How I am getting organized now to make summer actually feel like summer

Happy Summer! I’m sure you’ve heard or said this a time or two, but how is it the end of the school year and already summer? I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared.

The last few weeks have been a blur, and while there have been so many wonderful moments (first and foremost our wedding!) and experiences that have taken priority of everything else on my schedule and to-do list, I know that I’m going to be able to get back on track...even if it feels too far-fetched to believe it until I actually see it happen.

Like many families are currently experiencing, the beginning of summer signals the end of the school year and with that comes the beginning of a schedule (or lack thereof) that is far from our typical September-June routine that we’ve nailed down over the years. The girls' backpacks are still sitting in our mudroom waiting to be unloaded. Those same bags will be used for summer camp, so I’m on a deadline to clear the bags and unload several weeks worth of papers/projects, yearbooks, trinkets (and trash) and put what's to be saved into sentimental/save boxes so that my girls can look back on their third grade year with delight. As tempting as it is to empty the bags and throw in a bin to deal with later, I know that the bin will get neglected and when I finally do come around to empty it I will be frustrated that I didn’t handle it sooner. Out of sight can only be out of mind for so long.

This time of year also brings on the rise in events to attend. I’m sure that most people reading this probably didn’t just get married like I did, but I’m sure that many of you have attended your fair share of weddings, graduation parties, or some sort of end-of-year celebration (or even more worthy of a pat on the back: you may have organized or hosted one of these!) and can relate to how much time and energy it takes to plan, attend, and wrap up an event regardless of the size or scope. And while we experienced (and still are) tons of joy and gratitude, the entire wedding event--and the time before and after--took up a lot of physical and emotional time and energy.

While summer is a nice break for the kids, we all know that the work (and expectations and priorities that come with being an adult) continue regardless of the month or season. Life pays no attention to the calendar, so we’ve got to learn how to manage what we can so that when the curve balls come we know how to balance it all. Yet, despite all of the chaos and excitement from the last couple of weeks, I want to get back on track so that I can enjoy summer (which officially started yesterday) and I am already feeling behind in my Type-A mind.

We have a couple of trips planned (SO excited for our “family-moon”) and this entails preparation for booking places, planning our activities and itinerary, and--of course--packing the family.

So, how am I am going to deal with the blur of the last few official weeks of spring and really get to enjoy (and I mean enjoy!) summer now that it is here?

  • Make a Plan. I am going to do a lot of planning right now for every aspect of my summer. And planning isn’t just helpful for those other Type-A planners out there who would do this anyway! I am going to figure out where the school papers go now and schedule time to organize them. I am going to plan out our camp days and figure out somewhat of a routine for our family to stick to (but still leave room for so summer fun!). I am going to look at the places we are traveling and plan out activities, sites to see, etc. so that I can actually enjoy the time when we are there instead of feeling overwhelmed by making last minute decisions. And while it takes time on the front end to plan, planning early will not only save me twice as much time on the back end but also make the process less stressful. I know that once I get the big planning out the way I will be able to enjoy the spur of the moment, less structured plans/priorities that pop up every day.
     
  • Write it Down. I am making lists galore to get everything out of my mind, down on paper. This includes not only what I need to get done today, but also everything that I need to do coming up (like writing down what I need to pack for the girls to bring to camp). I am going to write out a packing list for any and all trips we are taking, even those in the late summer, so that I will not be rushing around when it comes time to pack and I then end up forgetting something--or worse-- have to run out and purchase it at the last minute. I am going to write out what they need for next year’s school year, just so I have the list prepared until it’s absolutely necessary to run around my house and see what we have/purchase anything new.
     
  • Categorize To Dos. As I expected, my to-do list is longer right now due to the blur of the last few weeks. My priorities shifted for a few weeks out of necessity and I wasn’t able to focus on certain areas as much as I usually do. However, not everything on the list is as important as the next. For summer, I am going to get my must-dos (doctor forms for camp, make hotel reservations, etc.) and other to-dos (organize and label this year’s saved paperwork is on the list...yes, alas, it isn’t as important as I might want it to be...for now) laid out so that I can visualize what need to get done and get to work on the important tasks first. Those to-dos that aren’t as important will always be there, but at least during the slower pace of summer I will be able to see and know which ones are truly necessary to accomplish within a certain time deadline.

