Articles & Advice

7 Steps For Creating an Efficient Toy or Sports Closet

Use this 7 step process to organize and create a toy closet within your hall closet. Even if you don’t have kids, you can use the same process for whatever you decide to do with your spare closet.

1. Gather It All Together

Gather all of the toys or sports equipment that you wish to store in this area. Sort these items into categories. Pile like items with like, give or throw away all of items that your children no longer play with and then take stock of what you need to store.

2. Determine What Storage to Use

For toys with multiple parts like Lego bricks, consider buying plastic bins with lids that children can easily remove and put back on. Place all Lego items into one bin, with a little room to spare to serve as a guide for when your children request more Lego parts.

3. Sort Like with Like

Make sure that board games are intact and stack these boxes together. A large rubber band around each box will save you hours of frustration sorting spilled boxes. Stuffed animals are best stored together in their own bin or deep basket. Once all toys are gathered, you will have a better idea of what type of storage containers you need. For instance, if the collection is mainly board games and stuffed animals, then you will need a small shelf unit and a large basket to hold the toys. If you discover that you have multiple loose items, you might want to incorporate a drawer unit into the closet.

 4. Choose the Proper Containers

There are many cost effective and efficient plastic storage units on the market. These plastic solutions will help organize your closet without requiring a construction worker. One of the most versatile units is the rolling drawer bin. These white and clear plastic units feature three to four drawers and they can be stacked if you need more room. You should be able to fit one of these into the closet with room to spare on one side for other containers. For instance, you can stack two to three bins on top of each other on the floor beside this unit.

If you need to store many sports related items, tall kitchen trashcans make super containers for bats, gloves, balls, etc.

5. Make Use of the Side Walls

On the side walls you can install hooks at “kid height” to hold bags for separate projects. These hooks could also be a landing zone for backpacks when your children return from school. Keep things at their level so small children can hang up their coats and grab their backpacks. Install these hanging rods and hooks about 2 1/2 to 3 feet high.

6. Consider Adding a Shelf

Another option is to buy a small shelf unit that will fit inside your closet. There are numerous shapes and sizes available to accommodate almost any size closet. Most are kits that you can easily assemble yourself. Buy the tallest one available to optimize the vertical space within your closet. Stack plastic bins on the shelves to organize loose items. Usually the shelves are only 12 inches deep. This means you will have floor space in front and off to the sides for small trashcans to hold larger loose toys.

 7. Develop Good Habits

Once this closet is reconfigured, teach your children that this is their own special closet, built just for them. Because it is their special place, they are the ones responsible for returning toys there at the end of playtime.

Even if a kid’s toy closet is not your final outcome, it pays to get everyone in the house on board with what ever the new improved closet is designed for. This way, you will hopefully never again find strange unrelated items stuffed into this space.

There is no one perfect closet design. If you are designing a toy closet, your storage needs depend on the age of your children and their interests. If you are simply designing a sports closet for the entire family, you will need flexibility because interests like sports come and go like the wind! Keep in mind that as your interests change, you can easily redesign the space with different plastic storage configurations. With plastic containers and a little creativity, you can create effective holding zones for almost any item.




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Tips to Help You Get Your Garage Organized

As with any other space within your home, a well-organized garage always has a premeditated layout and design. Unfortunately, most people don’t give much thought about what goes into their garage and it frequently ends up becoming a dumping zone for all things unwanted, unused or loved.

In order to begin getting your garage in order, you need to determine what activities will take place in your garage. As with every other area in your home, you have to know what your end goals are before you begin to plan the layout. Perhaps you, like many others will have a laundry area, but will it also store sports equipment, garden supplies and holiday décor? Will it feature a workout or workshop area?

Take a walk through your garage. Check out what goodies have ended up there and then begin to visualize what items truly are goodies instead of things that are simply old, unloved and abandoned.


Once you have decided what items you will keep in your garage, you can create a practical plan for each zone you need to create within your space. For instance, if your washer and dryer are located in your garage. it makes sense to position the laundry area closest to the interior door. Gardening supplies and the lawnmower should be towards the front and side of the garage to keep the dirt toward the outer perimeter and away from the laundry zone. I will talk more about your laundry zone in a bit.

Every well- designed garage will include some type of storage. Does your garage have pre-existing shelving or cabinets? The ideal strategy is to use one entire wall for storage. The wall on the left side of the garage is typically good for shelves because you can set the perimeter to allow for your car door to open. Cabinets/shelves are typically 20-24 inches deep and should fit easily along the wall where you will park the car. Using this wall for storage will keep lawnmowers etc from banging into your car door. And yes – I am suggesting that you put your car back into the garage even if it hasn’t ever seen the inside of your garage! Your car is one of your largest investments, so it makes sense to give it a home within your home.

Open shelves on the wall closest to your home entrance will conveniently store household supplies bought in bulk.

Make sure to use every inch of vertical space, floor to ceiling and wall to wall. Buy the tallest available cabinets or shelves to totally optimize the space along your wall. If you still have overhead space after installing these cabinets, consider running another shelf above to hold holiday boxes or tax archives.

When you think your plan is complete, look again at the space above each zone. You can never have too much storage. Consider adding more shelving in the areas that have empty wall space or above the garage door. Holiday decorations should be grouped together and stored high and out of the way. There are companies that specialize in overhead garage door storage units. This storage area works well for large items like skis, extra lumber and building supplies. If you are a ‘do-it-yourselfer’, most home improvement stores sell kits for overhead storage shelving.

Garden supplies can be stacked neatly in two rows of large plastic bins with lids. Extra potting soil, mixes and pots can be stored in the two bottom bins. Tools, seeds and bulbs can be stored neatly within the top bins. Sectionalize your smaller items within the larger bins with ziplock baggies and smaller shoebox size bins. If you don’t have an existing potting station, keep an empty plastic bin on top of this stack to use for potting plants. By the time you have stacked three of these bins on top of each other, you have a convenient waist-high workstation.

Almost every garage needs a tool zone. Even if we are not that handy, we all need the occasional hammer and nail. Being a fan of organized spaces, even as a child, one of my favorite organizing solutions was when my Dad nailed the lids of old baby food jars to the underside of his tool cabinet. He used these jars to store his nails, screws and small parts within. When he needed a nail, he simply unscrewed the lid and removed the jar from it’s hanging space. I thought he was brilliant and I loved that solution so much that I always offered to help him screw the bottles back onto their lids.

So, think about what you want to accomplish within your garage and get going!

If you get stuck and want a jump start for getting your entire home organized, check out my online do-it-yourself course ~ Home Organizing Made Simple


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Tired of Being Buried Under Paperwork?

Hi Kathi,

I enjoyed your presentation at the Women’s SCORE breakfast at Morgan Run about two years ago. I was fascinated with your ideas and have read your book.

I like your advice to skip over the chapters that don’t apply. The clothes closet one didn’t apply to me, but I read the chapter anyway. My closet is organized by color first, and by season second. (My best organization starts upstream at the store.)

Where I struggle is with the pieces of paper. The action pile is the problem. All of the other categories are organized very well. My manuals are on the bottom left of my lateral filing cabinet. When an iron breaks and I buy a new one, I pull out the old directions and put the new directions in the file folder. All the retirement information is in one place. My file cabinets are very organized. Just like my spices turntables – all in alphabetical order.

So, I think there’s hope for me. Four of the five categories of paper are organized well. And have been for 40 years.

But the action papers. I don’t know what to keep and what to throw away. I’ve learned to throw more away sooner because, as you point out, the history is available on the Internet. I do purge my statements folders once each year. And thanks to your presentation, I toss some receipts or statements immediately.

Have you written a new chapter, or are there websites you can recommend, to help me with this final bit of mastering my muck? Here are examples: Do I need to keep paystub statements? How much medical paperwork should I keep? The dental office has my records. The medical clinic has my records. I use Quicken, so as soon as I’ve downloaded the transactions, I verify things and toss the receipt (unless it’s a big purchase and I need to keep the receipt).

I’ve told many friends and colleagues about your presentation and your book. I look forward to hearing back from you about new ways to think.


