Seattle Organizing Works was featured on the SammamishPatch!
Now that the holidays are winding to a close, many Sammamish parents find themselves buried in new stuff including toys and electronics. Elizabeth Lee is a parent of teenage boys and the owner of Seattle Organizing Works. Lee draws from years of professional experience and her life as a parent, to help families around the Puget Sound manage their clutter and restore order to their homes and offices.
Lee says not getting overwhelmed by toy clutter starts with being willing to sort old toys and let things go.
“I come from the school of thought that there should always be one toy in, one toy out. When my boys were young, I was able to decide what stayed and what went. As they got older and ‘participated’ more in the purge process, I would give them a specific number of toys that they had to part with. Sometimes it was like pulling teeth without Novocain. However, they also felt empowered to make their own choices,” Lee says.
“We explained that there are children who did not have as many toys as they did, and some who had none and that when they received presents and new toys, it would be a great idea to pass on some of their old toys.
“After I had their attention for as long as they could tolerate—say ten minutes—I would continue the purge process without them. If there were toys or games or art supplies that I wanted gone, I would toss obvious garbage. But other items that could come back to haunt me when asked, ‘Mom, where is my Spiderman thingy?’ I would put into large black garbage bags and I would put them in the garage for a month. If after a month there was no questions, then off to be donated they went.”
Lee says that there are many great organizations to donate gently used toys and games that are ready for new homes, including Redmond’s Children’s Hospital’s Thrift Shop, HopeLink, Goodwell and Issaquah’s Eastside Baby Corner. And for both toys and clothes, don’t forget you can make some money with consignment, says Lee. Local consignment stores include Redmond Majesty and Tree House and Issaquah’s Me ‘n Moms and Small Threads.
Once you’ve purged, you can start organizing the storage for the remaining toys. Lee says, “for all toys and games, I am I am a huge fan of the plastic bin.”
For bin resources she recommends stores including Target, the Container Store and Storeables.
“They come in a ton of different sizes and shapes and colors. Costumes go in large bins or if possible get hung up. I highly recommend rolling coat racks for clients who have large dress up collections.”
Some toys can be especially challenging to store, admits Lee.
“Polly Pockets and Legos were invented by people with no children. While these toys certainly foster imagination, the little tiny pieces are every parent’s nightmare. Get yourself bins for all of these small pieces. Create categories of toys and their pieces and start sorting into bins. For example, all doll clothes can go into a bin, doll accessories into another. Depending on your kid, Legos can be sorted by color or by project. If your child likes to build from scratch, perhaps they would like their pieces divided by color. In that case I would recommend a rolling cart with drawers from Target,” Lee says.
Once you have storage systems in place, Lee says it is time to help your kids learn to pick up after themselves.
“Parents need to hold their children responsible for putting toys and games back where they belong. Work with your kids at the end of a play session, or at the end of the day to help them return their things to the right places. Make it a part of a routine. Kids learn from watching us. Do not expect too much from your young kids. Too many toys can be just as overwhelming for them as it is for you.”
Around the holidays, we can also get engulfed in electronics.
“For electronics I like to use a large Ziploc plastic bag. Cords for iPods, cell phones and headphones all should be sorted and labeled on the bag. If you have a label maker then print out a tag for each cord in case it gets separated from the beg. Sorting into bags also makes it easier for travel. Grab a bag and go,” Lee suggests.
Besides toys and electronics, many kids received art supplies and craft kits for the holidays and Lee has tips for organizing those as well.
“Art supplies in general are messy. Whenever possible keep them in a place where if there is a spill or mess you can clean up quickly. Small art kits are great to assemble for kids that are coloring and drawing all over the house. Inside of these bins you can also use Ziploc bags for small items like crayons and erasers. For paint supplies, I like to use washtubs or old dish drying racks. This item is great for holding paints and brushes.”
So once you’ve got all those art supplies organized, what do you do about all that great art your child is creating?
“I used to save every single piece of paper that my boys ever made a mark on,” Lee says. “My husband rolled his eyes as I stashed away what could one day be regarded as artistic genius. Needless to say, piles of tempera painted papers eventually flake and fade and pipe cleaners glued onto paper fall off when the glue gets old. Be judicious with the art you keep. Photograph what your kids make and keep those photos.”Organizing
Thanks to Kathleen Miller for her great article about organizing with tips from us.Organizing
Thanks to this Evening Magazine segment, Seattle Organizing Works is on the map!Organizing
Not all good things come in small packages.
Recently I was in Las Vegas. I went for a girl’s weekend with one of my closest friends. We went to escape the rain and cold in Seattle, our children and husbands and the laundry that they create and most importantly we went to sleep in the sun. When she and I travel we have really only one rule…”speak when spoken to”. I am not quite certain how this rule came about or even how it works, but it does work and there are long long stretches of time when I am alone with my own thoughts (typically just a hum). It was a most perfect trip.
Upon return to Seattle I unpacked my bag, put my dirty clothes in the wash, put the books I had finished reading back on the shelf AND put all of the soap, shampoo, body lotions and pre-packaged Q-Tips I had swiped from the hotel into the container of other soaps, shampoos, body lotions and pre-packaged Q-Tips that I have swiped over the years.
