Inside a Professional Organizer’s Home: The Laundry Closet

Organizing a laundry closet

Anyone ever heard of a laundry closet that also serves as an office space? If not, now you have!  My laundry closet also serves as our office space.  Since we don’t have space for a separate office, we use our … Continue reading

Inside a Professional Organizer’s Home: The Living Room

Ever wonder how a professional organizer organizes their home? I have decided to let you take a look into my humble little home and share with you some of the strategies I use to keep my small spaces from becoming … Continue reading

10 Tips for Staging Your Living Room

1) Remove all personal pictures.  You want to make sure any potential buyer can picture their family living there.   Tip: Replace large pictures from wall frames with scrap paper or print art.   2)   Update your window coverings.  Add curtains … Continue reading

How to Stage Your Home For Sale- Top 3 strategies to get top dollar for your home!

If you could get a 586% return on an investment (ROI) would you choose to do it?  586% is the ROI for having your home staged for sale.  That’s a return I can stand behind!  So if you are selling … Continue reading

Your “To-Do” List: Does it overwhelm you?

My name is Helen and I am a committed list maker.  I love making lists.  Can you relate?

My lists help me juggle multiple ventures and responsibilities.  The frustrating aspect is that my to-do list becomes so long that it begins to seriously overwhelm me.  Why not figure out another way to organize my to do list so it is more focused and doesn’t make me want to crawl back in bed?

With that question in mind, I decided to try something new.  I implemented a post-it note to-do list that is separated into three categories:

1) Immediate

2) Soon

3) Future

I made a page for each category and then used a post-it note for each task I needed to complete.  Each note is placed on the corresponding sheet of paper based on the 3 categories of urgency.  Here is what mine looks like right now:

to do listMy first page: “Immediate”

Tasks that need to be done today.

to do listMy second page: “Soon”

Includes tasks that need to be done this week but can wait another day.

time management

My third page: “Future”

Tasks that I want to do in the next month but are not urgent.

Time managmentIf you want, you could choose a color for each category such as home is blue and work is pink.  I have mixed feelings about encouraging people to do that.  Some individuals tend to over think things and then overwhelm the process which is the last thing I want to do! It’s not necessary but if you are a visual person, it may help you to focus your thoughts on what needs to be done next. 

Another suggestion is to use the back of each page to place tasks that you are going to do later in the day.  This reduces the number of tasks on one side and helps to keep you focused on those tasks that need to be done immediately.

Obviously, when you are done with an item simply remove it and enjoy placing it in the trash because your are done with it!  I am one of those people who get a lot of life by completing tasks on lists.  So far, I have been stacking my completed items in a stack on the other side of my notebook.  It allows me to look back at all I have done that day and feel accomplished.  Hey, it’s all about the small things in life!

I am still in the test drive phase of this post-it note to do list transition.  I am giving it a good 6 weeks to see if it helps me to simplify my to-do list and, as a result, prevent feelings of task anxiety.  Will you join me on this test drive?  If so, give me your thoughts on how it worked for you.  Any changes? Any tricks?

I have a confession to make…

Once people hear I am a professional organizer, they typically respond with, “Your house must be perfectly organized!”  I have a confession to make… my house is NOT perfectly organized.  I’m human and have two boys and a wonderful husband.  As a result, my house does not stay perfectly organized.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really love order and having everything in its place, but perfection is not feasible unless you have nothing better to do with your time. 

I share this with you because I want to stress that organized perfection is never the goal.  The goal in becoming more organized is to create more time and space for what you value most in life.  When items are in a specific place, you save time by not having to search for them and you prevent the stress that is experienced when something is lost.  When your home or office space is in order you think more clearly and are more productive.  However, if you are striving for perfection, you will more than likely become discouraged and probably quit too soon. 

In my own home and office, I try to tackle really small projects one at a time and when I feel the urge to do it.  This means that I don’t always schedule when I’m going to straighten up a closet or reorganize my kitchen cabinets.  For example, I have needed to better organize and clean out my linen closet for the past two months.  It simply wasn’t very functional and was not easy on the eyes.  Recently, after I finished washing some sheets, I opened the linen closet door and felt compelled to do a quick clean out. 

 Here are the before and after photos:

Messy Closet

Before

Organized Closet

After

I simply removed the sheets and towels we don’t use or need, and arranged smaller items together.  One thing I changed was how I stored my sheet sets.  I put the sheets inside a pillowcase that belonged to the set.  I saw this on Pinterest and think it is genius!

 This method of embracing my organizing impulses works great for me, but may not work for everyone.  Some people may need to actually schedule their organizing projects and include them in their goals for the week or month, and that’s okay too.

So, I am not perfectly organized, and I am always a work in progress.  Progress, big or small, is still progress!

