In my craft studio, I keep a small box of sumptuous ribbons. It’s a jewel box full of lush velvets and shining satins. Gazing into it transports me back to the ancient, hole-in-the-wall shop in New York where I found many of these treasures.
While organizing my studio some years back, it was these same ribbons that stopped me in my tracks. Practical, unsentimental me didn’t know what to do with them. Too special to actually use in a project, they didn’t seem to serve a useful purpose. Why was I holding on to them? Where should I put them? What do I do with them?
The answers to those questions led me to give myself permission to keep them for purely aesthetic and sentimental reasons, just because I loved them. I arranged them in a pretty box that would keep them safe and put the box on a shelf near my cutting table. Now, anytime I need to look at something beautiful to inspire my creativity, I open the box and visit with my special ribbons.
What special ribbons do you have in your life? Maybe it’s the china that your grandmother passed down to you. Or maybe it’s the artwork that your children made. Perhaps, like my husband, you still have the train set that your parents gave to you for your first Christmas.
These things are not practical or especially useful. But they have meaning to you and you want to honor that meaning.
It’s OK to save things that have no useful function. It’s OK to save things just because they are dear to your heart.
3 Rules for Saving Sentimental Stuff
1. If everything is special, then nothing is special.
Be discerning about the special things you save, otherwise it’s all a mass of clutter. Be sure you’re saving just the best of the best. Save the stand-out pieces, the most precious, most beautiful, most monumental.
2. Know why you are saving it.
Does it inspire you? Remind you of a special person? Take you back to a great time? Don’t save things that remind you of bad times or make you feel guilty.
3. Store it in an interactive way.
Why bother saving something special if it’s packed in a box in the attic and you never see it? Instead, think about how you could store the item in a way that allows you to interact with and enjoy it?
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Where in the world is my high school diploma? I know I graduated but I don’t think I’ve seen that piece of paper in the 30 years since. I never thought I’d need it again!!!
This was my panicked thought process two years ago when I needed that diploma—and my college one—to prove that I was eligible to sit for the Certified Professional Organizer exam. A professional organizer who can’t find her own vital records—I felt like a fraud!
Thankfully, both diplomas were still in my mother’s house right where I stashed them after graduation. Now I have them in my paperwork system and can grab them at a moment’s notice. In this blog, I’ll help you set up your own simple paperwork system.
ART: My Simple Paperwork System
The biggest hurdle is knowing what to do with all the various papers (both physical and digital) that find their way into our homes. Do I have to do something with this? Do I need to keep this? How long do I have to keep it?
Every paper coming into your home can fit into one of three categories: Archive, Reference, or To Do. ART!
A = Archive
R = Reference
T = To Do
January: New Year, New You! GO Month: Get Organized and Be Productive! Have you made your resolutions? Hitting the gym every day? Are you crushing it?!
Um, not so much.
Honestly, once I clean up from the holidays and start getting back to the reality of a normal schedule, January is nearly half over!
It’s natural to want to set some intentions for improvement. What’s unrealistic is thinking that you’ll accomplish them in the first month. This year, to take on your organizing projects, make January your regrouping and brainstorming month.
What comes to mind when you think about holiday preparations? You’re probably thinking about getting out the decorations, baking yummy treats, juggling the party and event schedule, and wrapping gifts.
This season, I invite you to prepare by paring down. Simplifying and lightening your load is a great way to give yourself more time and space to enjoy your family and friends—and your home—during the holidays.
I like to focus on paring down these three areas:
Are you ready to tackle your holiday shopping? It’s time! In my family, we traditionally start shopping way early. In fact, according to family lore, my grandmother always had all her gifts bought, wrapped, and stowed in her closet by the end of August.
By contrast, when I owned a store (Who knew that little fact about me?), lots of last-minute shoppers would show up on Christmas Eve with a look of panic in their eyes, frantically trying to find a gift. They were so relieved when I offered them free gift wrapping!
This year, with the supply-chain problems causing shortages and delays, you definitely want to get a head start so you don’t end up grabbing whatever you see on the shelves.
My biggest tip for this season is to keep it local. As much as possible, I love to support my local businesses, both because I used to own a main street shop so I know how tough it can be and also because these businesses create the flavor that makes your neighborhood fun.
Years ago, a change of seasons was a fraught time for me. Excited as I was about the warmer or cooler weather ahead, I dreaded the looming Big Closet Switch.
It was a messy, days-long chore. It always looked worse before it got better: clothes spread all over the room; keep/donate/does-it-still-fit piles everywhere; last-season’s clothes needing to be washed before being binned; next-season’s clothes needing to be ironed (nooooo!) after getting crumpled in bins.
The problem is, I really love the change of seasons. It’s fun when you first pull on a cozy sweater in the fall or head out the door in only a light jacket in the spring. But the way I had organized my closet was turning the change of seasons from a fun celebration into a dreaded chore.
How did I free myself? I discovered the Year-Round Closet.
It happens predictably every year in the early fall. Is it triggered by the kids going back to school? Or when I notice the sun setting earlier and the air getting cooler?
Whatever the cause, I feel compelled to pare down the excess and spruce up the house, creating a more streamlined, restful space to live in.
“We don’t need this many mugs,” I announce to my husband as I peer critically into the kitchen cupboard, pulling out one with a chip and throwing it into the trash.
That evening, after I toss an extra deck of cards into the donation bag that I keep by the door and tell him that I’d like to repaint the living room, I see a look in his eyes like he’s just figured something out. “Oh,” he observes, “you’re nesting again.”
“Yup!” I laugh, “I do it every fall.” Organizing isn’t just something you do once and it stays that way forever. Things pile up, new things come into the house, and life changes. It’s rituals and routines like this fall clearing that keep me organized.
Clear the space so you can enjoy your place.
(Read on for how-to tips!)
Masks or no masks? Bus or no bus? Digital or paper? What’s the plan for school this year?!?
When faced with back-to-school confusion, what does a professional organizer do? Make a plan!
Taking control of the things that are within your control will help you and your family feel calmer and more confident about the start of school. Here are my top tips for a smooth transition.
Your Back to School Plan
1. Start going to bed and getting up earlier—not just the kids, but you too! It’s time to admit that vacation is coming to an end. Use the extra AM time to work your way into a good routine. You’ll all be less stressed after banking some good sleep.
2. Establish your school-year screen time and device rules now. Get the kids’ buy-in by explaining to them the need for rules, then asking for their input and having a conversation. Just remember that the parents have the final say! ...
It was a crisp fall day in 1989. Students were going in and out of the dorms like ants carrying trunks, suitcases, and tote bags. Befuddled parents were standing outside, trying to be helpful but mostly chatting with other parents and taking in the scene. This would be their beloved, newly-adult child’s home for the next year and they wanted to memorize it all.
State-of-the-art ‘80s dorm must haves were an answering machine, a boombox with a CD player, and a word processor (or, if you were lucky, a DOS-based computer or Macintosh SE). Throw in a wall tapestry and a Klimt poster and you’ve got a pretty fine room!
Now that my oldest daughter is heading off to college this fall, I figured I probably shouldn’t rely just on my own experience to help figure out what she needs. So I polled my mom friends with kids currently in college to find their best move-in tips. Now I get to share them with you!
Set Yourself Up for Success
Whether your next move is across town or across the country, whether it’s in 5 weeks or 5 years, I want to help you make it go as smoothly as possible.
We all know that moving is super stressful. Last month, I detailed my Top 5 Move Don’ts. This month, on a more positive note, I turned once again to my Certified Professional Organizer® and Move Management expert friends to bring you my Top 5 Move Do’s!
#1: DO start preparing early!
It’s never too early to start!
But hold on just a sec! Before you grab a box and get packing, take the advice of Geri Chark Frankel, CPO® at GCF Organizing: do a video walkthrough of your home. This will document your possessions for insurance, guide you (or your professional organizing unpack team) in setting up the new home, and serve as a memento.