Life Organized: The Blog

Tips & Tricks from Barbara

Purchasing the Perfect Gift

· Gift Guide · , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In the 22 years that I’ve been married, my husband has given me many gifts. While I certainly love getting the occasional extravagant gift, the one I appreciated most was definitely the least expensive and possibly the most boring. It was a stationery embosser with beautiful paper. Romantic? No. Practical? Yes. Do I still have it 15 years later? Yes.

Selecting the perfect gift can be highly stressful; there’s the discomfort over what to buy, how much to spend, and whether the gift will be appreciated. Recent research out of Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business suggests that while “givers are drawn toward surprising or entertaining gifts that are fun in the moment of exchange…they underestimate how much people typically appreciate practical gifts.” If you want to be sure that your gift is one that “keeps on giving,” try these helpful hints.

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Diamonds Are Forever, Monogrammed Gifts Are Not

· Entertaining · , , , , , , , , , , ,

When my twins were born 17 years ago, we received not one, but two decorative, monogrammed seesaws…from one store. It’s difficult to imagine that the store wouldn’t have told the second person ordering this “gift” with the same names and delivery address to select something else, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that I was stuck with two seesaws that were, in my practical mind, a waste of space and a silly gift. So, I did what any self-respecting professional organizer would do and put them both out on the curb the next morning.

Although this can be difficult for some people, never feel compelled to keep a gift you don’t like. It will end up taking up space in your home and your psyche for what is often literally years. To avoid this, consider these tips

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…Or Not

· Holiday · , , , , , , , , , ,

The time between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve can be the most festive, but also the most stressful time of the year. Between holiday parties, work events, shopping for gifts, eating too much and spending too much, sometimes we wish we could skip the entire season. But since that’s not an option, here are some guidelines to help you feel more in control this holiday season.

  • Say no. You don’t need to attend every party to which you’re invited. If you don’t go, you don’t need to find a babysitter, pay a babysitter, find something to wear, or purchase a hostess gift. Think of all the time you save.
  • Buy multiples of the same gift for as many people on your list as possible.
  • Have hostess gifts on hand. Whether it’s a bottle of wine, a candle, or chocolate, prepare in advance.
  • Purge your playroom. You have more leverage now than at any other time during the year. Tell your children you can’t buy them any new toys if there’s no space on those playroom shelves. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to donate what your children truly don’t use.
  • Get gift cards in a variety of dollar amounts. These take up almost no space, and are great for when you forgot about a last minute gift you might need.
  • Plan a go to outfit that you can wear to multiple parties. A simple black dress and a pair of black slacks and heels can take you through a variety of parties from business casual to more formal.
  • Breathe deeply and engage in some form of mindfulness each day.

Addressing Email Overload

· Digital Decluttering / Technology · , , , , , , , , ,

From CEO’s to soccer moms, we’re all overwhelmed by the volume of emails received each day. Studies show that the average person checks a device approximately 150 times during waking hours. Still, it seems that we can never catch up. If you feel stressed just thinking about your inbox, here are some tips to tame the email beast.

  1. Create a digital filing system. Filing emails reduces visual noise and eliminates wasted time re-reading emails already opened. It also facilitates emptying your email box on a daily basis (getting to “in-box zero”).
  1. Search messages by name. Using the search box, type in the names of your boss, important colleagues, and frequent correspondents. This will help you categorize and file emails in a meaningful way. Most emails more than a week old are probably irrelevant and can be deleted.
  1. Don’t save emails as a visual cue to take action. Unless you have white space on the bottom of your computer screen, a saved email is just clutter.
  1. Touch each email only once. Avoid opening emails multiple times without responding. Make a decision about how it will be handled (delete or file) and move forward.
  1. Any time you receive an unwanted email, take a few seconds to unsubscribe so you never see it again.

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Digital Photo Organizing

· Digital Decluttering / Technology · , , , , , , , , ,

According to a recent study by Sparefoot and APPO, the average person has 10,000 to 15,000 photos. While it’s amazing that smart phones have allowed us to capture our every day moments so easily, I constantly hear people complain that they can’t find a picture when they need it. Similar to those boxes or bags of photos you never put in albums way back when, digital photos can cause you stress and frustration if they’re not filed properly. So here’s what can you do to organize your digital photos. . .

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The Power of Paint, by Guest Blogger Paul Denikin

· Home Improvement / Decor · , , ,

I recently became acquainted with Paul Denikin. While Paul was always interested in home improvement, he became an expert when his daughter, Maggie, was born with special needs. At that time, Paul realized  he needed to modify his home so that it would be safe and functional for Maggie.  He started his website, dadknowsdiy.com, to share what he’s learned with the rest of us.   Here, he talks about how painting your home can improve its value and its appearance.

DIY home improvements are one of the most common ways home sellers will try to increase the value of their home. While some DIY projects can be complex or expensive such as redoing your bathroom, other projects are far less complicated. It may seem difficult to up the value of your home, but in reality, a few simple improvements can dramatically change how your house is viewed by potential buyers. The best way to make an impact without breaking the bank? Paint.

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Unexpected Guests

· Entertaining · , , , ,

Recently, after a great day boating with friends, we decided to meet at my house for drinks before having dinner at a nearby restaurant. Some of our guests were on the boat with my husband and I, and others would drive to our house. They would arrive before I did, so there would be no time for a last minute clean up. Since I’m a professional organizer, that didn’t pose a problem for me. My house is almost always company ready. However, if you’re not like me, what can you do if you get a call that friends “are in the neighborhood” and will be there in 20 minutes? Tilly Rose, founder of TenancyCleaning, a cleaning service in London, offers these tips for de-cluttering your home when it needs to done quickly.

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You Are What You Eat

· Kitchen / Nutrition · , , , , , , , ,

Over the past several months, I’ve organized several kitchens with my colleague, Lara Metz. One of the issues we’ve been seeing repeatedly is the duplication of items in the refrigerator and pantry. Here’s our advice on how to avoid this in your kitchen.

  1. Start by purging all of the foods that have expired in both your refrigerator and pantry. This should be done on a weekly basis prior to going to the grocery store. Then, in an accessible area, store a pad or a white board to keep a running list of what needs to be replaced. Let your family know that this is everyone’s responsibility, not just yours, so even children are in the habit of adding to the list when they take the last bag of pretzels.
  1. In order to maintain organization, group all similar items together. In both the kitchen and pantry, there should be zones for different food categories. In the refrigerator, take advantage of built in compartments. For example, put all fruit in the fruit drawer and produce in the produce drawer. Then, store your products in straight lines with like items one behind the other.

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When a Storage Unit is a Good Idea

· Home Improvement / Decor · , , , , , , , , ,

Over the past few months, I’ve had a number of clients ask me for help organizing storage units. Some clients have multiple storage units and some have just one. In some cases, the storage units are complimentary perks that come with apartments, and, in other cases, exorbitant fees are paid. Sometimes, the client knows exactly what’s stored in the unit and wants to make it less cluttered or more appealing. And sometimes, the items have been put away for years, and the client has no idea what s/he will find there. While I generally believe that a client is better off purging and living within his/her space means, here are some instances when a storage unit is a good idea:

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The Spring Cleaning No One Talks About

· Lifestyle, Spring Cleaning · , , , ,

By: Barbara Reich and Erica Keswin, Founders of Never Caught Up, LLC

Every year, as the weather grows warmer, there’s a flurry of interest in spring cleaning. Morning television segments, news articles, and blog posts will all feature the latest organizing tips, cleaning short cuts, and advice on how to get to those hard-to-reach areas. That spring cleaning is “business as usual.” But, there’s another kind of spring cleaning that no one talks about…that is, spring cleaning your friends.

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