Basic Closet Organization Strategy

Rolanda L., Professional organizer shares one of her classic strategies for organizing closets

One of the first questions I ask my clients who request closet organization help is: what is your morning routine? Next question: are you often late for work? The automatic follow-up that is: can you find your clothes easily in the morning?
If you struggle in these area, have no shame. You’re in good company. The following is a fairly simple approach to getting your clothes closet in order. One of the fantastic aspects of this basic system is it’s easy to learn and maintain. You can make it as complex and detailed as you’d like. I would advise adding more detail to the way you organize your closet ONLY if doing so would help you. It is entirely possible to get caught up in the act of organizing and get lost in the details.
Ideal Step 1: Purge your closet. Right now we are nearing the end of summer. The next couple weeks provide an excellent opportunity for you to assess spring and summer clothes you will look forward to replacing next year. If you are a person who likes to shop off season or during clearance sales, perfect! Get rid of some stuff before you go buy something new. Seriously. Do not allow yourself to go shopping for clearance items until you have purged.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I will proceed to the more realistic first step for those of us who may be trying to quickly throw our closet together either a) to avoid going insane because we can’t take it anymore or b) because we simply don’t have time to do a thorough purge over the next couple weeks because [insert legitimate reason]. No judgment whatsoever. Okay. Let’s start organizing!
Step 1: Bring all of your hanging clothes (within one closet) into view. You can leave it on the racks as long as you can see it all. Divide your closet based on intended purpose/frequency of use. For many of us, that means hanging all work clothes on one half of the closet and all non-work clothes on the other half. If you have special occasion items, separate them into their own category, preferably at one of the far ends of the closet (in the corner, following your work clothes would be a great place, assuming you dress up or wear a uniform for work).
Step 2: Once you’ve gotten all clothes on hangers and separated into their categories inside the closet [you should have 2 major categories per closet, no more than 3], sort all clothes within Category 1 [let’s call it Work Clothes] by type. This means you would hang all tops at the front of the Work Clothes section, followed by skirts, then pants, then dresses, then suits. Feel free to vary the order of clothing types for greater ease of access or enhanced visual effect–yes, your closet will also look pretty when you’re done. Or you may simply follow the order listed. I typically order clothing as described. Sometimes I vary when working within someone else’s closet.
 
Step 3: After grouping clothing according to type, work within each group, and sort all clothing according to color from lightest to darkest (or darkest to lightest with stripes and prints at the beginning of each color segment [i.e. pink butterfly shirt at the beginning of the pinks, which are located directly in front of the reds because pink is lighter than red, but in the same color family]).
Step 4: This may be more of a bonus step for some, but a necessity when I do my own closet. If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing well. Let’s kick things up a notch by…sorting all clothing (within each type) by weight and sleeve length. This means within Tops: tops with thin straps first, then sleeveless, then cap sleeves, then short sleeves, then 3/4-length, then long sleeves, finally sweaters. Skirts: short skirts, knee-length, calf-length (if you’re into that), ending with long skirts. The idea is to essentially keep lighter weight, cooler clothing to the front of each group and to progress to longer sleeves (or skirt length or pant legs).
This way, you can look at your closet and easily pull out your green beaded camisole without hesitation. Breath of fresh air, right? Ahhh….
 
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 3 [optionally 4] on the next category of clothing in your closet [If you divided your closet into Work and Play clothes, you would simply proceed on to the Casual side, sort and group all casual clothing accordingly]
This system has served me so well. I hope you also enjoy implementing it! It make getting back on track much easier when things go awry…as they sometimes do in the world of staying organized…

Organizing Your Life 102: Reclaiming Your Time

The Advantage of Learning to Budget Your Time

In the inaugural lesson of OrganizeU, entitled “Getting Organized for a Good Night’s Sleep” we explored steps toward establishing a foundation for better time management. In this installment, we will begin to focus on adding more detail to the way we structure our time by creating a schedule. The ultimate objective of creating a schedule is to gain the ability to optimize the way you utilize the hour you are awake. Budgeting your time will allow you to readily examine which activities add value to your life and are, therefore, more worthy of your energy and attention. I will note that in this case, “worthiness” does not necessarily correlate to “enjoyment.” There are some activities that are not very enjoyable for most people, yet they are of a high level of importance; therefore, we must do them. An example would be standing in line to renew your driver’s license. By creating a schedule and evaluating potential opportunities to maximize your time, you will be in a position to make better decisions in advance such as reminding yourself to renew your license online, thereby avoiding long waits at the DMV, or to better manage your time waiting in line by bringing a book to read or a work task you can complete remotely.

