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Professional Organizing at Home

Heidi S.
HEIDI S.
Professional Organizer
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Certified professional organizer, Heidi Solomon, is joining us for a Q&A about having a more organized life, balancing work and family life and transitioning your home to meet your family's needs. She is here to share her knowledge about making your space work for you, figuring out where to start and setting up spaces that work for everyone so you have more time to focus on what matters most.

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HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Paper hoarder, help please!
SHANNON, PARENT OF 5 YEAR OLD

Hello, I am Shannon and I am a paper hoarder. I just convinced myself to throw away papers I completed when I graduated school in 2013! I hold onto old tax stuff and medical bills and I know after a certain time I shouldn’t have to worry about them (what, 5-7 years?). I also keep random papers and books that I never use again and none of it is in any particular order. How do I get myself to purge the paper I don’t need and what’s the best way to organize the stuff I do need to hold onto so that I know when I can shred stuff when it passes that usefulness date? Thanks!

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Afternoon Shannon,

Thanks for reaching out and congratulations on recognizing you may be holding on to too much paper. Thankfully, paper organizing is pretty straightforward once you develop a system. I would suggest sorting what you have into piles so it is easier to deal with. Take all your utility bills and put them together. Academic papers can go together, health records can go together, etc... Once you have categories together it will be a lot easier to make decisions about things.

The next thing I would do is locate a list of what papers to keep and what papers to let go of. Many accountants provide this list for clients. If you can't find an online resource, a great book to read is: https://www.amazon.com/Organizing-Paper-Home-What-Toss-ebook/dp/B006RK86RG

In general bills that you rarely if ever refer to again (i.e. utility bills, cell phone bills, camp registration bills) can be shredded after the calendar year has closed.

Anything with an original signature (i.e. mortgage documents, loan papers, leases, partnership agreements, etc...) should be kept indefinitely as they are hard, if not impossible, to replace. The IRS has three years (from the last filed tax period) to request supporting documentation if you are ever audited, so it's generally a good rule of thumb to keep any papers associated with your tax preparation for at least 4 years (because the current year doesn't count as you haven't filed yet).

Once you know what you are going to keep, then you need to implement a system to store them. If you don't have too many, you can use a portable file box. If you have a lot, you may need a file drawer/cabinet. I have some clients that store papers from each year in a box. Figure out what you would prefer/what's easier for you and run with it.

Then simply, file/store the papers. I prefer filing in file folders in a file box because it's easy to find things and easy to move around if I want to work in a different space.

These are my favorite portable file boxes:
https://www.containerstore.com/s/office/paper-file-storage/portable/clear-letter-size-portable-file-box-with-snap-closure/123d?productId=10009073&country=US&currency=USD&utm_source=tcscompshop&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=google&cid=cse:PLA

Good luck!
Heidi

SHANNON

Thank you! This is uber helpful.

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Strollers
TINA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 11 MONTH OLD

Hi Heidi,
We have too many strollers (3) -- an umbrella stroller, a jogging stroller, and an uppababy vista. We have a small landing in our apartment where we keep strollers, shoes, etc. before heading up the stairs to the main living area in our brownstone. The walls are high, but the space itself is only about 6 x 8 ft with a small additional coat closet. My husband wanted to hang some of these strollers on the wall. Do you have any recommendations for stroller hooks? If we use hooks, how do you prevent marks on the walls? Any other suggestions for storing strollers?
Thanks!

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Evening Tina,

There are lots of ways to store strollers and many times your space dictates what you can do. Here's a few pinterest boards that highlight great way to store strollers, there are many vertical options included. The over the door hook looks like a great option if you can hang it on the closet door.

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/stroller-storage/

To protect the wall from scuffs, I recommend getting a piece of plexiglass and attaching it to the wall. Maybe even using command hook adhesive velcro strips so you can easily take it off when you are no longer using strollers.

Thanks for your question, hope this helps!

Heidi

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Small apartment
RUSHALI, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD

How to organize small kitchen as well as plastic containers and their lids. I dont have any extra shef for storing tissue papers and I dont have enough space under my bed so I don't understand where to store them..could you please suggest something..thanks in advance

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Evening Rushall,

Could you please clarify your question a little bit. Are you looking for suggestions to organize a small kitchen? Or are you asking about organizing tissue paper?

I will offer a few suggestions:

In small kitchens it's important to maximize space. Look in your cabinets, is there room for another shelf if you can adjust your shelves? If not, can you add a shelf riser to create more storage space?

I use a small lazy susan to store olive oil and vinegars so it's easier to get the bottles out when I need them. I like to put spices in a drawer rather than on a shelf because it's easier to find the one I want when I want it.

If there are things that are occasionally used, I like to remove them from the kitchen and store them elsewhere. Holiday items, cookie cutters, serving platters, etc.. If storage space is available elsewhere, that works to free some space.

I also like to remove one use items when something else can do the trick. These sorts of things are: cherry pitters, avocado peelers, toast tongs, etc... Often times a fork or knife can do the same thing and no need to take up usable space for them.

Re storing lids, I first take all the Tupperware out and match it. I discard/recycle the ones that don't have mates and then store the lids along the side of a cabinet/drawer so they don't go all over. If you have an extra bottom, you can store the lids in the extra bottom to help corral them.

Re storing tissue paper, if you have an extra garment bag I like to put wrapping paper and tissue paper in one and then hang it in a closet. They paper doesn't get wrinkled and I don't need to find storage for another container.

Hope this helps!
Heidi

Our Q&A is now over
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Thank you, Heidi! Through her business, POSH, Heidi offers a variety of residential and commercial organizing services in the Boston area. You can learn more here: http://www.posh-boston.com/

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Toys!!
MADELINE, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Heidi. I am struggling with how to organize all of my kids' toys. So many are made of many pieces and I feel like we end up throwing everything into big bins with little organization. Any tips for keeping things together, or bins/containers to help with the chaos. Thank you!

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Afternoon Madeline,

With kids I often lean towards clear organizing solutions (because it's easy for the kids to find things) or bins. When I have smaller parts, a simple option is to use a ziploc bags and write on it with a sharpie. This works great for puzzles when the boxes get broken. If you have an area with shelves/shelving, I use the clear shoe boxes from the container store and use each one for a category (i.e. a lego set, barbie clothes, rocks) and the same system can be used for art supplies (i.e. markers, crayons, colored pencils, stickers, pipe cleaners etc...)

They come in two sizes. The standard shoe box size and the men's shoe box size.

https://www.containerstore.com/s/our-mens-shoe-box/d?productId=11000058&q=mens%20shoe%20box

https://www.containerstore.com/s/our-shoe-box/d?productId=10001753&q=mens%20shoe%20box

For oversized toys, I try to designate an area where they go because it can be difficult to find containers for them. If you have a toy box, sometimes it's easy to store them inside.

If you can rotate toys, that might help with some of the congestion. I have a few families that keep a couple bins of toys in the attic/basement and every few months swap out a few.

If you have bigger sized drawers, it can also be helpful to put a bin inside without a lid to help corral some of the smaller pieces. There are tons of ways to organize toys, hope this give you some helpful ideas.

Heidi

MADELINE

Those clear bins are perfect!! Such a great idea. I am going to order a bunch along with ziplock bags. Thank you, this is so helpful.

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Never ending laundry!
JO, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Heidi,
I have two little boys and feel like I am constantly washing, folding, picking up, putting away, etc laundry. Do you have any tips for streamlining?

Thanks so much!

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Afternoon Jo,

There are several ways to streamline laundry. The most efficient system I have seen is a cubby system where every person in the house has a cubby and once the laundry is done, it's folded and left there. It's up to each person to retrieve it and put it away. In your case, you have two young boys. I would recommend taking a laundry basket for each boy and as their clothes are done, putting the folded laundry in their respective basket so when it's time to put the clothes away, you aren't running all over, just one place. Additionally, if you are looking for something you won't have to dig through piles and piles of laundry, you'll know which pile it is in.

Do you have a laundry sorter you can use for dirty clothes? If you sort before the wash by person, it will be much easier on the other end as each load will already be sorted once it comes out of the drier.

Here's a good one:
https://www.containerstore.com/s/heavy-duty-3-bin-laundry-sorter-with-wheels/d?productId=10000486&q=laundry%20sorter

Having a routine can also help, i.e. start the wash in the morning, flip it to the drier sometime in the afternoon and fold in the evening. If you do this 4 days a week, you may feel like you have more of a handle on it. An alternative is to outsource it. There are many many wash and fold places that will pick up. It might be helpful when you are feeling really behind to send it out just so you can catch up and get a handle on things.

Let me know if you have more questions.
Thanks,
Heidi

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Baby Clothes
ZAINAB, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD

What is the best way to store outgrown baby clothes in a small apartment?

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Afternoon Zainab,

The best way is often determined by what storage space you have available. If you can utilize floor space/shelf in a closet, that works well as long as the containers are labeled with sizes.

If you haven't utilized your under bed storage, I would definitely use that space. Sometimes you have to use more flexible storage options (such as oversized/storage size ziploc bags) so you can squeeze them into tight spaces.
<br/> If you give me a little bit more of an idea of what your options are, I can try to give you some more suggestions.

