Home Organizing

Top 5 Things to Do in January

Take care of these tasks this month and stay more organized for 2020!

  1. Make all the regular medical and dental appointments for you and your family for the rest of the year. You’ll have your choice of days/times if you do it this early, and you’ll be less likely to juggle last-minute calendar changes.
  2. While you’re working on your calendar, also add in dates for home and family upkeep: changing the furnace filters, changing the brush heads on your electric toothbrush, oil changes for your car, etc.—anything you do once or more annually.
  3. Buy cards! Hit up your favorite card store and buy birthday cards for your special people for the whole year. Also replenish your Thank You card stash, and get holiday cards while they’re on sale this month.
  4. Clean out your recipe sources. Whether you use cookbooks, index cards, a sectioned folder, or a binder, January is a great time to cull these down. Sit down and go through your recipes; recycle anything you didn’t cook last year, and will likely not cook this year.
  5. Do you have donation boxes that filled up after your holiday haul? Don’t wait; get these in your car and drop them off at your donation center of choice.
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How to Host A Guest When You Don’t Have a Guest Room

In my college days and early 20’s, “hosting a guest” basically meant having someone crash on my couch. Now that we are all “adulting” (that word still cracks me up), hosting a friend or relative means a whole lot more. We want to make guests feel welcome and comfortable, keep them entertained, respect their privacy, and hope they’ll visit again. This is definitely easier to do when you’ve got a guest room. But if your home or apartment doesn’t have the luxury of dedicated extra space for a visitor, it doesn’t mean you can’t host one. You just need to get a little more creative. We’ve got some helpful tips and tricks on hosting a guest when you don’t have a guest room.

A Clean Welcome

Now is a great time to give your place a good deep-clean, and while you’re at it, add in some decluttering and organizing. If you haven’t seen your visitors in a few years, nothing says “Welcome” like beckoning them into your clean, calm place that they can feel at home in, whether it’s for two nights or a week. Clear out your entryway, get everything off your dining table, fold and put away the laundry on the sofa, and scrub down the bathroom. It will give your guests a great impression as well as make you feel house-proud! If you need extra help, a professional organizer can support your efforts to getting your home guest-ready.

Create A Space

Your guests will appreciate a little bit of privacy, and without a guest room you’ll need to find an area of your home that you can temporarily set up as their personal space. It may be a corner of the living room, part of the playroom, or half of your home office. Consider getting a temporary room divider; they aren’t too expensive and can be easily put away for future use. You could even use it as a decorative element during the rest of the year. Move some furniture around to create this space; you may need to move some items into another room or the hall to do so.

Set Up A Cozy Sleeping Situation

Friends and family will understand that you can’t set them up like it’s the Four Seasons. Whether they’ll be sleeping on a sofa or daybed, a sofabed, a futon, or a blow-up mattress, do make up their “bed” with fresh sheets, pillows, and warm blankets. A well-rested guest will be a more amiable guest! Give them two blankets—a cuddly, thick one and a lighter one—so they can adjust their coverings to their preferred temperature. Use an end table or another small table for their nightstand. Clear it off and add a lamp, and set it near a power outlet if you can. Provide them with earplugs, too; an eye mask if the room gets a lot of light from outside. Adding a couple of magazines and a local guidebook would be a lovely gesture.

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Say Goodbye to Your Storage Unit

Are you one of the 9.4% of U.S. households that own a storage unit? Be honest and think about the last time you needed to get something stored in your unit. Has it been three months, six months, or even a year? Chances are you could get rid of that storage unit and most of its contents, saving you an average of $89 a month. If you rented the unit as a temporary storage solution, consider the “temporary” part and recall why you had to rent the unit in the first place. Was it to store overflow items before or after a move? Did you rent it after you downsized your home or an aging parent’s? Were you using it to store items for a future estate sale? Whatever the reason, it’s probably time to clean out and say goodbye to your storage unit.

Step 1: Prepare yourself

It’s a big project that could take more than a day. Work in 4-hour time chunks if you can (it may take multiple sessions!). Do a last-minute pit stop at the location bathroom, and have a water bottle and a protein bar on hand. This is physical work and you’ll hit decision fatigue by the 4-hour limit. If you haven’t been to your storage unit in a long while, you likely won’t remember every item in there. Bring in extra hands, not just for heavy lifting and sorting, but for emotional support. You may come across items you have not seen in ages, such as your departed grandmother’s favorite dishes. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and sentimental about things you have dear memories of, but know you need to part with.

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Your Step-by-Step Thanksgiving Guide

When November rolls in, it means the Thanksgiving countdown is on. You’ve got three weeks or so to plan and execute a fabulous Thanksgiving feast. If the mere thought of your Thanksgiving task list makes you cringe, we can help! Thanksgiving is about spending time with your special people and enjoying a traditional meal together. With our step-by-step guide, we can help you focus on that instead of stressing out about all the tasks at hand. Don’t aim to be a Martha Stewart-level hostess; remember, she has dozens of minions doing most of the work behind the scenes!

Early November

  • Finalize your Thanksgiving guest list. Take care of the calls, emails, and texts to nail down who is coming to your house for the big turkey meal. Let your family know who will be joining you for Thanksgiving and let them know you will need everyone’s help in getting your home ready.
  • Haven’t seen your dining room table in awhile? It’s time to clear away the clutter it’s buried under. Enlist your family’s help. As a part of playtime, children can return toys and arts and crafts to their bedrooms. You and your partner can put away items which don’t belong in the dining room. Resist hiding the clutter in a bedroom or closet to be dealt with later. If your dining room (kitchen, pantry, entryway) is buried, and clearing it out seems like an impossible task, don’t hesitate to contact Simplify Experts for help.
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The Don’ts of Decluttering and Organizing

Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

There are endless articles out there sharing tips and hacks on how to declutter and organize your spaces. Of course you should start with a plan and a set of priorities. Yes, you should set aside a realistic of amount time and energy to undertake this project. If you can, enlist your partner and other family members to help. Those are just a few of the DO’s to organizing. What I’ve got here is a list, gleaned from our very own Simplify Experts organizers, of some excellent DON’Ts to decluttering and organizing.

Time Solutions

  • Do not try to do it all in one day.
  • Don’t establish unrealistic goals such as the entire house in one day or the whole garage in two hours.
  • Don’t expect things to go quickly; i.e. the disorganization did not happen in one day, so it won’t be fixed in one day.
  • Do not try to do an entire room, closet, or garage all at once. Divide the space into sections and get through each one before tackling the next.
  • Don’t underestimate the time it takes to sort through things, whether it’s paper piles, clothes, or toys.

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Ho Ho Oh No! Holiday Time Management and ADHD

“I’m so confused!” was my first thought as I walked into Home Depot and saw frightening Halloween decorations for sale positioned right next to dazzling Hanukkah and Christmas delights. My initial reaction was followed by, “Wait, isn’t it a bit early for Christmas decoration sales?”. Then my heart skipped a beat and the panic set in: “Yikes! I need to get started on all that holiday stuff or I’ll never get everything done!” The onset of the holiday season can be both exhilarating and terrifying. This is one time of the year during which time management is crucial. For those struggling with ADHD and/or have loved ones challenged by ADHD, time management during the Fall holidays can be particularly daunting.

Time management encompasses the ability to both “see” and “feel” time. Visual cues are used to observe the passage of time, such as the movement of hands on an analog clock or changing shadow patterns on a sidewalk throughout the day. We feel time as we perceive its passage before, during, and after our experiences. Furthermore, we gauge our behavior using the concept of a time horizon—how near in time something needs to be for someone to be motivated into action. According to psychologist Ari Tuckman, people challenged by ADHD experience a shorter time horizon. That motivation kicks in much closer in time to when the event will take place, greatly affecting time management. Tuckman asserts that those with ADHD recognize two times: now and not now. All this spells trouble when trying to navigate the holiday months amidst deadlines, events, and additional responsibilities. However, there are strategies to help deal with the impact that ADHD plays on time management during the holidays.

Strategy 1: Start Now

Calendars: This is the time of year when the calendar becomes your best friend. That snazzy calendar app on your smartphone is sure handy because it travels with you (assuming you’re like me and take it with you everywhere) and is so versatile. However, I can’t stress enough the importance of a more visual, paper calendar for this time of year. It is much easier to visualize that time horizon as well as your increased commitments if you use a paper calendar, especially one with large day blocks in which to record entries you can readily see. If you are in charge of scheduling for a family, a personal calendar as well as a family calendar is helpful for coordinating everyone’s activities while not losing sight of your own commitments.

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De-Summer and Clean Out Your Car

School is now in full swing, and the long, lazy days of summer have given way to the regularity of school, work, after-school activities, and early bedtimes. You’ve transitioned your home and schedule to autumn’s rhythms. But have you done the same with your car? If it’s still full of July and August’s evidence, then it’s time to de-summer and clean out your car with these five steps.

Step 1: Empty the Car Interior and Trunk

I like to move my car to the driveway so I can work with all the doors wide open. If you’ve got items such as carseats, cargo organizers, sports equipment, beach toys, dog mats, etc., take them out of the car. Create two groups: items that need to go back in, such as carseats, and items that can be stored elsewhere (e.g., beach toys).

Step 2: Take Out the Trash

Take a small garbage bag and pick up all the trash. Inside the car check every door jamb, under the seats (best to move them forward/back to get everything), seat pockets, storage compartments, and the glove box. Chances are you will find all kinds of stuff! Food wrappers, empty ziplock bags, small toys, tickets stubs. You may also find things that were “lost”, such as your teen’s ASB card from last year.

