Two Dads, Two Kids, Two Dogs,Too Much Stuff

· Children / Teens, Entertaining, Family, Home Improvement / Decor, Kitchen / Nutrition, Lifestyle, Makeovers, Purging, Spring Cleaning

Like most of my projects, this one started with a phone call. There was a townhouse and two dads, two kids, two dogs, and way too much stuff. Could we help? Of course.

At the first appointment, we met Bill and Alvarro, two busy dads at their home in Brooklyn Heights which was beautifully decorated yet warm and child friendly. From the basement to the office on the top floor, we could see the evidence of a well lived life. Gifts, souvenirs from travel, photos, school projects, and books could be found in boxes and piles throughout the house. Bill and Alvarro craved better organization so that they could live with less clutter and less stress. After a walk through of the house, we made a plan: we would meet once a week, and tackle one room at a time, starting in the kitchen.


The kitchen, the hub of this home, had become a way station for bills, catalogs, homework, books, toys, gadgets ordered online, and any thing else that came through the door. The pantry, while enviably large, was not organized in any particular way. The drawers, which were plentiful, were filled with duplicates of cooking utensils and random items, and the placement of items did not reflect the frequency of use or amount of space required to keep related items together. 

Kitchen Drawers

We started by addressing the drawers. We took everything out and grouped duplicate items together. At times, we found three or four of a particular kitchen tool or items of no use, so we made piles for donation and discarded what was in poor condition. We also talked about how the kitchen functioned and what how it related to other areas of the home. This led us to move all tools to a basement area but to maintain a section for school supplies in the kitchen since this was where the boys often did homework. When we had pared down substantially, we utilized bamboo expandable drawer organizers, bamboo drawer inserts, and bamboo drawer dividers to better customize the drawers and create spaces for different categories of kitchen.


When the drawers were complete, we then removed everything from the pantry. Since the shelves were so deep, we found many “forgotten” items pushed to the back that were well passed the expiration date.  These were discarded along with the prior year’s Halloween candy, food received in gift baskets but never opened, and anything else that wasn’t wanted. We then mapped out what was used most frequently (and therefore demanded prime pantry real estate) and what was used only on occasion. We repurposed a large drawer filled with light bulbs and packing tape to contain the boys’ snacks and moved all of the “refill” food to higher shelves. After determining what would go where in the pantry, we contained, decanted, and corralled the food in containers that we had measured to fit the space.  We used a combination of white taper bins, OXO canisters, wicker baskets, and deep pantry bins in this space, labeling each container to ensure that organization would be maintained. 

Pantry: Before and After


Like most households we organize, this kitchen had piles of papers and books on the kitchen counter. After sorting through the piles, we provided rules for what should be saved and what could immediately discarded. For example, the only schoolwork that would be saved was creative writing and the occasional school project. Catalogs and advertising flyers would be immediately recycled, and bills would be taken upstairs to the office to be paid. We suggested that mail be opened and processed daily since this task, although often dreaded, takes less than five minutes a day. See the Office section below for more detail on paper clutter and management.

Dishes, Platters, and Glasses

We eliminated any mismatched sets of dishes and glasses as well as anything chipped or broken. After rearranging the shelves so that what was used most was on the lowest shelves, the cabinets were functional and attractively arranged.

Open Shelving

The open shelving in this kitchen filled mostly with cookbooks, but also a few coffee table books, papers, and random warranties. After removing everything but cookbooks, we then categorized them by type of food, and then color blocked them to the extent possible.  We then styled the shelves using bookends, and some appealing collectibles that were cluttering the kitchen counters. 

On a ledge next to the kitchen banquet, we found a multitude of electronics, chargers, toiletries, and the boys’ pencil cases. In order to eliminate the clutter here, we used white lacquer boxes from The Container Store that became invisible against the white wall. 

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

· Lifestyle, Time Management · , , , , , , , , ,
Wynwood Walls exhibit, Miami Florida

Credit: Wynwood Walls Miami, Florida

Every year, so many of my friends and clients vow that this will be the year they get organized. And, despite the best of intentions, organization often falls by the wayside. So, instead of resolutions that are so ambitious or broad that they’re destined to disappoint, here are five simple behavioral changes you can implement to help you stay organized in 2018.

