Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stump the Organizer! What Do I Do With These Off-Season Clothes?

“I thought I was really being organized when I took my summer clothes out of the closet and my drawer but I don’t think I thought everything through. Now they are in a pile on the floor. What do you suggest?”

Lu this is a great question. It sounds like this may be the first time you have stored off-season clothes, so we’ll go through the basics. By the way, I welcome everyone’s questions for Stump the Organizer Saturday (SOS). Let me know the name of your favorite charity with your submission. At the end of the year I will draw for a charity from your entries and make a donation – I’ll post the winning charity. Lu has entered the National Breast Cancer Foundation (

There are several good reasons to store your off-season clothes. Getting to the clothes you need is easier and faster if off-season clothes are out of the way. The extra space in your closet increases air circulation and prevents the wrinkling that results from clothes being pressed together. Your off-season clothes may actually last longer if they are protected from dust, bugs and moisture. Storing clothes is simple with a strategy and the right tools.

First decide where you want to store your clothes. The extreme temperatures and humidity of an unfinished attic and basement can be hard on clothing. A cool, dark, dry room place is ideal. If you are blessed with ample closet space consider dedicating an area to off-season storage. A spare closet is the next logical choice but it’s not always available. Create your own spare closet by setting up a wardrobe in an extra room or a finished basement. Wardrobes are available in a wide range of prices and styles. The most inexpensive wardrobes are garment racks that have a cloth cover. The most expensive wardrobes are fine furniture that contain drawers and shelves in addition to a garment bar.

Further protect your clothes with containers and bug repellent. Good clothes need to be stored in good containers. Fabric boxes and garment bags allow air to circulate and are the containers of choice for natural fibers, leather, suede and fur. Air circulation prevents trapped moisture that can lead to mildew.

Thankfully, bug repellent can be much more pleasant than poisonous naphthalene. Solid cedar blocks and hangers are a popular effective alternative. Give the cedar a quick swipe with some sandpaper every year to refresh it. Rosemary, thyme, mint, and cloves are among several herbs that are natural bug repellents. Place a handful of herbs in a cloth bag to create a sachet, and replace the herbs annually to insure potency. These natural bug repellents smell lovely, and you don’t have to worry about possible carcinogens.

Clean clothes are less likely to attract bugs than dirty ones. Before you store your clothes make sure the pockets are empty and they are freshly cleaned. Dirt and perspiration can irreversibly stain clothes if they are allowed to sit for a period of time. It is also worth mentioning that you only want to store items that you love and look good on you. This is a great time to bid so long to frumpy, uncomfortable clothes. Somehow the end of the season makes it easier to let go of the clothes that don’t serve us well.

Keep like items together – casual dresses with casual dresses, for instance. Packing is easier when like items are together. Hanging clothes in garment bags will prevent wrinkles, but may stretch knits out of shape. Neatly fold knits and loosely pack them in boxes. Use labels to identify the contents of the bags and boxes so you can easily find what you need.

Odds are if you are packing off-season clothes you are simultaneously unpacking stored clothes. Swapping everything in one session may feel overwhelming so consider swapping clothes in two or three sessions that are several weeks apart. Scheduling insures that the packing and unpacking gets done and provides you with a timeline for getting things mended, laundered and dry-cleaned. Since weather changes gradually, you will always have the most comfortable clothes handy.

Packing off-season clothes is an organizing task that yields great benefits. Taking the time to weed out unwanted clothes and packing clothes that are wrong for the weather generates space in your closet and drawers. Your clothes will look better longer because of the care in cleaning and storing them. And you will look like the sharp, organized person that you are.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stump the Organizer Saturday! Organize Your Purses

Thanks Rhonda for your questions and your nomination of the Humane Society for the charity drawing. Rhonda hit the jackpot this week with two challenges:

“I have a lot of purses and bags that pile up on my closet floor and hang from every door knob in my bedroom and the hall closet. I switch bags a lot, but sometimes the things that are inside one bag don’t make it to another bag. This is a problem because I found a check the other day that was written to me over a year ago.”
First let’s look at what to do with your bounty of bags. Autumn is a great time to review and organize your bag collection because summer bags can be stored away until warm weather returns.

Grab some de-cluttering supplies: a trash bin, a stack of acid-free tissue paper, a pad of paper, a pen, an empty shoe box, and an empty medium-sized box for donations or items to sell. Gather all of your purses and bags in one place and check inside each one. Dump the trash. Toss the items you find into the shoebox until you have emptied each bag, then you can return those items to their proper home.

Once the bags are empty, it’s time to sort them. It’s easy to eliminate the purses that you no longer love or the purses that are worn beyond repair. It’s harder to eliminate the purses that are in great shape, but they just miss the mark for winning your love. Maybe they’re too tiny to carry what you consider necessary, maybe the color just isn’t right, or maybe getting in and out of them is a difficult, time-consuming task. Whatever the reason, collecting dust on the shelf will not redeem them; in fact, keeping these irritating fashion accessories around will just detract from the bags you do love. Your sanity is priceless – put the bag in the donation /sell box. Take note of every bag in the donation box if you plan to deduct the donation from your taxes.

The remainder of the bags can be sorted into off-season, everyday and special occasion. One of the principles of organizing is to store frequently used items, like your everyday bags, so they are quickly accessible. Special occasion bags can be stored so that they are close but not necessarily “front and center.” The seasonal items can be stored out of the way until it is time to switch for the seasons again.

There are several organizing tools that can keep your bags handy and out of a jumble on the floor. A purse cubby is larger than it’s cousin the shoe cubby but its larger size accommodates about ten bags. It sits on a shelf or on the floor. If you have about a foot of free bar space in your closet, a hanging purse organizer can hold a dozen or more purses, depending on the design. If you have just a few purses, they can be kept in order on your closet shelf by slipping shelf dividers between the purses.

Properly storing your purses can prolong their life. Put crumbled tissue paper in the purses you store to help preserve their shape. Protect a fine purse’s finish from dust and scratches by storing it in a pillowcase tied with a decorative ribbon. Loop the ribbon through a luggage tag holding a digital picture of the purse for easy identification.

Keep the inside of your purse organized and make it easy to switch purses with a purse insert. Two popular inserts are the Purse Pouchee and the Purse Purseket. These inserts are loaded with pockets to hold your purse’s contents. When it’s time to switch purses just lift the insert out of one purse and put it in the next purse. It’s fast and easy.

Organizing your purses can keep them off the dusty floor and accessible, plus you will preserve your investment. Keeping the inside of the purse tidy will preserve your sanity – and prevent checks from getting lost.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Once again the subject of hoarding has captivated the public’s attention. Every week the A&E show “Hoarders” spotlights the clean up of two different cases of extreme hoarding with the assistance of a professional organizer and a crew. Despite the unpleasantness of the deep clutter, rodents, insects and squalor our attention is held by the need to know why someone lives this way. What is clear from watching the program is the intensity and magnitude of emotional pain caused by hoarding for both the hoarder and his family.

No one willingly chooses to hoard. Psychological and emotional factors underlie hoarding behavior. Mental health workers have traditionally considered hoarding as a sub-type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; however, recent research seems to indicate that hoarding is a feature of many psychiatric disorders. While the research on hoarding has been fruitful, there is still a lot that is unknown.
The show’s opening displays the statistic that three million people in the United States are hoarders; however, the exact number is unknown. I have seen estimates as low as two million and as high as 20% of the population – about 61,528,000 people. Shame, embarrassment and fear contribute to the social isolation of hoarders and the difficulty in identifying them.

People who suffer with extreme hoarding behavior are adept at hiding. Friends, family, repairmen, utility workers – anyone wanting entry - are typically barred from the house. Such isolation can lead to further degeneration of behavior and of the home. In the most extreme cases, doors and windows blocked by clutter trap the occupants from escaping during a fire.

It is important to point out that hoarding, like many behaviors, follows a continuum. The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization ( created the Clutter Hoarding Scale that is used to objectively describe clutter in place. The scale uses four factors to assess the level of clutter on a scale from one to five. The examined factors look at the integrity of the home’s structure, the pets and vermin present, household functions and cleanliness. Most lay people would describe a Level I home as messy and a Level V home as uninhabitable.

If someone you know and love hoards it is important to seek help. There are several organizations that provide information and forums. Children of Hoarders (, Messies Anonymous (, and Squalor Survivors ( are very good websites to visit. When speaking to someone about his hoarding use neutral and supportive language. Sometimes good-meaning friends and family decide to do a surprise cleanup of the cluttered house. Such gestures are usually not a good idea. How would you feel if a group of people came into your home and threw out things without your knowledge or permission? Respect and dignity are always important and appropriate when dealing with anyone, and provide the foundation for taking the first steps towards recovery from hoarding.