Although every home is different and every client has varying needs, there are some organizing staples that we recommend to everyone!
What are your favorite organizers under $20?
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One of my favorite (and most frequent) recommendations when organizing children’s areas is to create a memory box for each child. Most parents already have something similar in place. They’ve stashed mementos, drawings, and treasures in tote bags and extra large plastic tubs to keep them safe.
While this is a great start, it becomes burdensome as the children grow older. More items need to be stored so more totes are purchased. The amount of storage space required grows like a never ending vine.
Worse, when the kids are ready to move out of the house, you’re both stuck with a disorganized, tangled mess of childhood papers, projects, and random stuff that your children now consider junk.
What in the world?! The intention was great, but it lacked one thing: forethought. Let me explain.
When city planners gather to discuss where the new road should go, they consider many things: frequency of use, amount of cars that will travel on it, potential problems, and ease of maintenance. They think decades ahead so that their work will not be in vain.
Your memory boxes deserve the same attention.
Step 1: Select the Appropriate Container
I suggest using a large letter file box. This size box is big enough to hold a childhood full of memories, but small enough to carry, stack, and store. As you shop, you’ll also want to choose a container that is relatively safe from the elements. Although plastic gives off a funky scent after so many years, it is bug and water proof. Finally, your box needs to be easy to open. While I love a good cedar chest with a beautiful brass lock, I’ve found that the keys go missing, the chest gets piled high with other things, and they’re difficult to re-home as children grow. Instead, opt for a solution that is portable and easy to use.
Step 2: Create Divisions
Just like lanes on a highway, creating divisions within your memory box will give you the direction you (and your child) need to organize their belongings as time goes on. Hanging file folders are a favorite of mine because they take up little space and can hold papers and trinkets. They also allow for maximum accessibility to each division. When I create memory boxes, I use the following divisions for hanging files:
I prefer to divide by grades because most children organize their memories around the school calendar. They remember going to Niagara Falls after 4th grade or winning that soccer championship in 10th grade. The school calendar typically has more firm start/stop points than a child’s own birthday. However, if your child prefers to organize by given age, that’s fine too. I’ve also seen families set up boxes by category rather than grade level (i.e., school papers, sports, crafts, etc.). The only downside to organizing by categories is that it will be difficult to keep organized as the years go by and you’ll have a greater tendency to stop organizing and start piling the keepsakes.
Step 3: Maintain the System
This is where the rubber meets the road; where you realize whether the system you created for your toddler actually works when he’s a teenager. If you use a file box with the hanging file divisions I shared above, I promise you, the system WILL work. The trick here is to sort and file the keepsakes along the way. You may notice that a file will get particularly hefty…and may begin to crowd out others. If this happens, pull the file out and review it with your child. Are the pieces they’ve chosen to keep really their treasures from that year? Give your kids the gift of wisdom by teaching them to compare and evaluate. Children who learn to determine the value of their own belongings are better prepared to make wise investment choices as adults. Learning to live within the boundaries, within their means, will enable them to comparison shop for clothes, food, colleges, cars, and homes.
Never underestimate the power of a box.
Kids are messy, aren’t they?! Like, shockingly messy. Old candy wrappers, empty gift bags, random rock collections are found tucked away in the most interesting places. And then there’s the toys. Even if you try to keep them to a minimum (and rotate them throughout the year) the action figures, craft supplies, and Legos eventually drive you a bit bonkers. It’s okay to cry out in frustration --- you’re among friends. This idea of a clean, organized bedroom lasting more than half an hour really is the seemingly unattainable parent goal of the year.
But today is different. Starting today, that goal of yours is within reach. Why? Simple. We’re going to teach your kids how to keep their rooms clean. Kids (and a large number of adults) struggle to keep their areas clutter-free due to numerous reasons. The most common reason, however, is lack of instruction. Those who struggle to keep a tidy bedroom, home, or office simply need to be taught. These quick lessons will empower your kids for decades to come; they will equip your kids to become successful adults! And who doesn’t want that!?
Create Homes for Everything.
You knew I was going to say that. Of course you did. Because, by now, you KNOW that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to put things away if they don’t actually have a home to return to. If your child isn’t in middle school yet, I recommend making these decisions for them. If your child is older, invite them to be part of this process (though, I’ll warn you, the process may go much slower). You’ll need to go through every item in their bedroom. I recommend starting on the right side of their bedroom door and working around the room if you’ve never tackled a job like this before. Decide what is staying and temporarily put it somewhere. You’ll settle on permanent homes for all the objects once you know what is staying. Finally, divide the room up into zones (like dressing, sleeping, and playing) and then organize the items by category within each zone (i.e., dressing: shirts, pants, socks, etc.).
Show Your Child the Homes.
This is the most frequently skipped step. We think that just because we put things away all nice and neat that our kids actually SEE where everything was put and UNDERSTAND why those items ended up there. Don’t assume anything. Ever. Not with kids or adults. Trust me, just don’t. Instead, take the time to TEACH your child where things go and why. “Your underwear goes in this drawer on top because it’s the first thing you put on. Your socks are in the second drawer, and your pants are in the third drawer. Once you’ve got those on, then come over here to the closet. Do you see how I’ve hung up all your shirts? I put the long sleeve shirts over here and your short sleeves over there. This is where you’ll find all your shirts. This is also the place where they go when I bring up the clean laundry.” DING! DING! DING! Teaching your child where things go will not only help them find things, it will help them PUT THEM AWAY! During this time of instruction, ask your child if the placement of items is logical for them. Would they do it differently? If so, why? Listen to the answers and adjust accordingly.
Implement the Ten Minute Tidy.
Now that your child knows where everything is supposed to go, they’re physically able to put all the items away. But your child won’t do this out of the goodness of his heart and maintain it over time until it becomes a sweet habit. Nope. Your child will continue to be a kid. A creative member of the family. And creatives make messes. You don’t want to squash their creative spirit, but you do want to establish some healthy guidelines. Enter the Ten Minute Tidy. (Side note, this name isn’t original with me --- I’m sure it’s been used hundreds of times in different settings. I thought about calling it the Clean Sweep….but I know that was the name of a show. The point is, you can call this step WHATEVER you want. The name isn’t important. The action is.)
Daily tidying will go a long way to helping your children create cleaner, more organized spaces beyond their bedrooms. Limit the tidy time to basic tasks until they’re crushing those tasks within minutes. I like to begin with the 3 basic tasks listed above because they are the most common items I find as I organize children’s bedrooms. This should clear up 95% of the room. Additional tasks to add might include: throwing away trash, finding items to donate, vacuuming/dusting, making beds, taking laundry to the washer, running their own laundry, and picking out outfits for the next day. But again, don’t rush things. Habits take a long time to form, and you don’t want to overwhelm your child by requiring too much too soon. (Yes, I know, it shouldn’t be a hardship to tell them to clean up their trash, but these are kids we’re talking about. Just trust me on this. Low expectations are great in the beginning.)
Give us a call if you need help with any of these steps. We’d love to hear about your progress too. Comment below to share your story.
Whether you work from home, operate on the go, or sit a traditional office setting, staying productive is easier said than done. We get by on auto-pilot while our minds wander. Our level of output may rise when a new or exciting project crosses the desk, but for the most part, we’re stuck at status quo. We don’t want to be….but most days, we are.
Like any relationship, our workspaces need us to care for them to keep the magic alive. Here are 3 tips you can use to increase your productivity at work.
Operate Within a Schedule
“But that sounds so boring.” I know. It can be. But in this case, it won’t be because we’re going to be intentional about it. Grab a pad of paper and your favorite colored pen. I want you to write down all the things that you ALWAYS (on auto-pilot) do during the week. Some of these activities will be repeated multiple times a day, but you only need to write them down once. At this point, I just want you to see where you’re spending your time. (If you make 5 stops at the water cooler in a day, you should probably write those down too.)
Now here’s the fun part – the part where we mix things up a bit. In order to increase your productivity (the speed at which you produce profitable output), I want you to pencil in those tasks using this handy time-blocking schedule. (Yes, I said pencil….because you might want to erase things. If you’re a devoted pen user, then you might want to just print another copy OR open an Excel spreadsheet.)
When we schedule our mundane tasks, we create healthy limits and a bit of a game. You’ll need to finish the tasks written into each slot ON TIME in order to maintain your efficiency. When you finish early, your brain responds with a chemical boost. Don’t believe me? Here’s a synopsis of a few studies that looked into the “gaming effect” on the human brain. Now, the opposite effect occurs when we “lose,” so part of this exercise is to adjust your schedule each week based on how much time it actually takes you to complete your tasks.
Creating a schedule will minimize time wasters. It helps you to pay more attention to the tasks at hand, and removes some of that auto-pilot effect.
