Monday, December 7, 2009

Reuse and Reduce for Travellers

I discovered this article on MSNBC about re-using household items while traveling. There are some great ideas in here, so if you'll be travelling for the holidays then check it out:

Also, I haven't had a winner yet for the hour of free organizing. Remember, all you have to do is tell me what was on top of our entry in Saturday's Christmas Parade. Hint: We had a Christmas in Hawaii theme. Good luck!

Friday, December 4, 2009


For anyone going to the San Angelo Christmas parade this weekend, keep an eye out for our entry. The first person to send me an e-mail at and tell me what was on top of our entry will get one hour of professional organizing services for free. Keep an eye out for us!

In the meantime, why not stop by our website at and check out our new rates and services?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Time Flies By

I didn't mean to let so much time go by without a new post here, but like everyone else times seem to be getting away from me this time of year.

For anyone interested, I'm scheduled to teach a class through Angelo State University's Continuing Studies program on getting organized. The schedule will be coming out in January. For those of you who want to get an idea of how a professional organizer works and get some tips on getting your clutter under control without making a committment just yet, this might be right up your alley.

Also, look for our entry in the Parade of Lights on December 5. We're doing a Christmas in Hawaii theme.

Without further ado, here's my tip of the day: When it seems like you have used every usable space in your house and still need to eke out a little more, look up. Most people never think to utilize the space above an interior door, but with an inexpensive shelf you can display knicknacks or store more items in boxes or decorative containers and give the room a little life. Most rooms have at least a foot of usable space above the door, and a shelf that runs the length of one wall at that height can be an attractive display place.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Today I wanted to share one of my favorite resources for relocating the items I clear out of my clients' personal spaces:

The group's home page explains their purpose better than I could, so here it is:
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,800 groups with 7,200,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who
are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about
reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated
by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free.

Freecycle is easy to use. Just go to and put the name of your hometown in the search box. The site will bring up a list of close matches and you select your city. If your city doesn't come up, consider starting a group. Odds are, someone besides you could use the service in your area.

Each group has a different application process. Mine uses Yahoo!, so I just sign in with my Yahoo! ID.

Be sure to read the guidelines set forth in your particular group. They will be helpful in knowing how to post the items you no longer want and how to reply to posts for items you want (best to do more of the former than the latter if you're trying to declutter).

One of my favorite things about Freecycle is that no matter what item you have, there's likely to be someone who wants or needs it. I have given away clothes, toys, kitchen items, puzzles, decorations and even broken items. If you have been to my website and looked at my photo albums, you might be interested to know that everything taken out of closet A was given away on Freecycle and was gone within hours.

Go check out Freecycle and let me know you're favorite feature of the site.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Working with a Professional Organizer

For those of you who have never worked with a professional organizer, I thought I would lay out the process I use in case it would be helpful to you in your own projects.

1. Assess. When I come into your home I will be getting my first glimpse of the project area and other areas of your home. When I set an appointment with you, I will ask you to leave your house as it would normally look and not do any "special" cleaning just because I am coming over. This is because I can get a good feel for your organizational style and whether or not the project area seems to be an exception to your normal organizing routine or if there is a pattern in your home. It is important for you to understand that I am NOT making judgments about you. Trust me, no matter how disorganized or cluttered you think your house is, I've seen worse. You can't shock me. I will also ask you if I can take some "before" photos of the area.

When we get to the project area I will begin asking questions that might seem completely unrelated to the project at hand. I am trying to determine your organizational style so I'll know what will work for you and what will not work for you. I am also trying to determine your eventual goal for the area. Believe it or not, sometimes what a person says they want is not what they actually want at all. There are sometimes so many emotional and psychological attachments to the objects in the room that they cannot begin to verbalize that they truly want. While these might not be apparent to either me or my client at the beginning of the process, most eventually reveal themselves and the goal of the space can change. That is okay.

2. Sort. This is the longest step in the process. We first mark out three areas for items to go into: trash (items that will be thrown away that day), keep (items that will need a home in the space or the house), and give away (items that are in good enough shape to be donated -- resources for that in a future post). Perhaps you don't want the hassle of giving items away. No problem. We simply eliminate that area.

Depending on the size of the space, we might sort the entire space or do it in a methodical area-by-area sweep. I will ask you to make decisions fairly quickly and to go with your gut instinct. I will not bully you, but I will encourage you to think about why you are keeping an item by asking you questions about the item. Does this item have sentimental value? If this item were lost or stolen, how would you feel about it being gone? Could this item go to help someone else and be more useful than it is to me?

