Home Organizing

7 Common Mistakes Professional Organizers Notice (But Clients Don’t)

Even the most well-intentioned of us make mistakes when it comes to keeping our homes decluttered and organized. We may not notice, but professional organizers sure do! They are the experts, after all, and have the training and experience to recognize the areas of your home or your life that could use some help.

1. Not Decluttering Before Organizing

Organized clutter is still clutter! Before tackling an area of your home for organizing—whether it’s the pantry or your walk-in closet—do some major editing and paring down. You’ll have a good pile of stuff to donate (see #5, though), some to throw away or recycle, and what’s left should be the items you like, will use, and need. Now you can group them, organize them, and decide if you need specific storage solutions for any of them. Organizing unedited items may leave you feeling frustrated and unaccomplished.

2. Buying Organizing and Storage Solutions First

It’s so easy to watch a few episodes of Home Edit or Marie Kondo, then buy a heap of beautiful containers, bins, and shelf dividers. We totally get it—you were inspired! But hold up, because buying all that without first taking measurements, assessing your storage needs, and deciding on what will go where will actually lead to more clutter and time wasted. Edit down the area you are working on first, and then you’ll have a more accurate idea of what you truly need to buy.

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Giving the Gift of Organization

Is there someone special in your life who you feel would benefit from a gift of professional organizing services? It is definitely a thoughtful present that would help someone you care about. It’s one less “thing” they don’t need to store in their home or work space. If it’s something they may not be able to afford or would just not spend that money on themselves, then it would be a boon to their life. It’s a gift of love, really. With that being said, there are a few things to consider before giving this generous gift.

Would They Welcome This Gift?

If your brother and sister-in-law seem up to their eyeballs in clutter since the arrival of baby #2, but they are blissfully exhausted and seem fine with their messy home, gifting them a professional organizing service may actually burst their bubble and embarrass them. You don’t want your intended gift of help to create bad feelings for either of you. Think of it as giving a Weight Watchers membership to an overweight friend who has never said anything about trying to lose weight—ouch. But if they often mention how they wish they could finally finish getting the nursery set up, or get the kitchen organized so they can actually cook, or declutter the living room so it’s a more relaxing family space—then time with a pro organizer may be a great help to them.

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What to Declutter After the Holidays

Hello, January! The holiday stuff has been put away (or has it?), the amount of baking and cooking has returned to normal, and everyone is back to work and school. There are plenty of decluttering opportunities post-holiday, so pick a weekend, do a little work to clear out your home, and start the year off with an energetic bang! We’ve got some terrific ideas on what to declutter and refresh.

Holiday Items

If you actually haven’t put these away yet, here is your chance to declutter these used-once-a-year goods. The bonus is you can declutter while you are putting them away. I do this every year, and it always makes the holiday storage boxes a bit roomier even if I’ve bought a few more decorative items. Start with the lights: get rid of any strings that don’t light up or have worn, brittle, or frayed cords. Next, give each decorative piece 30-seconds of your time. Does it have worn or broken parts, or faded or chipped spots? Do you still love it? Does it still have meaning for you? Does it seem outdated or out of place? Your answers to these questions will let you decide if you are keeping or donating the item. I usually donate my still-usable items to someone in my neighborhood or city Facebook Group—there are a lot of people out there who are happy to use your holiday items. Finally, take down all those sweet holiday cards and recycle them, or send them to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children for their recycled card program.

Winter Wear

We still have almost three months left of winter weather, and now is an appropriate time to declutter your outerwear and accessories. Bring out all the winter wear for everyone in your household. Go through each item for each person—hats, scarves, coats, gloves, long underwear, socks, boots, etc. Check items for tears or untreatable stains, for fit and comfort, and for style and desirability. If you have two items that are almost identical in style, material, and purpose, consider keeping only one. Donate coats in good condition to One Warm Coat, which has several locations around Puget Sound.

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Fall Decluttering: What To Get Rid Of

It’s probably safe to say most people are spending a lot more time at home these days! With Fall coming and the cooler, wetter weather on the horizon, there is even more indoor time to be had. While we’re all looking forward to pumpkin spice lattés, new Netflix shows, and the start of the holiday season, we should also take the opportunity to get rid of stuff. “Stuff” is an excellent catch-all term for items that just seem to accumulate over time and overstay their use and need. I look at the start of every season as a perfect time to clear out certain spaces around the house. These are awesome mini projects that should take no more than 1-2 hours each. Do one or two for a few weekends, and by Halloween you’ll have accomplished quite a lot!

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Put Your Home On An Organization Diet

We’ve all gone on a food diet at some point—changing the way you eat to create a more balanced and healthy body, mind, and lifestyle. Ever think of putting your cluttered and disorganized home on a diet? It’s the same idea, except this time you’re working on changing your household patterns and habits instead. Clearing out the clutter and getting your home more organized is a huge boost to your health, both physical and mental. With more time spent at home than normal, it’s the perfect time to work on your home environment. Enlist your other household members and spend a weekend or two on this new “diet”! Of course, if you don’t have the time or the energy, or if you just feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to bring in a professional organizer.

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What Happens During A Simplify Experts Assessment?

If you’ve been reading our monthly newsletters, following us on social media, or checking out our website, you are probably familiar with Simplify Expert’s amazing offer of a complimentary consultation. Founder Denise Allan visits your home and spends about an hour meeting with you and assessing your organizing needs and goals.

I am a Simplify Experts employee, but I am also a homeowner with current decluttering needs! With one child launched, another off to university in the Fall, and only one teen left living at home, our family will be downsizing to a smaller home in a couple of months. Our current home has 10 years’ worth of accumulation. Going from a fairly large home to a medium-sized home means getting rid of significant pieces of furniture; toys, games, sports equipment, books, and clothes that our older kids no longer need; and all kinds of household items we no longer use.

The closing date for our new home was looming, and the listing date for our current home was moved up. We weren’t quite in “panic mode,” but we did need to speed up our process and get the house ready—fast!—for the video/photo pro, and then to list a few days after that. You’d think after four months of quarantine we would have already completely organized and decluttered the house (as well as learned a new language and kept a sourdough starter alive). Our home wasn’t particularly messy or disorganized, but once we started the process of going through everything, it felt and looked like a small tsunami had hit. My kids took everything out of their closets, shelves, and under-bed storage. My husband and I did the same with our offices, the storage room, rec room, and study. The hallways and larger rooms became depositories of everything and we could barely even walk through! Overwhelmed much?

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7 Easy Habits to Keep Your Home (Almost) Germ-Free

While most of us have never dealt with a global pandemic before, we are all widely experienced at cleaning our own homes. It’s not just about using disinfecting cleaners—though it is definitely important to use these regularly to sanitize surfaces. We’re talking about simple things you can do to keep germs from entering and proliferating in your home. If you get your family to make a habit of following these steps, you’ll keep those nasty germs at the minimum (c’mon, you know no one can achieve 100% germ-free status!), for now and for the future.

1. Leave Your Shoes at the Door

According to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shoes may potentially function as carriers for the COVID-19 virus. Think of all the places you go with your shoes (your neighborhood sidewalks, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, etc.). Our shoes are capable of tracking in and spreading germs around our homes. Keep a storage shelf and a bench in your entryway or in the garage, and get everyone in the habit of removing their shoes and then washing their hands. Have comfy slippers or house shoes nearby for an easy transition.

2. Sanitize Your Cleaning Tools

Sponges, mops, dish cloths, dust rags, cleaning cloths—these could all be major breeding grounds for germs. Sponges and dish brushes are easy: pop it into the dishwasher every time you run a load, and regularly replace sponges every few weeks. The other cleaning cloths should be sanitized in between uses with a Hot washer + High dryer cycle, or a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Tools with handles, such as brooms, scrubbers, and buckets, can be sanitized by wiping the handles and exteriors down with disinfectant.

3. Put Down The Toilet Lid

The term “toilet plume” is actually as bad as it sounds. It is the undetectable spray your toilet releases upward of 15 feet each time you flush the toilet, dispersing microscopic bacteria that can linger in the air for up to six hours and settling down on any surfaces (including towels) in your bathroom. The no-brainer, easy solution is to put down the lid before you flush. One second of “work” for a pretty big payoff.

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Quick and Easy House Projects To Do During Quarantine

With the current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order extended to May 4 in Washington State, professional organizing services (along with many other services) have been temporarily halted. While we can’t come to your home and help you organize right now, we can still give you some quick and simple tips on cleaning, decluttering, and organizing! Think of these mini projects as the precursor to your spring cleaning, as most can be done in less than a day. Do you have kids at home doing remote learning? Let them take a recess and give you a hand; it may earn them some extra screen time or the chance to pick this weekend’s takeout dinner!

Remember the “forgotten” places.

Under your bed, your baseboards, under the sofas and armchairs, the fan vents in your bathrooms, the top of your fridge and kitchen cupboards—these are just a few of the areas in your home that most likely don’t get a regular cleaning. Say goodbye to the dust bunnies! Move any furniture that’s in the way, get a good, damp microfiber cloth and the hose attachment for your vacuum, and have a go at these dusty spots.

Put winter away.

Is your entryway or mudroom still looking like it’s February? It’s April…it’s time to let all that winter gear hibernate till next year. Gather up boots, heavy coats, hats, scarves and gloves; clean or wash them before putting them away. If you’ve got a rug or boot tray, give it a good shake outside or a good vacuuming. Same goes for your winter sports gear—skis, poles, ski clothes, helmets, sleds—clean what needs it, and then store them away for next season. Now you’ve got room for your spring stuff!

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How to Work From Home Efficiently (And Not Drive Your Partner Crazy!)

The Greater Seattle area is currently dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, and many companies are requiring or requesting that their employees work from home for the foreseeable future. This is new territory for many households. Can one be productive Working From Home (WFH)? Can one or two people be WFH and not drive each other crazy? Can they still do fun couples’ stuff in the evenings and on weekends? Yes, yes, and yes! We’ve got two points-of-view here, and we think they both have insights and experience to help make WFH be a positive experience for all involved.

POV 1: The Newly Working-from-Home Partner

Define your working space

Even if your WFH situation is temporary, take an hour to set up your environment as a real workspace. If it’s just the corner of a study or spare bedroom, make it your own: put up a couple pictures, have a cup with pens, and make everything in your sightline look like an office you would be happy to work in. If you don’t have a functional desk, buy one—you should be able to find something decent for under $100 (Note: There are currently over 1,500 desks listed on Craigslist.). Trying to work from a round kitchen table will feel foreign and difficult as far as forearm placement. And if you are on frequent video calls, look behind you to be sure the background doesn’t give off an America’s Most Wanted vibe.

Define and protect your working hours

The possibilities for distraction at home are endless. Most information-age jobs can look to family members a whole lot like you are just sitting around. But after even a quick distraction from a mental task, it takes the human brain about 10 minutes to restore focus. Establish your office hours and tell everyone in your household when you are available and when you are not.

Once you establish focused working hours, enjoy the flexibility. The lack of commuting time may buy you an extra hour or two per day. As you schedule your time, work in lunches with your spouse or friends, go to your kids’ games, even take a quick nap. I have found that the flexibility to segment my own time and work rhythms has made me far more productive.

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Creating Your Very Own Real World She Shed

She shed sea shells by the seashore. That’s what she shed. Wait…what?! The whole “she shed” concept came about several years ago as the woman’s equivalent of the man cave: a personal sanctuary to recharge, relax, and de-stress. Doesn’t that sound divine? Search Pinterest for “she shed,” however, and the photos can overwhelm one with their full-blown cottages replete with high-end decor, skylights, a mini fridge, porch swing…you name it. While the concept of a private retreat is a major plus for self-care, creating a she shed shouldn’t become yet another burdensome house project or expense. And honestly, most people don’t have an old garden shed, gazebo, or cottage on their property to transform into an English garden- or fairy tale-inspired she shed. We’ve got ideas on how to bring the she shed idea back to a realistic and manageable level so that every woman can create one without stressing out or spending a lot.

Find Your Space

If you do happen to have a structure on your property you want to convert into a fabulous she shed, that’s awesome—more power to you! If you don’t, you’ll need to get a little creative. Think of “she shed” as a concept, and not necessarily a building. Is your kiddo off to college? Consider transforming their bedroom into your she shed, and having them bunk with a sibling when they’re home for a spell. Does your garage have an extra bay? Do you have a screened-in porch? A sitting area in your bedroom? A never-used “formal” dining room? A really big walk-in closet? See where I’m going with this? Find even a corner that you can make your personal oasis; then cordon it off with a room divider or screen for more privacy.

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