Category Archives: Organizing Foundation

Preventing Clutter

When I was little, my grandmother used to say “A stitch in time saves nine”…and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about at the time. It took me about 15 years or so to figure it out. Anyway, you don’t hear that one too often these days but it is surprisingly true. If you take the time to fix something now, you can usually save time, energy, money, and stress spent on a bigger fix later.

Preventing Clutter

A related turn of phrase is “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Please tell me I’m not aging myself by sharing these! Regardless, prevention gets a lot of lip service but is arguably one of the last things we look at as human beings. We usually wait until after the disaster happens to dream up ways to prevent it in the future.

As suspected, prevention when it comes to clutter is not as commonly talked about (or pinned as much) as uncluttering or creating new storage and systems. Prevention really can be credited as the majority of the cure for clutter and disorganization. And, if you really want to be successful in living more organized, prevention is something you should look at first.

I talked about prevention as one of the four foundational organizing strategies here. And, I still feel strongly that you need to do work in all four of the foundational strategies (Prevent, Create, Reduce, Maintain) in order to live a more organized life. But, whether you are beginning your organizing journey or starting fresh with a reset, the best one to start with is the ‘Prevent’ strategy.

Most of us have been led to believe that the best way to start is by creating new systems and storage solutions. Pinterest says so, so it must be true, right? It’s actually much more effective to move this ‘Create’ phase much further down the timeline.

But it can be challenging to put off organizing projects for many reasons. Did you know many of us crave the dopamine release of buying new things? In addition, the anticipated reward of a wonderfully organized space can be too tempting to resist.

If you find yourself starting (or re-starting) your organizing journey, here are some things you can do to lighten the load:

  1. Minimize or eliminate bulk shopping. If you have a system of shopping that works for you and you are consuming much of what you buy, by all means don’t quit doing something that is working. However, be honest and eliminate the “great deal” purchases on things you and your family don’t consume on a regular basis.
  2. Stop shopping for sport. Stay away from your usual jaunts and distract yourself with another activity. Try going for a walk, meet up with a friend for coffee or a cocktail (though that may lead to retail therapy if you have too many), or take the kids on an educational outing. Better yet, you can replace this acquisition habit with a clearing habit by shopping your house for 10 things to let go of.
  3. Buy only what you need. This means shopping with a list, especially when you go places where you frequently end up leaving with more than you went in to buy. Target, anyone? Target and Sam’s Club are definitly my achilles heel. With a family of three, I don’t frequent Sam’s Club anyway but I find it super-challenging to get through the checkout aisle in Target without at least one, but usually more, additional cute/great/steaming-hot-deals. So, I’ve actually cut back on my visits to the store and order what I need online.
  4. Break the Garage Sale/Thrifting/Craigslist habit…at least temporarily. This is one I can say with the most certainty is adding to your clutter problem.
  5. Say “No, Thank you” to freebies and hand-me-downs. This also applies to raffles, giveaways, and freebies online and in-person. Freebies are not free! It’s either junk to clutter up your home , you are volunteering to have someone send the junk (unwanted solicitations) to your home, or they will be clamoring for your time and attention, which is already at a minimum.
  6. Resist taking home brochures and handouts. Instead of taking it home now so you can look through it later, take a moment to scan the paper to see if there is anything you need. Most often you can find the same information on a website. Enter it into your smartphone a la Evernote or Drafts or carry a single notebook with you for collecting information. Also, if it’s something you might need in the future, you can usually just Google it. After all, will you be able to find that brochure in the piles three months from now? Will you bother looking at all? Or will you just Google it?
  7. Unsubscribe from retail newsletters, especially flash sales. Most companies are skilled creating a sense of urgency when there isn’t any. If you need a specific item, you can always go directly to the website and search. While this may not be true for flash sale sites, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they aren’t selling anything you urgently NEED. If you are serious about simplifying, you know what to do!

Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear from you!

Ciao for now!








Define, Design, Do! Quick Reference Card Download

Back when I wrote my 31 Days of Real Life Organizing series, I included a post on 10 Steps To Organize Any Room. I recently compiled that information into a Quick Reference Card so you can print it out and keep at your side when you tackle your organizing projects. It will help you apply the same process each time you organize a space or room in your home. It doesn’t matter if you’re organizing your living room, a bedroom closet, pantry, garage, etc. The size of the space doesn’t matter either. Though, I do recommend breaking up big jobs into smaller ones.


I have tested and refined this system after having attended countless conferences and educational sessions, reading every organizing book I could get my hands on and working in people’s homes and businesses for almost ten years. You will not become pro in one day. It does take some time-and persistence to learn a new skill. I truly believe this foundational approach will work for you! Of course, feel free to tweak it and make it work for you. It’s not about following the guide to the letter, it’s about getting stuff done and making room for what matters.

There are some references to other worksheets and guides. I am working on those, one at a time, and promise to share them when they are ready. So, be sure to subscribe to receive updates- my subscribers get my best stuff first!

Finally, if you subscribe and download the Define, Design, Do Quick Reference Card and have a question about how to apply it to a room or space you’re working on, send me an email and I’ll do my best to guide you in the right direction.

Ciao for now!




The Fine Print: Please note that I am sharing this with Homeology readers for personal use only. Using this commercially with your own clients if you are an organizer constitutes a copyright violation. I apologize if this seems a bit harsh but I’ve worked hard to develop this system and spent years refining it.

Make Any Organizing Project A Win With This Sorting Step

Last week I shared an alternative sorting approach to the popular “keep, toss, donate” method made popular by organizing television shows. Today I’m sharing an additional tip for sorting. You might think it’s not necessary to be so methodical about organizing. I’m not one of your more “type A” people so I tend to be more relaxed about the process myself, but I have seen the light! I have experienced first-hand, time and time again, just how beneficial these steps can be. Incorporating this sorting step will most likely help you, too!
I have found that for most people the “Empty & Sort” and “Shed” steps are the most time consuming steps during an organizing project. If you take the extra effort to streamline or focus your efforts it will payoff in dividends! Along with switching from the “keep, toss, donate” method I mentioned here*, the following are two steps you can use to make your organizing project a win.

During the “Empty & Sort” step {the first E of the BE SIMPLE approach}, create two additional sorting bins for every project- an Inbox and an Outbox. Inevitably, there are items living in the space that don’t belong there, as well as stuff scattered around your home that should live in the space.

The Inbox
In order to prevent from having to re-organize the space in the future, gathering “like” items in the Inbox in advance is quite beneficial. Depending on the scale of the project, you may want to designate a collection area for items even months in advance of your project. It could be gathering photos for a project you plan to do in a month, or gathering office or craft supplies for a project next week, or even gathering storage items for an attic or garage project you plan to do when the weather cools down.

The Outbox
The Outbox provides a holding place for all the items that belong elsewhere and provides a physical prompt/reminder not to leave the space right now to put it away. This will help you stay focused on your project and get more done. As I shared previously*, sorting boxes also allow you to corral the project if you run out of time.

I hope that this sorting tip is useful and helps keep you on track! What do you think? Do you think it’s something you could try with your next project? Definitely check back here and let me know how it goes!

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!




What’s Your Type {of Disorganization}?

WhatsYourTypeNot all disorganization is created equal. Homes, families, personalities and abilities come in all colors, shapes and sizes. I’ve worked with clients who apologize profusely for the disorganized state of their home and when I visit, I find what I would consider a relatively organized space. I’ve also had clients tell me that they were chronically disorganized when really they misplace their cell phone and keys from time to time and need to tackle their small piles of laundry. Chronic disorganization is a serious lifestyle issue. And, I’ve been called in to client’s homes that showed signs of a serious hoarding disorder where they made no mention of it on the phone. Hoarding is a medical disorder.

Since you are so close to your own situation there can be confusion about what type of disorganization you are dealing with. I thought it would be helpful to clear up some of the confusion and misinterpretation surrounding disorganization. Knowing where you fall on the spectrum can be helpful and eye-opening.

Situational Disorganization– This type of disorganization is often precipitated by a major life event. This can be a change of job, move, marital status, death of a loved one, illness, birth or adoption. The qualification of a major life event is really all about how it affects you. It could also include a new project at work, a promotion, a new relationship, etc. It does not matter if another would consider it minor. The change in your life causes your previous organizational systems to break down or disintegrate completely. It can happen gradually over time or it can be sudden. It is short-term and either life returns to normal or you adapt to a “new normal”.

Habitual Disorganization is when we have bad habits that cause us to be disorganized. These can include: stashing, overbuying, over-scheduling/committing, piling, indecision, procrastination, etc. These can also be symptoms of chronic disorganization, depending on the severity, longevity, and origination.

Lack of training/education– I happen to believe that many people suffer as a result of this. They were simply never taught how to organize or worse, they were taught organizing systems that work for others but are not consistent with their personality, preferences and learning style.

