No house calls today?
No House Calls this week, but it will return with a double page next week. Stay tuned!
Hi Rachel. I am struggling with the amount of purses I have in my closet. I'm hanging on to them just in case I might use them. They are in good condition and I do like them. Most of them I haven't used in several years but I just can't seem to let them go....just in case!! How can I let go and free up my shelves? Thanks Susan
Thanks for the question! I think it is a very common one for many women. I would try and ask yourself why you are holding onto the purses. What is your "just in case?" If you haven't used the purse in a year, I would suggest consigning it. Before you consign it, you can also take a picture of yourself with it just so you have the memory. Freeing up the space in your closet allows you to free up your mind as well. You will have more room for incoming, newer purses and some more money to purchase new purses you WILL use from your consigned ones.
My family has a LOT of books. We've pared down as much as we are going to, and don't even need to access our books on a daily (or monthly) basis. Do you have organization / storage suggestions besides open bookshelves. I love the look of a dining room lined in bookshelves - in theory - but in our home it would be too much. We don't want to pack them all away to the basement and love to browse our collection, but visually they seem to add a lot of clutter to our space. Suggestions?
Great Question! Many people love the look of books in their home but they take up a lot of space. If you love the idea of books on display, find a bookshelf that you and your family really love and that matches your home decor. Only keep the books on display that you can fit neatly on the bookshelf. You can do this in multiple rooms as well. As for the rest of the books, pick up some clear plastic containers to store books that are not on display. Label each container with the type of books inside. Plastic containers are waterproof and you are able to see what you have. Change up which books you are displaying every few weeks or months, this way none of them are stored forever and the change up may spark your interest in a an old book!
What about paper? How do you organize all the bills, magazines, and so on, that constantly accumulate around the house?
Thanks for the great question! Paper is absolutely the number one issue for most households. For suggestions on how I organize my paper files, check out today's article where I go over how I organize my bills and magazines. I absolutely suggest folders that are vertical vs. laying in pile. If you file vertically you will know what you are reaching for and will save time searching through piles. It will also allow you to save time when looking for the next magazine, etc.
It takes me months/years to get my house decluttered and organized, but a month or 2 later, it's a mess all over again. I intend to keep up with it a little everyday, but that is just not in my nature. I only clean up when I have company, and I rarely have company. How do I keep it organized (other than constantly inviting people over)?
That is funny because I am having company this weekend so I'm desperately organizing my guest room which is also my home office. Having guests for the holidays or overnight really does get you in gear. So first of all, consider doing more entertaining to force you to clean it up. Otherwise, keep a list of places that you have trouble keeping organized. Set aside an hour each Sunday to tackle that, no matter what else is on your agenda. Buy yourself some new organizing accessories to make the job more fun.
On the topic of staying warm from last week's chat: flannel covered rice bags! Their available on Esty, but I've made my own. 2-3 minutes warmed in the micowave then slid under the sheets. Think old fashioned water bottles. My husband and I each have one on our side of the bed. I even made palm size ones to warm up before a walk outside to carry in my pockets and one for my desk at work for those cold days in the office. -- Warm in Woodbridge
Warm in Woodbridge - you rock. Thanks for bringing this into the conversation. A great idea. And keep those ideas on keeping warm coming in the chat - we still have the dreary, frigid month of February to get through. Sigh.
My kids got a bunch of new toys for the holidays. Any tips on how to contain all the small pieces from Legos, TinkerToys, and other building sets?
I contain small toy pieces using clear, plastic storage boxes that can be neatly stacked and easily seen through so my daughter can see what she's looking for. When I don't have a box on-hand, I use large ziploc bags to keep things contained until I get something better.
I can't seem to figure out to how keep my plastic storage under control. I don't have a lot of cabinet space and so I try to keep lids on bottoms but that doesn't work. The entire collection spills out of the corner cabinet on a regular basis. Any ideas?
Keeping lids on bottoms doesn't allow you to stack container's inside of one another, which is a huge space saver. I would stack your containers on one side and keep lids right next to them. And ask youself if you really need all the containers you have. You could probably live without a few of them.
