Category Archives: @ Home

Organizing Diaries: Let’s Talk Garage Storage!

Can I be a dork for a minute? I am really enjoying this phase of homeownership. We’ve been in our home for two years now and we aren’t planning to buy or sell any houses or move anywhere- yippee! {maybe I shouldn’t put that in writing…} That means we’ve gotten past the initial phase of settling in, which is a new concept for us since we’ve moved so frequently over the past ten years or so.

It feels foreign (but really good!) to have long term plans for our home. One of the spaces we dream about is the garage. We both want our garage to serve as a multipurpose space for working out, woodworking and storage. And, while I’d love to have the budget to makeover the entire space, I actually prefer to think about a space, live in it and use it before making updates.

I’ve broken this project down to three different posts: the problem and the planning, the before and after, and the tutorial. So, here’s part 1…

The Existing Space & Challenges

The Woodworking section is all mine and I’ve been drooling over this Modular Workbench plan from The Family Handyman. It features a fold-out work table, a roll out table saw stand, a miter box table and lots of storage modules including roll-out drawers and slide-out panels.

I love this plan because:

  • It’s customizable to just about any space.
  • It’s modular- which means you can choose which modules or sections to add and which ones to scrap as well as the ability to add as your time, energy and budget allows.
  • It’s super-functional with it’s roll-out drawers, glide-out panels, shelves for storage and abundance of workspace. What more could a handy girl want?!?
  • Best of all, it’s affordable.

My inherited workspace consists of an 36″ high adjustable steel shelving unit with a 34″ deep by 8′ sheet of plywood precariously placed on top and a 4’X4′ pegboard on the wall. Needless to say, it will take a bit of work to get from point A to point B but it will be worth it (as long as we don’t move in the process #cringe).

My husband’s Workout space consists of 9 square feet of mat, a TRX mounted to the ceiling, wall mounted pull-up bar, rowing machine, 112 lb. atlas stone, plyo box, fitness ball and shelving for iHome, towels, and workout bands, etc. He doesn’t care about pretty and I try not to impose my will on his space. As long as it functions well for him, he’s happy. As with most garages, the Storage has been taking over the garage and getting in the way of it’s optimal use.

  • Baby Equipment- I will openly admit that I am not ready to let go of all of the baby equipment. There. I said it.
  • Sell- There are a number of items we’d like to sell on Craigslist once the spring comes. I’m pretty good about this but if you’re the type who never actually gets around to selling anything, just donate it.
  • Handed Down Clothing- I’m super lucky to have such a generous brother and SIL who have given us a ton of boy clothes. We just need to store the huge bins!
  • Seasonal Decor- I probably have considerably less in this department because we haven’t really decorated much. This will change as the little man grows and we spend more holidays at home {hopefully}.
  • Garage Stuff- Of course, we need to store all of the typical tools, supplies and lawn maintenance items that come with owning a home. Plus, we eliminated our lawn service at the end of the season last year (they were horrible!) so we plan to purchase a reel mower and edger.
  • A Bunch of Stuff That Isn’t Organized- And, a bunch of odds and ends that we’ve accumulated and not gotten around to organizing…This is real-life, folks! Sometimes there are more important things than organizing.

Creating A Plan

In order to make room for the first two functions (woodworking & workout), I needed to address the third: storage. This would clear up a bunch of floor and wall space and help us function in the meantime. So, my first priority was to create some storage space for the above items without using all of the accessible, functional wall space on a budget.

Things were looking up…to the ceiling, that is. Most garages have unused upper wall and ceiling space around the perimeter of the garage and above the garage door. I first considered something like this around the perimeter of the room.

But I felt I could find something more affordable, easier to implement and more functional to access (I’d have to move the ladder multiple times to access a few of the items).

Then, I spied this sliding solution. So, clever and matchy! But I’d need to purchase the same bins and consider leaving them IF we move (or dealing with leaving a non-functional feature for buyers). Then, what if I needed to replace a bin and I couldn’t find the same size?

I finally settled on this simple solution:

I already had inherited some 2×4’s from the previous owner and had a scrap 53″x48″ piece of plywood that would work. The benefits of this solution are:

  • I can add another matching unit on the opposite side of the garage.
  • I’m able to access much of the storage with one ladder climb.
  • I can use containers and boxes I have on hand and upgrade in the future.
  • It is a super simple build. Even if you are a beginner DIYer, I’m confident you can do this. Heck, you could even get the Home Improvement store to make the cuts to the plywood and the 2×4’s for you. The most challenging part is mounting the brackets to the ceiling and getting them secured into a beam.

I feel like I’ve landed on a solution that will work for us well into the future. And, I’d probably recommend it for most long-term garage storage. You’ll have to check back to see the project pics.

Ciao for Now!






Think Small To Accomplish BIG: A Simple Approach For Organizing Your Home

Not all organizing has to come in the form of a large makeover project, emptied out onto the front lawn. If you’re starved for time and don’t have the energy to take on emptying out your entire kitchen, one cabinet or drawer at a time will do the trick, I promise!


I thought our breakfast cabinet would be the perfect small project to illustrate this and show my BE SIMPLE™ approach in action. We moved into our house one year ago after moving into a rental one year prior to that, so everything was unpacked but not necessarily optimized and organized. We were suffering from moving fatigue…and new parent fatigue, too! Now that we have settled in and don’t have any plans to move {that I know of, anyway}, my goal is to create simplicity and order in our home. It’s also my hope that sharing my efforts will help you do the same. So, here is how I used my Define, Design, Do: BE SIMPLE™ approach to organize our breakfast cabinet.

1.Define1. Define- Take 10-15 minutes to define the project by doing the following:

a) Name your project: Breakfast Cabinet Dash
b) Take pictures:  ✓
c) What is your ultimate intention for the space? What do you love most? What frustrates you most?

This cabinet houses everything we need to access in the AM, including medication for the dog, coffee, tea, cereal plus a small area for sweet snacks (so I can easily reach them ;). I like how we use the cabinet and I love that we have 42″ high cabinets- though I hate not being able to reach up high. I hate that the shelves aren’t high enough for the cereal boxes to stand up. I hate having to scale counters to reach the oatmeal in the cabinet over the microwave. Everything is getting sloppy and things fall over. Seldom accessed items take up valuable (aka. reachable) real-estate.

2. Design- Create a MAP- Make a plan. I’ll be sharing my MAP worksheet in a few weeks with Homeology subscribers, so be sure to enter your email on the home page.

Since this is only a single set of cabinets, it is already serving its intended purpose as the breakfast cabinet, and the issues are mainly mechanical (i.e. shelf too low, items falling over) this project is what I would call a dash. You may not need to create a MAP for a “dash”.


3.BSS3. Boundaries, Staging and Supplies

a. Single cabinet

b. File boxes and covers assembled and set on counter

c. Sharpie, Post-it’s, Flat-head screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, gloves (shelf-pin removal), cleaning spray, paper towels, step ladder.

4.EmptySort4. Empty & Sort- I emptied all of the contents of the cabinet and created categories to sort them into as I went. Notice that I don’t recommend the typical categories of Keep, Toss, Donate, etc. that you might be expecting as these aren’t the most conducive to making decisions, read more here. My categories were: vitamins & meds, coffee, tea, cereal, sweet snacks, beverage mixes. I also created boxes (covers) for: incoming {items that should live in this cabinet} and outgoing {items that need to live elsewhere}. I also placed everyday items in the front half of the box and others in the rear half. If I needed more space, I could have created a separate category for each and placed them in their own boxes.


The two categories that should always be included are incoming & outgoing. Come back next week to hear more…

5.Shed5. Shed- I tossed stale cereal, old tea and combined packages where appropriate.

6. Identify a Home- For the most part the previous locations were working for us. The exception was infrequently used items that lived in our “prime real estate” {the lower shelves}. So, I began placing things in their designated homes, keeping each of the categories together and adding any incoming items.

7. Measure & Shop- Another topic for another day is personalizing your storage, but here are some possibilities for adding containers or enhancing the storage space in my cabinet: tea storage, bin/tray for morning items, jar for treats ✓, cereal storage, pill case.

8. Polish- I grabbed my Sharpie and Washi tape and hand-wrote labels for the shelves.

9. Live & Learn- As one of the last steps, you’ll list all of the new habits that go along with your new space. Your new habit may simply be to put things away in their new homes or it may be a more complex process of putting paper in it’s proper inbox, processing it, filing it, etc. Here is where you incorporate your new habits into your life and learn what works and what doesn’t. For my breakfast cabinet, it’s putting things away daily and restocking when unloading the groceries.

10. Eliminate- While this is the final step, it is one of a more ongoing nature. Think refine, streamline, simplify; eliminate what doesn’t work for you or your family. Here’s another reference to my favorite quote from Day 4 {with a little interpretation}: “Organization is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. – Antione de Saint-Exupery”

I hope this helps show that you can start as small as you’d like. Just think: if you organize just one small space per week at the end of a year you’ll be making lots of room for what matters!

Ciao for now!


Getting Organized: Have You Tried This Approach To Sorting Your Stuff?

When taking on an organizing project, most people use the keep/donate/toss method. I see it being touted all the time in magazines, on television and in the blogosphere. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sorting this way and if it works for you, I urge you to continue using it. But if you’re looking for something more, read on…


Here’s a different approach for you to try. I was introduced to this method many years ago, by Marla Dee of Clear and SIMPLE™, which entails first sorting into bins by category. Instead of sorting into bins by what you plan to keep, donate or toss, try sorting into bins relative to the type of item it is or activity it relates to. Here are some examples:

  • Clothing- Dress slacks, jeans, yoga pants, tank tops, short sleeve blouses, long sleeve blouses, dress shoes, casual shoes, etc.
  • Office Supplies- Computer paper, note paper, drawing paper, pens, highlighters, permanent markers, No decisions to be made about what to keep, toss or donate (obvious trash can be tossed, of course)…yet.
  • Toys- Sports equipment, cars, dolls or action figures, quiet play, riding toys, etc.

Only after the space has been emptied and sorted, do you revisit each bin and make decisions about which items get tossed or donated. Why?

1. Relative decisions are easier

When faced with deciding on each item, you are not considering your entire collection. It is much more effective to decide which pants (shoes, office supplies, etc.) to keep once you see that you have ten pairs of black slacks and only wear your three favorite pairs.

2. Increase your chance of success

Decisions can be difficult and time consuming. Sorting this way enables you to get further in the process without getting discouraged, frustrated or quitting before you finish.

3. Keep it under control

In order to organize effectively, items should generally be grouped with other like items. This approach will help you better manage the process and the physical stuff involved during the toughest part of the project.

4. Take a break

Sorting this way will allow you to set aside your project if you run out of time or need to take a break. Assuming you use stackable boxes with lids and label {see my 10 Steps to Organize Any Room post here), you can still function while the project is in progress.

In a future post, I’ll talk more about how you come up with the categories and the two sorting categories you should automatically include with every organizing project but I’d love to hear from you in the meantime! Have you tried this method of sorting? How has it worked for you? If you haven’t tried it yet, do you think it would work for you?

Ciao for now!




2014 Spaces to Organize

I haven’t been able to put together a comprehensive plan for the organizing projects I’d like to work on this year. So I thought I’d get started right now with a list of the most pressing, nagging, annoying projects I’d like to tackle and share it with you here.


OfficeOur office is the first room you see when you walk in our house and there are no doors to close it off. It’s listed as a dining room on the floor plan and it’s right off the kitchen and main living area of our home. I both love and hate that about it. I don’t get a lot of time to sit in my office so it’s convenient to access but that also means that things get dumped here. When we moved in, I immediately installed my Elfa shelving, unpacked the boxes and created a raised desk surface that is counter-height (and did little else). It’s helped to keep the little man out of our stuff but now he’s able to climb onto my chair and access everything…and does…daily. *sigh*. I did not invest a ton of time in creating systems because 1) I didn’t have the time or the energy 2) I like to live in and use a space before I try to optimize it’s functionality. Additionally, I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate a craft space into our home. I like to do crafts with my son but also want a space for my own projects and supplies.


Kitchen Breakfast CabinetDue to my profession and the fact that I tend to let go of things easily, the kitchen is pretty well organized. There are some areas I haven’t touched since we moved in so they’re in need of attention. We have been here a year now and don’t have any plans to move anytime soon, so I think it’s ok to start settling in. Plus, with a toddler in the house, there are things we can phase out (baby dishes and cups, etc.) and others we need to make room for. Finally, I thought I would use our breakfast cabinet as an example to post here, so I’ve been neglecting it for a while.

Storage Closet

Storage ClosetWe have an oddly placed storage closet in the main living area between the dining area and living room. The previous owners used it as a pantry but we have all of our pantry items in the actual kitchen. It has ended up becoming a catch-all and it’s pretty cluttered and non-functional right now. Plus, as Max grows and gets into more things it’s become a place to quickly stash items I don’t want him to have access to, where the old “home” no longer works.




Play Area/Toy Storage

Play AreaPlay Area Kitchen






We are lucky enough to have a pretty large living area where we were able to incorporate a bit of toy storage. In our previous rental home, I tried using the sunroom off of our main living area as a play space for the little man but I learned that we all prefer having his play space in the main living area of the house. It has worked out pretty well so far except with his birthday and Christmas occurring within three months of each other and the fact that he is changing so quickly, we are in need of a purge.

Max’s Bedroom (Books & Stuffed Animals)

Max's BR- Books & Stuffed AnimalsLions and tigers and bears, oh, my! Where in the world did all of these books and animals {there are more in the living room play area} come from? I will remind family that he doesn’t need anymore stuffies, he’s got plenty to love. And, I’ve put in a request for only classic books. It’s time to let go of the lower quality items and the ones he’s outgrown and make sure to assign a home for the ones that stay…and that may require a build. But it will be simple…I hope!

Garage Workshop

Garage WorkshopLast year, I made over a corner of our garage into a workout space for my husband. I’m thrilled that he has a space that functions specifically for something he loves doing. However, I want in on it! OK, I have already taken over the rest of the space, but it just needs to be *much* more functional. Yes, that’s my brand-new sliding compound miter saw sitting on the floor. Let’s just say I underestimated the footprint required for it to operate. It fits on the bench but requires more clearance for the saw to slide, so I’m planning to incorporate a miter saw cart into the workbench design. I have a vision for the space but have budget and time constraints {plus, a bajillion other projects I’d like to accomplish} so it’s one step at a time.

My Wardrobe/Closet/Dresser

MBR ClosetConfession of this Professional Organizer: this is my Achilles Heel. I’m lucky enough right now to have enough space to store and organize my clothing. But my problem is letting go…yes, even professional organizers struggle with this. I’ve found that even the super-organized have at least one area that they hold on to too much. I have heels but no place to wear them {and history including several serious ankle sprains that make it painful anyway}, suits and work clothes that may or may not fit but I don’t need them for my current job of Mom CEO. Speaking of the mom job, my body seems to have settled in to it’s new normal- thank goodness! I have been so frustrated trying to keep up to my fluctuating wardrobe needs since I became pregnant with my son three years ago. Finally, things have been tight for several years after I gave up my corporate consulting gigs so I’ve been reluctant to let go of anything because I can’t afford to replace it. Well, just because I can’t afford to replace it doesn’t mean that I wear it, does it? I AM READY. I want to let go of the old so I can make room for the new, or even just make room for the things I do wear and love.

