Articles & Advice

Organizing study environment

Kathi,

My high school kids are getting ready to go back to school. I want to create a better homework environment for them and also try to tackle their front door clutter before it overtakes my living room. What can I do to make my kid’s school life more productive and my home less of a mess when school starts?

Maria, Encinitas

Maria,

Educational tools have certainly changed in the last decade. The old three foot desks aren’t large enough to hold the computers, printers, cell phones and oh yes, the books, that are a daily part of your teenager’s school life.

What kids need now is at least six feet of desk surface. This space will accommodate their computer and leave a large open surface for book studies, homework and special projects.
Stagger two-three shelves above the desk opposite the computer. Shelves that are12 inches deep will fit three ring binders, dictionaries and the printer.

A small drawer for tape, scissors and pens along with a file drawer will complete the study area. Consider teaching your kids a filing system this year. They will use this skill for years to come.
Regarding your front door drop zone; buy a decorative basket for each sibling. These baskets can live inside a cabinet or stand-alone by themselves. If you can persuade the kids to enter through the garage or carport, you can place the baskets there. Make sure these baskets are tall and vertical so your kids will drop their stuff into them. Don’t try to get them to place their packs on shelves. Kids love dropping their bags, so use this to your advantage. Baskets with handles will help transport their items to and from their rooms if necessary.

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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Are You Losing It?

According to New Scientist magazine, “People tend to mislay an average of nine items a week and waste 15 minutes a day searching for them.” Not only do we waste valuable time searching for lost things, we’re also causing unnecessary stress and frustration when we can’t find what we need. How many times have you had a bad day because you couldn’t find what you needed in the morning?

So how do we prevent losing our things, getting frustrated at ourselves when we can’t find them, and wasting those 15 minutes? The secret is to create a home for every item you own. Decide where this home will be as soon as the item enters your house (or office, or car) and make sure it always gets put there when you’re not using it.

If you aren’t sure where an item’s home should be, think about where you use it (keys are often hung by the front door, for example) or where you think you will look first when you need to retrieve it. For small things that often get relegated to the junk drawer, try grouping these things together based on function (batteries, lightbulbs, and cords together or clips, rubber bands, and twist ties together) so you get in the habit of looking in the same place every time you need that type of item.

Once you get in the habit of grouping things together and establishing logical homes for each item, it will become easier to assign homes to new items and you will find yourself spending less time looking for things when you need them.

So, what will you do with your extra 15 minutes a day?

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Organizing “to do” list

Kathi,

I can’t seem to keep track of my “to do” list. It keeps growing and I feel like I never know which task to tackle first. How can I organize my lists to help manage my priorities?

Tanya, Encinitas

Tanya,

For starters, record all tasks and related notes in your day planner or electronic organizer. Keep this planner/organizer handy to add tasks quickly. Forget about sticky notes. Keeping all to-do items in the same place makes retrieving the information easy and quick. No task will get lost and more will get done.
When writing notes, keep a space cleared on the left for priority numbering. Organize your tasks by writing numbers to the left of each item in the order of priority. These numbers will keep you focused on what you wish to accomplish first. After completing the task, draw a slash through the number and move on to the next priority.

To accomplish more each day, never do errands on impulse. Plan your routes carefully, handling as many errands as possible each time. Hopefully with these tips you’ll find yourself making more slashes to your list than additions.

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 sticky notes

Kathi,

Our house is being overrun by sticky notes. I’ve tried to teach my kids and wife not to use them for everything but they won’t listen to me. I thought perhaps there are some standard rules to help decide when to use sticky notes. Please help my family get un-stuck.

Kent, Rancho Santa Fe

Kent,

Here are a few tried and true sticky note guidelines.
Don’t use sticky notes:

•To record phone messages, they tend to fly away. Use a spiral notebook kept by the phone for all messages.

•To label computer discs. They get jammed into your hard drive or lost before you have a chance to use them.

•To record reminders of daily activities or projects. Have each family member maintain their own to-do list that is always kept in the same spot.
Do use sticky notes:

•To compile quick lists, such as groceries or errands which can be placed temporarily on your to-do list.

•For writing positive affirmations to each other.

•To create spontaneous hide-and-seek games for holidays, birthdays, etc.

• To attach to the back of a document to be faxed with the fax number noted so you won’t have to look up the number again.

• As a repetitive messaging system. Pre-write common messages such as, “at yoga, be home at 6 pm,” “walking the dog,” or “pick up the drycleaning.” Keep these notes on the inside of a cabinet door for easy access.

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 Your Laundry Room

Kathi,

My laundry room is in the garage and is an unorganized mess. What can I do to take the dread out of doing my laundry?

Tina, Leucadia

Tina,

Your first step is to imagine your laundry area organized. The average American household spends 2-4 hours every week sorting, cleaning, storing and shuffling dirty laundry. Creating a nice workspace will make a big difference for your laundry chores.

When laundry facilities are located in the garage, It’s nice have a rug to separate the laundry area. This helps keep it cleaner and more comfortable while you sort clothes.

If you have room, use rolling carts or bins to sort whites, colors, delicates and heavily soiled items. A countertop or table that is large enough to hold 2-3 baskets of laundry works well for sorting and folding. If possible, make this counter a bit taller than usual. A height of 36-42″ will save your back from needless stress. If you’re short on space for a counter or table, affix a fold-down shelf to the wall.

Keep a drying rack handy. For small spaces, install a spring-loaded clothesline that retracts when not in use. Attach an ironing board hanger to the wall or behind the door or buy a kit to install your ironing board into the wall between studs. These incredible kits are available at your local home improvement store. Items like these will keep the board and the iron out of the way, yet accessible.

Consider your cleaning supplies. Make sure they are at arms reach. Don’t forget the space above your washer and dryer. Decant detergents and fabric softeners from bulk boxes and jugs to smaller, easier-to-handle containers. Store small supplies in labeled boxes or bins. Keep rags, sponges and paper towels on hand to pre-treat stains. Organizing your supplies will make it easy to see when you need to restock.
Once your laundry area is optimized, you will not be as overwhelmed by the state of affairs in the rest of your garage.

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 for a business trip

Dear Kathi,

I’ve made my list and checked it twice for my upcoming business trip. I travel 3-4 times a year and always find that I’ve forgotten something important. Do you have running list of “must have” items for travelers?

Mary, Carlsbad

Mary,

It is a good idea to create a permanent travel kit that is filled and waiting for your upcoming trips. Travel cases that can be opened and hung are worth the investment. They won’t take up counter space and you can see at a glance what you have on hand. Fill your travel kit with these essentials and replenish as needed after each trip.
Buy sample sizes or small travel bottles to refill for shampoo, deodorant, shave crème, crème rinse, lotion, baby oil, powder and so forth. If you prefer using your own soap to the many hotel varieties, pack it as well. I find that a small refillable bottle of my favorite liquid soap and a loofah sponge makes me feel more comfortable when travelling. Include shaving equipment and shave crème, tweezers and small scissors. Folding embroidery scissors work well because they won’t poke holes.

Additionally, remember toothbrush, toothpaste, cotton balls/ swabs and safety pins. A small medical kit should include aspirin, allergy pills, eye drops, bandaids, triple antibiotic and any other medicine you use on a regular basis. Your make-up kit along with eyeglasses or contacts and related supplies will complete your essentials.

Add-ons can include a small notebook and pen for phone numbers, expenses etc. A travel alarm, unless you are extremely optimistic about the wake-up call service, soft earplugs and something to read. Don’t forget your tip change – single dollars and loose change for the vending machines at the end of the hall. If you plan to shop, tuck a marker, string, packing tape and return address labels into your suitcase pocket. These items will come in very handy for shipping or creating quick carry-on bags.

You can download a printable checklist from my website http://www.addspacetoyourlife.com/travelchecklist

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 for camping

Dear Kathi,

My family just purchased a new RV and we love to go camping. Every time we want to go somewhere, we invariably forget things. With multiple people packing, important items often get left behind. Without making one person responsible for everything, how can we manage to be provisioned? PS After we put all this stuff in the RV, how do we keep it from falling around when we drive?

Ren, Cardiff

Ren,

You can solve your provisioning challenge by creating a list. This list will itemize the food that you wish to have onboard for each trip. It will probably contain staples like olive oil, spaghetti noodles and sauce, butter, potatoes etc.

It is best to camp once as you create your master list. Once you analyze this list away from home, it will become clear what you need to include. After this, you are ready to type and print several copies to keep in your RV. Make sure to leave a few blank lines.

When you are underway, keep your master list visible. A spot on the refrigerator keeps it front and center. As you consume food that needs to be replenished, add a checkmark beside the item. Family members can also add forgotten snacks to this list.

If your RV is not going into a storage facility, DO NOT MOVE this list until you are ready to buy new provisions. Keep your list on the fridge for safekeeping. If your RV does go into storage, place this list in a file at home until the day you shop. It’s a great idea to restock as soon as you return so that you can leave on a whim if the spare time presents itself.
For bedding and towels, keep a collapsible hamper on board where you can toss soiled items. Don’t mix your clothes into this basket, they should have their own dirty clothes bag. Launder the bedding hamper items separately and take them immediately back to your RV. You don’t have to worry with unpacking at this point. A family member can make the bed and stow the towels once you are underway on your next adventure.

Speaking of stowing, it is best to place loose items in plastic boxes with lids that fit snugly inside each cabinet. When a door jars open because you take a bump or curve, the worst that will happen is the items within each bin will become jumbled. Bins also make it easy to clean the inside of your cabinets. There are so many plastics available that you should easily find a bin to fit within each space.

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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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Missing Socks

Dear Kathi,

I am constantly trying to find the mates to my socks. Where do they go and how can I stop this from happening?

Jennifer, Oceanside

Jennifer,

The missing sock syndrome is one of my favorite topics. It happens to all of us.

Where do they go? It seems that they don’t really leave our homes, they just take mini road-trips on their own.
To solve this dilemma, keep an old pillowcase or drawstring bag in your laundry area. When a lone sock appears, toss it into the bag and don’t worry about it. After a month or two, empty this bag onto your bed. Most of your missing socks will be miraculously reunited with their mates.

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 clutter

Dear Kathi,

Help! My house is piled so high with clutter that I can barely get through the front door!

Josh, Carlsbad

Dear Josh,

Start with the most visible piles in your front entranceway. Dedicate 15 minutes every day to making one pile disappear.
To make a pile disappear, you take each item in the pile and either put it back where it belongs, throw it away, or into your car to speed it on it’s way to a new home.

As the piles decrease you will feel better and generate a sense of personal mastery. Once you’ve knocked off a few small piles, you will begin to see results larger than the piles themselves.
You will also be paving the way to successfully tackling more challenging jobs. Please keep me posted on your progress.

 

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

Posted in Articles & Advice, Organizing, Organizing Tips | Tagged | Leave a comment

Packing for business trips

Dear Kathi,

I take many business trips throughout the year and usually either pack too much or too little. What would be a good basic wardrobe for a three-day business trip?

Jim, Rancho Santa Fe

Jim,

Pack one dark solid colored suit, two dress shirts, and two ties. Also include a tweed or navy blazer, two casual shirts including a neutral silk T-shirt and a casual lightweight sweater. A pair of dark slacks or blue jeans, dress shoes and classic loafers will finish off your packing assignment for business. For quick work-outs, pack swim trunks. Trunks paired with an undershirt will get you to and from the hotel gym or pool inconspicuously without packing tennis shoes.

You can wear your suit two days by exchanging the ties and dress shirts. On the most casual meeting day of your trip, pair the blazer with your suit slacks and a different shirt and tie or silk T-shirt and loafers if appropriate.
In the evening, combine your jeans, dark slacks or suit slacks with the casual shirts. For casual elegance during evening dinner engagements, wear your jeans or dark slacks with your blazer, dress T-shirt and loafers. Make sure your jeans are dark. You can also roll the sleeves of a dress shirt and combine it with jeans and loafers for another evening and your flight home.

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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