Hello - I love the children's storage bins you included in the article from 3 sprouts. Do you have any other favorite stores for children's toy storage? We have looked at the usual spots - pbk, container store, land of nod. Anything else? I am not a fan of the canvas storage options unless they have a frame inside to hold them upright. We use the sterilte bow boxes quite a bit - for small vehicles, art supplies, Mr. Potato head, barbies (they are the exact length for both the male and female dolls!) etc. They stack neatly and relatively securely on top of one another, the kids can see the toys easily and transport them room to room thanks to the low handle on top. However, I would like something more visually pleasing (and less transparent) in one of our rooms. Your suggestions are much appreciated and thank you for the great article, organizing the office in 20 minutes is going to be on the agenda for tonight! Great tips.
As you can see from today's photos, I love the canvas bins with the frame from the Container Store. Locally, I am usually at am the Rockville or DC locations. You can also get the same sorts of bins at Bed Bath & Beyond as well as Strosniders in Bethesda. You can also create your own box that fits with your decor and find supplies at a local craft store like Michaels or AC Moore. They have plain boxes with tops that you can customize and decorate to fit your needs. I would remove the top and start from there!
From last week's chat... I got a great sectional sleeper sofa at Desi Living - in Pentagon Row. Several different sizes and options and colors. Takes approx 8 weeks for delivery. I needed a very specific size for the L sectional to fit in basement between a wall and a pillar. And less expensive than Crate and Barrel/Pottery Barn.
Oh yes. That is a great spot. Thanks for sharing this.
Each year my husband and I attempt to get our home organized and do make some good progress. With kids, jobs and busy lives, it seems like we can't keep it up. Any suggestions for maintaining organization. It seems like everything gets piled up so quickly!
Getting organized initially is the hardest part, so if you've made progress you're doing great! An easy way to maintain the organization in your home is to sort items as they come in the door. This means opening mail right away, putting away newly bought items where they belong and not leaving them in bags in another area of the house where they can become clutter. Another great way to stay organized is to set up time each day, even if it is just 10 minutes before bed to do a quick clean-up and put everything back in its place.
I hope these tips can help you maintain your organized home!
Do I have a grandson for you? A doctor no less!
: ) That's so sweet of you to think of me, but I am married to an amazing guy already. Very lucky me!
Read the chat late last week, so couldn't submit. EC Robinson upholstery on Mt Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray section of Alexandria does chair caing. I have used them for upholstery, not caning, but was very pleased with their work and thought their pricing was competitive and fair
Thanks for this. Also add to your list Steve Young 202 966-8810 who was recommended by a noted antiques dealer.
I have trouble figuring out which clothes to let go of and which ones I should keep with the hope that they'll come back in style or that my daughter will someday want them. I have a few pieces of my mother's that I still love. Thoughts?
Letting go of clothing can be difficult, sorting it into groups while you organize can help! Go through all of your clothing and sort into keep, sentimental, donate/consign and throw away. Unless it has sentimental value or it fits and you have worn it in the last year, get rid of it. Keeping clothes that don't fit or in the hope that they will come back into style will just cause clutter. Put back into your closet only the items that you wear and store the sentimental items in a waterproof labeled container to save space.
My almost three year old comes home from nursery school with tons of art projects almost every time. How do I decide what to save and what to throw away? What is the best way to keep them organized?
I know about this question first-hand with two 4 year olds at home! I usually recommend making a quick initial decision on the art work when it arrives home. If it something that your child likes or you like at the moment, put it on display! Use the fridge or a art line so that your little artist can see what they have made. After that week, see if there is anything that your child still enjoys and wants to see. At this point, take the art work and write the child's comments (if there are any) on the back. This way, when the child looks at the artwork again, they will have a frame of reference. I like using this product from the Container Store for storing art work: http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10022662&N=&Nao=240&Ntt=paper
Then, after about 6 months you will have a TO DO for yourself! I recommend taking pictures of all the artwork and turning it into a picture book using an online company like Shutterfly or SnapFish. This way, your child will always be able to look back at the book of his/her artwork and all that you will have to store will be a thin book vs. all the different art pieces. Overall, be conscious about what you keep and then are passing on to your child.