Step 3: Clean It Like You Mean It

Take the mats out of the car. Use a car vac or a regular vacuum with a hose and crevice attachment, and thoroughly vacuum all the seats, floors, and trunk. If the storage compartments and cup holders need it, vacuum them, too. Next, use a damp towel to wipe up any seat stains; use stain remover on upholstered seats if need be. For leather seats I like the Armor All Leather Wipes. Wipe all interior surfaces—dashboard, console, steering wheel, doors—with a damp microfiber cloth. Use another microfiber cloth dampened with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water to wipe all the interior windows and any glass surfaces on your dashboard.

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Guide to Organizing Your Garage

We’ve got a few eye-opening statistics about garages. A U.S. Department of Energy survey found that 1 out of 4 of people with 2-car garages couldn’t park their car in it because it’s used to store other things. Another survey by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) found that 1 out of 2 homeowners named their garage as the most disorganized area of their house. Furthermore, more than half of homeowners plan to get their garage organized within the next two years. Does this sound familiar? Reclaiming your garage is a major project. Use our step-by-step guide to organizing your garage and park your car inside (yahoo!).

1. Set aside a large block of time for this project—garages typically take 12 hours for general clutter.

Plan for 3 or 4 time blocks of 3-4 hours each; most likely, it will be multiple weekends. Don’t wait until winter, when days are shorter and the garage will be freezing cold. If you can, pick at least the first weekend with no rain—you’ll need to take most items out of the garage.

2. Enlist helpers and make a task list.

Family or friends can certainly help; be sure they understand what they’ve signed up for and won’t become distractions. If you’ve got young kids, hire sitters or plan a weekend at the grandparents. Make a task list and give your helpers specific assignments with a time deadline. For instance, your teen can go through all the sports equipment and toys, while your spouse tackles the shelves full of tools and paint cans. We typically send two organizers out together for garages and work in 4-hour time chunks hands-on with clients. Clients are tired at the end of the session!

3. Move everything out of the garage.

Park your car(s) elsewhere so the driveway can be a staging area. Take the contents out of your garage and place in the driveway. If something is immediately trash or donation—non-working, broken, or outgrown items—set it in these separate piles.

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An Organized Playroom

photo by @daen_2chinda on unsplash

Does your home have a designated playroom for the kiddos? Is it actually functioning as a room the kids can play in, or is it so full and cluttered that it’s more of a toy storage room? If your playroom fills you with dread, it’s time to get it organized and decluttered. With these tips and tricks, this room can be transformed into a space both you and the kids actually enjoy!

Clear the Room

This may be the most tedious part of your playroom revamp, but it will start your space with a clean slate. Go through all the toys, games, books, art supplies, and furniture. Donate items no longer used or that have been outgrown; toss or recycle broken, unsafe, or incomplete items. If your kids are loathe to say goodbye to any of their things, it would be best to do the first pass when they’re asleep or out of the house. Enlist the kids to help with the second pass. Be mindful of not accidentally getting rid of something beloved.

Group Items Together

If you have small or big piles of items—such as doll clothes, building sets, Zoobles, Hot Wheels, Polly Pockets—group them together so you can see how much space you’ll need to store them. Boxed items such as games and puzzles can be stacked on shelves. If your kiddo is super into something and they’ve got a lot of those items, like Barbies or LEGOs, consider setting up a corner for that particular interest. For instance, the Barbie house or LEGO table would be in the corner, along with small labeled bins to store related items.

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Organize Your Home Office and Boost Productivity

As the dog days of summer roll past and fall is just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking of settling into newer, seasonal routines. Crisp fall leaves changing colors, shorter days, and cooler temperatures can teach us a lot about letting things go—including choosing to be more organized. From launching an effort to declutter overall to deep cleaning and possibly even hiring an organizer, read on for some tips to ease into the fall season with an organized home office zen. A decluttered office space will help boost your productivity and lower your stress.

Operation declutter

Before you can take on decluttering your office and work space, you have to shift to a decluttering mentality. Take a quick glance at your workplace. What leaps out at you from that cursory glance of what needs to be pared down? Make a list of those things and realistically plan for when you can start to organize things, whether it’s all in one day on a slow work day or little by little in the evening at the conclusion of the work day.

Get rid of old papers

Have stacks of paper and mail collecting everywhere? Not only can lots of old papers get in the way of being able to see your desk and be productive in your office space, they can also attract layers of dust and bugs. Create a filing system and set a goal to put away all pertinent paperwork at the end of the day. If you get a lot of mail, designate a basket for all mail and go through it regularly at the end of each day or week. For whatever else isn’t needed, run it through a paper shredder and or recycle.

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