We’d love to know: What are you doing this summer to feel more organized and really enjoy your summer? Are you creating a plan of attack and planning out the organization room by room? Share your comments below and include any end of school year transition tips that have worked in your home!

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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

The 5 times that organization helped me in my 30s

Today, June 1st, I turn 40. I am closing out my most challenging, rewarding, and life altering decade. I have been contemplating this blog for a while and didn’t know if I would do it because it seemed very personal, but after being asked about it (and encouraged by so many to write it), I have decided to let it all hang out! I figure that if what I experienced in my 30s can help at least one person through their experiences, then it is worth sharing with you all that even the professional organizer doesn’t totally have her sh*t together and is organized all the time, despite what it might look like on the outside. And honestly, people always ask me if my house is perfectly organized or my to dos are always in neat rows and the answer is...NO! I have had so many days, weeks and months in my 30’s where things were far from organized. And then there were some days that I was actually practicing what I preach! So, while the details of all of our lives are different, the challenges we all face when it comes to getting and staying organized—especially when life happens - are all too similar.

In my 30s there were at least 5 major life changes where organization helped me...and when I say “helped” me at points, being organized actually saved me. Saved me from having to focus on the unnecessary and waste time, saved my sanity so that I could just stick to the routine and saved me money because I knew what I had and didn’t overspend which saved me lots of unnecessary stress. And when I talk about organization, I am NOT talking about keeping things color-coded all the time or having things in neat rows (I would be lying if I didn’t mention color coding makes me smile)! I am talking about systems, routines, and creating a physical space that reflects how I want to feel on the inside, which is calm, put together, modern, and in charge of my future.

  1. MOTHERHOOD AND KIDS. At age 30 (literally on my birthday) I found out I was pregnant. Then I was given the shock of my lifetime which still to this day remains the best surprise and joyous, life-altering gift I have ever received: I had identical twins. At first, I thought it was a joke that I was having twins and everyone who knew me thought that as a type-A planner I had somehow planned this and was being efficient (getting two children with only one pregnancy, ha!) but no, it was not planned and I always joke that I would be a good person to bring to Vegas! With twins, I had to create systems, systems, and more systems. Everything from the clothing, diaper changing stations, bathing and feeding items were set up and had a system to maintain. I tried to make it as easy on myself as I could to feed, clothe, and just keep the girls happy, healthy, and alive! I knew that I couldn’t control most of what happened (when they woke up, spit up (acid reflux!), rolled over, etc.) but I could control my surroundings to keep it as organized as possible. Being organized helped with daily care of the girls and easing some (not all, because let’s face it, I was a new mom) of the anxiety that comes along with being a new parent. I was even so relaxed due to all of my systems (HA!) that I allowed The Washington Post to come into my home, six weeks after the girls were born, to do this photoshoot and story on organization for twins! Then, as the girls grew, I adapted my systems and created others to keep up with their growing needs like toy storage, potty training and preschool art that came home. It was always about creating systems that made my life easier to manage while being able to focus on raising them. I didn’t want to waste my time looking for things or spending money unnecessarily; I wanted to be raising my girls.
     
  2. CREATING A BUSINESS. I didn’t graduate college with the intention of starting an organizing business. I actually went to law school and realized early on after graduation that using my JD in the “typical” way wasn’t going to be my future. It wasn’t fulfilling me like I had hope it would, so I started exploring other options based on my interests (hello organizing!) and built my own business on the side that I worked on at night until I took a leap of faith and left my full-time job (um, wise?!). Growing my business wasn’t easy (and still isn’t) and I had to create physical organization in my home office that set me up for more success. I created a home office set up with paper filing systems, dedicated areas to store my supplies, and calendars to keep track of every client appointment, to-do, and goal that I wanted to achieve. I was dependent on my schedule (and still swear by my planner to keep me in check and on time) and I spent countless hours trying out different projects and systems--even if they didn’t make me money. I was 30 and I was dedicated to creating a business that I was passionate about and I loved that I was able to help people as a professional organizer. I was told, “if you love what you do, the money will come” and I took this to heart. There were plenty of trials and errors that knocked me down and made me question my decision to leave the stability of my previous career, but each successful idea, project and achieved goal reminded me why I made this change. Everyone always asks me how I created a business and my answer is, I just did, because I love what I do. And that isn’t the best, “business-minded” answer but it is the truth! I enjoy the people we work with as clients (many have become good friends) and it has been a privilege all these years to continue to do what I do. I have been able to build my business because I am organized (most days) with how I spend my time and the physical systems and space around me. Don’t get me wrong as I have my moments often, but my team is phenomenal (Lindsey is my rock!) and we just keep on going. We have had tremendous recognition in the press which is truly humbling but what matters to me is that our clients continue to recommend us to their friends, family and co-workers so that 90% of our business is referral. I believe that our referrals continue because we have shown our clients how getting and staying organized does change their lives for the better.
     
