Articles & Advice

Fashion for pregnancy

Dear Kathi,

I am four months pregnant and no longer fit into my largest clothes. I need to buy new clothes but I don’t really know the best items to buy. I am a size 14 when I’m not pregnant. I would like to feel pretty, sexy and not simply “big as a house” while I am pregnant. What can you suggest?

Dawn, Cardiff by the Sea

Dawn,

Shirts and dresses with empire seams just below the breast are very feminine. They are snug on top with extra room for growth below.

Try an A-line style dress. A-lines generally fit snug around the breast and flare out at the bottom. You don’t necessarily need to buy a maternity cut, simply buy it longer than usual so that the front hemline doesn’t become too short as your belly expands.
There are currently many India inspired tunic tops on the market that will expand as you grow. Pair these long tunic blouses with wide leg slacks or pencil skirts with elastic waistbands. Buy these separates in sizes 16, 18 or XXL and you should be able to wear them throughout your pregnancy.

You can also combine a long snug fitting T-shirt or tank top with the popular gauze tiered skirts for a romantic and relaxed style.
A good style for work is a long jersey tunic over a matching long skirt. It’s easy to wear, not too restrictive and fine for formal and informal offices. Add strappy sandals and glitzy earrings and you have a comfortable evening outfit.

If you can’t find decent maternity slacks, simply step up a size as you grow. Cropped pants look nice for the summer months and are more forgiving than shorts during pregnancy.

Speaking of the summer, when you need to go swimming, you can combine your bikini bottoms with a large but snug T-shirt. Don’t be afraid to show a little belly. The pregnant belly has made a comeback in fashion catalog’s.
Pregnant bellies are now considered sexy. This is a time in your life where you can gain weight and be proud of it. Have fun sporting a big round belly and enjoy feeling feminine and sexy!

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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Staying organized during relocation

Dear Kathi
Next month my family will be relocating to Florida for my husband’s new job. I have 2 children and have already begun packing. I read your column a few weeks ago and wanted to ask you for specific advice about packing and staying organized while we relocate.

Maria, San Marcos

Maria,

There is never a better time to streamline and simplify your life than during a major transition. You are in a golden spot to weed through your possessions and eliminate the items that you don’t really need or love. You deserve to start clean. Alleviate the headaches associated with too many possessions. Create new space in your life and release the old possessions that no longer serve you.

Think about these rules of thumb when deciding what to toss or pack during this process:

• you forgot you had it until you re-found it while packing

• you haven’t used it in the past year

• your children stopped playing with it months ago

• It has seen better days and/or is broken

• you never really liked it but it was a gift from a dear friend or relative

• it no longer reflects your lifestyle

• no one will miss it when it’s gone

• it’s labels indicate that it is expired

• it came with the house

Keep in mind that each item represents time spent packing and unpacking. Even if your move is completely facilitated and subsidized by your husband’s employer, you are still responsible for assigning a space for each possession within your new home.

Gather all kitchen items from around the house including the casserole in the garage, the BBQ set out back and the waffle iron stuffed in your hall closet. Get the picture? As you pack each item, wipe it off, make sure it works and, if it passes all of the rules listed above, pack it for the move.

Collect items from each bathroom and group them together. This provides an opportunity to see the enormity of your collection and will help you decide to pack or purge.

Group, separate and classify your book collection. When your books reach their new home, they will be organized and ready to begin anew in their respective rooms. Pack them into smaller boxes so that you can move them around yourself if necessary.
If you are in charge of packing for the move, pack like a professional. Gather boxes, packing material, packing tape and large felt tip markers. Label each box on the top and sides with the final room destination.

Use large boxes for lightweight items like linens. Use pillows and towels to protect your fragile items within boxes. Place heavier items in the bottom of the box.

Realize that when you move across the US, movers rarely keep pace with your travel agenda. Your furniture often lags behind 3-7 days after you arrive. Pack enough clothes and toys to keep your family comfortable for up to two weeks. You might need to stay a few nights in a hotel or your new home before your furniture arrives.

Pack these items to move with your family (not the moving company):
pillows, a small blanket, a week’s worth of clothing for each family member, books, magazines and games, hearty snack foods, your personal address book, stamps for the kids to mail postcards, pen and notepad, mini-first aid kit and a personal hygiene kit for each family member.

You will have a brand new space when you arrive in Boston. Take advantage of this opportunity to create a fresh look. Give yourself permission to give up the items that no longer fit your taste. Let loose and toss the old shower curtain. Buy new décor after you move. It is invigorating and healthy to create new beginnings. Have fun!

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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Organize old manuals with folders

Dear Kathi,

My husband insists on saving the manuals and warranty slips for every item that we buy. I don’t think we ever read or refer to them but I must keep them ‘just in case’.
What is the best way to keep this growing pile of booklets and papers archived and out of my way?

Mary, San Diego

Mary,

There are a couple of options that work well for booklets and accompanying loose papers.

If you have ample file drawer space, create hanging file folders. Label these folders with categories to include; Electronics, Appliances, Furniture, Computers and Tools. Add any other categories that are applicable for your household. File your booklets within these broad categories or divide them individually into manila folders within each hanging file.

Another option employs a large 3″ three ring binder. Create sections with divider sheets labeled with each major category. Hole punch each manual and store them “book style” within this binder.

The least time-consuming method is to purchase a magazine bin that will house all of your manuals vertically on a shelf. This option is less organized but does keep all of your loose manuals in one space.

Whatever method you choose, collect all of the loose manuals scattered throughout your home. Store them together in one area, preferably the same space as your other papers. Pay close attention while you gather these items and discard the manuals for items that you no longer own.

Bonus tip: Keep a copy of your original sales receipt stapled to the inside of each product manual. If you need a receipt for tax purposes, make a copy for your tax records. If you need to use the warranty or ask a question later, your purchase information will be organized with the phone number to call.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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Downsizing from large home

Dear Kathi,

We are getting ready to downsize from a 3,500 square foot home to a 1500 square foot home. We obviously have too much furniture. We would welcome your professional guidelines about how to downsize.

Errol, Oceanside

Errol,

Decide what activities will take place in each room within your new home in advance. For instance, will the spare guest room double as a study or crafts room? Once you have decided what purpose each room will serve, you can begin to decide which furniture should be kept, sold or donated.

Consider making a graph to scale of each room showing all doorways and windows. Another option is to simply take a walk through of your new home and make notes about what furniture you will need for each space.

Once you have a more visual understanding of your new home, you can begin to weed through your belongings. As you pack for the move, assign a room for each item and box it accordingly. This way each possession will end up in the right area after the move. Keep a master list of each room and its contents. With this method, important items won’t get lost. It will be easier to gauge if you have too many items for your new space.

I strongly recommend that you enlist the help of a friend or professional to provide insight and help you make decisions. An outside helper won’t have any vested interest in what you keep, sell or donate. They will be able to look objectively at your space and needs.

Furniture is your first and largest consideration. Once you have decided what furniture you will keep, you are ready to begin going through your knickknacks, china and other belongings. Your furniture and the storage therein will provide preset parameters about what to keep. For instance, if you have decided the buffet will not fit into your new home, this is a major indicator that you will need to part with some or all of your good china.

Consider what your new lifestyle will entail. Will you entertain on the scale that you have in the past? Will you still host sit-down dinners with good china or relax into the informality of barbeques and paper plates? Many retired folks are happy to pass the role of formal hosting to their children or a local restaurant. If you can’t part with all of your china, consider keeping a place setting for four and sell or bequest the other 8-12 settings.

Your new home gives you permission to release the old responsibilities of a garage full of tools, a bevy of pool toys and your full scale gardening collection. Eliminate the lesser-used and redundant items. Take this opportunity to redefine what you really want to do in your spare time and purge accordingly.

Books are a heavy topic, literally and figuratively. Book collectors and avid readers have a tough time releasing books while downsizing. Realize that you won’t have the same amount of bookshelves in your new space. Pre-measure your bookshelves. Preset the number of books you will move before you begin to purge your collection. Be diligent through this tough decision making process. It might take 2-3 purges to get your library to a manageable size. Remember that you can usually find most titles at the local library. Donate your discards to the public library system. Your old books will raise money for new titles and you can personally benefit from the tax deduction.

Remember that it is very difficult to purge too much. Almost every item that you own is replaceable. Space is not. Leave yourself room to grow and flourish within your new home.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
.
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Purging and Downsizing

Dear Kathi,

We have acquired a lot of furniture over the years and need to get rid of a few pieces. In two years we will downsize into a retirement condominium. I would like to start getting rid of things now so that it won’t be such a large task when we actually do move. It’s so hard to decide what to keep and what to let go. I think my real question is, where to start?

Frieda, Oceanside

Frieda,

It is a great idea to begin your downsizing now. Two years will speed by, and before you know it, you will have to perform this task anyway. Take the time now, set a reasonable pace, and you will make better decisions. To decide which furniture pieces you need to keep, consider what rooms you will have in your new condo. Will you still have a formal dining room? Will your kitchen hold your current table and chairs?

How many bathrooms? Schedule the approximate move date on your calendar. Plan backward from the move date to today and note what needs to be organized. Set a completion date for each major task.

List each room and mark the sub-goals also on your calendar. For instance, Guest Bedroom: Aug 1-8 closet Aug 9-16 curios, Aug 17-24 cabinets and drawers. Take a mental inventory of what is in each room. Make a list of the items that you absolutely wish to keep. Start letting go of items that you know you won’t need in your new condo.

Place these items into boxes for donate or sell. If you are ‘on the fence’ about whether to keep or give away an item, consider boxing it for the time being. Store this box out of site with a note to yourself on the outside.

List the contents within this box and the date it was taken out of the limelight. A month before your move, revisit these boxes. Read the label and the content description. See if you can visualize the items in the box by reading your label. If you have forgotten what these items are, even after reading about them, this is a good indication that you should let them go. Do yourself a favor and do not open this box. Instead, load this box into your car and take it to your favorite charity.

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Dressing for menopause with style

Dear Kathi,

I’m going through menopause and I can’t seem to find anything that feels or looks good when I wear it. Everything seems frumpy and when I flash I am unbearably hot even when the air conditioning is at full blast. Help! I can’t run around naked at the office and I can’t stand my wardrobe for much longer!

Betty, Carmel Valley

Betty,

It sounds as if you are ready for a fashion makeover. Layering your shirts can be the key to your success and comfort during hot flashes. Many women layer during this time but often choose the wrong types of fabric for this task. Find the lightest weight fabrics you can buy. Cottons and blends will help keep your temperature regulated and absorb moisture when necessary. Lightweight fabrics can be layered as many as three pieces at a time without feeling restrictive. Most importantly avoid wearing baggy shapes and choose clothes that skim your body. This will help you feel more fashionable and less frumpy.

Skirts are a great wardrobe choice if you run hot and cold. They are very forgiving during hot flashes. Make sure the waistband is not too tight. Avoid elastic waistbands because they tend to restrict your body. Opt for waistlines that lie flat against your body. Side zipper designs are more comfortable and cooler than front zips. When you feel a hotflash approaching, remove a top layer and then another if necessary.

If you work in an office, consider keeping a pair of sandals under your desk or slipping off your shoes discreetly while you are at your desk. Cooling your feet will drop your heat level a few degrees quickly.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
.
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Garage organization

Dear Kathi,

We are really motivated to clean out our garage this summer. We want to play ping-pong during our Labor Day party. To do this, we need to put the garage in order. This is the largest part of the preparation for our party. It is piled high with boxes, tools and old toys.
I’m not even sure where to begin. What guidelines do you advise for this huge task?

Suzi and Kevin, Oceanside

Suzi,

Gather boxes, in all shapes and sizes along with a box of large trash bags. It helps to start this project the day after trash is emptied if possible.

Hire an expert or get a team of people to work on this project. Without a good support system, it could turn into an overwhelming task that will be abandoned part way through. While friends and family may be willing to help, be sure you have a plan in place to direct the process from start to finish.

Consider what categories of items you want to store in your garage. Does luggage really have to live there, or can it live in the attic or an indoor closet? Do you have a shed? Maybe your paints and chemicals could live there instead of the garage. Items that are typically housed in the garage are tools, gardening supplies, recycling bins, bicycles, sports equipment, camping gear, automotive supplies and seasonal décor.

Once you have determined what categories of items will “live” in your garage, begin pulling everything out of your garage, and grouping into these categories in the driveway. Use a lot of boxes during this process. Relegate loose objects to small boxes within each grouping.

Purge any excess, broken, or unnecessary items. Reconsider, donate or trash items that do not fit your categories. If you discover random parts or singular items that you need to keep, group and store them with the closest similar category. If this is too much of a memory stretch, store them in a visible place so you will remember you have them.
Once items have been consolidated like with like, you are ready to begin planning where each category should live within your garage.

Determine where you want each type of item to live by frequency of use and available space. Parking is probably your most frequent garage activity. Make certain that the area around your car is open and easy to get in and out of the car and the garage.

The recycling bin can live near the inside door to your home for quick access. Tools should live near the workbench, shovels by the fertilizers and so on. Shelves at eye level should hold the most frequently used items. A large shelf near the inside door is a great location for the extra rolls of toilet paper from the last warehouse purchase.

Plan for an entire weekend. Set aside enough time to work on your project. Back-to-back days are recommended so items that are being sorted do not have to sit outside in piles for long. Plan for an entire weekend unless you are working with a Professional Organizer. A seasoned professional will usually reduce your time by half because they have been through this drill many times.

After your garage is put back into order, commit to a regular schedule of maintenance. Promptly put things away after using them and schedule a couple of hours of maintenance every season. Follow this strategy and your next Labor Day party will be a breeze!
You can read more specific advice about garage “zones” in an article published in The Coast News by visiting http://www.addspacetoyourlife.com/advice04_01_05.html

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
.
San Diego Professional Organizer

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How to Keep Your Refrigerator Organized ~ Maintaining Order in Your Fridge

Dear Kathi,

I can never seem to find anything in my refrigerator. I rearrange my fridge frequently but between my kids and husband, I can’t maintain any type of order. What steps can I take to organize my fridge and freezer?

Sarah, San Diego

Sarah,

Refrigerators can be a challenge, especially when you have many hands reaching in throughout the day. To create long-lasting order, consider how your favorite grocery store departmentalizes their merchandise. Mimic this template and it will be easier for you and your family to remember where to find and return items in your refrigerator.
Every refrigerator has a different configuration. Your solutions might involve a variation of the theme because of your fridge layout.

Start this process by creating spaces for “like with like” for instance, dairy with dairy, meat with meat and so on.

Most refrigerators have a butter door. Because of this, we seldom have a problem locating the butter. The margarine and cheese are probably a different story. If your fridge is not equipped with a drawer for dairy, create your own drawer. Buy a long narrow plastic bin that runs the depth of your shelf. Put all of your cheeses into this container. Following your grocery format, locate lunchmeats and other meats next to the cheese in a similar container.

There are usually more condiments than space within your door pockets. Keep the most frequently used condiments in the door and the remaining sauces grouped together towards the back of your shortest shelf.

Beverages follow a similar pattern. Keep a few in the door and the rest clustered together on the top and back of the tallest shelf, which is generally the coldest zone. If you mix your own juices, keep this decanter next to the other bottles and jugs.

Leftovers and prepared foods should have their own zone on the short shelf. Note: when purchasing plastic storage containers, buy square or rectangular shapes. Round bowls create wasted space and do not fit well side by side.

