Monday, February 22, 2010

SOS! Organize Under The Kitchen Sink

"I can not open the cabinet under my kitchen sink without being embarrassed and frustrated. How do people fit their cleaning supplies and plastic bags in that small cabinet?"

The trick to dealing with the small, dark and damp cabinet under the sink is to limit what is stored there. Think about what you are usually doing when you are at your sink. Washing dishes springs to my mind, so dish washing supplies are kept handy under the sink.  One of the rules of organizing is to locate items where they are used. Free-standing baskets or mounted, slid-out baskets bring the supplies to you so you don't have to dig around in the cabinet. The basket unifies the appearance of the supplies for an uncluttered look. As far as the other cleaning supplies go, keep them in a different location - like the broom closet.

When it's time to clean the house it's nice to grab the vacuum and the furniture polish at the same time. Keeping cleaning supplies in the broom closet is pretty handy. Door-mounted baskets efficiently hold all of your supplies and preserve the closet shelves for other uses. Contrary to what most people think, you do not need a huge collection of cleaning supplies to keep you home clean. Use multipurpose items as much as possible so you have fewer items to store. You'll probably save money and have less environmental impact as well. Less is more!

I have posted two pictures from my home. Under my kitchen sink I keep the garbage can so it's away from my dog's curious snoot. The can plus the garbage disposal severely limit amount of space in the cabinet. But the cabinet is a very convenient place to keep the can. The basket holds only the things needed to do the dishes and a can of scouring powder. The bag on the left door collects are recyclables. On the right door is a cork tile which has the county recycling guide on it for handy reference.

The second picture is of my broom closet door where I keep most of my cleaning supplies. You can probably tell from the narrow width of the door that my closet is tiny. But the door-mounted baskets provide me with plenty of storage. Plastic grocery bags are kept in a tote bag that hangs from a hook in a closet. When the tote bag is full, it comes with me to the grocery store so I can recycle the bags.

Keep the area under the sink organized by following three guidelines:
  •  limit what is stored there to only the items that you need when you are working at the sink,
  •  use baskets to provide easy accessibility as well as neatening the appearance,
  •  use the space on the doors for extra storage. 

Thank you Teresa for your question and the nomination of Backstoppers for the charitable drawing at the end of the year.

Don't forget we're giving away tickets to the home show. See the last past for the rules of entry, and good luck!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sticker/Label Give-Away

And the winner is....

Kathleen T! Congratulations Kathleen! You will receive the 250 stickers/labels courtesy of

This give-away was announced in the February 2 post.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

News for You! Give-Aways

Today is the last day to enter for the sticker/label give-away courtesy of Visit the February 2 Post - notice the cute picture of the groundhog - and enter a comment about your organizing plans for the spring. You will also find all the details of the give-away there.

Today is the FIRST day of the St. Louis Home & Garden Show Ticket Giveaway. I will select two winners who will each receive two tickets to the show on February 25 - 28 in America's Center and the Edward Jones Dome.
  • You receive one entry by leaving a comment about your next home project here.
  • You receive another entry by becoming a follower to our blog.
  • You receive another entry by becoming a fan to the Clear Spaces Facebook Page
  • You receive another entry by sending us a tweet @ClearSpacesLLC
I will select the two winners on Monday, February 22 and post their names here on Tuesday, February 23. Winners will need to contact me to arrange for ticket delivery.
A big thank you to Java Journal for providing the tickets for the give-away (

And now the sad(?) news: due to a schedule glitch for our classroom, the Letting Go & Lightening Up class series will not begin until Saturday, March 20. So if you haven't registered you still have time! And you can still be organized by July 1! The new dates for the classes in the series are March 20, April 17, May 15 and June 19. Is there a schedule conflict between your busy life and the class dates? Contact me and we'll see what we can work out.

SOS! Organize And Tickle Yourself Into Action

I went camping this past weekend with our Boy Scout troop. The event was called "The Freeze Out" and the weather was definitely cold. Since we're Scouts, we prepared by wearing layers and bringing the appropriate sleeping gear. My sleeping bag is rated to 15 degrees and I had a fleece liner which added another 10 degrees of warmth. By the way if you are an occasional camper always use a liner. Liners are easy to wash and keep the sleeping bag fresh. We enjoyed fresh snow, a beautiful - but brief - starry night, and lots of deer. (Oh, and much hot coffee for the leaders!) It was really lovely. Of course, there is no internet in the wilderness so I'm posting SOS! today.

LaRhonda asked "I have heard that tickle files are the way to get your office organized. What are they? Why are they so good?"

I'd like to preface the explanation by stating there are many ways to organize. There isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy for organizing. As long as a strategy works for you - that's super. Many popular techniques are, what I call, eighty percent techniques. The techniques work pretty well for about eighty percent of people, but they do not work for everyone. Sometimes it's necessary to try a couple of approaches before finding one that works well for you.

When it comes to organizing paper that needs action there are generally two ways to handle it: sort the paper by the category of action that's needed or sort it by the date the action needs to happen. I have discussed the merits of the former category frequently. When you set up files with names like "to pay," "to call," "to read," and "to follow-up" you are organizing papers by category of action.

But sorting paper by the date the action needs to happen leads us to the "tickler file." The other name for the "tickler file" is "43 folders" because a folder is set up for each of the twelve months and for each of the thirty-one possible days in a month. So if a bill must be paid on the twelfth of the current month it will be filed in the folder labeled "twelve" and that wedding invitation for June 5 can be filed in the June folder.

The tickler file requires the discipline to check the file each and every day. Daily action may seem like a lot of effort, but it probably will take about thirty seconds to check the file. Plus doing the same thing everyday means that activity will become routine - and that's good. Routine activities require less thought and energy than novel activities. Think about how exhausting it was to first drive a car. With practice, all the little things that are done to safely operate a car became routine, and driving required less emotional energy.

When filing things away remember that the due date is not the same thing as action date. The action date precedes the due date so there is enough time for the paper to go through the mail, or get processed by the bank or whatever needs to be done in order to be considered done. There may be a two to seven day difference between what you determine the action date to be and the due date.

Most of the clients I have worked with preferred the categorizing paper by action because it made intuitive sense to them. Tickler file systems seem to work well when there is a massive amount of paper to be processed. Whether you store your paper by category or date, it is vital that you provide a way to account for how you’ll process the paper. Although it’s nice to have tidy storage, the organization is pointless if you do not process the paper.

How to get the processing done? Schedule it! Put ten to fifteen minutes (or more, if needed) in your daily agenda for taking care of paper. That little appointment will “tickle” you into being in control of your paper flow.

Thank you LaRhonda for your question and the nomination of St. Louis Children’s Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit for the end-of-year charity donation.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where Are You?

No, I'm not talking about your physical location. I'm referring to your progress towards your goals. With the end of the week approaching, it's time to review the goals you made at the beginning of the week. Oh no, can't find all the sticky notes listing everything you need to get done? Then recreate the list in your planner. If your list contains multi-step tasks, focus on recording the next action. The next step for a multi-step task like "talk to the newspaper about sales idea" might be to call the paper to find out who the appropriate contact is. Focusing on next steps keeps tasks manageable, very doable and in motion.

Commit to keeping track of your projects and tasks in your planner. Accomplishments don't just happen. A conscious effort must be made to find the time to work on your goals. The planner is the logical place to work out your schedule for appointments with others and with your goals.

By the way, have you thought about what you will do for you significant other on Sunday (Valentines Day, in case it slipped your attention)?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Stump the Organizer Saturday! Organizing Boy Scout Stuff

The regularly scheduled Stump the Organizer! post will not be seen this week in order to bring you this special post. Thank you readers for your Stump the Organizer! questions and I promise to answer them next week.

Whether you realize it or not, Monday, February 8, is the official 100-year birthday of Boy Scouts of America. Scouting has a special place in my heart. I have been a scout leader for six years - first Cub Scouts and now Boy Scouts. My son is a First Class Scout and we're having a lot of fun in the Scouting program.

Boy Scouts is a boy-run program, and as such the boys have a lot of responsiblity. Keeping track of all of the achievements and paperwork is part of the experience. At least, the Boy Scout Manual makes it pretty simple to record all the achievements involved with rank advancement. But keeping track of everything related to merit badges can be a chore. To organize merit badge items, the Scout can use some standard organizing tools.

A file drawer or a file box are tools that every school-aged child needs. Filing is a life-skill and to learn it, it must be practiced. Place a hanging file for each school subject, one for warranties and manuals, and files for each extra-curricular activity in the file drawer. From the picture of my son's file drawer, you can see he has a file for scouting that is labeled "BSA."

My son has different handouts on scouting skills in his "BSA" file. If he needs to review how to use a compass, he can find that particular handout quickly. But the most important things he keeps in his "BSA" file are his merit badge cards, advancement cards, skill cards and patches.

Merit badge cards are the only acceptable proof that a scout has earned a merit badge. This proof becomes very important when scouts are working on their Eagle rank. In order to become an Eagle Scout, twenty-one merit badges must have been earned. There are many other requirements, but finding the merit badge cards seems to be a big challenge for many scouts. All of my son's merit badge cards are kept in a zippered sandwich bag and are filed safely away. The sandwich bags are used to contain the advancement cards, skill cards and patches too. The bags keep the small things together and offer visibility.

The shallow drawer in my son's file cart is where he keeps his current, active projects. He is working on two more merit badges right now. The merit badge books and the supplies he needs are handy when it's time to work on them.

Of course, there is much more stuff than paper in scouting. Camping, hiking, and fishing require plenty of stuff. We have a plastic set of drawers in my son's closet that is used to store the smaller things like the mess kit, compass, flashlights, tackle box, etc. His sleeping bag and back pack are stored next to the set of drawers. When it's time to camp, it's easy for my son to grab everything he needs because it is all stored together in a handy location.

One of the smarter things we did was put a couple hooks in my son's closet for his uniform. He has to wear his uniform for a meetings once a week - which isn't really long enough for it to get dirty. But my son is not likely to put his uniform back on a hanger. The hooks are the perfect solution: the uniform is off the floor and it takes little effort to use the hooks.

Scouting is a wonderful program for learning new skills and responsibility. It's so much more fun when all of the equipment and papers can be found effortlessly.

If you are interested in scouting please check out these websites: and During 2010 there will be many special events to commemorate the Scouting Centennial. It's an exciting time to be a Scout and a Scout Leader!

P.S. Don't forget the custom sticker/labels give-away. Enter your comments to the February 2 post - just look for the picture.

P.P.S. There is still space available in the upcoming Letting Go and Lightening Up class at a special reduced rate. Please visit the Clear Spaces website to enroll.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Warm Weather Organizing Plans and Label Give-Away

Today is one of my favorite holidays: Ground Hog Day. I just think it's so ridiculous that there is a day in honor of a sleepy rodent AND it's the basis for weather prediction. Only in America.

In St. Louis the weather was cold and gray - no chance for the groundhog to see his shadow. The St. Louis groundhog is not cheerful when he wakes up from a good hibernation so the our zoo officials let the local groundhog sleep in. Now I'm not sure if spring is around the corner or if we're doomed to freeze a little longer.

How I long for spring. In addition to some fine gardening plans to put in place, I want to organize our garage and basement. After remodeling the house and having the basement floor jack-hammered to put in some new pipes, our basement and garage are a mess. In addition to being messy, it's very cold down there. Warm weather will make the task so much more pleasant.

Do you have some warm weather organizing plans? I'd love to hear them. And if you have a question about those plans, share that too. Just reply to this post. I'll answer as many questions as I can.

To thank you for sharing, the folks at will give one lucky person 250 labels so you can label stylishly while organizing. I will select a winner at random from everyone who leaves a comment about their warm weather organizing plans. This giveaway closes February 17, 2010.

Here are a few details that you need to know about:
Giveaway Prize:250 Stickers/Labels for One (1) lucky winner
Sizes: 2” x 3.5”, 2” x 4”, or 3” x 3”
Paper: 70lb Label Matte
Specifications: Full color front, blank back; 4 Business Day printing
Shipping: FREE UPS Ground Shipping
Eligibility: Limited to US Residents only
I will notify the winner by email.

Need a little inspiration? Check out for the custom stickers and label printing.

Think warm thoughts and share them!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Get Organized and Save! Early Bird Discount Extended!

Great news! The Early Bird Registration has been extended to February 5! You will receive $50 off the price of the Letting Go and Lightening Up Class Series that normally costs $300. You can save an extra $50 for yourself and a friend when you both enroll together. Enroll with your friend by February 5 and you will only pay $200 each! Enroll at the Clear Spaces website: