Archive for the 'Home Office' Category

Organize in (Your) Style

I was recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico celebrating a special birthday. I visited a great store, KOWBOYZ , “A First-Class Second-Hand Western Store”, selling 5,000 pairs of new & happily used boots. It was pretty impressive!

Cowboy Style for Your Office

I LOVED their clever solution to organizing their desk. Kids cowboy boots put to use to round up their office supplies.

Boots, chaps and cowboy hats… nothin’ else matters.
Cowboy Proverb

Go, ahead. Get Organized. In Style!

Happy (and organized) days!


Paper Management, Part 2

Quick Access Files:  Don’t Live an Organized Life Without Them!

Last time in “Help, My Kitchen is My File Cabinet”, I referred to the universal problem of overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and the resulting piles that usually end up in the kitchen. A large part of the solution to this problem is the creation of Quick Access Files. Quick Access Files are just that……….files that you need to access often and quickly. Don’t let the word file in Quick Access Files throw you. These are files containing different information than we generally keep in our regular filing cabinet. Quick Access Files are files that you will need for a season and/or you need to access often. They are filled with the papers that are otherwise taped to our refrigerator, stuck on the bulletin board or, all too often, piled up next to the phone or on the kitchen table.

Not Your Mother's File Box!

To create Quick Access Files, gather up all the bits of information lying around and plastered to the surfaces in your kitchen. Then separate them into logical categories. Because each of our lives and habits are different, each of our Quick Access Files will be different as well. You may end up with:

  • A file for each school, which will hold current phone lists, school calendars, announcements, and newsletters.
  • A file for every sports team or club
  • Or you may choose to create a file for each child in which you could place all their papers for their individual school, sports, and clubs.
  • A file for volunteer organizations, which will hold current phone lists, announcements, schedules, and newsletters
  • A doctor/dentist file with contact information and appointment cards (which you will drop in the file AFTER you write the appointment on your calendar)
  • A file for prescriptions, which will hold patient information for any current prescriptions that your family members are using
  • A file for take out menus
  • A file for parties and invitations (which you drop in AFTER you write the appointment on the calendar)
  • A file for coupons and gift cards

    Basic File Box by See Jane Work

For many of these categories you will also have a file in your regular file cabinet. For instance, each child will have an Education file in your regular files, in which you will place all their permanent records, report cards and testing information. Each person will have a Medical file, which will hold immunization records, surgery, allergy and all permanent medical records.

The papers, invitations, schedules, announcements, appointment reminders, and take out menus in our Quick Access File are generally used for a season and then discarded or updated. At the end of a school year or sports season, for example, most of the contents of the Quick Access File will be discarded. Any important or permanent information or documents, however, will be added to your regular long term filing system, and your Quick Access Files will be ready for the new season.

With the addition of just a few categories, with corresponding files, you will have a complete system to deal with your mail on a daily basis.

  • To Do
  • To Pay
  • To File (anything that simply needs to be transferred to your long term filing system)

Now that you have created your own Quick Access Files, I suggest that you keep them in your main living area, which is usually the kitchen or family room. This is generally the place that you bring in and drop your mail, you walk in with files and papers from meetings and appointments, and your children bring you papers to sign, fill out and file away.

I have heard people say that they don’t want a file box sitting in their living area. May I kindly suggest, that a small, nice looking file box (think attractive and presentable) looks much nicer than a pile of papers in disarray!

Check out some of the links to file boxes and files in this article, or find your own. Be creative. There are 100’s of options available in every style. Find your own style.

A Cool Vintage File Box

If you have ever worked with me, attended one of my workshops,  or followed my blog for any length of time, this concept is not new to you. If you already have Quick Access Files, the New Year is the perfect time to revamp them.  Simply sort through each file and:

  • First of all; decide if you still need each file

    A Beautiful Alternative to Manila!

  • Toss any obsolete information
  • File anything that should be transferred over to your Permanent Filing System
  • Determine if you need to add any new categories – (do you have any new information hanging on the fridge or piled up on the kitchen table?)

It’s the perfect time for a fresh start!
Happy (and Organized!) days!

Paper Management, Part 1

Help, My Kitchen is My File Cabinet!

Take a quick look around your kitchen and dining room: the kitchen table, the counter tops, the buffet, and the surfaces of your refrigerator. Do you notice a re-occurring theme? Do you see the mounds of information needed to run your home and your life, spread hit or miss around your kitchen? Is the pile of junk mail, catalogs, and newspapers on your kitchen table blocking your view of your loved ones at dinner? If so, you’re not alone.

Do you realize how much paperwork enters your home on a daily basis? Most of us probably receive more mail on most days than our parents received in a week. We receive newsletters, magazines, bills, advertisements, million dollar offers, and letters, to mention a few. Along with incoming mail, many of us have school-aged children, who each bring home permission slips, completed work, tests to be signed, the dreaded fund-raising packets and letters from teachers and administrators. We receive the Daily Newspaper, and we carry in papers on a daily basis from work, meetings and appointments.

In my time as a professional organizer, I have come across a universal problem of overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and the resulting piles that usually end up in the kitchen. In our efforts to “Get Organized in 2010”, we will look at this all-too-common issue and outline simple solutions that can solve this problem and simplify your days.

Together we will create a plan of action. A place for everything and everything in it’s place! Clutter happens when we don’t have a place for something, or when it’s more difficult to put something away than it is to deal with it. The result is the inevitable cluttering up of our spaces and our lives.

As we create a plan for all the paper coming into our homes, we will ask ourselves some very basic questions:

  • Who needs this information?

  • Where will I/they need or use this information?

  • How long do I need/want to keep this information?

  • What time of day does most of this information come into the home?

  • Do I have time to put it where it belongs?

The truth is, the majority of the paper coming into your home will NEVER need to be looked at again!
“Man’s best friend, aside from the dog, is the wastebasket”.           Business Week

Remember this truth and always have your friend with you when dealing with paperwork. That’s the first and most essential step! Until next time, I challenge you to quickly recycle or simply throw out that which you don’t need, won’t use, or won’t read (despite your best intentions!). Make it a habit, and your piles may actually start declining!
In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting a 6-part Paper Management Series, which will simply outline what to do with all that paperwork. From developing short term and long term filing systems, to “junking all that junk mail”, to practical filing tips and tricks; all of which will help you to launch into a more organized 2010!

Happy (and Organized) Days!


Blog a Job! 2009- Part 5 The Transformation Complete!

IMG_5441 craft area reduced

The Transformation Complete!

Let the fun begin! This is the last work session with my client, Becky, and her home office.

During our previous work sessions, we literally worked our way through the room and through many years of paperwork and accumulated clutter. We were working in a room, which lacked identity and purpose, and that made it way too easy to continually add to the clutter and chaos.

We were able to reorganize the past, disposing of everything that was not needed in the present and organize treasures and precious memories for their enjoyment in the future. We set up a current working filing system and archive files for storage. We sorted through many years of craft and sewing supplies, and were able to purge the useless and organize the useful.

As the process continued, we were able to define what tasks Becky wanted to accomplish in her office and therefore, which clearly defined zones would be established in her space. She was left with an area for books, crafts and sewing, her office area with her desk and current files and the closet which would store off-season clothing, gift wrap, craft and office supplies.

Becky is a creative soul. She is both vibrant and gracious, and she is overflowing with personality and style. She had decorated her office, but the style was literally lost in the clutter. Once we cleared out the clutter, we were able to edit some of her decorative items and were left with a stylish office space that is light, bright, and functional.

We were able to use much of what Becky already owned and therefore had to spend very little money on supplies, while creating her new space. Becky purchased the craft supply cart, jars for the ribbons on the shelves and some filing supplies.

It is my hope that by following the progression of this organizing job and the transformation of this space, that you are both encouraged and challenged to imagine the possibilities of your home “In Order” for “Life”!

Check out Blog a Job! Part 1, Blog a Job! Part 2, Blog a Job! Part 3 and Blog a Job! Part 4 for the complete story! Also, check out the Before and After Gallery for pictures of our progress from beginning to end.

Thanks Becky, for opening your home and your life and allowing me to be part of this transformation.

It has truly been a pleasure!


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Organized for Success – How are YOUR Students Managing?

Organize the Student

An organized student is a more successful student. Give the students in your home every advantage by working with them in developing excellent organizational skills. Help your student(s) develop a plan to organize their time and their papers. Most students receive an agenda book. Hold your student(s) accountable to using it. Help them get into a good habit. It takes approximately 21 days of constant repetition to form a new habit. Offer them grace as you encourage them in forming this new habit. It will help them succeed as a student and they will learn valuable lessons of time management for the future. Teach them organizing skills as you work with them to set aside specific places in their binder, notebook, or folders for homework, current work and completed work. Many teachers will share their suggestions with you and your student. Take advantage of their teacher’s wisdom. Also, consider creating a file box at home to store completed work, filed by subject. When their binder begins to bulge, they will have an easy and convenient place to file their work away, while still having quick access to it for future needs.

Organize the Study Area

Next, prepare a study area and take stock of your school and office supplies.

Beadboard Basic Corner Desk from Pottery Barn Teen

Beadboard Basic Corner Desk from Pottery Barn Teen

Create an area in your home specifically for doing homework. This area should be well lit and quiet with a work area and a supportive chair. It is also helpful to have storage for basic study helps and school supplies.  This is the perfect time to inventory all your school and office supplies while reorganizing the area for ease of use. This is an easy process, which includes a few simple steps:

  • Think through how you want your space to look and function
  • Empty out any drawers, cabinets, bins or files that are storing office and/or school supplies
  • Group like things together. Create sub categories such as Art Supplies, Paper Supplies, Pens and Pencils, Notebooks and Binders, Office Supplies, Computer Supplies etc……..
  • Toss or donate any damaged or obsolete supplies
  • Return the “keep” pile to the space and think through what, if any, storage accessories or containers you may need
  • Store often used supplies close at hand, while utilizing harder to reach space for seldom used supplies

Organize a School Memory Box

The Bungalow File Holder from See Jane Work

The Bungalow File Holder from See Jane Work

If you haven’t done so already, consider creating a School Memory Box for each child. This can be as simple as a plastic file box or a cardboard banker’s box divided into 12 sections. During the school year file away any artwork, projects, special memories, creative writing and awards. Then, at the end of each school year, go through your file box of completed work and pull out the best and most meaningful of their creative writing, schoolwork and artwork. Finally,  simply file it away in their School Memory Box in the appropriate year. By the end of high school, you’ll have a wonderful, handpicked history of your child’s development and accomplishments, with very little effort.

Check out these stylish Bungalow File Holders from See Jane Work. They come in 5 different designs and hold standard hanging files. They are chic enough to set out on a bookshelf, desk top or kitchen shelf, adding flair to your home and organization to your life.

Organize the Room

This is also the perfect time to work with your child organizing his/her bedroom and clothing. Use the same basic steps outlined earlier:

  • Think through how you want your space to look and function
  • Empty out drawers, clothes and any bins that are storing clothing
  • Group like things together. Create sub categories such as Underclothes, Sports Clothes, Uniforms, School Clothes, Dress Clothes etc.
  • Toss old or worn clothes and donate outgrown, seldom worn, or out of style clothes. The biggest pitfall is keeping more clothes than you actually can use or have room for. Be realistic in what you are keeping.
  • Return the “keep” pile to the space and think through what, if any, storage accessories or containers you may need. Assign a specific space for each sub category of clothing.
  • Store often used clothing close at hand, while utilizing harder to reach space for seldom used items. Store off season clothes in a clearly labeled bin or under-the-bed container.
  • Be careful not to over-stuff drawers and closets. You will go a long way in helping your child stay organized by actually providing a space for all of their belongings and then making it both easy and accessible to put them away.
  • Make use of storage space, which is often overlooked, such as the backs of doors or inside of closets to mount hooks, racks, or pockets. Use hooks for storage of everyday items such as sweatshirts, pajamas, robes, and towels. If your child doesn’t have many hanging clothes, install shelves in half of their closet for additional folded clothes or for toy storage.

Now that you know what your child owns and what needs they may have, you may still be able to take advantage of summer clearance sales.

Have a Fantastic (and organized!) School Year!


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Blog a Job! 2009 Watch a Professional Organizer in Action! Part 4

Today is paperwork day. Tedious and time consuming. But, it is oh so worth it! Investing the time into creating a simple and effective filing system is one of THE MOST BENEFICIAL organizing jobs you can accomplish. Think about all the paper lying around your house……..the newspapers, magazines, newsletters, school papers, bills, mail, invitations, the stack on your kitchen table (you KNOW you have one!), appointment reminders, and the list goes on! Now imagine your home de-cluttered and organized with no paperwork in sight, yet easily and quickly accessible. It IS possible. And the fist step in achieving this is to create and maintain a simple and effective filing system.

Becky and I spent four full hours setting up a filing system. Our first step was to organize both her and her husband’s past work files and clear them out of their office space. Becky worked in an industry, which requires her to keep business contacts and files for four years. These files will, most likely, never need to be accessed, and therefore, could safely be stored in their attic. Next, we organized her husband’s past files. Much of his paperwork and files have to do with his master’s degree and current teaching position. His files may need to be accessed occasionally, so they were organized and will be stored in the office closet. Out of the families current living space, yet still accessible. By clearing out the past, we created space for the present. Finally, we set up their family’s current filing system.

Check out my previous blogs; “Developing a Simple and Effective Household Filing System” and “Filing Tips, Tricks and Ideas“, for direction and ideas on setting up your own filing system. Or, feel free to shoot me an email at or give me a call at 410.259.1466 to schedule an appointment.

The secret to any good filing system is to keep it simple. Whatever system you use should make it easy to find what you need, be easy to maintain, and make sense to everyone who may need to use it. You should be able to retrieve any paper in less than one minute—if that’s not the case, it may be time to revamp your system. Then be sure to locate your files in a place that is easy to get to. If they aren’t  you won’t get to them!

The Shred Pile has grown as big as Charlotte!

The Shred Pile has grown as big as Charlotte!

Becky and her husband both had homework this week:  Becky was to bring her books to the library for donation, sort, purge and organize her memory bins and shred all her documents that had identifying information on them. Her husband was to sort, purge and organize both his past files and his memory box.

Check out Blog A Job! Part 1, Blog A Job Part 2Blog a Job! Part 3, and Blog a Job! Part 5, to read the complete article and to see the finished office space.  The fun is just beginning. Now that we have cleared out the clutter, re-organized the past, and decided exactly how the office space will function, we can organize the present!

Happy (and organized!) Days!


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Blog a Job! 2009 Watch a Professional Organizer in Action! Part 3

During this 4-hour work session, we literally began working our way through the room. We started at one end of the room and began sorting and purging everything into one of the following categories:

  • Trashkeep-relocate pic
  • Consign/Give Away
  • Relocate (move to other areas of the home)
  • File – Long term (will be moved out of the office)
  • File – Current
  • Office
  • Craft
  • Gift Wrap
  • Memories

As we were sorting, we came up with the following zones within the room:

  • Bookshelf
  • Craft/Sewing Area
  • Desk/Office/Files
  • Closet: Off-Season Clothing, Gift Wrap/Craft Storage, and File and Office Supplies

charlottes room picI mentioned earlier that it will look worse before it gets better. This is almost always the case. It takes space, energy and time to pull out everything and sort. But it is a necessity, before you purge. How can you begin to make decisions about what to keep, if you don’t truly know what you have? The answer is, you can’t! Becky and I were working in a relatively small office space. Therefore, it was necessary to spread out a bit. You will see photographs of us working in her daughter’s room which is located across the hall from the office. We also used the hallway for storage of our supplies along with bags, boxes and bins, which were being permanently moved out of the space.

At the end of the day, we had an even better direction of how Becky would like the room to function. We also had several huge bags of trash, several “relocate” bins and a gigantic pile to take to the consignment shop. It truly does pay to get organized!

I am often asked if I will throw out or get rid of other family member’s belongings. I always assure clients that it is my policy to only work with my their belongings. If there is ever a question about other people’s belongings, they are set aside in a pile or bin so that the owner(s) can sort through and make decisions.

I also don’t try to talk clients into getting rid of belongings. I do help them see the trade off (and there is always a trade off!). The reality is; more stuff = less space and less breathing room, while less stuff = more space and more breathing room. Generally by the time a client contacts me, they are tired of living in the midst of so much stuff, and are ready for change. The truth is, you cannot organize clutter. I love Flylady’s definition of clutter:

“Clutter is anything that does not bring you joy, you do not love, or you don’t need. Things that you use, love, and enjoy are necessary and important to have. Things that you have in your home that you don’t need or don’t like will have the opposite effect on you: they will make you feel negative and dragged down.” FLYlady

So, my job is to help clients eliminate clutter. But this is a process that we work through together. It begins by first helping clients identify what things they use, they love, and they enjoy. Then we figure out what to do with the rest. We don’t just “get rid of” the rest. We thoughtfully make decisions. Are there family or friends who might enjoy an item? Is this something that they might be able to sell or consign and make a few extra dollars? Are there people in need who could truly benefit from the donation of these items? When put in this context, most people are much more likely to begin the process of eliminating clutter.

As I work with clients, I suggest specific “homework”, jobs that they can accomplish on their own.  This can reduce the number of hours that we work together. Clients can, of course, choose to have me work alongside them throughout the entire process. The choice is theirs.

After this work session, Becky was left with the following homework:

  • Go to the consignment shop
  • Empty “relocate” bins and move to the appropriate areas of the home
  • Remove 2 extra file cabinets from the room
  • Purge and reorganize 3 “memory” bins
  • Purchase additional clear plastic bins for memories

During our next session, we will dive into the paperwork. We will begin to set up a family filing system. This is going to be a tedious and time-consuming task, but will both simplify Becky’s days and significantly de-clutter her office.

Check out Blog a Job! Part 1, Blog a Job Part 2Blog a Job! Part 4 and Blog a Job! Part 5.

Check out our progress in the coming days!

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NEW Home Learning Parties!

Organizing Just Got Fun!
Now Scheduling Home Learning Parties for Summer 2011
Gather your friends, choose a topic, learn, simplify AND earn free and half priced products from the Clever Container Company! To schedule your party, call Cheryl at 410-259-1466 or email

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