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.
“I just saw a RAT!!!”
“Where?” Asked my ever-calm husband mildly, not displaying anywhere near the appropriate level of hysteria. I mean, a rat! A RAT!
OK, so upon inspection, it was not a rat cowering in the corner of our new home behind piles of moving boxes. It was a scared baby possum. The morning after a 23-hour move, I can be excused for mistaking the snaky-tailed varmint for a rat.
Especially when the move should have taken about 9 hours. Instead, it dragged on into the wee hours of the night, allowing a confused little possum to wander in through an open door.
Other things that went wrong with that move included:
Thankfully, I learned from that disaster and, when we moved locally six months later, I hired an awesome professional moving company who moved the EXACT SAME STUFF in one truck in 6 hours.
In addition to my own moves, I’ve also assisted clients with a fair number of moves. After polling my fellow Certified Professional Organizers® and Professional Organizers who specialize in move management, I’ve combined their advice with my own to help you avoid the worst move mistakes.
“Did you just pull a broom out of your bag?” my wide-eyed client asked last week as I did a quick sweep under a rug she was discarding.
OK, it’s not a full-size broom, but I do have a mini-dust broom in my bag. No, it’s not a magic bag, even though more than one client has called it my Mary Poppins bag. But it is full of tricks and tools. I like to come to an organizing session prepared to handle any situation you throw at me.
Putting a rectangular bureau drawer organizer (I like Ikea Skubb bins) in the bottom of the bag gave the large inner compartment more structure and created interior divisions. To further organize, I use inexpensive travel jewelry rolls to keep little things contained and easy to find.
Inspired by the Tennis Channel’s Bag Check segments, here’s a rundown of the more noteworthy items in my bag.
“How do I get my kids to clean up their toys?”
“How do I get my family to stop leaving things all over the counters?”
“My kids have too much stuff!”
“How can I declutter when my spouse won’t get rid of anything?”
I hear these laments all the time. Have you ever said them yourself? I’m sure I have! Are you ready to hear my magic words for solving this problem?
STAY IN YOUR LANE!
Or, if you prefer, “Eat off your own plate!” or “Take the plank out of your own eye!” In other words, before you point the finger at others in your household, deal with your own clutter.
Tetris is my game. I’m not sure if this is a brag or something I should be embarrassed about, but in college — the late ‘80s Tetris heyday — I was dorm champion. I still play it. In fact, I think the reason my fingers hurt a little right now is not from too much blog-typing, but from too much Tetris. Yikes!
It’s not really a surprise that a professional organizer is good at Tetris: heightened spatial awareness is one of the skills I bring to helping you organize your home. But when it comes to time management, loving Tetris is a definite deficit.
Clearly I need to set some strict boundaries on myself so I don’t waste all my time playing a silly game. Truthfully, I’m pretty productive and can limit the gaming to my downtime. That is, when I allow myself some downtime.
Because, as my husband correctly pointed out, the real problem I have is that I play my calendar like it’s a game of Tetris.
One question I always ask a new client is, “Do you think your space has the problem of too much stuff or is it just that things are not properly organized?”
I admit that this is a bit of a trick question because nearly always the answer is “both.” Having too much stuff will always stand between you and organization as you struggle to maneuver around the excess.
Sure, you can file-fold your entire t-shirt collection and just barely manage to cram it all into your dresser drawer, but those shirts will be so jammed together that you’ll struggle to pull one out without others coming with it. Not to mention that your t-shirts will have permanent wrinkles from being so tightly packed. And I’d like to see you maintain your composure while trying to put it back into the drawer!