  3. DIVORCE. When I was 36, I decided to separate from my husband. As you can imagine, this wasn’t a quick and easy decision for me, but one that I knew I finally had to make and it was scary. For anyone who has gone through a divorce, you know there is no such thing as an easy one, especially if you have children. For a year I spent my days in and out of court and living as a full-time working, single mom, for officially the first time. My time was limited and had to be completely organized, which was very hard to do at points. Juggling all the time (court appointments, kids’ schedules, and business-related appointments), paper, preparation, emotional energy that comes with divorce is insanity at times, but having systems for the priority things made making smaller decisions much easier. There were times when I was running on little to no sleep and just always knowing where to reach for the backpack in the morning or the paper that I needed for my client or my lawyer was crucial for my sanity. And while today my girls rarely have overnights with my ex and are with me most of the time, there was a period where I had to get the girls into a routine with the items that went back and forth like clothing, stuffed animals, etc. and how we kept their belonging organized (and not left behind!) at the other parent’s house.
     
  4. MOVING...A LOT! From age 36-39, I moved three times. And honestly, people always put moving and the change that it creates at the top of the hierarchy of stressful life events and I get it, but this area of my life hasn’t created a ton of extra stress and I know that is due to being organized about each move. My first bigger move was when I left my marital home and moved into my childhood home with my parents and girls. Let’s just say this was a surreal moment for us all (reliving my childhood glory days!) but in the end, was the greatest most rewarding gift of my divorce for me, my girls and my parents. Yes, the three of us were not living in our own home and couldn’t “spread out” all our own stuff because we now lived with my parents but you know what, it was wonderful! I realized we didn’t need as much of all the stuff I thought we needed. The only things we had with us were our clothing, daily necessities, sentimental items and my business things. The rest of it all-the furniture, china, dishes, home accessories, etc., was all just stuff..and in the end, clutter! We were living with all that we truly needed and we were so much happier not having the space to collect what we didn’t need. We kept all the common spaces, like the kitchen, organized and easily accessible for all generations needing nourishment in the fridge and pantry! This move was where I truly realized the value of the “things” that were in my life. And while that might sound weird to be saying in my 30s--and I know we are beyond privileged with what we have--I internalized the greater meaning of what we keep ourselves surrounded with and the effect our physical clutter has on our emotional state. Next, the three of us packed up for a home of our own which gave us more space to create our daily routines in like drop off zones from school, homework stations and more and we discussed it with The Washington Post here. Before we moved, we decluttered our belongings and of course labeled and created an inventory of what would go to our new home during the packing process. It became a fresh, new beginning for the three of us and I was determined to keep things organized but not spend time (it is very limited) on keeping it up!
     
  5. COMBINING HOUSEHOLDS + GETTING MARRIED. Life took an unexpectedly wonderful turn when in my late thirties I met, fell in love, got engaged and moved in with my fiance, Jon. When Jon and I decided to move in together, that of course meant combining households and when you have been set in your ways for a long time and love your stuff (what happens with you get married later in life and have had more time to collect!), there had to be new systems set up, a garage sale, and parting of items that we had double of, instead of just keepings to have “just in case of X”. I worked my magic of getting a home unpacked and organized (lucky Jon) and began to think of how I wanted our new home to feel for our new family of four. I was in a new stage of my life and wanted the organizational systems to reflect the aesthetic that now brought me joy when I used it on a daily basis. Oh, and then we decided to plan a wedding because we wanted to make things official and didn’t think that life with two children, two businesses and a new life was chaotic enough! So, again, getting my to-dos organized took first priority and I made sure to organize my those that went along with the wedding (coming up on Sunday!!) were getting accomplished while not interrupting everyday life’s to dos. I also had to face it that my priorities NOW were very different than a few years ago and my time was much more limited.

