A busy family needs order and balance.

  • Mail & Kid's school stuff
  • Laundry
  • Seasonal clothing & hand-me-downs
  • Pantries & closets
  • Home offices
  • Play rooms
  • Craft/hobby rooms
  • Garages, Basements, Attics

If you need more intuitive systems to manage your home and the stuff in it, we'll help you create the plan. We'll also help you do the hands-on work to get there. Imagine the sense of peace and control when there's no clutter and things stay where they belong!

POSH POUCHES

One of our organizers told me about these cool pouches and they are COOL! So many plastic bags are used daily especially in our kids’ lunches; just think about how many snacks and sandwiches are packed in those zip lock bags. Here is a wonderful solution and is right in line with our motto of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.” They come in 3 different sizes and a multitude of fabrics and can be used for all those things you typically put in a plastic bag.  

 

Check out the link, http://www.poshpouches.com/ and join us in protecting our earth.

Clear Shoe Pockets

You’ve seen them; they hook on the top of doors and hold shoes. Well, not just shoes! We often recommend these to clients for a variety of things: toiletries, gardening supplies, first aid supplies, kids’ toys (small ones, large ones, photos, collections), gift wrapping station (ribbon’s, bows, tape, scissors, gift tags), art supplies (markers, colored pencils, hole punch, scissors), cleaning supplies and so much more. Go ahead, be creative and find a new use for an everyday item! ENJOY!

Fay’s Story: Vision and Inspiration

Well, I have never written on a blog before, but I figured since it is on our A Sorted Affair web site, and I am an employee, I should give it a try. And, luckily we have a new client that is willing to let me write some thoughts down as we work in her home. I spoke with Fay on the phone, as we do with all clients, and at the end of the conversation we both were excited to make an appointment and get started. I explained to Fay the initial assessment usually takes 1½ hours and gives us, the organizers, a chance to talk and walk through the home and gather as much information as possible.  

As my colleague and I arrived at the apartment and parked, we were greeted with the sign No Parking Without Permit. Yikes! We forged ahead and figured we would ask Fay about it when we got to her apartment. Fay met us at the door and invited us in. We began our conversations right in the living room, looking, asking and wanting to learn as much as we could about Fay and her needs. Like many of us, there have been some major life events that led to the disorganized state in which she is currently living. Other things were more important, had to be dealt with, and now she is able to take a breath and address this part of her life. 

Fay was very open with us about those events and very willing to answer all questions that we had (and we had a lot!!). She talked about her daughters and how very proud of them she is and showed us pictures. We asked about her desk area and her work habits, the papers and filing system, her kitchen, her closets, her bedrooms and most importantly, her vision, her goals. There are parts of her home that were just fine… the bathroom, the kitchen (she loves to cook). But the clothes -- oh the clothes! and the papers -- oh my! We took pictures, notes and then my colleague and I “put our heads together” and came up with some goals and a plan of action for Fay. 

Our shared goals were to create an office area where she can work –- with a clear surface –- a filing system that will keep track of personal, business, important and archive papers and a central calendar that will contain personal, business and family activities; to create some individual spaces in her daughters’ bedroom that will accommodate school work, hair/make-up, lounging/sleeping and clothes storage (and yes, that will be defined by the dresser(s) and the closet); and finally to create a peaceful refuge for Fay in her bedroom. Our plan of action for the office will involve going through the many papers of her office, some furniture relocation, computer equipment consolidation, new filing systems. Because there are so many papers, the first step will be the presort -- general categories for papers, for example: personal, business, financial, important papers. The bedrooms will involve a lot of letting go -- mostly the clothes, furniture relocation and such. Throughout the visit we talked a lot about how everything needs to justify the space it takes up, serve a useful function, and make you happy! This is her home not a storage facility -- Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, etc. can be the storage facilities. We finished with setting up a date for our first work session. As we were about to leave, Fay showed us a very beautiful piece of art that she found and is her inspiration and now it is also our inspiration for her. This picture sums it all up...