Organize your ENTIRE home in one day? No way!

Have you ever decided you were going to get organized and began by setting aside a weekend or day to do it?  For most people, this would simply not work.  Setting up a whole house-organizing project is daunting and many people end up overwhelmed and discouraged. 

Messy Office

Don’t even think about attempting to organize this office in one attempt!

Fortunately, there is good news!!! You don’t have to organize every space at once in order to begin your organizing journey!  In fact, I would stress that you SHOULDN’T attempt such a feat!

 To start, walk around your home and make a list of the spaces that need some help.  Be specific and try to break areas down.  For example, don’t just write master bathroom.  Instead write:

  • Master bathroom underneath my sink
  • Master bathroom underneath hubby’s sink
  • My makeup drawer
  • Linen closet

OR

  • Master closet top rack
  • Master closet shelving area by door, etc…

Next, follow these steps to begin getting organized.

 1). Start small.  Choose a small space from your list and begin there.  Small successes often lead to bigger ones.  It also prevents us from getting overwhelmed. 

 2). Be intentional and schedule a time to start AND end.  If you only have one hour to devote to organizing, set a timer and get to work on that one space!  Know that when your timer goes off, you are done for that day.   Be sure to refer to my post on how to physically organize a space.  Also, look to Pinterest for creative ideas on how to maximize your space to function the way you want it to. 

3).  Maintain.  Yep.  I have said it before, but you must be intentional about returning everything to its contained home.   Some day it WILL become a habit, but in the mean time, remain committed to maintaining what you have already set in place.

4). After you’re done with that one space, reward yourself! 

5). Schedule the next item on your list.  Once again, being intentional is key! 

What space will you start with first?

My Mother’s Voice

As an adult, I still hear my mother’s voice when I am trying to clean up a space and see that I still tend to make piles. “Helen, do something about all those piles!” Can you relate? It’s funny how we tend to keep old habits, no matter how old we get.

Me in my youth!

I have generally always been a neat person and like everything to be in its proper place. It is how I give myself a false sense of control over my pretty hectic and unpredictable corner of the world. When I don’t have time to put everything where it belongs, I resort to making piles. Most of my piles are of the paper sort, which just so happens to be the most tedious and time consuming when it comes to the organizing world. The piles tend to grow in height; which only increases my anxiety about dealing with them. This anxiety causes me to feel overwhelmed and then, as a result, I avoid tackling it.

I share this for two reasons. One, we all struggle with staying organized, even as a professional organizer it’s difficult. You know the proverbial wisdom of how it is easier to recognize another person’s problem, than it is for us to see our own? The same is true of getting and staying organized. Second, it is very common for our disorganization to spiral and grow. Once a problem area starts piling up, it often annoys us to the point where we choose to do something more enjoyable with our time. Later, when you add to the pile you again, you see how much it has grown and feel overwhelmed and annoyed by your disorganization. Thus, you end up avoiding and delaying it again, and as a result; you end up like me, with the leaning Tower of Pisa beautifully represented by your pile of papers.

paper pile

Does this look familiar? This is not an an actual pile of my papers, but I am sure I created a tower this size in high school and college.

Don’t let your clutter get out of hand and spiral out of control! My remedy to the piles is to honor my mother’s voice and make a daily and weekly habit of going through and doing something specific with each piece of paper. Most of the time, I can prevent these piles by following through with my established organization system for paper. I call it my “command center,” and it’s a system I’ve set up to go through the mail everyday and file everything away or put it in the trash.

A “Command Center”

Here is an example of a command center. This blog has a detailed plan for how to create one: http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/2010/12/mobile-command-center-2.html

Therefore, don’t distress! No one is perfect, not even the professional organizers (me)!

Too Big, Too Small: A Solution to Children’s Clothing

Organized Kids Closet

Ever get overwhelmed by your kid’s clothing? They grow out of clothing so quickly! I have a solution for organizing their clothing transitions… thanks to Pinterest.  Create bins or totes for “Too Big” and “Too Small”.

This weekend I jumped at the chance to implement this solution in my son’s closet.

Before:

Messy closet

After:

Organized Kids Closet Label

I included a “Keepsakes” tote too.  This provide a quick place to store all his art work and other stuff I want to keep.  His keepsakes stay in these boxes until I am ready to permanently store them in the basement.  Tip: When I begin to store them permanently, I go through all the items and if I can’t identify why it is “special”, then I toss it.

I got these plastic totes at Target for only $5.99 each.  They are incredibly sturdy! I use the same totes in my garage to store small outdoor toys.

Now his closet looks and functions so much better!

Organized Kids Closet

For more great tips visit my Facebook page and Pinterest board