This is my stash. Pathetic isn’t it?
Show of hands. Who takes the bathroom swag from the hotel? One, two…okay; I see another hand over there.
Ever since the Four Seasons placed complimentary shampoo in its guest rooms in the 1970s, travelers have come to expect mini bottles of personal care products in every hotel bathroom. At first my habit started out of amazement. When I was younger and we would travel it simply amazed me that the hotels would GIVE STUFF AWAY. I would bring home the tiny bottles and line them up in my bathroom on a wash cloth just like a hotel would. As I got older the habit became more of a need. If I could afford to travel I needed the free goodies. Even poor quality shampoo was better than anything I could afford. Later, I convinced myself that the smaller sized items were perfect for camping, yeah that’s it. When we go camping I will take the tiny bar of soap. Must remember to go into the closet and open the container with all of the mini-products and the system will work.
As a professional organizer I meet clients all of the time that have the same “issue”. Now the standard excuse is that the small bottle is the perfect size to get through airport security and with a handy dandy funnel you can put your own product into the bottle. I don’t do this, you don’t, and NOBODY DOES! We are liars and thieves with hundreds of bite sized bottles of mouthwash and Finesse shampoo and pocket sewing kits in our homes.
When I finished cramming in the last bottle of hotel mouthwash into the storage bin I had a long talk with myself (mostly humming again). While I am not certain that I can stop taking the soap and lotion from the hotels that I visit, I believe that I can be more selective in what I take; better to go with the Bliss products at the W Hotel and avoid the Dial soap at the Doubletree.
Knowing my weakness this is what I am going to do with my version of the Hilton’s Maid Closet. Might I suggest you do the same?
Women’s shelters and homeless shelters are usually happy to take donations of the soaps, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, etc., from hotels.
Even a pair of simple cotton undies deserve respect.
When you wake up in the morning and you go to brush your teeth you probably don’t have many problems finding your toothbrush do you? And then when you are done brushing your teeth chances are that you put your toothbrush back right where you found it. Am I right? Floss might be a different story because it could be there on the sink or in the medicine cabinet or maybe you don’t floss at all. You can always find your toothbrush because it has a home and so should all of your other belongings, especially those that you use on a regular basis.
Case Study: Last week we helped this great gal organize her bedroom. Her email said that her room was a “hot mess” and that “it looked like a 13 year old lived there with 2 dogs and fiancé.” In my own life I have 2 dogs, teenage twin boys who rule the roost, a handsome hubby, but no “hot mess” to speak of.
When my partner and I arrive at the job, the place appears nice and neat and tidy with some basic storage issues going on but nothing out of the ordinary. “Wait” she says, “come to the bedroom”. Well let me tell you THAT PLACE WAS A HOT MESS!! This poor girl had clothes everywhere. Clothes falling out of the closet, on the floor, on the bed, on the TV, on the window ledge, on the bathroom counter….E V E R Y W H E R E.
After a brief scolding (”How can you throw your clothes all over the floor?”; ”Do you know how to use a hanger?; “How many tank tops does one person need?”) we got down to work. Pulling out everything (yes, everything) from the closet, small cabinet, unpacked suitcases and unpacked moving boxes in the kitchen (clothes had been there for 1 year) and piling it all on her stripped bed we began to create 4 piles:
KEEP (You love it and wear it)
TRASH (It is damaged and could be considered a rag)
DONATE (Someone else will love it)
CONSIGN (You paid a lot for it so get some money back if you can)
…oh and one more laundry/dry clean, (dog fur was everywhere)
After we sorted all of the clothes and cleared out at least 2/3 of them we were able to address some of the basic issues at hand. If you are going to have a lot of clothes you need to have proper storage solutions. Invest in a dresser whether a nice one, or if your budget won’t permit, one from a discount store or tag sale. If all else fails, purchase some clear plastic bins for overflow items and stack them neatly. Buy more shirt hangers (send the wire ones back to the dry cleaners if you have them) and vertical skirt/pant hangers with clips that hold 5 to 6 items to take up less room. Homegoods stores have all sorts of hooks, drawers and shelves for what you need.
So, we have come to the part of the story where I disclose something about myself. Perhaps many of you can relate to this. I am 43 and while a select few think I still have it “going on” (thanks honey), I am not and have never been a Victoria Secret kind of girl. I am your basic cotton panties sort and if need be something depending on the outfit.
It therefore came as a shock, and then major amusement, when we discovered no less than 45 pairs of thong panties strewn throughout this room. Strewn you ask??? Yes strewn. So I ask our client “What’s up with the panties?” She tells me that whenever she can’t find clean ones she just goes and buys more. I immediately think she can certainly afford our rates and this is out of control. “YOU BUY NEW UNDERWEAR WHEN THE OTHER STUFF IS DIRTY??” “Well no, I do the laundry, I just can’t find the clean ones so I have to buy more” she replied.
Life lesson: Underwear and socks need to have homes too.