Bloom Organizing is featured in the April 2019 online edition of Suburban life magazine. It's a special edition dedicated to Elmhurst. I'm proud to be featured as part of this community! To read a copy of the article, the link below will take you to the PDF.
I’ve written before about how important it is to write down your goals as the first step in achieving them. One way to do this is to use a planner. There are so many different options for planners – different colors, sizes, format, etc. A lot of them are created with goal planning in mind. The cost of these can range anywhere from $10 to $100 and up!
Canva is an easy, online tool anyone can use to create invitations, resumes, letterhead, and more. It also includes an extensive library of templates, including planners! From the home page at canva.com, choose Find Templates. Choose Planners, and narrow the category down even further if you like. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you can use the templates as inspiration to create your own. Most of designs are free; some are available for as a little as a $1.
The easiest way to incorporate these into your day? Print a page off the night before, and spend 15 minutes filling it out for the following day. Put the completed page on the fridge, in your purse, or on your desk, so you can refer to it often throughout the day. We all know how satisfying it is to check things off your list!
Clutter builds up in your home little by little each day. When you finally notice, it’s practically taking over your entire house, garage, or office! What is this clutter costing you?
Peace of mind: When you are surrounded by clutter, it is always competing for your attention. You cannot relax, you feel embarrassed to have friends over, and you don’t have the space to do the things you love. We feel better and live better when our environment is clutter-free.
Storage space: You may not be able to comfortably move around certain rooms in your house. Or you may be paying money to rent a storage locker for excess items that you can’t even access when you need them.
Time: It can be difficult to find things in a cluttered environment. It may be easier to buy another item rather than try and locate it in your home.
Too much space: Could you down-size to a smaller home if you didn’t have so much stuff? Are you using the space or is your stuff?
Relationships: Clutter can affect the people you live with and strain relationships. It may also affect your landlord, your neighbors, and your pets.
Cleanliness: A house with too much stuff is harder to clean. All that clutter collects dust, and more items mean more to maintain.
So where do you start? Set a timer for 15 minutes each day. That adds up to more than 1½ hours per week and almost 6 hours every month!
Creating goals for organizing your space is an essential key to success.
You can start small and work up to those larger, more daunting tasks. Instead of setting one large goal of attaining an organized home, break up the organization into rooms, functions, or even closets. Goal setting might look something like this:
Happy new year!
Did you start the new year with any resolutions? By this time, most people have already abandoned their good intentions. I think most will agree that new year’s resolutions don’t work. But it’s still important to create a plan for your life to achieve the things that are important to you. So, instead of making resolutions, try developing goals and creating a plan to successfully reach them.
It doesn’t have to be in January. But the new year offers a clean slate to start again after the hectic fall holiday season, when your to-do list and healthy habits go out the window.
So what are some things you can do to be more successful when planning and setting goals for the new year?
It can seem so easy to leave the stack of papers on the desk, the laundry in a pile, or the shoes that no longer fit in the closet. Make sure to take time each day to help avoid creating mountains of mess in your living space.
You don't have to spend hours each weekend cleaning up from the mess and clutter that was created during the week if you plan ahead and make time for the mess, even just 15 minutes.
Fifteen minutes each day is enough time to do one of the following:
1. Fold a load of laundry and put it away.
2. Sort the stack of mail and file the bills.
3. Sweep and mop the bathroom floor.
Go ahead and make time for the mess and save yourself the overwhelming feeling that being disorganized can create.
What does being organized mean to you? Is it perfectly labeled and color-coded filing systems? Or lots of matching containers and bins in every storage area?
Organized living means something different for everyone. We all have varying levels of comfort with stuff in our environment. You should strive to be comfortably organized, not necessarily perfectly organized.
What are the thoughts that are keeping you from getting organized?
“Buying containers will make me organized.”
The right containers will certainly help keep things ordered and neat, but all the containers in the world will not help a space that is too cluttered and lacks a clear purpose. A common mistake that people make is buying the containers before decluttering and sorting an area. Buying containers that are not right for the space or buying too many containers will only make the chaos worse.
“Getting organized takes too much time.”
Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. Pick a small area in your home to start with, like a drawer or cabinet. These successes will give you the motivation to move on to something bigger. Set a timer for 30 minutes. You are free to stop once the timer goes, but you may find you want to keep moving forward.
“If I could only get organized this one time, I would be set.”
Wouldn’t that be nice?! It’s hard to completely stop the continual stream of mail, papers, toys, clothes, and other items into your home. Setting up systems to manage these things is a one-time process but it does require daily maintenance. The good news is that if you’ve done a good job organizing, the work to keep things under control is minimal, especially if done on a regular basis.
“Being organized means being perfect.”
The need to be perfect gets in the way of even trying to be more organized. Life is rarely as pretty and perfect as Pinterest. As long as you are comfortable, can find the things you need, and function well in your space, your organizing efforts have been successful. Progress, not perfection!
If you are still having trouble getting started, a professional organizer can help. They can create an organizing plan customized for your home, teach you the skills to stay organized, and provide you with new ideas and solutions that fit your space.
As a busy mom, I understand the stress that comes with each new school year. Setting up routines and systems to manage multiple tasks is a great way to get everything under control. Here are some ways to help make the school year a breeze.
Avoid communication breakdown.
Designate an area in your home for a family calendar. Any high-traffic area like the kitchen, mudroom, or entryway will work. Assign everyone in the family a color to make it easier to see who’s doing what when.
Get on top of paperwork.
While it may sound overwhelming, the key to managing paperwork is to process it on a daily basis. Keep it simple by setting up an inbox where kids can drop off forms, announcements, sign-up sheets, and anything else that needs attention. If your inbox is set up near the family calendar, important dates and events can easily be added. Once you’ve noted the information, recycle the flyer or take a picture with your phone for future reference. Don’t forget to delete it after the event has passed! A small desktop file with a folder for each child can be used to keep track of papers that need to be referenced on a regular basis. These can include reading tracking forms and cookie sales sheets, as well as any signed forms that need to go back to school.
Manage homework time.
Setting up a dedicated spot for homework will help establish this task as an important part of your child’s daily routine. Make sure it has good lighting, a clean surface, and a comfortable chair. If the spot has multiple purposes, like the kitchen table, set up a homework caddy. A small container containing regularly used supplies including pencils, highlighters, scissors, tape, and glue, can be put out of the way as required. Set a timer to keep homework sessions on track.
Be prepared for after school activities.
Instead of constantly emptying and repacking duffle bags for each school activity, consider keeping multiple totes. A separate bag for sports practice, band rehearsal, and dance class will make getting out the door a snap. As an added bonus, you will eliminate those frantic last minute searches for a missing glove, slipper, or sock.
Make lunches and snack time easy.
Help kids put together own lunches by stocking easy-to-grab items like juice boxes, carrots, and granola bars in separate bins in the pantry, refrigerator, or cupboard. Snacks can be kept in another basket. Make sure things are within easy reach for smaller children. Take individually-packaged items out of the packaging to save space and take stock of inventory quickly.
Be your own museum curator.
A lot of parents feel they need to keep every piece of artwork that their child brings home. If you treat everything like it is special, then nothing is special! Deal with the many piles by keeping it all together in a large bin. Once a summer, go through everything from the past year and only keep the five or six items that your child likes the most. Don’t feel bad about throwing away the others. Chances are your child won’t even miss it, especially if you hang a couple of the more cherished pieces on the wall using a simple shadowbox. Take photos of everything else and create printed books or photo albums.
Pick one or two areas that cause you the most stress and start there. Incorporate other solutions once these are working smoothly. Consider getting your kids to help you when setting up household systems and routines. They loved to get involved and are often more willing to keep things organized if they’ve had the opportunity to provide their input.
Our bedrooms should be places of serenity and comfort. Create a blissful bedroom for yourself by following a few easy organizing tips.
-Don't use your bedroom for household chores such as folding laundry or sorting paperwork. The clutter often gets left behind and the room loses its peacefulness.
-Get a candle or other scented object with a fragrance that calms you and put it near your doorway so that when you enter your room you are transported to relaxation.
-Each morning before you leave your room, take 3 minutes to take care of any dirty laundry or clutter you might have left the night before.
-Make your bed and open the shades to let in the sunlight.
You will thank yourself at the end of a long day when you can come home and relax in your blissful bedroom.
Jewelry and accessories can easily end up in tangled messes on dresser tops or in large jewelry boxes when not organized. Keep your precious items in great condition with these tips.
-Necklaces will have longer lives and be easier to select when they are hung on necklace pegs instead of piled in jewelry cases.
-Necklace peg boards are small and inexpensive, making them simple ideas for jewelry organization.
-Use jewelry boxes with small divided sections for things such as earrings, or use an earring board for storage.
-A narrow vase can be a great place to store bracelets and watches by sliding them over the top or fastening them around, and can serve as a cute decorative piece.
-A repair kit including extra watch batteries, mini screwdrivers, and jewelry repair wire is a valuable addition to your collection.
The interior side of a closet door can be the prime location for thorough organization. Hang a plastic or canvas shoe organizer that has pockets on the closet door and use it all year round to help keep items in their place.
