Implementing a Pre-Organization Plan When Clearing a Room

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We all have them. A room, a closet, a storage unit or even just a drawer that is in desperate need of clearing out and reorganizing.

Whether you’re deciding to convert a college-bound kid’s room into a craft room or you are looking to de-clutter a closet, sometimes just diving in with a trash bag can make things difficult. You may have sentimental attachment to the items kept in that space or you may be a little reckless in your removal process and regret it later.

Before you start to reorganize a space, Julie Stobbe, a trained professional organizer, recommends going in with a blueprint for how you want it to turn out.

“The best pre-planning strategy I have is to have the client write down a plan for the room. In the plan include what it will look like, how it will feel, and what it will be used for. Once the client has a mental picture of their goals it is much easier to decide if an item fits into the plan,” says Stobbe.

We thought this was a great idea! So we came up with a quick checklist that you can run through before you start reorganizing any area.

  1. Decide if you’re reinventing the space or if you’re just trying to rid yourself of “junk.”

If you’re repurposing the space entirely, follow Stobbe’s advice by setting your new vision for the space and determining what (if any) of the existing items will remain necessary.

If you’re simply clearing “junk” go to step two.

  1. Choose how you will determine what should stay and what should go by setting some standards for your stuff.

The rules you come up with will depend on who you are and what you need, but some examples of these rules may be:

  • Anything that has gone unused for 3 years or more that doesn’t have sentimental value will be donated, sold or thrown away.
  • Furniture that doesn’t go with the household décor anymore will be restored or sold.
  • Any duplicate items will be split into a keep pile and a hand-me-down pile for a family member in need.

No matter what your rules are, setting them before you start will assure you stick with a plan. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle and ultimately end up making very little progress.

  1. Set a plan for revisiting the room or storage space. No matter how good you do the first time around, odds are you may have kept some items you didn’t actually need or avoided clearing out a particularly crowded area that still needs attention.

Rather than letting that space return to its original cluttered state make a plan to go back to the project.

Set a reminder on your phone during your first reorganization session to comb over the space again. You may find that reshaping a particular space is a process. And while you may not be ready to rid yourself of certain items the first time around, going back six months later you may feel a little different.

Organizing an area that drives you crazy can often be a spur of the moment project, but with a little dedicated planning you can make sure this effort is as beneficial as possible.

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How to Clear Out Storage Space Without Emotion

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The holiday season can definitely inspire a desire to cleanse your home of excess. As you prepare to invite new items into your house, it only makes sense to create space for them by getting rid of old, unused objects.

But as you start attempting to clear room, you may find that getting rid of unwanted items may not be as easy as it sounds.

When you unearth a sweet stuffed animal with memories of a Disneyland trip attached to it, the urge to purge can grow faint. You still may need the space cleared, but the things you thought you could easily discard are somehow finding a way back into your heart and therefore into your home.

While there are definitely nostalgic items worth keeping, not all prized possessions are gold. Use these two tips from pros to help determine what is truly treasure and what should be removed.

Do you love it?

Stephanie Hackney, a professional organizer asks this question, among many others, when first tackling a project. This is her two-pronged approach to this question:

Do you love this? If not, let it go to someone who will.

Do you love this? If yes, and it was being used or displayed, it could stay. If it was not being used or displayed, we discuss how they would change the situation so the item was being used or displayed.

This simple question alone may be all it takes to determine the usefulness of an item.

Do you interact with it?

Perhaps love isn’t the right way to look at something. You may have use for things you don’t necessarily love. Andrea Boccard of Shleppers, a moving and storage business in New York, California and Florida, thinks this is the key to letting go of excess items.

“If you haven’t even looked at the item in question during the past year, it might be time to toss it. Knick knacks, souvenirs and other potential dust-collectors with memories attached to them often fall under this category. You might have had a great time winning that stuffed bear at the fair but if your best memory of it is fading and you have no use for it, consider tossing it or donating it to a local children’s center,” says Boccard.

It’s easy to fall for an object you haven’t seen in a while all over again and ultimately get nothing done in terms of clearing out a space. Arm yourself with the wto questions above and make some progress.

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Sell, Toss or Store: How to Decide What to Do with Your Unwanted Items

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If you have made the decision to remove items from your house, you’re usually faced with three options: sell, toss (either by throwing away or donating) or store. Even though you could choose any of these options for virtually all of the items in question, it’s worth exploring the reason why you would pick one of these paths.

Before you put everything in a black trash bag and drop it off somewhere, properly pick how you will discard all of your items.

When to Sell

As appealing as it may sound to get money for all your unwanted trinkets, selling isn’t always the best option. Before you put everything on Craigslist, decide if what you have is worth buying and determine the proper way to sell it.

Online Sales

If you have large, expensive items you’re getting rid of like furniture or electronics, it may be worthwhile to explore selling these items online. These are highly searched for goods and will make the, sometimes drawn out, process of selling your items online a worthy endeavor.

Garage Sales

The above-mentioned appliances can be sold at garage sales as well, but may not sell for as much. For garage sales, make sure you have enough items to warrant having a sale in the first place and feature the items that are still in good condition, but don’t have nearly as much lasting value like lamps, dishes and inexpensive sporting goods.

When to Store

Deciding what to store can be incredibly difficult. If the product is something you need it’s understandable that you may want it in the house. If it’s something you don’t use, it may make more sense to just get rid of it.

When it comes to storing you have to see long-term value in the items in question, but little short-term value. The type of things that would fall into this category can be:

  • Out-of-date, but handy equipment (baby furniture that may be useful in the future)
  • Seasonal gear (lawn mowers out of use in the winter)
  • Nostalgic, but unusable items (a wedding dress)

When to Toss

This may be the easiest category to determine. If you don’t have any interest in an item and can’t imagine why someone else would, it may be toss-worthy. Things that are expired in usefulness (cassette tapes) or damaged should be properly recycled.

If you have things like clothing that have simply become useless in your home, but may have value elsewhere, make the decision to donate them.

Now that you know what items constitute a particular path for removal from your house, it’s important to make plans for your stuff as you organize. Ramsey Johansson, an organizer and designer, recommends a pre-planning strategy for reorganizing.

“Staging areas for sorting are important. Set up areas for ‘keep,’ ‘toss,’ ‘sell’ and ‘donate.’ Determine ahead of time where donated items will go, and if you’re selling items, how they are to be sold. Plan to remove as much as possible at the end of the organizing session in the trash bin, or by dropping it off for donation or consignment,” says Johansson. “It is very rewarding to see the empty space left after the clutter is cleared.”

Know your options before you start clearing out your home. The more prepared you are going in, the better the results will be.

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The 5 Best Places to Hide a Holiday Gift

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Maybe you have a snooping spouse. Perhaps your kids are getting craftier the older they become. Regardless of who your recipients are and what you’ve bought them, finding good places to hide those little treasures can become trickier every year.

Closets, under the bed compartments and car trunks are too obvious. This season, make your loved ones wonder if you even bought them anything by stowing their presents in these epic hiding spots.

Storage Unit

If you have a storage unit located near your house, this can be an excellent place to stuff Christmas gifts. Odds are your kids don’t have access to it and if you think your spouse would be unlikely to visit, then it’s an ideal spot for all your purchases.

Even if there is a chance a family member might visit the storage unit, you can disguise gifts in non-descript cardboard boxes that would blend into the scenery.


Everyone owns pairs of shoes and boots that sit in the back corner of a closet, never to be worn again. According to Parenting & Lifestyle expert Jennifer Chung of Kinsights, this is a perfect place for small gifts.

Snack Boxes

You know those healthy, sugar-free, tasteless snacks you bought months ago that are still sitting untouched in the pantry? While these may have failed as a way to kickstart your families healthy eating habits, they can succeed as great hiding locations for small items.

“If you have a snack that either the kids or spouse absolutely hate, hide smaller gifts in the packaging of those snacks and put them at the back of the pantry. It will never get opened,” says Stephanie Wilson, a single mom of two teenagers.


If you’re staying home for the holidays, odds are your suitcases are going to remain untouched until next year’s summer vacation. Take advantage of these household staples and hide gifts in plain sight.

Out in the Open

Instead of trying to find an obscure corner in your home where no one goes, why not hide the presents for all to see?

“Pre-wrap everything and use a color code for each child, but don’t reveal it in advance. If they find the wrapped gift, they won’t know who it belongs to,” says Chung.

What better way to torture the sneaky sweethearts in your life than to display the gifts right in front of them without them having a clue who it’s for?

The holidays are a time of giving and hiding! Make sure you tuck all those new trinkets in secure places that will keep your family guessing until the moment they unwrap their gift.

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9 Tips for Making a Small Kitchen Feel Larger

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No matter how big or your kitchen is or what it looks like, home expert Elizabeth Dodson says people will still gather in there. So make sure it’s neat, warm and welcoming with these tips for organizing your kitchen and adding personality.

Brighten up your space.

Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada, an online digital platform that helps people manage their home improvement, manuals, photos and more, says a small kitchen needs light to look bigger. Even a small window can make a small room look larger. So can light-colored paint.

Dodson says you could also hang a mirror to make the space appear larger. You can use the mirror as a whiteboard for notes and grocery lists.

Build an “eat-out” kitchen.

If you have space in another room, Dodson suggests moving your seating out of your kitchen. That will free up space for extra shelves, cabinets or even a portable butcher block that can sit to the side until you need it.

Use your walls.

Almost anything can be hung. According to Dodson, famed chef, author and television personality Julia Child recommended keeping the products you use often readily available.

Dodson suggests installing decorative hooks instead of backsplash tile to hang utensils with holes, and magnet bars to hang knives and magnetic spice jars. Your items will be accessible and free up countertop and drawer space. Keep your posts and pan close by hanging them on the wall or from the ceiling as well.

Remember, if you are putting your supplies on display, they must be clean.

Stack everything.

Stack everything you can. Stack dishes, jars and cans. Add removable shelves to your cabinets to stack items that don’t easily fit on top of each other. Store smaller items in clear stackable containers so you can see what’s inside.

Divide those drawers.

“People rebuy items because they can’t find them in a messy drawer,” says Dodson.

To make the most of the drawers in a small kitchen, Jordan Bloom, organizing superstar at Rachel and Company, says to always use drawer organizers and dividers. “It keeps things separated so you can easily grab what you need while you’re cooking. There are so many great options for this. I personally like clear plastic drawer dividers because they can be easily removed and put in the dishwasher if they get dirty.”

Leverage your shelves.

“Wallpaper the back of your shelves to pop and add personality,” suggests Dodson, “or paint the bottom or back of the shelves.” You can even alternate paint colors.

Rather than throwing everything on the shelves, Bloom suggests putting all the pasta in one basket, canned goods in another, etc., with labels. “This makes putting away groceries easier and makes everything in a tiny kitchen look neater. If you don’t have a built in pantry you can pick up a shelving unit to use against a wall in your kitchen. With neatly lined up baskets, it will add a bit of decor to your kitchen.”

Use fancy items as décor around your house.

If you don’t have room in your kitchen for all your nice platters and bowls, Dodson suggests using them as décor around your house. Glass cabinets are great for storing clean dishes and glasses, as well. “If glasses are clean, it’ll make a section of the room pop,” says Dodson. “It’s like a little gem.”

Don’t buy in bulk.

“Buy just what you need,” says Dodson. “Don’t buy 200 spices, buy the spices you’re going to use or fresh spices.” If you do have extra, however, Dodson says you can make spice mixes and give them away as gifts. Put them in a decorate jar and attach a recipe.

Sharing is caring.

“Find multifunctional appliances to free up space on your counters for everything else,” says Dodson. A food processor is a great example of a multifunctional appliance, she says.

But if you’re not going to use a specific appliance very often, don’t buy it, she says. “Why not borrow your friends’ or neighbors’ equipment. That’s what community is about.”



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How to Maximize Space in a Small Bathroom, Part 2

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When you have a small bathroom, organization is key. Even if your bathroom is designed to maximize space, it’s important to keep the items you use the most at arm’s reach. That can be achieved through a variety of organizational techniques that anyone can implement. Continue reading

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How to Maximize Space in a Small Bathroom, Part 1

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Many of us are familiar with the struggles associated with having a small bathroom. But whether you live in a small high-rise apartment or share a pedestal sink with a roommate, there are both visual and organizational tricks for making the most of your space. Continue reading

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7 Travel Tips for Snowbirds

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As cold weather sweeps over much of the northern United States, many Americans are planning to head south for the winter. If you’re like other snowbirds, you’re looking for peace of mind when you’re away. The following tips can help you prepare your house and belongings for extended-stay travel.

Tell the Police
Start by notifying your local police department if you’re leaving for longer than a week. Many officers will go out of their way to check on your house while on patrol.

Get Help From a Friend
Ask a friend, neighbor or family member to look in on your house while you’re gone. Leave a key and your alarm code with them in case they need to go inside. recommends providing the police and your alarm company with your friend’s name and contact information in case of an emergency.

Set Timers on Your Lights
Attach some lamps to timers so they turn on and off automatically to make passersby think someone is home. Set a lamp in your living room to turn on at a time that you’re often home, like after work, at 5 or 6 p.m. Then set it to turn off around bedtime. Timers can be purchased at home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot or discount department stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

Hold Your Mail
Stop your mail and newspaper delivery. A buildup of mail or newspapers is an indicator to criminals that no one is home. You can stop your mail online or by visiting your local post office. Contact your newspaper to hold delivery.

Protect Your Pipes
To prevent your pipes from freezing, recommends keeping your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even while you’re gone. In addition, keep your pipes warm by insulating outside walls and unheated areas, sealing your window, and heating your basement. Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate and cover or close open-air vents to prevent freezing temperatures from combining with wind drafts. Finally, you may want to ask your friend to check your faucets for water flow and pressure while you’re gone. If the flow is reduced, your pipes may be frozen.

Ship Your Luggage in Advance
Once your house is safe and sound, you can travel with confidence. To make packing easier, Kristina Scuoteguazza of Luggage Forward, an international luggage delivery service, recommends shipping your luggage to your vacation home in advance of your travel. “Travelers who are packing for months don’t have to worry about packing lightly or hauling numerous bags to the airport,” she said. “They can ship all of their bags ahead to their destination and walk through the airport with ease.”

Inform Your Bank
Finally, before you go, call your bank and credit card companies to inform them of your upcoming trip. Tell them where you’re going and when so they don’t suspect unusual behavior when you use your accounts out of town.

Now that your house is secure, you’ll be able to kick back and relax without worrying about what’s going on back home. And that’s true peace of mind.

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6 Fantastic Resources for Food Storage Beginners

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Whether The Walking Dead has convinced you the end is near or you want to prepare for potential winter weather problems, food storage is a smart endeavor to embark on.

However, food storage isn’t necessarily simple. What do you buy? Where do you keep it? How much will it cost?

Regardless of what type of scenario you are planning for, creating a food stockpile you can depend on in a crisis is a daunting task and you’re going to need some help.

Before you run to the grocery store and load up on 10 pound bags of beans, make sure you check out these resources for tips on getting started, growing a stockpile and safely keeping food.

What food can be stored?

Before you rush off to the store and purchase dozens of cans of food, read up on what you should be storing. Depending on how long you intend to store the food and what you hope to get out of it, your grocery list could be very different than the usual items you’d purchase.

If you are looking for long-term storage, this is a great list foods that keep the longest from OffGrid Survival:

56 Long-Term Survival Foods and Supplies at the Grocery Store

If you are interested in seasonal storage for weather-related scenarios, this list might be more fitting for your short-term storage needs:

Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency

What does storing food cost?

While there is no set number for what storing food costs, it’s important to understand that it isn’t necessarily an endeavor that happens over night. If there isn’t any urgency in your stockpiling needs this plan is a great way to go.

How to Start a Food Storage Plan $10 a Day

Instead of trying to determine what you are going to ultimately spend on food storage (which can be a continual effort) determine a budget that works best for you. Decide on the size and timeline of your efforts and commit a weekly amount to your food storage plans.

Where do I keep my food storage supply?

If you are creating a large food storage supply, odds are you’re not going to want all of that clutter in your pantry and kitchen storage areas. Where else do you keep food though if not there?

Whether you have a large linen closet going unused or an indoor storage unit you think may be a good fit, there are certain conditions your storage space should meet to qualify as a proper area for your stockpile. This resource outlines those conditions in a clear and simple manner:

7 Simple Rules for Effective and Hygienic Dry Goods Storage

How do I preserve foods to store?

If you’re interested in storing and preserving food beyond what you can simply find in a can or bag at the grocery store, there are great books for preserving different items that may not be particularly common supplies in the store.

Canning, Pickling, and Freezing with Irma Harding: Recipes to Preserve Food, Family and the American Way

Food Drying: How to Safely Dry and Store Food

Food storage can be a very important part of preparing for emergencies, but it’s not as easy as buying a few supplies and sticking them in the back of your pantry. Before you hit the store, make sure you read up on how to best stockpile your food.

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7 Tips for Hosting a Successful Holiday Garage Sale

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When the holiday season rolls around and you prepare to open your home to new gifts, unloading unwanted items can be appealing and often necessary. If you can make some extra shopping scratch in the as well that’s even better.

With the season of giving (and therefore buying) approaching, it’s the perfect time to unload your gently used appliances, electronics and more. Make the most of the experience by following these tips for a successful holiday garage sale.

  1. Search high and low. Take the garage sale as an opportunity to really clear some space in your home and your storage units. Look beyond the items in a cluttered corner and really try to unveil all the things you could sell.
  1. Advertise in advance. Odds are you won’t be the only person hosting a yard sale this year. Make sure you give potential buyers plenty of opportunities to discover your sale. Bonnie Dewkett of The Joyful Organizer recommends posting neighborhood signs in both directions of traffic, pamphlets in the grocery store and online listings on sites like Craigslist.
  1. Offer a freebie. Everyone likes free. Why not sweeten the deal by offering your patrons coffee, donuts or maybe even a tiny knick knack you’re just hopping to clear out. Not only is there a good chance they’ll hang around and gaze a little longer, they may even tell local friends and family memebers to head over.
  1. Presentation is everything. In the same way you are more likely to buy something off a shelf at a store versus digging through a bin, your shoppers also enjoy the convenience of organization and tidiness. Make sure the objects you’re selling are not only clean, but also easy to view.
  1. Prepare for hagglers. “Expect haggling and don’t be offended no matter how low the offer. That is hard but the potential buyer has shown an interest and as a seller you need to capitalize on that interest and turn it into a need so the item is sold because you no longer want it, but someone else does,” says Helaine Fendelman, a professional appraiser.
  1. Involve the family. Garage sales can be a fun event for everyone in the house. Not only is it great opportunity to make a few extra dollars, it’s also a great exercise in money and value for your kids. Have them help pick out toys they no longer play with, let them work their own station at the sale and share in the profits. Your little helpers will not only learn valuable lessons, they can also be the best sales people in your arsenal.
  1. Stay safe. While the sale is an innocent opportunity to earn extra cash and, for your customers, to snag a holiday deal, there are unfortunately unsavory characters in every corner of the world. Since you are inviting people to your doorstep, make sure you are staying safe. Lock your doors and make an effort to hide any valuables that could be visible from the sale location.

Take the opportunity this year to make a little extra money, clear out some cluttered spaces and maybe get to know your neighbors

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