Hope Campbell
MA in Educational Technology
Instructional Designer
Technical Writer
and tired of being buried under paper

Hi Hope,

Thanks so much for reaching out with your questions. You are not alone and I commend you for the great work you have done so far. Here are a few tips for each of your specific questions:

Do I need to keep paystub statements?

You do not need to keep your pay stubs if you trust that your employer is deducting the right amount and that you will receive an accurate year end document, ie W2 or 1099. If you are on commission, you might want to save each pay stub until you have been fully compensated for your wrok. After this is verfied, you can shred them.

If you receive a regular salary from a reputable company, you can toss or shred your stubs as soon as they arrive. If your pay is automatically deposited, you can also request that you no longer receive a pay stub.

How much medical paperwork should I keep? The dental office has my records. The medical clinic has my records.

You need to keep your medical bills until they are reimbursed or paid.

If you are on an HSA plan, you can use your HSA funds for many expenses not covered by your health insurance plan. Dental and vision care expenditures are common examples. Keep these receipts for these items and then organize and total them each year and file with your tax return receipts. Keeping 2 files will serve you well and keep your expenses separated for tax time, one for odd year, another for even.

There are many points of view about which medical records you should personally keep such as test results and x-rays. Many people feel that they want to keep and track their complete medical history. If this is your case, create a permanent file folder and save only your test results etc. Do not keep bills or other papers here, only test results. If you get an x ray, ask for it to be given to you on a disc so that it will also fit within this file. I personally keep my annual wellness results and also any blood work results and let my doctor save the other documents and x rays. Do whatever falls within your comfort zone.

I use Quicken, so as soon as I’ve downloaded the transactions, I verify things and toss the receipt (unless it’s a big purchase and I need to keep the receipt). 

Keep receipts for every expenditure over $75 that appears on your tax return. If you are an employee as opposed to an home-based business. you dont need to keep many receipts as your tax return is simple: medical (as of this date, you can deduct eligible medical expenses to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income), tax docs such as W2 and earned interest and charitable donations are typically the only items that you record to the IRS.  These will be the only receipts that you need to keep and archive with your tax return.

All other receipts can be tossed as soon as they are input into Quicken. As an aside, I keep an envelope in my purse for purchases that I might possibly need to return. I toss the grocery receipts into the grocery trashcan as I leave the store or sometimes even tell the check out person to toss them for me! Once a month or so, I go through that envelope and get rid of the receipts for the merchandise that I am satisfied with. This way, I dont bring receipts and extra papers into my house or office that are not relevant to my tax return.

You might also want to watch this quick news braodcast where I provided more tips for managing and eliminating your paperwork.

I hope that this helps you finish your organizing process. Keep up the good work and feel free to connect again if you have more questions!

PS, I love the use of turntables and organizing your spices in alphabetical order, Yay!



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10 Lifestyle Guidelines for Trimming Down Your Clutter

1. If you are looking for something and you are unable to find it immediately, unclutter the area surrounding that object as soon as possible.

2. Ask your family or housemates to help you declutter and rearrange your home in a more organized fashion. The more buy-ins you have from others using your space, the easier it will be to maintain your new systems!

3. If you can no longer see the surface on your counters or tabletop, it’s time to clean up your act and ditch the muck!

4. Set up a particular area for the items that you use daily – install hooks to serve as key holders, a bin for magazines, etc.

5. Make it a habit to clean up and stow random objects from your living room before you go bed each night.

6. Be uncompromising.  Throw out papers, such as newspapers, magazines and useless mail every week.

7. Create a list of household essentials and hang it on the inside of your pantry door. Checkmark the items when you run out. This will let you see at a glance what you have on hand and what you need to restock during the next shopping expedition.

8. Set a regular schedule to rid the house of unnecessary objects such as dead batteries, dried-up pens, burnt out lightbulbs and other garbage. Make it a point to find the locations nearby your home that recycle those items.

9. Do not be sentimental on things! Donate or trash items if you are no longer using them.

10. Set up a donation box somewhere in your home where it can  live permanently. Place it in an easily accesible location and add  to it every time you run across something that you no longer need, love or use.

Find your closest donation facility and go there every month to empty your box. Getting rid of at least one box per month will make a big difference in your lifestyle!

According the the US Soap and Laundry Association, clearing your clutter will save you 42% more time cleaning your house. How’s that for a bit of motivation?

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Downsizing to a Smaller Home

Downsizing to a Smaller Home

Dear Kathi,

My husband and I have recently downsized to a smaller house. We are finding it very difficult to let go of things we have always thought to be important. What are your suggestions? Kerry T of Del Mar


Congratulations on realizing that you need to release a few possessions from your life. As people move into new homes they discover that items that were once an integral part of their life no longer serve them. Even though they no longer need or use these items, they still feel sentimentally attached and find it difficult to let go. My suggestion is to think about how each item in question is now serving you. For starters, is it serving you at all or is it simply collecting dust in the corner? If it is only collecting dust, donate it and send it to new owners who will use it regularly. You will find this liberating and energizing. If you decide to keep it, move it into an area where it can be viewed or used regularly. If you can’t do this, it needs to leave your possession for good. Release and let go.

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How to Organize your Closet with an App- Is your iPhone Really that Smart?

It’s almost time for work and you don’t have a clue what to wear. You’ve plowed through heaps of sweaters, knocked several blouses off their hangers, and have a pile of pants accumulating on your bed. And the clock is ticking.

We’ve all been there—buried in a monstrous mountain of clothing, but unable to find a single thing to wear. Don’t worry. Your days of wardrobe frustrations are over because—there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several.

Can’t see your headscarf for the trees? There’s an app for that.

Image courtesy of

  1. Netrobe

If your walk-in closet bears a resemblance to a large department store, this may be the app for you. Equipped with the ability to manage a behemoth amount of garments, Netrobe not only allows you to store photos of everything you own, but it also divides said belongings in to nifty categories.

Unlike your bursting closet, Netrobe has seemingly unlimited room for every one of your fashion must-haves. It allows you to create and save outfits galore and it keeps track of what you’ve worn—enabling you to avoid dreaded reruns.

It even allows you to pack a virtual suitcase for trips and provides you with a checklist to ensure that these actual items make it into your real-life luggage.

Another nifty feature is that it allows you to remove the background from photo shots—creating a more magazine-like image.

* This app is only available right now for iPhone but you can get on a waiting list to get notified when the android version is released.

Tired of wrestling with an overstuffed suitcase? These apps can take the “ack” out of packing. 

Image courtesy of

  1. Stylebook

This handy organizational tool enables you to snap photos of and catalogue every solitary item in your wardrobe. Once your inventory is complete, selecting outfits is as simple as that guy down the road with no branches in his family tree.

Can’t remember what tops match those hot pink skinny jeans? No problem. This app has a feature that allows you to view every single look that you’ve ever fashioned with those very jeans.

You’d like a nice pair of boots to wear with them? Stylebook offers a cool shopping feature too. Search out the styles that you’re after and where you want to get them from and add them to your closet. Now you can pair them with your pants and see how they look. Once you find the boots of your dreams, e-mail yourself the link so you can buy them later.

This app even lets you keep track of what pieces are in the laundry, so you’ll never be caught off guard again.

* This app is only available right now for iPhone


 Avoid unnecessary purchases like those banana-colored shoes that don’t match a thing in your closet. 

Image courtesy of

  1. Cloth

Like similar apps, Cloth allows users to catalog their plethora of fashion must-haves and organize them into handy categories. It enables you to mix and match items, creating outfits for every occasion.

Cloth also enables fashionistas with mad photography skills to crop pictures, add stickers, and enhance their photos in loads of novel ways.

What truly differentiates Cloth from other apps is that it is designed for sharing your favorite looks with others. This is the perfect way to get your friends’ opinions before you showcase an outfit in the flesh. Are you going to an event that requires you to dress semi-casual and you’re not sure what this means? No sweat. You and your friends can share your outfits with Cloth and make sure you’re all on the same page.

Cloth even rewards avid “sharers” with badges and points—and if the company is impressed with your fashion know-how, you could land a spot on their blog.


Is confusion over the term “semi casual” hurting your head? No worries. There’s an app for that too. 

Image courtesy of

With these new closet-organizing iPhone apps, you will never find yourself at the bottom of an avalanche of clothing again. And, in no time, you will become the mighty fashion guru that you always wanted to be.


Contributor Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger and illustrator. As a Manhattan-trained makeup artist and former fashion student, she knows how important it is to achieve the right look. Kimberley also how important it is to protect her on-line reputation. 

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Zen and the Art of Bookkeeping – Simple Ways for WAHM’s to Master this Dreaded Task

Spend a day with the average Work At Home Mom, a.k.a. WAHM, and you will come away wondering how the heck she manages to get through the day without yanking all of her hair out. WAHMs are like superheroes. They can cook pasta, wipe Johnny’s runny nose, change Susie’s diaper, and do a sink full of dishes—all while fulfilling an order for their home-based business. But no one, not even Super Mom, can do it all. And the duty that is usually swept under the proverbial rug is bookkeeping—the dreaded “B” word.

“I used to have long, lustrous locks. Then I tried bookkeeping and ripped all my hair out.”

Image courtesy of

       Unfortunately, your bookkeeping duties can’t remain buried beneath your Berber forever. Someone might trip on them. They must be tackled. But don’t start sifting through the yellow pages for a wig supplier just yet. Here are a few easy tips to help you get that nasty bookkeeping done, keep your signature tresses in place, and avoid nasty letters from the I.R.S.

  • Invest in software.

It is important to purchase software that is designed specifically for small business bookkeeping and not a program meant for personal finance needs. Bookkeeping software will make your life so much easier and actually make a loathed task fun—almost.

All you do is input the information and the software adds up the numbers, generates invoices, keeps track of what is owed to you, and makes your tax preparation a breeze. Some programs that you might want to check out include Quickbooks, Peachtree, Sage 50, and Bookkeeper.

  • Make bookkeeping a habit.

Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, you cannot abandon your bookkeeping routine. Ignoring these duties will result in an intimidating mountain of receipts and invoices that, once again, will have you mangling your auburn mane.

Maintaining a regular routine, however, will allow you to keep on top of things and no longer dread this necessary task.

“Since I’ve gone paperless, I have saved a fortune on bandages.”

Image courtesy of

  • Opt for paperless.

Nothing is more frustrating and time-consuming than sifting through heaps of paper—and that’s assuming that what you’re looking for hasn’t been lost. Creating a “paper trail” made of actual paper is no longer the best route to take.

While it is impossible to eliminate all paper, you can significantly decrease the amount that crosses your desk. You can use on-line banking to manage your accounts, set up automatic debits to pay bills, and use a business credit card that will track your business purchases. This way, all of your statements are readily available to you with the click of a button.

  • Develop a Filing System.

Sometimes paper cannot be avoided. Stores still issue paper receipts for purchases. And some businesses still deal in paper invoices. In order to maintain these often tiny pieces of paper, you need to develop and stick with a filing system.

Whether you choose to use actual filing cabinets, accordion files, or some other clever storage device, you need to find the one that works best for you. This means it will come naturally to you, allow you to retrieve information easily, and that you will be able to keep it up.

  • Know when you need help.

There may come a time when your business warrants an outside bookkeeper and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you’re too busy making sales to engage in your bookkeeping duties or if you have hired employees and are considering payrolloutsourcing, go for it. Trying to juggle too many balls at once will only stress you out and make your business suffer.

  • Give yourself a pat on the back.

Whenever we commit ourselves to a new course of action and stick with it—particularly when it involves doing something we despise—we need to be rewarded. Some may say that avoiding an I.R.S. audit should be reward enough, but it isn’t.

Find an extrinsic reward that motivates you—a dinner out, a new sweater, a manicure or something completely different—and give it to yourself for a job well done. This will encourage you to keep up the good work.

“I’m so happy that my hair has grown back in.”

Image courtesy of


Once you have the tools and the know-how, bookkeeping is really a doable chore. Super Mom can now officially do it all—and you can finally get rid of that unsightly lump under the carpet.

What bookkeeping tips can you offer your fellow WAHMs? Let us know in the comments section below!


Contributor Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and illustrator who also harbors a fear of bookkeeping and all things related to numbers. And, yes, she has followed her own advice.  

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A Clever Jewelry Organizer

Here’s an easy way to organize your jewelry. Simply buy a fishing tackle box with dividers, and add plain white rice (not quick cook rice because of extra dust). Move the dividers based on the size of your jewelry. Once it is set up you can open the lid and see exactly what you have at a quick glance. If you have lots of jewelry, you can buy multiple boxes and store them on top of each other with labels on the side. This is what my friend Brianna does with her jewelry. Isn’t she smart?

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Eliminating mail clutter

A Word About Your New Years Resolution – Don’t give up!
Do you have a master plan to accomplish your New Year’s resolution this year? Many of our resolutions begin to falter in late January because of poor planning.

Have you spelled out exactly what accomplishing your goal means to you? Specifically, if your goal is to get into better shape, does this mean the ability to run three miles, drop 10 pounds or to fit into a size 32 slack?

Be very literal with what steps you need to perform to accomplish your goal. For instance, if your goal is to run six miles in the Labor Day Race, you can chart where you are now and know that if you increase your distance 1/4 mile every week, you will succeed.

Breaking your goal into smaller steps will help you track each success along the way, which in turn, reinforces your goal. Try it if you haven’t already. With a little planning and a lot of clarity, I guarantee you will be closer to manifesting your dreams!

Dear Kathi,

I am trying to take your advice about de-cluttering my house this month. I’ve been doing ok but my mail is a constant nuisance that clutters my kitchen. I have a home based business so I tend to get more mail than the average household. What can I do with my piles of mail?

Kirsten, Cardiff


To get mail under control: Do not pass go, in other words, don’t bring it into the house until you’ve done a first toss. This means sorting mail over a trashcan before you enter your home and tossing the junk immediately. A trashcan in the garage or by the back door is convenient for this. Do your tossing when you’re not distracted, after briefcase, groceries, or kids are safely inside the house.

Sort your remaining mail into business/ personal stacks and save it for review later. Give your remaining mail a “home.” Put each stack in a designated place keeping business separate from personal.
For business matters, use a vertical desk top file system. You could use these sample categories; To File, To Pay, To Read, Waiting for a Response, Data Entry, or what ever works best for your thought process.
For personal correspondence, you might use a basket. A basket will contain your mail and keep it separate from your business materials. It also provides portability, leaving you the option of paying bills in the kitchen, den or terrace. You can also keep stamps, return labels and envelopes tucked into this basket.

You now need a routine to deal with your mail. Set a consistent time every week to handle bills, credit card statements, etc. You should have two appointments set; one for business mail during the workweek and one for personal mail sometime in the evening or weekend. Try to separate these task times or you could get distracted with personal issues during productive business hours. Setting a scheduled time every week will help you remain in control of your paperwork and better able to see the bank overdraft, important appointment notices or the erroneous charge on your credit card.
Hopefully you have a file system that works well for you. If you need any information on file systems, I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to:

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Daily tips to start the new year strong!

Happy 2015!

This is the perfect year to create new opportunities and positive shifts in your life. I am committed to helping you see for yourself how and why you might be having a difficult time creating the life of your dreams. I will also provide tips to help you create the dramatic and positive changes you are waiting for. So here is tip #1:

If you truly want to begin a new chapter in your life this year, it will help if you begin to let go of as many possessions as you can tolerate. Too many possessions will keep you from moving forward and chasing your dreams. On the wall of a restaurant that I went to just last night was a painting that read, “A simple life promotes a long life.” They were referring to eating close to the source, but this also applies to possessions. When you add space to your life and your surroundings, you create a vacuum for new things to enter into your life, giving you renewed energy and more vitality.

Make sure to check back often because during this series of blogs, I am going to highlight the many ways that I have seen clutter stop people from reaching their full potential. I will also provide strategies that will help you jetapult toward your dreams!

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