-During cold months of the year, use the pockets for hats, scarves, pairs of mittens and gloves, and even extra ice scrapers.
-In warmer months, fill the pockets with flip-flops, suntan lotion, swimming goggles, deflated pool toys, and bug spray.
-If you have kids, each child can have one or two rows of pockets for their own items, and won't have to struggle to find what they need on the shelves.
The pocket organizers are inexpensive ways to utilize space efficiently and keep all of those small items stored away, making your day just a little easier.
Whether it is the holidays, a special birthday, or a bridal shower, throughout the year there are gifts to be wrapped. Make the giving easier by organizing a simple, effective gift wrapping station including:
-A tote with scissors, scissor sharpener, tape, packing tape, pens, and markers
-A tote with labels, ribbons, a ribbon curler, gift cards, and bubble wrap
-A large tote with wrapping paper, gift bags, and tissue paper
Keep all of these supplies together, along with a selection of small baskets to use instead of wrapping paper, and your gift giving will be a little bit easier. You can even add an envelope into one of the totes to store gift receipts, price tags that have removed, or shipping invoices.
The space under our beds can be the perfect places to store items in our homes.
1. Measure the clearance height from the floor to the bed frame.
2. Invest in storage totes that will slide under the bed. You can even find ones with wheels on the bottom designed just for storage under the bed.
3. Label each container and fill with like items (extra blankets for cooler nights, a container for seasonal clothing such as long underwear, or even a hobby project).
4. Make certain that each container can be accessed from the edge (don't have 4 rows deep of totes that get jumbled during a search).
5. Use a floor length bed skirt to hide the ample storage.
Storing items under the bed is an efficient use of space, and can even help keep the dust bunnies away!
Household chores can become even more tedious when the right supplies aren't stored together. Taking a few minutes to organize cleaning products and supplies will save time and energy and make every-day life more manageable.
-Keep supplies together for related cleaning tasks (bathroom cleaners together, dusting supplies together, etc.).
-Use plastic carrying caddies with handles for cleaning supplies. They are easy to keep clean and keep any leaks from ruining cupboard or closet space.
-Make sure to keep all cleaning supplies locked and out of reach from children and pets.
-Use pegs for hanging brooms, mops, and dusters.
-Have enough sponges or scouring pads for separate jobs (one for kitchen cleaning, a separate one for the bathtub).
Cooking and baking are so much easier when the kitchen is organized and free of clutter. Following a few tips will help make meal preparations so much easier!
-Store things like Christmas cookie cutters with the holiday decorations instead of in the kitchen (if you only use them once a year, they don't need their own drawer).
-Use wall space for hooks and towel holders to save counter or cupboard space.
-Keep necessary and frequently used items within reach to save time.
-Make recycling easy and efficient by using appropriate bins.
-Store less frequently used appliances in the least accessible cupboard, or even out of the kitchen (if you only have a coffee maker for when guests arrive you don't need to have it on the counter all the time).
Even though it can be tempting to toss the daily mail onto a pile each day, spending an extra minute to sort it as it comes through the doors will have many benefits.
1. Invest in a small organizing system, such as a small bin with dividers, a divided basket, or a file folder with several pockets.
2. Place the organizer in an accessible location (near the door or where the pile of mail usually sits).
3. Take 1 minute to sort the mail by priority or type. You don't need to read it all, just decide to which category it belongs.
4. Once a week grab each stack and thoroughly file each item.
It will literally take seconds each day to sort incoming mail, but that effort will help you pay bills on time, have a more organized calendar, and less clutter.
Whether we commute daily to work or are the local chauffeur to the neighborhood kids, it is invaluable to keep our vehicles maintained and organized. Start with a few basics that will get you on the road to organized travels.
-Have at least one small trash receptacle in the vehicle, or 2 if it has more than 2 rows of seating.
-Keep maps and a mini phone book in a storage pouch behind a front seat.
-Keep a folder with a secure closure for important papers such as insurance documents, maintenance records, and mileage logs.
Invest in backseat storage containers for kids to keep books, crayons, and travel games.
-Place a small tote in the trunk for transporting small items so they won't roll around while you travel.
Organization on the road is much easier when we take a few minutes to prepare before sliding behind the wheel.
Some of the most treasured items can be the most difficult to organize. When it comes to photographs, whether prints, negatives, or digital files, it is essential to have a system in place for organizing the captured memories.
-Invest in a few inexpensive photo storage boxes and label them.
-Keep several sturdy envelopes on hand for negatives, and keep the negatives with the original photos.
-Create files for digital pictures so that as soon as you upload pictures from your camera you can drop them into the appropriate folders (holidays, dates, people, special events…).
A few minutes of prep time to gather or create these supplies will save you hours of time searching for that favorite photograph, and the integrity of the pictures will be preserved as well.
If you are fortunate enough to have a space in your home designated as a guest room, don't let the only regular visitor be clutter. Organize a guest room and keep it ready for those unexpected visitors.
-Keep the bed neat by not letting it become a storage place for miscellaneous household items.
-Invest in ample storage containers so that surfaces can remain free of clutter, especially if the room doubles as extra storage space.
-Keep a few houseguest essentials in a basket or decorative box, such as extra toiletries, a box of mints, and tissues.
-Add some candles, literature about local attractions, and magazines to a bedside table.
Maintain your guest room with regular cleaning and spot checks once a week to make sure you are ready for any guests who might arrive.
Shoes bring with them telltale signs of exactly where we have been, tracking in dirt, debris, and germs, and are often kicked off tired toes as we arrive home at the end of the day. When shoes aren't on your feet, keep them stored, organized, and well taken care of.
-Place a shoe tray, small rug, or mini shoe rack near entrances to the home.
-Use shoe storage pockets that hang over the interiors of closet doors to save space.
-Invest in shoe polishes, scuff removing creams, and leather oils and protective sprays.
Taking a few extra minutes each day to put shoes in their place will help keep your home clean, your floors uncluttered, and your life easier as you rush out the door.
When organizing a specific area, such as a closet, dresser drawer, or bathroom countertop, take time to refresh the space. The following steps will help ensure that the space is clean and ready for your organizational plan.
-Empty the space completely.
-Dust, vacuum, or lint roll surfaces to remove debris.
-Wipe down surfaces with damp cloths, polishing cloths, or other appropriate cleaning products.
-Add any necessary shelves or hooks.
-Refresh completely by painting or refinishing worn out walls and other surfaces.
Once the surface areas have been completely cleaned, you can add final touches such as shelf liners or storage baskets. Add sachets of small soap pieces to dresser drawers or fabric softener sheets to bathroom closets to keep everything fresh.
It is hard to know where to put something if you don't know why you have it or how you use it. When you begin to remove clutter and organize, make sure to find the function of each item before keeping it. Ask yourself the following questions when trying to determine if the item is truly needed by you.
-Have I ever used this?
-When was the last time I used this?
-For what do I use this?
-Will I miss it if it is no longer here?
-Is there a different purpose for which I can use this?
-If I decide I need it in the future, can I replace it easily?
Finding the answers to these questions can make it easier to let things go, or to find the proper place for them once their value in your life has been determined.
Clutter often comes from having no clear place for a specific item, such as no spot to put gently used gift bags or extra birthday party supplies. Take some time to assess which items seem to be consistently out of place, and usually you will find that it is because there are not places for them.
Contain the clutter by starting with totes, boxes, or even baskets.
-Donation box: gently used clothing, toys, and household items can go here and when the box is full, it is time to take it to a local goodwill store.
-Resale tote: if you plan to have a garage sale or sell items online, keep them together and out of the way until you are ready.
-Question basket: anything that doesn't have a place needs to go here until you find one, but don't let the basket overflow.
Having the right tools on hand for cleaning and organizing is as important as having a hammer and nails for building a home. By gathering the right tools before tackling any project, you will increase the likelihood for success.
Some important tools to get the jobs done include:
1. Cleaning products, brooms, mops, rags, and garbage bags for thoroughly cleaning areas in the home
2. Folders, files, paper clips, rubber bands, file boxes, pens, and labels for sorting clutter in an office
3. Rakes, trowels, leaf bags, pruners, fertilizer, and garden gloves for yard work
You will soon see that tools aren't just for building homes; they are for keeping those homes running well and the people within those homes productive and happy.
We all have some difficulty letting go. Let’s face it, we cling on to things based on ideas about who we were in the past, who we think we are today and who we want to be in the future. Here is a list of 12 categories of stuff, which if you let go of them, will make your life a lot lighter, freer and much, much happier.
1. LET GO OF CLOTHES
Before diving into your closets, take some time to think about your current lifestyle; the things you do today in your everyday world. Write down your current size, favorite colors, and the best style of clothes that fits your personality (tailored, romantic, artsy, minimalist, etc.). Now dive! Get rid of anything that’s outdated, worn out, the wrong color, size, style, a gift you don’t like, or anything you haven’t worn in years like the clothes you call your “someday clothes”. Here’s news! Someday never comes!!! Most important, get rid of anything that has a bad association like the dress you wore on the day you married Mr. Wrong!
2. LET GO OF BOOKS
Is there a Book Fairy in your home who magically adds to your book collection when you’re not looking? Let go of books you’ve already read, never intend to read, were unwanted gifts, are outdated (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.) or have no interest to you. Evict the Book Fairy and be more selective and resourceful when it comes to acquiring book. Think library!
3. LET GO OF KITCHEN STUFF
The kitchen is the hub of most homes and the one room that gets filled the quickest with things we have good intentions of using but don’t: the bread maker that takes up half the kitchen counter, ice cream maker, you name it! Let go of anything you no longer use or have no intention of using, multiples like vegetable peelers…excesses like coffee mugs (how many do you really need and use?), plastic containers, and old food. Yes, you might be surprised to find outdated food in your cabinets and unidentifiable mystery items in your freezer (frozen does not mean forever, 6 month is the suggested shelf life for anything frozen)
4. LET GO OF PHOTOS
OK, face it. You most likely have no idea how many photos you have stuffed in boxes or old albums that you never look at. Gather them all up and I do mean all of them. Go through every photo and toss all the bad shots. You know, the shots of the back of someone’s head, or with no heads, or blurred, or too dark to see, or multiples upon multiples. Or, the photos of an ex-spouse, relatives you’ve never met or people you don’t know at all. Just ditch them.
5. LET GO OF PAPER
No balking here. Toss business cards of people you don’t know, kids art projects, scraps of paper with unreadable information, outdated coupons, solicitations, magazines more than two months old, newspapers more than a week old, receipts (unless needed for tax purposes).
6. LET GO OF THINKING YOU NEED MORE
Until you’re willing to face and look at your possessions with an open mind and a realistic attitude, chances are you will continue to think you need more of anything when in reality you might not. This mindset comes from a place of lack and fear.
7. LET GO OF THE MUSEUM
That’s right. Tear it down. Have you held on to every trinket and historical artifact from your past? Playbills, Christmas and birthday cards, travel brochures from long past trips, hair from some significant long ago hair cut, collections of things you now have no interest in? You hold on to sentimental items, because you don’t want to lose the memories, or because it means a lot. Really, you’re afraid you will lose the love or relationship that these items represent (grandpa’s jacket represents your loving relationship with him). Be realistic, what is the cost of saving all this stuff in space, physic and emotional energy and some memories you would rather not have?
8. LET GO OF DEBT
You might ask where this fits in. Well, if it’s taking up space in your mind, on your calendar or if every time you see someone who you have unfinished business with it’s got to go. If you owe someone money, repay it. If you’ve promised someone you would do something, do it. If you’ve borrowed something, return it. If you’ve taken anything from anyone without just payment, make restitution. Every outstanding debt or unfulfilled commitment or promise will weigh on your energy and your conscious. Clean it up and move on.
9. LET GO OF UNWANTED GIFTS
Do look that gift horse in the mouth. This can truly be challenging for many people, but here’s my very best advise. Admit that you don’t like it and get rid of it. Here’s why. Unwanted gifts will drain your energy and take up valuable space in your home. They actually create an energetic gloom in your home. And, don’t just think that out of sight, out of mind will work because it doesn’t. Your subconscious will know you still have it somewhere. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. You can thoughtful appreciate the gift without keeping it. And, don’t worry if the person who gave you the scary clown paintings notices their gift missing. Trust me, they won’t ask. Let it all go with love.
10. LET GO OF UNUSED EQUIPMENT
This includes obsolete computer equipment, old cell phones, exercise equipment like the treadmill that you never use, outdated electronics, electric hair rollers and foot massagers; dilapidated garden equipment (rusty mowers, worn-out garden furniture, cracked plant pots, broken garden tools).
11. LET GO OF THINGS THAT NEED FIXING
This is a list that can go on forever. Whether it’s shoes that need fixing or electronics, here are the acid test questions to ask yourself. If you were to see any of this stuff in a store today would you buy it? And, if you would, how much would you be willing to pay? If you answered no to the first question, let it go. If you decide it is something you would purchase again, is the price you are willing to pay less than the cost of having it fixed? The truth is, most things are not worth fixing.
12. LET GO OF EXCESS
Truthfully, how many Christmas tree ornaments, candles, coffee mugs (I’m mentioning this twice because every home I’ve ever been in has way too many coffee mugs stuffed into the kitchen cabinets) rolls of crinkled wrapping paper, empty gift boxes, picture frames, pencils and pens, yellowed greeting cards, fridge magnets, towels and bed linens, ….does a person truly need?
Michelle Kinney, MLS