Tag Archives: Organizing

Stash Before You Trash with Semi-Permanent Storage Solutions

Although you may want to devote a single weekend to performing a complete cleanse of your closets or storage spaces, a more practical approach might be to take it one step at a time.

For one thing, if you are not using the assistance of a professional organizer, you could find yourself paralyzed by the overwhelming enormity of clearing out years of accumulated stuff in two days’ time and end up not getting rid of anything as a result. Alternatively, you might eradicate everything for which you see no immediate need and a month down the road, find yourself having to buy things you just tossed.

No, when it comes to clearing out tons of clutter, if you are not using the help of a professional organizer, taking baby steps may be a better tactic. Instead of trying to go from closet to curb by Sunday night, aim for organizing everything into labeled boxes that you can place into a semi-permanent storage space. In essence, you can give yourself some time to test out the absence of your designated ‘don’t keep’ items before you part with them permanently.

And if you do decide they belong with you for good, the items are already neatly packed away in boxes that you can relocate to a separate storage unit or leave in their new spot at the back of an unobtrusive closet, out of sight and out of your way (but never really out of reach).

Here are some tips to help you jumpstart your semi-permanent storage trial run and some best practices for cleaning up the clutter now and maintaining a clutter-free environment moving forward.

Create a manageable plan that includes realistically attainable goals.
Much of the battle against a bulging closet is won or lost before you even attack. Embrace the ‘baby steps’ philosophy by breaking the entire project up into easily digestible portions:

  • Separate entire portions of the home into rooms: ‘Organize the upstairs’ becomes ‘Organize master bedroom’ and ‘Organize office’ and so forth
  • Separate entire rooms into single spaces: ‘Organize master bedroom’ becomes ‘Clean out dresser’ and ‘organize master closet,’ etc.
  • Separate single spaces into individual tasks: ‘Organize master closet’ becomes ‘Straighten shoes’ and ‘Swap out seasonal clothes’ and so on

From here, you can use the individual tasks as opportunities to streamline your items, remove the excess, and straighten up the space in general.

For example, the task ‘Swap out seasonal clothes’ allows you to pull aside all of your winter clothes and replace them with your spring and summer wardrobe. During the transition, eliminate from both categories as you go and divide the items into boxes that you’ve pre-labeled Keep, Donate, Recycle, and Trash.

  • Keep everything that you are likely to wear next year like currently-fitting jeans, sweaters, pants, shirts, etc. If they don’t fit or you don’t want them when next year rolls around, conduct another elimination round at that time, but you are allowing yourself room to change your mind in the meantime.
  • Donate everything that is still in good condition but that you are unlikely to wear again – because it doesn’t fit, it’s no longer your style, or it’s no longer age-appropriate. This is the box of transitional items that you can place in the back of the newly-de-cluttered closet and hold onto for another six months to see if circumstances are still the same. If you need to take any items out of the box or add to it, you can do it then and deliver the box at the appropriate (in season) time to the designated charity.
  • Recycle and Trash are more applicable with papers, documents, and broken or damaged items (toys, ripped clothes, etc.) that can be discarded immediately – no waiting period required.

But maybe ‘current clothes’ aren’t the source of your clutter. Perhaps you’ve accumulated a plethora of miscellaneous items over the years that you need to tame. For those, here are some questions to help you decide what stays for re-discovery down the road and what needs to go immediately:

Does it have important sentimental value?
You might find sentimental value in every pint-sized pair of socks and shoes from when your kids were little, but unless you’re only keeping the truly memorable pieces, the collection of clothes can get out of hand in a hurry.

Select some of the most important items like their Christening gown, their first pair of shoes, and even a few of the more subjective items (like the monogrammed dress that she wore in your favorite Christmas card from 15 years ago) that you want to preserve and do that – have them professionally preserved or properly packed away in a place wherein they’re out of the way but are protected until you pull them out again in a few years.

Other items that fall into this category might include:

  • Yearbooks
  • Photo albums
  • Cards announcing births, engagements, weddings, and other important milestones for those most dear to you (sorry, second cousins you haven’t seen in a decade don’t count)
  • Wedding items (a gown, shoes, jewelry, etc.)

