Friday, July 31, 2009

Stump the Organizer! How To Organize Recipe Clippings

This week's question is from Betty:

"I like to clip recipes from magazines and the newspaper. Last year I saw an episode on one of those organizing shows where the organizer said clippings should be stored in a three-ring binder. But it seems like my clippings never make it to the binder and worst I don't even feel like trying out any of the recipes because of the disarray. What am I doing wrong?"
Betty, thank you so much for sending me this question.

I think your experience exemplifies one of the guiding principles of organizing: organizing strategies and tools must be individualized. So the short answer to your question, "What am I doing wrong?", is "nothing."

There are two "flavors" of recipe clippings, in my experience: "tried it and loved it" and "want to try it." The first thing to do is to separate the former group from the latter. You'll be able to find a loved recipe faster to make it again if it's not mixed in with the untried recipes. Let's face it, there are a lot more untried recipes than there are tried recipes, and the number of untried recipes increases regularly.

The simplest way to keep the number of untried recipes under control is to limit the size of the collection, and the easiest way to do this is by the size of the container. Promise yourself that you will clean out the recipe clippings if the container gets full. What to cull? The recipes that seemed like good ideas at the moment but upon reflection there is no way you'll make them, let along eat them. Recipes that are really old and still haven't been tried are also candidates for the recycle bin.

Considering the volume of new clippings, it is best to use simple containers. The sections of an accordion file provides some organization by category. Put the newest recipes in the front of each section so when it's time to cull recipes you can focus on the oldest ones. Some folks may not like "digging things out" of the accordion file though. Another solution, but a bit more restrictive, is to put the recipes in a magnetic sheet photo album. Use the glue-on tabs to organize the collection by categories. There really isn't a way to easily distinguish old recipes from new recipes if the photo album is used, though.

At the NAPO Conference this spring I saw a new product called Recipe Nest. Recipe Nest is a attractive binder-sized box that holds your recipe clippings. Dividers organize the collection by categories. Just toss in your clippings. Plus the box is ingeniously equipped with a clip on the front and a built-in easel on the back - so your recipe is easily read during a cooking session. One Recipe Nest for untried recipes and another for tried recipes and your entire clippings collection can be organized with a minimum of effort.

Back to the three-ring binder that Betty tried: I think the three-ring binder is a possible storage solution for the "tried it and loved it" collection. Add subject dividers to create recipe categories. The plastic page protector allows both sides of a recipe to be viewed. Artistic folks can decorate the binder. But if the binder leaves your artistic side unfulfilled, consider making a scrapbook of favorite recipes.

One of my clients created a tribute scrapbook to her grandmother complete with the grandmother's recipes from the "old country." The grandmother's handwriting in her native german added to the charm of the scrapbook. Photos and little momentos were part of the scrapbook of course, but the use of grandmother's apron as a scrapbook cover was brilliant and touching.

Typically the number of recipes that make it to the "keeper" collection is relatively small so this group lends itself to more complicated methods of storage. But recipes get clipped for trying pretty freequently so a fast, simple way to store them makes sense. The underlying organizing principle is the frequency of use is partially driving how an item is stored. Personal preference is also a factor, which is why organizing must be individualized.

The bottom line: Betty, don't feel bad about that binder! Maybe it should only be used for the recipes you love.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Clear Spaces To Be At The Spirit Seeker Expo This Weekend!

Exciting News! Clear Spaces will be at the Spirit Seeker Magazine's Summer Expo this weekend: July 31, August 1 and 2. The expo's theme is Connection, Celebration and Expansion. The Center for Spiritual Living hosts the expo the first night which is dedicated to workshops (we will not be at that venue). Saturday and Sunday's events will be held at the Orlando Gardens at the corner of Dorsett and McKelvey in Maryland Heights from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please visit the expo's beautiful website: The lineup of speakers, musicians and vendors looks very impressive.
The Clear Spaces booth will feature information about our organizing services and the Letting Go and Lightening Up class series. There will be an ongoing "Stump the Organizer!" session for your organizing questions, organizing demonstrations and one lucky visitor will win a free organizing assessment package!
It promises to be a fun and informative weekend. We hope to see you there!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stump the Organizer! How Do I Store and Organize Hats?

Here is this week's excellent question: " I have many hats. Of course the usual baseball caps and winter hats. But also many very nice hats for special occasions. Their boxes take up so much space! What else could I do?"

