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That Ladder In My Face

That Ladder In My Face

That Ladder In My Face

See the ladder in the picture? During the early morning hours, the CO2 alarm started chirping. My husband went to get a ladder to fix the issue. Then it was almost noon, and the ladder was still there. It was out of the way but still, that ladder was in my face.

I was trying to work near that space, but that ladder made itself known, telling me it was out of place and in my face. I could not focus nor ignore that fact. It truly made me uncomfortable. This incident made me think a little about how clutter happens and why it creeps quickly in many homes.

It Seems Trivial, But Is It?

That ladder is precisely the kind of thing that no one would pay attention to because it seems trivial or inconsequential. But ignoring the ladder for a couple of days would result in everyone getting used to it being there. After a few days, we no longer see the ladder. And weeks pass, months pass, and next year, the ladder is still there!

This phenomenon happens with the ladder, with every tool we own, packaging from store-bought items brought into the home, cleaning products, and even kitchen gadgets.

If we do not remain vigilant to these instances and miss the signs, clutter will likely follow. We stop seeing things when we ignore them.

What Is Your “Un-comfort” Zone?

The question is, how likely are you to take notice, and how tolerant would you be of items out of place? At what point do you start feeling uncomfortable?

Some people might not even have proper space in their kitchens to cook and not be bothered. Feeling uncomfortable with the situation is a very personal threshold. But if we end up confused by the clutter or need help dealing with the mess around us, that probably means that stuff has overpowered us. We missed the early signals.

The mere idea of putting the ladder against the wall for even a minute after using it bothers me. But that is how I am sure clutter does not happen in our home – because my tolerance level is zero! My zero-tolerance ensures that I do not miss the early signs of chaos.

“For The Moment” = Creeping Clutter

It is unnecessary to be so drastic to be and remain organized, though. What is needed is to recalibrate the point where we start feeling uneasy, so we get the cue that it is time to act instead of ignoring the clutter. That is how we avoid mess from taking over our lives.

While it might seem normal to use a tool and leave it anywhere “for the moment” to “put it away later,” this puts us at greater risk of creeping clutter. How likely are we to place the item in its place at a later time? Not very.

My Best Client Sessions Are In The Bathroom

My Best Client Sessions Are In The Bathroom

One way or another I tend to end up having my best client sessions in the bathroom.  It is interesting (and sometimes hysterical) how consistently and naturally this happens! Let me explain.

There is a lot to be explored about how people use their space and how they move around. As an Organizer, it is important for me to retrace the clients’ steps throughout their space and understand their routines to see areas of opportunities to improve their systems and their lives. Only by retracing my clients’ steps and moving in their spaces the way they do or having them show me how that happens, can I best notice their roadblocks to efficiency or where their systems fail. This is how amazing solutions come to life.

When clients understand the importance of this, they get on board. Sometimes they get so excited, they take me by the hand and want to show me how they do virtually everything around the house. So, even though this happens all over the house, the fact is that most of the time we end up in the bathroom!  

And We End Up In The Bathroom

One example of a bathroom meeting is about the shower caddy. I personally have always been against typical shower caddies that we hang on showerheads. With those, you would have the water streaming in your face while you reach out for your products. Do you shower facing the shower or with your back to the water stream?

It seems this is a debate comparable to which is the correct way to install the toilet paper roll. If you don’t like the traditional shower caddy, for example, you will need a different solution. Maybe the corner tension pole with baskets is for you. But wait! What if you have high or vaulted ceilings or crown moldings in the bathroom ceiling? There might be unforeseen challenges, but I will always find a solution! It is important that we walk the walk together. 

As an Organizer, the right way will be the way that my clients prefer. But whatever that way might be, being aware of how they move around and use their space allows me to see where I can improve their systems or suggest alternatives to make life easier. 

This Truly Happened

Oh… but timing and context can make this really interesting! I can’t help but recount one of these bathroom adventures. 

A man called me once to help him develop systems, especially in relation to his clothes, bathroom, and laundry routines. This was a very interesting multi-level, high profile, bachelor’s apartment. Because he needed systems in those areas, it was important to explore his routine and habits regarding his clothes. We started the tour of the place and eventually made our way to the third story, where his major area of concern was; the closet/bathroom area. Sure enough, as fate would have it, his girlfriend arrived in time just to hear me say: “Would you like to undress in the bedroom instead of here in the bathroom? Luckily, she knew her boyfriend had hired a Professional Organizer. She was absolutely gracious. Then we started talking about where she would undress! The system needed to work for both, after all.

I love my job! Although every case is different, it seems like we always end up discussing productivity and efficiency in the bathroom, though.

Got Swag?

Got Swag?

Got Swag?

Think about the last time you attended a seminar, workshop, or tradeshow. Got swag? So where is it? What do you usually do with those binders, notes, notebooks, and product samples from a continuing education event or tradeshow?

Chances are you come from the event and “put the swag bag down” for later. But if you did not have a concrete, immediate plan for it, “later” never came, and eventually, you got tired of stepping over that bag or having to move it from one place to the other. You decided to place it where it would not interfere with your daily life (i.e., where you could not see it anymore).

Swag Turns Clutter

Once you can’t see that material anymore, it is out of your mind. It does not interfere in your daily life, that’s true. But that means that you forget about it. Hence, a new bag to clutter your space!

If all that stuff is out of your mind, it is probably unimportant to you, and you do not need it. But why did you gather that material or samples in the first place? Probably is our automatic human reaction to grab anything free.

Make It Benefit You

Think of ways that material can benefit your present life, help you in your career, relationships, or whatever it might be. Then decide on concrete, appropriate steps to allow for that to happen.

This process takes intention and planning. It will not happen if you relegate that bag or binder full of notes and product samples where you won’t think about it.

What To Do with It

Here are some examples of what that process of paying attention to that material might look like:

  • You took notes on the various seminars during the activity — to cement the knowledge in your brain, transcribe the notes by hand. Then, scan those notes and file the document in an electronic file related to the topic. If you have Evernote or the like, that’s another very convenient way to keep your information handy and classified.
  • You received printed material that you already know is valuable and want to keep — scan it and follow the steps described above. If you want to keep the paper copies, make a file for this material.
  • You collected sample items — Are you interested in trying those items? Place them where you are most likely to use them and try them! Did you collect the items for someone else? Place the things where you won’t forget to take them the next time you will see that person.
  • There were recommendations about books, apps, or programs to try? — If you made notes on these, these interested you in the first place. Revisit each one of those and if it still sounds like a good idea, decide what needs to happen for you to act on it.
  • Got ideas to develop during the event? — Don’t let it go to waste! Instead, assign a time on your calendar to make those things happen or develop the steps needed to obtain that goal. Then calendar those steps. What gets in the calendar gets done.
  • Business cards — Scan them or input the information with appropriate notes into your iPhone. Then establish steps and dates to reach out to those contacts and explore possibilities together and network.

Take Action

You can certainly develop more ways in which all that material gathered at that seminar, workshop, or tradeshow can continue giving and benefiting you. The important thing is to take the appropriate action about those ideas! You probably paid money to attend these events, and most definitely, you invested your time. Don’t let that go to waste. Learn how to get the most of these mysterious swag bags we love to collect, for they hold a wealth of possibilities!

Creative Ways to Maximize Space in a Small House

Creative Ways to Maximize Space in a Small House

Redfin is a real estate brokerage that represents home buyers and sellers. In their blog, Redfin asked some organizing experts about Creative Ways to Maximize Space in a Small House. My Space Reclaimed was one of the Organizers consulted. Here’s a link to the original blog post. Read along and see how you can make the most of your space in a small house.

Creative Ways to Maximize Space in a Small House

February 12, 2020, by 
Updated on December 18th, 2020
 

When you have a smaller home, every inch of space counts! If you’re feeling cramped in your tight quarters, don’t worry, making a small space more livable can be easy. To help you get started, we asked organizational experts for their best tips and tricks for maximizing space in a small area. Check them out and you’ll feel like you’re living large in no time.

