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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

 

 

 

Nix Holiday Stress in 6 Simple Steps

· Entertaining, Holiday · , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We all know holiday prep has a way of spiraling into full on hysteria. From gift shopping and RSVPs, to party attendance and clean-up, managing your holiday schedule is a full time job. This season, approach “the most wonderful time of the year” with a clear, organized plan of attack. Keep calm and party on!

  1. Buy gifts you love in bulk and give them to as many people on your list as possible. Gift cards are your best bet.
  2. Have hostess gifts on hand and keep it simple. It’s okay to bring a bottle of wine or to buy a dessert instead of cooking or baking.
  3. Take inventory of your holiday decorations before and after the holiday. Before the holiday, you can assess whether you need to buy anything new. At the end of the holiday, you can get rid of anything broken or soiled.
  4. Keep a spreadsheet of all of the holiday tips you give. You may not remember how much you tipped your mail carrier last year, but he or she will.
  5. If you have a social commitment that you’re dreading, be targeted about how you spend your time when you get there. Arrive early and spend a few minutes one on one with the host. Put in your face time, do the necessary networking, and be on your way.
  6. Don’t feel obligated to save your friends’ holiday cards with their children’s pictures. Since you probably don’t have your own children’s photos perfectly organized; why would you add pictures of other children to the mix?

 

Jewelry Storage – Valentine’s Day 2017

· Valentine's Day · , , , , , , , , ,

Chocolates, stuffed bears, and roses are all nice Valentine’s Day gifts, but as Marilyn Monroe sang, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” If you’re lucky enough to receive a beautiful bauble this Valentine’s Day, it deserves a proper place to be stored. So, in honor of the holiday, take a look at some of our favorite jewelry storage options that will make you just as excited to put away your jewelry as you are to put it on!

 

Grand Lacquer Jewelry Box, Antique Silver1. Best Multi-Purpose Jewelry Box: Grand Lacquer Jewelry Box from West Elm: $219.00  

This jewelry box contains three levels of jewelry storage with top sections that flip out for easy access to what’s below. It’s roomy enough to fit all of your jewelry needs, with a specialized cushion area for rings and earrings. When closed, its simple exterior and shape will match almost any décor and surface. An added bonus is that it can be monogrammed.

BUY >

 

White Supersize Stackers Premium Stackable Jewelry Box2. Best Modular Jewelry Storage: Stackers Premium Stackable Jewelry Boxes from The Container Store: $29.99-39.99

These stackable trays are available in three colors, three sizes and many different interior configurations. You can choose which tray style you want based on the type and amount of jewelry you have, and you can add trays as your jewelry collection grows. One of the variations is a lidded tray that can be placed on top of your stacks, so when the top is closed, It gives the appearance of one coherent jewelry box.

BUY >

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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.

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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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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Staying Organized at College

· College · , , ,

By Guest Blogger Aviva Leshaw, McGill University Freshman

Now that I’ve settled into college life, I see how important managing my time and my space is. If you want to excel academically, socialize, and participate in extracurricular activities, follow these tips for staying organized.

1. Have a good calendar system: organizing your time will organize your mind, and eventually your space. Whether it’s paper or digital, keep your calendar with you at all times.
2. Don’t go to school with every single item you think you’ll need for the year. Plan to purchase some supplies after you live in your room for a while. You may think you’ll use a kettle, or have countless items to fill a 10­pack of jumbo storage containers, but when you arrive these items may be unnecessary.
3. If you have a roommate, contact them beforehand to figure out who will purchase shared appliances, or purchase some of these items together when you both arrive at school.
4. As classes begins, if you do have a double room, keep in mind that you can’t control your roommate’s side of the room. Keep your area neat, and always how shared areas will be maintained.
5. Designate sensible spots for everything at the beginning of the semester. Your desk should be your study space, so keep books and supplies in that area only, while clothing and shoes should be in the closet.
6. Utilize all available space. This includes in your closet, under your bed, and on your walls.
7. Put items like extra linen and out­of­season clothing out of sight, perhaps under your bed or on the top shelf of a closet, so that they don’t get in the way on a daily basis.
8. If you brought anything with you that you don’t need, bring it home with you on your next trip, or get rid of it. There’s no need keep something the whole year if you’ll never use it.
9. Keep snacks…snack­sized. This will not only ward off the freshman fifteen, they’re also easy to grab when running to class. Stock your room with snack packs, rather than anything “jumbo.”
10. And finally, decorate! Make the space your own…it’s the only way you’ll want to spend time there and keep things neat.

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…

1. UNABLE TO MAKE A DECISION?
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.

2. A PROCRASTINATOR?
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.

3. EXTREMELY SENTIMENTAL?
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.

4. SEVERELY TIME CHALLENGED?
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.