Before You Make a Schedule

For most people who have never operated on a self-generated schedule and stuck to it, structuring their day into preset time slots may seem like a very daunting, possibly stifling task.  Therefore, I recommend individuals spend one week simply assessing how they currently use their time. For seven days, simply keep track of how long it takes to complete each task, from waking up to getting out of bed, brushing teen and showering, getting ready for work/school/other daily activity, mealtimes, even downtime. The time expenditure record can simply be a list of notes regarding all daily activities and the start and end time for each.

Week 2: Create a Schedule

At the end of the seven day tracking period, review the notes, and create a rough schedule based current time expenditures. While the goal is to devise a schedule that overall works with your current lifestyle, some opportunities for time savings may already be evident. Adjustments may be made at this time; however, the schedule can and likely will be tweaked as time passes and more opportunities for better time manage are discovered.

Week 3: Follow the Schedule

Over the next week, do your best to follow the schedule. Expect that you may not be able to perfectly adhere to it, but always try to get right back on track if you exceed the allotted planned time. Also recognize that you may need to adjust your parameters if you find you need more or less time to complete certain tasks.

Week 4: Maintain the Schedule

By Week 4, you will have had time to create your new schedule and tweak it to increase practicality. From this point on, proceed to use your new self-made schedule as a general guide for performing daily tasks as well as for scheduling appointments and social activities. You may find that your confidence grows as you observe all the tasks you are consistently able to complete along with your ability to communicate your newly optimized schedule to others. As outlined in the previous lesson, your schedule should begin with your self-established wake-up time and end with your designated pre-bedtime preparation (shower, reading, quiet time, etc.) followed by sleeping at bedtime.

Adjusting to a schedule may not happen instantly. The key to success is to continue to work diligently in spite of mistakes and to remain patient with yourself.

Lesson 103 will feature customizable sample schedules for those who may have difficulty deciding where to begin when attempting to budget their time. See you in the next installment of OrganizeU!

**In the meantime, check out this handy supplemental list that condenses this entire lesson into four streamlined steps.

Organizing Kids: Reining in a Messy Room

Rolanda L. discusses approaches to helping kids learn to become more organized.

This post was inspired by back-to-school season; therefore, it was written with kids in mind. However, many of the principles are easily transferable to adults. The following suggestions many help ease friction between parents and their children by making the process of getting and staying organized more manageable for a child or older youth. In addition to making the completion of chores a smoother process, families may also realize time management benefits by employing the following tactics to help kids manage their own rooms.

Acknowledge that Your Child May Be Overwhelmed

I work with adults who often have significant anxieties around creating organizational systems in their homes and workplaces. Oftentimes, they have long been afraid to experiment with the trial and error that may be involved in finding the right system. This is a common reason some people immediately shy away from the notion of establishing a system or organizing and working within it. Anxieties often begin in childhood. In some cases, a child may not understand exactly why his or room becomes messy because he or she perceives space differently than the parent. In other cases, the organizational system in place may simply not work for that particular child’s way of perceiving and interacting with his or her environment.

Differences in Space Perception

Space perception always comes into play when multiple people reside in the same home. A hyper-organized person may prefer to keep all household items hidden in closets, opaque bins, and drawers. For a child, maintaining the visibility of certain items, such as stuffed animals, Legos, books, or awards, may create a sense of comfort. To that child’s parent, I would suggest solutions that allow a few of the child’s favorite items to be neatly displayed in clear bins or on shelves. The child would then be responsible for ensuring the items are neatly stored in their display areas as one of his or her bedroom or playroom maintenance tasks.

Differences in Organizing Styles

Even at a young age, a child may be inclined to organize differently than his or her parents. An adult may have the focus to separate items into drawers and compartments. While theses exercises may be effective for helping children learn to concentrate while grouping and sorting items, incorporating an organizing system that is too detailed may frustrate and overwhelm some children if the cleanliness of their room depends on it. Therefore, parents may wish to start with simple sorting tasks, such as creating distinctly separate open laundry bins for colored clothes and whites or clearly labeling each drawer and keeping a single clothing item in each (i.e. a drawer for shirts, a drawer for bottoms, a drawer for pajamas, etc.). The key is to keep organizing as simple and as basic as possible when introducing a new system. Also many kids, and even adults, are much more able to maintain their items in clearly marked open bins versus closed hampers and boxes. When using bins for storage, it helps if the container is transparent or only slightly tinted as being able to see the items inside will serve as a constant reminder to avoid placing the wrong items in the wrong bins. Color-coding and keeping the bins in distinctly different, yet still conveniently accessible locations around the room may also make this strategy more effective. When using bins for storing laundry or items that are used daily, it is important to place the bins in an area that is intuitive for the child or adult who will be using them. For example if a child normally piles dirty laundry on a chair, relocate the chair, and replace it with a laundry bin. Helping someone else get organized is much easier when you work with the current habits they have in place. Eventually, they will become more accustomed to having an organized room, and they will be more likely to begin seeking out ways to keep their environment organized.

Break the Task Down Into Steps

Children may need to have the steps for cleaning their room clearly outlined, enumerated, and thoroughly explained. Full disclosure: this was one I struggled with as a child. My mother would simply reference “cleaning my room.” In response, I would tidy up things in the room that seemed out of place to me. My idea of cleaning almost never overlapped with hers. To avoid frustration on both sides of the equation, parents must clearly and kindly communicate their expectations. Making written lists with descriptions of how to perform each task is extremely helpful. Adults use similar tools all the time; we call them contracts and checklists. The overall goal is to ensure both parties are aware of all expectations while providing the performing party with an accurate measuring stick for determining when those expectations have been satisfactorily met.

Be Patient; Expect Trial and Error

Helping a child or family member get organized requires patience. I recommend observing the person’s habits or having a non-confrontational conversation to determine why they store items the way they currently do and to assess approaches that require little behavior modification upfront (such as placing a storage bin in the exact same area where the person typically discards items; suggesting one day at the end of the week to clear out or sort the items in the bin will help the person maintain the area). Trial and error may be necessary. I prefer to work in one-week or two-week increments to give the person time to adapt to the new system and to evaluate the potential for modifications that may make the system easier to follow and, therefore, likely to be more successful.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal in helping a child or other family member get organized should be the well-being of the person in addition to preserving harmony in the home. Before presenting a new organizational system to someone, it is essential that you evaluate your objectives and eliminate all semblances of a desire to control the other person. Any assistance that is offered from a genuine place of wanting to help the person succeed and improve his or her quality of life will consider that person’s perspective and individual needs. Therefore, suggestions that truly come from a place of selfless concern will generally be received much better by the intended recipient.

Back-to-School Gift Ideas

Rolanda L, Professional Organizer offers gift-giving ideas for students who are going back to school.

We’re not all parents, but most of us know someone who is heading back to school. The following gift ideas will help the scholar in you life prepare for a successful academic year while staying organized!

For those of us who ARE parents and are looking to save money and stock up on school supplies now, check out my new Back-to-School Stock-Up album on Facebook.

Writing Essentials Box

Basic School Supply Packs

Student Planners

Desk or Wall Calendar

Getting Organized to Go Back to School: The Organized Lunch (Plastic-Free Edition)

Lunch is an important a child’s school day. Rolanda L. offers product recommendations to help parents encourage healthy, eco-friendly eating habits for children who attend school.

Nowadays in the United States, bento boxes are on every store’s shelves in the food storage aisle. Derived from 5th century Japan, the bento box has long been an effective means of organizing and packing a lunch and taking it on the go. Today’s Western bento box is available in a variety of materials, most commonly plastic. Fortunately for those who are attempting to reduce or eliminate household plastics due to health or environment concerns, bento boxes can be found in more stable materials. In addition to bento boxes, you will also find plastic-free utensils, water bottles, and neoprene eco-friendly, insulating lunch bags that can be used for packing lunches.  All items are relatively affordably priced, especially considering the ease of cleaning in a dishwasher without fear of the material leeching, melting, or becoming warped.

Made from a more traditional material, this wood bento box is microwave safe.

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Stainless Steel Bento Boxes – avoid microwaving

200-Pack of Wooden Disposable Forks  (only $15.95!)

Silicone Snack Containers!

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

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Neoprene and Other Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags

Neoprene – purportedly keeps food hot or cold for up to four hours

Insulated Reusable Tyvek Brown Bag

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Thermal Insulated Aluminum Foil and Pearl Cotton Bag

Portable Closets: Solutions for Rooms That Have Minimal or No Closet Space

For rooms that don’t have closet storage, a portable unit is often a simple solution that also delivers aesthetics. The following products are mostly priced under $50 and can be purchased at Amazon by clicking on the image [image are Amazon Affiliate links; Amazon pays me a small percentage for purchases made through my links. The purchase price remains the same.].

 

Two hanging rods and nine shelves:

Heavy-duty doors for concealed storage with two bottom drawers:

Five hanging racks with two shelves [Exposed Storage]

B&W Eiffel Tower Decorative Cover w/ four shelves and one rack

 

Modular storage with rack

<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IBGYZX2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01IBGYZX2&linkCode=as2&tag=helpmelanda-20&linkId=a38efd6b4a980c8e703301d93a9791d9″><img border=”0″ src=”//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B01IBGYZX2&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=helpmelanda-20″ ></a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=helpmelanda-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B01IBGYZX2″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

 

Get Organized to Go Back to School!

Many of my clients are anticipating the start of a new school year for their children. Some are even returning to school themselves, either to teach or to work on earning a degree. This post is for those who are looking to map their route to success by putting an organized plan in place for the year.

[Note: The following products are available by clicking on the images, which will direct you to Amazon’s website. I am an Amazon affiliate; therefore, Amazon will pay me a small commission for all purchases made through the links from my site. The price for the buyer remains the same regardless!…Also…you can DIY many of these ideas should you choose to do so!]

Letter Trays

I am a huge fan of these, and I recommend them in various forms to virtually any client who owns and desk and uses it!

How do I get organized by using letter trays?

I’m glad you asked. For most adults, I suggest having three trays and labeling them as  follows: 1) urgent, 2) mid-term, 3) long-term.

As you may have guessed, the labels indicate the immediacy of the deadline by which you must address the items within each tray. Bills that are due within less than a month should go into urgent. Permission slips for next week’s trip to the zoo? Urgent. Choosing a new cable provider before the contract expires three months from now? Mid-term. A reminder that your yearly donation to your favorite non-profit is due by the end of the year? Long term. However, as a long term deadline nears, you should continue to move the item to the more immediate letter trays until the item is addressed.

I have seen this system work extremely well for even the most disorganized among my clients and those who absolutely hate structure. The key to staying on top of this system is to address the letter trays EACH time you sit down at the desk for the FIRST time within a 24-hour period, i.e. you should visit the letter trays once per day. If you follow these directions meticulously, I guarantee your desk will not overflow with paper.

This system also works well for older students who tend to have mid-term and longer term projects.

For young kids who have homework, I suggest using an inbox/outbox system. When the child arrives home from school, he or she should immediately place all homework in a letter tray labeled “inbox.” Ideally, the tray should remain on the child’s desk or work table. If the child works at a kitchen or dining room table, the inbox may be brought out when the child arrives from school and stored on a shelf or in another location out of the way once all the homework for the next day has been completed. Once completed, homework should be placed in another letter tray labeled “outbox.”  The outbox tray should be placed near the home’s entrance (also a good location for the child’s backpack once packed) to ensure the child and parent will not forget homework on the way out the next morning. One tremendous advantage to using this system is that it provides a very natural way for parents to monitor their child’s progress in school and to ensure homework completion.

Okay, sign me up!

Here are some letter trays:

A dual wall file also works well for a simplified inbox/outbox system when attached to the child’s door or in another prominent place in the home.

Organizing Letters from School, Permission Slips, and Miscellaneous Papers

Younger students often bring notices, conduct reports, permission slips, and artwork home from school to show their parents. For parental notices, I recommend using a wall file or letter sorter with multiple compartments. Each file or compartment can be labeled by document type (i.e. one for permission slips/things that need to be signed and returned, one for PTA announcements, one for artwork/completed work the child brings home, and one very clearly labeled for signed items/notes that are ready to be returned to the teacher).

 

 

Stay tuned for follow-up Back-to-School posts on lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies!