family for quite some time. In order for us to not only keep our sanity but actually enjoy the adventure, I needed to have a plan. Essentially, my plan developed from taking a step back and seeing the big picture. I asked myself:

  • What will our nomadic life look like?
  • What can or will change?
  • What can or needs-to stay the same?
  • What will support each member of the family?

By answering these questions, I was able to prioritize the steps of our move and create a repeatable process to carry us through each successive relocation. I hope that my answers might help you look at your own family’s needs in the face of one or multiple moves.

What will our nomadic life look like?
Truth be told, many a friend and family member worried aloud about how my children would fare growing up without the consistency of a hometown, schools and friends. I chose to envision a life that would be enhanced by our travels – my children would learn that people are people wherever you go, no matter how they look or sound. They would experience cities and environments rather than merely reading about them – things like walking on Mt. Rainier (an active volcano), battling to walk down Michigan Ave while leaning into the Chicago wind, and watching dolphins jump in the coastal waters of Florida. I shared my vision and excitement with the rest of my family and let them know how lucky we were!

What can or will change?
Almost everything! As far as living spaces were concerned however, the changes involved the size and number of rooms and the amount of storage. Would the garage be large enough for cars, bikes and storage? Would there be a basement? Would the kids each have their own rooms or will they have to double up? Some changes were welcome, others less than desirable. Adding some creative storage and decorative accents always helped with the adjustment.

What can or needs to stay the same?
I decided that since all of our surroundings including most of the people would be changing, it would be important to preserve things that gave us “roots”. With each move I kept much of our décor the same, especially for the kids. I would hang their curtains right away and keep the same bedding. Those things changed at times when they grew out of them. We would have weekly letter-writing sessions in order to maintain relationships with family and friends. This had so many benefits: family time together, honing writing skills, honing relationship skills. I also made it a point to cook traditional holiday recipes so that we wouldn’t forget our family background and would feel connected on holidays when we couldn’t actually attend in person.

What will support each family member?
This is where organization really became essential. It is difficult to be successful, in anything and at any age, if your surroundings continue to change. Therefore, I would set up each home with consistencies. Kitchens were always arranged with table settings nearest the table and furthest from my cooking area so that kids could help and not be underfoot. Drawer items in kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms were set up in similar order from house to house. Garage and laundry bins followed suit. Within no time, everyone knew where to find what was needed regardless of the new home layout.

Even though you may move often: embrace your life, be kind to yourself and your family and you can always be living at Home.

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