How to stretch organization in small spaces

As an organizer I am often asked how I get from A to B when it comes to choosing the layout of a space and making recommendations on what products should be purchased and what systems should be implemented to make a home more functional.

I will say that organizing comes naturally to me, but I’ve also worked with over 1,000 clients in the last 10 years and each project has been a lesson in stretching my creativity and sharpening my organization skills. When I walk into an awkwardly-shaped room or tiny closet that I know is not functioning best for the client I am forced to get creative with the existing space (especially if it is not an option or within budget to change the layout of the space). So, I maximize the area that is available.

Here are some of the tried-and-true tips that I incorporate into my client’s homes and that would work in any tight space (from dorm rooms and studio apartments to older homes with teeny storage spaces):

  1. Choose quality over quantity in every inch of your home. From your TV stand to the clothes hanging in your closet, I recommend investing in items that are true to your style, your space, and your needs. When dealing with a small space, each inch of the home is valuable real estate and should only be filled with items that add personality and function, not clutter.
  2. Edit regularly. Simply put: there just isn't enough space for it all. Small space dwellers need to sift through the drawers, cabinets, and hidden areas (like under the bed and deep in storage bins) to weed out any items that are no longer needed, wanted, or functioning.
  3. Invest in double-duty pieces. We've previously discussed why it's important to choose versatile pieces in your home, and believe that regardless of your budget, don't be swayed to choose single purpose pieces as the staples of your home. When possible, opt for items that can add value (i.e. extra storage) to your home. For example, choose an entry table with drawers or shelving, and go vertical with your choices to maximize floor space. 
  4. Add color and texture with purpose. Decorative accents can make a room look and feel more finished, but when you're in a small space it can quickly feel like you’re swimming in clutter. Use functional pieces as an opportunity to bring in your personality and  a little more flavor. For example, consider covering your books with patterned paper to add a pop of color and act more as an art statement, or swap out your plain vase for a fun piece that can double as decor in between blooms.
  5. Get creative with your storage. When you’re living in tight quarters, make sure to maximize the the storage in your room. The back of doors, under the bed, and wall space are valuable real estate. Storage bins and boxes come in every design under the sun and price point, so find options that meet your aesthetic and add to the design of your room.

Want some more small space-saving tips? We shared an easy hack in this Women’s Health article recently. Check it out along with many other great (and easy!) tips to try at home.

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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.

Kit and Ace Workshop Recap + How To Create a Better Travel Experience

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been in at least one of these travel situations:

  • Waiting until the last possible minute to pack
  • Bringing double the amount of necessary clothing/shoe options
  • Forgetting to bring a critical item for the trip and being forced to buy a replacement  

Packing is not a fun task, but--similar to organizing--when you create a system to help get the job done you are not only going to cut down on the time it takes to get ready for a trip, but you’ll also spare yourself the stress, second-guessing, and overstuffing that is commonly associated with it.

Last week I hosted an interactive workshop with Kit and Ace to discuss travel organizational challenges, which included all things closet, packing, and wardrobe related. As an organizer (with a strict carry-on only policy!), I shared my tips and tricks to create a better travel experience and how to (realistically) improve the functionality of your closet.  

Maybe it’s the pressure to confine all of your belongings into one bag, or maybe it’s the task itself that just is too daunting to handle, but most people do not enjoy packing. Here are some ideas to make packing a bit more doable when preparing for your next trip.

Create a packing list. I don’t know about you, but I rely on lists to reference in every aspect of my life and the same goes for when I’m packing. I have found it helpful to have a base packing list for every trip that you go on that includes your “must haves”, and then adapt as needed depending on the climate or activities that you will be doing on your trip. Here’s a packing list to help you get started, and a blank version if you want to start from scratch and customize based on your needs.

Plan your outfits in advance. Try on your full outfits (yes, even the shoes and accessories) so that you aren’t over-packing and to reduce the guesswork (or failed outfit attempts) during your travels. And remember: you don’t need nearly as many options as you may think! Pack exactly the amount of items that you need then throw in a versatile extra (like a top) in the off chance that something goes awry with your planned choices. Want to make the most out of your options? Choose one color family (black, brown, grey) and pack versatile pieces that you can mix and match.

Choose travel clothing wisely. Choose flexible, breathable clothing that can be layered to make yourself not only comfortable on the plane, but also prepare you for any temperature changes. This is a great opportunity to save space in your suitcase by wearing your heaviest articles of clothing and shoes. Since you can't control the temperature on board make sure to bring a couple of essential layers for the inevitable chilly moments. Thick socks are great to slide on after you board (or opt for compression socks to help with circulation), and a thin blanket or oversized scarf that can be folded up and tucked in your bag will keep you toasty and cozy without adding bulk to your bag.

Prepare your carry-on bag. if your carry on bag is the purse that you’ll be using on your trip, great. If not, pack a small bag or crossbody inside of your carry on to wear once you’ve reached your destination.

Keep items accessible. Keep your go-to items compartmentalized. Create a necessities pouch to hold the items that you reach for often, or if you are on a longer flight or are packing for more than just you (like your kids) a pouch for each category (i.e. beauty, tech, food) so that you just have to grab the desired punch instead of pulling your entire bag up on your lap.

Stay hydrated and nourished. The air is super dry during flights, so make sure to keep your body (including your lips and skin) hydrated. Bring an empty water bottle to fill up after you've made it through security and have the flight attendant refill when they make their routine beverage run. Include a couple of healthy snacks in your bag (fruit, protein bars) in case the airport options are less than appealing or don’t adhere to your diet.

Prepare for the just-in-case moments. Communal transportation is always going to be germy, so it's smart to arm yourself with products just in case your experience needs some special attention to make yourself comfortable. Travel-sized disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are small enough to add in your bag, and you'll thank yourself for having them after wiping away the questionable crumbs and smudges on your seat during boarding.

Set your luggage apart from the pack. if you’re in the market for a new bag, opt for a bag in a fun color or print. Or, choose a sturdy label or tag (that can’t easily be pulled off or removed) to clearly indicate which is yours.

Before you start any journey, research the weather and conditions and requirements for your trip. Do your research, make a checklist of the things you absolutely need and start packing. If you travel frequently create a packing list on your computer that you can update to include “must-haves” and blank space for trip specific items.

Common mistakes when it comes to selecting what to pack:

  • Focusing too much on the “what if” situations
  • Choosing individual pieces vs. outfits
  • Bringing shoes that you’ve never worn before
  • Packing too many shoes: people usually pack too many shoes and they take up the most room because of their shapes. Follow the rules of three. Consider one casual sandal or loafer, sneakers, and an evening shoe..  Wear the heaviest pair on your flight and pack the other two.

How to make the most out of your packing:

  • Roll your clothing-takes up so much less space and makes things less wrinkly
  • Use packing cubes to divide and conquer as they take up so much less space and you can fit a ton inside
  • Bring extra large ziploc bags because they will come in handy more often than you realized: corralling snacks, protecting your toiletries, or holding items that you purchased.
  • Add in a laundry bag to keep your dirty clothes separate and make unpacking easier. Just toss the contents of the bag in the wash and unpack the rest!
  • Opt for travel-size multi-taskers when it comes to your beauty products. Choose a tinted moisturizer that serves as foundation, a soap, and shampoo in one, and wipes that clean hands and face.

I’d love to know: do you have any fun trips coming up? Are there any packing tips that you swear by? Share in the comments below!

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

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.

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GREAT DAY WASHINGTON RECAP: SPRING ORGANIZING TIPS (+ HOW TO GET THE FAMILY INVOLVED)

It’s that time of year again: spring cleaning and organizing season has officially arrived. We see it discussed on social media, hear about it on the news, and see it in promotions offered at every big box store. There are tips on what you should keep and what you should toss, product suggestions to make your home more organized, and sales enticing you to make the purchases.

If only it were as easy to implement as it sounds, right? What happens when busy schedules, family life, and outside priorities (not to mention the 10,000 other things) get in the way? Plus, if you’re anything like most of our clients, you’ve probably skipped a season or two of cleaning. And that’s ok. Life gets in the way and the task seems too big (and unappealing) to take on.

But, there are ways to get through your spring cleaning, and guess what: it doesn’t have to all fall on your shoulders. Your home is where you family lives, so keeping up with your home should not be expected to a task for a single person. The mess and “stuff” is a compilation of everyone’s contributions and should be treated as such.

My 9-year old identical twin daughters and I were on Great Day Washington earlier to discuss spring organizing tips and to provide real-life examples of how families, including those with young children, can help out with getting organized (and not just create more chaos).

Here are a couple of ways to get your family involved with spring cleaning this year:

CLOSET
Many of us don’t have room for all of our clothing inside our closets so spring is the perfect time time clear out and declutter. Take out and touch each item and decide the last time you wore it.

How to get your kids involved: make it convenient! Put a donation bin in your child’s closet so that they can easily toss in clothing as they outgrow it.

TOYS AND BOOKS
Go through the toys and pull out any broken toys, toys with missing pieces, or toys that your children have outgrown and move to the trash, or--if they are in decent condition--move to the donation bag. The same goes for books that are no longer at your child’s reading level.

How to get your kids involved: make it a game! Set a timer and see many toys and books that are no longer in use (or broken) to add to a donation or trash bag.

PANTRY
Pull out everything in your pantry (including spices and oils!) and get rid of anything that is expired or that your family no longer consumes. Take this as a time to categorize everything that is left so that when it goes back into the pantry the like items are grouped together and it is easy to see what you have and what you need for future grocery trips.

How to get your kids involved: make it educational! Have your kids look for expiration dates and toss out any expired food. Task them with grouping the remaining food into food groups and categories to make putting it all back in the pantry even easier.

STORAGE
The garage and basement can easily become full of items that you no longer need, want, or knew that you even owned. Take stock of what you are storing in these locations to avoid hanging on to items that you don’t need and are taking up storage space. It will look much worse before it gets better but I recommend taking out and touching everything that you have stored in these areas. This should involve the entire family.

How to get your kids involved: be a project manager and divvy up the duties! Explain the plan of attack to the family and give each person a job. After the work is done give a small reward for all of the hard work (incentives work!).

Watch the full segment here:

I’m curious: what’s your opinion on spring cleaning? Do you make it a priority to declutter every year?

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ORGANIZATION FOR YOUR LIFE: GOING PLACES WITH KIT AND ACE

I am hosting an interactive workshop with Kit and Ace on Thursday, March 30 from 7-9 PM (1921 8th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001). Join me for a consultation focused on your travel and packing organizational challenges as I cover all things closet, packing, and wardrobe related including: packing tips and tricks for a better travel experience, and how to (realistically) improve the functionality of your closet. Interested in attending? Please RSVP to theshay@kitandace.com.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

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.

How to Measure for Organizing Products

Most of our clients have tried to get organized on their own before they call us. They’ve been motivated to make a change and increase the functionality of their home, so they make a list of what areas to tackle before heading to the store or checking online for products. And this is where the motivation tends to fade.

There are SO many organizing products out there, and in recent years more stores have stepped up their game to offer products that are aesthetically appealing. It’s overwhelming to know where to begin. The options are seemingly endless and when you don’t know exactly what you need the options can be too much to attempt to handle.

Have you ever walked down the kitchen section of a store in search of a drawer insert for your utensils? Most big box stores’ selections are a bit limited and may only have one or two options, so--as most people do--you buy the drawer insert that is available and call it a day. When you get home and put your utensils inside you may come across one of two situations: (1) the drawer insert is too tall and you now can’t close the drawer or (2) the drawer insert is too wide or too shallow and leaves wasted space between the insert and drawer wall.

As a professional organizer, I’ve seen this situation play out in every area of the home. Inserts that are too small and result in wasted space and overcrowded drawers, bins that are too small so the contents end up scattered around the house, bins that don’t fit on shelves in the storage room so they remain on the floor, items that are advertised to fix a certain need but don’t work the intended way in your home (and so on…).

I can hear the frustration in my clients’ voices as they describe their failed attempts to get organized on their own. If you’ve been in this situation know that there is ONE thing that you need to know to avoid this type of frustration moving forward: how to measure.

How to measure the usable space for organizing products
What works in your neighbor’s home may not work in yours, so always make sure to measure the usable space before you start shopping for solutions. Usable space is the actual space that you are able to occupy with products. So, account for any hinges or angles when you are measuring for products and err on the conservative side of the measurement if there are products that you need to pull in and out on a regular basis or reach into (i.e. bins). Once you have your measurements, bring them with you during your search for products.

We’ve outlined the steps below on how to measure and in a how-to video on our YouTube page. Good luck!

1. Measure the height
The height is the usable space measured bottom to top.

2. Measure the width
The width (or depth) is the usable space measured back to front.

3. Measure the length
The length is the usable space measured side to side.

*Tip: when it comes to drawers the most important measurement is the height (to make sure the drawer will close) and for shelves the most important measurement is the depth (so that the product is not hanging off of the shelf).


PRODUCTS WE LOVE


ORGANIZATION FOR YOUR LIFE: GOING PLACES WITH KIT AND ACE

I am hosting an interactive workshop with Kit and Ace on Thursday, March 30 from 7-9 PM (1921 8th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001). Join me for a consultation focused on your travel and packing organizational challenges as I cover all things closet, packing, and wardrobe related including: packing tips and tricks for a better travel experience, and how to (realistically) improve the functionality of your closet. Interested in attending? Please RSVP to theshay@kitandace.com.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

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.

Why moving season is the best time to get organized

I am often faced with the “I don’t why I store this here” situations during client appointments (i.e. why lightbulbs and batteries are stored typically in 3+ areas of the home) and it just reiterates the point: when you bring an item into your house it typically lives where it lands. Meaning the first spot that you put an item (usually wherever is convenient and has room) oftentimes becomes its permanent location, regardless of how functional it may be.

Picture this: you move into a house and on day one start unloading items into your kitchen cabinets and drawers. At this point, your priority is just to empty the boxes and put everything away (you may even tell yourself that you’ll change the location and layout of stuff later on but for now just want the boxes out). Fast forward one year and you aren’t able to find your measuring cups, have purchased replacement utensils because you can’t find the certain one that you know you used to own, and have resorted to the Jenga-like approach of pulling down and stacking your dishware.

Sound familiar? You are not alone. Successful organization relies on creating systems that are not only attainable for your house’s layout but also flexible enough to adapt with your needs. Creating solutions that support lifestyle patterns (such as leaving extra room on a pantry shelf to account for your monthly Costco trip later) and transitions (such as dedicating a spot in your hall closet to rotate in seasonal accessories, like goggles and sunscreen in the summer and hats and gloves in the winter) will make it possible to welcome outside categories into your home since all other items have a dedicated spot.

One of the best times to create organizing systems is also during what can be for some a very stressful period: moving time! It’s the only time you will have a completely blank space to work in and get to re-assign what goes where, which--if done strategically--will make your life easier moving forward.

Right now we are in the midst of a big unpacking project for a client (stay tuned behind the scenes on Instagram!) and--even though a big part of the job is just getting everything out of the boxes--my team is focused on the larger priority: assigning a place for everything in a way that makes sense for our client’s family and how they will operate in their new home.

As we recommend to all of our clients that are preparing to move, before you pack a single box it is important to invest time in getting rid of items that you no longer want, need, or will have room for. You will thank yourself on the other end of your move when you are only unpacking items that you want to welcome into your new home.  This will also help to ensure that everything that you are finding a spot for in your new home deserves to be taking up that valuable real estate.

So, as you prepare to move, consider paring back on the “just in case” items that you’ve been holding onto. Categorize your items so that you can get a realistic inventory of what is actually in your home (yes, that means grouping all of the lightbulbs from the 3+ areas of your home) and what you actually want to bring to your new home and fill in your new, clean slate.

Have an upcoming move? Whether you are moving across the street or across the country, check out our Moving Checklist to make sure you are prepared for moving day!

PS- Save the date! I am hosting an interactive workshop with Kit and Ace on Thursday, March 30 from 7-9 PM (1921 8th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001). Join me for a consultation focused on your travel and packing organizational challenges as I cover all things closet, packing, and wardrobe related including: packing tips and tricks for a better travel experience, and how to (realistically) improve the functionality of your closet. Stay tuned for more details!

WE WOULD LOVE YOUR FEEDBACK

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.