 

And OH -- as we are walking out the door we remembered to ask if we would be towed since we were parked in the NO PARKING/PERMIT ONLY area…

Fay's Story Continued: "Baby Steps"

Well, here we are ready for our first work session with Fay. In preparation for this session, I had a few email exchanges with Fay discussing what area she wanted to begin with and how the process would go. Because she picked the office, which involves a lot of papers, I brought about 10 bankers boxes -- you know, those cardboard all-purpose boxes that can store papers and files -- to use for the first sort.  

When we arrived, Fay was ready to work. She had already cleared off her couch and chair in the living space which was great to see. We came up with about 8 categories for her papers: work, financial, certificates/awards, personal, recipes… and one for each of her girls. As I said before, there were a lot of papers -- everywhere in the living space, on and around her desk and on the floor. We just picked a pile and began sorting it into the boxes. Some of the papers went into the trash (we had about 4 bags of trash) some went into a box for shredding and the others went into the categories we created. After about 3 hours we did get through a lot of papers, but everyone knows how many papers we all seem to have and the visual impact of our work done didn’t do it justice. The challenging part is that Fay has to make decisions on every piece of paper -- and that is tiring. We did come up with some categories that my colleague and I could make decisions on: expired coupons, old catalogues, old school and camp information, etc. We did make progress but it is slow. The motto is “baby steps” -- slow but steady progress.

This presort will need to continue until all the papers in the living/office area have been sorted into one of the boxes. At that point each box of papers would be looked at with a more discerning eye, only keeping papers that are relevant and needed. Those would either go into active/current files or put in files to be archived.  We had particularly interesting conversations about her magazines -- of which she had many. We had to negotiate a number of magazines that she would keep and a process for letting go of them. She came up with a great idea -- to grab a few when taking her daughter to sports practices, doctor’s appointments, etc. -- read them and leave them there for others to enjoy. We also decided that any new magazines that come in would then require her to let go of that same amount.  I learned from Fay that the process of letting go of the “stuff” is difficult for her. She has had some significant challenges that have led to wanting to keep, keep, and keep. I shared with her some information that I had just listened to in one of my NSGCD teleclasses. The class topic was learning about the brain’s reaction to change. Basically we all tend to do the same things, have routines and the like. When we try making changes, especially ones that are big changes, the brain shifts into the “fight or flight” mode and that prevents our brain from being able to be rational. Our fear becomes the guiding light so to speak and as we know making decisions in a state of fear is very difficult and not reliable. So, our job and the client’s job are to recognize this and talk to the brain rationally, therefore disarming the “fight or flight” instinct. It is like taking the same path through a forest all the time -- easy to do because it is well traveled. When you decide to make a new path it is very difficult at first until you have traveled that way often and then the path becomes easy. That is what we are doing to the brain -- creating new pathways that allow the decisions to be made. And, hence, the reason for the motto “baby steps”. Going slow and making small changes will not alarm our brain and make the process easier.

Here is Fay's office space "Before"

Here is the first "baby step" -- boxes to sort papers 

The family calendar 
 We have another appointment next week to work in the girls’ room… from paper to clothes! 

Fay's Last Session: Letting Go

This is our last session with Fay for a while -- she has upcoming graduations, end of school parties, summer plans and so on. We decided to work in the girls’ room. As I said before, clothes are the main culprit here and Fay has openly admitted that these decisions will be difficult for her. The clothes represent a lot more than fabric used to cover the body. They represent a difficult time in her life when things were very uncertain and changing daily; they represent her girls; they represent something that could be used at some point and letting them go -- even to donation -- represents a loss. This loss will turn into a gain -- space in the girls’ room to set up zones for lounging, sleeping, studying and make up/hair. But, Fay isn’t there yet, so the decisions are very difficult.  

We worked with Fay a lot on reframing the situation: discussing that other’s can use these clothes that don’t have any, the over abundance of clothing does not support her goals of serenity and more living space, the closets/dressers are the storage unit for clothing -- not the floor or the bed, the memories stay even when the clothes go and so on. Still this was challenging. A lot of the clothes were being transferred to the dirty laundry pile rather than to the donation pile. Finally, at one point, we all just stopped and took a breath -- Fay again acknowledged that this was very difficult and that she was trying, which we definitely could see the struggle.

The girls' room

 

We decided to move to the clothing that was already packed up in storage boxes -- most of these were too small and that made decisions easier and more progress was made.  The result of this session was categories of clothing: Fay’s and her daughter’s. We grouped her daughter’s clothing further into type of clothing (sleep wear, active wear, dressy) and Fay’s into work and casual. We certainly did not get through all the clothing, but we did clear some floor space.

This, like the papers is the starting point of the sort and that needs to continue to reach the goals and then continue as a lifestyle. We never were able to work with the girls and the clothing -- I think that would have been beneficial as my experience lends me to think that they probably would have sorted more to the donation pile. Parents look at things very differently than kids and while we think they would make the same decisions, they often don’t.   

A clear bed and clothes sorted into piles -- baby steps...

It has been great working with Fay so far and we look forward to helping her continue this process. I hope you all enjoyed reading about these sessions and I thank our client, Fay, for allowing us to write about our experiences.

Basement Redo - Family/Exercise Area and Playroom

Something most all of us can relate to… the basement space that sometimes doesn’t get used to its capacity. We recently had a client that in addition to other areas of her house, wanted to reclaim the basement area for her family. It’s a great finished space, separated by the stairway that goes down into it…a built in divider creating individual spaces which can be used for different purposes. She already had the makings for a playroom and on the other side a family/exercise space but over the last few years the family side became more of a storage room. She had a great storage/utility room with shelves (we added a few) so any items that needed to be stored had a place to go. All we had to do (if it was really that simple, right?) was some sorting and purging to get the spaces ready for use. She did purchase some shelving units for the playroom and a TV mount for the family room side, but beyond that everything was there or repurposed from other rooms of the house. Take a look at some before and after pictures:

We created a great learning center just by placing already existing toys on labeled book shelves. 

 

Before and After Kitchen zone

The Family room before and after

 

So there it is…a picture speaks 1000 words... and more!

Chris' Story: A Household Bursting at the Seams

Chris called us recently to help with her busy home in Richmond's historic Fan district. With a full time job, a husband, 3 kids and a dog she has little time for organization. When we met, Chris expressed her concerns about the family's down stairs living space. Living in a row house in the Fan, there is not much square footage and little closet space. Chris and her husband had done a great job of making many rooms "multi-functional" and adding storage, but they needed help creating systems that would work for the whole family. Crayons in the kitchen, drawing paper in the laundry room and kitchen gadgets in the bathroom made it difficult to keep track of everything. A central location for mail, school supplies and office supplies would make their lives a lot easier. In addition, parting with items seldom or never used would help create more space for the important stuff. What happened when we tackled this busy 1st floor? We'll show you later this month.

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Carrie's Story

Carrie is a ten year-old who was ready to turn her little-girl room into a big-girl room. We found books and toys in her room that she’d had since preschool! As she’d gotten older, new things were just piled on top of old ones. And things she did enjoy had become hard to find and hard to store.

Carrie wasn’t sure she could get rid of much because Mom is pretty sentimental. But when Mom said keepsakes could go to the attic, Carrie purged like a pro! She filled 11 yard bags with donations, E-bay items, and junk. By moving her dresser into the closet, we opened up more floor space for play and got all of her clothes in one place. Best of all, Mom and Carrie don’t argue about her room anymore. It stays clean, and Carrie is proud of her organized space!

 

"We had a great work session on Friday. I was very pleased. I'd like you to know that [the organizer] was a great worker -- she suggested that we just take the chest [of drawers] upstairs . . . and it’s wonderful to have that done! She also didn't hesitate to jump in on some areas in the basement and garage."
L.F., Washington, DC
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