This is exactly what I have done in my own kitchen. I have one of those wire pull-out baskets in one of the cabinets. Bottoms are stacked and the lids are supposed to be organized neatly in a row next to them. In reality the lids tend to get all mixed up in a jumble, but at least the stacked bottoms keep them pushed over to one side of the basket.
Yep. Sounds a little like my cabinet, too. I don't have a basket though. When Iget frustrated with my containers spilling, I just start throwing them away. Not exactly the most practical or helpful solution, but it sure feels good while I'm doing it.
We are having a drop down ladder installed in our home so we can better access our attic. Currently, there is a small square hole in my husband's closet. There is apparenly a ton of space up there that can be used. We are going to lay a dirty floor and put in an attic fan. Are there items that we should NOT store in the attic? I have a doll collection, wrapped in acid free tissue and in plastic totes, as well as the christmas decorations that I was eyeing for movement into the attic. Thanks!
I would just be conscious of the temperature up in the attic. Most things, if stored properly can be stored in plastic bins or acid free tissue and last.
I have a very small closet and there is no room for storing shoes. Right now they are just thrown in a corner alcove. I want to get them out of the way so they cannot be seen. Unfortunately, I had one of those clear plastic storage holders that go on the door, but with the set up of the room, it still looked cluttered What options do I have?
If you want to keep shoes in that corner alcove of your closet so they are accessable, store them in clear plastic shoe bins. label each shoe bin with the color, brand and type of shoe. Shoe containers stack neatly on top of eachother so they can take up as little or as much floor space as you want.
If you want your shoes out of sight and out of the closet, an underbed shoe bag works great as well. You can find some great options for underbed shoe storage, from sliding bags with individual pockets for each pair to rolling containers that will slide neatly in and out from under the bed.
I'm a neat-nick and need organization for my sanity. My wife? not so much. She does just fine in chaos. How do we meet in the middle?
Hmm. Sounds a bit familar. I like organizing rooms, my husband likes organizing the kitchen counters. We divide and conquer and try not to freak out when things get a bit out of control. Talk openly about what bothers you and what bothers her. Try and work on the mess in the areas that are most annoying. Maybe set aside an hour each weekend to work on places that are driving you crazy.
I do okay organizing papers and mail, but have much more trouble keeping up with emails that come in every two seconds. Any advice there?
How about setting aside 20-30 minutes each morning and evening just sift through email.
Do you have any suggestions for how to get a landing strip/space set up by my door? I feel that's the area that always gets the most out of control - I need a space to keep mail, purses, and accessories (scarf, hat, gloves). Thanks!
Depending on the actual space you have, you can look into options for bins, a bench with bins or places for cubbies. I like to call that area the "drop off point" in homes which I think everyone needs. The space should be able to hold all things that are needed each day. If you have a hall closet nearby, you can also delegate some space in it for those items as well switching out the items inside seasonally. A flat surface for your mail, purse, keys, sunglasses, etc. might also be ideal. However, if you don't have the physical space for all those things, think about the walls! Using the vertical space for hooks or placing a coat rack is a great option to maximize space. Also inside a coat closet you can always add a sweater bag to increase your vertical space for bins, etc.
How do I keep my basement organized? It seems to just collect all of our outdated items
The first step is to not become overwhelmed, you don't have to organize your entire basement and years worth of items in one day. Set up small goals for yourself such as one container or box a day or 4 boxes on the weekend. Go through each box or group of items and decide what you need to keep, what can go to other family members and what you are going to donate or throw away. Once you have decided what you are going to keep store the items in large, waterproof containers and label each one so you can easily find the items you are looking for. Only keep the items that you truly need, remember that you will gather more and more over the years and it important to keep only what you really need!
I'm looking for moderately-attractive food-safe containers that don't cost an arm and a leg for all the pantry staples (flour, sugar, rice, etc.). Since they are going to be on open shelves in the kitchen, I don't want something too utilitarian, although minimalist is fine. Also, since space is tight, I want them to be as space efficient as possible, so no sloping sides. Thoughts or ideas on where to look?
Try Target, Wal-Mart or Ikea. Also check out www.stacksandstacks.com.