  1. Tackle the Tough Task: Do what you dread most first—the rest of the day will run more smoothly without that dreaded task hanging over your head.
  2. Stick to a Routine: Get in the habit of doing things the same way every time—if you always put your cell phone in the same pocket of your handbag, you won’t be scrambling to find it each time it rings.
  3. Fight the Onslaught of Paper: Discard all catalogs, solicitations and advertisements you get in the mail immediately. Personal correspondence, bills and necessary financial documents should all go in an in-box and then addressed weekly.
  4. Declutter Your Digital Space: In your downtime (waiting on line, waiting on hold), unsubscribe from all of your digital junk mail. Create an online filing system, so you have a place to put emails other than leaving them in your inbox.
  5. Minimize Stress by Being Prepared: At the end of each workday, make a to-do list for the next day. Knowing what’s ahead of you will let you unwind in the evening and start the next morning in an organized way.

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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Efficient or Overwhelmed?

· Lifestyle

A few months ago I was on hold with a telecommunications company when the recorded voice announced that the wait time would be three minutes. I thought, “Great. I can put my phone on speaker mode while I take a quick shower.” As I reflect on this now, I’m still not sure if this was a testament to my efficiency, or a pathetic reflection of how busy I was.

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Eliminate These and Make the World a Better Place

· Lifestyle · , , , , , , ,

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 5.13.58 PM

After more than a decade of organizing people’s homes and offices, there are certain things that I’ve often wished never existed. The ubiquity of these, and the speed at which I do away with them, has me convinced that the world would truly be a better place if I never saw another one. Sounds harsh, but read on, and I’m sure you’ll agree.  Here are my top ten:

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What Moms Really Want: Mother’s Day Gift Guide

· Family, Lifestyle · , , , ,

What does every mom REALLY want for mother’s day? It’s not breakfast in bed, it’s not flowers, and it’s not a new kitchen appliance.  What she really wants is more time, more hours in the day, and the feeling, at least for a few minutes, of being caught up.  Caught up with all of the emails, endless forms that need to be filled out, loads of laundry, and to do lists.  Caught up with her friends and what’s going on in their lives, and caught up with herself. That is what would make her happy.

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What Does Your Clutter Say About Your Personality?

· Lifestyle · , ,

Everyone has clutter, even the most organized person.  The reasons behind the clutter; however, are different for each person. What does your clutter say about your personality?  Are you…

Many people hold onto things/clutter because it’s easier then deciding whether or not to keep it or where it should go.  In fact, an entire organizing industry has arisen to meet the demands of this group.  Often, they’ll label and contain instead of eliminating.

This group of people constantly put off sorting/purging their things because it’s not fun or enjoyable to them. They would rather do ANYTHING other then pare down possessions, so they never get around to it.

This personality type thinks EVERYTHING is worth saving…every scribble from their child’s nursery school days, every photo (even blurry ones), every dish, and every item of clothing.

Many people don’t have difficulty making decisions and they’re not procrastinators or overly sentimental.  This group of people is so stretched for time, they simply can’t get it done.  When they do have a block of time, they easily and happily de-clutter.  It just doesn’t happen often enough.

Use It or Lose It

· Lifestyle, Purging

Many of my clients believe that if they save certain items, one day they’ll become the type of person that uses them. I hate to say it, but in my experience, it doesn’t happen like that.  Instead, these things tend to lie around FOR YEARS without ever getting any use.  If you’ve had any of these items lying around for one year, five years, or ten years, it’s finally time to use it or lose it!

  • Baby Clothes: If you aren’t having another one, it’s time to donate old baby clothing.  The same goes for the toys and games your children have outgrown.
  • Clothes That Don’t Reflect Your Lifestyle:  If you haven’t worked in corporate America for years, there’s no reason to have a wardrobe of conservative suits.  If you aren’t having another baby, purge all maternity clothes.
  • Cute” Clothes for Kids: Instead of saving these for special occasions, have your child wear them and wear them often.  Expensive children’s clothing is outgrown so quickly, why leave it sitting in a drawer?
  • The Skinny Phase Clothes:  If your weight fluctuates, keep clothing for a realistic range of weights.  One size bigger or one size smaller should be enough.  And, if you do lose a ton of weight and didn’t save your “skinny” clothes, don’t you deserve a little shopping spree?
  • Old Purses: If they’re sitting in the back of your closet, consider consigning ones with value and donating the rest.
  • Extra Large Kitchen Appliances: If you haven’t used them, or can’t figure out how to use them, it may be time to get rid of the bread maker, ice cream maker, fondue fountain, and anything else taking up unnecessary space in your kitchen.
  • Distilled Spirits: Go through your liquor cabinet, and only keep alcohol you might drink or serve to guests. Keep in mind that open bottles can lose their flavor after multiple years, so purge those as well.
  • Fine china and silver:  If you have it, find an occasion to use it!
  • Photos: Put them on display, create photo books, or save them to the Cloud.  They’re useless sitting in piles or boxes, where they may get damaged.
  • Home Decor Pieces: Souvenirs from vacation or art that your spouse hates…if it’s not going to be put on the walls any time soon…it shouldn’t be kept anywhere else.


Lifestyle Tips

· Lifestyle

Smart Organization for Smart Living

For Professional Organizer Barbara Reich of Resourceful Consultants, eliminating clutter is a way of life. Barbara tackles organization with a 360-degree approach, streamlining the homes, schedules and daily lives of discerning clients. Equal parts affable and type A personality, Barbara’s tough-love approach yields real results and lasting change.


Templates for Handwritten Notes

In this age of email and digital greeting cards, it sometimes feels like the handwritten note is a dying art. Yet, there are still those rare occasions when only a handwritten note will do. In case you find yourself struggling for the words to write, here are some templates in three sentences or less that can help you out.

Thank You Card:
Dear ______,

Sentence 1. Thank you for the ______. (insert the name of the item or experience).
Sentence 2. I look forward to using it for ______ / I thoroughly enjoyed ______. (Make a personal reference to how you plan to enjoy the gift or note a memory from the event).
Sentence 3. It was so nice of you to think of me.

All the Best,
Full Name

Condolence Card:
Dear ______,

Sentence 1. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of _______. (insert name of person or relationship of person)
Sentence 2. S/he was ______ and will be greatly missed. (Mention one special trait of the deceased).
Sentence 3. Please let me know if there’s any way I can help you during this difficult time.

Deepest Sympathy,
Full Name

Birthday Card:
Dear ______,

Sentence 1. Happy Birthday!
Sentence 2. I hope you have a great day, and a wonderful year ahead.
Sentence 3. You’re a special person/friend, and you deserve it! (Give one short, personal complement to personalize it).

Best wishes,
Full Name

Congratulatory Card:
Dear ______,

Sentence 1. Congratulations on ______! (specify the accomplishment).
Sentence 2. What wonderful news. I am so excited for you!
Sentence 3. I hope the future continues to bring you as much success and happiness.

All the Best,
Full Name

Get Well Card:
Dear ______,

Sentence 1. I am so sorry to hear that you haven’t been feeling well.
Sentence 2. I hope you have a quick recovery.
Sentence 3. Please let me know if there’s any way I can help you during this difficult time.

Best Wishes,
Full Name

Busy Moms Play Whac-a-Mole

· Lifestyle

In my book, Secrets of an Organized Mom, I compare the lives of mothers to one big game of Whac-a-Mole.  Just when we’ve smacked down one problem or responsibility, another one pokes up its stubborn head.  Let’s face it; life as a mother is inevitably unpredictable.  Just when we think we have everything under control, a child breaks a leg, a partner gets a new job (in another state), or a roof springs a leak.  So much rests on our shoulders that it’s easy to see why we’re all running on a treadmill to stay still. It’s a classic catch 22.  If we could just find the time to get organized, life would be calm and peaceful.  But life is never calm and peaceful, so there’s never time to get organized.

Moms often ask me for the single organizing tip that will make the biggest difference in their lives.  In Secrets of An Organized Mom, I talk about the “Ten Commandments of Organizing”.  Although all of these commandments are important, there are three tips that, taken together, can help busy moms conquer the organizational challenge once and for all.

  1. Routines work. If you always put your cell phone in the same pocket of your purse, you’ll always know where it is when it’s ringing. If you always put the bills in the same place, you won’t lose any bills.  If you always take medication at the same time in the same place, you won’t forget to take it.  When things are done the same way every time, the behavior becomes rote.  You don’t have to think about what you’re doing.  This is the fool-proof way to avoid misplacing anything or forgetting anything again.
  2. Group like things together, and designate a place for everything. This is the only way to know how much of something you have and when you need more.  You’ll also always know exactly where to find what you’re looking for.   This applies to everything in your house, from black sweaters to magic markers to batteries.  This will help you avoid having too much of one thing and not enough of what you really need!
  3. Store things where you use them. Keep school supplies where your kids do their homework, keep your reading glasses next to your bed where you read at night, and keep tote bags in the closet where you store sports equipment.  It’s easy and convenient!