Articles & Advice

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


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.


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

Please submit your questions to:
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


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:
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:
San Diego Professional Organizer

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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


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:
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Corporate image

Hi Kathi,

I am 26 and have been in a corporate job for over two years. I feel ready to apply for a managerial position with my company. I know that I need to dress more “corporate” and would like to hear your suggestions regarding what clothing I should buy.

Lindsay, Oceanside


A mix-and-match wardrobe of separates, suits and two-piece dresses will provide the most mileage as you work your way up the corporate ladder.
To assemble a professional wardrobe, look for power colors – dark and rich. Avoid pastels, subdued and lighter colors.
Make sure to invest in quality fabrics and clothing with clean simple lines. These standards make shopping more time consuming but will always pay off in terms of fashion and durability.

Wear natural fabrics combined with non-trendy accessories. Your accessories should include classic leather handbags, briefcases and shoes.

Overall, go for an uncluttered look. This means simplicity and sophistication in design and lines, fabric and print. Keep your hair and makeup simple and understated. Let your hardwork and dedication become the focus at your workplace and you will attract your promotion.
Remember in the corporate world your wardrobe is more than a fashion statement. If you dress like a manager the people who do the promoting will have an easier time viewing you as a manager. If you still dress like Gidget you will more than likely be rewarded with a challenging career in the mailroom.

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

Please submit your questions to:
San Diego Professional Organizer

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What to Pack and Organize When Moving Into a College Dorm Room


The following is a comprehensive list of items you will need for your dorm room. Before starting to pack, check with the university and your prospective roommate to see what will be provided in your dorm room so you can avoid duplication. By making sure you have all your items neatly categorized, you can make unpacking and getting settled a fun event rather than a chore.

Main Items

You might need a mini-fridge, toaster and microwave as well as a few dishes for when you eat in your room. You may also need a fan, mirror, lamp and curtains or blinds.  For entertainment bring a TV, stereo or DVD player. A bulletin or message board can provide a means of communication between yourself and your roommate, as well as a place to display photos and store important information.

Your Bed

You should have two sheet sets with matching pillowcases. Many dorm beds are ‘extra-long‘, so be sure to check before purchasing sheets. Two pillows, a mattress pad and comforter or blanket are also necessary. Use bed risers to add storage space for an under the bed bin and take a sleeping bag for emergencies or sleepovers. A small light that clips onto your book is useful for reading at night without disturbing your roommate.

Your Bathroom

Four towels and two washcloths should be adequate. Pack a toiletry kit – make sure this is big enough to neatly store all your items. If you put everything away neatly after each use, you will never have a conflict with a roommate over ownership. A separate shower tote is a good idea; this can store shower shoes as well as your shampoo and other ‘wet’ items. Don’t forget your hairdryer!

Clothing  and Laundry Items

Don’t overdo. Closet space is usually at a premium, so consider leaving half your wardrobe at home. You can plan to switch some of your clothing out over Thanksgiving break to rotate your winter wardrobe in. Consider carefully which clothes you do take and avoid too many ‘dry clean only’ items. Buy a laundry bag or hamper, and a basket, and a tote to carry detergent and other necessities in when you go to the laundry. Choosing neutral colors for your bath and bed linens will help make laundry day run more smoothly. Remember to take an iron or steamer as well, and plenty of hangars. An over the door shoe holder is a wonderful space saver, as are plastic storage bins or drawers. Buy a little sewing kit to make simple repairs like sewing on buttons.

Your Desk

Your dorm may have a desk and bookcase; if not, you will need to provide them. A lamp and wastebasket should be purchased along with whatever office supplies you may need. A drawer organizer will keep small items from becoming jumbled, and a power strip with surge protector will guard your computer against information loss in case of a blackout. If your dorm does not supply one, you will need a chair as well.


A good alarm clock with battery back-up is essential, as is a small first aid kit, a flashlight and extra batteries. A camera, small tool kit and tape measure are all good things to have. A binder for important papers and contact information can also hold doctor’s prescriptions, bills and receipts. A ledger for budget planning is also a great idea and will help you manage your money.

Once you have decided what items you will need in your dorm room, packing and moving can be accomplished with ease. Label your cartons as you pack and keep a corresponding list so you can find things quickly. By following these simple tips, you can make your transition to campus life easy and fun!

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How to Make the Most of Your Cramped Dorm Room


Dorms can be a fun place to live, as you’re able to meet like-minded individuals and partake in bonding activities. However, the pros also come with the cons, such as sharing an already cramped space with strangers. Transitioning from your own room to a shared area can quite daunting, as you deal with the challenges of space and privacy. However, don’t feel as though you’ll need to pile everything in a corner. The following tips can help you organize your space, giving the means to adjust into the dorm room life:

Contact your Roommates

You don’t want to bring a mini-fridge, TV, and so on, realizing that your roommate has done the same. Instead, try to contact them ahead of time and coordinate who will bring which item. Generally, colleges provide you with your future roommate’s contact information so that it’s easy to establish communications.  Understanding who brings what will reduce the chances that you bring similar items and further bring clutter into the room.

Choose Decorations Wisely

Dorm rooms are a blank slate, and every year, students infuse the room with their own personality. When choosing decorations, keep in mind that some will give your room a cluttered feel, while others give the illusion of spaciousness. For example, posters and clippings of pictures can give the impression that your walls are small and crowded, making the space smaller than it seems. On the other hand, mirrors are a great way to make your room appear extra roomy.

Do You Actually Need It?

You may be tempted to bring every comfort and luxury from home, but take some time to consider whether you’ll actually need the item. For example, microwaves and mini-fridges may not be necessary if you have a cafeteria nearby. In addition, if your dormitory offers a common space with seating, then bringing a sofa or lounge chair from home may be overkill. The fewer items you bring, the easier it will be to move out at the end of the year.

Keep the Clutter Out

One of the quickest ways to make a cramped room seem even smaller is to let it collect clutter. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that you and your roommate establish some sort of organization in order to keep your room as spacious as possible. If needed, come to an agreement about cleaning and organization, and whether you’ll need to divide chores.  But if you’re unable to decide, remember that both you and your roommate have your own space. If he or she has their own living preferences, then you’ll need to be flexible and learn to accommodate.

Extra Storage

Dorm rooms are generally stocked with the bare essentials, such as a bed, desk, and a single cabinet. Therefore, you may want to bring extra storage to hold all of your supplies and belongings. Considering that the floor space will be quickly taken up, you may want to go for vertical storage and invest in stackable units. Another great way to create storage is to buy wall hangers and hooks, which can place items out of the way. Don’t forget to bring clothes hangers as well, lest you wish to dump all your clothes onto the floor.


Christine Cooney is a writer at The House Designers, writing articles on DIY and award winning home plans on The House Designers blog. She loves learning about architecture, home décor, and online house plans.

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Organizing and Planning Your Outdoor BBQ Party

Hosting a summer party can require as much or as little energy as you wish. The main ingredients of food, libation and location will determine the pace and amount of advance prep required. Whether your party is planned for the (more…)

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Tips for Organizing a Home Attic

Regardless of how cold it is today, when you least expect it will be spring all over again: your windows will be open more often and you will be probably doing your yearly spring cleaning, right? Instead of waiting until spring, why not start earlier this year? Today I want to dedicate this article to a space that is almost always forgotten: the attic. If you live in a house that has an attic space, and you are not sure about how to keep it neat and organized, this post is for you.

When organizing your attic, you should start by emptying out the space. Remove all the items from the attic and put them in a place that allows you to see everything you have. With the attic empty, it is easier for you to see how much space you have available, and to perform a walk thru in order to see if there is any roof related damage in the space. If you find any problems in your attic, such as water damage, poor wiring, or bad insulation, you must correct the issue before bringing your belongings back.


Step 1 — Clean up the attic

If you have a finished attic, then your next step should include sweeping, vacuuming and painting to make it look like new. However, not every attic is finished. In this case, take a closer look at the insulation and the wiring to make sure everything is ok. Then you can lay down some plywood panels to act like a subfloor, making your walking around safer. Just make sure you leave enough space between any electrical and mechanical items, such as recessed lighting fixtures, HVAC vent pipes, etc.


Step 2 — Organize your belongings

With your attic ready to go, it is time to organize the items that you are planning to store in your attic. Start by grouping them by categories, such Holiday décor, Halloween, Easter, Mary’s college books, John’s kindergarten work, etc. This will make your life much easier when you need to go up in the attic to get something. As far as the best way to store them, it will depend on how much stuff you have and how big those items are. I tend to find easier to keep things stored in large totes — preferable the clear ones for easy finding. While organizing your belongings, don’t forget to perform a little “spring cleaning” to eliminate anything that is broken beyond repair and/or is no longer needed.


Step 3 — Tag it!

I know it is time consuming, but adding labels to your bins, especially if they are not clear or if there is not enough lighting in the space is the key to easy finding.


Step 4 — Go vertical

When it comes to storage, it is no secret than you can maximize your storage space by going vertical. In this case you can either stack your totes up or you can have a 4 tier shelving system to hold all of your goodies. Either way, just make sure to keep the heaviest items on the bottom. If you need to store clothes in your attic, consider a cloth rack so your clothes will be hanging properly, preventing them from getting creases from being folded for so long.


Step 5 — Draw a Map

Organizing things takes time and energy and if you keep things organized, there is not really a need to organize it, right? So, how can you remember where everything is, especially if you barely visit the space? And if somebody other than yourself needs to go in the attic to get something for you, will this person be able to find it without messing the space up? Probably not. However, this can be easily fixed by having a map of where everything is. Depending on how your attic is structured, it might be easier to take pictures of the space with all the bins stacked before you leave. This way if you need to send somebody up there, you can show the picture and say “what I need is in this bin”. Another way to do this is by drawing a map with the location of all bins so you will know where everything is.


Step 6 — Enjoy the benefits of an organized attic

Besides the ability to know exactly what you have and have easy access to it, keeping your attic organized will prevent you from spending money on unnecessary items.


Andrea Vollf enjoys writing about home organization and interior design for Next Door Storage. Connect with Andrea on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.


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Organizing kitchen gadgets


My kitchen is running out of space. I have too many gadgets to fit into my cabinets. Do you have any secrets for storing these items?

Marti, Del Mar


The number of gadgets and tools created for cooking is amazing. We can own deep fryers, corn bread skillets, power juicers, fruit wedgers, popsicle makers, tortilla bakers, pancake warmers, bacon presses, ice cream makers, grating mills, egg slicers, fruit ripeners, salad blasters, shish kabob baskets, bread buddies, and thousands of other kitchen-type things.

A quick way to increase the space in your kitchen is to get rid of the gadgets and appliances you never use. You might have paid good money for that butter warmer and deviled egg tray. BUT, if you never use them, they’re just taking up valuable real estate. Give them the heave-ho and send them on their way to a local charity. Perhaps someone else will actually use them.

The next time you see a gadget or appliance that you feel might be nifty, ask yourself how often you’re going to use it — and be honest with yourself. Chances are, you’re not going to eat heart-shaped waffles more than once a year. If you do, then that heart-shaped waffle maker may be just what you’re looking for. But, if not, save your money and keep your available kitchen space free for something you’re going to use all the time.

If you still can’t stop yourself from buying new kitchen gadgets, label each item with the date purchased. If you don’t use it in a year, it gets exiled from your kitchen and donated to a good cause.

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

Please submit your questions to:
San Diego Professional Organizer

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