All items that are going to be thrown away we put immediately into trash bags. When the trash bag is full we remove it from the house or business. By doing this we eliminate the ability to change your mind. Often your first decision is what you want before second thoughts come in to play. I'm not saying we would never dig back through the trash bags if you truly had second thoughts.

All items to be given away are also put in trash bags and removed to another area when they are full. When we are finished collecting these items, we will deal with getting them to their new owner ASAP as there is no point in simply moving the items around your house if you do not want or need them anymore.

All items that are going to be kept go into their designated area out in the open, and we will try to group like items together. In this way, you can see if you have multiples of an item and make a decision accordingly.
3. Make a home. Once we have decided what will be kept and what will be thrown or given away, we should have one group of items that will stay in this area or in your home. These items will need a place they will go and always return to when they are not being used. This is why I like to call this area their home. During this step I will ask more questions to make sure that the homes we are picking for your items is logical to YOU. It doesn't matter if it is logical to me because if it doesn't make sense to you, you will not put the item back in its home. This step can sometimes take a while and sometimes go rather quickly depending on the project.

4. Label/Group. During this step we will round up any loose ends. We will make binders or files for papers you need to keep. We will put small items in containers. We will make labels if you want them.

5. Wrap up. This is the shortest step of the process, but it is the most rewarding to me. During this time, you and I will step back and look at the finished project. I will ask you if you are satisfied with the result and we will discuss what you liked and what you didn't like so I can continue polishing the process for the next client. At this time I will ask you if I can take some "after" photos of the area. If you agree, I will also ask you if you would mind signing a photo release so I can use the photos during the course of my business. The release states that I will not use the photos in any way that someone might be able to identify you. I will ask if you are satisfied with my work. If the answer is yes, I will ask you to please write me a short letter of recommendation so new clients can see that you were pleased with my work. We will settle the bill and part ways.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quick Tip - Entryway

I am going to reveal my number one secret to keeping clutter out of your house, and the best part is - it will only cost you $1 (or less if you're resourceful).

Here are the steps:
1. Drive over to your local dollar store with a $1 bill and a dime (for tax).
2. Go inside and go to the container section.
3. Pick out a smallish trash can.
4. Pay for the trash can and ask them to put it in a bag for you. Ignore the strange look the clerk gives you.
5. Take trash can home.
6. Place just inside your front door where you set everything down when you come in and use the bag for the first trash liner.

Simple enough, right?

What? You want to know how this is going to keep clutter out of your house? Oh, okay.

Every time you bring a piece of paper in the front door - newspaper, mail, permission slip, and on and on - stand over the trash can while you open it. Any slip of paper you don't need, throw it away right away. This includes the fliers that come in your credit card envelopes, advertisements for stores you don't shop at, unsolicited mail .... By doing this, the piles of paper can't ever form and you never have to spend time sorting them out later.

I also see the beauty in doing this outside over your garbage cans, but not all of us (me included) is going to stand out in the heat or cold to sort out papers.

Pretty neat $1 trick, isn't it?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

That Ahhh Feeling

Since it is my business to do so, I read nearly every article on organizing I come across. You never know when you'll find some wonderful pearl of a tip three-quarters of the way through a re-hash of tried and true techniques. In fact, I keep a file of article clippings in which I found some great new piece of information to do my job more effectively. (My favorite so far: Using the space above a doorway for more storage by installing a shelf there. Genius.)

It was during my usual perusing of articles that I ran across something that sums up why I started my business in the first place : the ahhhh factor.

When I walk into a room where everything is in its "home" and I know I'm not going to have to move something to be able to sit down or that I can go to any item instantly, I just want to sigh a nice, long ahhhhh....

It makes me feel good whether it's my own home or someone else's, and it makes me feel twice as good to know that I can give someone else that ahhhh feeling. In fact, nothing makes me feel so good as to have someone tell me that they feel serene when they walk into an area after I've worked with it.

The nice thing is, you can get this ahhhh feeling without organizing an entire room. Try cleaning out one of your junk drawers and organizing the items you decide to keep. Then every time you open that drawer, even if the rest of that room is not to your liking you feel that little ahhhh...

Leave me a comment and tell me about your ahhhh feelings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Being Organized Does Not Equal Pretty

After a recent experience it occurred to me that many of you think being organized has to look like this:

While it would be nice if all of your things fit neatly in their own see-through bins and shelves, I feel it is important to point out that you can be organized without a house that looks like this.

In my mind, if someone can name any object and you can go quickly to its place to retrieve it and put it back just as easily then you're probably already well organized. Think to yourself, can you find:


veterinary records for your pets?

your birth certificate?

a muffin tin?

your car keys?

If you answered yes to all of the above, congratulations are in order -- you are already organized despite your house not looking like the latest organization column in Woman's Day or Family Circle.

Sometimes organizing looks like this:

and you just go with it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Check Out This Blog

I'm an avid reader of The Happy Housewife blog. The author is a military spouse and stay-at-home mom to seven children ranging from infant to teenager, so she knows a thing or two about de-cluttering and being organized. She is running a series this summer called Itch to Pitch detailing her battle to de-clutter her home, and she has some great ideas. She also encourages others to participate in the challenge and link to their blog posts. Be sure to go check her out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Way Being Organized Saves Money

I know that all of you have your own reasons for wanting to be more organized, but one of the best reasons to be organized is the money you save that you can spend on other things, be it something necessary or something you want.

Every year after school starts, stores begin to mark down their excess school supplies. During this time you can pick up bottles of glue for 10 cents, crayons for 15 cents, and many other great deals in that same vein. I wanted to take advantage of these deals for the following school year, but I knew that if I brought these items into the house they would get misplaced or taken for other projects, so I needed a plan.

So, I brought home a copy paper box from work, dumped the school supplies in it and put it on a shelf in the laudry room where no one could (or would want) to get to it like this:

Organizing doesn't have to be pretty.

I made sure that I bought only items that my kids needed for school year after year, things like spiral notebooks, folders, pencils, red pens, glue and glue sticks.

At the end of last school year I also scavenged through the supplies they brought home and took the ones still in good shape: an unopened package of notebook paper, a ruler that looked as if it hadn't been used, and various unsharpened pencils. I put these in the box along with overflow from the pen and pencil drawer we have in the kitchen and any other pencils we picked up as swag at various places.
When the school supply lists were released this year, I was able to pull half of the required supplies out of the box:

For my oldest daughter.

For my youngest daughter.

Not only did I get these school supplies at clearance prices (we paid 5 cents each for those spiral notebooks), I'm already halfway done with my school supply shopping!
This system worked so great for me last year that I can't wait for school supplies to go on clearance this fall.
Tell me how organizing saves you money.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Let's Be Friends

In case you didn't know, we're on Facebook and MySpace. Come check us out!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Seasons Change

As you are probably well aware from reading this blog, I am a big proponent of reusing or repurposing the items you have tucked away somewhere taking up space.

If you aren't the crafty type to turn your old gems into new treasures, I have the place for you -- Seasons Change Designs.

Season Neucere moved to San Angelo after Hurricane Katrina destroyed her hometown of New Orleans. Not only does she scour local garage sales and use the vintage clothing and fabric she finds to make new items - clothes, purses, and other amazing treasures -- she will also take your old clothing and fabric in whatever form and make new treasures for you to enjoy. She has partnered with The House of Fifi Dubois on Chadbourne Street to have some of her creations for sale in their showroom and gives free consultations on Saturdays by appointment to look over your items, so pull those old concert t-shirts, baby blankets, school band uniforms or whatever else is lurking in your attic or closet and give her a call: 214.404.7782.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I was lucky enough this week to attend a seminar given by the Angelo State University Small Business Development Center. While the advice I received was fantastic and has given me a lot of ideas, the real benefit was the encouragement I received from the other participants. It seemed no matter who I was speaking to they told me they could use Aloha Pro Organizing's services, and that many people telling me we had a useful service to offer San Angelo was incredibly encouraging.

So thank you to ASU's Small Business Development Center and the participants I met. If you happen to be lurking on this blog, post a comment and let us know you're here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seasons Change

It's finally to the point in the year where it's safe in most locations to change take out your kids' winter clothes and replace them with summer clothes. Living in Texas, this actually occurred a month or so ago, but I'm trying to be sensitive to my northern dwelling neighbors.

I like to use this opportunity to weed out the items that couldn't or shouldn't be worn next winter. This is how my routine looks.

1. Go through each child's dresser and closet, removing the out of season clothing. As I remove it, I decide if (A) it still has wear left in it and (B) if it will fit one of my children in the fall. I make three piles, one for clothes that have reached the end of their useful life, one for clothes that are in good shape but will not fit any of my children in the fall, and one for clothes that are still in good shape and one of my children can use again.