We can all tout the benefits of setting goals, but how many times do we actually SET goals for ourselves in the workplace? If you’re an entrepreneur, goal setting is your life. You start with the biggest end goal you can fathom and work backwards, breaking each goal down into bite-sized chunks. The same is true for the receptionist of a small company. Start with the end goal (which may be a team effort between all parties in the company), identify what parts pertain to you, and then work backwards. Break the goals into such small pieces that you can work on them for just 10 minutes a day to continue toward your goal.
A recent goal I had for myself was to write an e-book. Sounds a lot easier than done….just like being productive! Writing the content wasn’t even a third of the work it took to get the e-book live. I would have known that, and been better able to plan my evenings (working after the kids went to bed) IF I had taken the time to task analyze each part of the bigger goal on paper instead of just jumping into what I THOUGHT was the proper process. Don’t waste your time, invest it toward something great!
Rethink Your Workspace
Finally, take a look at the physical space around you. Do you even like your workspace? Research has proven that when we are unhappy with our workspace, we tend to work less. We avoid the space, find ways to waste time in the space (like trolling social media), and produce lower quality work. If you don’t like your space, identify why. Do you need better lighting? Buy a lamp. Do you hate your pens? Find ones that write like they cost a million bucks. And what about your desk? Reviews.com just published a recent study identifying the best standing desk. If sitting has got you in a rut, consider upgrading to a desk that adjusts in height. These desks allow your creativity, comfort, and design needs to be met all at once, increasing your productivity.
I’d love to hear from you! How are you becoming more productive at work? Share your stories and strategies in the comments below.
For most people, the kitchen is the heart of the home.
EVERYTHING happens here. From snacks and lighthearted conversation to dinner parties and budget discussions, this room is obviously more than countertops and food prep. The only way to keep your kitchen functioning like the well-oiled machine it needs to be is to get it organized.
Get In The Zone
Divide your kitchen into several specific areas based on function. Your appliances will give you some clues on where each zone should be. Dishes, glasses, and flatware all belong near the dishwasher. This reduces the amount of time it takes to return dishes after they’ve been cleaned. Putting away the dishes is already hard enough --- so give yourself a break and keep them all close together. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE using these cabinet shelves from Container Store to create MORE space.
The oven and stove top are the center (or end caps if they’re separated) of your food prep zone. Keep measuring cups, mixing bowls, can openers, vegetable peelers, oven mitts, and cooking utensils nearby. Drawer dividers are a life saver and will ensure your prep pieces remain exactly where they should be. Pots and pans also belong here.
Anchor the food storage zone near your refrigerator. You may have a separate pantry that will house food items too. These spaces are ideal for Tupperware, Ziploc bags, and lunch boxes.
Finally, create a zone for serving pieces like platters, specialty dishes, ice cream scoops, and salad tongs.
Edit the Extras
Your kitchen functions best when it’s got some breathing room. Keep your cabinets, shelves, and drawers no more than 80% full. This allows you room to lift items out or set them back in place without knocking other things out of place or creating a Tupperware avalanche. To edit the extras, you’ll need to see what you have. Within each zone, pull all the similar items out. Most folks have an excessive number of mixing bowls, spatulas, and bakeware. What’s excessive? Keeping more than what you normally use between dishwasher runs (roughly 2 days' time).
Check Your Frequency
If you’ve got items that you need to keep because you normally use them, but don’t use them on a weekly or even monthly basis, then they don’t need to take up the prime storage areas of your kitchen. Prime storage encompasses the drawers, cabinets, and shelves within easy reach. If you’re only using that turkey baster at Thanksgiving, keep it with your turkey roasting pan in the deep, dark, hard to reach corner cabinet or in the garage if your kitchen is short on space. Your dishes, spices, and pantry items should follow suit. Keep the most frequently used items nearby, and lesser used items up higher or lower.
Return to Start
Now that your kitchen contains the items you need in the appropriate areas, make it a habit to always reset the area after meals or at least at the end of each day. It’s nearly impossible to cook what you want and use the correct materials when you need them if you’re always having to pause to wash what you didn’t wash before. Wash, dry, put away dishes and prepware when you finish. Don’t forget to catch the crumbs with a quick wipe down of all counters, cooktops, and the kitchen sink.
Whether or not you want to admit it, that spare room in your home IS your unofficial dumping ground. I’m talking about the guest room that only receives guests a few times a year and the home office that holds a lot of paper but doesn’t do much work. I had a friend once tell me that she referred to spare rooms as prayer rooms --- simply praying for someone to clean them up.
Don’t be embarrassed. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had our “prayer rooms” and dumping spaces because LIFE HAPPENS.
So how do we alter reality? How do we transform our spare spaces into meaningful places?
So which spare space will you attack first? The cabinets? The den? The guest room that has never been able to be a guest room? Share your stories below and don’t forget to join our #5ADayEdit challenge on Instagram.
Decluttering is never easy, but it may feel extra hard when it comes to your closet. For many people, clothes are extra difficult to part with because not only do they hold sentimental value, they also, just maybe, can be worn to that fancy cocktail event or costume party that you know you'll be invited to in the near future.
Though you may not want to donate that glittery dress you wore to senior prom, when you finally do you'll feel a sense of relief and be able to create a closet that is organized and full of versatile clothes.
When cleaning out your closet you should take all of your clothing and accessories out. It will make you truly sort through everything and categorize it based on what you want to keep and what you want to give away.
Sort each item into 3 categories: keep, sell or donate, and toss. Remember, if you haven't worn a piece in ages and don't feel confident wearing it, it's time to part ways. This flowchart by AEO will help you figure out what you actually want to keep.
If you want to take your closet cleaning endeavor to the next level, try creating a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a small, curated collection of your favorite pieces of clothing. The pieces should be versatile so that you can mix and match them.
Each season, you can create a new capsule wardrobe that's more fitting to the weather. Learn more about creating a capsule wardrobe here and use the worksheet below to help you plan your closet!
Big thanks to Alexandira Heinz with American Eagle Outfitters for reaching out to Upstate Clutter Coach to feature these amazing charts + worksheets! Have fun shopping everyone!
Happy New Year!!! As is true every January, the desire to live with less turns into a resolution. We’ve been overloaded by the holidays --- the gifts, the food, the company. In an effort to break free of the weight of so many commitments and cookies, we poise ourselves to do the incredible: to let go.
But more often than not, our excitement grows stale because we don’t know how to get started. In fact, it’s the start that stops us dead in our tracks and our resolution dies more quickly than we could have imagined.
But not this year.
You got this, because I’m going to give you the secret to getting started in just one short word:
Every person is different. Every person will have a different threshold for change. Decluttering is a BIG change with a LOT of stuff.
So start small. Start with what’s manageable for you. While I can jump into a room with great fervor, you might want to start with the skinny desk drawer.
Consider your limitations too. Although Pinterest is a gorgeous thing, it often encourages us to bite off and expect more than we can chew. If you’re a young mom with kids under 5, don’t set your sights on beautiful glass containers that hold the crayons and markers in your quaint craft corner. Embrace the season of life that you’re in and remember that these limitations won’t be the same forever. If you only have 20 minutes a day, then use your 20 minutes a day to conquer small areas (drawers, baskets, countertops). If you’re an empty nester who works full time, block off a Saturday. Mark it on your calendar and shoot for one room at a time.
You can do this! I know you can because I help folks just like you every single day. The work is hard. Sometimes tears are shed and voices raised, but at the end of the process, joy is found and worry is gone.
Letting go is a process. Sometimes it’s hard and you’ll want to give up because it seems like too big a task. But don’t give up.
Make your target areas manageable. Ask for help and accountability. Brag on yourself! That’s the entire purpose of our Facebook organizing group in Greenville: to be reminded you aren’t alone.
Be empowered to live free of the stuff! I’m right here cheering you on.
Since founding this amazing company, I've come upon 3 types of clients.
- Those trying to make the things they need, use, and love FIT into their current space.
- Those pining away for a BETTER space.
- Those wanting to edit their items so that they can START FRESH in their next space.
All three categories have ONE thing in common: a move. Whether it just happened last month, 5 years ago, or will happen in the next 365 days, my clients need direction, motivation, and understanding to achieve their goals.
In order to provide an even more stress-free and enjoyable experience, I went back to school, paid some dues, and joined a fabulous brokerage in order to provide Real Estate Services for my clients in addition to my professional organizing services.
As a professional organizer, I specialize in evaluating and restructuring spaces so that they will work best for you. My all-time favorite jobs are move-ins! We get the opportunity to start with a clean slate and put everything in its proper place. It’s no surprise that these move-in clients have often theorized what their home buying experience would have been like if they’d hired me BEFORE buying. In response, I doubled down on the books and now am a licensed Realtor in the state of South Carolina.
Not only can I help families unpack (or provide them with a list of unpacking ideas per room), I can also partner with them to help identify whether the home they want to buy is the right fit for their needs.
Here’s the EXTRA good news. Hiring me as a Buyer’s Agent is at NO ADDITIONAL cost. That’s right! Sellers typically pay for agent commissions, so as the buyer, why not hire someone who is not only AMAZING at paperwork and negotiations, but can also give her opinions on organizing solutions? It’s a no-brainer, really.
On the flip side, if you’re looking to sell your home for top dollar, I can help you get your home decluttered, organized, and marketed to sell well. As your organizer AND Realtor, you can simplify your selling process while I keep all your ducks in a row. Why not work with an agent you already trust?
I’ve partnered with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and C. Dan Joyner REALTORS to provide the best real estate experience possible. Their marketing campaigns are out of this world! Plus, as a professional organizer, you know I LOVE the fact that they are paperless. Almost every document will be online. The benefit to you is simple --- you can sign documents or counter offers while playing golf or enjoying your family vacation.
Reclaim your joy --- not just in your home, but during the transition of buying and selling too.
School is in full swing for almost everyone in America. There are lunches to pack, bookbags to stuff, and supplies to keep track of.
If you’ve got younger kids at home, you’re also battling the daily onslaught of coloring pages and crafts that have made their way through your front door.
The teachers are genius. The KNOW all the papers cannot be saved --- there just isn’t enough room in the cubbies. So they pass the hard conversation onto the parents: How do you tell your kids that your house simply isn’t big enough to contain every doodle, craft, or writing activity completed each day? And that some of these papers will meet their demise at the weekly trash collection?
You tell them the truth.
Children are very resilient. They learn quickly and bounce back from disappointment when surrounded by a supportive family. Did you catch the word supportive? In order for your kids to be okay with limiting the “prized” possessions, you’ll need to equip them with two life skills:
Lessons about value center on comparison. Which do you like more? Which did you put the most effort into creating? Which is your favorite of the day/week? Questions like these help our kids to select the best and most loved items.
Although it would be great if our schedules allowed us to go through the folder and evaluate each piece every day, that probably isn’t realistic. In the mean time, have a drop location for all the papers that come home in the folder for the week. At the end of the week, possibly on Sunday night, go through the papers and have your child pick out their top 5.
Only 5?! Only 5 per week?! You read that correctly. This is where teaching your children to establish healthy boundaries comes into play. They cannot and should not learn to keep everything. There is no reason to hold onto everything. At the same time, they should learn that there is space to keep those items that are dear to their little hearts. Remember that refusing to let a child to keep anything can lead them to develop hoarding tendencies, so you must find a healthy boundary. I like the number 5. Most likely your kid(s) will learn to choose less than that each week.
At school, it’s likely that your child’s teacher is collecting artifacts (favorites or best samples of work) for the year to demonstrate your child’s progress. You can do the exact same thing at home and even encourage your child that you’re simply following the teacher’s lead.
To contain the artifacts, purchase a clear box that holds letter size file folders and assign a grade level to each folder. (Check out which products I use for this clutter clearing activity here!) Children understand size much earlier than we give them credit. When we let them know, in a supportive and loving way, that we want to collect their best works within a folder, they quickly see that the folder is only so big. For larger projects that would not fit within the folder, take a picture of the artifact. Don’t forget to PRINT the picture and allow your child to place this image within his/her folder for the year.
If you’re collecting 5 pieces each week, your folder will quickly fill up. In this case, also go through the folder with your child as frequently as necessary. Compare items from earlier in the year to items they’ve just brought home.
It’s important during this process that YOU follow THEIR lead. If your kid loves a piece that you think is crap, let them keep the crap.
These life lessons aren’t about you.
Feel free to rescue the cast-offs for your own saving (and store them in that file folder after the year is through so that you can ask your child about keeping them at a later time). The point is to show your child that you trust their decisions and you support them in determining value and establishing boundaries in their own kid-realm.
Empower your kids with confidence as you tactfully teach them to live successfully.
Transforming chaos into categories, leaning towers into stable storage solutions, and anxiety into peace.
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Upstate Clutter Coach LLC is your licensed and insured professional home decluttering and organizing service based in Greenville, SC.
Upstate Clutter Coach, Lauren Flinte is a TOP Greenville, SC Professional Organizer on FindMyOrganizer.com!