Articles & Advice

Clothes shopping on a budget

Dear Kathi,

I’m on a tight budget and really want to buy some new clothes. Do you have any advice to help me make the right choices?

Erika, Cardiff

Erika,

Buy clothing that will span all seasons — like wool crepe or matte jersey. Try to plan your wardrobe around three neutral colors. Choose between khaki, navy, brown, black, white or creme. Buy more solids than prints – you won’t get tired of them as quickly.
Everything you buy should flatter your figure. This means it not only plays up your best features but also hides what’s not perfect. Darker colors and simple cuts (a sheath, an A-line) are the most flattering.

Focus on general trends. You will wear these items longer. They are a better fashion bet and can be found at all price points. Fads always have a shorter life span than trends.

Remember that buying inexpensive items just because they are inexpensive is almost always a bad investment. If you can’t afford to buy the item that you really want, wait awhile. Remix existing clothes or alter your hair, makeup or accessories to achieve a new look.

Don’t choose buying the cashmere sweater over making the car payment. Be responsible and always shop with your budget in mind.

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 heirlooms

Dear Kathi,

All of my relatives seem to think that I am the holding ground for their old stuff and I end up with lots of things that I don’t want. How can I keep my house from being barraged with unwanted heirlooms and family junk?

Joy, Cardiff by the Sea

Joy,

Learn to stand up for yourself and tell your well meaning relatives politely ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ If they protest, ask them why they feel you should hold onto what they no longer need.

One of the best ways to prevent clutter, is to stop it before it starts. Do your family members consider your house the dumping ground because you already have a lot of clutter? They might get the impression that you love to collect things so you wouldn’t mind holding onto theirs.

If you are a collector and wish to break this habit now, ask yourself three simple questions before you bring anything new into your home:

1) Ask, ‘Am I going to use it now, or in the near future?’

Or better yet, how many times will I use this in the next year? If it is a family heirloom that landed on your doorstep only because of someone else’s sentimental attachments, just say no.

2) Ask, ‘Am I going to use it ever?’

Lots of clutter piles begin with one simple impulse buy. Make sure that if you will use it, it’s use will make up for the space it takes to own it. If you will only use it once every few months, it’s probably not worth the extra space it’s going to take up in your home.

3) Ask, ‘Where is it going to live?’

Make sure you have a clearly defined space for the item you’re considering adopting or buying. Otherwise, it’s bound to be brought home, put someplace temporarily, and eventually end up in a pile with other items that were not well
thought out.

If the item is going to end up in a pile somewhere without a space to live, forget about it. If there is a space and it won’t cause something else to be displaced, then perhaps it is OK. If there is no space available, and you really want it, you must release something else to make room for the new item.

Be diligent, form new habits and soon you will no longer be the dumping ground for your relatives.

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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Paper organization

Dear Kathi, I have piles of paper spread all throughout my house. I am basically organized with the exception of all of this paper which is driving me crazy. Where should I start and how can I keep it under control?

Marilyn, Encinitas

Marilyn,

Piles of paper are piles simply because you don’t have a place to put each piece of paper when it comes into your life. After you look at each piece of paper, it needs to be either thrown away or stored in a proper location. Do not add it to a pile for future consideration. If you don’t have time to read the papers as they come into your home, take action. Consider cancelling a few subscriptions, removing your name from mailing lists, or throwing some mail into the trashcan before you bring it into your home. There will always be items of paper that you don’t have time to read when they arrive. Create an “in basket” system. Make sure your basket is small and shallow. The smaller size will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. A real basket with a handle is exceptionally convenient for this purpose. You can carry it from room to room and read through it as you move into different parts of the house or even the backyard. Another step toward tackling your piles is to take a look at what type of papers you are collecting. Sort your existing paper into categories. While you are doing this, create a reference file folder system. When you read an item and wish to keep it for future use, file it when it is in your hands. Eliminate the papers that do not serve an immediate or important purpose. If the paper is something you need to work with in the future, create an action file. Keep your action file folders on top of your desk for easy access and a quick visual reminder. Remember file – don’t create a pile!

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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Kids party etiquette

Dear Kathi,

All of my friends are confused about attending parties with our children. When the party is held at a home, we have a hard time deciding whether we are required or expected to stay for the entire party.
What is the proper way to let parents know if they must, should offer, or don’t need to stay for a 5 year olds’ birthday party?

Vicki, Oceanside

Vicki,

Invitations should state clearly whether parents should plan on attending the event. An easy way to let parents know they are off the hook is to include wording on the invitation that says, ‘ childcare provided’. Or if it is optional, you can state ‘parents stay is optional, there will be ample child care’.

If the invitation does not indicate that there will enough adults to oversee the event, this usually means that the parents are expected to stay to help watch their child during the party.
It is appropriate to call after receiving the invitation to clarify if you are expected to stay or if you can drop off your child and return at the end of the party.
Thanks for asking this question.

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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Business attire

Dear Kathi,

Is it optional to wear nylons at work these days? I work at a bank and would love to forgo the pantyhose ordeal.

Christy, Del Mar

Christy,

The business environment in Southern California is more casual than most other cities. With the warmer climate, women often wear sandals and open-toed shoes 6-9 months of the year. In my opinion, with the proper shoes, you can dress very professionally without hose.

With this in mind, if you are still doubt about your particular bank, ask a trusted manager. If this isn’t possible, pay attention to your superiors. Does everyone wear hose every day?

It pays to dress similar to your superiors. It makes it easier for them to see you as a pier and your chances for advancement are increased. Some banks are still very conservative and you don’t want to jeopardize your job advancement.

Remember, dress not for the position you are in, but for the position you aspire to attain.

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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5 Smart Spice Storage Tips

Reprinted with permission from hgtv.com

Spices

They say variety is the spice of life, and that’s also true in your kitchen. Whether you’re a keep-it-simple sort or a devoted gourmet, an assortment of dried spices is a must for every pantry. A few pinches of the right seasonings make the difference between dull and delicious.

But a jar of thyme can quickly become three in a disorganized stash of spices, while once-fragrant herbs wither in dark corners. Professional organizer Kathi Burns saves her clients from making such missteps. “We’re chef wannabes at my house, so we have every spice possible,” says Burns, CPO of San Diego’s Make Space in Your Life! “I’m always testing new organizing solutions.” We’ve got the dish on the best ways to keep your spices fresh and at the ready.

Stock up on versatile staples. Start with black pepper, salt’s better — or at least healthier— half. Popular all the world over, it adds essential bite to countless culinary styles. Purists will insist on whole peppercorns and a grinder, but ground pepper serves the same purpose. Other home chef favorites include ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, bay leaves, dried bay leaves, chili powder, oregano and cumin.

Figure out the best storage option for your space. If you can spare a cabinet shelf, a single three-tier spice rack should be plenty for the average home cook. Mounted pull-down spice racks make even the back row easily accessible. “It’s old-school and it works,” says Burns. Stylish new storage options continue to surface as well, such as sleek magnetic wall strips that hold sealed spice cans right where you need them. Just keep them clear of direct heat and light.

Organize your spices by cuisine. “Indian spice trays are one of my favorite things for the kitchen,” says Burns. The most common version features a round metal tray, seven small containers, a tiny spoon and a lid for the whole thing. Modern variations can be found everywhere from Etsy to Williams-Sonoma.

“I have several clients who cook specific kinds of food, like Lebanese or Hungarian,” adds Burns. “These containers help them keep everything together.” The spice trays also make fantastic gifts, especially with a corresponding ethnic cookbook.

Do an annual sweep of your pantry. Spices have a limited shelf life. Some experts claim six months is the rule of thumb, but others say that’s way too conservative. Stored properly, ground spices (nutmeg, tumeric) and ground herbs (thyme, sage) might stay fresh for two or three years. Whole spices like cloves and cinnamon sticks can last up to four years, as can some seeds.

By checking yearly, though, you’ll know what needs to be refilled and what probably should be tossed. When in doubt, give it a whiff. If spices smell stale, they’re done. A rancid scent is also a clear sign to throw it away. Marking open dates on new additions will help you determine freshness down the line.

Experiment in small doses. Cooking a new type of cuisine at home often requires purchasing several new spices. You may love Ethiopian food, but will you ever need berbere again after your first — and only — attempt at doro wat? If you’re unsure, try to buy the spices from a specialty shop, where you can pick up small amounts from bulk containers.

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Organizing Piles

Dear Kathi,

I seem to spend my time constantly tackling piles around my house. I often get rid of two-three piles a week but when I turn around, another one has suddenly materialized. Nothing I do seems to permanently remove the piles from my life. How can I stop this madness?

Debora, Cardiff

Debora,

Congratulations on tackling two-three piles per week! It appears that you are determined to win in this battle.

Piles beget piles. This means that if we put away everything but one item from a pile, it will reproduce another pile as if by magic. When you tackle piles, do not stop until each and every item has found it’s home.
Clutter always chooses the path of least resistance. When we come home tired and don’t take the time to put away the items we bring into our home, a pile begins.

Our natural tendency is to drop an item beside something else that is waiting to be put away. We rationalize that putting it there will increase the likelihood that both items will be dealt with in the morning. And so begins the pile.

One way to reduce your frustration is to keep two baskets by the front door. One will be for in-bound goods and the other for outbound. When you have a moment, take the in-bound basket on a tour of your home and return each item to its proper space.

The outbound basket will help keep you organized. As you find items that need to leave home like film to be processed or clothing to return, place them in your basket. Before you leave home each day, glance inside to see if you are heading in the direction that any of these items need to go. If so, grab whatever needs a ride and you are on your way to streamlining you errand time.

Make sure your baskets are medium sized (10-12 inches) and you will keep your piles under control and your time dealing with them to a minimum.

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 Collections

Dear Kathi,

like to collect shot glasses and sports memorabilia. My wife is fed up with them lying around the house and is threatening to throw them out if I don’t do something with them soon. What can I do to salvage my collection and keep the peace in my home?

Ed R., Carlsbad

Ed,

Gather your shot glasses and memorabilia together. Take inventories and decide if you need to keep every item. Are some items damaged or in poor condition? Try to let go of the items that aren’t in excellent condition. This will typically make your remaining collection more valuable.

Create or buy attractive storage containers suited for your collectibles. Clear Lucite boxes are manufactured in a plethora of sizes and shapes. Consider showcasing your flat collectibles in picture frames. Shadow boxes will keep your shot glasses free from dust and grouped into one visually appealing space. Use small narrow shelves to display trophies, photos or baseball hats.

Store your beloved items with style and your wife is more likely to appreciate your collections.

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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Finding a little black dress that fits

Kathi,

I just graduated from college and I keep hearing that every girl should own a little black dress. I am a size 14 and feel like I will have a hard time finding a little black dress that fits. I have a few events coming up during the holidays and now want to own a little black dress. How do I go about finding this piece?

Jolene, San Marcos

Jolene,

Don’t get alarmed about finding a ‘little’ black dress just because you are a size 14. The majority of women in the US are a size 12 or 14. The idea behind the ‘little’ black dress is that it flatters your figure and makes you ‘look’ little.

The most important feature of your new dress — more important than its designer label or trendiness — is how well it flatters you.
Simple silhouettes like the A-line and sheath are typically the most flattering for all body types. Hemlines that end at the smallest part of your knee will flatter your legs. Not every dress cut will work for your body so you’ll need to do some quick research on your specific needs.

Finding the dress that flatters your figure is as much about playing up your best features as it is about hiding what’s not perfect.
Not sure what your best asset is? Ask a friend or significant other. Or go to a fine women’s clothing store and enlist the salesperson’s help.

The easiest way to look fabulous in your little black dress is to show off your best features. If your legs are spectacular, show them off with a short, fitted dress and stilettos. If you have gorgeous eyes, play them up with off-the-face hair, beautiful makeup and jeweled earrings.
Keep in mind that once you find that perfect dress, you will want to wear it year-round – so buy it in a silk, brocade, organza, or jersey. Fabrics like velvet and satin are best reserved for winter holidays.

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 small closets


Dear Kathi,

I have a really hard time storing my clothes. My closet is very small and I can’t get everything to fit inside. How can I optimize my incredible shrinking closet?

Cathy O, Cardiff

Cathy,

Use as much vertical space as possible within your closet.
Maximize your overhead closet space by installing a long shelf just above the clothes bar. If you already have a long shelf, see if there is enough space to add another above it. Use shelf dividers to keep your piles neat. Baskets also keep items separated and tidy. This is a smart spot for jeans, sweaters and bulky wardrobe items.
Stack 2-4 shoe shelves next to your closet to free up the interior shelf space. If you have a large vertical area just outside of your closet, consider adding a tall bookshelf.
Increase the use of your new exterior shelves by adding pre-made drawers or shallow boxes that fit on each shelf. These lightweight drawers are handy for delicate items. If you are on a budget, you can use shoe or gift boxes. Simply apply a coat of bright paint that coordinates with your room colors and you have a well put together look. If you wish to camouflage your shelved items, hang a piece of fabric or a roll-up blind to fit the front of your shelf.
Install a few hooks strategically on the inside walls of your closet to stow your pajamas and other daily wear items.
Use the back of your door to add space to your closet.
Install a thin drapery or towel rod on the inside of your closet door to hang folded scarves & belts. Gloves & other small items can also be kept here with shower curtain clips attached to the rod.
Remember, most importantly, purge your wardrobe as you are optimizing your closet. Keep in mind that you probably only wear 20% of the clothes that you are storing. Releasing clothing items will make your usable space much more rewarding.

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

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

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