Tag Archives: Organizing

Top Ten Tips for Organizing Your Medicine Cabinet

Medicine Cabinet

Have you or someone in your family ever felt that “cold coming on,” late at night and all the medicine cabinet had was old, half-empty, probably expired medicine? Does the tiny area of the medicine cabinet seem like a hunt in a deep forest when looking for something in particular? Managing prescriptions, first aid, supplements, and cough medicine is important. Getting things organized can help you minimize the frustration of hunting for “those pills” or “that medicine.”

Here are ten medicine cabinet organization tips, in no particular order, that can help resolve some unhealthy chaos. (more…)

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Organizing a Study Space in Your Child’s Room

Study Area

A child’s room often needs to serve as both a play area and a study area. It is important to be able to organize so that the space is functional and clutter free. Here are some tips on how you can create a space in your child’s room that will give it a dual purpose without hassle. (more…)

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Organizing Your Child’s Playroom

Play Room

Our kids accumulate belongings starting at birth and continuing throughout the rest of their lives. Organizing a child’s room or playroom is crucial for this reason. Without a good organizational plan for your child’s room or play area, chaos will soon arise, if you aren’t already tripping over or stepping on toys thrown about the room. If you have experience with the almost frantic search for “the other piece” to a game or toy set, these tips are for you. (more…)

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The addSpace Guide to Ridding Your House of ‘Kid Clutter’

Kids organizing

The kids hit school age, and suddenly everything they own is underfoot. Between extracurricular activities and weekend events, finding the time to keep up with school supplies, sports equipment, shoes and basic clothing items can be difficult. Cut down on wasted time and frustration searching for missing articles by implementing a few simple ideas.

Create a ‘drop zone’ near the entrance of your home. This can be as simple as a row of pegs to hold backpacks and jackets, with a rack below it for muddy footwear. A large basket can catch sport gear or outdoor toys, and a bench with storage under the seat can make all the difference. Don’t forget a hook for keys.

Sort your children’s clothing at the end of each season and donate or discard items that you won’t use the next year. Rotate their off season clothes to the back of the closet, or install a two tiered rod to increase your closet space. A low shelf or rack can hold footwear and a higher one be used for hair ribbons or baseball caps. Use drawer dividers to sort socks, underwear and pajamas, or set up small plastic drawer units for smaller tots.

Utilize labeled boxes and bins with easy to open lids for games, hobby items and toys. Rotate toys regularly to keep a fresh assortment available and cut down on boredom. Consider separate shelves for each child to ensure each one will be responsible for his or her own possessions. For preschoolers, labels with pictures of the appropriate toy or game can be used to mark the spot where it belongs.

Get the whole family involved in charity; designate a box for ‘give away’ items and place it in an accessible place. Ask your children to put an old toy in the box every time they get a new one. You can take them with you to drop the items off at a donation center when it becomes full so that they can see where their items go. Explain how the donation process works, and how others can benefit from their cast-off items.

Use a trunk or hope chest at the foot of each bed to save keepsakes for your children as they grow. If your space and finances are limited, an under-the-bed box will serve the same purpose. Again, let your children take an active role in deciding what to keep throughout the year. Each summer, help them go through the contents and discard those items which have lost their importance. The goal is to have only one box of memories by the end of twelfth grade. When the kids leave the nest, they will love having their childhood treasures intact.

A box or caddy for spare school supplies can make finding any replacement items easy on rushed mornings. Another box can be set up to file school papers throughout the year; review them each summer to identify ‘keepers’ for scrap booking. A shoebox with cardboard dividers can store photos until you can put them in your album.

Prize ribbons can be easily kept in your photo album as well, and photographs taken of victors holding their trophies to keep as a remembrance of past accomplishments. Peel off the placard with their name or achievement to use in your photo album alongside the picture, and donate the trophy itself to a school fundraiser. These are popular items at thrift sales, as children love to dream of their future triumphs and act out winning and receiving their prize.

Once you have your children’s belongings well organized, have them take the responsibility for keeping their rooms clean. Set aside a few hours each weekend to have a ‘family cleanup’; many hands make light work. Once you get in the habit of putting things in their designated places, keeping your house clutter free will be a matter of course.

by Kathi Burns – addSpace To Your Life!TM,
a Professional Organizing and Image Consulting Agency
Want to get better organized and look your best?
Get more quick tips by visiting the addSpace To Your Life!TM website.
Request Free addSpace eTips by clicking on the top right button.


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How to organize your home office

Home office

Once you decide to work from home, designating an office space is mandatory. Even if it is just a large table in a corner, the key is to make it an exclusive work area – nothing unrelated to your business should be allowed. This will allow you to stay more fully focused on your business at hand, and keeping your other paperwork such as private financial records separate may even qualify you for a home office tax write-off.

Organize your desk properly from the very beginning and make sure to spend at least ten minutes a day keeping it that way. Just a small investment of time will save you countless hours of frustration looking for misplaced or lost papers or trying to do paperwork on a hopelessly cluttered desktop. Make use of desk and drawer organizers to keep pens, paper-clips and sticky notes handy.

Be certain you have a trash basket by your desk to dispose of unneeded paper and discarded envelopes or mail. This will reduce mess and help keep your workspace clear. Have a vertical inbox on top of your desk to hold papers or files that require immediate attention, and an outbox somewhere by the exit of your office for mail and packages that are awaiting pickup or a trip to the post office.

Make sure your file cabinet is industrial strength. If a brand new one is outside of your price range, check thrift and second hand stores for a gently used, well made cabinet. Likewise, try to find a desk large enough to hold your computer and leave plenty of surface space free for work. These items are worth investing in; good quality cabinets will last you for years. Likewise, an ergonomic chair is almost a necessity if you want to avoid fatigue and back strain.

Form a habit of filing papers as you handle them instead of letting them stack up on your desk. Decide on a categorizing system and label all files accordingly. Use the same approach for your daily mail; open it all immediately and discard the junk, then file remaining mail (invoices, bills, etc) in the appropriate place. Have a special folder for business expenses and keep every receipt for business related items – these will be useful when tax time rolls around.

Take an hour or two each week to enter any new contact information into your database. Handheld computer scanners are available to make entering business card data quick and efficient, or you can use a regular rolodex file and simply staple the business cards to the blanks provided. Many businesses depend on accurate, up to date contacts, and you will benefit from having this information at your fingertips.

If you are working more than 40 to 60 hours a week, or are having difficulty finding time for family, consider hiring help for lawn care and housework. This will cut down on stress, and may even increase your productivity to the point that such a proposal can pay for itself.

Working from home is an incredible experience, but requires a high degree of organization to be fully effective. By designating a section of your home as a special work zone, you will enable yourself to work without distraction and reach your greatest potential.

by Kathi Burns – addSpace To Your Life!TM,
a Professional Organizing and Image Consulting Agency
Want to get better organized and look your best?
Get more quick tips by visiting the addSpace To Your Life!TM website.
Request Free addSpace eTips by clicking on the top right button.


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Taking back and organizing your garage

Organized Garage

Would you like to use your garage for its intended purpose? If you open the garage door and see a wall of clutter, don’t despair. A little elbow grease and organization can free your car from its exile on the driveway.

We live in a world where more is – well, more. Our grandparents’ generation taught us to be thrifty and never to throw anything away, but many of us have taken this to an extreme. Our garages are the battlefield, and our vehicles the casualties… and the enemy is TOO MUCH STUFF.

Plan your garage liberation for the day after trash pickup, or the weekend before your local bulk trash day. Your supplies will need to include boxes of all shapes and sizes, a large number of trash bags, and your recycle bins. Place these at the front of the garage for easy access.

A Professional Organizer can be of great help, and is well worth the money when balanced off against the time wasted and favors owing at the end of an exhausting DIY weekend. If you can plan on hiring such a guide, he or she can help you save valuable time and energy by cutting down the time needed to complete the process. If you choose to forgo this option, you will be forced to recruit a small army from the ranks of friends, neighbors and family, and risk defeat at the hands of your self inflicted mess.

A well thought out plan of attack is vital for success. Create a timeline for your helpers and delegate tasks according to ability. Plan to spend at least two consecutive days for this project; you shouldn’t really leave items out on the drive for longer than this, and once you launch your effort you won’t want to let up until the field is won. Losing your momentum in mid-charge can force you into beating an ignominious retreat!

Start by leading a scouting party into the depths of your garage. There are many items that do not necessarily have to be stored in this area, but end up there by default. They may include:

Luggage (can be moved to an indoor closet or the attic)

Paints and lawn and garden equipment (an outdoor shed is actually a safer place for these items than your garage due to fumes and chemicals)

Other items you may find in your initial foray are tools, gardening supplies, bulk groceries and recycling paraphernalia. Bicycles, sports equipment and camping gear may also make the garage their home, along with Christmas decorations and automotive supplies. Decide which things can be relocated and which will need to be organized into a smaller section of your garage space.

Once you have made these determinations, Pull every thing out of your garage and begin a series of groups on your driveway. Use boxes to corral small items and make sorting easier.

Stop and consider carefully any item you plan to put in the keep pile. Question your motives. Are you keeping it because of guilt or a misplaced sense of responsibility? Is it useful to you? Does it hold good memories or bad? What would be the long term effects of discarding it? If you haven’t used the item in the last two years, you probably don’t need it at all. Remember that each item that goes back into the garage will take up space, and require energy to move if another reorganization becomes necessary.

Throw away any broken items. If you have two identical items, get rid of one. Recycle, donate or give away items that do not fit either the keep or trash categories. If you come across random items or spare parts you need to keep, sort them according to category and store them in the smallest possible container. Put loose objects in small boxes and label them; tape a list to the outside of each box to make them easy to locate if needed.

As the garage is cleared and you can actually see the floor again, start planning how to divide it in to useable zones. Zone locations will depend on frequency of use and the space available. Being able to park your vehicle is naturally your primary goal, and you can draw a chalk outline on the floor to denote the space needed to enter and exit your car comfortably. Make a list of what you need to store and you will get a pretty good idea of what specialized zones will be required.

Once your belongings have been culled and sorted, you can more readily determine where each category should live within these zones. If your laundry room is located in the garage you will need to ensure you have space to maneuver, and a spot for detergent and other supplies. A work bench space can prove invaluable for tool organization and small home projects. Stack boxes up off the ground on a pallet or other raised platform to guard against water damage in case of flooding.

Put frequently used things where they can be easily accessed when needed. Recycling bins should go by the inside door, gardening tools by the fertilizer, etc. Bulk goods can go on a large shelf near the home entrance and other commonly used items on eye level shelves around the perimeter.

Once you have defeated the foe of disorganization, you will need to be vigilant to prevent its return. A few hours of maintenance at the start of each season can work wonders, and forming the habit of putting everything back in its assigned spot after use will keep your garage spotless. Follow this strategy and restore your dispossessed car to its rightful kingdom!

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Recycle Your Family Treasures

memory box

Two of my clients provide a great example of why it pays to rethink old storage habits. John and Millie had lived in the same house for twenty years. They started off as two and soon became a family of five. After their kids went off to college, they decided to downsize into a smaller home and nicer neighborhood.

They went from a 5-bedroom home to a three bedroom. The second bedroom became a home office. They now had an extra bedroom that could serve as a guest/crafts/TV room. Although their kids were in college and soon to graduate, they still had all of their childhood memories and extra clothes. Sound familiar?

Instead of moving all of their college kids items into the spare bedroom or garage, they hired me to meet with each student to help them determine what they wanted to keep as they transitioned into young adults living on their own. This process was helpful for both the kids and the parents.

John and Millie agreed to store 4-5 bins for each child until they settled down with their own homes. The remaining items were either taken by the children to be used at school or donated. The reality is this: when young adults are faced with the reality of lugging around memories and extra clothes, they find it fairly easy to downsize. If they don’t have to make that choice, they will always resort to keeping everything form their childhood because, after all, mom and dad have enough space!

Without questioning what they were storing, John and Mille might have been stuck warehousing 20-30 boxes for each child for the next 10-15 years. Or until they died! This is not an exaggeration. I have seen this happen more times than you can imagine.

The most common comments I hear from kids as they sort through their old possessions are “Why did mom keep this for so long? Or even more tragic, “Where did this come from?” Realize that you are not doing your kids any favors by storing their keepsakes and cast-off clothing and toys after they leave the nest.

The same principal applies to your old items. If you do not take the time to purge, your children are left with that task after you are gone. It is much harder for them to decide about what to release because your possessions come loaded emotional charge. There is also a lot of guilt associated with getting rid of the items that you lovingly stored for years. After all, they feel that maybe they should keep these things because you did for years. If they get rid of it, does that mean they are dishonoring you? These are just a few of the thoughts I hear as children sort through their parent’s memory items. Please do not make your children go through this process on a large scale. It is very difficult and emotionally draining.

It is wise to set aside time at least once a year to work with your children and downsize their possessions, be it memories, books, games or clothes. Do not hang onto possessions forever simply because they represent good times and happy memories.

If your children are young, you can start a new routine for their childhood memories. Keep an under-the-bed bin for each child. Throughout the year, place memories into this bin. Every summer, go through the bin with your child and toss what they no longer wish to keep. The goal will be to have only one box of memories by the time they move off to college or out of the house. When they leave and begin their new life as adults, send the bin with them!

*addSpace Quick Tip Trophies do not stand the test of time in storage. Arms and heads are frequently missing years later. Keep this memory intact by peeling off the placquard and paste it into a photo album beside the photo of your child receiving the trophy. After all, it is really about the achievement, not the trophy itself. Discard the trophy. Or better yet, give it to your school rummage sale; kid’s imaginations make trophies a top selling item, believe it or not!

Children have huge hearts. Keep a donation bin in each child’s room by their door. As they outgrow or lose interest in toys, games or books, they can place these items into this bin. Take these items to charity. Make sure your kids realize how their items will be used to help others. Take your kids on a tour of your local Salvation Army training center or other local charitable facility. Children are natural-born philanthropists. Once they know what happens to their castoffs, they love to send their extra possessions on to others in need!

Recycle and repurpose. Your life will become rich as you spread your good fortune. Send your possessions back into the world so that they can circulate and make more great memories for others to enjoy. Adding space always brings more joy and satisfaction to your life!

by Kathi Burns – addSpace To Your Life!TM,
a Professional Organizing and Image Consulting Agency
Want to get better organized and look your best?
Get more quick tips by visiting the addSpace To Your Life!TM website.
Request Free addSpace eTips by clicking on the top right button.


Please direct a courtesy copy of your publication to:
advice@addspacetoyourlife.com or snail mail it to:
Kathi Burns
AddSpace To Your Life!TM
259 B Hillcrest Drive
Encinitas, CA 92024

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Time management basics (pt2)

Time Management

Take Control and Create More Time

Arrive early for appointments

* Relieve unnecessary stress
* Use this time to plan and strategize
* Increase the likelihood that you will get what you need from meeting
* Increase respect from clients, peers and management

When you regularly arrive early for appointments, you appear more organized and professional and also automatically become more organized and professional. The time you spend waiting before a meeting begins can be very valuable. Use this time to determine in advance, what you wish to accomplish during that meeting. Jot a few notes with questions to ask and outcomes to aspire towards. Your meetings will then become shorter, more effective and require less energy for all parties concerned.

Create ‘To Do’ Lists
Prioritize your ‘to do’s’ every week and record them consistently into one place.

* Palm /Blackberry
* Day Timer
* Outlook

Complete the 3 most important tasks first each day and you will be on your way to fulfilling your dreams and reaching your goals!

Control Your Email

* Avoid the time vortex
o Never check email or voicemail first thing in the morning
* Schedule regular times to check emails
* Read it, respond to it, folder it or delete it
* Read most recent emails first
* Create email signature

Manage Your Voice Mail

* Do not check voicemail before you plan your day
* Check voicemail at regular times, not every time it beeps
* When responding, state your response clearly along with the best time and venue for response
* Keep your voicemail box updated
o best times to reach you
o request specific information from caller

Learn to say NO

* Pause before you make a new commitment
* If new task is mandated
o Make sure the person knows how much time you will spend on it
o If anything else will loose it’s priority on your schedule
* Do not let someone else’s mistake become your fire alarm

Manage Your Paper Flow

* Develop a system for paper flowing
* in and out of your office
* A System = A Structured Protocol
* Designated areas for:
o Incoming In-Process Outbound
Control the Paper Deluge

* Check it to determine action needed
* Move it into the appropriate place to wait for action
* Handle it only once before you work on it.
* Get rid of it! Toss, file or forward

Create an Exit Strategy

* Create a consistent holding area for all things that need to leave your office
* Use an area on your desk or credenza that is positioned towards the door
* Place articles there as you find or finish them
* Do not get up to take only 1 item away

Keys To Mastering Your Time

* Knowing what you want to accomplish and why
* Sticking to the timelines you create
Thought, Word, Deed, think it, speak it, do it

* Set your intention for each week before you begin that week
* Schedule your appointments and tasks in advance, not as you go
* Tell others about your time management strategy if interrupted
o Reality Check: The average employee is interrupted every 10 minutes or 6 times per hour. Keep your focus and don’t let this happen to you!
* Stick to the schedule you have created, don’t let it create you

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Effective Time Management Helps You Get What You Want

Time Management

Abe Lincoln’s Philosophy:
“One hour of preparation saves me eight hours of perspiration.”
Abraham Lincoln

• Preparation involves Planning – short and long term
• Planning involves Time Management
• Time Management requires being Organized


Being prepared means that you have spare tools on hand and quickly accessible. To be prepared, store frequently used back-up supplies in your office and close to your desk. Take a look around your work area. Do you have these items available without having to get up from your desk to retrieve them?

• Extra paper
• Stapler refills
• Paperclips
• Blank file folders
• Pens / highlighters
• Ink Cartridges

The average person that leaves their workspace in a corporate work environment is gone 8 1/2 minutes. In a home-based office, that number can easily triple to over 20 minutes. After all, you might have to pet Fido, check the mailbox or make a pit stop at the coffee pot!


Plan your schedule before it plans you! Preplan & then plan again. Use Friday afternoon and/or Monday morning to decide what you will accomplish that week. In order to keep your eye on the big picture, it is critical to block time in advance of your workweek for setting your intentions. The most influential business people take time every week to plan their agenda. Most do this as a wrap at the end of the week and again before they begin work on Monday.

On Friday, before you end the day, make notes about what you were not able to finish on your tasks/goals list and move those items forward onto the next week’s schedule.

On Monday, before the day begins, which means literally before checking emails, voice mails and attending meetings, take the time to schedule your unfinished tasks. Compile your new list of tasks to accomplish that week. Set your schedule as much as possible during this critical planning time. Create umbrellas or intentions of activities planned for each day that week.

Time Management – Umbrella Your Day

You save countless hours by grouping related tasks together in to the same time frame. For instance, making all of your follow up calls together, researching in long uninterrupted blocks of time. To umbrella your tasks, you first need to list the tasks that you need to perform every week onto a sheet of paper. Then you can begin to allocate time in your schedule for these recurring tasks. Block tasks into similar types of activities, for instance, phone calls, paperwork, outside meetings. • Divide your main job activities into 5 days

* Planning Day (Friday or Monday)
o Set goals/intentions- line up the week
* Current Large Project
* Outside Appointments, Client Meetings
* Client Follow-up and Research
* Administrative, Reports & Paperwork

• Create chunks of time for related activities, if possible by day. Inotherwords, if you need to research client files every week, schedule your research for the same day each week. The benefit of this is that when a client calls for information, you can safely tell them tat you will be working on it on a specific day. I know what you are thinking at this point, “but they want it now!”Trust me when I say this, clients care more about the quality of your work and whether you meet your promised delivery date more than they care about instant gratification. Good things take time. As an entrepreneur for the past twenty years, my clients have taught me this over and over again. You can offer price, service or quality – choose two of these because you can never offer all three consistently. I have always chosen service and quality. Lower pricing always involves speed because of low margins, which, in turn, sacrifices quality and service. Okay, enough Sales 101 training… The same rule applies for outside meetings, filing, phone calls and whatever else you need to do to be successful in your career. If you know when you will be able to make phone calls, you can easily tell your clients when you will be getting back to them. Filing on a regular basis will relieve you of paper maladies that also block your productivity.

This tactic not only helps you increase productivity, it also gives you a solid structure to provide amazing service to your clients. This method allows you to tell your clients exactly when you will work on their project and helps you set future appointments with ease. For instance, if you know that you are on outside appointments every Thursday, you know that this is the time to book the appointment time when a client requests a meeting.

Granted, things happen and there is never a perfect and consistent schedule. Some clients might insist that you see them on a different day than your designated “client meeting day”. The upside to umbrella planning is that if you decide to honor their request, you are fully aware of what will get bumped in order to accommodate them. Knowing this, you can make a very informed decision about whether to bend to their scheduling needs. Sometimes it is advantageous, sometimes not. More often then not, clients are more flexible than they acknowledge, especially if they know that you are organized and professional with your schedule.

Check back for the continuation of this article…

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Organizing using Feng Shui

Feng Shui

A reader asks:

Dear Kathi,

I am really interested in clearing my clutter for better feng shui in my home. Do you have any details about how this will affect my space (so that I can answer my husband’s questions) and also, what I should do to start?

TAngel, San Marcos


This is an interesting question. Many people ask about how to perform feng shui with their space and clear clutter at the same time. Let’s start with what clutter really is and how it affects your living environment.

There are basically four types of clutter which all affect the feng shui (or energetics) of your space: (1) Things you do not use or love, (2) Untidy or disorganized items, (3) Too many items in a small space, and (4) Any unfinished project.

As you can see, there is more to clutter than physical objects. The last category, anything left unfinished, is the hardest to see, therefore, the easiest category to ignore. According to feng shui principals, things not dealt with in your home reflect issues not dealt with in your life. These items are a constant drain on your psyche, always lurking in the back of your mind. Your conscious mind will suppress them for you but uses a lot of energy to do so. Your energy and vitality will soar if you will complete all of your unfinished business. Things that you do not use or love are common elements in a cluttered home. The question to ask yourself as you begin to clear each object is: Why do I hold onto this item-guilt or a memory? You will not lose a memory simply because the related item is gone. As far as guilt goes… if you knew the extent of feng shui damage that these items have on your life, you would be much more willing to let them go. Feeling guilty for releasing certain items says something about your own personal self-talk, and you may want to explore why you feel obligated to remain living with things that no longer serve you.

Untidiness and disorganization result from a lack of attention or carelessness. Is your environment not worth keeping orderly and clean? Think of it this way, your environment is an extension of your own personal energy. Is your physical appearance also disheveled or not put together? This is a case I see frequently. We clean out the living environment and suddenly, the outward appearance of the person changes. Shortly after this comes elevated self-confidence and mastery.

Too many items in a small space is a common phenomenon, especially for those of us in Southern California. Most of us live in smaller spaces than we grew up in. This can be a really great thing if we have learned to streamline and simplify our lives. Or creating clutter can be a hazard if we are not able to release enough items to fit into our new space with room to spare. I’m in strong agreement with the authors of Chic Simple, that the quality of life comes not in accumulating things but in paring down to the essentials. This is why I have named this column and my company AddSpace To Your Life! Open space is necessary for good metal health.

Tell your husband that having empty space and order in your environment allow energy to flow and new beginnings to occur. I’m sure that whoever you are, you will most probably welcome new happenings in your life. This, along with new thought patterns and experiences in your home, will be your due reward for clearing clutter and creating better feng shui in your environment.
Kathi is a Professional Organizer, image Consultant based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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