Tips & Tricks

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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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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How to Get Your Partner On Board for Professional Organizing

We often hear “How do I get my spouse to buy into hiring a professional organizer?” They have a variety of concerns, such as the time it will take, or the cost, or having to get rid of their stuff. They could be embarrassed to have someone see their cluttered home. It’s possible they consider asking for help a weakness. They don’t understand that it is an investment that will lower their stress levels or give them more free time. He or she may also ask, “Why can’t we just do this ourselves?”

What Are the Health Benefits of an Organized Home?

A home that is free of clutter and has organized spaces is beneficial to one’s mental and physical health. The Mayo Clinic details how an organized home brings down stress levels and helps you focus, among other benefits. It’s also easier to maintain: the average American home contains 300,000 items! Consider being able to actually park your car in the garage. Or looking for something in your kitchen and finding it in five seconds instead of 30 minutes, or never. Imagine coming home and feeling calm and content in your environment, instead of anxious and stressed out about the clutter lining the hallways or all over the living room.

Have You Hired Experts Before?

Have you hired pros to install an in-ground sprinkler system, do your taxes, tutor your children, or design your website? This wouldn’t be any different. Hiring a professional organizer means you’ve hired an expert to declutter and organize your home, to help you set up systems to manage and maintain your organized home, and to mentor you on these skills. This expert will work with you in your home, and the service is completely customized to your needs, your lifestyle, and your goals. Also consider that a professional organizer can accomplish in three hours what would take you 9-12 hours.

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Packing Tips for a Well-Organized Suitcase

Travel these days has a lot of potential pitfalls, whether it’s a delayed flight, a long security line, or an issue with your reservations. You have no control over some of these situations; you’ll just have to hope for the best and adapt a Zen travel mantra. However, one of the things you can control is how organized and well-packed your suitcase is! Last-minute packing, over-packing, missing several necessities, having stuff leak, difficulty finding things in your suitcase? We’ve got these and many other issues covered with this list of packing tips to keep your suitcase well-organized.

Before You Pack

  • Make a packing list. Consider your destination and purpose—are you spending a week on a beach in Hawaii, two weeks biking in Europe, or five days at a work conference?
  • To streamline your wardrobe, use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 packing rule. Assume there is a place to do laundry or have it serviced. If visualization is helpful to you, lay out everything you want to bring on your bed—then cut it down by half. Put together outfits on the bed; even better if pieces go with more than one outfit.

Clothing and Shoes

  • Plan to wear your heaviest items on the plane. Items like boots, a heavy coat, or a bulky sweater—these take up a lot of precious real estate (and weight!) in your suitcase.
  • Rock ‘n’ roll, baby. The roll method makes the most of your suitcase space and minimizes creases. Lay your shirt face-down, fold in and flatten the sleeves, then roll from the bottom up. Lay your pants with legs together and roll from the waist down. If you really want to save space, use these amazing compression bags. Certain items—blazers, starched dress shirts, a cocktail dress—should be folded carefully or placed separately in a garment bag.
  • Roll your underwear as well; use these to fill in any gaps between clothing. Bras with underwire or molded cups should be stacked and laid flat together.
  • Fill your shoe cavities with socks, tights, or folded stockings (in a Ziploc), then put the shoes heel to toe (even high heels). Place them in a plastic bag to keep your clothes from getting dirty.

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15 Summer Essentials to Keep in Your Car

Summer is the best season for spontaneous good times in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The greater Seattle area has a wealth of unique and amazing places to discover, whether you’ve got a detailed day planned out, or you’re going to meander through a park or neighborhood. Keep those spur-of-the-moment trips carefree (and less stressful) by keeping these essentials in your car. More time for sun and fun, and less time running to the store or looking for things.