2. I go through my container of off-season clothing, picking out what clothes will fit my children this summer. I use a large plastic tote for this purpose and keep it in my youngest daughter's closet. I make a pile for each of my children from these clothes.

3. I fold the pile of clothes that are still in good shape and will fit my children in the fall and place them in the tote.

4. I place each child's current summer clothes in their drawers and closet.

5. For the items that will not fit my children and the items that have reached the end of their useful life, I decide whether I want to resue them in some way, sell them, give them away or donate them.

This has been a tried and true method for me for a few years now. I like to pick up clothes at garage sales and from other parents and toss them in the tote until I need them. I have jeans and t-shirts in the tote that my children will not be able to wear for several more years, but on that morning when they wake up and suddenly none of their pants fit I'll be ready.

P.S. One of my favorite places to use to pass items on to another person is Freecycle. You sign up with a user ID and then post what you have to offer or what you would like from another person. You can decide who your item goes to, or you can offer it first come, first serve by setting the item on your porch or in your yard and noting it in the post. When your items are claimed, you simply post again to let other users know your items are taken. Children's clothes go quickly, so someone will likely come pick the clothes up the same day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Book Review: How to Make {Almost} Everything

Ready Made How to Make {Almost} Everything, A Do-It-Yourself Primer by Shoshana Berger

I picked up this book at the library on a whim as I'm always looking for ways to recycle clutter into something useful and aesthetically pleasing. This book did not disappoint me.

From a doormat made from wooden clothespins to a dog bed made from old pairs of jeans, this book has great ideas for any type of materials. In fact, the book is broken down into chapters by the type of material being used: paper, plastic, wood, metal, glass, and fabric.

I particularly like the bird feeder made from old glassware because I know I can't be the only one with partial sets of glasses hanging around.

Each project comes with a color photo of the finished product, a list of ingredients and tools you'll need to make it and step-by-step instructions to guide you. For some of the bigger projects, helpful drawings guide you through the steps.

But the book makes for an excellent read in addition to being a great idea guide. In between the projects and witty and often funny selections of text that include the history of some of the products, advice, and random facts about various subjects. The section on various fears in the metal chapter is particularly amusing, and the section on how to use chopsticks in different countries might very well come in handy some day.

So if you're a do-it-yourself clutter recycler like me, give this book a spin. I bet you'll come away with all sorts of fantastic ideas.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cute Idea for Old Linens

Image from Country Living
If you have some linens that you can't seem to part with, the We are THAT Family blog has a great idea.

Working with a piece of cloth about the size of a bandana, cut it into eight equal size squares. Then stack the pieces on top of each other, turning each slightly from the one below it. Grab the back in the middle and twist all of the pieces, making them appear like an open flower. Put a few stitches in the bunch to hold it in place, then use a safety pin to attach it to a shirt, purse, jacket, whatever. They make great gifts for the women and girls in your family.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Overcoming Emotional Roadblocks to Getting Organized

When you look around your living and work space, are you happy with what you see? If you're reading this today, the answer is probably no.

What is it about your space that makes you unhappy? For some, it's the constant clutter that seems to hang around everywhere. For others, it's the inability to find what they are looking for or the lack of space to add something new.

For many of us, the reasons we haven't been able to overcome the issues that make us unhappy with our space are as numerous as the reasons we're unhappy in the first place.

This entry will examine emotional roadblocks to getting organized and give you some solutions to overcoming them.

Feeling Overwhelmed
Even the most motivated of us can lose our eagerness to get organized when faced with an overstuffed closet or a packed garage. How do you get started on a project that seems like it might never end?

1. Break a large project into smaller projects. If you can't stand the idea of cleaning out and organizing an entire desk, then don't do it. Pick a drawer, then only clean and organize that drawer. When you have time you can move on to another drawer or to a small section of the desk surface. If you come across something in one section of the desk that belongs in another, then go ahead and drop it in there. Eventually you will make it through every area of the desk, and the items will make it to their proper places. This same strategy can work in any number of areas. If you're working on a closet, choose one shelf. If you're working on a garage, choose one small area.

After cleaning up one area you will get a sense of accomplishment and feel motivated to keep going. This is a good technique not just for getting organized but for any large project.

2. Set time limits or a schedule. If the project you are working on cannot easily be divided into smaller sections, then consider setting a time limit for how long you will work on it. Use a timer -- even the one on your microwave -- if you have to do so. Knowing that you are only going to work at clearing an area for 10, 20, or 30 minutes keeps you from being stressed about the amount of work. If you are able, work the time limits into a schedule. Perhaps you can work on your project for 20 minutes after your kids are in bed every night until you are done. Maybe you can work on your project for an hour every Sunday afternoon. Remember, don't be too hard on yourself if you can't make your scheduled time. Just like you would do with a project at work, reschedule for another time.

3. Buddy up. Working with a friend is a good way to get started or keep motivated while working on a project. Make sure the friend you choose is one who will help you stay on task while still being able to carry on a conversation. If you would like to spend more time with your older children, they can act as your buddy. It's easy to make a game out of getting organized when working with a group of children or adults: If someone has gotten off track in the clearing out process, any other member of the group can call out "focus". Once a person has been called out for being off track three times they have to do something silly agreed on before the start of the game. This keeps the clearing out fun and keeps you on track.

4. Throw it out. Can you remember the last time you opened that kitchen junk drawer? If the answer is no, a good alternative to sorting is to pull that drawer out and pour everything into a trash can headed to the curb. Chances are, if you haven't used it in the past few months it's not something you need. If you don't think you're capable of doing this, then ask someone else to do it for you. What teenager wouldn't like a quick $5 to take everything out of a drawer and straight to the trash. If you didn't know it was in there, it's not going to bother you that it is now gone. Imagine how nice it will feel to have a completely empty drawer in less than five minutes, a completely empty cabinet in ten minutes, or a completely empty closet in twenty minutes.

Sentimental Attachment
Another large roadblock in the quest to getting organized is the struggle to let go of items that have sentimental value. Be honest, do you still have toys from when you were a child, your favorite t-shirt from high school, or your first son's baby clothes stuffed in attics, closets and drawers around the house? So do many people. But if you want to reclaim your space it's time to employ some new tactics.

1. Find a replacement. The first step in this tactic is to decide why you kept the object in the first place. This sounds easy, but it isn't. Because most of the time you have kept the item as a representation of a fond memory, you've stopped looking at the item as an everyday object. That high school t-shirt isn't a t-shirt any longer, it has become your first road trip with your friends.

You must figure out what the item represents to you. Once you have decided the significance of the item, then look around you for a replacement you already have. Do you have a photo album of that trip or a cassette tape that you listened to? If so, decide which one you would rather keep and toss out the others. You'll still have all of the memories triggered by seeing one of the objects taking up far less space.

2. Give it away. So many times people hold on to something they don't really care for because it belonged to a deceased family member. These "family heirlooms" take up a lot of space you could be filling with items that reflect your personality and style, but you feel so guilty at the thought of throwing them out. What are your plans for that item if you are no longer around to appreciate it? More often than not you have decided to pass it on to another family member. Why wait? If you want to give grandmother's end table to your granddaughter, do it now. Think of the enjoyment you will feel being able to see how much she appreciates it. If you don't have a specific person in mind for certain items, just start asking family members. Who knows which of your nieces might like to have that serving platter Great Aunt Ida used to serve the Thanksgiving turkey on or which of your children would love to have the toys they played with as toddlers? The items will have a new home with a caring family member, and you will have your space back and be guilt free. It's a win-win situation.

3. Display it. If you simply can't part with something, considering displaying it in some way. From shadowboxes and scrapbooks with your high school mementos to a quilt made from your children's baby clothes, the possibilities are endless. You'll be able to see the item everyday and reclaim your storage space at the same time. Browse craft magazines and websites for ideas or drop by a local framing shop. You would be amazed at what can be framed or recycled into something new.

4. Give guilt the boot. Sometimes the sentimental attachment to an item isn't yours. The person who gave you the item might have expressed an attachment to the item when they gave it to you, and now you feel stuck with it out of guilt. There are two good options to overcoming this roadblock. If you no longer want the item or never wanted it in the first place, contact the giver and ask if they would like to have it back. Let them know that you no longer need the item and that if they do not want you to return it you will be giving it away. You might find out very quickly just how strong that sentimental attachment really is! If this type of conversation does not appeal to you, an alternative to this is simply to get rid of the item if it is not something that the giver will notice is missing.

Clutter is not something that happens overnight, and in most cases it is not something that can be tackled overnight. Getting started is a big step but one that produces many rewards at the end. Hopefully you can employ some or all of these strategies to take the first step in reclaiming your space. However, if you find that you still require assistance in your de-cluttering efforts, seek a professional organizer in your area who can give you as little or as much support as you need to achieve your goal of a clutter-free home.