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Three’s a Crowd: A Single Mom, Her Triplets, and a One Bedroom Apartment

· Children / Teens, Family, Home Improvement / Decor, Makeovers, Paper Organizing, Purging, Spring Cleaning · , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About a year ago, a friend asked if I would consider doing a project pro bono; Lisa Meshulam, a single mother of triplets, desperately needed help with organization of her one bedroom apartment. I was intrigued.

When I saw the apartment, it was piled floor to ceiling with storage boxes on wire racks. Cube furniture was filled with bins, books, and papers. Children’s drawings and photos were taped to the walls, and the kitchen counters overflowed with food that didn’t fit in the pantry. Lisa slept in a bed in the corner of the living room, sacrificing her privacy so the boys could share the single bedroom. While the boys’ room was cleverly outfitted with two bunk beds, it was overrun with clutter. Clothing spilled out of empty cubes and onto the floor.

I immediately agreed to help and started by enlisting ClosetMaid as a sponsor. Then, I assembled my team of organizers, and began operation organize.

Purging
Purging took place over several days. My intuition was that there was so much clutter that Lisa couldn’t possibly know what she had. In fact, as she and I began sorting through the bins, we found many items that could easily be thrown in the trash, recycled, or donated; ironically, she didn’t want most of what she had saved.

In just a few hours, we were able to empty 16 cubes that contained everything from art supplies, schoolwork (much of it years old), books, clothing too small for the boys, and toys and sports equipment the triplets no longer used. Over the next few days, we eliminated boxes of wires, cables, and chargers that were obsolete and emptied two chests filled with empty photo albums and boxes that were serving as coffee tables. We gave away a giant trunk and its contents: home décor items that were cheap, old, and not Lisa’s current taste. We examined boxes of papers to determine what should be saved and created a filing system as we sorted.  We also discarded toiletries and medications passed their expiration date. Lisa purged clothing and shoes in her closets. In the end, we estimated that Lisa was left with only 30% of her possessions.

Furniture and Closet Plan
We decided to use the existing cube furniture (now empty) to divide the living room, so Lisa would have a “bedroom” with some privacy. The cubes would let light through even though they would be in front of the windows, and they would provide storage and places to display decor. We also repurposed two IKEA dressers that were in the hall closet: one was used in the boys’ room for their clothing and the other was used for household items such as tools and batteries.

ClosetMaid generously agreed to donate four Suite Symphony towers with a combination of drawers and shelves behind cabinets, a coffee table, a shelving unit that would be placed in the entryway, and closet components that would be used to maximize the space in her closets.

In Lisa’s clothing closet and hall closets, we raised a shelf and were able to add a second closet rod for double hanging. In one closet, we used a 25 shoe storage unit from ClosetMaid. . In the coat closet, an extender from ClosetMaid provided much needed shelf space for Lisa’s boots.

Organizing
Once we finished the purge and moved the furniture into place, we organized those items that remained: things that were truly wanted and needed. Lisa’s clothing was folded in drawers while the boys’ clothing was hung neatly in their closet. The kitchen was reorganized so that the counters were clear, food was grouped by type, and dishes and glasses could easily be reached. The boys’ art supplies were separated by type and labeled. Lisa’s desk, now a focal point of the apartment, was outfitted with organizers in the drawers for pens, paper clips, and post-it notes. Even the bathroom received a makeover with toiletries placed in a lacquer armoire.

Finishing Touches
Lisa’s interesting and eclectic items of sentimental value could finally be put on display. Sticking to a color scheme of red, gray, and white, we styled shelves with books, art objects, flowers, framed photos and plants. A tray and candle graced the coffee table. A new picture was hung on the wall above the couch. Instead of clutter and chaos, this apartment had finally become a home.

Living Room “Before”

Living Room “After”

With Lisa Meshulam and her triplets (left to right): Lucas, Tyler, and Aidan

 

 

 

College Move In Tips (Where Did the Time Go?)

· Back To School, Children / Teens, College · , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eighteen and a half years ago, we became an instant family when my twins wore born. Now, the reverse is inevitable as the empty nest looms ahead. In August, my twins will start college. We’ll fly as a family of four to St. Louis where we’ll move my daughter into her dorm at Washington University. Then, three of us will fly to Atlanta to move my son into his room at Emory University. Five days later, only two of us will return home. While this time is bittersweet for us, it’s also a time where strategic planning and preparation can remove some of the stress, and help us enjoy a special milestone. Although I’m a first timer, here are some tips that I’ve gathered from friends and family that have made this journey before me.

1. Book flights and hotels for move in and family weekends when you’re notified of the dates. The closer the hotel is to campus, the sooner it gets sold out.

2. Ship as much to campus as possible, but if there’s a big box store (Walmart, Kmart, Target) nearby, know that you can buy storage containers, rugs, and larger items when you determine what’s needed.
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The Last Weeks of Summer

· Summer Organizing · , , , , , , ,

Lazy days spent by the pool, long weekends exploring new towns, and afternoons interrupted by the mailman delivering camp letters – we’re all going to miss that summer haze that has us sighing with relaxation. But before you become utterly overwhelmed thinking about life getting a bit more hectic, here are five quick fixes that can tremendously simplify your life.

Learn to say no! We all want to be completely immersed in every event involving our family and friends, but we can’t. When every child invites the entire class to their birthday parties, it’s not necessary to attend them all. Decline parties that are not truly important to your child or just simply inconvenient. Similarly, don’t overextend yourself with volunteer jobs. Pick wisely. Determine which event is your child’s favorite, and take on the task of planning that one event every year. The event will be more meaningful because your child really cares about the celebration. Plus, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – you only have to plan the event once! Save the decorations in a box so next year’s celebration is a no-brainer.

Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Never leave the mail on the counter for later, because we all know later never comes when we get bogged down with other tasks. Immediately flip through the mail so it doesn’t grow into an exploding pile that takes over your counter. Junk mail and envelopes should have a one-way ticket to the recycle bin; letters, invitations, and bills should be placed in a designated “inbox” to be addressed when you have extra time. Emails can be simplified as well. Instead of deleting spam, unsubscribe to the website’s mailing list so you don’t receive any more emails from the site. A twenty-second act can save you up to five minutes daily of deleting unwanted advertisements.

Technology is your friend…as long as it’s used for good, not evil. As you simplify your life, your smart phone should be no different. Purge your app list of addicting battery drainers such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds. Also, remove the myriad of unopened apps that you downloaded per friends’ suggestions. Replace these with apps that will do what technology is meant to do: enhance your life. Use the ‘Reminders’ app to alert you when an appointment or birthday is nearing. Applications such as LastPass and One Password keep all of your passwords in a secure app so you don’t need to remember every password to your different shopping logins, and bank websites. For those of you who are technologically challenged, a friend can easily teach you to streamline your phone calendar with your computer calendar so you never miss an appointment – even if your phone dies.

Keep celebrations stress-free! Store various gift cards in different denominations for every caliber of friend so you don’t have to spend time finding a gift for every birthday party. Likewise, keep generic cards in the house to avoid a rushed trip to the card store. When it’s your party, keep the after party just as simple. Open gifts with a notepad in hand to prepare for thank you notes. When it’s time to write them, have a set template so the writing process takes half the time! Thank you notes should be completed within the week so your guests receive them within two weeks of the event. While opening the presents, create two piles: gifts to keep and those to return in the next few days. That way, all of your post-celebration obligations are completed by the next week, and you can bask in the glow of a party well done.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Many of us rely heavily on to-do lists; however, consider rethinking the effect of your list on your well being. For example, if you put the bank, grocery store, and organizing your house on the same list, that list will take a month to accomplish, and you will get into bed each night feeling discouraged. Form two checklists instead: short-term tasks and long-term goals. On your short-term list, write smaller tasks for your lengthy goals. Instead of “organize the house,” try, “organize kitchen drawers.” This is a realistic goal that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. “Organize the house” is daunting, seemingly never-ending, and will usually be pushed aside for quicker options like going to the bank.  Choosing to tackle small tasks within your larger goal, without losing sight of the big picture (specified on your long-term goals list), will help you to accomplish both your short-term and long-term goals without feeling overwhelmed.

While fall is still weeks away, implement some of these ideas, so you’ll be more relaxed when summer ends.  Before you know it, school will be back in session, sports practice will begin, carpools will be a way of life, and homework and tests will be dominating your children’s evenings.   And until then, take a deep breath…summer is yours to enjoy for another month!