If your family eats more than a dozen eggs per week, consider forgoing the egg container provided by the refrigerator manufacturer. Instead, stack your eggs in their original cardboard crates on top of each other on the short shelf beside the cheese and meat bins. If the open access of the manufacturer’s bin appeals to you, stack it on top of the remaining closed egg crate. When you are ready to cook breakfast, all ingredients are close together. Grab the eggs, cheese and meat bins and you are ready to create your favorite omelet!

For quick snacks, consider keeping a bowl of peeled carrots, cut celery or other healthy foods in a bowl located on the front of the shelf nearest eye level. This might distract the hungry hands that normally root around and rearrange the fridge.

Stack flat boxes together in the freezer. Frozen leftovers should be stored in square or rectangular containers whenever possible. Juices with juices, ice cream with ice cream and so on.

Store your frozen vegetable bags in the door whenever possible. If you have more bags than door space, consider keeping them in their own plastic bin. This allows you to stack them together and avoid the hazard of them toppling out of the freezer when you open the door.

To optimize morning smoothie preparation, store your frozen fruits in a long narrow plastic bin. Each morning, simply pull this bin from the freezer, choose the fruit necessary to create your desired flavor and return the remaining fruit to the freezer. A smoothie bin makes it easy to grab the ingredients with little effort. It also keeps sticky fruit residues off of the kitchen counter and the freezer shelf.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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Wardrobe update for working mom

Q: I want to create a new image and update my wardrobe. My baby is going into pre-school and I will soon begin working full time and stepping out into the real world. What clothes should I buy?

A: A good wardrobe requires less pieces than you might think. You only need a few, truly great items, then wear them for every occasion. Every woman should have the “indispensables”: perfectly-fitted dark pants, flattering jeans, a pencil-cut or A-line skirt, white button-down blouse, trench coat, and little black dress. Each of these timeless pieces should be of the very best quality you can afford and should be tailored to flatter your body type. As the basis of your closet, simply combine these pieces with a few trendy accessories to keep an updated look. Your “indispensable” well-tailored pieces elevate everything else in your wardrobe. Once you find the shape that flatters your figure, stick with it despite the trends and you will always look your best. The trends can be reflected with your accessories, i.e. bright colors, large bangles, handbags etc

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

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
.
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Organizing teaching materials

Dear Kathi,

I am a Special Ed schoolteacher. I hate to spend time going through stored materials for school lessons and plans. I find that it is usually easier to just start from scratch. I don’t have a good filing system and I end up with tons of worksheets, lessons and other collaterals. I have so much that I don’t even know what I have. How can I save time in my planning?


Mary, Encinitas

Mary,

Organize your study materials by lesson categories. Consider using a four-drawer file cabinet for your lessons and collaterals. If this is not possible, due to space restrictions, follow this idea using a shelving unit. The important concept is that your lessons and related materials are grouped together into sections.

Each file drawer or shelf should have its own broad heading: Arts, Sciences, Language or whatever is applicable for your materials. Next, create major file categories within each space. Label hanging files with a tab on the far right. Split that major category into sub sections for instance, spelling, grammar, reading etc. Stagger the sub section file tabs from left to right as you create new folders. You won’t have hanging files for your shelves but instead you can create separate categories with boxes or magazine bins.

With a full file drawer or shelf for each major topic, you should have the space to store three ring binders, packets of homework sheets, books and other bulky items between the related topics of your hanging file folders.

If you still feel more comfortable starting anew each year without referring to last years’ notes, please discard your old materials at the end of each year. The only acceptable reason to keep old paperwork is that it will be referenced again. Keeping it for posterity and for some future time when you think you might want to stroll down memory lane is NOT a good enough reason. If you think you might look at these papers again, you are fooling yourself. Consider the fact that you aren’t even accessing them now to create new lessons. I have been through enough schoolteacher’s archives to know this is the truth.

If you do decide to create an archiving system, take the time to set it up with broad headings to make it easy to expand. Every year when you add materials to the folders or boxes, take a moment to purge through each file and discard the duplicate and obsolete papers.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
.
San Diego Professional Organizer

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