Thanks!
Heidi

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Messy, disorganized clutter
TIFFANY

What would you suggest or tips can you give to two full time working parents with a toodler? Our townhome is in a constant disarray. How can I keep my home more organized and tidy on a slim budget? Can't spend a whole lot of money on things for organization that just make more clutter. Main areas the living room (downstairs), master bedroom room shared with medically needy toodler (upstairs) and laundry room with no space (upstairs). Need space and time saving help. Thanks.

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Morning Emily,

Thanks for your question.

There are a few ways to make a dent without spending a lot of money or time.

I would suggest carving out 1 hour/week to address your organizing challenges. For example, can you spend 1 hour on Sunday going through a space and then if you find things that aren't relevant to your current lifestyle, load them in the car and drop them off during the week on your way to/from work? The key to making this work is staying consistent without overwhelming yourself, that's why I am suggesting one hour.

When families have young children, I advise going through their things at least every 6 mos if not every season to cull out things they have outgrown/no longer use. Piggybacking on the school calendar works really well. For example, go through their things in August (before school starts) and in February (during spring break). If you get into a rhythm, this process shouldn't take very long.

I'd also suggest paying careful attention to what you bring into the home. Kids come with a lot of stuff, it's important to define kids areas and adult areas in the home in order to streamline maintaining each space. For example, if there are kids things in an adult area, it's very easy to simply move them to the kids area and vice versa. Having strong parameters for what goes where will make maintaining the space much easier.

For your master bedroom, I would look around and make sure you are utilizing each area well. For example, if you have closet doors, can you hang some shoe organizers on the back to free up space in the closets for other things. I like these organizers a lot.
https://www.containerstore.com/s/24-pocket-mesh-over-the-door-shoe-bag/d?productId=10010675&q=24%20pocket%20shoe%20bag

They can be used for shoes but they can also be used for scarves, accessories and other small items. I have also used them in a mudroom on the back of a closet door to hold sunscreen, bugspray, goggles, gloves/hats, etc... They are so easy to install and very functional.

I would also review each space you inquired about. Do you have adequate storage for your things or do you need to rethink how things are being stored. If you don't have adequate storage, can you find an inexpensive solution on craigslist or via a mom's group rather than purchasing something brand new?

Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Thanks,
Heidi

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Shoe organization
KATE, PARENT OF 10 YEAR OLD, 7 YEAR OLD

Thank you for being here and taking questions. Have you found a good way to organize shoes? We currently leave the ones we wear often in the garage before waling in the house - but they just sit on the floor. Thank you!

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Morning Kate,

Yes, there are great ways to organize shoes. I love the over the door hangers that allow you to see the shoes but keeps them off the floor. This would work great if there's an empty wall to hang it on near the door.

Here's an example: https://www.containerstore.com/s/closet/shoe-storage/hanging-shoe-storage/24-pocket-mesh-over-the-door-shoe-bag/123d?productId=10010675

Another alternative is to use a few shoe racks. I like these ones made by Umbra because they are stackable so you can add sections or take away sections as your space allows. Plus they are open on the top for taller boots which is always helpful. https://www.containerstore.com/s/umbra-bronze-carrie-stackable-shoe-shelf/d?productId=10035601&q=umbra%20shoe

If you would like the shoes hidden, this is a great cabinet from ikea that stores shoes. Here's what it looks like in action: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/5a/12/b1/5a12b10527e3a411daa60228b21b8523.jpg

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70178170/
http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20169559/

Sometimes it's easy to just put a couple oversized baskets in the space to hold shoes. For a family, you can use two baskets, one for adults and one for kids.

Hope this helps!

Thanks!
Heidi

HEIDI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Organizing small closet
NINA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Heidi,
Thanks in advance. We have a very small master bedroom closet and need suggestions on organizing it regularly. Due to lack of space we also have a dresser, but there are times, it's nearly impossible to keep things organized.

Any suggestions would be greatly helpful.

Heidi
HEIDI

Good Morning Nina,

Thanks for reaching out. Can you tell me what sort of system you have in the closet. Is it simply a hang bar with open space underneath and maybe a shelf above? Are there shelves? Is there a closet system installed?

A simple way to create extra space in a closet is to look at the hangers. Are all the hangers the same type? If not, I would suggest purchasing the slimline hangers (a.k.a. velvet hangers). They can be found at most home stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, Target...

What are you trying to store in the closet? Mostly hanging clothes? Folded clothes? Can you provide a little more information? What are the approximate dimensions of the space? How many people are using it?

There are some rules of thumb that work well for closet organizing. If you are limited for space, can you store seasonal clothes/special occasion items elsewhere to open up some room? Are there things in the closet that can go other places. For example, are there coats that can go in a coat closet? Is there memorabilia or clothes that you no longer wear that can be removed?

Have you processed through your clothes to make sure that what you are storing is what you are wearing/using?

Sometimes inadequate lighting makes using small spaces more difficult. Do you have a light in the closet?

Look forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks,
Heidi