3 Areas to Freshen up for Spring
1. Remove everything and wipe out
If you are going to do it, do it right. Take everything out, grab a rag and some all-purpose cleaner, and wipe it out. You will enjoy the effects for weeks to come.
2. Check expiration dates
There is stuff in your fridge that is old and expired. Get rid of it and make a list of things you need to replace. Condiments are repeat offenders on my list.
Put all the leftovers together in one area on your counter. Make piles for all the fruits, veggies, deli items, condiments, etc. This will help with containment later as well as allow you to see if you have duplicates to get rid of.
4. Make an "eat me first" section
Leftovers and ingredients that will soon perish should reside together in one section of your fridge. I like the top shelf (usually) but do what will work best for you. The key is visibility - so front and center please.
5. Zone it out
You guessed it. Now that you have sorted and purged, you must decide where each category should go based on accessibility. If you use it often or need to use it up soon, put it up front. Condiments usually fit best on the door, but go one step further, group all the salad dressings together and all the sandwich/burger condiments together.
6. Set the controls on your drawers
Fruits and veggies typically go in drawers. Give these 2 categories their own separate drawers and use the correct humidity controls. Low humidity is for anything that rots easily (like fruit) and high humidity is for anything that wilts (like greens).
7. Contain like items together
Fridge bins allow you to group like items together. I use these to contain soda cans, yogurt cups and dessert toppings in my fridge. Consider getting a bin for categories that have a lot of stuff - to keep like items together.
8. Don't be afraid to get creative with your organizing solutions
9. Label - so others know where to put stuff
Facilitate easy days ahead by labeling shelves, door sections, and bins. Make "putting groceries away" a task you can delegate! I love chalkboard labels because they are cute and reusable.
10. Keep it fresh and tidy
If you want to line drawers and bins with paper towels, it makes clean up easy. Just replace the paper towels every 2 weeks. Redo this mini-project every 3-6 months to keep your fridge working for you!
Organize your garage this weekend!
Just like any other organizing project, you'll need to know what you need to store before running to the store to purchase storage solutions. Be sure to sort the contents of your garage into categories (i.e., car care, gardening, lawn care, sports gear, tools, etc). Then purge anything that is no longer needed or used. Move all things that belong elsewhere to their forever homes. After you have succeeded with these steps, consider storage solutions for what you are keeping in the garage.
The key to garage organization is to go vertical with storage. Adding storage elements that get stuff up and off the floor will allow you to use the floor space for parking vehicles. Although there are some items that will require a footprint on the floor such as your trash and recycling receptacles, you can elevate most other items off the floor.
There are several ways to elevate your stuff. You can use open shelves, closed cabinets, wall hooks, track systems with hooks, and/or lofts. I suggest using a variety of these solutions depending on what you are storing.
If you would like to learn more about garage organization, a great book on the topic was written by Barry Izsak called Organize your Garage in No Time.
For "stick-like" items such as shovels, rakes, and brooms, I recommend using hooks. You can keep it simple and inexpensive by purchasing steel muti-purpose hooks from a hardware store or opt for a track system. Track systems tend to be more versatile because there is a variety of hook options available and you can move the hooks around as your storage needs change over time. The following items can be stored on hooks in your garage:
Shelving or Cabinets
Smaller items can be grouped together into like categories and stored on open shelves or in cabinets.
If you opt for open shelves, be sure to get some sturdy plastic bins to keep like items together on the shelves. The bins will also protect your stuff from dirt and dust. You can choose clear or colored bins but either way, I recommend labeling them with their contents.
If you have kids and pets, items that are toxic or hazardous are best contained in closed (and possibly locked) cabinets. I found a wonderful brand call NewAge that has a variety of closed cabinet solutions. Consider your budget and decide which option, shelving or cabinets, might work best for you.
Items that can be stored on shelves or in cabinets include:
If you store tools in your garage, consider creating a workbench with tool storage and a work surface. Hand tools can be stored on a pegboard above a work bench or in a tool box below the bench. Power tools are best kept in their cases and stored below the work bench.
Minimalism is not just about getting rid of stuff. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The "Minimalists") define minimalism as "a tool to rid yourself of life's excess in favor of focusing on what's important- so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom." Stuff doesn't provide happiness and can distract us from finding our true purpose.
Click here for a few strategies to get you started with your journey of minimalism.
Be bold and reclaim your life with less! Happiness awaits you.
It's never just about stuff
What is clutter? Clutter is simply delayed decisions!
Sounds easy right? Sometimes when you feel like your space is overrun by clutter it is just situational.
According to the Institute for Challenging Disorganization® (ICD®), situational disorganization occurs when you find yourself in clutter or chaos for a short period of time due to a change in your situation or living arrangement.
Other times, it’s more than that. In these cases, it might be more chronic. According to ICD®, common characteristics of someone with Chronic Disorganization include:
It didn’t happen overnight and will take time to learn new skills and strategies to cope.
Learn more by visiting ICD®. You will find a vast array or resources including the Clutter hoarding scale which is a tool that will help you assess the health and safety of the home.
If you find that you or someone you know would like help, we recommend a two-fold approach. With Chronic Disorganization, it's never just about the stuff. There is a mental/cognitive component that is best treated with therapy. As for the person's surroundings, working with a Professional Organizer in tandem can help the person learn new skills and strategies for how to deal with their stuff.
But first, we must examine whether you are ready for change. Check out ICD®'s factsheet: Readiness for change
Remember, people change only when they are ready. "Change is possible with desire, determination, commitment, and a compassionate support system."
Are you ready for change?
Avoiding common pitfalls
If organizing was simple and straightforward, we would all live in perfect homes. Here are some common pitfalls we have seen that hold people back from achieving organizational bliss.
Zig zag organizing
Have you set out to organize one space but find yourself minutes to hours later working in another area all together? Zig zagging from room to room, putting items away or doing small tasks in other spaces amidst your current project, distracts you from the project you set out to do.
• If you are working in your office and need to bring something to the kitchen, rather than doing it now, place the item in a bin with other items that need to go elsewhere in the home. You will save time and energy by doing the relocating at the end of your organizing session.
• Use bins or boxes to anchor yourself to the task/area you set out to organize. Take the time to label your bins “put elsewhere,” “donate,” “recycle,” and have trash bags handy while you work. (Believe me, there is nothing worse than getting your bins confused and then having to re-sort.)
• Save 20 minutes at the end of your organizing session to empty these bins. Use this time to move items from the “put elsewhere” bin to other areas of the home, bag up the donations and place them in your car, and remove the recycling and trash.
Taking on too much
Choosing a project that is too big for the time you have allotted for the day will most likely end in a bigger mess than what you started with.
• Choose a task to focus on that is achievable for the time you have. Instead of setting out to do the entire kitchen in 1 hour, work on the pantry, fridge and freezer, or a few drawers.
Inability to let things go
We often get tied up with decision-making when faced with sentimental items.
• Remember why you started your project in the first place! This will help motivate you to make decisions on what to let go.
• Define who you are in the present. Keep items that serve you now.
• Take pictures of items you want to remember but don’t necessarily need to keep.
• Keep one representative piece of a category or collection and let the rest go. Find a place to honor and display that piece.
• Find peace in the fact that someone else can benefit from the things that are no longer serving you. By donating unneeded items, you are helping yourself and others.
Attempting to buy the disorganization away
We are often lured by marketing ploys. It seems easy to organize when an ad promises that a product will single-handedly take the pain of the disorder away.
• Don’t buy anything until you have sorted, purged and consolidated items. Only then will you really know what products you need to purchase. Wait to buy and you will save time, money and avoid even more clutter.
Holiday decorating made easy
Your home is most likely not being featured in Better Homes and Garden’s holiday edition this year, so it doesn’t need to be perfectly decorated. Less is more!
Dedicate an afternoon to the task of decorating. Unpack your holiday décor and consolidate it all in one space. Sort it into like items or by rooms you intend to use them in. Get rid of anything you aren’t going to put out this year. If you aren’t using it this year, you probably won’t ever use it, so why continue to store it and lug it out of storage every year?
Get help with decorating. Many hands make light work. Get in the spirit by making a festive cocktail or hot beverages, turn on some holiday music, and get to it.
Carl W. Buehner said “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Your family and friends aren’t concerned with what your house looks like or whether you personally baked all the pies yourself, but they will remember the feelings they had when they spent time with you. Treat yourself well this holiday season so you can have reserves to show those around you love. Their greatest gift will be fond memories of you.
Gift giving during the holidays
How many times do you ask yourself "did I get a gift for Aunt Suzie or all the kid's teachers?" Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for. As you shop, keep track of what you have purchased for whom and whether it’s wrapped. Keep this list with you throughout the holiday season.
Also, make an envelope for holiday receipts. Label the envelope “Holiday Receipts” and indicate the year. Keep it in your purse or car. Having your receipts consolidated will help you with returns after the holidays.
Keep gift giving simple. Our family practices what we call the “Minimalist Christmas.” Each of my children are given gifts as follows:
For extended family, instead of buying gifts for everyone, propose a game where each person brings one wrapped gift worth $20. On small pieces of paper, write numbers up to the number of people playing. The game begins by each person drawing a number. The person that gets #1 gets to choose a gift. The person that gets #2 can either take person #1’s gift or choose a wrapped gift. If they take person #1’s gift, person #1 gets to take another person’s gift or choose a wrapped gift. This goes on until there are no wrapped gifts left. This is similar to a “white elephant” exchange, except the gifts are real so you don’t have to worry about bringing more junk home.
Another way to keep gift giving simply is to skip gifts all together and commit to going on an excursion after the holidays. You can also choose a charity to give to rather than exchanging gifts. Find more time, less stress, and gratitude by keeping gift giving simple.
Make a list
Begin by making a list of all the tasks that need to be completed in the upcoming weeks. Commit to doing the tasks you enjoy, and either ditch or delegate the rest. Focus on making memories instead of headaches for yourself. If you don’t like to bake, don’t participate in the cookie exchange at work this year.
If you find large projects on your list that involve many tasks to complete, list out those tasks separately and assign dates and times for when you will do each task. Breaking projects down into tasks will make it feel more manageable. For example, rather than writing “send holiday cards,” on your list, break it down into smaller tasks, such as “buy holiday cards,” “write and address cards,” and “drop off cards at post office.”
Delegate tasks you don’t enjoy
If you don’t enjoy doing a task but it needs to be completed, consider delegating it to a family member or hire someone to help. Tasks that you might consider delegating include:
Assign task to time
Making a list of things you must do is great fun, but often we make lists and the tasks on the list don’t get done. The magic happens when we assign the task to time. Take your list and put the tasks right into your calendar or planner. Assign what date and time you will do each task. Honor these commitments as if they were a doctor’s appointment. When you complete tasks and feel in control of your own time, life seems less stressful.
Holidays are a time to enjoy loved ones and make memories with them. If you are stressed out and constantly chasing task after task, you won’t enjoy it, precious time will pass you by, and you probably won’t be that pleasant to be around. Make time for you! (Put your oxygen mask on first!) You can’t help others until you help yourself. Make it your personal mantra to only agree to activities that align with your goals, passions, and priorities. Find time to partake in activities that energize and revitalize you:
The holidays tend to be especially stressful. In addition to all the normal things we have to do, we also add sending holiday cards, buying and wrapping gifts, preparing meals, and attending holiday gatherings of all sorts to our lists. I'm beginning to wonder how I do it each year!
The holidays are a time when we are typically surrounded by friends, family, co-workers and strangers. We usually mix and mingle all month long! Whether or not we are able to gather this year, being mindful when we are with people or not can replace feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry with a sense of gratitude.
According to an article in Developmental Psychology, mindfulness is "paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." So set aside your thoughts about what happened this morning at that meeting and your ever-growing list of things you need to do this weekend. Put down your electronic device and ignore the most recent Facebook posts. Look, listen, feel, smell and taste the world around you in an uninterrupted way. Enjoy a warm smile, the sweet words "I miss you," the gentle tug of a child's hand. Smell the cool winter air and taste that hot tea in your mug. This is life. Experience it fully and be grateful for the littlest things that make it so precious.
You might be asking yourself how you will hold this perspective each day. Enter....The Bullet Journal Method.
Author Ryder Carroll describes “The Bullet Journal Method” as a "practical yet forgiving tool to organize my impatient mind." This system helps people with ADD and those without. We are all trying to keep our heads above water in this Digital Age where information overload threatens to sink us daily. This overload makes most of us feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, disconnected and burned out. Countless distractions overtake our blurry days. The Bullet Journal Method provides an "anolog refuge for the Digital Age."
All you need to get started is a plain notebook and writing utensil. The act of writing with our hand draws us to the present moment and helps us reconnect with ourselves by pausing and writing things down. After using this method, you will begin to define what's important, why it's important, and how to best pursue those things. If you are interested in learning more, check out these links:
Photos are a precious part of our memorabilia. They tell the story of our lives and help us recall milestones. Since the digital age, many people feel overwhelmed with the volume of photos they have in both digital and print form. Let’s explore how to store and organize your photos.
The most important thing to do is verify your digital photos are backed up. Whether you take photos with your phone or a camera, you want to have your photos in three places.
• on the device itself;
• a cloud storage option (e.g., iCloud, Google photos, etc.);
• a photo printing website (e.g., Shutterfly or Snapfish);
• an external hard drive; and
• a CD or thumb drive.
Choose three of the above storage options. For the cloud, photo printing site, and external hard drive options, be sure your photos sync often (either manually or, if possible, automatically).
Don’t stress about deleting digital photos. With cloud storage solutions you can save them all and use the search functions (by date, location, person) when you need to locate a specific photo.
Organizing prints can feel overwhelming due to the quantity that most of us have accumulated over time. Start by discarding the following types of prints:
• blurry photos;
• photos you can’t interpret what you are seeing; and
• photos that don’t prompt positive emotions.
We usually recommend doing a "gross sort" by era (i.e., childhood photos, school age years, with spouse before kids, with kids, etc.). Use shoe boxes or buy acid-free photo boxes to preserve your prints for long-term keeping. Label your boxes by era and don’t worry about putting them in perfect order. When retrieving a specific photo, identify the era and thumb through that box. The time spent will most likely be enjoyable as you take a trip down memory lane.
To preserve your printed photos, have them digitized. Consider having them professionally scanned to save time and get the best quality. After scanning is completed, you are typically given a thumb drive, CD or file with all your images. Save these files to a few different places.
Make your photos more tangible by creating photo albums or photo books of the “best of the best” photos. You can use websites like Shutterfly or Snapfish to create photo books from digital prints.
Time Management for Kids
Learning time management skills is part of growing up. Most kids find it challenging to keep track of time and lean on parental cues to get things done. Teaching our kids to be pro-active rather than reactive is a skill they can use for the rest of their lives.
Timers: One way to keep track of time while you are engaged in an activity is to use a timer. I use timers everyday, both personally and professionally. My main use of timers is to alert me to wrap up my current task so I can honor my next commitment. Timers can be helpful for kids too! Use them to signify transition times like mealtime, bedtime, and when the bus is coming.
Calendars: Post your children's schedules in a place they can reference it. This will help them learn accountability around managing their own schedule. Calendars you might post include: lunch menus, sports schedules, and after school activity schedules.
Chore tracking: Children thrive on positive reinforcement. If you want them to help out around the house, provide incentive. Give them a tool to track how close they are to earning their reward. Our family has tried fancy charts, marble jars, and a simple piece of paper with hash marks signifying a chore well done. Each of these systems worked for a short time when we (the adults) were consistent with using it. We have found the most success when we switch it up by changing the tracking tool periodically (i.e., every 3-6 months).
Just like any other new behavior, give it time and give your child reminders to use these tools.
Matching hangers for the win!
Something as simple as using matching hangers makes a closet look and feel finished. Check out these nice wooden hangers. They changed the feel of the space entirely.
Meal Planning 101
The key to success is simplicity. Do these 5 steps each week to create a simple and easy meal plan & grocery list:
I have a love/hate relationship with my phone (I have an iphone). It's an amazing organizational tool but sometimes I find myself zoning out on it and losing precious time. One thing I love is using Siri to remind me to do things later. I simply hold the home button and say "remind me at ____ o clock to ____." I use it all the time! It lowers my stress levels to know that I don't have to mentally remember everything I have to do. I ask for reminders daily for taking vitamins and throughout the day for various things...including writing this blog post. If you haven't tried this tool yet, you should check it out!
Maintenance Tips to Live By
Excited to share that I have been re-certified! Yay! If you are interested in learning more about Evernote, let me know and we can set up a session to get you oriented and set up!
Meal planning for the win!
If you have a busy family the best way to eat well is to meal plan. It doesn't have to be fancy or time consuming. Designate a time each week to select approximately 3-5 meals. Make a grocery list of all the ingredients needed. Shop and follow the plan. It saves unnecessary stress during a busy week.
Stuff piling up? Convert them to a task list, then a calendar event...do it...DONE!
I'm not sure who coined this definition but it's ingenious. "Clutter is delayed decisions."
Look around a cluttered room and you will see a bunch of stuff that is not done. Either things just haven't been put away or haven't been sorted, haven't been taken somewhere, or have been there so long, they have been forgotten.
Pick up an item. What decision needs to be made about it? After you make the decision, does an action need to occur? If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now. If not, and you don't have time to do it now, start a list. Continue the list with tasks that need to be done. Now take that list and "calendar out" when you will make time to do each task on the list. Listen to your calendar, do all the things, and voila...done. Try it!
Home staging is the process of preparing your home for listing. The goal of any seller is to sell their home quickly and for the highest possible price. A staged home will appeal to many buyers and will therefore lead to a quicker, higher priced sale more often than an un-staged home. Home staging can be as simple as rearranging and refreshing existing furnishings and décor in a way that will highlight your homes best features. Some home staging projects include major home renovations. No matter the extent of the work, or the size of the budget, the intent of home staging is to create a home that most buyers can see themselves living in.
Our Expert Stager, Michele Ketcham, has compiled a list of DIY staging tips. Here are 10 tips to get you started.
Do-It-Yourself Staging Tips
1. Declutter, declutter, declutter:
Let’s face it, we all have too much stuff. Decluttering, downsizing, and organizing each room in your home, including closets and storage spaces, is always the first step in preparing a home for listing. Make a plan, tackling one room at a time. Decide what items you will take with you to your new home. Designate a staging area for unwanted items to be donated, sold, or discarded. Remember, the more stuff you move, the more costly your move will be.
2. Sell the storage space:
Efficient and well-planned storage space is at a premium when it comes to prospective buyers. Removing excess from storage spaces will make those spaces appear more spacious and appealing. Pack and store out-of-season clothing. Clean out what you don’t need from under sinks. Go through your kitchen pantry and toss expired food. Donate kitchen gadgets and items that you never use. The added space from all this decluttering will show off the ample storage space and make your home more desirable.
3. Good old-fashioned elbow grease:
That’s right. It may not be glamorous, but good old-fashioned elbow grease goes a long way in selling a home. From the buyer’s perspective, a clean home is also a home that was cared for and well-maintained. Every window, floor, baseboard, countertop, appliance, fixture…the list goes on and on…needs to sparkle! If you have the time and energy, go for it! Otherwise, it may be worth every penny to hire a professional cleaning service to do the deep cleaning for you.
4. Lighten and brighten:
Exterior and interior lighting are equally important when staging your home. Exterior fixtures should provide adequate lighting in regard to safety. Make sure all sidewalks, pathways and entryways are well-lit in the event of evening showings. Additional exterior lighting is a great way to add curb appeal to a front porch, tree or architectural feature. Interior lighting should make a home feel warm and welcoming. Ambient, task and accent lighting all add to the appeal and mood of a room. Turn on interior lights to cast a warm glow for those evening showings!
5. Furniture and accessories:
Most homes have too much furniture, which makes a room look smaller and more cluttered. When staging your home, you want to create the illusion of spaciousness, no matter the size of the room. You may need to remove about half of the existing furnishings and rearrange the remaining furniture so it highlights the desired focal point. Decide whether you want to move the extra furniture to your new home. If so, store it in an off-site storage unit. Donate or sell extra furniture you decide you don’t need.
Less is more when accessorizing a staged home. Opt for a couple large items of impact per room versus many smaller grouped knickknacks. The same goes for accessorizing walls. One large print will make a room appear bigger than several smaller prints grouped together.
An important concept to remember when staging a home with existing furnishings is the concept of depersonalization. The intent of home staging is to make the home appeal to as many prospective buyers as possible. To do that, we suggest depersonalizing. We recommend removing personal taste from your décor so buyers can envision their belongings and themselves in your home. This can be especially difficult for a seller still living in the listed home. Some items you will want to pack and store are:
7. Kitchens and bathrooms:
Prospective buyers love updated kitchens and bathrooms. The kitchen is still the heart of the home and command central for many buyers. Additionally, many buyers look for multiple bathrooms that are well maintained. Sellers could potentially spend a lot of money renovating these spaces to entice buyers. However, decluttering, organizing, cleaning and a gallon of paint (or two) can go a long way in the kitchen and bath if budget is a concern. In most cases, you will get back any money you put into improving the functionality of your kitchen and bathrooms so plan wisely.
8. Stage a home office:
Given the times, we would be remiss if we didn’t include staging a home office. Many prospective buyers have recently been forced to work from home indefinitely. If your listed home does not include a dedicated office or work space, now is the time to be creative and turn a cozy corner into a work space. Find a quiet area with appropriate outlets/phone/computer access. Stage the area with a table or desk, comfy chair, shelves or small bookcase, desk or floor lamp, and laptop. A folding screen could lend visual privacy if needed. Be creative and have fun!
9. Curb appeal:
Curb appeal is the first impression a prospective buyer has of your home so make it a good one! Curb appeal includes the home exterior, the landscape, the front and side yards, the driveway and walkway leading to your front door. The house exterior needs to be welcoming and appealing so buyers want to come inside. Here are a few items you can do to increase your home’s curb appeal:
10. Not everyone loves your pet:
Not all buyers have pets, and some are allergic to them. Prior to a showing, remove all indications of your pet. Store food dishes, leashes, pet toys and pet beds in a bin stored out of the way. Vacuum areas where pet hair has accumulated. Clean and sanitize any areas where accidents occurred. Use air freshener where needed. Clean up after your pet outside since may prospective buyers like to walk the property. Bring your pet with you, or have a friend or relative pet sit during the showing.
And lastly, give your pet lots of hugs and treats once you are all back together!
You want your home to look its best before listing and presenting it to prospective buyers. These Do-It-Yourself staging tips represent a small portion of what goes into preparing and staging a home for sale. The intent is to give you a few ideas to get you started on your way to selling your home. Remember, hard work pays off! We wish you all the best!!
-Michele Ketcham, Home Stager & Redesign Consultant
Where do I start?
The most common question we get asked..."Where do I start?" Clutter is overwhelming. When we are overwhelmed, we can't see things as well and we can't do our best thinking either. Can you relate? Start where you feel the most uncomfortable. Choose a space you visit often. Do something small in that space. Sometimes is just getting started that's the hardest part.
Maintaining your Kitchen
Once you have your kitchen organized, how are you going to maintain it?
Here are a few tips to help you maintain your masterpiece:
Organizing your Kitchen
Kitchens are one of the trickiest spaces in a home to organize. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and it often serves many more functions than just the place to prepare and eat meals. A well-functioning kitchen should:
Let’s dive into how to organize your kitchen. Think about the layout of your kitchen. The area within the sink-stove-fridge triangle is considered “prime real estate,” due to the frequency of activity in this space. (It’s OK if you don’t have a triangle - just envision the areas near these stations.) Ideally, we would have what we need at each of these stations. To do this, zone out your kitchen. Store equipment/tools closest to where they are first used, creating one-step centers as follows:
Next, you want to consider accessibility in each center. Place items strategically as follows:
Disposing Medications Safely
While organizing, I often find old/expired medication. If you have the same genre of items in your home, check out this helpful website on how to dispose of them safely and properly: https://www.singlecare.com/blog/how-to-dispose-of-medication/