A hatbox is a dust-free way way to store a hat so that it maintains its shape. Unfortunately hatboxes are bulky and opaque so you can't see what it holds. If you have a really fine hat, a hatbox may be the safest way to store it. Take a digital picture of the hat which can then be attached to the side of the box. Store hats that you don't wear frequently on a high shelf. It is possible to nest hats in a hat box. Just remember to attach pictures of all the hats to the box.

I once organized the walk-in closet of a fashion-savvy elderly woman. She could not climb step-ladders, but her housekeeper could. We used the digital pictures to create an index of my client's extensive hat collection. The index was hung up like a poster in the closet. Each hat box was assigned a unique letter that was cross-referenced with the picture on the index. It was easy for my client to tell the housekeeper which box to remove from the high shelf.

Knit hats and berets are best stored in a drawer because they easily stretch if hung. A cedar block will prevent your hats from becoming a moth's lunch.

If hatboxes are just too bulky look to store fixtures for a solution. After all, a millinery store has lots of hats to store and display. A floor hat rack from Display Warehouse holds twenty hats in about a two-foot footprint.

The Jokari over-the-door cap rack holds eight caps on easy-to-access hooks. A loaded rack takes up very little room so you can put several on your door. carries the rack – as well as some lovely hat boxes. also carries the Stratford Hook. The Stratford Hook is a special coat/hat hook that will support the crown of a hat so that the hat lies horizontally on the hook. Several of these hooks on a wall could create an artistic display of a hat collection, and even further your enjoyment of your hats.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stump the Organizer! Dealing With Toy Clutter

It's Thursday and time for "Stump the Organizer!" This week's question comes from Bonnie who has five year-old twins.

Bonnie emailed this question: "My children’s toys are everywhere! We thought making a playroom was the right thing to do but they hardly use it. Our house is small and there isn't a lot of room in the twin's bedroom. What can we do to keep the toy clutter from taking over our house?"

Young children want your company. I suspect the reason the toys are everywhere is your children follow you throughout the house with their companions, the toys. On the positive side, it's a whole lot easier making sure your children are happy and safe if they are following you. To keep the toy clutter from endangering your sanity follow these guidelines.
  • *Set up some areas as toy-free zones. There is no reason for toys to be in the adults' bedroom, the formal living room (assuming there is an informal family room) and the foyer. There may be other areas in your home that are not conducive to play. Setting limits allows you to keep control on the amount of toy clutter.
  • *Set up a small amount of toy storage in each kid-friendly room. Shelves, bins, storage ottomans, ans baskets are useful to hold toys and keep the surroundings clutter-free. Keep the storage simple so it's easy for your children to access and use. Keep the number of toys relatively small to avoid overwhelming your children with options - and to limit the amount to pick up. Turn-about is fair play: you can set up a special adult area in the playroom. A comfortable chair, good lighting and a table provide you a place to work on a small project or read a book while your children play happily supervised.
  • *Establish a routine for clean-up. Some children can, and will, put one toy away before they get out another one with gentle reminding. Some children need to get a lot of toys out at the same time, and will need a specific clean-up time - such as before lunch. Make clean-up as fun as possible by singing a song (that clean-up song sung by the purple dinosaur served our family well) or making it a game.
Usually the best organizing solution goes with the flow rather than fight a natural tendency.

Thank you Bonnie for the question. I hope this provides you with the information you needed.

Do you have an organizing question or issue? Either email your inquiry to or post it right here on the blog. Check here every Thursday for answers to your questions. You'll get information that you can use right now.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stump the Organizer! How Do I Organize Shoes?

This week's question is "How do I organize shoes?" There are almost as many ways to answer that as there are types of shoes. For many people it's a good idea to sort shoes by frequency of use - everyday wear versus special occasion wear. Shoes that are worn daily need storage that allows quick and uncomplicated access.
My three favorite ways to store everyday shoes are the two-shelf shoe stacker, the tilting drawer shoe cabinet, and the under-the-bed shoe basket on casters. The two-shelf shoe stacker looks like a shrunken bookcase. It's easy to get shoes in and out of these stacking shelves plus everything is visible. Each shelf holds three large or four small shoes. You can stack multiple units - I've stacked up to four together - but a tall assembly should be attached to the wall for stability and safety. Label each shelf with a category such as work shoes, athletic shoes, casual flats, etc.
The tilting drawer cabinet is a stylish way to stash your shoes. Each drawer tilts forward to reveal one or two shelves between which shoes are placed. Depending on the size of the cabinet and shoes, you may be able to store two to four pairs of shoes between the shelves. Because these cabinets offer concealed storage they can be put out in the open. I have used these cabinets by front door because the top of the cabinet offers a nice "landing pad" for keys and mail, not to mention a place to swap the outside shoes for the inside slippers.
If the shoe collection is small and closet space is tight, then an under-the-bed storage basket offers efficient use of space. The casters make it easy to pull the basket out. Avoid the lidded bins for everyday shoes. Taking the lid off everyday is an extra step that our rushed lives don't need. The squishy under-the-bed shoe containers are difficult to use and not sturdy enough for everyday use. But for special occasion shoes a lidded bin may work just fine.
For the collection of really fine shoes consider storage that will protect your investment while providing accessibility. I like translucent shoe boxes that open like drawers or boxes with translucent drop-fronts. Both types of these boxes stack nicely on a shelf and the boxes do not need to be moved to gain access to the shoes.
In my experience, shoe racks made of bars do not hold flats well and require more time to delicately place the shoes than I can muster. The hanging pocket-type organizer requires a fair amount of careful placement as well (maybe I'm just a klutz!) and they get dirty easily. I love the hanging pockets for organizing craft supplies, mittens, scarves and a world of other things - just not shoes.
Remember, ventilation is important especially for everyday shoes. Putting athletic shoes in an airtight container will produce unpleasant memories of the high school locker room when you fetch you shoes.
If you have a clever or unique way to organize your shoes, I'd love to hear it. Just post your comment here!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Organized for Travel

Asking yourself just three questions will help you prepare for and organize all of the details of travel:

1) How are we getting there and where will we stay?
2) What events do I need to plan and pack for?
3) What supports need to be planned for in my home and office?

Capture your answers to these questions in a paper-filled binder with subject dividers labeled “Travel,” “Events and Packing,” and “Home and Office.” Use the subject dividers with pockets and you’ll have handy places to organize your travel documents too. The binder is easy to pack so all of your notes and documents will be quickly accessible during your trip.

It may be easier to print one of the great packing lists already available on the Internet rather than create your own packing list. Slip the list into the your binder, but bear in mind that you still need to plan your outfits. This is where your list of events comes in handy.

Pick out clothes that are appropriate for the events and activities for each day of travel. Make sure you can mix and match items so you can pack less. Three tops and three bottoms take up little space, but they will yield nine outfits when everything matches. Use the top of the bed to lay out the clothes with the accessories to create your outfits, and take notes in your binder. Clear plastic bags are classic tools for organizing clothes and accessories in your suitcase.

When it comes to planning your home and office support systems, think about what will happen to your pets, plants, mail, newspapers, appointments and work while you are away. Planning for all of the things that enter our lives on a daily basis may actually take more time than planning your travel itinerary! Allow yourself enough time to plan for and set up your support systems. Keep any documentation that pertains to these support systems in the pocket of the subject divider.

Planning and organizing prepares you for the adventures of travel and prepares your home and office for your absence. You’ll spend less time stressing and more time relaxing – which is the point of vacation after all!

And speaking of travel...

There were no questions for "Stump the Organizer" last week, which actually worked out well for me. We just returned from a trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan. What a beautiful - and chilly - place!

What organizing challenges have you perplexed? Send me your questions through email or by posting a comment here.

Just a reminder that the Letting Go and Lightening Up Class starts this Saturday, and yes there is room! Letting Go and Lightening Up is an approach that enpowers you to get organized and stay organized. Each of the four classes in the series focuses on a unique area. Between classes you put the lesson plan into practice, and if you need a little help you can make a support call to me. Go to my website to enroll today:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Reminder: Last Day to Enroll at the Early Bird Rate!

Today is the last day for the early bird discount on the upcoming Letting Go and Lightening Up class series. Normally the twelve hours of class time (4 classes that are 3 hours each), the comprehensive workbook, and support calls cost $300. But you will get $50 discount if you enroll today. Enroll with a friend and you each will receive another $50 discount, bringing the cost of the class to $200!
The classes enpower you to let go of the clutter in your mind, your home, your office and your life. The first class meets on July 11. The class will meet on the second Saturday of each month with the final class meeting on October 10 -- you can be organized by the holiday season! You can get more information about the class and enroll on my website:

Tomorrow is Thursday which is "Stump the Organizer" Day! You can post your questions here or email me at I am looking forward to hearing from you! I will be on the road for most of the day but I will answer your questions as soon as I get an internet connection.