  1. Sunglasses: Keeping a couple of pairs doesn’t hurt, because someone will always forget theirs.
  2. Sun hat: Keep cool. Sunstroke and a sunburned forehead are not fun.
  3. Sunblock: Protect your skin. Beware of the expiration date and note that sunscreen may degrade faster if kept in a hot car for a long time.
  4. A beach towel: Always handy to wipe off dirty children (or pets), or to be used as a makeshift blanket.
  5. A sweatshirt: Weather can be unpredictable and the nights cool off quickly!
  6. An outdoor blanket: Can be used for picnics, the beach, and to keep warm after the sun goes down.
  7. Reusable shopping bags: They are not just for the grocery store or a stop at a farmer’s market. You can use reusable shopping totes to haul beach toys (anything really) in a pinch. Include an insulated bag for even more versatility.
  8. A BPA-free water bottle and a non-melting snack: Disposable water bottles shouldn’t be stored in a hot car as they can release dangerous chemicals into the water. Granola bars, nuts, or crackers are examples of healthy non-melting snacks.
  9. The Discover Pass: The $35 annual pass allows you access to state parks for two vehicles.
  10. An extra pair of shoes and socks: A hike with children may turn into a dip in a river…
  11. A small first aid kit: Always have some adhesive bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, and pain reliever. An instant ice pack is really handy for bumps and bruises.
  12. An activity book: A coloring book or Sudoku can help pass the time in the car. We also like to have playing cards.
  13. Toilet paper or flushable wipes: Love the hike, don’t love the facilities. Best be prepared. Also stops bloody noses.
  14. Hand sanitizer: See above.
  15. Feminine products: Just in case someone is caught off guard.
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8 Easy Fixes for Common Home Maintenance Problems

Maintaining a house can often feel like a very complicated task. Depending on how old and how well-built the house is, you can find yourself constantly chasing after small problems. Fortunately, there are several tasks on that big to-do list that are actually a lot easier than you’d imagine, with simple DIY repairs that anyone can manage.

Loose Drawer Handle

You pull the handle on the drawer and it wobbles, and one day you are going to end up yanking it off for good. Assuming you’ve tried screwing the thing back in, your problem is probably that the wood is stripped. Thankfully, this is simple to solve.

Easy Fix: Use some wood glue and toothpicks to fill the hole, cut off the protruding toothpicks, and then screw the handle back in.

Broken AC

There’s nothing worse than realizing you have a broken air conditioner during a sweltering summer’s day. Several things could be wrong with your system, but it could be something very simple, such as a frozen coil caused by a dirty filter.

Easy Fix: Replace your AC filter and see if that works. If it doesn’t, you will probably have to call an AC repair professional. Use this nationwide search tool by Home Advisor to find companies in your area who can get your system back in working order.

Drywall Holes

Drywall is a delicate thing, and holes and cracks are annoyingly common. In particular, holes from doorknobs slamming into the wall are a classic issue.

Easy Fix: Fixing drywall is easy, but there are different techniques for each type of hole you’ll encounter. For a doorknob hole, a patch kit is the easiest option. This guide by Lowe’s has instructions for every drywall repair situation.

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How to Live Big in a Small Family Home

Living Large in a Small Space

Fitting a whole family into a small home can be a tough challenge, but not as much if you think ahead. Careful planning is the key to organizing and using free space efficiently. But where should you start? First, think about the needs and necessities of each family member. You (and maybe your partner) need a working area. Your kids need a space to study and play (think of pets here, too). Once you’ve made a list of all the space everyone needs to live comfortably, it’s time to think of some maneuvers to make this plan a reality. Here is a list of useful tips and tricks for your family to live bigger in a smaller home.

Go for the stars

One of the most important rules of efficient space usage is to think vertically. Use the space you have from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. If you look up in a room and see open space, keep that idea in mind and go for it. This is especially useful for rooms that are overcrowded with furniture. Organizing a home office or a living room in such a manner is easy—use plenty of shelves and hanging elements for all the books, souvenirs, and other décor accents you have. As for the kids’ rooms, you need to consider that they can’t reach very high shelves on their own. For their safety, you don’t want them climbing high shelves either. Provide them with a stool or a ladder. You could also use the higher shelves to store items they rarely use (or something that you can’t store anywhere else in the house).

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