My sister told me that she found a ton of stuff that my mom kept, like our school work, greeting cards she received, etc. My plan is to use it to make a scrapbook (that is my hobby). I can't wait to get started!
What a great idea!! Send me some pictures when you are finished! :)
For the lady who asked about how to stay motivated, my recommendation is to watch those Hoarding shows on TV. I clean like a mad woman during the commercial breaks. If you can stomach it, it is great motivation. My other thought is that if you can't keep up your "system" then your system is too hard and maybe you need to be easier on yourself. Great discussion!!!
Love that idea! Hoarders will truly make you ill. A&E's Storage Wars is also a great show that exposes all the junk that people actually pay EXTRA to store!!!
I've been ruthlessly getting rid of old clothing for the past couple of years. One thing that helped me was to put all the items I kept for sentimental reasons together....because it was my mother's, or I wore it for a special occasion, etc. Actually seeing how much space it took to save these items encouraged me to pare them down by a lot. Find or take a photo of the person you love in the item, or of the item itself...and then get rid of what you really will not use again.
I absolutely love this idea. I am so glad it is working for you! You will ALWAYS have the memory but don't actually need the stuff.
Help! I need a bill-paying system. I pay my bills electronically, but some go through my bank website and others through the credit card websites. I lose track of which ones are due when. Should I pay everything once a month, or as they come in, or what?
I would do what you think would work best from you. For me, it works best to group all bills together so that I just have to sit down at one time to do it. This way, I have set aside the time and the materials that I need to do the one action for that time.. pay bills. It took a little time on the front end to organize everything together however it has now saved me time (and missed payments!) since I do everything at once.
Hi. A family member (who shall remain unidentified) has major organizational issues. I, on the other hand, am super organized and LOVE helping others with this task. But when my husband and I give help to "person," he/she quickly reverts to his/her old ways. Are things I can do to help him/her stay organized? Thanks!
It's great that you are helping your family get organized, just keep in mind that they will only stay organized when they are ready to and have made that decision for themselves.
The best way to help them is to create systems for organization that are catered to their needs and organizational level. While you may be able to open your mail when it comes in and sort it into 3 different files, opening the mail and getting it into one place in the house may be the amount of organization that is right for them at this point.
Don't try to force your family to become organized, work with them. If they feel overwhelmed at the amount of clutter, find an organization routine that they can keep up on and that won't seem overwhelming once you and your husband leave.
I think the best way to stay organized is to have storage that works well (the right size, the right materials) for what you are trying to store (I love see-through containers for most things), and to keep up with putting things away on a daily, or at least weekly basis. The worst storage disasters that have happened in our house are when we've let it go for too long, then we've got company coming and instead of doing it right we hurry and stash stuff way where it does not belong, just to get it out of sight. We think we'll get back to it later when the company is gone, but we don't. Then we continue to pile more on top of the offending stash. It quickly becomes a mess and we no longer even know what is in that closet/bag/box, whatever. So a combination of not having the proper storage with quickly putting junk away in the wrong place just to get it out of sight = disaster that takes months to fix. Finding storage that works well for what you are trying to store can take some time. Getting bins that are too small so you need too many of them, or that are too large and things get lost in them, or that might snag what you are putting in it, or that are closed when you need easy access, or open when you need to hide stuff... that doesn't work. You have to assess what you've got that needs storing, measure things if you need to, and then buy your containers. Really think about how you are going to use the stored items. For example, I bought under bed boxes once without measuring the space I had to shove the box into. The boxes I bought were too tall. I didn't want to waste them so I started using them to store other things they weren't suited for, and in a spot that wasn't right for the boxes. Every time I have to put something in or take something out of those boxes it's a real pain. So what happens? Stuff gets piled up in the basement storage room because I don't feel like pulling that box down.
Wow! Lots of great advice here. I, too, am a "pile" creator. I never intend for the piles to get out of hand, but they do so quickly!
I recently re-organized the 2 shelves in my small pantry that hold my plasticware. I use an open basket/bin where I line up all lids vertically - a real space-saver that provides an instant visual of all lids and gets them out of the way. I arrange larger lids vertically next to this bin (held in place by bin and pantry wall). I then stack all containers efficiently - stacking by shape saves space (squares inside squares, round containers together, and, of course, keep together sets designed to be stackable). I've found the best way to keep this organized is to make sure that when I unload the dishwasher and put clean items away, I take the time to stack them well, I don't just put them on top of what's already in there because that gets out of hand quickly. Finally, use the same paring down method that's always suggested for clothing/purses/shoes - if you haven't used the container recently, recycle it!
Yep. More great advice. thanks.
At what age can you expect kids to start helping out in the organization of their toys and belongings? How do you instill this early on?
As soon as they are old enough to play they can learn to organize their toys! Teaching organization routines to children early on will set them up for a clutter-free life. For younger children the best way to start is to sort their toys into cute open top containers. Label each container with the items name and a picture for younger children to identify. You can pick out cute and fun containers that your kids will enjoy and teach them that after they play with a toy it has to go back into the container with the matching picture. Open- top containers work best for yougner children so they don't have to maneuver those tricky lids!
One of my New Year's resolutions is to break a bad habit of making piles of things to "go through later". I've found that, in a busy week, my car, purse, work bag, front hall closet and dining room collect an assortment of items that I always mean to sort and organize when I get the time. I then spend the weekend sorting through overwhelming amounts of things that need to be put back in their "homes". I've made the commitment to spending 30 minutes a day processing my bags, papers, car, etc.. What are your suggestions on 1) how to best use those 30 minutes (I can't spare more) and 2) how to begin acting more like a naturally organized person with good habits that allow me to stop the messes before they start?
I think you have a fabulous New Year's resolution that seems like something you will be able to maintain. I would also make sure to give yourself a "break" some days as you will not always be able to spend 30 minutes processing and that is ok!
First, I would set up a system for processing paper and items that come into your home. You can use your first few days of 30 mins to do this. After you have the system in place, it will just be about maintenance. And remember, your home might not always be "neat" but it can be "organized." If you have the systems in place, you might not need the 30 min. each day for sifting through the piles but rather acting on the items that need immediate action.
SPACE: sort purge arrange classify enjoy. and never buy storage containers until you know exactly what you need. this prevents you from buying what you don't need and causing more clutter.
Heck I sent the stuff to grandparents, great aunts, uncles, godparents, etc. They were glad to get a gift and child was happy to help mail it. Sneaky but get it out of your house.
Yes. Get it out of the house. A goal.
Bulky seasonal ornaments, sports equipment, sure. But don't put anything that you wouldn't want a friend or sibling to have to use weeks of her/his life to go through. God forbid you can't get back into the attic: some day someone will have to go through everything. Please be kind to them.
Be kind. So true.
I had an old suede and leather shoulder bag I just about gave away to the Goodwill til I looked inside. It was in great shape I just didn't use it much. Good thing I looked - the brass label plate said "Bottega Veneta" and is worth over $5000 according to many sources on the web. Even eBay had one sold at $8000 recently and in not as nice a shape as mine. So don't give away ANYTHING til you do a little research - you could give away thousands!
Hmm. Was it one of the woven leather bags?
Until the economic crisis, everyone bought too much stuff. It was dollar store or Walmart cheap. Don't get me started on paper, now we have personal scanners to keep more junk papers. Our child is off to college and I am creating a memory box. The rest of the stuff can be trashed or given away. I am sure that someone wants the 3 versions of the Monopoly game that live used in our home. My biggest project will be photos. I am unsure how to handle all the photos. Duplicates I am sending to the parents or grandparents. Actually, I may send the duplicate photos to the kids who are now in college.
I actually think everyone still buys too much stuff! I love the 80/20 rule . We actually only use 20% of our clothing, items, etc. 80% of the time. It is something to be thinking about when you do purchase. Or, one thing in, one thing out! I think your ideas on photos are great!
For the person who needs shoe storage space: some of the clear shoe storage bins are expensive, and can rack up quite a bill if you have a lot of shoes! You can use other bins or even shoe boxes that aren't clear by taking a picture of the shoes within and gluing that to the box end so it's visible.
Good idea. Thank you.
Hi Rachel! I need to buy canisters for my pantry. We have had a few mice get in the house this winter and the first thing they do is find there way to the pantry. Then i go crazy scrubbing everything which takes a bit of time. Where is a good place to buy containers for the pantry. I would like everything to match and look neat. But I also need to buy a few dozen so i need a good price point.
I know Rachel is a huge fan of the Container Store and recommends a lot of their organizing products. You could also check Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and places like, Michaels and AC Moore.
To the one who is re-doing her attic to use it for storage space and is planning to have a fan installed: evidence suggests that the fans tend to draw the cool air (that you just paid good money to cool with your air conditioner) out of the house and into the attic. The fans use a lot of electricity because they pretty much run all day and a part of the evening, every day. In addition, they can burn out and become a fire hazard. A MUCH better and recommended idea is to upgrade your insulation up there. It's not expensive to do and is a one time cost.
I did get an attic fan and I do like it. I have not been able to do insulation as first I have to get rid of all the junk up there.
I went through several attempts at organization before I finally found one that works for me. Part of my problem is that my husband and I have different paydays, and certain bills have to be timed according to who gets paid when. I'm computer-oriented, so I set up a chart in Word (would also work in Excel) showing each pay day and amount, then list the bills to be paid from that check. Each bill is listed as it arrives, then when it is actually paid (automatically or otherwise) it gets moved to a "paid" section and the amount left from the paycheck is updated. Made a huge difference and sure helped our budget!
What a fabulous idea! I am so glad that it is working for you.
I totally agree. We have open bins in our play room and our 3 year old daughter has been cleaning up toys for 2 years now. We usually have to intiate the clean up and will help a bit with sorting. But this weekend for the first time she cleaned up her legos and tinker toys all on her own, without being asked while I was doing some vacuuming in another room. When I told her how great she did, she said, you were cleaning up so I cleaned up too. That made me so happy!
Good for you. This will pay off throughout her life. Teaching organization as a skill is something parents have to consider.
How does it work? do you go in and assess the situation or do potential clients tell you what they need and then you snap into action?
I like to speak with the client beforehand so I can assess their needs and LISTEN to their goals. Getting organized means something different to everyone. I then come out to your home and can start to get to work immediately or do a walk through consultation.
No, not the woven leather - mine is the Butterfly Suede vintage from the 1970's
First, delete everything that you automatically know is junk mail. Second, delete/don't bother with/put in an email folder anything older than one month - if you haven't needed that email so far, you probably don't! Third, create an email folder or label called "To Read Later" - anything that you would like to read when you have more time but that is not urgent can go in there. This way you can do your online bills and other urgent emails quickly. Fourth, if you get a lot of spam or ads from a particular source, open the email and click "Unsubscribe" at the bottom
Great thoughts on dealing with an email overload. Thanks!
I used to keep things because I believed everything had value, then I started to weigh the value of the space and headache they take up. For example, what is worth more to me: the stuff in my garage, or the car being less freezing in the morning? It is definitely a mental exercise, but my life is slowly getting easier as I make some of these decisions and the decisions are getting easier too. I also keep donation items "on-deck" for a month or so and go through them one last time before letting go, just so I don't have donator's remorse and revert to keeping everything. Baby steps...now if I could only stop eating so much chocolate.
Amen! Keep it up.. good luck with the chocolate!
In the last 8 years, I have had to go through two family houses that were filled from basement to attic of furnishings, lots of knick-knacks and tons of memorabilia. What time I have spent on going through this stuff and still am (down to 12 boxes of memorabilia). Do not store items in cardboard boxes in the attic or other memorabilia papers. The excessive heat just destroys those things. Believe me I love a well furnished house, but the trick is to discipline myself on what is very important to me and what puts a smile on my face. I also have to make sure I deal with the mail immediately when I come into the house and that every year my husband & I go through the financial papers, keeping what's necessary and what's not. That info can be easily found on reputable websites.
You are so right. Something that puts a smile on your face is what you should keep in your archives. Another good measuring tool: Does this item inspire me? You are telling us the truth about memorabilia and how difficult it is to deal with.