Phew, when I started writing this list I thought it was going to have two or three things on it but I had to stop myself at six! Now that we’ve been in our house a year, I’ve deemed it time to make it H-O-M-E. This is the first time in a looooong time I’ve been ready to do so. During the last several years, we’ve moved quite frequently, sometimes several states away and sometimes down the block to homes with garages and yards up to 2200 square feet to postage stamp patios or balconies as small as 1100 square feet and no storage…oh, and we had a baby. So our focus has really been on surviving and making it day to day or week to week. Now that we’ve settled in, figured out how we use the space and have ideas for how we’d like to improve it. Is there a space (or more than one) in your home that you are desperate to make more functional? Which room is it and what is/isn’t working for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Move Over 3-Ring Binder! Here’s a Better Binder System

DiscboundNotebook InteriorDo you have a bunch of sticky notes floating around containing tasks, notes and reminders? Or, worse, LPOPs (little pieces of paper)? Do you collect brochures and other papers when you’re out and about? Or do you have the information somewhat organized into a household binder? I have a love-hate relationship with binders. They’re great for keeping paper corralled and ordered but they’re clunky and clumsy.

I’ve been working on going paper-light for years, so thankfully these things don’t plague me anymore. I still have paper challenges but I have a great tool for managing notes and information. While the fact is that I’m a techie and prefer to go digital, there are still things I do with old-fashioned pencil and paper. Alright, maybe not old-fashioned but updated forms of them. I prefer mechanical pencils to the yellow no.2. And, I don’t use just any old notebook…

My ultimate love for note keeping actually goes by a few product names. My original love is the Circa Notebook from Levenger. When I discovered the Levenger Circa I was lucky enough to have a store nearby so I could ogle and drool over the selection of notebooks, papers and accessories and feel them in my hands. It was love at first sight (touch). Then, I discovered Rollabind…then Staples introduced their M by Staples™ Arc Notebook System, and finally, we have the Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Discbound Notebook System {also sold at Staples}. Shhhh…Wanna know a secret? They all fit together! Which means you can pick and choose components from any system to create the notebook of your dreams. The quality and pricing does vary between the products and papers but the disc system is the same.

DiscboundNotebook CoverI have had a Levenger Circa Junior by my side for at least five years. I had replaced my original cover with a poly Arc cover on my Circa notebook because it’s thin and lightweight. You can tell from the cover that it’s gotten a lot of love. Here’s why:

  • It is completely customizable. I don’t use it the way it’s packaged from the store. Due to the discs that “bind” the notebook together, I’m able to switch out pages, covers, dividers, accessories and even the size of the discs.
  • I can quickly and easily move pages between notebooks. I’m able to carry one notebook with me at all times and move pages to an archive or subject-specific notebook for reference.
  • I can add my own pages. If you purchase a punch, you can print your own pages, add pretty scrapbook paper or even punch other paper you need to keep for reference.
  • It’s compact enough to fit in my purse for capturing notes, ideas and other information on-the-go.

Discbound Notebook PagesI have tested out many of the available accessories for the Circa/Rollabind/Arc/Discbound Notebooks over the years. And since this post is getting longer by the minute, I think I’ll write {at least} one more post to give you the lowdown on my recommendations and all the possibilities. In the meantime, here are the components of my latest notebook configuration:


  1. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Discbound Notebook (see note below re: discs) I have used both the letter and junior-sized Circa Notebooks extensively and I prefer the junior size as my personal notebook. If you work in an office, you might want to try the letter version.
  2. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ 1-1/4″ Discs– The notebook comes with 3/4″ discs and I knew that I wanted a thicker notebook so I purchased these discs from the same collection but I am returning them. I’m not sure if the 1 1/4″ are just too big for the notebook or if they are manufactured incorrectly but the pages don’t turn smoothly and it’s very frustrating. So, these silver aluminum discs from Levenger are on my wish list.
  3. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Junior Filler Paper– Up until I bought my Martha Stewart Notebook I have been using the Circa Full-Page Ruled Refill Sheets. The paper is high-quality and I prefer it to the Arc system paper. But since my new notebook came with paper I’m trying it out…plus, it’s pretty and matches the blue of the notebook ;)
  4. Circa Task Pads– These are great for writing quick lists and can be moved around to different sections or notebooks.
  5. Circa Page Finder Tabs– I love these tabs for keeping my current page bookmarked within each tabbed section. They are thin and don’t add too much bulk to the notebook.
  6. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ 5-Tab Dividers– I just had to get these to match my new notebook. I had these in my previous notebook and these would work, too.

I would love to know if you have a paper note taking system that you love. Please leave it in the comments below. Feel free to ask in the comments if you have any questions on the Circa/Rollabind/Arc/Discbound products. I’m happy to help if I can!

I don’t make a ton of product recommendations, I won’t recommend something just to make a buck and this is not a sponsored post. But there are a few products I have fallen in love with over the years that I will gush about here from time to time. Please know that I consider them tried and true tools or solutions and have seen them work for many clients and friends.

31 Days of Real Life Organizing

Last week I posted about whether or not your organizing measures up to what you see & read in magazines, blogs and on Pinterest. I feel strongly that you deserve to have a home that is organized, warm and welcoming for yourself and others who live and visit there. In addition, I am just as convinced that you can have that without putting the rest of your life on hold. There are lots of simple ways to start making progress towards that goal. I’m sharing what I’ve learned on my journey as a professional organizer and in organizing my own home.


I just learned about TheNester’s 31 Days Annual Writing Challenge and I thought it would be a good way to push myself to write more on the topic. I realize I’m a day late but I figured it’s better to get started late than not to do it at all, right? {a bit of foreshadowing into my second post…}

So for the next 31 days {well, 30, since I’ll post two today}, I’m going to share insights, projects, tips and tools on Real Life Organizing.

You can follow my blog in your RSS feed or follow the 31 Days of Real Life Organizing on Pinterest or you can even pin this post so you can refer back to it throughout or at the end of the 31 days.

Once it’s published, I’ll link up each day’s post in the list below:

  1. How to Get Started Organizing at Home
  2. Perfectly Organized
  3. Oops! 9 Most Common Home Organizing Mistakes
  4. Get Organized. Get Inspired.
  5. How Long Will It Take to Get Organized
  6. RA-RA For Organizing Paper!
  7. The Four Step Foundation for Real Life Organizing & Free Printable
  8. Redefining The Inbox
  9. Are You a Perfectionator?
  10. Get Organized in 15 Minutes or Less?
  11. My Top 10 List of Organizing Myths
  12. Get Organized. Get Inspired. {Useful & Beautiful}
  13. 11 Reasons Your Home Organizing Projects Fail
  14. Create Clutter-Free Holiday Decor: Halloween Edition
  15. How To Organize Product Manuals & Warranty Information
  16. What Organizing Isn’t
  17. How Long To Organize a Room?
  18. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room
  19. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room- Part I
  20. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room- Part II
  21. My Favorite Containers- The Basics
  22. Organizing Rules For Results
  23. 3 Reasons To Think Outside The Box {Or Bin or Container}
  24. Get Organized. Get Inspired.
  25. Take Action On Your Paper Piles
  26. Loathing Laundry?  4 Reasons We Love to Hate Laundry
  27. Organizing Quickie in the Closet
  28. Baby Steps for Tackling Paper Clutter
  29. How Do I Get My Spouse Organized?
  30. Organizing Solution for Kids Activities and Gear
  31. Simplify For The Holidays

Ciao for now!