All posts by jdecker

Easier, Organized Holidays

It’s the holiday season again. Where you’re traveling or having out-of-town guests this blog post will give you tips for an easier, organized holidays. No matter what you’re doing for the holidays you need to Become Organized.

If you’re hosting a crowd, clean out your closets. At the very least you’ll need hall closet space for guest coats. Move the majority of your coat collection to an auxiliary closet or in the back of a bedroom closet. A collapsible, rolling coat rack can help increase coat storage the day of when you anticipate a lot of guests.

In the guest room, make sure your guests have enough space in the closet to store their suitcase and hang their clothes. Clean out some drawers in a dresser to give them space to unpack and feel at home. Change the sheets before arrival and leave a fresh set of towels out on the bed.

If you’re traveling for the holidays by plane, train, or automobile, make a list. Have a list of the items you need to pack and a list of the things you need to do to prepare your home for departure. Each packing list varies but should include your toiletries list, medications/vitamins, clothing list, and entertainment items like books or an iPad and charging accessories. Leaving for vacation is nearly as stressful as the actual traveling.

Your home departure list is a checklist of things that need to be done before you walk out the door and should include items such as washing the dishes, feeding the pets and arranging pet sitter information, emptying the garbage, turning off lights, and finally setting the alarm. This list will help ease your mind that you haven’t left anything out and you can enjoy your trip unencumbered.

I hope this helps you enjoy the holiday season more and stress less. The more you prepare and organize, the less you stress.

Easy Ways to Conquer The To Do List

Ever since becoming a mom I’ve had to manage my time very closely. I work in the precious few hours while my daughter naps. No longer are my days my own to create my own schedule, I am on her schedule for eating and sleeping. Keeping a detailed list of what I need to accomplish during the day is essential to staying on top of it all.

Prioritize your To Do list: not everything on your list needs to be done at once. Put a star by the important, essential items on your To Do list. Anything with a highly negative consequence if not done is a priority. When you write out your To Do list, see what you can eliminate as unnecessary. Separate your list into Must Do and Nice To Do. I bet a lot of things on the Nice To Do are time stealers and can be crossed off.

Schedule your To Do list: knowing when you’re going to do something takes the pressure off. No more wondering “How am I ever going to get that done?” it’s already scheduled. Because i’m on the baby’s schedule I keep a flexible timeline by only listing what I need to do in a day, not the time I’m going to do it. It may work best for you to schedule the time you’re going to accomplish your tasks. Remember to work within your own time strengths (ex. if you’re a morning person or you know you have a few uninterrupted hours while your children are at school) when scheduling.

Limit distractions and procrastination:
you may have to mute your phone or hide away in another room without the TV to limit distractions. If you stay focused on your task I promise that you will be more productive with the time you have. When I need to work online I have to resist the urge to open a browser window and check out my favorite blog When you get distracted you lose focus and lose precious time. In addition to distractions, procrastination also sucks time from your schedule. When you fritter away your task-scheduled time you’re not accomplishing what you told yourself you needed to do. You’re not being true to yourself by procrastinating and distracting yourself from your tasks.

Try these tips and see how you feel about your To Do list. I know I feel more productive when I write things down. Just the thought of crossing something off my list makes me happy. I’ve even been known to complete a task I hadn’t written down and then write it down just to cross it off! Now I can check “write blog post” off my list.

Organizing a Nursery

By starting off organized in the nursery you can avoid the stress of disorganization and have items that you need at your fingertips. It is important to create homes for clothes, accessories, and toys. You’re going to be exhausted caring for a newborn so organizing the nursery before birth makes your life easier.

When planning your nursery, ensure that items used frequently are easy to access and store items that will be used in the future. For example, set out newborn clothing and store any clothing or accessories your baby will not fit in or use for the next three months or so. While you may have received a high chair from your registry, you don’t want to clutter your home with too many baby accessories.

Gather all your baby items together and assemble them in the nursery. Take them out of their packaging and wash items as appropriate. Assign zones in the nursery where items are easily accessible. Diapers and wipes and a few changes of clothes should be kept at the changing table. Have a basket of baby books near a comfortable chair. Keep small accessories like socks, hats, and mittens in a top dresser drawer, along with onesies. Additional outfits can be placed in lower drawers. Extra linens and blankets can be kept in a bottom drawer in the dresser.

Leave some toys out and accessible and place others in baskets or bins away on a shelf. You’ll want to have a bouncy seat, swing, and play mat scattered throughout the house so baby has a place for activity and you don’t have to bring the item to where you are while also carrying a newborn.

The more prepared you are before the baby comes, the easier things will be on everyone involved. You can spend your time concentrating on the baby and yourself without having to stress about things left undone.

Preparing for a Baby

There will be a lot more baby posts coming in the future as I’m expecting my first baby in July. I will now know what it’s like to be a mom and deal with kid clutter on a personal level. I feel like I’m part of a club now and my life has a BC (before children) period.

While I was preparing my nursery I knew I needed to wash everything my baby came in contact with because the manufacturing process introduces chemicals into clothing, toys, and bedding. What I didn’t know is that chemicals like formaldehyde are found in household products, including products that could be in my baby’s room.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, found formaldehyde in household sources such as carpets and permanent press fabrics. Their recommendation for reducing exposure includes providing fresh air and washing new permanent press clothing before wearing.

Think of all the new things you’ve brought into your home for the baby. Unless you’re buying organic, non-toxic items, everything newly manufactured has gone through a chemical process. This means the furniture, mattresses, carpeting, clothing, and even new toys need to be aired out and washed, as appropriate, before baby comes into contact with them.

When setting up your nursery, unpack everything from plastic to let it air out. Open nursery windows to let products off-gas. Wash all fabric items in a detergent free of dyes and perfumes. Even clothing you’ve stored or picked up second hand should be washed to reduce allergens for your baby.

Clean new and used toys as well. Fisher-Price recommends washing small plastic toys (without batteries) in the dishwasher or by hand in a sink full of warm, soapy water. If you can’t submerge the toy due to size or non-submersible parts, clean the surface with soap and water, then wipe with a diluted bleach solution and let air-dry.

There are a lot of unknowns with babies but at least you’ll know that the nursery is more baby safe after washing and airing out your baby products.

Anatomy of a Perfect Closet

Most people would admit that their closet isn’t quite as clean as they would want it to be. It happens! Clutter quickly comes together and before anyone knows how, the closet is all but overrun with junk. Well, these easy tips will help make sure that your closet is cleaned out and molded into the perfect closet!

1. Clean It Out
The first thing that you need to do to attain the perfect closet is to take out everything. A fresh start is important! After you have removed all of your clothes and accessories, it is time to clean and vacuum. Clearing everything out will help you organize it all later!

2. Throw Away the Extras
This is probably the most important step in getting a more organized closet. Coincidentally, it is also the hardest. Most closets just have too much stuff. Everything from your high school prom dress to clothes with the tags still on needs to go! You’ll want plenty of trash bags on hand. Watch out for the tricks your mind will play on you. If you haven’t touched it in two years, you’re not going to suddenly start wearing it again!

3. Organize
The hardest part of the process is over. Sort your clothes and accessories into various piles, from shirts to shoes and everything in between! If you really want the absolutely perfect closet, go ahead and organize these categories by color or type. For instance, your tank tops would be separated from your t-shirts. If that doesn’t suit you, there is always arranging your clothes by color! It can be a neat visual experience to open your closet and see it sectioned off by colors! Once this task is finished, gather any equipment you will need before you begin to figure out where things will go in your perfect closet. This includes things like hangers, tie organizers, shoe stands, etc.

4. Find a Place for Everything
Depending on the size and layout of your closet, your options may be limited. You will want to come up with specific “zones” for your sorted clothes. Low-hanging bars are useful for hanging things like skirts and shirts, but high bars easily lend themselves to pants and blazers. In general, it is best to keep your dresses and shoes together. Most people have a few accessories like ties or purses in their closets, so keep these separated from your real clothes in a designated accessory “zone”. This will all depend on what works best for you, but in general these are handy guidelines!

5. Make the Most of Your Space
There are plenty of storage systems available to you; everything from jewelry boxes to storage baskets. With a creative plan to make the most of your space, you will be able to keep things neat and organized in the long-term. If you live in a region with harsh winters, maybe put the shorts and skirts in a bin for a few months of the year. There’s no sense in cluttering up your space with an adorable miniskirt if it’s snowing outside!

An organized closet can do a lot more than make things look neater; it can save you a lot of time during your morning routine. If you can clearly see what’s in your closet, outfits are much easier to piece together. As an added bonus, you’ll feel better with everything looking so neat and clean! So? What are you waiting for? Start clearing out your closet and optimizing your space. If at all possible, be creative! This can be a fun experience!

Jessica Kane is a professional writer who has an interest in keeping things organized and in order. She currently writes for FlexCon, a leading vendor of corrugated plastic bins and boxes.

Organize with Ease using a Planner, Calendar, and Digital Apps

Every year companies make the cutest calendars and planners and there’s always a new app to aid in organizing and time managing your life. And invariably, we fall prey and purchase the new shiny thing that promises to keep us on track and on time and help us do things like remember the milk (there’s actually an app called Remember the Milk After a few weeks or months, our resolve falls by the wayside and we stop writing down appointments or jotting down notes and the whole system falls apart.

So how do you use a planner, calendar, and/or digital app for your greatest benefit? Don’t try to go against the grain. If you’re a paper person use a paper option. If you do well in the cloud and are managing a few people’s schedules, use a digital option. With the push to go digital there are so many apps that can keep families connected. Digital family organizing apps can share calendars and invite people to events they need to attend, such as doctor visits and school meetings. You can share lists and messages with the click of a button. By sharing information in real-time, everyone stays up-to-date and on the same (digital) page.

You may want to use separate systems for work vs. personal to reduce information overload. Also, many workplaces use an intranet calendar and planning system (such as PERT or Gantt charts) that you can’t take home with you. Of course mark big events like business travel or any major deadlines on your personal system so you can schedule yourself around late nights and important events.

Challenge Yourself:

Decide on the Best Planner for You: the choice shouldn’t involve a paradigm shift in thinking; use whatever you feel most comfortable with. If your children come home with a school planner, have them use that as important school days are already marked for you and teachers refer back to those planners in class. If you find that the planner you chose doesn’t fit with your life, choose another one. It may take some finessing to find what works for you, especially if you’re used to storing all your information in your head.

Pick an Option and Stick with it: like the old saying goes “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. You may have the best, most comprehensive option available but if you don’t put your appointments or lists down, the option is useless. Get into the habit of reviewing tomorrow’s schedule the night before and immediately writing down appointments or reminders as they come up.

Get the Family on Board: If your calendar option is a huge whiteboard in the kitchen, make sure everyone writes down their activities and schedule on the calendar and checks back frequently to stay appraised of the household schedule. It only takes a few missed appointments or double-scheduled events to realize how crucial a synchronized schedule is to a family.

Closet Design January

Whenever people call me for organizing we usually start with the closet. Usually I work with the existing framework because my clients are renting or their closet is configured well. When that’s not the case, I recommend infrastructure changes to maximize closet space and make getting ready less onerous. Usually these changes involve installing proper lighting (many pre-war apartments suffer from no closet light) and customized shelving systems beyond the standard single bar with a shelf above.

This was the layout of my original closet.

When it came time to redo my own closet I called in a professional, my interior design friend, Andrea. While laying out a closet is something I can do for my clients, it was hard for me to see the forest through the shoe trees and I needed someone objective and with a fresh set of eyes for the space.

Here is my closet before, the black hole.

There was no lighting in the closet and only rods and a high shelf I couldn’t reach. Andrea measured the space and interviewed me about my routines and how much space I would need for each type of clothing and developed layouts for the closet to include shoe storage, purse storage, double rods, and jewelry trays.

What I loved about working with Andrea is that I felt taken care of and she was someone to bounce design ideas off of. Plus, she’s been designing interiors for nearly 30 years and can quickly prepare workable plans that I can take and have enacted. She even gave me recommendations for electricians to install closet lighting.

Now my closet looks amazing and it’s a pleasure to get dressed and pick out coordinating shoes, a purse, and jewelry.

Simple, Effective Ways to Feng Shui for Organization

2016 is the year of the monkey, a clever animal. Use these tips to cleverly organize your house using Feng Shui principals and see the benefits they bring to your life in 2016. Whether 2015 was a good or a bad year for you, it’s time to move on to 2016 and open your life to new experiences. Chi (Feng Shui energy) needs to be able to move freely in your home. A cluttered, disorganized home stagnates Chi, which affects various aspects of your life, including relationships and personal aspirations.

One aspect of Feng Shui I adhere to is an uncluttered living space. Doors should be able to open fully and freely; nothing behind the door impeding full movement and no cluttered entrances allowed. Sometimes rooms can be too cluttered with furniture, even though the surfaces are clear. When you have too much stuff in your home, your stuff takes over. No matter what space you’re clearing in your home, ensure that Chi can move freely around objects.

Some beds come with built-in storage at the head of the bed or underneath in the form of drawers. You can use these spaces but keep the area behind your bed clear – no objects behind your head. Store only clean linens under the bed to keep Chi flowing clear in the bedroom. In every area of the home you want to ensure that surfaces are free of extraneous items, or clutter.

Challenge Yourself:

• Clean Your Home: grime and dust and dirt all block energy from flowing. You may already notice that your home feels different after a deep clean. Start your Feng Shui path off with a freshly cleaned home. Banish dust bunnies from under furniture, scrub the inside of appliances free of grime, and clean the dirt and fingerprints off your windows.

• Clear Clutter: you’ll know what “clutter” is to you when you walk around your home and ask yourself which possessions enhance or detract from the life you want to live. Resist the urge to hold onto items associated with bad/sad memories, and items that “just cost too much to part with”. It’s costing you more to keep it around, cluttering up your home and stagnating the flow of Chi.

• Think of Storage as Temporary: Basement storage represents your past and cluttering that area holds you back. Cluttering your attic storage limits your aspirations, quite the opposite of what we’re trying to do here. Use storage for seasonal items like decorations and clothing, heaters and air conditioners. Really look at the other items you’re storing and as yourself if you want to bring them back into your life or let them go and live a life with someone else

How to Organize for Personal Growth

Life is about growth. We are constantly learning and exploring and growing. But what do you do if you feel stagnant – feel like there is something “off” and you do not know what is keeping you from getting to the next step? Getting yourself organized resets your thinking and clears space in your mind and in your home to move forward.

Too often we get into a rut and become blind to the clutter that is holding us back from personal growth. Look at your space with fresh eyes, as if you are seeing it for the first time, and think about areas that can be transformed through organization. Karen Rauch Carter wrote a book called Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, such a telling title about what organization can do for you. Explore options to create more efficiency in your daily routine and more organization in your physical surroundings and see how it changes your life. My clients tell me that they feel more peaceful and more productive and less overwhelmed when they are organized. I believe that the simple act of taking stock of your possessions brings more clarity into your life.

There is no need to wait for the right time to become organized, you can jump right in and get started on the path to a more organized you. Challenge yourself this month to organize for personal growth. Take stock of your surroundings and explore organizing possibilities that can push you to further growth. By creating an organized home you are clearing space in your life to grow.

Challenge Yourself:

· Start your organizing in the area that is causing you the most stress or has the highest negative consequences if left unorganized. If you filed a tax extension and still need to get your taxes done, tackle paperwork first. If you have a family reunion coming up and need to find old family photos, tackle the attic first. Do not procrastinate but jump right in.

· Tackle areas that are stagnant. You may be able to shut the door on these hidden clutter areas but you still know they’re there. Clear them out and free yourself of their presence. Holding onto things can sometimes hold us back.

· Think about the life you want to lead and organize yourself to mirror that life. Do you want to be the person who can find paperwork in under a minute? Would you love to start a craft project and have everything you need at your fingertips? Are you tired of running to the store for ingredients, only to find later that you already had them in your pantry? Explore the possibilities of a more organized you and make it happen.