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Organizing Tips

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Photos - clutter or honored memories?

Posted on May 16, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Most of the clients I work with have hundreds of envelopes of photos or crumbling albums, in numerous bins, stacked in a closet or on shelves in the basement. Some have not tackled this project with excuses of:

1) I have no time. Now is a great time to start!!

2) It never had a deadline. Create one – honor dad and aim for Father’s Day.

3) It is just too big, too much. Let’s break it down into manageable phases.

Make a Plan

Before you open a single bin, think about these:

Are these my own memories or someone else's – Grandma, Dad, offspring? Did I take these photos, or did I inherit them? Am I going through these for me, my family, my kids, or someone else?

What am I aiming for? When this ‘project’ is finished, what does that look like? Is it sorted into one box for each kid, a physical photo album or something electronic? Is it a specific album focused on each one of my kids or one album for the whole family?

What time and money do I have available for this project? Am I aiming for quantity or quality?

Set Up for Success

I recommend that you designate an area for this project. If you leave it out and available, you are more likely to spend bits of time working there. You need a good size table, a comfortable chair, several smaller empty boxes and an open trash bin next to the chair.

If you plan for one family album, then label the empty boxes by decade. If you plan separate albums by kid, then label the empty boxes with the kids’ names. Manila envelopes can also be used for sorting.

First Phase

Pick a bin, pick an envelope and get started. Be discriminating and keep the very best of a memory – 36 pictures of the Grand Canyon, keep 2-3. If the photos do not have the date printed on them, check the envelopes for when they were developed. With a pencil, mark the back of the photo with the date, if you have it. Discard bad and blurry pictures, the crumbling albums, envelopes and negatives.

If you come across framed photos, consider whether you will display it again in the frame. If so, find a spot for it. If not, remove it from the frame. Keep a few of the best frames and donate the rest.

Sort the best of the photos into the boxes marked by decade or kid. Keep going until you have been through all the envelopes and bins of the physical photos you have. Now that you have gone from six large bins to two. Pat yourself on the back. That was great progress!

Second Phase

If your goal was for each kid to get their own photos, then use sturdy plastic bins with tight lids, and get your kids their photos!

If your goal was to create an album, go back to each of the sorted boxes and work on putting them in chronological order (at least pretty close). As you do, it is likely you will be able to edit them even further. Continue to make time for this work until you complete this phase.

If you are purchasing an album to put the photos in yourself, make sure it is photo safe / acid free. You could choose to have your pictures digitized so you can upload them into an online site like Shutterfly to create an album there. I highly recommend Charter Oak Scanning in Stonington. Give Robert my name and he will give you my discount for APPO / NAPO.


Airing Dirty Laundry Problems

Posted on December 27, 2019 at 2:20 PM


Clothing strewn across the floor in the bedroom, bathroom, closet; across the living room furniture or the dining room table. Piles of clothes and overflowing baskets from the basement to the bedrooms. With many of my clients, I have had to broach the dirty problem of laundry issues.


One client had clothing strewn across the dining room on the first floor of her home. She explained to me that dirty laundry had made its way from the second-floor bedrooms. She planned to sort it here and take each load to the basement for washing. A few baskets of clean laundry had been brought up so she could use the dining room table for folding. The process had been interrupted by several days and it was now difficult to tell the clean from the dirty. Her suggested solution was to start over and wash it all.


Another client, a preteen dressed for school right in front of her closet. If the leggings she had thrown on were too small, they came off and were left on the floor. A t-shirt, a hand-me-down from the older sibling, is too big. That ends up on the floor as well. At the end of the day, she changes into pajamas in the same spot, with the day’s clothing added to the pile. Eventually mom scoops up everything – washes, folds and returns it all to the daughter’s closet – for the cycle to start all over again.


Time to stop and really think about whether you have laundry problems. What are the road blocks? A few of the many solutions that I have implemented:

• Purchased laundry hampers for every bedroom

• Relocated the washer and dryer to the same floor as the bedrooms

• Purged dressers and closets so it is easier to put clean clothing away

• Moved clothing that doesn’t fit to another space or donated

• Removed all the empty hangers taking up space in the closet

• Placed a box in every bedroom closet. Clearly mark it ‘Donations”

• Assigned each roommate a specific day to complete their own laundry

• Replaced dressers with cubbies for individuals that are more visual

• etc. etc. etc.


Resolution Solutions

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Forty-five percent of Americans make New Year's Resolutions. In my work over the past nine years, I have seen the effects that decluttering and organizing can have on individuals and families so I offer you my potential solutions, to your potential resolutions:

1. Lose weight When the kitchen and your meal planning is organized, you are more likely to eat at home, consuming healthier meals and snacks.

2. Get organized Clutter and disorganization can cause strife between roommates. Learning to be more organized can help.

3. Spend less and save more When organized, you can find and use what you have, thereby purchasing less and saving money.

4. Enjoy life to the fullest When your home or office is more organized, it takes less time to do just about everything, freeing up time to enjoy the rest of life.

5. Stay fit and healthy Organizing itself burns between 170 and 200 calories per hour. If we are laughing while we do it together, it burns another 10 to 40 calories every 10 minutes. Use less time looking for things amidst the chaos and more time taking walks, experiencing new adventures.

6. Learn something exciting Work with a Professional Organizer and learn how to be more organized in your life then go out and take a new class.

7. Quit smoking All I can offer here is the fact that being more organized, greatly reduces stress. Related? Perhaps.

8. Help others in their dreams Organizing life can include fulfilling dreams. Your photos are organized enough so that you can create a photo slide show for a special event. Fall in love I can go out on a limb and say that when you are more organized in life, you are more content with yourself and may be more open to the possibility of love???

9. Spend more time with friends and family Your home is decluttered, organized and lovely. Why not offer to have friends over for a game night, or offer to host the next family gathering and create more memories.

Mealtime Mayhem

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 3:00 PM

"Bring order to the mayhem of mealtime". This was on my mile long TO DO list. Because it never had a due date, it stayed on that list, unfinished, for years (seriously). It was not until I put it on my calendar as an action item, that it was finally accomplished. There were several goals: healthier meals for my family, less stress about WHAT to make, fewer trips to the grocery store, save money, eat out less, utilize leftovers more.

My first action was to purchase two identical packages of clear, glass food storage containers. Easier to see what is in the refrigerator, they stack easily, are more attractive and safer than plastic. The plastic food containers were then donated.

The second action was to write down all the meals that my family found delicious over the next month or so (either homemade or restaurant). Once I had 12 to 15, I had the beginnings of a three-week rotating menu. I got this idea from my childrens preschool, where they rotated 15 lunches that the kids would actually eat.

My next action was to arrange the meals so that leftovers from a bigger Sunday dinner, like baked chicken, could be used on Tuesday for chicken tacos. For each week of meals, I then created a full shopping list. I bought a pretty cloth binder and filled it with: the three-week rotating menu, a plastic sleeve with several copies of each weeks shopping list, restaurant menus for the one night a week that was left open.

Every Sunday we pull out the grocery list for that week: A, B, or C. We quickly go through the refrigerator and pantry, crossing off the items we already have in stock. Then one grocery trip for the week. Everyone in the household knows what is planned for dinner each night and can start or prepare dinner according to our availability.

The result is priceless! I only wish that I had put it on my calendar and accomplished it many years ago. Like I say to my clients, let us celebrate that it is DONE now, rather than fret over how long it took to get there.

Collect Moments, Not Things

Posted on July 15, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Consider the items you have in your life. When did plenty spill over into just too much? Some real examples working with clients:

  • 96 pairs of yoga pants
  • 44 pairs of scissors
  • 32 pairs of sneakers
  • 23 Vera Bradley bags
  • 6 sets of china
  • extra luggage, lamps and chairs, etc. 

You get the picture. All that we possess requires our attention, care, time, and money. Why hold onto more than enough?

You can choose to spend your life buying, collecting and tending to stuff. Or, you can live life collecting memories - share a sandwich and a long afternoon with a friend, chat over a jigsaw puzzle with mom, hike with the dogs, sit on the lawn at a local music festival, take an afternoon swim in the Sound, enjoy an evening bonfire and marshmallows listening to the crickets.

Your Life! Your Choices!

Household Station

Posted on February 15, 2016 at 7:00 AM

You are getting ready for work, grab a blouse and put it on. “Oh, right! That missing button.” You return the blouse to the hanger, or worse, throw it on the floor where it gets swept into the laundry only to return to your closet a week later.

Rummaging through the kitchen drawer you pull out that power cord; still a mystery as to what it belongs to. But you find what you opened the drawer for and shove the cord back inside.

You ask your kids to clean up the toy room. They do their best, but there is simply not enough room for the older toys and the new ones that come in every year on birthdays and holidays.

Every household needs a station - “a stop on route”. All household members need to know where the station is and how to use it.

One bin is marked ‘action’. This is where the blouse goes until you have time to check your button supply or go shopping at Joann Fabrics. The figurine and broken piece go here until someone has time to glue them back together. The cleats that don't belong to your child go here until the rightful owner calls to ask if they were left behind. 

One bin is marked ‘donate’. This is for the toys that Johnny no longer plays with, the baseball mitt Sarah used one season, the clothes that no longer fit Henry and the seasonal décor that is no longer displayed.



If Not Now, When?

Posted on January 15, 2016 at 7:00 AM

If you made New Year's resolutions, were any of them carried over from last January? Do you have wishes that you just keep wishing? "I crave to be healthier! I aspire to be more organized! I wish for financial security!" How long have these been on your mind or your TO DO list? It can be exhausting to drag them around with you.

You will recognize these words from my other writings - STOP, think and plan. We must spend focused attention on each resolution, wish or TO DO. One at a time, sit quietly and ask yourself whether this came from inside you or from the outside. Was it your idea or is it a SHOULD that came from outside - your mother, your partner or the media?

If you discover it is not important to you after all, hit delete, scratch it off the list and let it go.

If you discover it is important but not a pirority now, make a note in your claendar or planner for a reasonable time in the future and let it go for now. 

You might discover it is important to you; it consistently pops up on your list or in your thoughts. It makes you crazy to think about how long you have been wishing you 'could' or 'would' (fill in the blank). Then it is time for a little action. If not now, when?

Time to get clear about WHY - what difference is it going to make; the satisfaction you will feel upon completion. Then get clear about WHAT - picture what this looks like when it is complete; the impact it will have on you/your family/your days.

Only after you have taken the time to think about these will you have the motivation necessary to take action. Then it is simply the first baby step, which could be: 

  • make a call
  • do research
  • clear your desk and leave a note front and center

Refuse to think about the whole project. Just take that first baby step. When that is done, on to the next baby step. Why not take that step right now? If not now, when?


Clutter-free Gifting

Posted on December 15, 2015 at 7:00 AM

As a Professional Organizer about 20% of my work is actual organizing. The first 80% is often helping clients make decisions about their stuff. What do they use and love; and what to do with the rest? Most clients have ‘never used’ items - doesn’t fit, don’t care for it, what is it anyway? And yet it is kept because ‘it was a gift’. Folks feel obliged to hold onto a gift, even if they don’t need it, use it, or love it.


As the gift giving season approaches, might I suggest we stop and rethink our gift giving ways? You can either approach the holidays by hurling yourself into the closest megamall, clutching your list and credit card, wearing a strained look of determination, or start by sitting down in a sunny spot with a warm beverage, delightful snack, list of gift recipients, a pen and the following list of ideas.


With a gift, our intent is to let people know we love, appreciate, or care about them. We all could benefit (especially in this tough economy) from giving and receiving exactly what is needed/used/loved. That gift could be a homemade coupon for trading a talent or energy, a gift of a special treat or learning experience, and there is nothing wrong with a very thoughtful gift certificate.


Keep the ‘No Clutter’ theme in mind as you start noting gift ideas next to each loved one. As you read each idea think about giving and receiving. Most folks appreciate receiving helpful gift ideas for what you need/use/love. No one wants to spend money on a gift that becomes someone else’s clutter.


Relax and let your creative juices flow…


Trade talents and energy

• Make food and stock a freezer for a pregnant niece, an elderly uncle, or someone with an upcoming surgery.

• Run errands for a busy or housebound relative, friend or neighbor.

• For someone who loves shopping or hiking or (fill in the blank), pack a picnic and spend a day with them doing their favorite pastime.

• Kid-sit so a mom can have a day all to herself. Gift it early so she can do her holiday errands without hassle.

• Offer to cook and/or clean up at the next party of someone that loves to entertain.

• Teach word processing skills, like mail merge, to the sister that struggles with her family holiday letter every year.

• You have a green thumb and your friend has pretty planters standing empty. Ask if you can fill them with low maintenance houseplants for her.

• Ask a tech savvy nephew to teach you how best to use your smart phone, iPad or social media.

• Know someone that has all the equipment needed to transfer your favorite music from LP or cassette tape to DVD or digital? Or how about old movies or slides to digital?

• Ask Auntie to make you one of her amazing pies for your next dinner party. If she is very generous, how about a pie-a-month, all year long?


The Gift of Experiences

• Creative person – paint pottery at The Clayroom or painting, drawing, photography classes at Mystic Arts Center, glass-blowing, stained glass, caning chairs, etc.

• Future Scientist – Mad Science day camp or birthday party

• Harried couple – dinner, evening or weekend at Stonecroft Country Inn or Bee and Thistle Inn and Spa, or any of the other fabulous SECT locales

• Aspiring Chef – A one-day class in the kitchen at Culinary Institute of America, only 3 hours from SECT

• Sports enthusiast – classes in archery, golf, tennis, etc.

• Music lover – instruction in drumming, piano, guitar, on and on.

• Youth adventurer – sleep away or day camps like Camp Hazen in Chester or trapeze or circus camp

• Walking buff – a gift of a walking tour from haunting CT Walking Tours, to architecture New England Curiosities, to history the Freedom Trail.

• Busy moms that give and give – a day at the spa or simply a massage, manicure and pedicure just for her.

• Entire Family – Annual pass to the local zoo, aquarium, seaport, children's museum or science museum. Gift cards for Family fun centers, theme parks, national park passes.



There is nothing wrong with a very thoughtful gift that the recipient can ‘use up’ rather than put on a shelf.

• Grandma who still sends notes – Stationary, postage stamps and a wall calendar. Consider pre-filling the relatives’ birthdays and anniversary dates for her!

• Music lover – downloads for an Ipod.

• Car lover – a booklet of car washes starts at $39.95 Rapid Car Wash in New London

• Teenagers on the move – Gift certificates for Skiing, rock climbing walls, movie/concert passes, gasoline cards.

• Teenagers that just move their thumbs – Find out what system they have and then gift cards like Xbox live gold gift cards from Game Stop

• For the community minded – a gift in their name. Locally Gemma Moran Food Center or globally Heifer International. You can use this as a tax deduction if you give to a recognized 501©(3) not-for-profit organization (check status at irs.gov/app/pub-78), itemize when you file your taxes and keep documentation.

• A basket of ‘yummies’ to have on hand for a quiet winter night in front of the fire or for unexpected guests that drop in.


Shop at Home First

All year long as you look into the nooks and crannies of your home, pull out any items that you have never used and put them aside in a bin. When looking for the perfect gift for the holidays or during the year – birthday of a coworker, hostess gift, etc. Shop in the bin first, you’ll be surprised what you already have:

• Beautiful picture frame – just add a special picture or favorite quote and give it as a gift.

• ‘Like new’ favorite children’s book or movie – pass it on to your nephew’s kids.

• Hysterical cocktail napkins in the wrapper – gift to your entertaining brother-in-law.

• Funny ‘old fart’ hat you received for your 50th

• Lovely scented candle that makes you sneeze but your scent loving girlfriend would appreciate

• Pretty wind chime that only made your neighbor complain

• Bottle of wine – you don’t drink but your uncle with the wine cellar would love!


Smart Gift Requests

After you’ve been through the list, keep your notes with you. When someone asks what you would like to receive have an answer ready for them. Consider those everyday items that are a bit aged and could be replaced, but we often don’t take the time or money to treat ourselves:

• plush robe

• lovely flannel bed sheets

• fluffy bath towels

• anything you love, use all the time, but it is starting to look worn out

• and what kitchen couldn’t use some fresh dish towels and cloths?


If all else fails, give a gift certificate “For Peace of Mind”. The recipient will get help with any space in their life that frustrates them the most – from attic to basement, closets, time and paper management, etc. Call Sandra Wheeler at (860) 608-0451 or send an e-mail to forpeaceofmind@sbcglobal.net.


I wish for you a stress-free, thoughtful, Gift Giving Holiday Season!


Five Biggest 'BUTS'

Posted on February 15, 2015 at 7:00 AM

#1 Client: i haven't used that (worn it) in years, BUT I might now. 

Response: If you are fearful of parting with something, think about it this way - items that no longer suit you are taking up space and preventing you from experiencing what is exactly right for you now. If you still feel fear, practice parting with things temporarily. Put no longer used items in a box, label it with a date several months out and put it in the garage. If you haven't pulled anything out by the deadline, donate the whole box. Chances are, you will feel empowered.  Let go of what no longer serves you, so you might enjoy what has been waiting for you. 

#2 Client: BUT, it is a memory.

Response: Be selectively sentimental. If you keep everything, your precious memories will be lost among the clutter. Find a pretty treasure box and keep a few items. Choose a bookshelf and intermingle treasures with books so you see them often and smile. For larger items, consider taking a photo and giving the item to someone who will use it. Or, repurpose items like making a quilt from all of your marathon t-shirts or turning an older armoire into a potting shed.

#3 Client: BUT, I am going to fix that one day.

Response: First, do you have the ability / tools / pieces / time to fix this item? If so, you probably would have done it already. If not, can you afford to have someone else fix it? If so, who? Is it worth it? If you are still determined to fix it yourself, schedule a deadline on your calendar and start to gather what you will need to accomplish this once and for all.

#4 Client: BUT, it was a gift. 

Response: We've already established that you don't use it and don't even necessarily like it, "but it was a gift". Items you don't love and use, drag your spirits down every time you see them. Donate the item, let go of any guilt and let someone else find this treasure for themself. If these 'gifts'are hand-me-down offerings from your family or friends, be more straightforward next time they offer you their things. Simply say "Thank you, I already have plenty of my own stuff."  

#5 Client: BUT, I haven't read it yet.

Response: No one has time to read everything. Sorry! Decide what is worthy of your limited precious time! Junk mail can go straight from the mailbox into the recycle bin or shredder. When a new magazine, catalog or newspaper arrives, recycle the old one whether you have looked through it or not. Consider stopping some catalogs and magazines completely by going on www.catalogchoice.org. Most information is available online today. 

Home Organizing - The Basics

Posted on January 15, 2015 at 7:00 AM

  • Keep a bin labeled "ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD" so every member of the household knows where to put items they are ready to let go. 
  • Assign specific 'zones' to all of the areas of your home - cupboards, closets, shelves and drawers. Have zones for sporting equipment, games and puzzles, office supplies, archive paper records, seasonal decor, batteries, etc. Label them for a week or two until everyone gets used to the new locations.  
  • Prioritize storage areas by placing often-used items in the most convenient locations. Infrequently used items can be placed in less accessible spots, such as top shelves, rear corners of closets, attic or basement. 
  • Group your like items together. Keep all holiday and seasonal decorations together in the basement, all sports equipment in one corner of the garage, and all tools at the workbench. 
  • Hold a family 'clear out' day twice a year where you declutter, reorganize, and sell, giveaway or donate unneeded items.
  • Hide what is unattractive either behind closed doors or inside something else.
  • Idenitfy and label all storage boxes and bins for ease in relocating.
  • Anticipate future storage needs (for files, photographs, books, etc.) by allowing some empty spaces.