Contain Your Action Papers

Are you concerned you will lose papers or lose sight of papers?  Keep your action papers in an open file box on your work surface.  Or, keep papers in project sleeves (my personal favorite and can’t live without product), or if you have too many papers to fit in a project sleeve, try a document case.

Do paperwork and other objects distract you while you are working?  Keep your action papers in a closed file box.

Do you prefer to pile paper? Try labeled stackable letter trays for your action papers (follow-up, call/email, projects, tasks, review, etc.).

Archive Your Reference Papers

Do you fear you will lose papers or lose sight of papers if they are locked away in a file cabinet? Keep your reference papers in an open file cart under the work surface. Or, if you are paper piler, try labeled literature sorter for your reference papers. Designate a row or column for different categories to help you locate information faster.

Do you want your reference papers at your fingertips?  Keep in a nearby file cabinet, file boxes, or scan and keep digitally.

Corral Your Office Supplies

Store your backup office supplies (writing instruments and note pads, electronic cables, batteries, printer paper, printer ink, file folders, etc.) in a four-cube shelving unit.   (Cube #1 – writing instruments and note pads, Cube #2 – printer paper and ink, Cube #3 – filing supplies, and Cube #4 electronics).  Hide the clutter with drawers for small items and door fronts for larger items to hide the clutter.

Store your everyday office supplies (paper clips, staples, stapler, staple remover, scissors, post-its, tablets, writing instruments, etc.) in your desk drawers if you have those or in stackable drawers next to your work surface.  Add drawer trays to up the organization.

Learn what a family command center is and how it can help you and your whole crew be more organized every day. Plus, get ideas for how you can create your own command center on my Pinterest site.

Why do I need a command center?

  • Mail and other incoming paper lands on the kitchen counter or table because they don’t have a designated spot.  You know those days when you come home, plop the mail on the counter, throw your bag in one place and your keys in another, and head straight to the sofa with a glass of wine? Yeah, THAT kind of day.
  • All is well until the next day when you can’t find your keys, you forgot to pay a bill, and your kiddo missed a birthday party because the invitation is who knows where?
  • Too many different family activities make it impossible to keep track of who should be where and when and who will get them there and back.

Where should the command center be located?

  • Locate the family command center in a high traffic area, such as the kitchen.  The command center is separate from the launching and landing pad but should be in very close proximity.

What belongs in the command center?

  • Paper Processing Center – where you do a daily quick sort of the mail into a “recycler” or shredder, “action papers” (such as bills, RSVPs) to be processed, “reference papers to be filed,” and a “to read” basket.
  • This is a great place to keep all central family information in a Household Information Binder, such as emergency information, phone numbers/addresses, menus, child’s information (health record, school information, medication schedule/directions, childcare instructions, and pet care instructions).
  • Household file system for all that paper you never know where to act on or keep—this is the place.
  • Wall Files to hold kids’ permission slips, workbooks, or homework assignments
  • Family Communication Station A place to leave and pick up messages and contain the family wall calendar, school/activity schedules, and family meal menus.
    photo Family Communication Station
    [photo by Anne Blumer]

How can I keep my command center organized?

Household Information Binder

  • Phone Numbers
    • Hand-written or printed
    • Neighborhood Directory
    • School Phone Directory
    • Sports Team Phone Directory
  • Menus
  • Grocery Lists – List of grocery and household items frequently purchased
  • Family Information
    • Homework Schedule
    • Medication Schedule
    • School Schedule
    • Sports Activity Schedule
    • Child Care
    • After School Care Information
    • Camp Information
    • Emergency Instructions

Household File System

  • A prepackaged system such as Freedom Filer
  • Create your own system and labels using the following categories
    • Finances (credit card statements, bank statements, utility statements, medical payments)
    • Taxes
    • Insurance
    • Personal Property (home records, vehicle records)
    • Vital Records (passport, birth certificate, etc.)
    • Health History
    • Employment Records
    • Education Records
    • Lifestyle (travel, decorating ideas, recipes, etc.)

Household Calendar

  • Wall or Desktop
  • Assign a different color pen/pencil for each family member to eliminate the need to write name with activity/appointment
  • To keep track of
    • Appointments
    • Sport Activities
    • Social Engagements (parties)
    • Events (concerts, graduations)
    • Birthdays and Anniversaries
    • Holidays
    • School Closures

Maintenance Plan – New Habits

  • Daily – open mail and sort
  • Daily – review calendar and update
  • Daily – check communication center
  • Daily – remove old message
  • Weekly – review upcoming events with all family members
  • Semi-annually – update the household binder
  • Annually – purge file system


Before SolutionsForYou, Inc.

Our client’s office didn’t have a plan for where papers, supplies, and resource materials belong. Papers had been piling up for years with no destination in mind.

Photo Messy Corporate Office Desk

SolutionsForYou created zones for “action” files and “reference” files, paper processing zone for incoming and outgoing paper, office supply storage, mailing materials, and office reference materials.

Our client also struggled with how to categorize her action papers, project documents, and where to keep them so she could find them when she needed to. SolutionsForYou designed a system that mirrors her electronic file system to her paper system making it easier to remember where information is located.

We provided time management coaching that has helped our client to refocus on what is important rather than what is urgent.

After SolutionsForYou, Inc.

Anne worked one-on-one with our client for six hours sorting her paperwork, identifying what paper information was important to keep, and creating a paper reference system. Our client now feels she can control her office surroundings and workflow, freeing her to focus on prioritizing her tasks.

Photo Organized Corporate Office Desk

Anne Blumer is a professional’s professional. She is serious about her work but adds humor and lightness to the task at hand.” “Honestly, it is hard to say which idea helped the most. All of Anne’s ideas worked in concert with each other. However, I would choose, putting my to-do items in folders. The best part for me is when I travel, I just grab my folders and I have all of my to-do items with me in seconds. Love it!”   Renee LaFrance

Photo by from Unsplash

In our daily life, we all might experience stress from our jobs, finances, parenting, and other areas of our lives. Our home should be our refuge, a place where we feel safe and relaxed. Living in a messy, chaotic, and cluttered home can be stressful. When your home is cluttered, your mind can become cluttered too. A cluttered space might cause stress, impact productivity, and generally make household tasks more complicated. It can even affect your sleep.

For most of us, especially for young children’s parents, it can seem unrealistic to maintain a perfectly tidy home. To make your ride as smooth as possible, we asked top professional organizers to share their best organizing tips and ideas.


What is virtual organizing and how does it work?

  • Virtual organizing is a process for getting organized through telephone, email, photographs, Zoom Video Conference, FaceTime, or other technology.
  • The primary difference between on-site organizing and virtual organizing is clients don’t have our hands to help you move and sort your items.
  • It is collaborative—both the client and professional organizer develop a plan to achieve the desired outcome based on the initial assessment.


How does it work?

  • The client walks the professional organizer through their space virtually and discusses their goals, strengths, and challenges.
  • The professional organizer prepares a plan tailored to make a difference in your space and with your systems.
  • To ensure a successful outcome, in-between sessions, the client completes organizing tasks that the professional organizer assigns.
  • The professional organizer instructs organizing sessions while the client supplies the physical work. The client will be learning and applying organizing skills during each session.
  • At each session, we review your progress and achievements and, if necessary, troubleshoot any roadblocks you experienced.

-Anne Blumer at SolutionsForYou


How to de-clutter and organize old baby stuff?

Old baby toys and clothes can add up quickly, and before you know it, they are taking over much of your house! Get ahead of de-cluttering because as your child gets bigger, so does their stuff (and the amount of storage space it takes up around your home!) Here are a few ways to de-clutter old baby things:

  • As your baby outgrows clothes and toys, sort them based on what you want to keep (either for sentimental value or if you’re considering having another baby one day) and what has run its course and can either be donated or thrown away. If clothing is stained badly or a toy is broken or has missing pieces, put them in a pile to throw away. For clothes and toys that are worn but still in good condition, put them in a pile to donate locally.
  • If your “keep pile” is still large, go through it again and try to whittle it down some more, asking yourself if these are really items that you would re-use or if they would be better off with another family that could use them.
  • Store the items you are keeping in clear bins to see exactly what is in them, and you don’t forget what you have. On the outside of the containers, mark what size clothing is inside of them. But, keep those old toys out of sight from your child, so they aren’t suddenly asking to play with them again!

Remember, you don’t need to keep everything! While it may make sense to keep some things, you certainly don’t need to keep everything, especially if you don’t have the storage space. Plus, there are plenty of other families that could benefit from your gently used items. Letting go of old baby items doesn’t mean letting go of the memories!

-Jody Vitali at Charleston Moms


How to avoid chaos in your nursery room?

  • For the area you are nursing, place the chair next to a small nightstand to use the drawers to store nursing supplies and a place for your drink while nursing.
  • Keep your crib area clear of obstructions, so you can walk in and out of the room with your baby easily.
  • Add storage on the back of the closet door with an over the door shoe organizer. Keep easy to access items like lotion, wipes, pajamas, socks, and blankets.
  • On the changing table, keep out only what you need to use to change your baby. Have baskets or drawers for frequently used items like diapers, diaper cream, wipes, and onesies.
  • Add a night light to see when you enter the room as it is likely dark.
  • Add a fan to camouflage noise and help promote sleep.

-Ellen R. Delap at Professional Organizer


What are your top 3 tips to get your paper organized?

  • When you’re organizing papers, don’t get bogged down reading them! This can slow you down a lot. Create a “To Read” folder for the important info you come across while sorting and purging.
  • Keep your active papers separate from your archive/reference papers. If you put documents that you need to do something within a file, you probably won’t do it. Out of sight IS often out of mind.
  • If your file drawers are stuffed, take a quick look to see if empty folders are lurking in the drawers – this frees up space quickly. If a file only has a few papers in it, see if you can logically combine it with another file.

-Lisa Zaslow at Gotham Organizers


What to do with all the stuff after a divorce?

Nothing makes you question the value of your stuff, like a divorce! Some people want to take it all. Some people never want to see any of it again. After going through a divorce, you will need time to grieve. If you have space, hold on to your sentimental items for 3-12 months before you try to purge them. Those things are irreplaceable, and you don’t want to upset your kids or other family members by throwing them away right now. Store them in boxes, so you don’t have to look at the photos and memories everyday. Then wait until you are thinking more clearly (with perspective) before you throw them out. When will that be? Ask someone you trust if you are thinking clearly yet.

It’s healthy to want to start over, and it’s also healthy to want to keep things stable for your children. So how do you walk that line concerning your furniture and other everyday items? If you are staying in the same home, you can let go of a lot and start over. If you are moving out, bring some items from common areas that make you or your kids happy—games, vacation memories, fluffy and cozy things, etc. Keeping things because they were expensive or because someone gave them to you is never a good idea. Let that stuff go. Now you have a perfect excuse for donating anything you never liked. “I lost it in the divorce!”

These are really personal decisions, and what you keep will depend on how you feel about the breakup and about moving on. As an organizer, I can promise you that material possessions are not worth jeopardizing your sanity or relationships (even if there isn’t much relationship left). Time will negate the value of almost everything in all our homes. Be nice to yourself, and be friendly to your ex. In the long run, you’ll be better off having been civil than having won the battle for the dining room set.

-Nonnahs at Get Organized Already


Home organization: How to get your kids involved?

The best way to get kids involved in the organizing process is to make it worth their while. That doesn’t mean to bribe them with rewards, necessarily, either! Depending on age, creating a game out of organizing can be exciting and interesting. Time the kids to see who can organize their closet the quickest. Or who can clear their desk the fastest. Make sure to keep an eye on them, so they’re not just tossing everything in a drawer or hamper!

Organizing can also be an opportunity to learn. Explain that some kids don’t have any toys, and wouldn’t it be nice if they could have some of the old toys that aren’t played with anymore? Some kids will feel the charitable spirit and gladly share their toys. This may also help kids and parents learn which toys and games are their favorites (parents might be surprised!). Have the kids pick out their favorite ten stuffed animals, for example. The rest go in the donation bag. Or allow them to fill a particular basket or bin with any toy they want. And, if nothing else, organizing a space together can be quality time spent one-on-one. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, it can really make the difference for both child and parent to spend some time working together with no distractions.

-Amy Trager at Amy Trager Professional Organizer


What are your top 3 tips for digital de-clutter?

Location: Save all your documents in one location. Consider a cloud-based system that you can access from any device.

Folders! Folders! Folders!: It is so important to save documents in folders under different categories. Create folders by category and subfolders within each category for related files. For example, a bills category can have subfolders of electricity, water, gas, phone, broadband, etc. Always try to file them correctly to find what you are looking for. Remember to not overdo the subfolders, for example, under bills; there is no need to create more than one subfolder for phone bills if you have more than one phone. You can simply name the actual file with the telephone network’s name and date.

De-clutter: De-clutter your computer, emails, and social media regularly. This includes any cookies from your browser, emptying your cache, clearing your desktop, clearing out your recycle folder. Also, unsubscribe from unwanted marketing emails as they come in, unfollow social media accounts that don’t add value. Finally, set limits on your screen time, which you can do by using an app if necessary.

-Kate Ibbotson at A Tidy Mind


Where should you start de-cluttering?

Most people I know think of de-cluttering as a full-blown session where they need to set aside a big block of their time to tackle a giant monster hiding in their closet. When faced with this thought, people get paralyzed, not to mention, finding ‘the perfect time’ to do it makes them procrastinate, and ultimately, they don’t take any action. This is why the most common complaint I hear is, ‘I don’t know where to start.’

So, my approach is a little different. I always tell my customers, ‘it doesn’t matter where or when you start. Start anywhere, any time.’ And even though it may sound counterintuitive, this is the best way to gain momentum and start what I call the ‘de-cluttering domino effect.’

For instance, I do a quick scan of my closet rod now and then while putting clean clothes away. If I see something I don’t like or haven’t worn in a while, I pull it off the hanger and set it aside. And usually, I don’t stop there. I keep searching, and in a matter of 5 minutes, I have de-cluttered 5-10 pieces of my wardrobe without giving it a second thought.

The beauty of this system is that it doesn’t give you much time to think. Sometimes impulsive, quick decisions are best. When you allow too much time to de-clutter, you have too much time to think.

Along the same lines, people should adopt the habit of de-cluttering as they go. I am continually riding our home of things that have seen better days wherever and whenever I walk past them. This method does not mean that I do not enjoy a full day of de-cluttering and organizing a closet or a kitchen cupboard. But those days are few and far between, so I use my time pockets to keep up and get rid of clutter.

-Flavia Andrews at Neat House, Sweet Home


How to keep kitchen pantries clean and organized?

The kitchen is the heart of the home, designed to offer nourishment and comfort. The key to an efficient kitchen is a clean, organized pantry that allows you to find whatever you’re seeking quickly and easily.

Divide and Conquer – Designate separate categorized zones in your pantry to prevent crowding so that you can see when you are running low on supplies.

Group similar items together, like breakfast foods, pasta/rice/beans, baking supplies, snacks, paper goods, etc. Next, subdivide your major categories, like canned goods, into specific types: canned fruit, vegetables, fish, soups, etc., and line up duplicates, front-to-back, just like in the grocery store.

Contain Your Categories – Canned items and large boxes (cake mixes, cereal, etc.) can go directly on shelves, but it’s better to organize the rest of the pantry with containers.

Small plastic bins, tubs, and flat-bottomed baskets help you gather similar foods or ingredients together; as a container empties, it’ll be obvious when it’s time to restock. These containers corral leaks from drippy bottles of condiments and sauces and halt spills from bags with tiny rips, keeping your pantry clean. Pull bins, tubs, or baskets toward you, like drawers, so you don’t lose anything to the depth of your pantry.

Use small food storage containers that have lost their lids to store salad dressing and taco “fixings” packets. Stack them upright to keep everything visible; the containers prevent packets from falling through gaps in wire shelving. (Consider stiff shelf liner to cover gaps and make a wire shelving surface more even.)

To maximize space, stock smaller items like spices or miniature bottles on a divided Lazy Susan or turntable.

Keep the Vertical Hold – Use the walls and door of your pantry to add vertical storage space. Multi-pocket, over-the-door shoe organizers create space for rarely used items, like small gadgets or cookie cutters, and can hold standard supplies like aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and plastic bags.

Look High and Low – Prioritize ingredients and food-prep tools, but if you need to use the pantry to store other things, bear in mind weight and size. Store heavy items, like crock-pots, bread makers, and extra plates or dishes on lower shelves. Save the top shelf for lightweight items, like paper products, seasonal decorations, or linens, things that won’t break if they are jostled off the shelf.

Label, Label, Label! – Label the edges of shelves with a label maker or use a Sharpie on washi tape. It’s easier to get your family to put things back if it’s obvious where everything goes.

-Julie Bestry at Best Results Organizing


Tips for organizing your pets supplies

Toy Storage: Most pups enjoy dragging their toys in every room of the house. So, to make clean up easy, I keep a basket in each room to throw toys. This strategy works well if you do a quick clean up at the end of the night. All you have to do is toss the toys in the basket in that room, and all the dog toys are back where your pooch can find them!

Grooming Storage: I always suggest keeping the grooming supplies in the bathroom that the pup gets bathed in. It makes things so much easier if they roll in something or get sprayed by a skunk. What? That’s never happened to your dog?

I store shampoo and skunk remover in a clear bin under the sink and lock the cabinet to prevent the kiddos from grabbing them. I have recommended that most of my clients keep the brushes near the shampoo because that is when they typically brush the dogs. I keep it in the kitchen, near the back door. I do this because I have to brush my dog frequently as he gets into all sorts of burrs in our backyard. I keep the brushes in a turntable with other puppy essentials. Find a spot for the brushes that makes sense for when you brush your dog.

Food Storage: I always suggest dumping the pet food into a large, air-tight bin. Not only does the bin keep the food fresher, but it also takes up less space than the giant bag. We have ours on a pull-out shelf. If you don’t have that option, get a large bin with wheels to make it easy to feed your pup.

-Jessica Litman at The Organized Mama


What are the best apps to help you get organized?

 My favorite apps to get organized are:

Trello: In Trello, you create boards that have lists. Within each list are cards. You can have multiple boards and multiple lists and cards on every board. I use Trello every day. I love my Daily Task Management Board (it employs automation, and it’s fantastic). I also use it to track anything with a visual or process component, for tracking books and movies I want to watch, my Kindle library, my client sessions, and lots of big projects. It’s extremely flexible, syncs between computer and phone, and is visually appealing. I especially love the many free images that are available as background for my boards!

Evernote: Evernote is another favorite app that I use every day. It is comprised of notes organized into notebooks. (You can think of Trello as a bulletin board with cards on it in columns and Evernote as a shelf of well-organized notebooks.) I use Evernote to track contractor invoices, my genealogy research log, and capture notes when I’m on a phone call. I also use it to remind me of bills coming due or things that need to be canceled (I usually forward an email, then sent a reminder.) Like Trello, it syncs between phone and computer. And at the premium level, you can access your notes even when you’re offline.

Genius Scan: We’re all carrying scanners in our pockets, and Genius Scan makes it easy to take a picture of a document, which is then turned into a pdf, and email or text it to yourself or someone else.

Calendar (the native iPhone app): I stopped using a paper calendar more than a dozen years ago and never looked back. Having a digital calendar (whether it’s a calendar or something else) helps stop things from falling through the cracks. The calendar app syncs with iCal on my Mac. Calendar mishaps are a thing of the past.

Paper Karma: This app allows you to remove yourself from catalog or junk-mail lists just by taking a picture of the address label after you’ve signed up for a fee and entered your information. It’s really helpful in keeping you from getting overwhelmed by mail you don’t want.

-Janine Adams at Peace of Mind Organizing


What is eco-green organizing, and how can it improve your life?

Eco-Organizing is finding ways to be green in your life when de-cluttering and getting organized. For example, it’s knowing your recycling laws so you can make sure that when you’re de-cluttering, you don’t throw out something in the trash that could be recycled. Or when organizing, looking around your house to see what you can repurpose/upcycle to organize instead of buying another plastic container. For example, using an ice tray to organize your earrings or using a bulletin board to hang your necklaces.

Eco-Organizing improves your life in many ways. First, it saves you money because you do not have to buy anything new, and you’ll be saving time because you’re not driving around to different stores or surfing the internet to find what you need. Doing something positive for the environment makes you feel good, and knowing you’re making a difference can give you peace of mind. And you can really give your creativity muscle a good workout!

-Julie Coraccio at Reawaken Your Brilliance


Garage organizing: where to start?

The first easy thing to do when organizing your garage is what we call the drift and dispose! Grab a bag and walk around for 10 minutes picking up trashable items such as empty boxes, worn out or broken items, and simple trash. Then, grab another bag and walk around throwing in the bag items that you no longer use, you don’t want, or kids have outgrown. These items can be donated. Making the first pass and removing ‘extra’ items makes it easier to start the actual organizing process.

-Susan Wade at Sunflower Strategies


De-clutter: DIY or hire a pro?

DIY can be fun, but I think hiring someone to help has many benefits. Many start the de-cluttering process by themselves and then lose interest quickly. Hiring a professional organizer can help you stay on track, offer fresh eyes, help to let you see the big picture, and many times they offer the hands-on approach, so you only need to be there to make decisions. Professional organizers are experts in their field and will save you a lot of time.

-Betsy Fein at Clutterbusters


Top 3 tips for organizing your photos

Photos are memories that don’t expire, and your collection is always growing. This makes organizing pictures a seemingly daunting task, but it is very doable with the following tips. Here are some tips that can help you out in the process.

Pace yourself: Most people have tons of photographs and can’t organize all of them in a day. The best thing you can do to ensure success is to stop procrastination and burn out from taking over and keeping you from reaching the finish line. You can do this by breaking the organizing goal into bite-size chunks and do a little bit at a time consistently (e.g., go through photos 30 minutes a day, three days a week).

Follow a process: For photos, I suggest purging and sorting at the same time. In other words, as you are going through and weeding out the photos you don’t want, separate the ones you are keeping into categories (e.g., by year, by person, by event). To purge, go through your photos and get rid of any that are blurry, ripped, stained, faded, etc. You can also discard ones with people that you don’t recognize, unflattering photos, scenery you don’t remember, and so on.

Use storage solutions: Once you’ve gone through your photos, discarded the ones you don’t want, and sorted them into categories, the last step is to use an archival-quality storage solution. One of my favorites is the Iris Photo Keeper from Amazon, but you can find photo boxes at tons of stores. Be sure to label them with your category names and store them in a climate-controlled room in your house.

For more details, check this article on how to organize your photos. You got this!

-Nealey Stapleton at The Organizing Boutique


Tips for moms to stay organized and manage remote working and homeschooling

With schools constantly transitioning from in-person to hybrid, to remote, the current situation has placed a heavy burden on families. Particularly hard hit are families where both parents are working. For most, the only option is for at least one parent (most frequently, Mom) to work from home while supervising their children’s’ remote learning. This isn’t easy, but a few tips can help:

  • Establish a “work station” for each family member. Each station will need:
    • Access to an outlet or extension cord for charging close enough to plug in the computer.
    • A comfortable chair that positions the individual at a proper height to see the screen.
    • Proper lighting, including a task light for “paper” work and no back-lighting, which makes it hard to see (and be seen on) a screen.
    • Basic desk supplies typically include a pen, a pencil, an eraser, scissors, tape, and a stapler.
    • A storage bin, basket, or drawer for keeping supplies when they are not in use. The most productive tool you can have is a clear work surface, so it is important to have a place to put books, files, papers, and extra work tools when not in use. Remember always to scale the size of a storage container to what you are storing inside. For instance, flashcards need a small pouch or box, not tossed loose into a large basket.
    • A display board, where workers can hang schedules, photos, inspirational messages, passwords, or reminders.
  • If multiple workers share a room, consider setting up a screen or other visual divider to help each person focus. Picture the “cubbies” in an open floor plan office. A screen can be free-standing, and a shower curtain strung on a wire that can be drawn open and closed.
  • Remove telephones (which might ring and disturb focus) from work stations. If you have a landline, you can either unplug the phone or move it to a more public location. If cell phones are needed for work, keep those at the desk, and put them into “do not disturb” mode. If cell phones are not required – which is typical for most students – keep those out of the work zone. For example, set up a charging station in the kitchen or family room. This way, phones can be checked during a break but won’t disrupt focus during class.
  • Set up a visual signal so family members know when a family can and cannot be interrupted. Picture a retail store’s “open” and “closed” signs. You can print out a piece of paper with “do not disturb,” put it in a plastic sleeve and hang it from the door or wall where others can easily see. Alternatively, for those working in a room with a door, simply close the door when class is in session or when you are on a call, and open it when you are free. Admittedly, this is difficult if you have little ones around. Small children will inevitably interrupt you, so the best approach is to do your best to schedule “important” calls when children are napping or during their TV time.

Balancing working from home and being a full-time parent is a challenge. I hope these few tips make life a bit easier!

-Seana Turner at The Seana Method


What is a color-coded organization system?

A color-coded organization system is a method that helps the user separate, categorize, and organize information or objects using color. The instant visual recognition of a color-coded item enables us to use less brainpower and reduces the time it takes to search for what we need. Color coding is a fun and effective way to organize.

Benefits of color-coding

  • Enables us to become aware of differences in items quickly.
  • Speeds up search time for an object or information
  • Captures your attention—especially for those who are ‘visual’ people.

It’s easy to create a color-coding system, just follow these steps:

  1. Determine what objects or information you want to organize.
  2. Break down the objects or information into categories
  3. Select colors for each type that are visually appealing and make sense to you (ex. green file folders for bills, different colored towels for each child, an orange bin for Halloween decorations, etc.)
  4. Organize your objects or information by color
  5. Write down your color-coding system, so you don’t forget it!

Color coding is used to simplify our lives, so keep it simple, using only a few colors. Too many colors can distract and complicate the system that’s supposed to be made easy by using color!

– Stacey Agin Murray at Organized Artistry


Top 3 tips for storing books

The key to the mystery of storing books is to de-clutter your collection.  You should be able to display your books and take pride in them. Look at the space you have and the number of books you own and reduce your collection to fit your space.  It will be easy for some people and difficult for others.  Decide if you need to reduce your collection by 10%, 25%, or even more.

Storing books by genre: I like storing books by genre because it makes it quicker to find the book you’re looking for. You don’t need to have as many categories as a library; you can use important categories to you. Some examples are fiction, nonfiction, travel, cooking, etc. This is a great system if you have a large space for books and you like having them all in one area.

Storing books by purpose: A lot of people collect books for a specific purpose. You might have books related to your job, the skills you want to develop, or hobbies/interests. When you store your books by purpose, you can hold a group of books in a space close to where you would use them. Some may be in an office, others in the family room or kitchen. This is a good system if you have smaller spaces throughout your home for books.

Storing books by color: If you want to use your books to have a visually appealing wall, interesting and fun, build a pattern based on the color of the book’s spine. When using this system, it is hard to find a specific book, and if you remove too many books, the pattern will not continue to look great.

Store the books you love, read, and enjoy to suit your personality and lifestyle. Donate books that no longer serve a purpose in your life so other people can enjoy them. Don’t let them get outdated, moldy, and damaged so that they end up in the recycling bin.

-Julie Stobbe at Mind Over Clutter


Top 3 organizing habits you should practice.

De-cluttering regularly: One super important thing is to periodically de-clutter and not just seasonally. Make a dedicated donation station or zone in your home that you can go to any time. For example, you can have a decorative bag in your bedroom dedicated to donating. This habit is perfect for when you try on clothing and realize that it doesn’t fit you anymore, or you no longer want it. You can quickly place it into the bag instead of back into your closet.

Categorize your items into zones: The goal is to keep everything that is the same together and create a central home for it. For example, if you are working on your kitchen, create a zone for all your baking items, one for your cooking prep utensils, one for your daily coffee needs, and keep the process going. When you set up your home this way, you will find and put away your things with ease.

Put your items back and relocate items that don’t belong every day: Make a conscious effort to find time each day to put things back in their proper places instead of throwing items in junk drawers, shelves, or cabinets. One easy tip is to go around your space and remove items that don’t belong in that space. As well as toss items that are trash/garbage or recycling. By making this a habit, you will have your space instantly neater and know that your items will always be in the same spot every time.

-Shanice Bannis at City of Creative Dreams


Do you think you are a compulsive hoarder?

  • Do you have an excessive amount of clutter that limits living space?
  • Do you have difficulty categorizing and organizing items?
  • Are you holding onto possessions that seem of little or no value?
  • Have severe anxiety when trying to throw out an object?
  • Have trouble making decisions about possessions?
  • Feeling anxious, embarrassed, or depressed because of clutter.
  • Fears about needing items that could be thrown away.

If you answered yes to more than one of the questions, you are a compulsive hoarder and need help from a professional organizer and a therapist to work on the emotional issues. Compulsive hoarding is different than chronic disorganization. Yes, aspects of chronic disorganization also apply to hoarders, but there are also vital distinguishing features. A hoarder’s home totally loses its functionality. A kitchen is no longer a kitchen. A bedroom is no longer a bedroom. The house becomes a jangled mess of storage for an indistinguishable mass of useless and useful stuff. And the disorganization affects the safety and health of the hoarder and their loved ones. Though it can be therapeutic, organizing by itself does not always get to the bottom of things, so to speak, because the issue is not just “the stuff” but the person and their way of thinking.

-Cynthia Braun at Organize Your Life


How to enjoy a clutter-free holiday season?

When trying to enjoy a clutter-free holiday, consider doing some of these things.

Plan ahead. As much as possible, try to plan, calendar, and make a list of things you know you need to get done during the holiday season. Then, write those plans on your calendar. That way, you are not tackling a whole bunch of big tasks all at one time. Planning is essential during the holiday season as it really helps reduce stress and brings you more time to enjoy the holiday season with family, friends, and the ones you love.

Donate, recycle, and trash unwanted items. As you were getting decorations out for the season, consider editing and donating them. There are many people out there that could benefit from your discarded items, so consider donating them. Many organizations are also looking for specific things like coats, winter gear, various decorations, etc.

Give experiences rather than stuff. When you were doing your gift-giving, consider giving people experiences that are clutter-free rather than a whole bunch of things they may or may not want. Also, consider asking for experience gifts. They could be anything, from professional organizing services, massages, a meal service, and the list goes on and on.

De-clutter your calendar. Many times everyone has a ton of obligations they have to do during the holiday season, whether there is a pandemic or not. Put on your calendar things that will make you happy and that you will enjoy this holiday season. Thankfully, this holiday season, for many people, their list of to-do’s and calendar events has kind of decluttered itself. If yours has not, consider picking and choosing select things to do.

Say no. If you find that you’re feeling stressed out and don’t want to do something during the holiday season, but feel obligated, have the will power to say no. It’s ok. More times than not, people would prefer if you’re truthful instead of coming up with a random excuse.

Do one small task at a time. If there are very overwhelming things for you like a cluttered pantry, closet, kids’ toys, etc., consider tackling a little task at a time. It could be one cabinet, one drawer, or one shelf at a time; this will make room for any new items you may get, and help you feel less stressed with all the incoming things that may come into your home during the holiday season.

-Amy Vance at Eco modern Concierge


How can you best organize your toiletries?

  • We recommend sorting toiletries by use type. So, we have our showering toiletries in a specific part of our bathroom cabinet, or we advise our clients to purchase a stick-on toiletry holder to keep in their shower or bathtub. Toothpaste, mouthwash, and toothbrushes are all stored in a sanitized toiletry bag closest to the bathroom basin.
  • When organizing toiletries, it’s best to do a massive throw out before the organization begins. We recommend our clients to check the expiry date of various toiletries and throw those close to expiration or have already expired.
  • We also recommend placing toiletries in labeled plastic containers. They are easier to find because of the labels, but they save space because of the boxes’ shape.

–Delah Gomasi at Maid for You


What’s the best way to organize art and craft supplies?

The best way to organize art and crafts supplies is to group all of the items by kind. Then, de-clutter anything that is no longer usable. Check your pens, markers, glue, and paint—these dry out over time. Throw anything away that is no longer in good condition. Next, set aside any items that you won’t use. It could be something you have too much of or that you’re no longer interested in using. Various organizations, including schools, are typically happy to receive craft supply donations. Be ruthless in de-cluttering the excess as it will be much easier to organize fewer things. Use smaller storage containers to keep like items contained together. A rolling cart is a great way to have supplies easily accessible, making them more likely to be used.

-Julianna Poplin at The Simplicity Habit


3 tips to avoid homeschooling cluttering

Homeschooling your children can be such a fun and rewarding experience. But with homeschooling comes a lot of extra supplies that you wouldn’t usually have in your home. So how do you keep your supplies organized and avoid clutter? These are our three best tips to avoid homeschool clutter.

Have A Place For Everything: It goes without saying, being organized is really hard when you don’t have a specific place for all your things. That is especially true when it comes to homeschooling! When teaching your kids at home, you’re going to have a lot of supplies. To avoid clutter and a messy homeschooling area, make sure you have a designated place to store your supplies. Cube organizers, acrylic bins, turntables, and rolling carts are fantastic organizers to use in a homeschool setting!

Use Your Supplies as Decorations: When setting up your homeschool, you may want to decorate your classroom. But a great way to decorate and keep clutter to a minimum is to use your supplies as decorations!

Using clear acrylic containers, you can easily color-code your supplies and make bright rainbows in your classroom. Organize your crayons, markers, colored pencils, construction paper, books, games, etc., by color to make your homeschool area bright and fun!

Don’t Be Afraid To Throw Things Away: As parents, we want to cherish everything our children do. But with homeschooling, this can sometimes lead to a lot of paper clutter! Once your children finish their work, don’t be afraid to throw things away. Pick one or two pages that your child did great on every week or two and put them in a school memories box. But don’t hold on to every piece of paper your child works on.

Don’t be afraid to throw away school supplies as well. If your children never color with the broken crayons or use the old gluesticks, toss them and replace them with new supplies.

These 3 simple ways to avoid homeschool clutter will help you keep your homeschool area clean, organized, and clutter-free!

-Lindsay Lawless at Organization Obsessed


How to de-clutter and keep your fridge clean?

Before you start de-cluttering and cleaning your fridge, make sure you have a cool bag packed with cool bag blocks ready to temporarily store the items in your fridge you want to keep. Ideally, do the cleaning before you shop your weekly groceries.

Take everything out of your fridge. Include the removable shelves and drawers, containers, and items like egg holders. Throw away expired foods and condiments. Store the items you want to keep in the cool bag.

Give everything a good cleaning with soapy, lukewarm water and a microfiber cloth. Don’t use hot water since the shelves will be cold and may burst due to the temperature difference. Dry with a clean tea towel or paper towels. Don’t forget to clean the door handles and door surround of your fridge. And take a good look at the folds of the freezer door seal, wipe it down with the corner of a tea towel dipped in disinfectant water do remove crumbs and other dirt. Wipe down the interior with a mix of cold soapy water and a disinfectant solution. Don’t forget the grooves on the fridge’s sides where the shelves rest because these are usually bacteria hotspots. Dry the inside with paper towels.

Line your shelves, and especially your vegetable and fruit drawers, with paper towels. This is a simple hack to prevent a regular and time consuming deep clean. You will only have to replace the paper and wipe down the shelves once in a while. Store the remaining foods and condiments in your fridge and follow these tips:

  • Many people use the door for storage milk and eggs, but the door is the warmest place in your fridge. Since milk or eggs will expire more quickly, it is better to store them in the coldest place in your fridge: aka the middle shelf. Use the doors to store condiments or snacks as they contain higher amounts of vinegar or sugar.
  • Meat and fish need higher temperatures, so you should store them at the bottom shelf, one of the coldest places in your fridge. Another tip for raw meat is to use a plate if you store it on the lower shelf. It will be easier to take out and clean the plate than to clean the shelf itself. And more important, it will prevent leaks into the lower vegetable or fruit drawer. Throw away fish after 1-2 days, meat after 2-3 days.
  • Use the top shelf for food that will expire soon, such as leftovers.
  • Use see-through, clear stackable containers to help you know what’s in your fridge and when to go shopping again.
  • Use erasable markers to write down expiration dates for fresh meat and fish or store dates of leftovers. No need for labels!

-Esther Konz at Uncluttered Simplicity


What are the best de-cluttering strategies for moving?

  • First, concentrate on areas where you have the least resistance to letting go of stuff. If you start sorting in a place where it’s easy to choose discards or giveaways, then you can make significant progress in a hurry and get a good reduction in the volume you have to move.
  • Early on, check those storage spaces in the house that don’t get used or accessed very often. Open the closets, drawers, and rooms no one goes into much. You’ll find many things hiding there that no one is using and that you won’t want to move – AGAIN. (You may even find unopened boxes from the last move!)
  • For all the large items in your house – furniture, exercise equipment, large artwork, or rugs – work on getting rid of what you don’t want right away! Start making those calls to friends, family, donation centers, and posting on social media or Those items take arrangements involving movers and trucks to get them out of the house, and you don’t want to try and make that happen during the last week before the move.

-Gayle Goddard at The Clutter Fairy


How to unclutter sentimental items?

It can be challenging to let go of things we have sentimental or emotional attachments to. You might feel a sense of loss, pain, or awareness that things have changed. This makes us pine for the past, and in some cases, hold onto those physical reminders. However, when you feel ready to let go, there are ways to do this with gentleness and compassion. Remember that letting go doesn’t mean we have to forget. It just means that we release ourselves from holding on.

Here are a few strategies that can help:

Take Photos: Before you say “goodbye,” take photos of your belongings. Share them with your friends or family while enjoying stories together. After you photograph and share your memories, it will be easier to let go of the physical items.

Record Story: Make it personal. Write in a journal, type on a computer, or video yourself talking about your sentimental objects. It will help you honor the items, access your memories, and process your feelings. Once you’ve had time to spend time in this intimate way, it will help you let go.

Create “Most Loved” Display: There is no reason to let go of everything. Select a few of your most treasured sentimental pieces and display them on a shelf, ledge, picture frame box, or dresser top. Let them be visible so you can enjoy the memories they invoke. Let go of the rest.

Practice Mindfulness: Be mindful and in the present moment. We have now, not then. We have now, not the future. We can hold our memories close, but if we focus too much on the past, we’ll miss what’s right in front of us – the present. Letting go is a path to being present. If your emotional attachments are holding you back, maybe it is time to focus on being here now and unburdening yourself from the stuff.

Provide Safe Passage: In the organizing industry, we use the term “safe passage,” which is connected to letting go. If you’re able to find the right home for the things you’re releasing, you’ll feel better and more at peace with saying goodbye to them. Give or donate the objects to someone that will appreciate them. This will give you closure and also joy in knowing that the item will be cared for.

-Linda Samuels at Oh, So Organized


What is the most important thing to take into account when organizing your bedroom?

Your bedroom is your place of respite. When the rest of the world feels chaotic, as it does now, your bedroom is the place, ideally, you can retreat to for solace, comfort, sleep, and peace. If your bedroom is cluttered, all of these things will be impacted. This is especially true if you use your bedroom as a workspace, which I never recommend unless you absolutely have to. If that’s the case, be sure you turn off all your electronics at night, so there are no buzzes, pings, or blinking lights to disturb you. If possible, set up a barrier such as a folding screen or curtain between you and your workspace to create a distinct boundary. Lastly, surround yourself with things that bring you joy (a favorite piece of art, a cherished photo, a few favorite books, maybe even a wind chime outside your window), but not too much. Keep it uncluttered, and you’ll feel refreshed and ready for each new day.

-Lis McKinley at Let’s Make Room


What’s the best way to organize cleaning supplies? 

First of all, if you store your cleaning products under the sink, it is crucial to cover the cabinet floor in case of a drain leak.

  • Cover the floor with a white vinyl drawer liner. I recommend using white vinyl; it would help you find things faster.
  • Second, buy a rubber boot tray that has edges. It can be beneficial in case of a leak.
  • Third, get a water alarm. It’s battery-powered and alerts you to water. Our pipes have leaked several times, and it really worked.

As for supplies:

  • Some racks go around pipes and give you some storage on different levels.
  • Pull out drawers that slide out are great. They even have double-deckers.
  • Suppose you have a large tank for a reverse osmosis system as well as the 4 or 5 tube system. In that case, chances are you can’t fit an organizer under the cabinet and have to use the floor space.

In all events, I suggest keeping dishwasher items to the side closest to the dishwasher and other cleaning supplies on the other side, including sponges, dish soap, SOS-type pads, and kitchen garbage bags.  Put the items you use the most, closest to the front, and the ones you use the least toward the back. If you also keep empty glass jars for grease and oil waste, keep those near the back.

You can also use the door space for racks with arms that can hold 1-2 dishtowels or use the door to install a bag holder.

– Eileen Roth at Everything In Its Place


What is Chronic Disorganization, and how can we handle it?

A person living with Chronic Disorganization (CD) has been disorganized most of his/her life. Disorganization negatively impacts the person’s life on a daily basis, she/he has a history of failed self-help attempts and she/he anticipates continuing to be disorganized without outside help.

Many different factors can cause Chronic Disorganization:

  • Physical challenges: such as impaired mobility, chronic fatigue syndrome, or a sleep disorder. Living with challenges such as these can make creating and maintaining effective organizing systems very difficult, as mobility, energy, and speed may be limited.
  • Brain-based challenges: such as ADHD, fibromyalgia, or a traumatic brain injury
  • Mental health issues: such as depression, general anxiety disorder, or OCD
  • Limited education about or exposure to effective organizing skills
  • Loss, trauma, or life transitions
  • Substance abuse

Help is available for people living with CD, both from the inside and the outside. My first recommendation to all of my clients is to create the right mindset and be kind to themselves. They may not have asked for their circumstances, and beating themselves up over not being able to get organized can make them feel even worse about themselves.

I suggest starting with practicing positive self-talk and accentuating what they like about themselves. I recommend that clients practice good self-care, including eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting fresh air and exercise, surrounding themselves with people they like, listening to good music, and interacting with animals. Paying attention to our basic needs gives us a strong foundation for higher-level thinking, like making decisions, a critical organizing component.

Outside help can come from properly trained and experienced professional organizers and mental health practitioners who understand the disconnect between conventional organizing systems and the CD brain. A professional organizer who specializes in Chronic Disorganization has studied and become credentialed in addressing the challenges that CD presents. We know there is no one-size-fits-all organizing answer, and we are trained in techniques and perspectives to help create the unique solutions that people living with CD require.

-Gayle M. Gruenberg at Let’s Get Organized


Best practices to keep your digital photos organized

Have a DPH (Digital Photo Hub): The number one problem we see is the lack of a DPH (Digital Photo Hub). Digital photos, just like printed photos, need quality storage. Your digital photo hub is the one place where all your photos can live safely together, i.e., it’s the home for your photos. So often, we see that people have photos scattered around on different devices. Still, before you can organize, you need to consolidate. I teach this step in my photo organizing Masterclass ​ DPO PRO​ because it’s where most people get stuck. Your photos need to be collected in one central (and safe) location so that you know where to look for them and so that you can keep them organized and backed up.

Have a clear backup strategy: Second only to the DPH problem is the lack of a coherent backup plan to keep photos safe in case of syncing issues, accidental deletion, or tech crashes. A good photo backup strategy should adhere to the 3-2-1 rule of having copies of the collection on two different media, and 1 of them being offsite. Merely having your photos in iCloud is just not good enough, no matter how convenient it is. We can always organize your collection better, but we can’t do anything with them if they’re lost. This should be a priority!

Deleting duds and dealing with duplicates: Photo hoarding is a genuine problem. The fact that cloud storage is so cheap makes it easy to hit the upgrade button rather than deal with the mess, but the longer you wait, the more it snowballs. A best practice is to take a few minutes every month to delete the duds you don’t need, like the bad angles and the blurry selfies. Not only does it keep your collection under control, but it keeps your renewal fees to a minimum.

Use a program that handles metadata correctly: Some photo organizing programs aren’t as useful to your photos as they should be. Sometimes they let you enter a bunch of information, like locations and keywords. Still, then they don’t keep that information together with the photos. This becomes a problem if you decide to change computers, move your photos, or if the version of the program you’re using becomes obsolete. A best practice is to use a photo organizing program that actually saves the information to the photos themselves so that you don’t spend hours and hours inputting information only to see it vanish later on.

Pay attention to your digital rights: When caring for your photos, a best practice is to make sure that you understand the terms and conditions of the place you are storing them. If you have them locally, offline, this won’t be an issue for you, but storing them online with one of the for-profit corporations that so often offer free unlimited file storage, pay attention to the fine print. Understand what they can and can’t do with your photos. We often see them change their terms on short notices, and if you don’t keep up, you will be at risk of losing your photos.

-Caroline Guntur at Organizing Photos


What are your top 3 tips to keep your shoes organized?

  • Keep your boots upright by inserting boot shapers into them. If you have the extra hanging space, you can use boot hangers to hang them in your closet. Ensuring they stay upright means maintaining their shape and quality longer, and you have more room for other shoes.
  • If you have shoes you wear only during certain seasons or occasions; I suggest using clear shoe bins to store them; it allows you to be aware of what you have and keep them in good, dust-free condition.
  • Save space and money by placing your shoes in opposite directions. By doing this, you’ll be able to see one shoe from the front and one shoe from the back. Placing shoes this way ends up saving you a few inches of space, which often lets you fit another pair of shoes depending on your closet’s size.

– Anna Bauer at Sorted by Anna


How can you recognize you’re cluttered?

Great question! According to Wikipedia, the definition of clutter is: “Excessive physical disorder.”

This could definitely vary from one person to another, as we are each individuals, and all have different thresholds for what “being cluttered” means.

Here’s my barometer for my clients: when the level of excessive physical disorder is causing you to feel uncomfortable or stressed in your environment, and it’s making life difficult to get things done in your day-to-day activities, then you are cluttered.

-Amy Bloomer at Let Your Space Bloom


How can we avoid clutter now that we are working from home?

Now that we’re spending more time at home, you may be gaining more awareness of all the clutter taking up space.

  • Investing time to de-clutter and create a renewed sense of order is a great way to reacquaint yourself with your belongings and avoid bringing more new stuff into your home. Sort your things into categories (like clothes, books, papers, electronics, hobby items, and sentimental) before making decisions about what to keep and what to pass on. This allows you to get the full picture of what you own, and you’ll be less likely to hold onto more “just in case.”
  • If online shopping is your Achilles heel, leave the items in your cart for a week before committing to purchase, so you’ll be less likely to buy impulsively because of a “good deal.”
  • If your household struggles to put things away after they are used, it’s time to put some good habits into place. These three habits will help you keep your space tidy:
  1. The 2-minute rule: Anything you can do under two minutes must be done immediately.
  2. The “no empty hands” rule: If you’re leaving the room, scan your surroundings, and take something with you that needs to be put away.
  3. The bedtime sweep routine: Take 15 minutes to “reset” space by putting items away before bed.

-Erin Mursch at Organized for Good


What’s the easiest way to keep your kitchen drawers organized?

The easiest way to keep your kitchen drawers organized is by creating zones and maintaining like items together, and having a separate drawer for cooking utensils, spices, silverware. Then adding drawer separators will keep your drawers neat and tidy. To take your drawers to the next level, add labels to the drawer organizer so you and your family will not have any trouble keeping your drawers organized.

-Jenn Slavich at Home by Jenn


How to keep your kid’s playroom organized?

Create a system following these tips

  • Group similar and like items. Group items based on how they’re used versus what they are because this typically helps simplify things, making the organizing habit successful, thereby keeping you organized.
  • Containers- having items categorized during the sorting process placed into containers ensure that your hard work on sorting through everything doesn’t go to waste.
  • When selecting containers, purchase storage bins based on storing the items you currently have in your possession to contain. This ensures you get containers that fit your actual needs versus just picking up general organizing inventory, which can lead to overspending.
  • Always shop your home first, think out of the box, and get creative. Like can you use a bathroom drawer organizer to keep all your jewelry together? Re-purpose Apple product boxes and gorgeous shoeboxes to create clean-looking and chic organizing supplies.
  • Use Labels- we naturally thrive in structure. Create labels that make sense to your child. Add illustrations for kids who can’t read yet. Labels create homes.
  • Make sure things are accessible for your child. If their toys are out of reach, that means the child can’t play without your assistance, which means they can’t maintain (put away) their toys either.

-Taya Wright at Just Organized


Tidying up your home can be a life-changing experience. Organizing every room in your home can feel like a lofty goal, but with the right strategy, your entire home can be neat and tidy.


First posted in Porch, November 16, 2020.

I have organized hundreds of home offices over the past 18 years, working as a Professional Organizer.  Read on to learn what I have discovered to be the typical problems, tips for tidying and organizing the office, how to create zones to keep your office uncluttered, some product solutions to help contain it all, and a handy maintenance plan to keep your office and paperwork organized.

Typical Problems-Old Habits

  • No useable filing system—paper goes in but doesn’t come out.
  • Too many papers because what is important to keep is unknown.
  • Afraid to file anything because of fear it can’t be found later.
  • Incurring late fees because bills are lost or forgotten.
  • Taxes are filed late or not at all.
  • There are duplicates of office supplies because it is difficult to find what you need when you need it, so you buy more.
  • Pile of books and magazines—many unread because a place has not been designated where to store them or read them.


  • Be ruthless with supplies. Keep only what is needed and will be used.
  • Determine which reference materials (books, periodicals) you will refer to, and discard the rest.
  • Discard empty computer software boxes.
  • Start with current paper information and build a file system for it, then integrate old paper information into the system if still relevant.
  • Recycle or shred any paper information that is outdated or of no use. File the rest into a reference file system or scan and store digitally.
  • 80% of what is filed will never be looked at again! Be selective.
  • Can the information be located somewhere else; library, internet?
  • Go through warranties and manuals. Discard manuals and use an online manual website. Also, discard any that no longer apply. If kept, store in magazine holders and organize by room (i.e., kitchen, family room) or by genre (i.e., appliance, entertainment).


Begin by creating zones within the home office.  The typical zones for a home office are:

  • A work surface zone where you can perform computer and writing tasks.
  • A Paper Processing Center where you can do a daily quick sort of the mail into a “recycler” or shredder, “action papers” (such as bills, RSVP’s) to be processed, “reference papers to be filed” and a “to read” basket.
  • An active file system.
  • A reference file system.
  • An area for reference materials (books, periodicals) such as a bookcase.
  • An area for office supplies.
  • An area for reading if that is an activity you would want to do in the home office.

Place the items that belong to each zone (activity).  For example, store the:

  • Computer on the work surface.
  • Action papers on the work surface.
  • Reference papers in a file cabinet or drawer. Alternatively, reference papers can be scanned and kept digitally.
  • Books and periodicals in a bookcase or on shelving.
  • Office supplies in desk drawers and closet or storage cabinet.
  • Reading chair and lamp in the reading zone.

Product Solutions

Active Paper Storage Closed file boxes for people who want a cleared work area (The Container Store)


Photo File Box
Active Paper Storage Open file box for people who are visual (The Container Store)
Photo File Cart
Reference Paper Storage Open file cart for people who are visual (The Container Store)
Reference Paper Storage Closed file cabinet for people who want a cleared work area (The Container Store)

Active and Reference Paper Filing Kit

  • Prepackages such as Freedom Filer.
  • Create your own system and labels.
  • A system should be easy to retrieve, remove, and rotate paper information.

Maintenance Plan New Habits


  • Open mail and sort.
    • Note any action items in a calendar or on a To-Do list.
    • Note any events in a calendar.
    • Shred or recycle any unnecessary mail.
    • File/scan any documents that don’t require action in a reference file system.
    • File any action papers in an action paper system.
  • Review calendar and update.
  • At the end of the day
    • Clear the work surface – of papers, files, and supplies
    • Jot down notes with actions on projects, so you can pick up easily where you left off
    • Return project and action folders that may have piled up during the day to a vertical system on your work surface if they are still “active.” Once “inactive,” they should find a place in a reference file system in a file drawer.
    • Put away any materials you took out. Returning them to their designated place now will save time when they are needed again.
  • Capture “To-Dos” – Make a plan now for tomorrow while unfinished tasks, new priorities, and lingering details are still fresh in your mind. Review your calendar, e-mail messages, and voice mail messages for meetings and appointments that may require prep time. Noting your To-Do’s on either paper or in an electronic format will keep them handy and easy to find for review and update the next day. Prioritize your To-Do’s and schedule them into your calendar when you will complete them.
  • Confirm appointments – Avoid any possible miscommunications by confirming the next day’s appointments by email, voicemail, or both as necessary.
  • Charge and synchronize devices with a computer calendar to avoid overlooking an appointment or double booking.


  • Pay bills


  • Reconcile bank accounts


  • Purge files
  • Prepare and file income tax forms

Is spending so much time inside making you go stir-crazy? Well with life outside seemingly on hold, this may be the perfect opportunity to make a few easy home improvements to transform your house into a nicer and more refreshed place to spend your days. From adding a pop of color to your front door to cleaning out your closet, here are 20 DIY home projects you can tackle to spruce up your space while you’re hunkered down.

Put leftover paint to use 


Many of us probably have an extra can or two of paint lying around. So why not use it to add some pizzazz and depth to your rooms with these DIY home projects.

  1. Give your cabinets a makeover

Painting kitchen cabinets a fresh new color is a fantastic way to completely transform your kitchen. If you tend to be more adventurous when it comes to color, your cabinets are a great place to have some fun. If you already have a lot of color in the room or if the space doesn’t have much light, it’s best to go with white or neutral cabinets.

  1. Make your mailbox the star of your front yard

Your mailbox is one of the first things people see when they pull into your driveway, so why not give your visitors a great first impression. Whether you live in a ranch-style house in Phoenix, AZ or you just bought a craftsman style home in Portland, OR, you can instantly boost your curb appeal by adding a fresh, vivid coat of paint to your mailbox.

  1. Add a pop of color to your front door

Changing out your front door can be expensive, so painting your exterior door is an easy way to give the front of your home a makeover and also save some money in the process. Painting the inside of your front door is also a fun way to add a bold pop of color and some character into your home.

  1. Give new life to old furniture

If the paint is chipped or wear and tear has gotten the best of some of your older furniture, a quick paint job can give it a new life. Transform a dated (but functional) dresser, nightstand, or bookshelf with this fun DIY project for a fraction of the cost it takes to replace it.

Clear the clutter

Getting organized can feel like a major undertaking, which is probably why a lot of us tend to put it off, and then put it off again and again. But since you can’t go anywhere, you might as well spend a morning or afternoon tackling the clutter you typically ignore.

  1. Maximize the utility of unused corners with shelving

Running out of storage space? It’s time to finally make use of the corners in your rooms. Installing floating shelves is one of many DIY home projects you can try to create more space. It’s a simple way to spruce up your wall decor while adding more storage in your home.

  1. Clean closets

Chances are, you’ve opened up your closet and grabbed one of the same few items since spending most of your time indoors lately. Now’s the time to carefully clean out your closet and decide what you really need from those you haven’t touched in a few years. Start by taking every item out, setting aside the items you don’t need, and cleaning the inside of the closet. If you’re organizing a closet full of clothes, sort clothes into piles by season. Put clothes that you’re not currently using in the back of the closet, like that holiday sweater. Keep frequently used items in the front for easy access.

  1. Organize photos

In a digital age, it’s likely that most of us have our photos stored online. But for those that still have hundreds of photos stored away in boxes, now’s the time to organize them. Start by grouping photos by date or event. Use leftover flashcards or cut up pieces of printer paper as an easy way to separate groups of photos in boxes. If you already keep your photos organized, think about digitizing them. You can use Google’s PhotoScan app to scan old prints and upload them. Organize your photos online into albums to better keep track of them and finally find that picture of your puppy when someone asks.

  1. Rearrange bookshelves

Bookshelves may not initially come to mind when organizing, but they can easily make a space feel brand new. Think about taking some of the books you’ve got hiding away in a back closet and swap them with the current selection on your bookshelf. Wondering what to do with that collectible mug? Add it to your bookshelf for a fresh take on your decor. Best of all, it’s a free way to change up your space.

  1. Tackle under-sink storage

The last place you probably think to organize is under your sink. From the bathroom to the kitchen, it’s likely filled with near-empty cleaners, dishwashing soap, or even makeup wipes. Set aside 10 minutes to toss out those old household supplies, instantly freeing up space to make way for all that hand-soap and disinfectant you just bought.

  1. Organize your pantry

You may or may not have months’ worth of groceries in your kitchen right now. Before things get too cluttered, take this time to reorganize your pantry – move things around to maximize space, group like items together, and throw away expired items. You may want to break down the work into smaller parts to avoid being overwhelmed. For example, instead of cleaning out the entire pantry, just do one shelf or area at a time. It will be so refreshing to see the pantry all neat and tidy with everything in its place.

Transform your space with lighting

Nothing can change the look and feel of a room quite like choosing the right lighting. The perfect lighting can lift your spirits and make your home a more comfortable place to spend time.

  1. Replace your lightbulbs

If you have a few extra light bulbs lying around, go from room-to-room and replace any that are burned out. You can also completely change the ambiance in your home simply by replacing any harsh white bulbs with calming yellow ones.

  1. Switch up lamp shades

Lamps are commonly overlooked in the design of a home, but they add a lot of character and style to a room. So take a look at the shades on each of your lamps. If you have a similar size lamp in another room, swap the shades to give your space a new feel. You can also update a boring old lampshade with a few DIY home projects such as adding fun print or pattern, or a coat of paint.

Tackle those forgotten about cleaning projects

Since you’re spending so much time inside, you’re probably noticing all of the overlooked cleaning projects around the house. If you tackle them now, you’ll be rewarded with a living space that feels brighter and refreshed.

  1. Restore rugs and carpets

By now, you’ve probably noticed that your carpets and rugs might not be in the same state they were when you moved in or had them replaced. Maybe you don’t even remember the last time they were properly cleaned. Even if you can’t hire a professional to clean your carpets, you can likely rent a carpet cleaner from your local hardware store or carpet cleaning company.

  1. Clean under your bed

When was the last time you looked, let alone cleaned under your bed? This is one of those DIY home projects that everyone needs to tackle. The space under your bed is a breeding ground for everything from dust to forgotten items. If you use the space under your bed for storage, like seasonal clothes or extra bedding, make sure you’ve stored those items in vacuum-sealed bags to prevent moisture and mold buildup. Bed skirts also collect dust so throw those in the wash while you’re busy vacuuming underneath.

  1. Refresh tile grout

Refresh your entire bathroom by cleaning and brightening your tile grout. Cleaning grout requires two things: a grout brush or sponge and a suitable cleaner. While there are plenty of store-bought grout cleaners available, it is just as easy to do this with ingredients you already have on hand, such as vinegar and baking soda.

  1. Pressure wash your home’s exterior

Get some fresh air and restore your home to its former beauty by pressure washing the exterior of your house and hardscape areas. You can even bring back to life patio furniture and cushions.

  1. Deep clean the refrigerator

With the extra groceries you’ve probably bought lately, it’s time for a refrigerator clean. First things first, throw out any leftover takeout or expired items. When cleaning your refrigerator, use a surface-safe all-purpose cleaner for the exterior and warmer soapy water for the interior. Be sure to wipe down surfaces before putting your items back inside. Keeping similar items grouped together when refilling your fridge will make finding your favorite condiment or coffee creamer easier to find.

Rethink your wall design 

Redoing your wall design is a fast way to transform the look of your living room, bedroom, or really any space in your house.

  1. Rearrange or hang up a gallery wall

If you’ve always wanted to try to create the perfect gallery wall, this is the time to go for it. If you already have one, change it up to revive the space. Try pieces here and there: a new mix-up might surprise you and showcase your photos and art in an entirely new light.

  1. Use empty frames

Go through the house, pull out any empty frames, and put them to good use. Dust off those old photographs and display them proudly or find some printable art online. Hang your frames throughout your home or place them on tables, dressers, and desks.

  1. Put old fabric swatches to use

When we think of fabric, we usually think of curtains, linens, or pillows, but there are plenty of DIY home projects you can do to turn a basic piece of fabric into a statement piece of wall art. So dig up any fabric swatches that you have laying around the house and put them to use. You can wrap the fabric around a canvas, hang it in a frame, and much more, letting your creativity soar.

Originally published by Redfin

It’s Tax Day!  If getting your tax filings prepared is an overwhelming task each year, now is the time to set up a system to remedy that.  Whether you prefer a paper system or a paperless system we have you covered!

Paper System – Step 1

Make a hanging file folder with the label “2019 Taxes”.  Place the folder either in a desktop file box or in your filing cabinet–whichever is going to be easiest for you to put papers in it as you receive them.

Paper System – Step 2

If you receive less than 20 pieces of paper related to taxes then inside folders are not needed. If you receive more than 20 pieces of paper related to taxes, set up manila folders to contain those documents. Or, what I prefer to use, a 13-pocket accordion file folder. I prefer the accordion folder because then you have all of your documentation and tax filings for a year neatly contained. After you have filed your taxes, the accordion folder can be stored on a shelf or several in a box labeled Income Tax Filings and the range of years.

Designate a section of the accordion folder or individual manila file folders for each of these categories:

Income Documents

Investment Documents

Bank Statements

Credit Card Statements (replace with the Year End Summary when received)

Charitable Deductions

Medical Expenses

Taxes You Paid

Miscellaneous Expenses

Credits child care, energy, education, etc. (if applicable)

Job Expenses (if applicable)

Tax Filing

Paperless System – Step 1

If you prefer to be paperless, set-up a file folder on your desktop labeled “2019 Taxes”. As you receive electronic documents move them to this folder. Any paper documents you receive scan them and move them to this folder.

TIP:  I prefer paperless and rather than downloading my investment, bank, and credit card statements monthly I wait and download the entire year’s worth in January.  This saves me a tremendous amount of time; yearly versus monthly.

Paperless System – Step 2

You can set up sub-folders with the above labels if you prefer to separate your electronic information by category.

Paperless System – Optional

Set-up Quicken or other financial software to further simplify the tax preparation process.  You will be able to

  • Download and track your checking, savings and credit card accounts — in one place
  • Create and follow a budget
  • Schedule payments and pay bills right from Quicken
  • Verify the accuracy of your bank statements and avoid any inappropriate fees or charges
  • Simplify tax prep, find hidden tax deductions and transfer information directly to TurboTax® software

When tax time rolls around in 2020 you will be able to easily find the information and supporting documentation to prepare or have your tax filings prepared.  Looking for help with setting up your paper or paperless tax system?  Get Started Here.

The A.R.T. of Paper Management
Information comes to us in many forms but most predominately in paper form.  It arrives from snail mail, e-mail, children’s backpacks, spouse’s briefcases, and many other avenues.  We know how we obtain paper information, it’s what we do with it after it arrives that many of us struggle with.
Let’s Spring clean your paper piles on this first day of Spring!

Gather up all of the paper information you have not dealt with.  Sort your paper into three piles using the ART SYSTEM:


Action – It needs your action such as bills to be paid.  Contain these papers in a desk-top file box or tray. Tip:  select a vertical container so that it is easy to find what you need. It is also nice to have the container be portable so it can move around to where you want to work.


  • A subcategory of Action is “To Read” – Any information that requires more than 2 minutes to read place in a separate “to read” pile.  Choose functional and fun containers; one for your reading that is staying at your desk, another for by your reading chair and one for on-the-go.  Tip: Schedule a repetitive time of the day or week to sit down and read and create an inviting reading spot in your home or office.


Reference – You need the information for future reference. Such as home loan records.  Contain in file folders within a file cabinet.  Tip: Schedule a repetitive time of the month to do your filing and do something fun while filing such as listening to your favorite podcast or an audiobook.
Toss – You don’t need the information on the piece of paper and you don’t need to take action on it.  Such as an investment prospectus.  You may discover that the deepest pile of the ART SYSTEM is the Toss pile.  Shred, recycle or trash those pieces of paper.  Tip:  Have a shredder and recycling and trash containers near where you sort your ART papers.

Do you need a visual?  Take a look at this Paper / Information Organizational Chart, it might help you picture how to process your paper/information and where it belongs.

Residential Paper / Information
Organizational Chart

When you are finished Spring cleaning your paper piles get outside and enjoy this glorious Spring day!

It happens every year, whether we want it to or not, tax time.  Nearly every day I receive something by email or snail mail reminding me, tax time is coming.

Are you dreading the task of gathering up receipts to prepare your tax filing?  Don’t know what to do with your financial records? Do you have stacks of unopened bills? Do you stress out at tax time trying to find all your required documents? And, are you lacking a system for managing all this mess?
Here are a few solutions for you:
  1. Track your non-cash donations with ItsDeductible by Intuit. IRS approved.
  2. Scan your receipts with the GeniusScan App and attach the pdf to your Quicken or Quickbooks entry for easy retrieval should you be audited.
  3. Not sure whether to scan, shred or store that piece of paper? This quick infographic can help.
  4. Are you a geeky nerd like me and want to be on top of the tax rules? Then J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2018 is right up your alley.
  5. Hire a professional organizer to help you organize your paper and information and set up a system for your tax filings–we make it easy!
What’s your favorite tip for organizing tax information and filing?

August 6th-12th is Simplify your Life Week. Clear out the clutter and focus on priorities! Simplifying is all about having what you use or need in your life today with a touch of what you love. It’s about letting go of the past and focusing on the present. The more simplified your life is the easier organizing is. Here are my suggestions for simplifying your incoming household paper:

1.   OHIO–Only Handle It Once and decide what to do with it.
2.   Gather up all the paper in your house. Put your bills to pay in one pile and everything else in a banker’s box(es). Label the box “paper to sort”. Place your bills in a folder labeled “bills to pay”. Now you have a clean slate.
3.   From now on, make it a habit to every day take action on your inflow of paper (OHIO) designating them as “shred”, “recycle”, “file”, “bills to pay”, “action”, or “memorabilia”.  This creates a system for you to stay on top of your inflow of paper that will only take you two minutes each day.
  • Shred and recycle what you can.
  • File your reference papers immediately (do not place in a “to file” folder or pile). Not sure what to keep? Email me and I’ll send you the five reasons to keep paper. Or, go paperless and scan your reference papers with the Neat desk scanner.
  • Place bills to pay in your “bills to pay” folder or take immediate action with online bill pay.
  • Place “action papers” in an “action” folder and designate a day/time to take action on each of them in your calendar.
  • Place “memorabilia” in an acid-free box. Designate one per family member or one per year. Be very selective about what you keep.
       Oh, and that banker’s box(es), designate a date/time on your calendar (in the next week) that you will go through the paper following your new system. In a week you will be in control of your paper. Now, wouldn’t that feel great?!