All in all, my thirties were extremely eventful and packed some pretty extreme highs and lows emotionally for me. I wouldn’t wish the decade away because it taught me so much about myself as a person and for that I am grateful, but I can say I am really looking forward to my forties and all that it has to offer. And while organization has helped me through many big life changes this past decade, I can’t image organization and all its benefits will not be there for me in my forties! The sky’s the limit and I am really looking forward to what is next to come!

In celebration of my birthday today I would love to help YOU become more organized in your life to aide whatever life has thrown your way: 15% all Poppin and Organized in a Box (OIAB) purchases on our site from today through next Thursday. Use the code BDAY2017 to shop our most popular home organizing products and The Playbook (now offered in a digital format!).

WHAT'S ON MY BIRTHDAY WISHLIST

FOR EVERYDAY

FOR MY OFFICE

FOR MY HOME

FOR MY NEXT ADVENTURE

Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

My Wedding Day Plans And How I Keep Organized

We are in the midst of wedding season and--as I'm sure many of you know--the amount of choices and to-dos can make anyone feel a little overwhelmed. As I finish up the planning for my own wedding (less than two weeks away!) I have realized how important it is to remain organized throughout the process. This is my second wedding and this time around I am far less concerned with things like choosing registry items and favors, but my planner is still full of appointments, tastings (the best type of appointment if you ask me), and decisions that need to be made. I also don’t have the same amount of time this time around with children, running a business and other commitments to spend on my wedding planning so organization is BEYOND key for me! So, from one bride-to-be to another, I want to give some advice and share how I've stayed organized along the way with the hope of making this special time less stressful (and more fun even if you don’t like planning!) and allowing you to concentrate on what is most important to you throughout the process and in turn, the marriage.

I’m a list maker by nature, so I knew that I would rely on a similar system to plan out when and what to accomplish next for the wedding. I rely heavily on my calendar, so instead of tracking separate systems for each category of my life (personal/family, work, wedding), I just merged all three into one master planner. Then, each day I can see what needs to get done as a whole rather than bouncing around--and likely over--an important must-do from another category.

Depending on the formality and style of your wedding will determine how extensive your planning needs to be. There are multiple spots online to find a basic checklist of what to do and details that are usually included (like this thorough one, but take those lists with a grain of salt. At the end of the day if you forget to choose the song that you play while you cut the cake (yes, that’s a thing) all will be ok.

It is very easy to get consumed by the planning and become overwhelmed, but I remember that the internet is amazing and there are SO many tools and programs online to make the planning period easier. One website that I found during the beginning of my planning was Zola. I know that some people have strong feelings about registries, but I wanted to create something to give those inclined to give a gift would have a bit of direction. Zola allows for you to register for both physical gifts and experiences (ie less clutter!). Plus, it tracks who gave you what which makes thank you card writing so much easier.

And while I’m not changing my name, I’ve heard so many great things about HitchSwitch. Changing your name can be tough to navigate, but HitchSwitch makes the process simple by sending you all of the papers needed to get everything from your Social Security card to passport changed, along with the order and directions to complete each step.

Now that I’ve told you all of my wedding planning secrets…

I’d love to know: Do you have any tips that made planning your big day a breeze?

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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

How to organize your jewelry collection (just in time for Mother’s Day!)

As a company full of women, it should come as no surprised that we get excited when a client requests to have their jewelry organized. We work in the nitty gritty of each client’s home, and jewelry is one of the areas that we find is both personal and very reflective of each client’s personality. Whether it’s creating a storage solution for a handful of necklaces or--as we did on one our of more recent projects--over 1 thousand pieces of jewelry, we love the challenge. Not only are we working on displaying and storing beautiful collections to preserve their worth, but also making the pieces easier to access (therefore giving even more of a reason to slip on an extra bangle or ring before heading out the door!).

So, whether you are like myself and are getting married in the near future (only a few more weeks...I am so excited!) and need a way to store your rings, or if you have your eye on something special for Mother’s Day, we wanted to share our tips for how we tackle a jewelry project for our clients so that everything is separated, secure, and accessible.

