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Organizing Around Function

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The HGTV designers are always saying a room should have one main functionto appeal to a home buyer.

My second bedroom is a good example of a room that has an identity crisis. That room has simultaneously been a guest room/my office/storage area (pronounced: dumping ground). I knew where everything was, but it wasn’t pretty and truthfully didn’t work on any level.

So, a designer friend of mine came to help me decide how to give that room a well-defined purpose. At her suggestion, we will move Jeff’s man-cave office furniture out of our bedroom and into the spare. That room will now only OFFICE, with desk, computer, bookcase, and file drawers.

All office supplies and techie stuff will be in there. We will hide the cords. I can even hang some of Jeff’s professional awards and memorabilia. It will be a manly space.

That will clear the way for me to decorate our bedroom with pretty bed linens. I will also have room for a reading nook complete with bookshelves, a reading chair, light and side table.

Why do we wait until we are ready to move to make our spaces both pleasing to the eye AND functional? This is your advice from an organizer who has done just that:

  1. Decide on one main function for each room.
  2. If you have room (or must of necessity), include only one relatedpurpose. Ex: family recreation room with media center, living room with writing desk.
  3. Gather all the supplies relevant to the room’s function.
  4. Decide how you can store everything closest to the action. See my blog for storage ideas.
  5. Be sure you have both ambient and task lighting in place.
  6. Throw in some pops of color with fabric, accessories, and wall hangings.

You will have a space you that works and is pleasing to your eye. AND you will be able to enjoy it now!

More Space, Less Filling!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

One reason for clutter is that we have too much stuff and too littlespace. Is the lack of space the real problem?

If you agree to live in one of the new micro-unit dwellings that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing for New York City – 300 square feet of livingspace - you could truly claim a small space!

Most of us here in the U.S. have plenty of room for the essentials – what we need to live. We even have room for beauty to feed our soul – art, fabric touches, pops of color.


So, what is the rest of the stuff we have crammed into our homes until we cannot relax? As you look around, do you see…

  1. Inherited items valued by someone else? Ask yourself “Am I the owner this item deserves?” Often the answer is NO, the item needs someone who will enjoy ownership, rather than seeing it as a burden.
  2. Things that remind you of the past? If the reminder is a good one, find a way to keep the memory (take a picture) but lose the thing. Bad memory – let it go.
  3. Information you want to chew on? This may be in newspapers, magazines, or books. However, you know you can’t read it all. Make a rule for how long you will keep each item: newspapers must go out on Sunday; take magazines to your DR’s office after 2 months. Choose to read books on a Kindle or borrow from the library so books don’t stack up.
  4. Projects you have started but never complete? Find someone who loves that activity and let him finish it
  5. Lots of those things you love? That may be clothes, knick-knacks, dolls, stuffed animals, or CD’s, whatever. If it makes you happy and you have a place to store it, keep it all. If not start now to pare down your collection.

At some point, too many possessions cannot be tamed even with the best Rubbermaid organizers. Your home can be a calm retreat oncemore as you gift those items you don’t need or love to someone else. Let’s go for: More Space, Less Filling It!!



My Favorite Drawer Organizer

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

After you have sorted the stuff in that drawer, tossed extras and moved what doesn’t belong there, the next step is to find containers to keep it straight.

This is one of my favorites: the interlocking plastic drawer organizers. Since they come in all shapes and sizes, you get to configure the dividers to fit the size of the item and the shape of your drawer.


Rubbermaid has these in white for kitchendrawers - available at Kroger’s here in the Midwest.

Staples has a better deal cost-wise, available only in black.

Neither vendor sells these online, so you will have to check at the store near you.

Both makers have interlocking sizes that allow for custom configurations. Love the 2″ depth that not only fits most drawers, but keeps those pesky rubber bands from jumping in with your paper clips!

Save on Groceries with a Kitchen Inventory

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012



Did you go over budget on groceries these last two months? That’s easy to do with holiday baking and entertaining family and friends.  Odds are you have leftovers or your pantry is bulging from extras that were not consumed.

Why not take a Kitchen Inventory? A Kitchen Inventory lends itself to meal planning and is a good way to put feet to your New Year goals of healthy eating, watching finances, or spending more face time with family.

Let’s get started then!

1.  Grab a pad and pen. Divide your paper into five sections: Refrigerated (fresh) Food, Dry Goods (canned and boxed), Frozen Foods, and Expendables (spices, leavening, oils).  If you want to get fancy, EHow has instructions on making a computer inventory here. Just don’t make this harder than it is, OK?

2.  Make a list of what you have on hand in fridge, freezer, and pantry, checking “use by” dates as you go. Throw out any bulging cans!

3.  Put a star by:

  • Fresh food  more than a week old (like those baby carrots you swore you would eat instead of cookies and candy)
  • Canned goods/boxed foods more than a month old
  • Frozen food more than 2 months old
  • Spices/seasonings  more than 1 year old for ground, 2 years for whole.

4.  Brainstorm meals that will use only what you have on hand, especially the starred foods. Think soups, stir fry, casseroles. Recipe sites that allow you to search by ingredients can help.  These are a few of my favorites:,,

5. Make a grocery list including only the staples (bread, milk, eggs) you go through regularly and specific ingredients you will use in the next 5-7 day’s meals.

Yes, making the inventory takes time, but this process gives back to you! What you will save:  time wondering what to have for dinner, money you can put toward any holiday charges hanging around your neck, space in fridge/pantry for fresh ingredients.

Do this exercise once a month to truly gain is control over your kitchen storage spaces, your food consumption, and your grocery bill. You are your manager. Would you hire yourself?


Declare War on Time-Consuming Clutter with Action Zones

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Does your struggle to be productive at work and at home feel like waging war with yourself and others?

Perhaps it makes sense to perceive that struggle as a battle ground. You are the commander. You are waging war on several fronts – special projects, ongoing skirmishes, and supply logistics.  You have a map of the terrain (the floor plan) and know what your resources are:  equipment,  personnel, and supply lines.

To win the battle, you  must match trained personnel with specialized equipment and ensure that needed supplies are available for immediate use. In other words, you want to have all the components needed to engage the enemy to come together in the same place at the same time.

I’m sure you have decided (as I have) to work on a certain project only to spend 20 minutes or more gathering all the varying pieces of information, supplies, and equipment before you can begin. Whether that is finding your mixing bowl in the kitchen, asking yourself “Where did I put my 3-hole punch this time?”, or just trying to get the kids out the door in the morning, it is time-consuming as well as frustrating!

The answer is to designate action zones.

  1. First make a decision that you are  going to start now! The time you spend in planning for efficiency will be returned to you tenfold.
  2. Brainstorm. Ask yourself what activities you actually DO in the room/area you are organizing. Perhaps the question should be – what activities do you ideally want to do there!
  3. Assign specific areas in the room, or zones, to similar activities. Try to limit each room to 2-3 zones. In an office you might have action zones for:
    • Communication Central – your desktop and shelf above
    • Reference library – bookshelf and file drawer
    • Action/Projects – credenza with In/Out boxes and incline sorter for specific activities/projects.
  4. Place equipment and supplies within arm’s reach in the appropriate zone for each activity.
    • Filing – extra hanging files, manila file folders, labels
    • Enjoying media – TV, Radio/CD player, VCR/DVD player, CD’s, DVD’s, and remotes, of course.
    • Paying bills – computer, bills, calculator, check book, stamps, address labels
    • Baking – measuring cups and spoons; mixing bowls; baking pans; spices, extracts and leavening agents
    • Getting in the car – keys, diaper bag, shoes, coats, hat, gloves & backpacks

Now that you have the stage set for control over each new project, all you need are the trained personnel. Is that you or do you have employees, friends, or children you can delegate the task to?

The beauty of action zones is that whoever is assigned to that battle will have all the tools necessary to succeed! That will save you time in both set- up and in wages paid.

You may find that once you know where everything is to get started quickly, you are raring to take on that project yourself, right now. You are the commander and it is an easy victory!

Product Review: My Favorite Weapon

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Those of you who have been in my small group Clutter Management Program, or have been a Simple Changes reader for a while know that I LOVE the Freedom Filer paper management system.

I have helped quite a few clients set up this system in their home to corral paper so they can find what they are looking for in 10 seconds or less. It’s kind of a “no brainer”. You purchase, set it up like in the picture, and it is so easy to use you don’t have to think. Love saving those little grey cells…

The best part is the “maintenance free” or as I like to call it “self-purging” aspect of this system. The color-coded categories not only tell you when to purge, but practically force you to do it!

What I usually do with clients is have them purchase the system online. I put the basic system together, then show up ready to customize and train on how to best use all the additional features. The client hands me the copy he/she ordered and pays only for materials and the training time.

The benefit of ordering directly from Freedom Filer is that the company will then email you reminders on when to update and purge. Love it!

Make the decision today to break free!

Book Review: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life

Friday, September 16th, 2011

I am a big fan of Julie Morgenstern’s books. She has a way of boiling down a hairy problem to the essentials and then providing a step-by-step process for walking a person through the solution.

Julie’s original work Organizing From the Inside Out, is a great place to start if you want to do DIY organizing. I use this book as a basic text for the group program “Clutter Management” offered twice a year.

Julie’s latest offering, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, is a timely message for those of us realizing there is more to life than status, things, or even security. We yearn to make a difference, to become a force for change, to be light in a dark world.

This answer to the question “What is SHED?” from Chapter One will give you some insight into how this book can impact your future:

SHED is a transformative process for letting go of things that represent the past so you can grow and move forward. The four steps of SHED (Separate the treasures, Heave the Trash, Embrace Your Identity, Drive Yourself Forward) provide a framework for proactively managing change, transition, and the feeling of being stuck and unsure. By releasing the defunct, extraneous, and burdensome objects and obligations that are weighing you down, you create the space to discover what’s next and gather the energy and courage to move forward.

I have not finished the book. This is not one to rush through, but to thoughtfully and actively immerse yourself in the process as you go. I heartily recommend this read!