Top Ten of 2019

Choosing only 10 after photos of all the work I did with the greatest people this year was super tough! I had the honor of walking with people through tremendous growth and that just doesn’t show up in a two dimensional image. For that reason, I’ll share my favorite images and the stories behind them. And to make it even easier on me I’m going to do them chronologically. I just can’t show favoritism! I love everyone I work with so much!

#1 Cozy Den

When you live in a house with this many delightful windows, have a lot of sweet friends, and a good variety of play options you have a lot of people over. This cozy den is actually a play room! Behind the couch is a piece of furniture that houses a variety of toys for different ages and of course there is the fun slide and massive, snuggly bear! This family of four has a lot of fun together and as you can tell, they can be cozy too.

#2 Basement

This basement belongs to a couple who was literally days away from welcoming their first child into the world. With the help of a thoughtful family member, we tackled some important spaces in their home: kitchen, basement, attic.

After a move-in, a round of flooding, and a laundry room move the basement was the last place either of these two wanted to be. However, their beautifully old home has little storage so they would brave the crazy and go down for light bulbs and paper towels. Tossing a lot of stuff, adding some shelves, and putting like with like made this basement not only functional but also not scary and maybe a little beautiful.

#3 Toy Corner

What a treat to help this family of 3 get ready for their second child! Going through toys was so special to see what toys their toddler enjoyed and what toys they wanted to set aside for their new baby. With a little thought and rearranging, we were able to let go of some things, put some things in a “when she’s older” bin, and even have some room to grow as a birthday and day of birth were coming quickly.

#4 School Science Closet

When I got the call to come help with a school science closet I wasn’t sure what we were getting in to but this was so much fun! This science closet houses earth science, physical science, and biology. Sorting these items was a mix of memory lane, learning, humility, and nerding out. With three different sciences also comes multiple teachers which means this area needed all the bins and labels we could come up with. Also, science and learning change from time to time so we were able to think through what would be best for the teachers to advance the students’ learning and growing. And just look at those cute little lab coats!

#5 Girl’s Closet

All things girl are housed in this little space. I think what I liked best about this session was the energy that her mom brought. She was motivated, ready, made decisions easily, and had a blast doing so. She was thoughtful about what stayed and what left. One of my favorite stories of the year was when this mom kept a googly eyed crazy headband that I thought for sure was going straight to the trash. While I never throw away a client’s things without their permission, I do often catch on quickly to what they will or will not toss. That time I was mistaken!

#6 Garage (from scratch)

One of the most exhilarating jobs I had in 2019 was this garage design and install from scratch. This family of 4 had just moved into this home that had just been built and wanted to start their garage off right. Storage, labels, easy access, and room to park 2 cars. I laid out a plan, purchased supplies, hired a handyman, and we got to work. The parents put in a good amount of time decluttering down to what they wanted to keep and I put all those keepers in appropriate (like with like) bins complete with labels.

What you don’t see here are the tiny stickers that they placed to be sure they park their cars in just the right spot as to be able to get out of their car without dinging the wall or other car. There is one in front of them and one to the side of them. Genius!

#7 Kitchen Cabinets

This young married was one of my most grateful clients ever. She simply could not contain her gratitude as we worked through each section, seeing items that she could easily let go of, finding homes for the items that were useful and beautiful for her and her husband, and experiencing the peace and freedom immediately as we went through the process.

Instead of a wall of glasses that they didn’t use and casserole dishes spread throughout the kitchen cabinets, they now have what the like and what they use in easy to access areas. And because these cabinets are glass front we chose items that they like to look at as well.

#8 Move-in Breakfast Nook

A military family of four found a home to settle in to and I had the privilege of helping them. The mom has a beautiful eye for decorating, doesn’t she? Moving during a school year and especially right before the holidays meant the kitchen table was a drop zone for this family. Once we were able to find homes for some other items, put together a real drop zone, and get through some boxes, we were able to uncover the table and the entire family can sit together again for meals.

