Two Steps to Organize Anything

Years ago my husband bought a new camera.

It came with cords and a battery pack and all sorts of annoying accessories. They ended up strewn all over our house and here’s why: They did not have a designated place to go. Once I figured this out, the solution was simple. I designated a basket as the “camera stuff” basket. I put in in a convenient place and used it to corral the camera and all of the accessories. Now everything has an easy and intuitive home and I don’t have to stare at a sea of cords on the kitchen counter when I come home.

You can easily apply these two steps to organize anything in any area of your home.

You can apply this same strategy to organizing anything:

Step One: Strip Away the Clutter

Organized clutter is still clutter, so the first step in any organizing mission is always to eliminate the unnecessary. When we set up the camera basket for example, we made sure to donate cords we didn’t need and recycle excess packaging before we set up our bin.

Step Two: Create a Designated “Home” and Use It

This step is as simple as assigning whatever you’re organizing a specific “home” and consistently using it. Organization is just the practice of setting up each item you own in a systematic way. And a “system” can be as simple as placing something in a bin or basket. Boom.

Organization is the practice of setting up each item you own in a systematic way. And a "system" can be as simple as placing something in a bin or basket.

Your turn: Identify something in your home that needs a simple solution. Is there something that tends to get lost or pile up around the house that drives you crazy? Try stripping away the excess clutter and then setting up a simple system to solve the problem.

Maybe your daughter leaves her homework all over the house. Set up a “homework station” for her – a bin, basket, or tray stocked with basic supplies will do the trick.

Maybe you never know where to find your car keys or garage opener. A small hook by the door or a little dish will create a home you can depend on.

Maybe you don’t know what to do with your architectural plans for your home renovation. A folder, a binder, or even a designated drawer can serve as a “home” and instantly create a sense of order and organization.

What simple hacks have you used to keep your belongings organized? I’d love to know!

PS. Want to get organized but don’t know where to start? Registration will be opening soon for The Virtual Closet Makeover Program which will teach you how to edit and organize anything like a pro. Get on the waitlist right here and be the first to know when we have space for a new group!

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography

My Thoughts on Hand-Me-Downs

Over the past ten years, I have edited and organized hundreds of homes, and I have formulated quite a few theories about hand-me-downs and how to handle them. Here are my thoughts in no particular order:

It’s Ok to Say No

Remember, you are the gatekeeper of your home which means it is your responsibility to organize, clean and maintain anything that enters it. Before you accept a bag full of hand-me-downs from a well-intended friend or family member, ask yourself if you actually want them to become your responsibility. My policy is to only accept items I would actually go out and buy and bring into my home on purpose. Otherwise, a gracious “thank you for thinking of me but we’re all stocked up” will do the trick.

It's ok to say no if someone offers you their hand-me-downs.

Keep Them In The Mix

The most common phenomenon I see when it comes to hand-me-downs is missing the window when they can actually be used or worn. Even when items are well organized and stored in labeled boxes, time passes, and unless you are shopping from your basement or attic, it’s far too easy to completely forget about them. My advice? Keep only a small amount of “grow into” toys or clothing that can be stored in a prominent spot in your child’s closet or dresser so they don’t get buried or forgotten.

The best advice I have is to both accept and store a very well edited collection of hand-me-downs and store what you keep in a prominent place in your home.

No Accounting For Taste

Another common challenge is that children have different taste, styles, and personal preferences. One daughter may love frilly dresses, but her younger sister may be more comfortable in athletic wear. Getting dressed is a form of self-expression and hand-me-downs you’ve stored for years may be instantly rejected by your little ones. Be honest about who your kids are and what their preferences are. Then keep and store only what you feel confident they’ll wear, use, and enjoy. Donate the rest.

Overall, the best advice I have is to both accept and store a very well edited collection of hand-me-downs and store what you keep in a prominent place in your home. If you have more “grow into” items than you can comfortably store or manage, pass on the excess to your local charity and start fresh.

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography

A Pre-Holiday Edit: Kids’ Edition

Every year, before the winter holidays, our family does a major clean out to make room for the inevitable gift haul that will be entering our home.

This is the perfect time for an edit, because the kids are incentivized to let go of some of their old stuff to clear space for the new stuff. Interested in streamlining your home this holiday season? Here’s how we do our family holiday edit:

Interested in streamlining your home this holiday season? Try these four steps for a pre-holiday edit!

One: Establish Boundaries + Clarify Values

A few days before we get to work, I remind my girls that the holidays are coming, and it’s time to make space for all of the new gifts that they’ll be getting. We’ve practiced the one-in one-out rule for years, but I like to give them a heads up that a big clean-out is coming. If I encounter resistance, I remind them of how fortunate they are to have so many things and invite them to think about all of the kids in the world who have very little. I let them know that this is our chance to give back to our community and also to reduce clutter and get rid of things they don’t play with or find “babyish.” This is also a good time to have them make their holiday wish lists. Tip: I always invite them to consider experiential gifts like tickets to the Museum of Ice Cream (it’s amazing!) or a movie night with friends.

Two: Edit One Category at a Time

The big day is here! When we do our holiday edit, I have the girls tackle one broad category at a time. Here’s what this looks like: We gather up one category – say games – into a big pile in the middle of their room. I ask them to put any games they no longer play with in the donation bag. And then I walk away. That’s right. Leaving them to make their own decisions takes the pressure off and eliminates power struggles. They often surprise me and get rid of more than I expect. Once we’re done with games, we move on and edit the puzzles, books, toys, and clothing. When they’ve made all of their decisions, we put things back where they belong, take out any trash or recycling, and put the donations in the trunk to ensure they get dropped off soon. Since we’re already fairly streamlined, we can complete this process for all of their stuff in a single afternoon. I encourage you to break it up if your family has a lot of stuff or you find this concept daunting or overwhelming. Music helps. Snacks too. Try to make it a fun, efficient process.

When the holiday gifts arrive, immediately put away the new items in your home by type.

Three: Donate to People In Need

Because we want to emphasize the importance of generosity, I do my best to have my girls come with me to donate their belongings to a local non-profit or charity. This is another opportunity to remind them of the importance of giving and practicing empathy for others. It’s also important to lead by example, so make sure you go through the same process for your personal belongings, and show your kids how much you’re passing on to others!

Four: Celebrate + Put Away New Things

When the holiday gifts arrive, we immediately put away the new items in our home by type. Books go on the bookshelf, puzzles and games go on our game cart, art supplies and craft projects get put away in our art area, and new dolls or stuffed animals go in the “baby bin” in the girls’ closet. As long as you edit enough prior to the holidays, you should have enough space to find a home for all of the new items. Putting items away neatly helps children practice the skill of organization and also teaches them to respect and keep track of their belongings.

Wishing you and your family a very happy, healthy holiday season!

PS. Ready to streamline your space and simplify your life? Stay tuned for a very fun invitation coming this week…

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography 

You Don’t Actually Need to Own These 5 Things

In my work, over the past nine years, I’ve learned that most people own things just because they were told somewhere along the way that they should own them. Today is the day I break the news: you don’t have to own anything you don’t want or need! Here are the top 5 things that you don’t actually need to own:

A Microwave

We nixed the microwave when we opened up our kitchen and lost an entire wall of storage space. I thought it would be the end of days, but turns out we’re all ok. In fact, my kids noticed that reheating food in a skillet or on a baking sheet actually makes the food taste better. Good-bye soggy leftovers! Since we’re on the subject, it might be time to let those other bulky occasional appliances go – waffle makers, ice-cream machines, panini press, rice cookers, juicers…question how often you use these beasts, and make sure they are worth the space they take up in your kitchen or pantry.

Top 5 things that you don't actually need to own.

Office Supply Overload

Sorry, not sorry. You do not need a massive collection of paperclips, post-its, thumbtacks, highlighters… you get the picture. Think about what you actually use in any given week and curate your collection carefully. I stock my own home office with a set of matching pens, scissors, a stapler, and a stack of index cards for notes and to-do lists. Everything else can stay at Office Depot.

Cards + Gift Wrap

I recognize that occasionally you have to write someone a card, or give a birthday or holiday gift, but I am consistency blown away by the sheer volume of this category that lives in the average home. I’m talking dozens of rolls of gift wrap, twisted up ribbons in every color, crumpled gift bags in every shape and size imaginable, drawers overflowing with gift cards and tags. It is simply not necessary – not to mention a pain to store and manage! Here’s what I suggest: A roll or two of neutral wrapping paper (I love natural craft paper) coupled with a few rolls of ribbon or twine and a set of gift tags and blank cards. Reclaim your drawers and thank me later!

Today is the day I break the news: you don't have to own anything you don't want or need!

Holly Hobby

I’ve seen it all in this category – dusty scrapbooking supplies from college, endless bags of knitting, canning goods, you name it. Unless you are actively practicing this hobby, let it go! If you decide to take up knitting/scrapbooking/under-water photography in the future, you can rent, buy, or borrow the gear you need. Until then, let’s reclaim your living spaces and donate these supplies to people who currently have the time, energy, and interest to make use of them.

The Precious China

Most of us have been sold a bill of goods that we need to invest in (and then store for the rest of our lives) a full set of precious wedding china. Now, here’s the deal – if you host elaborate dinner parties and actually use your china, we don’t have a problem. However if you’re like the other 99% of the population, your sets of china are withering away in a cupboard or attic or basement collecting a film of dust. I once had a client who had inherited so much fine china from family members that her entire house was overflowing and her living spaces were no longer functional. My suggestion – if you want to keep a token for posterity sake, choose one teacup (or plate or bowl) from each collection and donate the rest.

What items are you hanging on to simply because you feel like you have to? I’d love to know!

PS. If you’ve inherited items and don’t know what you should keep, check out this post.

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography

The Rule of One

I had three pairs of sunglasses… and none of them were great. All of them had been purchased spontaneously or had come to me by chance. I had the pair I bought in Tokyo for twenty dollars because I forgot to pack sunglasses, then there was the pair I bought at a gas station on a road trip to LA, and the random pair someone left at my house. My brother, Max, who always invests in the best, asked me, “why don’t you follow your own advice and get one really good, high-quality pair and ditch the rest?”

You can apply the rule of one in different areas of your home and life.

Of course he was right. After we spoke, I went to Nordstrom and tried on several pairs, and then invested in a beautiful pair that fit the shape of my face and had just the right amount of UV protection. The new sunglasses even came in a beautiful leather case which now lives in my everyday handbag, so I always know just where to find them.

And here’s the part I love the most – when you only have one high-quality object, you take care of it, you treat it with respect, and it’s super easy to keep track of it.

This whole episode got me thinking, how could I apply this rule of one to other areas of my home and life?

Beauty Products

This one is a game changer.  Instead of cluttering up my bathroom with dozens of drugstore products, I love splurging on one high-quality item at a time: one nice shampoo, one nice bottle of lotion, one mascara. This rule allows me to invest in really high-quality products and eliminates so much waste and clutter. Now I save money and have nicer products!

Kitchen Gadgets

Listen to me now! You only need one wine opener, can opener, garlic press, lemon zester – you get the picture. The rule of one can help you streamline your kitchen and simplify your life. Have five wine openers? Pick your favorite one and donate the rest!

The rule of one can help you streamline your kitchen and simplify your life.

Wardrobe Essentials

I can’t tell you how many times I have bought cheap versions of an item, again and again, until I finally splurged on the item I really wanted in the first place that was “too expensive.” Example – say, you don’t want to spend $100 on really nice workout leggings so you buy a pair for $30. Then you don’t really like them, or they fall apart, so you buy a few more pairs to try. None of them work out, and now you’ve spent nearly $100 for three items you don’t like or wear. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in one nice pair from the start? I think so. Try applying the rule of one to your closet, and you’ll quickly elevate your wardrobe and streamline your space.

Goals

This year, my mentor urged me to pick one goal for the year. My brain went a little crazy wanting to argue with her, but now, in retrospect, I have to admit she was right. This year my goal was to create a virtual program and use it to help women all over the world. It was a lot of work, and took most of my energy and attention, but I did it and it was worth it. I can see now that if I had added on the other five goals I had wanted to include, my energy would have been scattered and less focused. Pick one goal. Nail it. Then, and only then, move on to the next one.

Scheduling

Try this: Pick the most important task for your day, the thing that really has to get done no matter what.  Just one thing.  What is it?  How long do you think it will take you to complete it?  Find a block of time in your day that will accommodate the time needed for this task and put it in your calendar.  Make it a different color than your normal entries.  Set your intention that no matter what, you are getting this one thing done, and when the scheduled time arrives, get focused and do it.

Have you ever tried the “Rule of One”? Where can you apply it to your life?

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography 

How to Take Control of Your Day

We got a puppy. Long story, but my kids wore me down and now we have a very active Mini Australian Shepard who likes to chew through things like pillows and lamp cords.

Needless to say, it’s been challenging to take care of business as usual. The other day, I got nothing done. I didn’t work out. I didn’t run errands, I didn’t respond to work emails, I didn’t think about meal planning and ended up eating apple cake and nachos for dinner because that was all we had in the house.

In short, I ended the day feeling frustrated and defeated. When I reflected on what happened, one singular idea jumped out at me – I had failed to plan my day. Sure it’s challenging to run a business with a new puppy and young kids, but with a little planning ahead of time, I could have had a completely different day.

Try this planning protocol to take control of your day..

Here is the planning protocol I now use on a regular basis to take control over my day (and avoid eating cake and nachos for dinner):

Step One: Clarify + Prioritize

Spend a few minutes before you go to bed thinking about the next day. What do you want to get done? Which tasks are the most important? What would make tomorrow a fulfilling and successful day?  Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and actionable, and then circle the top three highest priority items. I generally focus on one work related goal, one personal goal like spending time with my family, and one health related goal like scheduling a workout, or signing up for a spin class.

Plan + Schedule

Here’s the part where you plan the most important things first. Before you get lost in errands and phone calls and social media and binging on your favorite TV shows (help!), schedule your priorities. Give each item a specific amount of time and lock it down in your little black book or online calendar. You’ll be shocked at how much more you can get done if you simply plan and schedule each hour of your day – this includes scheduling time to relax or hang out with friends or family. If it’s a priority, put it on the calendar.

Obey the Calendar!

Here’s my rule: whatever the calendar says, I do. This is because I have thoughtfully planned ahead and based my calendar on my priorities and goals. If I ignore the calendar, I will end up totally sidetracked and have an unfocused, unproductive day. Treat the calendar like your new boss who you want to impress.

Are you with me? Want to get more done and enjoy more of what you love? Try this. Prioritize, plan ahead, and obey the calendar. Let me know how it goes.

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography

Kid Closet Makeover with The Laundress

The Laundress is one of my favorite companies for clean, non-toxic laundry and cleaning products. When they asked me to partner with them to spread the word about their new closet accessories line, I didn’t hesitate!

Since we have only two closets in our entire home, our girls’ closet does double duty as a storage space for sentimental items, hand-me-downs, and items to grow into.

The closet was looking a little cluttered and rough around the edges. Here’e how we quickly transformed it into a streamlined and practical space:

Find out how I quickly transformed our girls' closet into a streamlined and practical space

Start Fresh

We started by taking everything out. We gave the closet a good clean and vacuumed so we would have a truly fresh start.

Sort It Out

Next, we sorted into piles by category – clothing in one pile, stuffed animals in one pile, games in one pile – you get the picture. Once we could see what we were working with, I asked the girls to put anything they didn’t love, or use, into the donate bin. They wanted to part with clothing that didn’t fit, games they no longer played with, and books that felt too young. I was surprised at how easily we were able to fill several large donation bags.

Relocate What Doesn’t Belong

It’s important to define what items belong in any given space. This closet is meant to store games and books, party dresses and shoes, items to be donated and items for the girls to grow into. Everything else needed to be relocated!

We were able to quickly identify the random items that had migrated into the closet (there’s that tennis ball!) and relocate them elsewhere in our home.

Start off your kid closet makeover by taking everything out and sorting.

Store & Style

In order to make sure the girls could maintain their streamlined space with ease, we set up The Laundress storage boxes with labels to contain items by type. We stored seldom-used items on the highest shelves (i.e items to grow into and sentimental items) and the hanging storage was perfect for displaying favorite shoes and accessories, ensuring easy access for the girls.

As a final touch, we also upgraded our sad laundry bin with a new one (see below), which is super lightweight and can handle a weeks worth of laundry.

Use storage bins with labels to streamline the space.

Create a Simple Tidying Routine

Once a space is set up and organized, it’s important to practice consistent habits to maintain it. In our house, the girls are expected to help fold and put away their clean laundry each week and do a quick sweep of their room before bed to make sure dirty clothes made it into the laundry bin, and that their toys and projects are put away.

The Laundress is one of my favorite companies for clean, non-toxic laundry and cleaning products.

I love how it all turned out, and it’s so much easier to manage and keep tidy!

*For full transparency, this is a sponsored post and all Laundress products were gifted to me. I only feature products that I love and use in my own home and hope you’ll love these as much as I do!

PS. Follow me on Instagram for a chance to win an epic gift box of goodies from The Laundress and a free spot in my next Virtual Closet Makeover Program. Giveaway ends 10/29 and winner will be announced on Instagram 10/31.

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography

Virtual Workshop w/ New Minimalism

Back by popular demand! I’m so excited to partner again with my friends, New Minimalism, to host a live virtual workshop for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Join me as I partner with New Minimalism to host a live virtual workshop for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Details:

The workshop will be live on Tuesday, October 23rd @7pm PST and a replay will be instantly available for those who can’t make it live.

The content will be geared towards professional organizers, home decorators and stylists, zero-waste educators, minimalists or those aspiring to be any of the above.

Grab a glass of bubbly, get your questions ready, and come join the fun before registration closes!

CLICK HERE to grab your spot.

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography

Kitchen Reno Reveal with Real Simple Magazine

It’s been so hard to keep this a secret, but the big day is finally here: Our kitchen reno is complete, and I’m sharing my top, budget-friendly kitchen makeover tips with Real Simple Magazine!

You can read the story with all of my tips right here, but I also wanted to share some extra images and product sourcing with you below:

Here is the kitchen reveal! We painted all of the cabinets bright white (Benjamin Moore Snowfall White semi gloss) and freshened them up with modern hardware from Schoolhouse. The new pendant lights are from Rejuvenation and I love how they add a darker grounding element. I found the Turkish runner on Etsy.

I love gathering inspiration on Pinterest, and this image of a similar kitchen layout gave me the idea to replace our tiny rug with a long vintage runner.

We opened the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create a cozy island with stools. We lost storage and our microwave in the process, but I think it was worth it. It’s my favorite spot to work, and the girls use it for homework, art, and snack time.

The ceramic lights are from Cedar and Moss, and the stools were ordered from The Finnish Design Shop (and were worth the long wait).

Since we lost storage in the kitchen, we updated the dining room cabinets which were composed of old, rickety drawers. We demoed the inside and added large, deep shelving. We use the storage cabinets to house oversized platters, candles, vases, napkins, gifting, and party supplies. I use these storage containers to stay organized.

I finally pulled the trigger and painted everything white. I love how fresh and bright it feels. We replaced our large, white table with this modern beauty from Houzz, and added an indoor/outdoor rug from West Elm to add texture and a bit of color.

As far as renovations go, we managed to keep ours relatively low cost and low impact. You can read my renovation survival tips right here and take a peek at the before pictures below. Here is how the kitchen looked when we bought our house five years ago:

You can see what a massive difference it made to swap out tile and paint everything white. We stayed on budget by keeping the cabinetry and removing the doors for a more modern look.

And here is the dining room before we moved in:

Again, updated lighting and furniture and a fresh coat of paint completely transformed this small, dark space.

We’re loving the transformed space. Even though our home is under 1300 square feet, it now feels open, spacious, and bright.

Special thanks to Vivian Johnson for all of the images and Kelsey Tu Interiors who consulted on the design and décor.

Ask Shira: Should I Sell or Donate?

A question that’s been coming up a lot – both in the virtual program and in my in-person work with clients –  is how to handle the items you want to let go of.  Should you sell or donate the items you no longer want?

I’ve given this topic a lot of thought, and I want to share my perspective, as well as some clarifying questions that may help you make the best decision:

Ask Shira: Should I Sell or Donate the Clothes You No Longer Want?

Your Time or Your Money?

What do you need more of in your life right now – time or money? When I was a bit younger I had all the time in the world and was eager to earn extra money – even an extra $20 felt like a major win no matter how much time it took to earn it. Now that I work full time, and have two kids and a packed schedule, time is the resource that feels more scarce, and therefore more valuable. I think I would actually pay to have more time in my day. Because of this, I seldom opt to sell my unwanted items. I can live without the extra income, so I donate, and I don’t look back or lament the sunken cost. Onwards!

Consider the Current Value

Most people dramatically overestimate the value of their belongings and are shocked to learn how little they will earn by selling them. Most consignment stores sell your clothing for a third of the original value and then give you roughly 50% of the selling price. So a sweater you paid $100 for will be sold for about $33 and you will make about $16.50 if that sweater sells. You can also opt to take the time to list and sell high ticket items only. Decide what potential dollar amount is worth your time, and only sell items that will sell for that amount or higher – i.e designer bags, high end electronics, or new items in original packaging. You can also pick and commit to a specific number – i.e “Items I can get $100 or more for I will sell – everything else will be donated.”

Consider the Selling Options

If you’re interested in selling your unwanted items, it’s important to consider your options:

Consigning Locally: You can sell brand name clothing in great condition at your local consignment store. Most stores give you 50% of the selling price which will be well below the retail price you paid. You’ll need to drop off your items, fill out a form, and then remember to check back in to see if your items have sold.

Selling in Your Community: Sites like Craigslist make it easy to list and sell bulky items like furniture or baby gear. You will need to take pictures of your items, list a detailed description and coordinate a time for the transaction to take place. You can also use these sites to list things for free. Just remember you’ll have to deal with hagglers, no-shows, and sometimes spam or scammers when you post online. Make sure it feels worth it.

Listing Online: You can also list your items online on ebay, Etsy, Letgo, or endless other e-commerce sites and apps. Remember – most people vastly underestimate how much time and energy is required to list and sell an item. You often need to research the item to find a comp, style and photograph the item, write a detailed description of the item with measurements, and post to sell. Not to mention, if your item sells, you then need to pack it up and send it off to the buyer if they aren’t local.

Third Party Sellers: If you really want to get some cash but don’t want to deal with all of the work involved, you can ship your clothing, shoes and accessories off to third party sellers who will do the work for you and take a cut of the profit. Thredup accepts trendy name brand clothing in good condition and The Real Real specializes in higher-end designer items. Both will send you bags so you can pack up and ship off your items. Note: they will often only accept a small percentage of what you send in and return the rest.

Ask Shira: Should I Sell or Donate the Clothes You No Longer Want?

What Feels Better?

When deciding whether you want to sell or donate, check in with your current priorities and pick whichever option most aligns with your values.

In the end, it’s truly a personal choice based on your desires, finances, and lifestyle. I almost always choose to donate because I believe it helps to orient me towards an abundant mentality, cultivates a generous spirit, and saves me time.

Values and priorities can shift, so no judgement here – do whatever feels best to you right now. The most important thing is to make a final decision and then take action. Decide and go!

~

PS. The response to the FALL Virtual Closet Makeover Program was amazing! The program is currently sold out and registration is closed for the season. You can get on the waitlist RIGHT HERE for the next program which will open in 2019.

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography