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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Are you a Professional Waster?

Are you a Professional Waster?  Do you waste minutes and even hours each week in frustration as you search for things you know that you own but can’t find when you need them?

We all have the same amount of hours in the day and when we spend a great amount of our time LOOKING for things instead of DOING things it can become a real drain on our emotions and our energy. Buying things you already own but can’t find and have to buy again is also a big drain on your finances.

As a Professional Organizer, I watch many of my clients experience guilt because they just can’t seem to get a handle on their clutter. Some are even embarrassed to have guests over in fear that they might peek into their overstuffed closets and cabinets.

Have you ever noticed how clutter creates more clutter? Piles create more piles. Things pile up, on, and around your piles to create more piles. Then your piles fall over, and there are things in front of the things you need to get to, so on and so forth and then you simply give up. I see this happen every day.

Too much clutter results in feelings of anxiety and stress. Clutter also drains your energy and can make you feel restricted in your own home.

When you can’t find things when you need them, whether it’s tools, cleaning products, or your favorite baking dish you begin to feel that the rest of your life is also out of control. This feeling spirals inward and outward from there. I know how you feel.

As a Board Certified Professional Organizer I know that creating order can be overwhelming and frustrating. I know that clutter is a big mental and physical drain. It can cause illness, depression and fatigue. I also know that it can be extremely difficult to even get started.

I understand completely how overwhelmed you must feel because I have been there in the trenches helping clients with these same challenges for over ten years.

You don’t need another book to clutter up your bookcase or more words to clutter up your brain. What you need is a weekly “here’s what you do next” action step to complete. What you need is someone to show you how to quickly get started and then keep training and motivating you week after week so you don’t get stalled along the way.

This is the reason why I created my new online get your home organized course!

Instead of simply publishing this information in some ebook or offering a quick coaching program, I’m making it available to you week after week in action-sized portions so you’ll actually get results.

Click here to learn 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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Being Organized Saves You Time!

I love my last phone call!One of my clients called me to ask where something was because she has been reorganizing her closet. As she was asking me where I thought it was, she found it! The only reason that she found it so easily (before I could even respond) was because she had reorganized her long and short tops yesterday.

This is again living proof that you spend far less time searching for lost items when you are organized! Yay!

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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


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:
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


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:
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


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: . San Diego Professional Organizer

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