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?

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.

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.

 

Our New YouTube Series: Organizing For Kids, By Kids

As the daughters of a professional organizer, it should come as no surprise that my identical twins have been exposed to creating a more organized, yet realistic lifestyle. Whether it’s explaining the reasons behind donating the things we no longer use or how to respect toys and clothing by putting them away, I know that my daughters have been exposed to a lot of “lessons” over the years. And when I say exposed, I don’t want anyone to think that things are perfect and neat in our household all the time. It’s actually quite the opposite, as “perfection” is not what we strive for or what works in our household.

Getting organized isn’t a one time event for us, but instead a way of life. In general, we are finding a place for everything and creating systems that make life easier, which does not mean adding more rigidity, color coding and time consuming activities to drain the joy out of everyday life!

When my girls were toddlers I showed them how and where to put their toys away, in preschool we created a drop zone for their coats, bags, and shoes, and over the years the systems have expanded to include school and artwork and--most recently--becoming more independent with tasks like packing their lunches.

Ever since my daughters were born, I’ve received countless questions about how we keep organized and any and all tips surrounding how to get and stay organized with children.

I’m excited to announce that we have launched a new series on our YouTube channel dedicated to organizing with kids with my daughters fielding the questions! Our first video discusses How To Pack Your School Lunch.

We hope that these quick, fun videos are helpful for you (and your children!) and we would love to know what other topics you would like to see covered.

PRODUCTS WE LOVE:

WE WOULD LOVE YOUR FEEDBACK!

PS-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.

GREAT DESIGN + ORGANIZATION. OUR WEST ELM DC EVENT RECAP.

As you know by now, we’re firm believers that organization can go hand-in-hand with great design, and over the years, I feel like the product options for organization have just gotten better and better. No longer are you bound to shiny plastic bins to corral your kid’s toys or a boring coat rack to hang your bags, but instead we have found that more and more stores offer thoughtfully designed, functional options (in all sizes, colors, and price points!).

One of our go-to shops when we are choosing products for our clients both online and locally here in Washington, DC, is West Elm because we love that their products are not only beautiful and well-made, but also extremely versatile. When possible, we prioritize investing in products (investing money in purchasing the right product for your need and investing your time in selecting the product rather than just buying the first thing that you find “will do”). As a professional organizer, I look for products that can transition alongside your needs rather than settling on simple fixes or specific single-function products, which is why I love how West Elm’s products work just as well in a studio apartment as they do in a five-bedroom single family home. Last month we partnered with West Elm’s Washington, DC location to host an interactive workshop based around decluttering and choosing products to help make a home beautifully organized.

Our organizing event with West Elm DC focused on how to select a desired look/budget/timeline when it comes to organizing and how to declutter and choose products for the most common areas of the home--including the entryway, common area, and closets. Our group of attendees came armed with questions about how to tackle their tricky organizing dilemmas and we loved being able to share advice tailored to each problem area.

ENTRYWAY
This might be a narrow hallway in an apartment or a bigger area in a home, a mudroom or even a few inches of floorspace but regardless, you can maximize it. This is where you walk in, where we might consider it a drop zone of sorts for things like shoes, purses, bags, backpacks, coats, mail and more. We recommend using a mirror/hook combo to free up floor space and a console table with storage on top and underneath.

COMMON AREA
This is a tricky place to start storing items because I find many people run up the issue of wanting to organize items but also make sure there is some style to their organization. This is because, being the main area of your house, this is what you see the most on a daily basis and where guest congregate the most. We recommend choosing pieces that serve double duties, like a bookcase that has both cabinets and shelves or a coffee table with storage underneath.

CLOSETS
When it comes to your clothing, the #1 thing to remember is that if you use it often it needs to be accessible. So, we love under-the-bed storage because it has a good amount of space to store items, but you should not be putting items that you grab for every day in this area because it’s going to be a pain to access. Instead, reserve the under-the-bed space for your off-season clothing or less frequently used items and store them in easy to access bins and baskets.

And for those of you who couldn’t make the event, we’d love to know: what area of your home is the toughest to organize? Do you have a tricky closet or category that has you stumped on how to handle? Have you used West Elm products in your home?

PRODUCTS WE LOVE:

WE WOULD LOVE YOUR FEEDBACK!

PS-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. We also do travel! We specialize in helping busy families who are overwhelmed by clutter who often simply don’t have the time to put systems in place to be more organized. Click here to learn more about how we can work together.