Does it have important functional value?
You love the stack of magazines you’ve accumulated over the years, but when they grow to the point that they need their own storage unit, it’s time to pare them down. Go through them and pull out important articles or recipes or inspirational photos – whatever you’ve kept the magazines for – and create a single scrapbook or photo album with those and recycle the rest.

To take your organization a step further, scan the clippings and create an electronic copy of them and recycle the originals with the rest of the stack.

Moving forward, only buy items that you need and try to buy them only when you need them. And by keeping an eye on your clutter before it grows, you can avoid these semi-permanent storage solutions entirely.

Until then, what other items have you placed in semi-permanent storage and what did you end up keeping at the end of the trial period? You will find that there was hardly anything that was kept out of sight was missed or needed when your trial run was over.
You will discover it much easier to let go in the moment after you go through one of these trial storage solutions!

About the Author: Garret Stembridge is part of the team at www.extraspace.com, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about storage and organization topics for homes and for businesses.

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Organizing a large house

Dear Kathi,

Why do you think there is such a need for organizers these days? Do people have more stuff? Bigger houses? Do people not need all the things they buy? Is life these days more complicated?

Carole, Encinitas,


I think you are correct about most of your assumptions. People are becoming busier and moving faster than ever before, especially here in the US. We are bombarded with commercials to buy things every day. We are, in fact, bombarded by over 1400 advertising messages per day. When we hear the message often enough, we buy the product, hence our full homes. Homes are full of items that have been used once or twice and then stowed somewhere out of sight.

When I work with clients we often discover items that have been forgotten and sometimes never used. This is a very common occurrence. Clients call in Professional Organizers when there are no other storage areas available in the home and their excess possessions are beginning to overtake their actual living space.

This might sound crazy but this situation happens slowly over time. It happens so slowly that people don’t realize it until they feel crowded, claustrophobic and desperate.

With less and less personal time, Professional Organizers are becoming very popular. The last thing most people want to spend time on is clearing their clutter. They also feel out of control and need a Professional to provide direction and expedite the process.

Frequently there is guilt associated with getting rid of possessions. Organizers can help you decide what to keep and what to let go of. We talk through the process of releasing and donating items. Individually, it is hard to get rid of gifts that you never liked or inheritance items that are now in your possession.

It helps to have a Professional give you permission to get rid of your excess baggage. You can always blame it on your organizer if a loved one asks what happened to a particular gift!

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

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Organizing a home based business

Dear Kathi,

“I am updating the office space for my home-based business. In corporations, an office was always already set up for me, so now I need to know how to set up a professional office at home. I would like to know what is mandatory initially (the minimum requirements) so I can keep costs low, yet still be effective right away.”

- Joy,  Arbonne International


The minimum furniture requirement to set up a home-based office is a desk, desk chair, and file drawer or cabinet. A computer, printer and scheduling device comprise the equipment that will round out your office set-up. You may possibly need to post your own website, but that is another column!

Your desk can be a large table (think dining size) or an actual office desk. Small folding tables are too restrictive and won’t hold your computer plus other necessary paperwork. The best desk set-up leaves 60% of the flat area free for paperwork. This is why you need a large surface, at least preferably.

An ergonomically designed desk chair is worth more than the money it costs. Your old dining room chair will fatigue you quickly and possibly leave you with a tweaked back by the end of the day. Check at your local thrift store if you need to save money as you start your business. The Community Resource Center in downtown Encinitas frequently sells office furniture. You may also wish to look into ergonomic wrist or foot rests.

File drawers will keep all of your papers from overtaking your business as you grow. Many clients try to use “pretty” or inexpensive file boxes for their paperwork. File boxes run several hazards: you pile things on top that need to be moved to access your file; they fall apart; they don’t hold hanging files, so your files fall down inside and don’t have proper separation, etc. etc. etc… I could go on but will stop here.

I highly recommend treating your business like a business, by buying business level tools to work with. Buy a real file cabinet. It will serve you for years. If you want to save money, thrift stores often sell high quality cabinets for $15 to $30, as opposed to the $120 office supply store price range. Make sure to buy a cabinet that has drawers with sliding tracks and wheels. Again, think industrial strength. There is nothing worse than battling with jammed or loose file drawers when you are trying to work.

Regardless of your type of business, a computer will save you countless hours of frustration and wasted time. It provides the capability to send and receive emails and to access websites. Faxes are almost a thing of the past now.