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1. Start by purging your items. Set up three boxes and label them “keep” “donate” and “trash.” Set a timer for two hours and start categorizing the items within the three boxes. Don’t step away to put an item in the room or area that it belongs, just place it in the keep pile for now. If you come across things that spark a trip down memory lane, set them aside for now in the “Keep” category. Plan a “Memory Night”, order some food in, and take that trip with family and friends! – Organizing by Ali, Alison Monaghan

2. Store less frequently used kitchen items elsewhere. In the kitchen, look for small appliances, big cookware, extra canned foods, and extra paper products that are not used regularly and move to another storage area in your home. This frees up space and allows for a less cluttered feel. – Cleared Spaces, Amy Van Arsdale

3. Accommodate the storage spaces you’re working with, versus attempting to accommodate your belongings. So many of us feel we don’t have ample storage, however, we may just need to pair down our belongings in an effort to truly work towards a simplified space in a smaller home. – Organized for Life, Lauren Silveira

4. Incorporate storage within your decor. For example instead of having shelving staged with only home decor and books, mix in beautiful bins to house other items. Think of electronic accessories, envelopes or office accessories, and even toys. – Freshly Organized, Melanie Schmidt

Tall bookshelves or cabinets can also store clothes, crafts, and toiletries. – Arranged by Erin, Erin Kelly

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Photo Credit: Let Your Space Bloom

5. Use over-the-door organizers. The back of a door can be a wonderful storage place. Buy an inexpensive clear hanging shoe organizer, place it over your door and use it to store items such as scarves, socks, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, travel toiletries, or hair products. You can even use them for shoes! – Aim 4 Order, Cindy Bernstein. In the absence of a linen closet, utilize over-the-door organizers for fun and functional linen storage. – Let Your Space Bloom, Amy Bloomer

6. Remove doors from closets. If you have bedroom closets with bi-fold doors and you need more space, remove the doors. They pop out easily. Once they’re gone, the space will feel larger, and you can put up a curtain instead if you like. The closet can become an office, too, with a desk, computer, and other office accessories. – DETAILS Organizing It All, DeeDee Welles

7. Have a paper filing system. Every household needs one. Every piece of paper worth keeping should have a permanent home where you will know to look for it. There are things that will have to be kept and those need to be filed. Most likely, those files will have to be created as you go. – My Space Reclaimed, Maristella Bertram

8. Utilize vertical wall space. New York City apartment dwellers are always looking to maximize their tight spaces. Make use of vertical spaces with shelving, hooks, or other mounting options.  Backs of doors are hidden gems, as can be tight spaces to the side of fridges, washer/dryers, etc.  Using wall space can be a great way to blend the functional with the visual hooks for a decorative hat display or floating shelves with color-coded books are great ways to add personalized decor while also adding storage. – Embrace Your Space NYC, Sarah Grace

9. Clear the medicine cabinets. Medicine cabinets are often home to mostly expired medicine, lotions, and all manner of potions.  Find inexpensive drawer organizers at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, or The Container Store. Keep first-aid stuff close at hand. Use baggies to gather hair clips, razors, nail supplies, etc. – A Clear Path, Dr. Regina F. Lark

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Photo Credit: Lisa The Organizer

10. File fold. Things tend to get lost in deep shelves that hold clothing. To solve this problem, plastic boot boxes from The Container Store allow one to “file fold” so clothing isn’t stacked. File folding allows you to see what you have and eliminates the clothing from falling all over if it was in a pile. – Lisa The Organizer, Lisa Haubenstock

11. Remember that less is more. We can all cut down on the number of products we buy. If your space is overwhelmed with products, that clutter can make an already small space feel tiny. – Clutterless Home Solutions, Lahni Carney

12. Turn cleaning into a game for the kids. To de-clutter the playroom and instill de-cluttering habits in your kids, make cleaning fun by turning cleaning into a game! Use clear packing cubes as a smart storage solution for toys and other knick-knacks. Categorize each packing cube and ask them to match the toys to the corresponding packing cube. – EzPacking

13. Save space in your laundry room. Use open shelving or a hanging rack system placed on the back of a door. Both are good options to keep washing supplies organized and easily available. Zone the shelf space and use containers to keep categories together. – Everyday Organizing, Nancy Patsios

14. Use clear or mesh wall pockets for mail. These are a must for organizing mail when you don’t want papers piling up on your kitchen counter or dining room table. Designate one wall pocket for magazines/catalogs, one for bills to pay, and the third one for all other types of mail. Be sure to label your wall pockets and go through them once a week to keep the papers from piling up. – reSPACEd, MaryJo Monroe

15. Find storage solutions for “dead” space. These are places where furniture or full-size wall shelves won’t fit. Some examples of dead space are:

  • The wall underneath stairs  – Perfect for hooks to store coats, keys, hats & bags, a dry-erase board/bulletin board/family calendar, or wall pockets to store mail.
  • The inside of kitchen or bathroom cabinet doors – Ideal for 3M Command hooks or magnetic hooks or cups to store small items like pot-holders, dish towels, Tupperware lids, scissors, make-up, or toothbrushes. – Cluttershrink

16. Be careful when using vacuum-sealed bags. Never use vacuum-sealed bags for delicate textiles like cotton, suede, silk, leather, etc. Only use them for durable fabrics such as denim or ski gear. Natural fabrics need to breathe or else the fabric will be irreversibly damaged. Don’t ruin your clothes in order to save space using a vacuum-sealed storage bag. – Garde Robe, Doug Greenberg

17. Give your items a consistent home. If you notice piles of clutter, it is likely that you have never designated a particular spot for them. Every item needs one consistent home, so when you are done using it, you know where to put it, and when you need it again, you know where to find it. – Cocozza Organizing + Design, Heather Cocozza

18. Invest in storage containers like baskets and bins to organize valuable square footage. Whether it’s reorganizing your kitchen, decluttering a storage room, or tackling overstuffed closets, implementing an organizational system is a vital storage hack for maximizing each area of your home. – DFW Packing Pros

19. Install a custom space. Built-ins tailored to your needs can utilize every available sliver of space. When they’re part of the walls, you don’t lose as much valuable square footage. For example, turn a wall into an office or craft space. – SolutionsForYou, Anne Blumer

20. Double-duty furniture. This allows you to not only maximize your physical space but also the functionality of a space. 

  • For example, my ottoman holds a dozen shoes, my mirror is hiding all of my jewelry, and my nightstand doubles as an underwear drawer. It’s all about getting creative while finding homes to store your things and the possibilities for multi-purpose furniture pieces are endless! – Sort & Sweet
  • In your living room, choose a coffee table or end table that provides storage below for books, blankets, etc. either by neatly placing the items or by utilizing baskets to conceal the items in the space.”  – Orderly by Danica, Danica Finocchario-Smith

 

Organizing Memorabilia: The Warm & Fuzzy

Organizing Memorabilia: The Warm & Fuzzy

Organizing Memorabilia: The Warm & Fuzzy Box

What is memorabilia, and how do we go about organizing it? Memorabilia, or “warm & fuzzy” stuff, as I call them, are items that evoke fond memories. They are usually those things that have the power to make us laugh or cry happy tears when we see them. And no matter how we call it, we all have some, and it needs to be streamlined. We need to keep it in a way that makes sense and tells a story.

No matter how ruthless you become at minimizing and organizing, there will be a few items you can’t let go of, even when you have a digital record of them. It’s like you need to touch it, smell it, see it in person, or the memory is not there. In some cases, we are not ready to part with some items. Maybe we never will.

I recommend getting a “Warm & Fuzzy Box” for those things. The “Warm & Fuzzy Box” is a beautiful, high-quality boxbin, or basket with a lid or a cover. This box will contain those items that are so special to you. 

The “Warm & Fuzzy” box should live in a private space like a shelf in your closet, under the bed, or in your home office.  

Not Everything Is Warm & Fuzzy Material

You should probably scan or photograph the things that don’t make it to your “Warm & Fuzzy” box to preserve a digital memory. I discuss these processes in my blog “Organizing Kids’ Memories.” When you maintain a digital image, you keep the memory but not the clutter.

However, as said before, dealing with your memorabilia, you will find a few items for which a digital record would never do. These are the items we are referring to on this blog.

Keep a minimal number of treasures in your warm & fuzzy collection. Otherwise, if everything seems important, then nothing is. The moments and memories in our lives are most important, not the things. So, carefully choose the items that best represent your most significant moments in life.

The collection is manageable when you become discriminatory with your “warm & fuzzy” collection. It should be a sampling of happy memories that make you smile, not an overwhelming heap of stuff you’d rather avoid.

A Different Kind of Memorabilia

In this context, organizing memorabilia refers to the organizing of mementos you keep for their emotional value but that are probably dispersed around your home, maybe even stowed away in drawers or closets. We want to gather these together and assign them a good home in your life.

Memorabilia items of high monetary value or related to famous people like sports players, antiques, and the like, should have a place of honor in your home, so they are displayed and enjoyed. However, this type of memorabilia is a different story. 

Should you have this type of treasure, you need to find a way to incorporate them into your home décor overall concept. Things like shadow boxes and glass displays come to mind. There is an infinite number of options to honor your high-priced memorabilia! Just look into Pinterest and knock yourself out!

 


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