Artwork (from kids or grandkids)

If you are a parent of a preschooler, you know all about the outrageous volume of artwork that comes home from school—all of it meant to be saved forever! I suggest putting a cap on the amount of artwork. For example, for this school year, find one bin in which to store your young Picasso’s work. All incoming work goes into the bin. When the bin is full, it’s time to do a quick review. Pick out one or two of your favorite pieces and keep those. Then, ask your child to pick out their favorite two pieces, and—gulp—toss the rest. Believe me, more and better artwork will come right back in the door tomorrow afternoon!


Rather than looking for ways to store and organize your existing baskets, which take up space, why not use these multipurpose weaves of art to store other items? Ba-boom—two or three space dilemmas handled in one fell swoop. Use baskets for remote controls, gloves, mail, magazines, toilet paper rolls, hand towels, bread baskets, CD storage, makeup, belts, scarves—ay, caramba! Point is, if you’ve got the baskets hanging around anyway, put them to work until you really need them again.


If you’re the type of person who drapes your clothing over chairs or tosses items on the floor, it is not likely you’ll have the interest or motivation to neatly hang your clothes on hangers each and every night (same goes for kids, too). Avoid purchasing newfangled, space-saving hangers that will scream at you from the back of the closet for not being used again today. Instead, install eight to ten hooks in your closet and hang clothing on them. While this is not the perfect answer, your clothes have a better chance of staying off the floor. The point is to create an easy system that you or your kids can maintain.


If your intention is to organize the desk, you must focus on that task only (not file drawers, supply shelves, or return e-mails). Organize the desk.


  • Enroll a colleague’s or family member’s help and agree on the amount of time you will spend on this project and set a timer.
  • Collect all the papers from all over the desk and make just one pile.
  • Begin sorting that huge stack of papers into categories (don’t sign anything, don’t flip through a journal), just sort by category—bills with bills, kids’ artwork with kids’ artwork.
  • Decide which of the piles is most important.
  • Make an appointment with yourself (in your calendar) to work on the important pile.

Earrings, Bracelets, and Other Jewelry

  • Gather up all your jewels from the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen windowsill.
  • Lay out a white pillowcase or cotton dishcloth.
  • Empty all of your dazzling bits out in front of you.
  • Pull out any tarnished, broken, or mismatched pieces, then decide what to keep, sell, or give away.
  • With whatever’s left, consider sorting by color (suggestions include silver, gold, by gem color, or pearl color).
  • If you’re looking for a new way other than the traditional “rings with rings” approach, perhaps storing by color will make organizing and accessorizing more fun!


It’s time to clean, folks. When it comes to paper and filing, are you a piler and a stacker or a filer? In my seminars, nearly 98 percent of hands go up when I ask the question, “How many of you seem to just stack your paper rather than file it?” Such an overwhelming response suggests that we need to create a system for the people rather than force the people into a system. Therefore, it is my recommendation to take a bookshelf and use it as a “pile system” rather than creating a file system in a drawer.

  1. Create broad, easy categories: Bills to Pay, Kids’ School Stuff, Food Program Paperwork, Newsletters, and Catalogs I Want to Read.
  2. Stack your neat paper categories on the shelves (you can use decorative bins and baskets too).
  3. Attach a sticky note on the shelves near each paper pile, noting the category.
  4. Just do the basics—get the papers off your desk, the kitchen counter, or dining room table and onto the proper pile on your bookshelves.
  5. At the end of the year, toss what you don’t need and box up that year’s worth of piles. Start all over again.


Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Hanukkah, Christmas, going-away parties, and graduations are all cause for gift giving. But gift giving does not, however, mean gift keeping. Remember, you don’t need to keep something just because it’s a gift. After a big event (especially for little kids), it’s important to go through the gifts you’ve received and decide what to do with them. Will you keep them, regift, return, or perhaps donate them? If you’re given a new book and you know you won’t read it, do not store it with your other books. Put the book by the doorway going out of the house with the gift receipt taped to it to be exchanged. Regifting it is an option as well. You want to stop the incoming clutter before it even starts—don’t mix it with your existing stuff or that item will never see its way out the door.


  • Unless you are using them or already displaying them, bring all heirlooms together in one room (if possible).
  • Sort like items with like items.
  • Ask yourself the story behind each “collection.” If it’s a meaningful piece or collection, keep it! If not, and you feel an obligation to keep it anyway, consider taking a photo of yourself and the family with the heirloom and frame the memory and let the piece or the collection go.

Important Documents

So, you want to know how long to keep important documents? Here is a general guideline (but always check with your doctor, accountant, or attorney for special circumstances):

Bank statements and credit card records: Keep only if there is a possible tax issue—and then you only need to keep for six years. Keep CD info until they’ve matured. Keep your payout checks after winning instant play games. If your bank statement doesn’t contain anything you need for your taxes, you can shred immediately.

Car or homeowner’s insurance: Hold on to these for approximately four years after the policy expires or until you get a new one in the mail.

Estate materials: Keep wills and trusts indefinitely. In fact, keep an extra copy and put the original in a safe-deposit box.

Health records: Keep records of kids’ immunizations and your kids’ and your own hospital records indefinitely, especially if you have had an abnormality or special medical experience, such as cancer, bypass surgery, and so on.

Investment and retirement account statements: Many of these are cumulative, so your year-to-date activity is usually noted on each statement. Thus, there is no reason to keep old statements. I suggest keeping annual summaries, even though you can access them electronically.

Official government documents such as birth or death certificates, passports, divorce or custody agreements, and Social Security cards: Keep, keep, keep. Better yet, in a safe-deposit box or home safe.

Paid bills: Keep them one year at best. Use the information to reconcile your taxes each year and shred. Keep important bill payments in your “tax backup folder.”

Pension plan information: Keep this info indefinitely whether it’s from a current or former employer.

Property records: Documents such as mortgage applications, deeds, and loan agreements should be kept for as long as you own the property. Always save proof of loan payoffs indefinitely.

School transcripts, diplomas, and report cards: Keep transcripts if you have an inkling that you’ll seek further education. Keep diplomas indefinitely. Report cards are considered memorabilia and there’s usually no practical reason to keep them.

Warranties, guarantees, and manuals: Keep these booklets for as long as you own the item. Keep them all together in one place and make it a regular practice every couple of years to review the file and toss what’s no longer relevant.

Junk Drawer

  • Locate your junk drawer; most of us have one (you know . . . the middle drawer in your desk or in the kitchen, the farthest drawer from the stove, etc.). It has random items: rubber bands, bread twist ties, loose change, old Super Glue, a screwdriver, out-of-date stamps, mismatched caps from pens and markers. . . .
  • Take an old white towel and place it on the dining room table or counter.
  • Dump the entire contents of the drawer.
  • Sort like with like (resist the urge to toss or match a lost item with its mate). Just sort: credit cards with credit cards, business cards and little pieces of paper with addresses together, paper clips together, lip glosses nail files, and other small toiletry items together.
  • Take the “grouped like items” to their proper location: paper clips back to the desk. Lip glosses back to the makeup bag, extra coins to the kid’s piggy bank.
  • Decide if you really need a junk drawer. If not, decide what would work better for you in the drawer. If you do want to keep the junk drawer, put the scissors, screwdriver, tape, bag twist ties, and old stamps back in the drawer and make a note in your calendar to clean the junk drawer again in eight months.


Maintain one spot for all keys in the house and put them in the same place every time. It may be helpful to label all the keys for your household such as “garage,” “pool gate,” “van.” Also, if you consider color coding your keys, it can make them much easier to find when you’re rushing about.

Luggage and Other Bags

I’m not sure why, but my clients love their bags and suitcases. It seems there is a bag for every purpose these days, and many of us feel the need to own all those crafty carry cases. Owning and using these travel monsters can be a bit scary. The question here is, do you use each and every one of them? My guidelines are a bit strict on this one, simply because luggage and bags in general are space guzzlers.

  • If the luggage is in disrepair, consider letting it go.
  • If you have the same size of any piece, send it out.
  • If you don’t really use the item much, but feel a strong attachment to it, try using it as a storage container for other items around the house or store the luggage in a less “exclusive” place than your bedroom closet, so it doesn’t steal your valuable space, which is close to you.
  • Nest your bags, one inside the next, purses, laptop cases, all-purpose carry bags.


  1. Collect magazines from all over the house, car, and office.
  2. Sort like subscriptions together.
  3. Place the cooking magazines in the kitchen, travel mags in the bedroom, and the welding and DIY magazines at the workbench.
  4. Set a time boundary for yourself; if you don’t read your magazines within three months, give them to the local hospital.


  1. Collect all memorabilia from all parts of the house and office.
  2. Sort memorabilia by person or event.
  3. Ask yourself what the story is behind each piece. If it is truly meaningful, prepare to store it or display it.
  4. Designate a memorabilia section in your home or office that is clean and dry.
  5. Store memorabilia in protective containers in designated areas.

Nail Files, Combs, and Toothbrushes

Your bathroom can be an organizational dream or a downright disaster. If you prefer an easy-access situation and you need a bit more organizing space, you might consider the following: Purchase a plastic three-drawer storage container that will fit under your bathroom sink. Pick the categories that are most important to you and divide your toiletries into three categories: Hair, Teeth, and Nails. Label the drawers. In the Hair drawer, store your combs, brushes, clips, and hair bands. In the Teeth drawer, store your floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and dental guards. In the Nails drawer, store your files, clippers, polish removers, and polishes. You can make a drawer for medications or one for cosmetics. When you need something from the drawer, it pulls out easily and goes right back.

For bigger items like deodorant, soaps, and hair sprays, use the medicine cabinet or purchase a spinning lazy Susan meant for the kitchen and place it under the bathroom sink. You won’t have to get down on your hands and knees to see what you’ve got—just spin the wheel and you’ve found your fortune!

Office Supplies

This is one category where folks repeatedly overspend. The allure of organizational product promises and the new release of a pack of Day-Glo color gel pens is all it might take to break us down. The real tip here? Avoid buying the stuff to begin with. If you do have supplies to organize, I like a rolling plastic cart with lots of drawers that can be stored neatly under a desk or used as a table for my mouse and pad. Try six drawers and designate each drawer with its like-minded sisters and brothers—and remember to take a regular inventory. When you are able to glance into each drawer, you’ll know what you need.

Drawer No. 1          Pens, pencils, markers

Drawer No. 2          Sticky notes, note pads, labels

Drawer No. 3          Checkbooks, stamps, petty cash

Drawer No. 4          Small electronics (calculators, flash drives, printer


Drawer No. 5          Tape, glue sticks, scissor, three-hole punch

Drawer No. 6          Note cards, envelopes


  • Gather your photographs from all over the house.
  • Decide how you like to look at photos (computer, albums, individually).
  • Group your photos into categories like people or events.
  • Set an appointment time for yourself to either scan, create albums, or lovingly toss all of them into an old suitcase for easy retrieval.
  • Digital photo organization requires coming up with general categories for easy access. Examples are: Family, Trips, Holidays, Nostalgia, Friends.

Remote Controls

How often do you experience complete frustration when you can’t find the darn remote control? The solution: keep a “home” for the remotes and make sure all family members know where to return them every time. Something as simple as labeling each remote (for the TV, DVD player, or stereo) and then storing them together in one decorative basket does the trick.


You are not required to have all food labels in the pantry facing forward (unless you want it that way). When it comes to organizing your spices, ask yourself if you’re really a kitchen aficionado. Do you cook a lot and use spices, or do you tend to purchase a lot of premade foods? If you or your sweetie aren’t doing much cooking, then lose the fancy spice rack on the counter. Eliminate that clutter and save the space for something that really matters.

If you do like to use spices, make sure they are in arm’s reach of the cook. Many of us use a cupboard near the stove, but you can also use a drawer as well. Many companies make spice dividers for drawers, and this method keeps spices away from the heat of the stove, prevents bottles from being knocked over, and it’s much easier to read the labels (even if they are facing out, Julia).


Encourage all your family members to clean up after themselves (even toddlers) by creating a “home” for their toys and items. Using pictures on the outside of a bin can help your child understand where to put dolls versus cars. For those of you who have school-age children, it will be helpful to teach them to put away toys, then gather their school items the night before (such as their backpacks with all their essential items already zipped up). Then put the backpack in the same location each and every time to eliminate last-minute scrambling.

Underwear and Socks

When it comes to socks, a big complaint is “stretched out elastic.”  To preserve the sock, avoid rolling up one sock and then fitting it over the top of the other one—socks don’t like that! Unless you have a serious “thing” for socks, no kidding, pick a drawer and toss them all in (perhaps divided by color). Eliminate the time-consuming matching process at the front end, and if you put a cap on the number of socks in the drawer, matching them up when dressing will be a cinch, too.

Undies? This one’s just for the gals. If you want to keep your bras in excellent shape, clip them onto skirt hangers and hang them in the closet. Avoid folding one cup inside the other; brassieres are expensive, and you don’t want them to lose their elasticity before their time!


Need help with time management? Has it been to long since your last vacation? Do you want to declutter and create more space? Does your home feel chaotic? Are you spiraling out of control with overwhelm? Does your company CEO or its staff need to regroup?

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