Archive for the ‘
Basic Organizing Principles ’ Category
If you watch television and you have even the teeniest tiniest interest in organizing then you know who Peter Walsh is. If not, here’s the short version: Peter Walsh is an Organizing Expert from Australia who has a ‘tell it like it is’ attitude but also uses compassion and empathy while organizing with his clients. He has worked miracles in tiny spaces, as well as in the homes of hoarders. I first saw him on an organizing show called ‘Clean Sweep’ and from there, he occasionally appeared on The Oprah Show as well as other daytime shows.
I ‘Like’ Peter Walsh on Facebook. He’s always posting about projects he’s working on, easy organizing tips, and when he’ll be on TV next. So, a short while ago, he posted that he was going to be de-cluttering Rachael Ray’s home kitchen on The Rachael Ray Show. Sweet! My DVR was set. If you didn’t get to catch it last week, here’s what happened…
Rachael Ray, America’s sweetheart of the kitchen had a secret…
She told her audience that she has a tiny NYC apartment kitchen and that she’s just as guilty as other homeowners when it comes to de-cluttering her kitchen–it never happens. Cluttered cupboards, out-of-date food in the pantry and cabinets overflowing with pots and pans were just some of her organizing issues.
If I had her hectic schedule, I might not have time to de-clutter my kitchen either…
She decided to bring Peter Walsh to her home to see if he could get her kitchen organized again. Rachael gave him a quick tour of the room and then he kicked her out and started organizing. Peter started with the pantry–he emptied it, sorted the items and tossed all expired food in the trash.
Some of Peter’s pantry tips:
-Store platters upright for easier access. Use an organizing product that stores baking trays to do the same thing for platters.
-Keep flat surfaces clear. They are for food prep–not for storage.
Peter then headed to a spot most people wrestle with in their kitchen–the junk drawer. Like the panty, Peter emptied the drawer and sorted out the trash. He then grouped ‘Like with Like’ and used containers to keep ‘like’ items together.
|Peter used drawer dividers like these to organize Rachael’s junk drawer
What junk drawer items did he hold up for all the world to see? Four pair of gardening shears! Since Rachael didn’t use them very often, he promptly moved them to a different area of the kitchen.
He then removed all magnets from her refrigerator. I have a ton of magnets and children’s artwork on my fridge–Peter Walsh would have a field day with my fridge!
He and his crew worked to de-clutter the rest of Rachael’s kitchen and then brought her back in to see.
The first spot he showed her was the pantry–she loved how de-cluttered it was and how Peter had grouped ‘like’ items with like items on clear trays from The Container Store. They then moved on to the junk drawer–Rachael was so thrilled with the way it looked, she gave Peter a high-five! He had removed many of her household tools and placed them in labeled bins in a cabinet over the refrigerator to get them out of the way.
Rachael then walked over to the fridge and saw that most of her magnets were gone! She almost had a heart attack because a magnet with her deceased dog’s picture on it was no where to be found. It was quickly placed back on the fridge–organizing crisis averted!
As I often do with my clients, Peter gave ‘Organizing Homework’ to Rachael…
-go through all cooking utensils
-separate out the ones she uses often from the ones she barely uses
-keep drawers neat and tidy
Peter offered up two tips and advice for the viewing audience:
1. Stop using the word LATER as in, “I’ll put that away later.” Do things as you go and he promises it will make a huge difference.
2. Flat surfaces are for PREPARATION not STORAGE.
Peter also gave the viewing audience five ‘Double Duty’ organizing products to use in the home:
1. Use an empty tissue box to store plastic bags (I do this in my own home.)
2. Use a tension rod to create hanging space under a sink
3. Thread a tab from a soda can over a hanger and hang another garment from it to double your closet’s hanging space. (I LOVED this tip!)
4. A tag from a loaf of bread can be used to wrap around and label electrical cords.
5. Use extra glass vases to corral multiples of items.
I thought this was a great segment. Kudos to Rachael Ray for being brave enough to have Peter Walsh organize her kitchen for all the world to see!
*Author’s Note: I love watching de-cluttering segments on daytime television–I pick up great organizing and product ideas all the time. But, what I’d like you to know is that de-cluttering a room takes hours–sometimes days and sometimes weeks. It looks quick on TV but what you don’t see is a multi-person crew working arduously to get the job done in a certain amount of time. When it’s just you, or you and a friend, or even you and a Professional Organizer the process takes a LONG time.
If you are de-cluttering an area of your home, don’t despair that it’s taking a while to emerge as a clutter-free space. Make good decisions, have trash bags at the ready and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are a few tips to make sure your organizing efforts are taking you in the right direction.
In March of 2010, I wrote a blog post called, “Ready for Spring Cleaning?” In that post, I talked about a basic organizing principle: Make an Appointment With Yourself to Get Organized.
The process of getting organized can be overwhelming. Most people are unsure as to where or how to begin. Making an appointment with yourself to get organized is a starting point. Carving out that time to chip away at a pile of papers or sort through your sock drawer is a necessary step towards de-cluttering your home and reaching your organizing goals.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from my friend, Deb–the subject line said ‘Photo Albums.’ The email stated that she was blocking out some time one night to work on her photo albums–did anyone want to bring theirs and join her at her dining room table?
I read that email and later responded, “I’ll be there…”
You know the phrase, ‘The shoemaker’s son has no shoes?’ Well, sometimes Professional Organizers spend so much time organizing others, that projects of their own fall by the wayside. In my case, it would be photos and photo albums.
I have two small children and I take a ton of pictures and videos of them on my camera and iPhone. I download them but haven’t always kept up with the ordering of pictures and placing them in albums. My relatives are constantly asking me for pictures of my kids. I’ve bought picture frames but don’t have the pictures to put in them. The signs were there–it was time to make an appointment with myself to organize my photos and albums.
A few days before the photo album gathering I took inventory of what I had:
• one broken photo album (wear and tear from 2 kids flipping pages)
• two new photo albums (ordered months ago and still in the box they shipped in)
• pictures I had printed but not put in albums yet (already separated by child)
To prepare for ‘Photo Night’, I removed all the pictures from the broken album and sorted through and purged a few out. I removed all pictures from my first child’s second album, too. I loaded all my photo albums and pictures into a large shopping bag and was ready to go.
I only worked on my albums for an hour and a half but got a lot accomplished. I managed to put all pictures from birth to two years old in the albums designated for my eldest child. Making this appointment with myself motivated me to keep working on this important project. The next night at my own dining room table, I finished putting the pictures of my oldest child in his albums.
My next steps are to:
• Sort and purge through pictures of my youngest child.
• Put them in chronological order
• Place them in the designated album
• Check the end of each album to see the last pictures I ordered. Go on iPhoto and order copies for relatives and the albums
• Give out pictures and place the rest in albums
My goal is to finish this project by the end of May. I will be making an appointment with myself each week to make that happen and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Thanks, Deb for giving me the jumpstart I needed to organize my photos!
Every year, my cousins host a Valentine’s Day pizza party. They order in pizzas, set up a huge salad bar on their counter, and people bring wine and desserts to round out the celebration. Last year, I made heart shaped brownies and although they were good, I wanted to get a bit more creative.
For inspiration, I walked into a store near me and found all types of cool looking confections including pretzel rods decorated with yummy-looking sugary stuff. I thought to myself, “I could make those!” I even had a feeling I owned a recipe for it and lo and behold, I did.
I had a ton of tasks to get done the morning I was making them so I turned to a basic organizing principle to help me accomplish my goal: to create chocolate-dipped and decorated pretzel rods in a short amount of time with a minimal mess in the kitchen. This basic organizing principle I utilized, well known to those in the world of cooking is:
Mise en Place
You may be asking, ‘What does the phrase Mise en Place mean?” According to TheReluctantGourmet.com, the phrase is pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs and means ‘to have all of your ingredients and cooking tools prepared before you start cooking’. Literally translated, it means, ‘to put in place.’ I think it’s French for ‘Get your stuff organized before you cook!’
Mise en Place takes the stress out of cooking and makes it a more pleasurable task. There’s no searching for the garlic press when your oil is hot. There’s no such thing as , “Uh, oh–I’m missing an ingredient.” Mise en Place (or ‘meez’ as the professionals say) allows you to be focused and prepared for cooking.
Here are the steps I took to Mise en Place–create an organized environment for my pretzel rod project:
1. I read the recipe and made notes as to what ingredients I needed. I added them to my shopping list, purchased them and kept them together in one bag so I they would be in one place when I was ready to make the recipe.
2. I cleared my counter space and unpacked the pretzel rods, chocolate chips and sprinkles. I set up two bowls for melting the two flavors of chocolate chips, two spatulas (for stirring the chocolate chips and spreading them on the pretzels) and three paper plates for the three pretzel toppings.
3. Next to my counter space, I set up a baking tray covered in wax paper and placed a wire rack on top of it. This is where the pretzel rods would relax while the chocolate was setting.
4. I placed half a bag of each type of chocolate chip into a bowl and put a spatula in each bowl. I placed a half cup of sprinkles and mini chocolate chips into each paper plate.
Now, I was ready to begin!
And, voila! The finished product…
Here’s the recipe I used. Try it–and don’t forget the Mise en Place. It will make creating these decorated pretzel rods so easy, you’ll want to make them for every occasion. Green sprinkles for St. Patrick’s Day? Red, white, and blue for Fourth of July? My cousin also hosts Mother’s Day. If you have any sprinkle color ideas for that day, I’d love to hear them!
Recipe: Decorated Pretzel Rods
One bag of Rold Gold Pretzel Rods
Half a bag of Nestle Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Morsels
Half a bag of Nestle White Chocolate Chip Morsels
Pink and white sprinkles (Tip: sprinkles purchased less expensively in the ice cream aisle rather than the baking aisle…)
Follow Mise en Place steps 2-4 from above.
1. Melt mini chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in separate microwave safe bowls. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Microwave another 30 seconds if necessary and stir until smooth.
2. Start with one flavor of chocolate. Dip pretzel rod in chocolate and spread with spatula. Let any excess chocolate drip off and hold pretzel over plate of sprinkles.
3. Using a spoon or your hands, drop sprinkles onto chocolate part of pretzel rod while turning the pretzel so all chocolate is covered.
4. Place on wire rack to cool and set.
5. Repeat with all toppings until chocolate is finished.
6. Repeat all steps with white chocolate.
7. Taste one to make sure they’re OK…
8. Pack carefully to take to someone’s home. Yum!
Are you cooking or baking anything for Valentines Day?
It’s the beginning of the new year–a time when people make resolutions to lose weight, spend more time with family and make other such improvements to their life. Many set goals to get organized in the New Year.
If that is one of your goals, that’s wonderful! I commend you for setting a goal to improve the quality of your life. I have the perfect organizing project for you. When you’ve finished it, you’ll be less stressed and have more time to enjoy the beginning of Spring.
I don’t want you to sort your sock drawer. No, I’m not sending you to organize your garage in the middle of winter.
Your first organizing project of the new year is to: Get Organized for Tax Season.
We’ve all heard about the person who walks into an accountant’s office with a shoebox full of receipts. It’s a stereotype, but if I polled a bunch of accountants, they’d probably tell me that the stereotype is more of a truth than an exaggeration.
If the thought of getting organized for tax season makes you start to twitch, not to worry. I’m going to use a few basic organizing principles to guide you through the process and put a smile on your face and your accountant’s.
Break a Large Task into Smaller Tasks
Prepping for your tax appointment can seem overwhelming. I’ll tell you that a task becomes less overwhelming once it is broken down into many smaller tasks. Do a brain dump of all the things you need to do to prepare for a tax appointment. Then put those tasks into priority order and create a check-off list for you to follow until the last step has been completed.
Create a Home
In the next few weeks, your mailbox will be stuffed with W-2’s, 1099’s, statements from financial institutions and other papers necessary for filing your taxes. In order to keep track of them, you’ll need to create a place for all of these papers to ‘live’ before they visit the accountant. Normally, I advise people to use shoeboxes an an inexpensive organizing tool but in this case, I’d prefer not to feed the shoebox stereotype. Take a large poly envelope, preferably see through, and place all tax-related documents in there. Have a file drawer or cabinet? Create a hanging file with a tab that says ‘TAXES.’ As they come in the mail, place the tax papers in the file.
Make an Appointment with Yourself or Delegate
If you’re doing your own taxes, make an appointment with yourself to get them done. Pick a day and time when there are few distractions and when you are most coherent. Write that date on your calendar and stick to it. Are you having an accountant file your taxes? Great–you’re delegating! Call their office in late January or early February to make an appointment. Put it on your calendar.
Sort it Out/Group ‘Like with ‘Like’
It’s a week before your appointment. Take out that poly envelope or tax file and look at all your papers. If you have a stack of them you’ll need to sort them by grouping ‘like with like’–all interest statements from banks go together, all receipts for gas and tolls should be clipped together, etc. This will enable you and your accountant to process your tax return quickly and with less stress (and coffee).
A few tax season Do’s and Don’ts:
Don’t: procrastinate. This is one of the worst things you can do at tax time except for showing up with that shoebox (see above). If you’re doing your own taxes, it won’t be much fun if your version of Turbo Tax unexpectedly quits at 10:30pm on April 15th. You’ll never get your accountant’s full attention if you procrastinate–in fact you might be put on extension. And by then, you’ll be talking to the secretary if she hasn’t fallen over from working overtime for the past three months.
Don’t: arrive at your accountant’s office with your statements in their sealed envelopes unless you want to see his/her head pop off. If your accountant’s head does not pop off, it’s because they have already decided that they will charge you for having to open all of your envelopes.
Do: take the Social Security numbers of all family members you are filing taxes for. If you or a member of your family owns a business, bring the tax ID number with you as well. Your accountant will thank you a hundred times for being prepared with that vital information.
Do: collect all proof of donation papers (thrift stores, schools, great causes, etc.) throughout the year and keep them in the poly envelope or tax file discussed above. You’ll need them to get that tax deduction!
Tax season does not have to be a painful time of year. With some preparation and organization, you’ll be on your way to a less stressful and more relaxed way to pay Uncle Sam.
A few months ago, I was watching an episode of Curious George with my five year old. The episode was called ‘Trader George’ which made me laugh for a moment because it sounded so much like ‘Trader Joe’s’ which is a food store I love to shop in and eat from.
Hey, it was really early in the morning and I was hungry. OK–back to how this connects with organizing…
So, in the episode George does some trading of items with people in order to get what he thinks he wants. The back story involves The Man With the Yellow Hat. While George is out trading his stuff to get other stuff, The Man With the Yellow Hat is at his county house going through the closet looking for items to put out at a local swap meet (where George is doing all this trading).
I’m getting to the organizing part…
Mr. Yellow, as I’ll call him for brevity sake, ends up spending much of the episode sitting in front of his closet pulling stuff out and reminiscing about it. My son is enjoying the show while I’m yelling at the TV in my head, “Don’t do that!’
You see, Mr. Yellow was breaking one of the cardinal rules of organizing.
Do not reminisce while organizing.
Why is this a bad idea?
It’s distracting. You’re supposed to be sorting and purging and getting rid of the old to make for the new and instead you’re looking at pictures or dreaming about the last time you fit into that cocktail dress and now you’ve stopped organizing to look for the matching shoes and handbag you wore with it ten years ago.
It’s a time waster. Not many people have all day to organize. Time is precious and it’s important to focus on organizing during the time you’ve alloted for it before you get tired or have to move on to the next activity of the day.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a few moments to think about the past. But those moments should not take you away from the task at hand. Pick a time later in the day or week to go through all the bridesmaids dresses you uncovered or all the never-before-seen pictures you found from your parent’s first Thanksgiving together.
Next time you’re organizing a spot in your home and you come across some cool stuff you want to dwell upon for more than thirty seconds, think about The Man With the Yellow Hat. Make time later to reminisce–or you may miss out on a lot more than just a swap meet…
If you’ve read the ‘About Me’ section on the right hand side of my blog, you know I grew up in a tight space. My bedroom was 5’x12′ and I had to keep most of what I owned in that room. Because of space constraints I could not spread out much. But I quickly learned that horizontal space was not the only space I had in my room–I also had VERTICAL space.
I have worked with clients in spaces as small as a studio apartment and as large as a mini-mansion. Regardless of the size of the home, I have found that people use horizontal space more often than their vertical space. It is at that point that I remind them of a very basic organizing principle:
If You Can’t Go Outward, Go Upward!
Translation: If you’ve run out of room in your room, buy some products to help you utilize the wall space you didn’t know you had.
Here are a few products that will help you to use your vertical space efficiently:
They’re not just for books–bookcases are perfect for anything you want to store or display. Measure your space from floor to ceiling. Then buy the tallest bookcase you can afford. For ideas, Google, “how to use a bookshelf for storage.” You won’t believe what people are getting off the floor and tabletops and putting on to bookcases… Try IKEA for inexpensive options.
These shelves are ones you mount to the wall. Great for displaying collections, photos, and knick-knacks.
Need extra closet space? Purchase a freestanding closet. Again, buy the tallest one you can fit in your home and make sure it has at least one shelf at the top for extra storage.
If you have low cabinets or don’t have enough, consider cabinets that go to the ceiling. Take advantage of high-up space for things used only once in a while like holiday dinnerware or guest towels.
Need lots of paper storage? You can buy a file cabinet that is five drawers high instead of two or more that are two drawers high to save on your horizontal space.
Unless you’re 7′ tall, you’re going to need a step stool or stepladder to reach your vertical storage places. I recommend having at least one of each depending upon your needs. To reach my high up storage spots, I use a Rubbermaid step stool and a 3-step ladder I got at The Container Store.
When you’ve finished reading this post, take a look through the rooms in you home. Could you use a vertical makeover?
Today, I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Cena Block of Sane Spaces. Besides being a Professional Organizer and Mom-Preneur Clarity Catalyst, she is also the President of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Cena’s talking about a key organizing philosophy—grouping ‘like’ with ‘like.’ Read on to learn more about what she calls, ‘one of the oldest organizing tricks in the book…’
Pattern Recognition is the one differentiating skill set that organized people have – we see and recognize patterns where there aren’t any! It’s why an organizer can walk into a chaotic situation and be successful – we immediately see “like with like” and patterns that work!
What I’ve found with clients in their homes and offices is that for you to be successful, you need to begin to recognize how you create patterns in your environment naturally, in order to create organizing solutions that stick.
One of the oldest organizing tricks in the book is to group ‘like’ things together. Organizers call this: putting “like with like” – or grouping all items that seem to go together, together. The interesting thing about this process is that each of us does this step a little differently.
As part of my community service, I offer a class to area elementary schools called NAPO In The Schools. This class is designed to teach 2nd – 5th graders basic organizing principles. There is an informational segment where the kids are introduced to “Disorganized Drake” who can’t seem to get it together. He frequently loses homework, can’t find supplies, and generally has a really rough time as a typical 4th grader! I ask the students to help Drake by applying simple organizing strategies to his books, his room, his desk and his backpack.
The class ends with an exercise where students are given a bag of school supplies and asked to group them “like with like”. It always fascinates me that some will group them by function (all things you can write with together), by color (all blues go together), by category (all pens, all crayons, all toys), or by some other construct that makes sense to them alone.
What patterns do you recognize? What makes you comfortable? Do you prefer to sort by color, by use, by function, by location? Whatever works for you, is the right answer. Determining which “one of these things is not like the other” is really up to you and the better you get at recognizing your own abilities for pattern recognition – and accept them as so, the quicker you’ll be able to move forward with organizing your items!
Copyright 2011: Cena Block
Need help at home? Download my Products:
Time To Toss It E-Book – http://sanespaces.com/products/organizing/
This is a full color guide that gives guidelines on how long to keep items and when to get rid of them. (There is a whole entire section on how long to keep paper and files.)
Dimensions Workbook – http://sanespaces.com/products/organizing/
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Get Organized To Keep Your Family Sane Ebook/Audio Tips – http://sanespaces.com/products/organizing/
This e-book and the accompanying weekly audio tips provide nearly 6 months of weekly organizing ideas to implement for your home and family. Whether you have a slew of children, or are kid-free, these tips are modeled after “best practices” that work with real families.
Cena Block is the Owner of Sane Spaces and a Mom-Preneur Clarity Catalyst. She helps people find sanity through clearing their spaces, creating systems, understanding themselves, and getting the support they need for success. Her Slice of Sanity eZine gives subscribers ideas and inspiration to get clear and out from under whatever is stopping them. If you are ready to get sane, you can click here to sign up for a F.R.E.E. e-zine subscription to Slice of Sanity. Learn more from Cena at her Facebook page, on her blog, and on Twitter.
I started this blog a year and a half ago when my son began preschool. Since then, I’ve had another child and my busy days and exhausted evenings have left me little time for blogging. If a Professional Organizer doesn’t have a lot of time for blogging but she really wants to blog–what should she do?
I knew that if I wasn’t organized, weeks or months would go by without a posting. Why have a blog if you’re not going to post to it?
I reviewed some basic organizing principles and applied them to blogging. Now I’m blogging at least once a week and I always know what I’m going to talk about when I sit in front of my computer.
Here’s one of the many ways I stay organized while blogging:
Get rid of the clutter
Too many pictures, videos, or advertisements detract from what you’ve written. Keep the look of your blog simple and streamlined. You have to grab the reader’s attention within the first three seconds of their arrival at your blog. If they have to spend those three seconds looking for your latest blog post, they may not return out of frustration.
Find this tip and other helpful advice in my article: Be a Better Blogger: Organizing Tips for Beginner Bloggers
Whether you already have a blog or you’re thinking of starting one, being organized will help you achieve your blogging goals with less stress and more time for posting.
It’s almost the end of April–I hope you’ve started your Spring Cleaning for 2010. Although the weather has turned cool today, you’re going to want those sandals, sports equipment and other ‘summer fun’ items at arm’s reach very soon.
So far, I’ve given you four basic organizing principles–here’s number five–the last one you’ll need for Spring Cleaning and Anytime of the Year Cleaning.
Basic Organizing Principle #5:
Group ‘Like with Like.’
Grouping ‘like with like’ helps you to find what you need when you need it. For instance, if all of your daughter’s hair clips were to be grouped together all in one place it would be easier to find the pink Hello Kitty barrette that matches her pink Hello Kitty T-shirt. If her hair clips were dumped in a drawer with a bunch of crayons and a few beanie babies, they would be much harder to locate quickly.
Another example: All that ‘tupperware’ we talked about in Basic Organizing Principle #4–how many times have you cursed under your breath because you couldn’t find a square-shaped lid to match it’s bottom part? Grouping ‘like with like’ is the key to finding that bottom part in a matter of seconds.
To achieve optimal container storage, take all of your storage containers out of your cabinet and place them on the dining room table. Sort them by category–group all circle and oval shaped containers and then the squares and rectangles. Do the same with the lids. Then match up lids with bottoms. If you have any missing bottoms or lids, consider recycling or repurposing the other mate-less piece.
Grouping ‘like with like’ will save you:
Time – no long and tiresome searches for what you need
Money – no more spending $$$ on items you already have but just can’t find
Even if you haven’t started your Spring Cleaning yet, start grouping ‘like with like.’ It will make you feel like you’ve taken a huge step towards organizing your home.
Remember the last organizing principle we discussed?
This one piggy-backs on the last one…
Basic Organizing Principle #4:
Take the Time to Put Things Away Properly
You’ve created a home for your stuff. You’ve used it and now it’s time to put it back in it’s home.
If you take a few seconds or minutes to put something away properly (as opposed to haphazardly or next to/on top of where it should be), you’ll be able to find it next time you need it. And, the next time you need it, it will be easier to retrieve.
For example, if you usually take your tupperware out of the dishwasher and jut toss it into your cabinet, you’ll have difficulty retrieving a matching top and bottom the next time you need it.
I often advise people that spending a few minutes putting items ‘back in their home’ will save them time when they need to revisit that area in the future.
Spending time NOW will save you time LATER.
Keep on doing that Spring cleaning!