  • Categorize your jewelry. Similar to every other area of your home, we always start a jewelry organization project by categorizing the options. Depending on the client, we will either categorize based on type (earrings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.) or based on formality (everyday, cocktail, family heirlooms). The goal in separating by categories is to create a system for how you often you wear and access jewelry so that the it is easy to find when you are getting dressed and running out the door.
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  • Identify your storage options. Similar to categorization, storage is based on preference. For clients that like to have their jewelry on display, we measure the storage area (i.e. top of dresser or vanity) and count the pieces of jewelry that will be displayed. If there is preference to have jewelry out of sight (a common request for fine jewelry), we choose stackable, lined drawer inserts that make it possible to easily stack and store. When drawer space is not an option, a great alternate is a decorative jewelry box or adding a mirror (either free-standing, wall mounted, or over-the-door) that has built-in storage space (we’re all about dual functionality).
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  • Store based on frequency of use. Plain and simple: there are only 7 days in a week and (depending on the size of your collection) the chance that you are touching all of your jewelry on more than a monthly basis is rare. Keep your go-tos stored front and center, on top of stacked drawer inserts, or on the outer edges of your jewelry stands. For everything else, consider tucking it away for safe keeping or store it in a box where it will not be taking up valuable displayed real estate. Wearing the same earrings every day? Consider adding a decorative tray on your bedside table to keep your baubles corralled until your next wear.
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We’d love to know: What’s your method to storing your jewelry?

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We are always trying to improve at Rachel and Company, and we’d like to know what content you want to see us cover. If you have a few minutes, we would love to hear your thoughts. Click here to take our quick, anonymous survey.

Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

Fridge Organization Tips: Our Washington Post Facebook Live segment

The majority of our organizing kitchen requests are directed to either the pantry or the cabinets, but there is one area that *almost always* is in need of some TLC: the fridge.

Regardless of your living situation (busy family, single adult, college kid, roommate, etc.) we have found that the fridge oftentimes becomes a spot of neglect because the mess is behind closed doors (out of sight, out of mind!) and because it just isn’t as high on the priority list as some of the more exposed areas of the home.

For an area that is accessed multiple times per day and is used to store likely hundreds of dollars worth of products in it each month, it seems worthy of a little attention every once in awhile.

Thankfully, it’s a relatively easy spot to organize and the systems are simple to maintain. We chatted with The Washington Post on their Facebook Live yesterday to discuss how to organize a fridge, our favorite products to use, and general tips for how to keep up the systems once they are in place to prevent food waste in the future. We even organized a fridge from start to finish!

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So what to do if you are feeling the need to get your fridge organized? Below are a few tips to get your started.

  1. Keep like with like. Dedicate areas of your fridge for certain types of food so that you know where to find what you're looking, when you're looking for it. Not only will you always know where to find a category, but you’ll also have a visual cue for when it’s time to replace an item in a category or help to prevent buying duplicates on your next grocery run.
  2. Use clear containers to make your life easier. Put your food in clear containers that fit well on your fridge shelves. Not only will the container make it easy for you to pull in and out of the fridge and help keep your shelves clean, but it will also help you see what you have and remind you to use it.
  3. Make food easy for everyone to access. When it is difficult to know or see what you have on hand, a lot of times it leads to developing a good amount of wasted food and products because you don’t know where what you need is when you need to use it. When everything in your fridge has a home it is easy to always know where to find the item.
  4. Make adjustments. When we see fridges that are in a state of chaos we usually come to find out that the client’s method when unloading groceries is to put items where they will fit, which typically results in items being pushed to the back of the fridge (and inevitable expiring) or stacking items that makes it difficult to see what is actually being stored inside. Fridge shelves are adjustable and may need to be tweaked to best fit your needs. Similar to other areas of your home, the vertical space in your fridge often gets wasted but it's full of valuable real estate.
  5. Check the out-of-sight places regularly. The bottoms of fridge drawers and back shelves can become scary pits for expired foods if they aren't kept up on a regular basis. Before you stop by the grocery store make it a priority to pull out items in each category (and especially the drawers) to keep expiration dates in check and also refresh your mind with what you have already available in your fridge and what needs to be replaced.
Fridge After.jpg

We’d love to know: are there any fridge hacks or products that you swear by? Leave your comments below!

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We are always trying to improve at Rachel and Company, and we’d like to know what content you want to see us cover. If you have a few minutes, we would love to hear your thoughts. Click here to take our quick, anonymous survey.

Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.