If you are not computer savvy, now is the time to jump in and learn. Many computer courses are available, including the free courses at the public library or local community center. Community colleges and adult education programs are other good resources. Check out www.sandiegocet.net for free computer training class schedules. You could also learn one-on-one by being tutored by a neighbor. Learning computer basics is a mandatory investment for a new business, even if you do not plan to sell your product online.

A printer will help you prepare documents to give to your clients or print reference materials for your projects.

Probably the most important element of a functioning business is a proper scheduling device. Whichever you choose, use one and ONLY ONE for everything in your life: all of your business appointments, reminder notes and personal commitments. It can be as simple as a paper schedule book, day planner, or palm pilot (aka PDA: personal digital assistant,) or as complicated as a BlackBerry. Some handheld electronic devices have the added convenience of software that “hot syncs” information to your computer. Consider as well the contact management options that come with your computer, like Outlook, Entourage or ACT.

Managing your contact list will put you a step closer to truly being in control of your business.

With any of these Customer Relationship Management programs, you can enter and store all the numerous business card information and potential client names into one space, then, most importantly, schedule follow up calls so that you can land new business.

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

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Beach Cottage Basement Witnesses 5 Generations of History

Situation: A beach cottage with at least five generations of family memorabilia stashed into the basement. The family has inhabited this cottage since 1887 and the basement is now a combination of items from several storage rooms.

Memories abound and many valuable articles are decaying in cardboard boxes. The room is damp and chaos reigns supreme. It is overwhelming to go inside. With a small cottage and a large family, it would be a bonus to have another room for visiting out of town children and grandchildren as well as a place to store extra kitchenware and clothing.

Solution: Delve into each box and separate family memories one by one from trash and donation items. We preserved all valuable memories into plastic Sterilite boxes that stacked into one corner of the room.

Divide the room into two separate areas, storeroom and guest room using the existing partitions.

The storeroom area was set up with rows of shelves to hold extra dishes, baking and kitchen cookware that would not fit into the house. We also stored holiday items, extra clothes, memories and luggage into this side of the room.

In the guest area, books were organized on the huge floor to ceiling bookshelves. A gaming table was arranged, the bed set up with side tables with lights and a cozy reading area equipped with a wing back chair and floor lamp. This new improved basement will easily accommodate 2 – 4 houseguests.

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addSpace receives the Best of Encinitas Award!

(prREACH) January 11, 2014 — addSpace to Your Life! a professional organizing and image consultancy has been selected for the 2013 Best of Encinitas Award in Professional Organizers category by the Encinitas Award Program.  Each year, the Encinitas Award Program identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category.

These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and their community. These exceptional companies help make the Encinitas area a great place to live, work and play.  The Best of Encinitas Award Program was created to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of businesses and organizations in and around Encinitas. Their mission is to raise the profile of exemplary companies and entrepreneurs among the press, the business community, and the general public. Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category.

The 2013 Encinitas Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Encinitas Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Award Winner Kathi Burns:
Kathi Burns, CPO is a Certified Professional Organizer, Image Consultant, Speaker, Trainer & the Author of How To Master Your Muck. As the founder of . . .

Read more by clicking this link


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About Kathi ~ an intimate interview with Ariane from Inspirational Luminaries

Questions for Inspirational Luminaries

1- Since some of our listening audience may not yet know who you are, would you please tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Kathi Burns, CPO®. I am an agent for change and work as a Certified Professional Organizer and Image Consultant. I founded addSpace To Your Life! in 2003 and published my book How to Master Your Muck ~ Get Organized. Add Space To Your Life. Live Your Purpose! in September 2009. I was honored and blessed to be acknowledged by Good Morning America as a successful woman entrepreneur in the second year of my new career.

2) You are a great success. Because of what you’ve accomplished and where you are in life, what would you tell others to inspire them today, regardless of where they are in their life?

It doesn’t matter where you are in life right now, it matters where you think you are in your life right now. I know that the principal of thought, word, deed is very powerful and works significantly in our daily lives.  If you think about something long enough, speak about it as if it were so, and act upon it with confidence, it cannot help but manifest in some form. Even if you have some sort of disadvantage, you also have a unique advantage as a direct result of that challenge.

You are a co-creator of your life. You can create a small life or choose to design a very big life full of wonder and excitement. Life is an unlimited resource just waiting to be expressed. It is up to you to choose to see it that way and live your life to it’s fullest potential.

3) We all know that inspiration can change lives. Can you share a personal story of someone who inspired you and made a difference in your life or a defining moment or experience that inspired you or changed your life?

I found out that I was passionate about organizing and image by offering to help a friend in need.

I met my friend Lyn Snow shortly after I relocated to San Diego. At that time, Lyn was spending her time healing from cancer and recreating a career that would require less emotional energy. I was on a quest to redefine my life and find a new career that I could embrace with passion.

Lyn was a bonified packrat and thrift store junkie. She loved shopping for bargains and her home was bursting at the seams.  She was undergoing medical treatment and we both decided that she needed to clear her house and closet to create new beginnings and add more energy to her life. We began clearing in earnest. At the end of the first day she said, “hey you are really good at this and you were really gentle when you made me get rid of the things that no longer served me.” I replied. “That was really fun!”

As I continued helping Lyn, I had an epiphany. I realized that my quirky passion for change is exactly what people need when they want to transform their life. Many folks are afraid and resistant to change even when they know that they need it. With that discovery, I realized my greatest strength could now be used to help people transform and improve their lives.  Instead of being the detriment that it was in the past, my openness to change means that I can effortlessly help clients change and see them transformed long before they can. As I gently hold the space and see them already at their goal, they can move into it and embrace it fully for themselves with less effort.

Lyn and I began our new career quests together and, ironically, both began working full-time in our new careers at the same time. She became a Soul Collage Artist and I created addSpace To Your Life!,  a Professional Organizing and Image Consultancy. She wrote the first client testimonial stating, “Kathi was fabulous and the best! It was painless and actually joy producing. I heartily recommend her!” Without Lynn’s insight and support I would have never discovered my true calling and purpose in life as a change agent.

4) You make it look easy, but I’m guessing you’ve experienced challenges in your life. Can you share with our listeners how that has strengthened you to reach success? In other words, how do you overcome adversity?

If I am stuck with anything, I make some sort of change in my life. I have found that a small, seemingly insignificant change in a physical environment can produce a result in my life experience way out of proportion to the size of the act. Just one simple change opens my life to new possibilities in ways you could never imagine.

5) Everyone has ideas on how to improve their lives, whether it be a new job, moving to a new city, or finding love, but change can be a bit scary sometimes. Can you please share an experience with us where you “stepped off the ledge” with only faith, and took a big risk, based only on your belief that you would succeed?

My husband and I lost our business and basically everything shortly after 911. Instead of getting a ‘real’ job I decided to forgo that security and instead create a company that used my skills and passions. We started addSpace To Your Life! with very little money, in fact only $49. We printed business cards and made fliers to hang on doors. Since we didn’t have money for marketing, I walked and hung fliers door to door to announce my services. We lived hand to mouth for almost a year. I held onto the faith that my company would succeed because I knew innately that helping people embrace and move through change masterfully was my true calling in life.

6) How can others do what you did?

Take the time to clear away the muck from your environment. Get rid of anything that does not serve who you are right now. Muck is a powerful saboteur of creative expression and can become a roadblock to your success. When you are stuck, it is difficult to bring your unique gifts to the world— you often become frustrated or face financial failure. Muck blocks your ability to be free and follow your heart to live your passion. Clear the muck or the broken systems in your life. This will help you learn how to change gracefully and with less effort than you can imagine. This is why I titled my book How to Master Your Muck~ Get Organized. Add Space To Your Life. Live Your Purpose!

7) What process, steps or exercises do you recommend that our listeners could do right now and each morning, to improve the quality of their lives?

Spend time each morning clearing away the muck in your head with meditation or prayer and then plan what you wish to accomplish that day before you begin working or checking emails. Set your path, before it sets you off your path of greatest fulfillment.

8) What’s the greatest joy in your life?

Sharing my life and growing a deep friendship and spiritual connection with my husband Rob. Also, helping people move through change with joy, ease and success.

9) If you had to wrap up the wisdom of your life to leave as your legacy- call it YOUR BRILLIANCE- what important things that you’ve learned would you want to pass on to others?

