Sunday, June 26, 2005

Organizing Seasonal Clothes

Tip of the Week, June 19, 2005

By now, summer weather has more or less arrived, so chances are you're ready to stash your winter clothes for the lighter and easier duds of the season. This year, why not take the time to organize your closets and dressers while you make the seasonal clothing swap? Here are some tips to get you started.

Do a clothes audit
If you tend to switch out your seasonal clothes without taking a good look at what's moving in to your closets and what's moving out, you may wind up with a wardrobe packed with stuff you don't actually wear. So this time around, do a clothes audit.

Start by taking your winter stuff out of your closets and drawers, taking a good look at each piece of clothing as you go. Set aside anything you didn't wear once last season, as well as anything that no longer fits, is damaged beyond repair, or doesn't suit you, and then get rid of it. You'll be left with a wardrobe you both like and are likely to wear when next winter rolls around.

Repeat this process with your incoming summer clothes, taking the extra step of trying on anything you suspect may no longer fit. Also, make a note of any summer clothes you need to replace, then reward yourself by buying some new duds to start the season off right.

Clean out your closets--literally
Before you import your summer clothes, take half an hour to give your closets and dressers a good cleaning. Vacuum the closet floor and the insides of the dresser drawers. Get rid of any junk that's accumulated in the depths of the closet (such as dry cleaner bags or single shoes). If you're feeling ambitious, consider adding some drawer liners or sachets to your dresser.

Starting the season with clean storage areas for your clothes can help keep pests at bay, keep things better organized, and make it easier to take care of your wardrobe.

Store things smartly
Think twice before relegating your winter wear to a moth ball-filled box in the attic this year. If you're storing bug-attracting fabrics (such as wool), have them cleaned first so they're less appealing to pests. Some professional cleaners even offer free (or low-cost) storage for out-of-season clothes; check with yours to see if this service is available.

When storing things at home, consider using a portable clothes rack (a simpler version of the racks used in stores) and hanging clothes protectors rather than stashing garments in large boxes or bins. Also, try using less toxic bug-proofing alternatives such as cedar and lavender rather than standard moth balls; your clothes and your nose will benefit.

For more information on pest-proof clothes storage, read this article from Martha Stewart Living.

Don't neglect shoes and accessories
Finally, be sure to swap out your shoes and accessories, too: don't make your flip flops do battle with your snow boots or your sun hat fight for space with your mittens.

As with clothes, make sure your winter shoes, hats, gloves, and socks are clean before you store them for the summer. Take the time to organize your accessories and stash them neatly; they'll be easier to bring out again when the time comes.

If the shoe and accessory storage in your dressers and closets is inadequate, now is a great time to add an extra shelf, a few accessory bins, or a sturdy shoe rack--whatever you need to give yourself the storage you require and to keep your stuff organized.

Get in the habit of making your seasonal clothes swap an organized and orderly affair. This season's clothes will benefit, and when it comes time to make the switch again, you'll be more prepared than ever before.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Organizing Gifts for Dad

Tip of the Week, June 12, 2005

Father's Day (June 19) is just around the corner; this year, why not give the dad(s) in your life the gift of organization? Read on for ideas on how to make your dad's life a bit more organized, regardless of what kind of guy he is.

The Garage Master
He spends hours in the garage/barn/shed, fixing things, tinkering, puttering, and relaxing. If Dad's second home is full of tools, equipment, and other treasures, bringing a bit more order to the space can help make it more enjoyable and more functional.

Try pairing a garage organizing book--Organize Your Garage in No Time and Your Garagenous Zone are two of my favorites--with some new shelving or storage units; Rubbermaid and GarageTek make some great ones in a range of prices, as does The Container Store. For a priceless gift (literally), give Pop a few hours of your time and help him weed out stuff he no longer needs, organize the things wants to keep, and give the garage a good cleaning.

The 9-to-5er
For dads who work outside of the home (somewhere other than the garage), tools that help them keep tabs on their To Do's and balance their work and family time can make great gifts. So this year, forego the tie-and-belt combo and give Pa an updated calendar/time management system. If he's a pen-and-paper kind of guy, take a look at Filofax and Franklin Covey planners; if he's into gadgets, a PDA (such as a Palm) might be right up his alley. Along with the planner, offer to help him enter data like dates and addresses.

If Dad's wardrobe needs some freshening up, give him a session with an image consultant. The consultant will not only help him bid adieu to the clothes that don't fit or are no longer in style (farewell, leisure suits!) but will also help him get his closet in order so getting ready for work in the morning is easier and less painful. To find an image consultant near you, visit the Association of Image Consultants International at www.aici.org.

The Stay-at-Home Dad
If Dad works from home or cares for the kids full time, the gift of an orderly and organized house might be the way to go. For dads with home offices, office organizing tools like new desk accessories, an upgraded filing cabinet, and a heavy-duty shredder can help give the space a new look and make it more functional and easier to work in.

Pops who stay at home with the kids might appreciate new gadgets for toy storage (see The Container Store for some great ideas); a custom family information center to keep tabs on schedules, activities, and paperwork; and updated storage systems in the kids' rooms to make morning, playtime, and bedtime routines run more smoothly. A handmade certificate granting Dad some help with the organizing tasks of his choice, as well as a gift card for a home improvement or organizing store, can be a great way of letting him customize his own gift.

The Retiree
Dads who have reached retirement may not need their suits organized or systems for stashing the kids' toys, but they can still benefit from the gift of organization. If Dad spends his golden years traveling, packing cubes and accessories can help make preparing for his journeys more orderly and less stressful. (And if he's still using the same battered luggage from the 1970s, perhaps a new, easy-to-maneuver suitcase would be welcome, too.)

Perhaps Pops is devoting his time to home-based hobbies like reading, cooking, or catching up on all the movies he didn't get the chance to watch. The gift of an organized hobby area--de-cluttered bookshelves and a new floor lamp, for example, or new organizing gear for the kitchen cabinets and drawers--can help him relax worry- and clutter-free.

Whatever kind of Dad you're celebrating this Father's Day, giving him the gift of organization--whether in the form of a book, some tools and gadgets, a helping hand, or time with a professional organizer or an image consultant--can be a great way of saying "Thanks" and "I love you" without adding another tie or another set of golf tees to his collection. Long after Father's Day has passed, he'll be able to enjoy the benefits of less stress, more order, and more time for the things and people he loves.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

4 Good Reasons to Simplify

Tip of the Week, June 5, 2005

Simplifying your space by getting rid of unwanted stuff seems like a snap in theory: you sort through your things, get rid of those that aren't important or necessary, and keep only what you really need or love.

In practice, though, it can sometimes be difficult to part with stuff, even if you don't use it, need it, or cherish it. To keep yourself inspired and motivated as you sort and weed, keep in mind these four benefits of simplifying.

#1: It saves money
If you've ever had to buy container after container to store your stuff because there's just so much of it, or if you've rented an off-site storage unit because you don't have enough space at home for all the things you've amassed, you know that having lots of stuff often comes with a serious price tag.

Simplifying--both by getting rid of things you don't need and increasing your awareness of what you buy--can save you money by reducing what you need to spend on storage solutions and by preventing purchases you'll later regret.

#2: It lets you focus on what you really want, need, and love
Time, space, and attention are finite resources, and they can only be stretched so far. When you have too much stuff, you're less able to find the things you truly need, enjoy the things you really want, and honor the things you really love. Getting rid of the excess gives you more space to highlight your favorite stuff, more time to use and enjoy it, and the ability to pay more attention to the things that really matter to you.

#3: It lets you give your unused stuff a new lease on life
The rows of business suits you haven't touched since you left your old job years ago, the multi-piece place settings you've never gotten around to using, and the stacks of books and magazines you'll probably never read all have something in common: they could all be put to use right away by someone who actually needs them.

Donating, selling, and giving away unwanted and unused items are great ways of both simplifying your space and giving someone else the chance to put your stuff to good use. Knowing, for example, that your no-longer-worn suits will help an underprivileged neighbor re-enter the workforce without having to worry about the expense of purchasing new business clothes can help take away the sting of letting them go.

#4: It can help conquer stress
Having too much stuff tends to be stressful for many reasons: stuff takes time and effort to maintain, can easily turn into clutter, often distracts our attention from the things we'd like to focus on, and tends to get in the way, both literally and figuratively. The more stuff we have, the worse the stress tends to get.

While simplifying and getting rid of what you don't want, need, or love won't banish stress altogether, it can be an important way of decreasing the amount of stress in your daily life. Letting go of things that require lots of space, maintenance, attention, or care can save you the stress of having to store them, worry about them, and give them the attention you'd rather be giving something--or someone--else.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

5 Easy Steps to Organized Packing

Tip of the Week, May 29, 2005

I'm honored to have been named Packing Diva by Tango Diva, an online travel resource for women. To celebrate my new title and the start of the summer travel season this Memorial Day weekend, here are five simple steps that will help you pack for your next journey in a more organized, less stressful way.

Step 1: Do your homework
Summer is the season for shorts, tank tops, and flip flops--unless you're coming to San Francisco, that is, where it's the season for sweaters and long pants. Only visitors who do some research before they come here know to pack plenty of layers in June, July, and August, when fog and wind keep the city cool.

Before your next trip, take the time to find out what the weather will be like in your destination and whether there are any local customs or mores you should be aware of when you plan what to bring. Even a quick look at a weather site and a guidebook for the area can prevent you from packing clothes that may be inappropriate for the climate or the culture.

Step 2: Choose clothes that can multi-task
White linen may seem like the ideal fabric for an island vacation, but its tendency to wrinkle quickly and show dirt easily make it an imperfect choice if it'll be stuffed in a suitcase. Wherever you're traveling, try packing clothes and shoes that won't need to be ironed, can be mixed and matched, and will stand up to a few days' wearing without needing to be washed. Also be sure to take shoes that will be able to make the transition between the various activities you'll be doing.

Step 3: Think light
To me, one of the most painful parts of travel (at least air travel) is having to battle to get my luggage once I arrive at my destination. So I try to limit myself to carry-on bags whenever possible. Not only does this make it much easier to check in for flights and get out of the airport quickly once the plane lands, it also limits the amount of stuff I'll need to lug around with me once I get where I'm going.

It's not always possible to go the carry-on only route, of course; sometimes, checking bags is more convenient, necessary, or both. However, even if you aren't porting your own bags onto the plane, and even if you aren't traveling by plane at all, it's worth aiming to pack light anyway. You'll have less to deal with, less to worry about, and less to lose.

Step 4: Keep it together
Once you've decided what to pack, take the time to fold or roll it neatly and divide it into packing cubes, packing folders, or other simple containers you can use inside your suitcase to keep things together and in order. (Even basic Ziploc bags can be helpful; the freezer-size bags are large enough to hold shirts, shorts, and swimwear.) "Containerizing" your clothes, shoes, accessories, and toiletries can go a long way toward keeping your suitcase from descending into chaos, and can also make it easier to find what you need when you unpack.

(Packing cubes and folders are available at The Container Store, Organized Living, department stores, TravelSmith, and many local travel goods retailers.)

Step 5: Know what won't fly
Finally, to avoid any frantic unpacking-and-repacking scenes at the airport (or train station, if you're traveling by rail), be sure your luggage doesn't contain any items prohibited by the Transportation Security Administration, including cigarette lighters and aerosols. For a complete list of what's allowed and prohibited in both carry-ons and checked luggage, see the TSA's Permitted and Prohibited Items list. (Note that countries outside of the US may have varying guidelines for what can and can't be transported by air; if you're traveling abroad, check with the government of your destination country for more info.)

Also be sure to keep valuables (including laptops, cameras, PDAs, audio players, jewelry, currency, and prescription drugs) in a bag you'll have with you at all times. Most airlines take no responsibility for valuables that are lost or stolen from checked luggage. And think before you pack your valuables; as a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to leave at home anything that's irreplaceable or that you'd be devastated to lose.

Use these simple tips to make packing less stressful and more organized. They can't help you avoid beestings, sunburn, or traffic jams, but they can make your summer travel less harried and more enjoyable. Bon voyage!