#9 Kids’ Bookshelf

I started 2020 suggesting you start with a bookshelf if you were having a difficult time thinking of a place to start. This is one of the many bookshelves I worked on in 2019 and how fun is it? This family has 2 elementary age children and an infant. Using that information we made shelves for each of the children and a few others for sets and shared book. I was brave and moved all the books to the front edge as that is what looks best and reminds people that nothing else goes on the book shelf in front of the books. When I returned to the home for the next session, I was told that the girls were reading books, putting them back on the shelves, and moving the books back to the front all on their own. I have no illusion that all families will do this or even want to do this but without providing the opportunity for beauty and order you never know.

#10 Women’s Closet

As simple as this may look to you, having all the same hanger for your clothes can make a big difference in finding peace and freedom in your morning routine and when hanging clothes. The similarity of hangers means you don’t have to look at a lot of different items when you are only wanting to look for which shirt you want to wear that day. You aren’t thinking about the different hangers on purpose but your mind is having to put up with it while also trying to choose a shirt. Put another way, choose hangers that are going to be white noise rather than a rock concert. You have to see them but you don’t have to be bothered by them. This client prefers the velvet hangers but you can use any hanger that are the same (I prefer tubular hangers as they are easiest to get clothes on and off of) will do the trick.

Are there other sessions and photos that I absolutely love? Yes, of course! I post before and after photos at least twice a week and adore every session. So you can head over to Facebook and Instagram to see those all year round or even go back and see what fun we had other than the 2019 Top Ten.

What areas of your home are you most excited about having worked through in 2019? What areas are you ready to tackle in 2020?

A Place to Start – A Bookshelf

“I feel paralyzed.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

“I’m so overwhelmed.”

Can you join with the countless number of people who utter these words in regards to how they feel when looking at their clutter? Is there so much stuff that you don’t know where to start so you just stare at it and walk away defeated? Are there so many places that you can’t make a decision on where to start?

Today I want to give you a place to start. At the end of this post you will also find a few short questions to help you pin point your next area to work on.

Let’s start with a bookshelf. I’m going to walk you through just what I would do in-person with a client. These will be broad strokes as I can’t ask you questions about specific items like I would if I were with you but everything else will be right here.

First, why a bookshelf? A bookshelf is usually already mostly laid out for you, either having nothing hidden, or just one layer behind another allowing you to see almost everything on it at one time. You’ll see the importance of that as we keep going.

The first thing I do in organizing is the prep work. We choose an area, gather our supplies, and clear off a space to work on. Our area is a bookshelf and because of it’s layout we will get to use the shelf as part of our work space. You will still want to clear off a table or bed to work on as well. For supplies, you will want a trash bag for trash, boxes for donating, and a smaller bag for your walkabout. A walkabout is for those items that you want to keep but don’t belong in the area you are working on. For example, a hair tie in the silverware drawer. You want it but it belongs in the bathroom, not the kitchen.

The next thing we will do is sort. This is in a few stages and with our bookshelf will go more quickly that other areas. Usually you would take everything off of/out of the space but since we have this beautiful space to clearly see your books, we will leave the books at first. Anything that is not a book will come off of the bookshelf and be put on your work space. If you’re feeling like your declutter muscles are strong, go ahead and sort as you bring things down. If not, pull it off and then sort like with like. If your declutter muscles are super strong, go ahead and toss or donate some things. Hold off on what you are keeping until you have everything off of the shelf (except the books) and sorted.

Once everything except the books are off of the shelf and are sorted. Turn back to your books. If you have children’s books mixed in with cookbooks, novels, and text books, go ahead and do some sorting there depending on your preferences.

With everything sorted like with like, you can start the decluttering process. This involves making a decision on each item – keep, toss, or donate. Start with the items that aren’t book then move over to your books. A few questions you may want to ask yourself: Do I like this book? Is this book still useful? Does this item belong on the bookshelf or somewhere else in the house? Put those “keeps” that aren’t books or specific items for decoration on the bookshelf in the walkabout bag (oh and if this bookshelf isn’t in the kitchen, book your cookbooks in the walkabout and take them to the kitchen.) Don’t worry about organizing anything just yet. Give yourself the freedom to just make the decision on if you are keeping it or not.

Now that you know what you want to keep (all of these items should still be on your work space and/or bookshelf with no order necessarily), what you are donating (all of these items should be in a bag or box ready to be donated), and what you are throwing out (all of these items should be in trash bags) you can think about organizing. A bookshelf is a great place to start for this reason as well. 90-100% of the items on a bookshelf should be books. If you don’t have enough books to fill the shelf it will be lower of course. Let’s say it’s 90% books for our discussion here. Put your books in an order on the shelves that make sense to you for easy reference. Do you prefer to find a book by author or title or subject? Do you have children’s books that need easy access to little ones? If so, those would be good on the bottom shelf. There is no right or wrong here, just preference. Don’t overthink it. The other 10% is likely decoration like a keepsake or framed photo. Arrange these in a way that doesn’t overcrowd the shelves and is pleasing to your eye.

Just when you thought you were done… you need to actually finish your project. Do your walkabout. Put the trash in the trash can. Put your donations in your car and drive them to their destination.

You did it! You went from not being able to make a decision to finishing an area! Fantastic!

Don’t worry, here are those questions I promised you. Your answers will help you to determine which area to work on next.

  1. What area overwhelms you the most?
  2. What area would give you a “win” and the courage to keep going?
  3. What area seems the easiest to tackle? Hardest? (depending on what type of personality you have you might want to start with the easiest or the hardest)
  4. What area can friend, spouse, sibling, child, etc help you with?

You can do it and if you ever want someone to come along and help, bring in a professional! I’d be happy to be that person.

Write on Your Sheets

Did I just say, “write on your sheets?” Well, yes, yes I did. While you’re at it write on your sheets before your guests come! I mean, you are changing the sheets anyway, so you might as well do it now.

Okay, here’s what I mean. I believe there should be a regulation that each sheet that comes off the sheet maker presses should be labeled with what size it is. I mean, come on, there is a tag on pillows that says it can’t be removed except by the consumer. It can’t be that difficult to add a tag that says what size the sheets are.

Well, since there is no physical health reason to know what size sheets are wadded up in your linen closet I’ll guess I’ll never get my wish. Luckily, I have this fancy blog and can get you all to win the sheet-size war starting now.

EASY: Straight from the Package

Let’s start with the easy ones… the sheets that you bring home from the store. Before you even pop those suckers in the wash (please do wash your sheets before you use them), write on your sheets.

I said it again. This time I can be a little more specific. Find that little tag that should already say what size sheet it is. If it isn’t typed on there already, write the size on the tag: twin, XL twin, full, queen, king, california king.

ALL ELSE: Straight from the Closet

For those sheets that you already own, you’ll want to take them all out from the whole house and bring them to one bed. Yes, all of them. Unless they are on a bed. You can leave those... for now. Do a quick go-through and decide “keep, toss, donate.” Keep it short – you know if you need it or not. Remember how often you change sheets and that will help you to know how many sets per bed you need. I would say at least 2 pairs of sheets for each bed. Maybe 3 for the small kiddos; bed-wetting and upset tummies, ya know.

If you have no idea what size bed those sheets are that were shoved in the very back of the linen closet, here’s a handy graph that Peggy over at The Casa Collective has put together.

After your sort, grab a sharpie and write on your sheets! But be responsible, choose to write the size on the tag.

Then label the linen closet (see photo above for example) to make putting laundry away easier and also grabbing those spare sheets after a middle-of-the-night bed change.

20/20 in 2020

The new year is coming and if you are a numbers nerd like me you are stoked that it’s 2020. So much fun with that number. One being 20/20. Not only am I a numbers nerd I also wear contacts/glasses. For me I’ve been striving for 20/20 vision since I was in middle school. And, y’all, the glasses back then took up your whole face. Top it off with a frizzy perm and butt-cut and you’ve got middle school me. And middle-age me wishes I had lasik.

We aren’t talking lasik here today but I do want you to be thinking about the new year. How can you have 20/20 “vision” when thinking about your house in the new year?

I’ve recently talked with one of the participants of the Fall session of The Minimalism Game with Little Red Stool Organizing (#LRSOMG19) who went directly to the 30/30 program. As she was decluttering with #LRSOMG19 she finally saw what a mess her house was and how much clutter she had just sitting around.

What a beautiful moment! To be able to see what’s been there all along and want to do something about it. Maybe your family and friends have seen it for years, maybe you’ve seen it but haven’t been willing to deal with it. Maybe this year is your year to do something about it.

If that’s you, let’s figure out how to get you moving forward to the end with that 20/20 vision. One of your first steps can be to contact a professional organizer. I happen to be one of those! There are many others all across the world too so chances are if you aren’t near me, there is another one near you.

If a friend or family member came to mind right away as you’ve been reading this, maybe you’d like to get them started with a gift card. If you would like to do this, please be kind in your approach. Having a lot of things in your home is a deeper issue than having a lot of things and many times it is incredibly sensitive. On the other hand, maybe your friend or family member is more than ready! I can think of no better gift than one that will help someone move forward in peace and freedom in their homes!

Lights in the Attic

One of my favorite books as a teen was a book of Shel Silverstein’s poetry called A Light in the Attic. In fact, with all the books that I’ve gotten rid of, this one remains.

There are so many poems in it that I really enjoy – why I kept the book, of course. Here’s one that I’ve been thinking about recently.

Signals, from A Light in the Attic, poem and drawing by Shel Silverstein

Sometimes things come easily to us – the light is red or green. Other times things seem out of our reach – “the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots” – and we just don’t know what to do. But you may be feeling that this project is more like the blue light with orange and lavender spots than a red or green light. Let me walk you though an attic project here and give you a little more direction.

NOW is a great time to tackle the attic. Or garage. Or basement. Or wherever it is that you store your holiday decorations. Get it, “lights” in the attic! Since you are decorating now anyway, go ahead and get it allllllll out of the attic (we’ll stick with “attic” for simplicity’s sake in this article). Before you get it all out, set aside some time, find a friend or family member, and clear some good working space.

1. Select the space you are going to work in. For this article, we’re choosing attic, holiday decor.

BONUS TIP: Take a before photo. Trust me, you’ll be encouraged when you look at the before and after side-by-side.

2. Empty the space you selected. Here we left the Christmas trees and wreaths. We did go through each item to make sure they were staying.

BONUS TIP: Tap a nail into the wall to hang wreaths. This makes the best use of the vertical space while also preserving the shape of the wreaths and signs.

3. All of the things that you took out has to have a place to go. We were sure to clear this room to make space for everything.

BONUS TIP: A table can be helpful to stay on task. Go through only the things on the table. As they have been decided on they will go into “keep”, “trash”, or “donate” piles and off of the table. Pull the next box up to the table and continue the process.

4. As you empty boxes, set them aside for future use. You may bring them in as needed to hold donations or as a temporary holding place for decorations you are keeping.

BONUS TIP: Now is the time of year that you can buy ornament storage kits in store. If you are reading this article in an off season, you can make your own ornament storage with cardboard and scissors.

5. When you know exactly what you have that you are keeping, put them all together, like with like if you haven’t already. Then find the appropriate bin and add a label. For example, lights with lights, balls with balls, garland with garland.

BONUS TIP: If you have different rooms or trees, store those items together. For example, all the den items together and all the porch items in another bin, each labeled appropriately.

6. Put all the decorations back, like with like. We found Fall decorations that are in here too.

BONUS TIP: Put the holidays in chronological order to make them easier to find.

As usual, be sure that everything that didn’t go back to the attic goes to its new home. The trash in the trash can and donations in the car and to the donation location.

Thanks for coming along for that attic project! It’s always so much fun to work with clients and see their progress. If you are overwhelmed with the thought of doing such a large space, get in touch and we’ll get you on the calendar.

Happy decluttering and decorating!