If you wish to make significant change in your life, the easiest way is to add space wherever you can in your surroundings and in your mind. It could be as simple as cleaning out your desk drawer or spending a few moments each day in a state of non- thinking in prayer or meditation.  When you do this regularly, you will have more space to think more clearly which will help you discover your purpose in life. Once you find your purpose, you will be filled with unbridled enthusiasm, joy and success!

10) If you had just one more thing that you could accomplish in your lifetime, what would it be?

Wow – what a tough question! I want to stay on the path of my true purpose and follow the lead of my soul in all ways . . . If I can remain true to that path, I know that I will accomplish great and unexpected things!



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Clear the Clutter Before the Holidays

As a child the holiday season seems so magical. Houses are decorated, there’s always amazing food everywhere, visitors stop by from all corners of the world, and everyone is happy – except for the person in charge of making sure the holidays go off without a hitch.

That person is generally the primary caretaker of the family and he or she has a lot to do to make the home holiday-ready. As tempting as it may be to shove everything that isn’t aesthetically pleasing under the bed or in a closet, cutting the clutter is what really needs to happen.

The following things help make sure that your home, family, and mind are free of clutter and ready for the holidays.

Start Sorting Out the Clutter

Begin with what’s most important. If you know that guests will be staying at your house overnight or, God help you, longer, and your spare room is a catch-all for all the random things in your life, start with that room. Sort through the room and make three piles: one to keep, one to throw out, and one to give away.

Toss the trash out that day. If time allows, drop off the other pile at a thrift store, or at least get it in the trunk of your car. If you don’t have the time to put away all of the items you’d like to keep, store them in a container and stack it neatly in the closet, basement, attic or garage so that it is out of the way, but not adding to the clutter.

Once the clutter is removed from a spare room (or rooms), tidy things up so it is fresh for guests. Then close the door and pretend that room doesn’t exist until guests arrive.

He Sees You When You’re Cleaning

The next to think about are the areas that are going to be the most visited during holiday get-togethers. This generally involves the kitchen, dining, and family rooms. Take a look around these rooms and identify items that are either used infrequently or not at all and remove the items. That doesn’t mean the items have to be discarded or thrown out, but they should be stored in an area where they won’t get in the way of holiday entertainment.

Other areas that need to get free of clutter before the holidays include the refrigerator, cupboards, and closets.

The refrigerator gets a lot of abuse during the holiday season as it is the go-to place for storing large platters, eggnog, grab-and-go foods for guests, and all the necessary ingredients for a Christmas meal. Before you’re faced with the task of cramming yet another dish into the fridge, take some time to go through and get rid of unnecessary food items. You might be surprised by what you find.

The same goes for cupboards and the pantry. Plus, when you clean out these areas, you might find canned goods that can be donated to those in need.

Clear Your Mind and Clear Your Home

As for the last, and perhaps most important thing that needs de-cluttered before the holidays, well, that’s your mind.

Don’t be afraid to schedule a massage, spend a day at the spa or on the golf course, or do something that helps you de-stress and clear your mind. After all, the holiday season isn’t about being stressed; it’s about spending time with family and friends and enjoying one another’s company.


Dana Rasmussen writes about ways to organize your home, office, and life on sites like Reputation.com.




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Top 10 Things Clients Say When Getting Organized!

I love this list. It was sent to me from a fellow professional organizer in the bay area. It seems we all hear the same things! Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. Oooooo! THAT’S where that is!

2. Is this the worst you’ve ever seen?

3. I thought I’d lost that! Now I have two. Can’t believe I bought another when it was right here the whole time.

4. *Gasp!* Where did you find that? I’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for that!

5. Why didn’t I do this earlier?

6. While going through Memorabilia: “Awwww! I had forgotten all about that [vacation, trip, hike, etc.]”

7. I can’t believe I still have this!

8. That’s not even mine!

9. Why in the world do I own this? No body wants this–not even me.

10. What in the world IS that? I don’t even know what that is!


Reproduced from and courtesy of Kiera Rain    Bay Area Professional Organizer


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What Documents to Keep and What You Can Pitch

Click image to see a larger versionDocuments To Keep and Documents To Pitch for Tax TimeFall Filing Cabinet Fix-Up: What To Keep and What To Pitch via H&R Block

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A great piece of advice from a Master your Muck reader

Here’s a great tip from Bobbi, who read Master your Muck and learned how to keep her papers organized: “Read the book and follow the directions.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

What is your muck? Learn how to master it!

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