Preparing for back to school

As August becomes September, it’s time to prepare for the upcoming school year. I know, there are plenty of beach days between now and then and I don’t want to detract from your summer. However, the earlier you get a jump on back-to-school preparations, the less stressful September will be.

Of course there’s a lot to buy from clothing to gadgets to the list of supplies your school provided. That’s important, but today I want to focus an aspect we think of less often, but is just as important — getting the kids back on a school year schedule.

You’ll be met with resistance if you try to move bedtime ahead by 90 minutes the first night. I recommend starting several weeks early. If you’ve got younger kids, get them into bed 5 or 10 minutes early each night for couple of weeks. They’ll barely notice the difference. If your children are older, start to remind them few weeks out: “It’s time to get back on a school schedule. Head to bed a few minutes early tonight.”

It’s also important to review what the morning routine will be. While my wife and I discuss it among ourselves, it’s important to bring the kids into that conversation too, and the sooner the better. Talk about when the day will start, any after-school activities, who can be expected to pick up/drop off (and where), carpool details if applicable, etc. People like predictability.

Next, create a landing area for their school stuff. Find the best spot for them to place bags, coats, important papers, etc. and encourage them to use it. Otherwise — if your kids are like mine — you’ll find a trail of hats, gloves, backpacks, and so on that leads from the door to wherever junior decided to plop himself as he entered the house.

Finally, get yourself a good calendar. I swear by the oversize wall calendar, much like this one. Perhaps you love a digital calendar. That’s cool too. The important thing here is to make your choice, and get it in place, before the school year begins.

There’s more to do to prepare for school, of course, but these tips should get you up and running. Good luck.

Reader question: End table filing cabinets?

Reader Sarah asked us the following question:

I’m preparing to move from a large suburban home into a small urban apartment for one year, and I want to take a minimum of files with me. Ideally I’d find an attractive lidded file basket or box that could do double duty as an end table in my living room. Any suggestions?

In smaller spaces, multi-functional furniture is a great way to maximize storage. My favorite, multi-purpose filing cabinet is the Woodboro Media End Table. It stores hanging files in letter and legal sizes, it has built in storage for your laptop, hidden, built-in AC and USB outlets and serves as an end table. This is one valuable piece of furniture if you’re limited on space and do not have a traditional home office.

There are many different types of end table filing cabinets, some of which could also function as a night stand beside your bed or a guest bed. You might also want to consider one of the many styles of ottoman filing cabinets.

I hope that this helps, and good luck with the move!

 

This post was originally published in June 2007.

Porch and patio storage

If you have an outdoor area where you spend a fair amount of time, there are sure to be items that permanently reside outside. Our back patio has a table and chairs. The chairs have cushions and we prefer to store them when not in use. The Suncast Deck Box is an easy solution that can handle quite a bit of storage. The cushions from our chairs take up quite a bit of space in our larger unit, but we still have room for our modest garden tool and barbecue utensil sets. If you don’t have seat cushions to store, you can select the smaller option.

In the event that you have more people than available seating this garden bench deck box gives you the option of extra seating plus a generous amount of storage space.

The Storage Table/Serving Cart would be a very useful addition to any patio or deck. It can serve as a prep station for your barbecue or become an outdoor wine bar (or soft drink bar — depending on the age of your dinner guests). It has wheels, lockable storage, and even a paper towel roll holder!

When you’re having a fancy outdoor party the last thing you want to be looking at are unsightly trash bins. Investing in a small storage shed will hide the bins from view as well as keep them protected from unwanted pests such as raccoons, possums, squirrels, etc.

With these convenient storage solutions, you’ll be able to enjoy your time outside with family and friends.

 

 

This post was originally published in August 2007.

Wall mounted system for storing fishing poles

Like to fish? Have plans to clean and organize your garage? I ran across this storage device and thought it was sleek and efficient. Upon inspection of the product, I discovered that it also could work as a way to store fencing foils and billiards/pool cues. I love the way the garage door is used as a storage space!

This post was originally published in August 2007.

Weekend project: Organize under the bed

Many home projects can be completed in under 30 minutes, yet have a big impact on your day-to-day life. With that in mind, I like to tackle a good Weekend Project. Anything from organizing the tool shed to creating a daily routine is well worth the time and effort. Today we’re going to take a peek somewhere that most people avoid: under the bed.

Feng Shui practitioners know that nothing should be stored underneath one’s bed. My practice is lacking then, as I keep a lot of stuff under there. I suspect many of you do, too. If that’s the case, here’s a look at how you can take an afternoon this weekend to get control over what’s stored underneath your bed. The first step is identifying what’s down there in the first place.

Dare to explore

The area underneath one’s bed is often a dark and scary place, full of hidden surprises, and I don’t mean just the dust bunnies. A great way to start is to pull everything out. For each item, decide to put it in either the “keep” pile, the “donate” pile or the “toss” pile. This won’t take long as there’s only so much stuff that can fit underneath your average bed. When that’s done, send anything in “donate” or “toss” to the appropriate destination and turn back to the “keep” pile.

Proper, convenient storage

First, make sure everything is in a labeled bin, with the label facing out. In my experience, anything tossed under there loosely will gravitate to the center, never to be seen again. You’ll probably need several transparent or semi-transparent containers with lids. If you can, find some that also have casters or wheels, even better (this one from Sterilite is ideal).

Before you buy any, take measurements of the space underneath your bed. Write it down somewhere so you can refer to it while at the store.

What to put under the bed

I’ve got a few solutions, depending on whose bed we’re talking about:

  1. Your own — Out-of-season clothing, shoes, and extra linens are a great choice.
  2. The kids — Their books, board games, puzzles, and so on.
  3. The guest room — Guest linens, extra blankets (make sure they’re freshly washed before guess arrive). We also keep gift wrapping supplies under there.

Yes, it’s a drag to haul everything out from under there and sort it. But it’s worth the effort believe me. Feng Shui or not, you’ll be glad you spent some time organizing underneath the bed.

Organize a first aid kit for the car

A first aid kit isn’t one of those things you think about until you need it and when you do, boy do you need it! You can avoid making a stressful time even more difficult by planning and buying a roadside first aid kit now. They’re inexpensive, easy to maintain, and compact. Here is what every driver should have tucked away in the car.

The right container

There are a lot of pre-made first aid kits available. Most are great, but I recommend building your own from scratch. Why? You’re more likely to know exactly what is inside a homemade first aid kit as you think about, buy, and place each item. You might glance at a pre-made kit’s contents, but the steps required for building your own force you to really think about what is inside.

Also, when you build your own kit you have more control over the container. Find something that has clear compartments, so you can see where items are. Also, if you can find something waterproof, that is ideal. This MTM Dry Box is a great example, as it’s durable, brightly-colored, and water resistant. Plus it’s small enough and study enough to live in the car’s trunk for a long time.

Supplies

When it comes to supplies, I defer to the professionals at the Red Cross. This comprehensive list, entitled “Anatomy of a First Aid Kit,” includes:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)

There is a lot more, and I’ll let you read their full recommendations. If you’ve got a baby or kids who travel with you, make sure you have children’s versions of the listed medications.

You might also consider adding a basic first aid manual. Again, I look to our friends at the Red Cross for this. Lastly, consider things like a flashlight, blanket, tool to break a window, Here’s a look at what else to keep in your car.

As I said, a first aid kit is often overlooked. Take some time this weekend to get one organized. I hope you never need it!

More than 15 ways to handle recurrent clutter

There are three areas in my home that are on a recurrent cycle of being cluttered and cause me stress: the kitchen, the family room, and the dirty clothes hamper in the bedroom.

I have taken many steps to try to get my laundry problem under control, but I continue to wrestle with it. The kitchen is a similar stress aggravated by the fact that my husband and I eat three meals a day at home. Then, there is the family room where things come in and never leave.

These three areas have one thing in common: they have a constant supply of input. Every night I deposit clothes into the hamper. Every day I sit and knit or read or watch TV or whatever I’m doing to relax in my family room. Every meal I dirty pots, pans, plates, utensils, and cups, and every week I bring in more food to repeat the cycle.

I’ve been working diligently recently to keep these areas clutter free in my own home, and can share a few tips and advice. I hope that you find at least one or more helpful.

Laundry

  • If you haven’t already read it, start by going to my previous post on dealing with laundry clutter. Following these tips have made my laundry situation bearable.
  • Additionally, I recommend making your laundry room as welcoming, cheerful, and serene as possible. A laundry room that is pleasant to be in makes doing the laundry much less of an annoyance. A dark, dreary basement with bare concrete walls isn’t inviting. Spruce up your space so that being in it is a reward, not a punishment.

Family Room

  • Institute a “no food” rule for your family room. No food outside the kitchen or dining room is a good general house rule, too.
  • Assess the amount of furniture in your family room. Do you really need four end tables and two coffee tables? I find that the more tables I have in a room, the more stuff I set on the tables.
  • Every time a person leaves the room, have them put something away. If everything is properly in its place, celebrate.
  • Have a vacuum cleaner/broom easily accessible to the room. I find that I need to vacuum the carpet in this room twice as often as in the rest of the house. Having the ability to use it with very little effort is essential.
  • Have a place for everything in the room: a knitting basket with a lid, a storage system for your video games, a chest for children’s toys, a bin for piano music, a CD and DVD solution, etc.

Kitchen

  • My first suggestion for the kitchen is to get your hands on Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. The kitchen section in the book is really good and I learned a great deal from reading it. I reference it a handful of times a month.
  • Put dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher. No plates or cups should ever sit dirty on the counter.
  • Own dishwasher-safe stainless steel cookware and other kitchen items. If you have to wash it by hand it is likely to sit cluttered on the counter.
  • Avoid unitasker appliances and utensils. Based on your cooking style, a few may creep into your home, but it’s best to try to keep these numbers small.
  • Monitor what small appliances and entertaining dishes you use, and get rid of those you don’t. I’ve used our reader-suggested dot system for my monitoring with great success.
  • If you must store small appliances on your counter, only have out those you use often. My toaster, coffee pot, vacuum sealer, and mixer sit out all the time. I use all of these daily or almost daily.
  • Organize your kitchen so that what you use is stored next to where it is used. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but things like pots and pans should be next to the stove and leftover storage containers next to the refrigerator.
  • If you’re like me, don’t use a bread box. I put bread in there, forget about it, and then discover it weeks later all moldy. I currently store aluminum foil, wax paper, ziplock bags, and such in my bread box instead. I set my bread on top of the bread box.

Please feel welcome to add suggestions in the comments section. There are so many effective strategies out there that I couldn’t possibly name them all in this post. So, let us know what works for you!

 

This post was originally published in July 2007.

Bike storage solutions

When you aren’t riding your bike where do you store it? There are many storage solutions available that will keep your bike out of the way when it isn’t in use. Here are some of the the options:

Racor Ceiling Mounted Bike Lift (pictured): Easily lift your bike up and out of the way with this pulley system. The down side is that it only fits one bike so you would have to purchase more than one to accommodate your needs.

Racor Pro Double Folding Bike Rack: This fits two bikes and folds up against the wall when not in use. It also includes a shelf for bike accessory storage.

Dual Bike Storage Rack: It assembles in minutes and requires no mounting or tools and holds two bikes. The pole system adjusts to the height of your ceiling.

Free Standing Four Bike Rack: This rack fits up to four bikes and can be assembled without any tools. The bikes are not quite out of the way with this one, but it does get the bikes in one compact spot.

Monster Bike Hook Set: The cheapest and easiest way to get your bike out of the way is to install hooks into the ceiling. No need for racks or pulley systems.

 

This post was originally published in July 2007.

Attack your junk drawer

We all have at least one drawer in our house that has turned into what can be called a junk drawer. It has no real purpose other than being a hodge-podge of items that don’t have any where else to go. The best way to attack a junk drawer is by following these easy steps:

  1. Dump it. The junk drawer is in constant disarray so you have to start with a drastic measure. Simply dump the drawer out onto a flat surface and start going through the miscellaneous debris.
  2. Pitch it. There is bound to be a ton of stuff in there that serves no purpose for you. Go ahead and trash it.
  3. Sort it. Start to separate everything into categories. Office supplies, tools, batteries, pens and pencils, old bills, and old receipts (most likely these need to be thrown away too.)
  4. Divide it. Buy or build your own drawer organizer and keep each pile of stuff separated into its own section.

Now make sure to keep the drawer in a orderly fashion and don’t just throw random items into it.

 

This post was originally published in July 2007.

5,4,3,2,1: Creating clothing capsules

Today’s guest post is by Geralin Thomas, Author, Career Coach for Professional Organizers, Home Organization and Decluttering Consultant, and Capsule Wardrobe Fanatic.

It seems like everyone is talking, blogging, or photographing clothing capsules. Basically, a capsule wardrobe is comprised of several pieces of curated clothing and accessories that are versatile and coordinate with each other.

It might seem like an impossible goal, but creating a clothing capsule is not really difficult. And it has many benefits, the primary one being eliminating the “what am I going to wear” syndrome and keeping only garments and accessories that go together effortlessly. Clothing capsule enthusiasts dress with ease every day.

So how do you go about creating your own capsule wardrobe? There’s no one right way to do it, but most people who want to create a clothing capsule start by detoxing their current wardrobes and editing everything that doesn’t fit their body, lifestyle, and personality like a glove. They keep items whose fabric weight, colors, and mood are all similar.

For inspiration, think about certain celebrities who have a very distinct style. Public figures like Ellen, Martha Stewart, Kate Hudson, Wendy Williams, or Cher wear clothes that look like them and fit their lifestyle and personality.

One of the goals when building a capsule of clothing, is to aim for pieces that fit your current lifestyle, not a lifestyle you aspire to live. Each and every garment should fit and flatter and make you feel fabulous, not frumpy or costume-y when you get dressed. Each garment should mix and match so that you can reach into your closet and know that everything in it goes together.

The majority of my clients are looking for a system or starting point with capsule wardrobes, so I created a basic formula I call 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

My basic business wear/girls’ night out/date night clothing capsule formula is: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but remember, it doesn’t matter how many pieces are in your capsule wardrobe, as long as all of them go there and you’re pleased with it.

  • 5 tops
  • 4 bottoms
  • 3 toppers
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 yours-truly accessory

I suggest picking one or two base colors for the bottoms. Three examples of base colors for the bottoms:

  • navy + whiskey
  • black + gray
  • chocolate brown + olive

One or two accent colors for the tops that coordinate with the base colors. For example:

If the base is: The accent colors could be:
navy + whiskey coral + teal
black + gray red + white
chocolate brown + olive marigold + paprika

 

The “toppers” can be blazers, cardigans, ponchos, or vests in base, in a third color or a variation of the base or accent color.

The dresses can be every-day, around-town dresses or something fancier depending on your lifestyle. They can be in your base, accent, or a third color.

The “yours-truly” accessory can be a handbag, necklace, scarf or whatever you’d like as long as it is uniquely you. That does not mean it has to be expensive. It typically means you are going to wear it every day and keep wearing it for years (a watch, a necklace, a handbag, earrings).

Hints about colors: Try to select colors that flatter your complexion (warm or cool) and your eye color. If you can’t figure out if you’re warm or cool, have a look at my Pinterest boards, color analysis and clothing capsules how-to.

Finally, if that doesn’t help ask a hair stylist or make-up artist to analyze your complexion as they are usually very good at this.

For most of the women I work with, creating very specific capsules for very specific occasions is another favorite starting place. I call these “Occasion Capsules” A few options include:

  • funerals
  • weddings (daytime and evening)
  • resort wear (skiing, cruises, etc.)
  • sports (yoga, swimming, golf)
  • girls’ night out
  • date night
  • public speaking
  • errands around town

Please note that in no way am I’m suggesting that a funeral or wedding capsule have 15 pieces. Instead, for those capsules you would want to make sure you have everything you need from head-to-toe and from inner to outer including undergarments, handbag, shoes, jewelry and coat, umbrella or whatever else might be appropriate.

To help plan your very own capsules, download my free Capsule Wardrobe Planning Worksheets or watch videos of me talking about decluttering, clothing, closets and capsule wardrobes.

Interested in taking things a step further? Record your exact measurements and figure out your body type using my Wardrobe Wisdom Workbook.

Reader question: Ending laundry chaos

A reader sent us the following question:

Your site is uber-rad. I would really appreciate an article on how to get my LAUNDRY out of chaos mode. Thoughts on that one???

You had me at “uber-rad.”

I see laundry as the worst form of lazy clutter. I understand your pain and stress. I was once a degenerate who let laundry pile up around her until it seemed an impossible foe. The dark side, however, is behind me, and I offer you more than 20 tips to help you keep your laundry chaos to a minimum:

  • First and foremost, establish a laundry routine. We do laundry every Monday and Thursday in our household. I suggest that if there are one or two people in your house that you follow in my footsteps. If you have three or four people in your home, you probably need to do laundry every other day. If there are five or more people in your house, you should do a load of laundry (or more) every day. You can’t let laundry pile up or it instantly becomes chaotic.
  • Exclusively use sturdy laundry baskets (20 gal. or smaller). Keep one in the bedroom(s), and a smaller one in the bathroom, and laundry room. Don’t buy one with fabric sides because it will inevitably malfunction and turn into a mess instead of a hamper. If you have a laundry chute, only have laundry baskets in your laundry room to transport clean and folded clothes. Some people might think that having three baskets per room – one for darks, lights, and delicates – is a step saving measure because it keeps you from having to sort clothes on laundry day. I’ve found through experience, however, that three baskets per room results in more chaos because there’s more space for clothes to pile up, less floor space for things you value more than dirty laundry, and more trips carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room (at least three instead of one).
  • Have fewer clothes. The fewer clothes you have, the fewer clothes you have to wash. In a series of upcoming posts, I’ll discuss specific ways to do this.
  • Don’t have more clothes than you can store properly in your dresser drawers and closet. If you can’t put all of your clothes away, you’ll always have a reason to have dirty clothes.
  • Only buy non-iron clothes to keep clean shirts from stacking up in a “needs ironing” pile.
  • When moving, look for a place that has a laundry room on the same floor as your closet. If you’re a DIY person, consider building a closet with the washer and dryer right inside of it.
  • Have a designated dry cleaner bag next to your hamper. If you keep it in your car, clothes that need to go to the dry cleaner will certainly pile up on the floor and cause clutter. Be sure to drop your dry cleaning bag off every Friday and pick it up every Monday — routines are important for dry cleaning clothes, too.
  • Keep a stack of delicate bags next to your hamper. When you take off delicates, you can put them straight into a delicates bag and then just throw them into the hamper. This way your delicates won’t accidentally get lost in your dirty clothes mess.
  • Change into pajamas at least an hour before bedtime so that you have enough energy to do more than throw your dirty clothes on the floor.
  • Before buying anything in a color that bleeds (like red), ask yourself if you will want to take the time to sort it out every time you launder it.
  • Think about wearing only one color so that you never have to sort your laundry into lights and darks. These people have done it.
  • Get a job in an office that allows casual dress so that you stop wearing two sets of clothes on most days.
  • Have a stick of Tide To-Go in your closet so if a shirt is stained you can spot clean it before putting it into the hamper.
  • Only have two sets of bed sheets — one on your bed and one waiting on deck. The same can apply to towels, but I suggest three because the rate of replacement is higher for towels.
  • By the age of 12 your children should have their own laundry routines.
  • Clean out pockets when taking off clothing to avoid having to do it during sorting. I suggest having a small trash can in your closet for just this purpose.
  • If something is permanently stained or riddled with holes, get rid of it.
  • Keep hangers in your laundry room so that you can immediately hang up the clothes that you don’t fold.
  • Replace your washer and dryer with large capacity units so that you can do two to three traditional loads at a time.
  • Have a table in your laundry room so that you can have a space to immediately fold clothes as they come out of the dryer. Do NOT allow it to become a clutter table — keep it clean and only use it for folding.
  • Have a designated bag or box in your laundry room to put clothes in that you want to donate to charity. When they come out of the dryer, fold them, and stick them into the bag.

 

This post was originally published in May 2007.