Affluenza– This has been a societal “illness” in the United States for many years and affects many families to varying degrees. This type of disorganization most often occurs when you feel social or societal pressure to purchase things you don’t need, buy brand name labels or commit to doing more than you can handle to achieve a certain social status. You may feel like to you need to do it all, have it all, and be everything to everyone.

Finally, the remaining two types are Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding. I’ll leave the description of these to the experts…namely my friend Geralin Thomas, who is a a Certified Professional Organizer specializing in Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding (Level V, Master Trainer, CPO-CD) and featured as an organizational expert on the Emmy-nominated A&E’s Hoarders: The Differences between Hoarding and Chronic Disorganization. I also recommend this teleclass recording by Geralin on Hoarding From the Perspective of a Professional Organizer.

Please Note: All of the types I’ve listed here do not necessarily correspond to the types defined by the reigning authority on the topic of disorganization, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). I’ve taken some liberties to include information based on my own experience and observations during my work with clients.


Happy 2014 & Why Resolutions Don’t Work

NewYearFirst, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the 2013 holidays and have a fresh start on a fabulous 2014! Santa brought me a cough, cold and stomach virus, among other things. Nothing like being ill on a 12-hour drive. On the bright side, though my hubby and son did come down with a cold, they avoided the stomach virus. We were looking forward to ringing in the new year in a more celebratory way but we’re still grateful to have spent a wonderful holiday with our family on Long Island. And, we rescheduled our New Year celebration for next week. Yes, we’re allowed to do that!

Anyway, as a blog about organizing, you probably expect to read a lot about New Year’s resolutions. Well, not here, you won’t. I believe in planning your goals and intentions and the new year is as good a time as any. What I don’t believe in is creating somewhat nebulous resolutions that we forget about or give up on two weeks into the year.

  1. Get Clear- One of the biggest factors in failed resolutions is that we don’t get clear enough on what our goals actually are (i.e. lose weight, get fit, get organized, etc.) I’m sure you’ve heard of the SMART acronym: specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. It’s important to get specific but I believe there’s more.
  2. Too Ambitious- Often we choose resolutions where there is a significant gap from where you are today to where you want to be. If you don’t acknowledge and address all of the steps in between, you might give up before you get there. Being realistic about what it takes to achieve your goal will ensure that there are fewer discouraging surprises along the way.
  3. Your Why- Another contributing factor is that we don’t tie our “resolutions” into our why. Why do you want to organize your home? For me, being organized at home ensures that I am less stressed and have more opportunities to have fun with my family. Identifying what’s in it for you or your family can help to inspire and motivate you.
  4. Review Often- Finally, planning for your future is something you should be doing on some level all year long. Intentions you set on January 1 can be turned on their head by March. Re-evaluating and adjusting along the way will keep your goals relevant to what’s going on in your life.

For the past four years, I’ve done annual planning with my business that overlapped with my personal life. I’ve refined the process and gained more clarity about what works {and doesn’t work} for me every year, though it’s never perfect. This year I’m trying something different. On a whim, I ordered Danielle LaPorte’s new book The Desire Map. I love her. And, I really like the fresh perspective of setting goals and intentions according to how you want to feel. Anyone else reading The Desire Map? I’ll let you know how it goes…

I also recommend visiting the ladies at ProjectMe. They have a series of upcoming blog posts coming up on Designing Your Year. Kelly and Suzie always have great insight to share and I love the concept of “designing” your year. It adds an element of fun and craftiness to the process, especially if you’re more right-brain.

I’d love to know what you do for each new year. Do you follow the tradition of creating resolutions? Another trend is to choose a word or phrase for the year- do you have one? I tried that in 2010 and labeled it “my breakthrough year”. Instead, it just became known as “the year I broke” as I was stressed, burnt out and my body was wearing down. I think the universe heard me incorrectly. So, I think I’ll try to be more specific in my affirmations from now on. Ha! Ha!

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!

What Organizing Isn’t

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about organizing…What does it mean to me? Or to you? How do you define it? What does it look like? And, even though I’m not the touchy-feely type, there are a lot of feelings that go along with it, too. What does it feel like? Warm & fuzzy? Cool and polished? {I may not be touchy-feely but I’m a tactile person!} Since it can look and feel differently to different people, I find it easier to define what organizing isn’t.

Getting or being organized isn’t:

A destination.
Only about aesthetics.
Cookie Cutter.
Too time consuming.
What you see on TV or in magazines (or a blogs).
Absolute use of every square inch of space.
Complicated to setup and maintain.
A competition.

What do you think? Is there an item in my list that resonates with you? Or do you have one you’d like to add to the list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.