My daily essentials (and how you can get them on sale TODAY!)

Due to the nature of my profession (and being a mom to twin 9-year olds), my “typical” day is far from normal and usually involves me running around from location to location doing everything from client walkthroughs, on-site organizing projects, product selections and desk work, or shuttling my girls to their next camp/class/etc.

When I head out the door in the morning I’m armed with the essentials that will get me through the day, knowing that I will likely be away from my home for many hours. Over the last 9 years of learning to balance motherhood and my full-time career, there are products that have become my go-tos because they work with my busy and demanding schedule. Some of the most frequent questions from clients and on social media revolve around the products that I use (especially when they can help streamline routines and make getting out the door easier).  There is no single product out there that can magically create a more organized lifestyle (totally wish there was!), but by choosing products that I can depend on daily makes it easier for me to focus on everything else going on in my life. Because let’s face it, I don’t have the time to focus on these types of things every morning, do you?


I’m not a big proponent of “stocking up” on products just because something is on sale (especially when there is the potential to expire and it doesn’t really fit your needs), but when I come across a deal that coincides with my needs or daily essentials it makes perfect sense to me to make the purchase. I look forward to annual sales, like the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, because I know that every year around this time I am able to replenish and replace my tried-and-true favorites that I use daily. The sale is officially open to non-card holders (like myself) today and I’m excited to cross off a few items from my wishlist.

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A step-by-step plan to organize your garage (the space you love to hate)

Decluttering—and getting organized in general—can quickly become overwhelming and daunting when you don’t know where to begin or where to find the time to do the work.

As a professional organizer who has worked in every area of the home under the sun, there are definitely certain areas of the home that are more enjoyable to work in than others, however, each space comes with its pros and cons.

To be completely honest, garages are one of the most difficult areas for us to get excited about. It’s the the part of the home that is arguably the easiest to neglect. The part of the home that can be ignored since it doesn’t require a pass-through to enter or exit the home. The part of the home where no furniture, art, or decoration is needed to make it feel like “home” (and therefore no necessary care/upkeep to make it look presentable on a daily basis). The part of the home where you can literally just shut the door and forget about.

For a space that is used as a storage area (for household items, cars, or both), our main priority is first and foremost the functionality. We are less concerned with making the space “pretty” with products that tie into the home’s aesthetic and more focused on figuring out how to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together in a way that makes it both visible and possible to access, which can sometimes be tricky in such a tight space.

The warmer months are definitely the recommended time to tackle a garage project (trust us, we typically don’t take on garage projects in the winter because of how cold it can get!). So since we have a few more months of warmth upon us (at least on the East Coast) why not bring this to-do to the top of your list?

Here are our 6 tips for how to get started, what to consider, and how to make the most of your space to create a functional garage.

1. Identify the goal. The size of your garage is going to determine how realistic you can be with what is stored and how you store it. For example, if you have a one-car garage and need to fit a car, 4 bikes, utility tools, and camping gear you will need to get creative with your vertical space and utilize as much of the 3 garage walls as possible. 

We recently worked on a project where the client was looking to totally revamp the organization in their garage. The client has a large two-car garage but the extra space had served as a storage dumping ground, which we see happen often in homes (sometimes having extra space just encourages more “stuff” to get filled into the space). So, the goal was to make it possible for the family’s two large cars to comfortably fit in the garage while also storing the family’s many bikes, outdoor entertaining supplies, sports equipment, and outdoor gardening/maintenance tools.

2. Measure the space. Once you have a goal in mind, measure the available space so that you can move forward with creating a layout. When you are measuring the space make sure to account for any obstacles, like the height (know how high you can go without blocking the garage door from opening), the length (how much wall space and floor space you have to work with), and the depth (how much space from the wall you can work with...this is especially important to know if you are working around getting a car to fit in the same space!)

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3. Plan the layout. Now that you have your goal and measurements, figure out how you’d like to layout your space. We always recommend using the vertical space, so adding freestanding or wall-mounted shelving is a worthy investment if space allows. Then, figure out what you’d like where in the garage and how accessible it needs to be. For example, if you want to hang your bikes but need to make it possible for your kids to grab you’ll need to make sure that the hooks are low enough for a child to grab. For taller, thin items (like rakes, shovels, or even sports sticks and rackets), store upright along the perimeter of the wall to save on shelf space, storage depth, and make it easy to grab when needed.

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4. Inventory everything. Pull everything out of the garage and create categories so that you can see how much of each category your have. Trust us, it will definitely look worse before it gets better but this exercise will help you see exactly what you own, how much of it, and what to account for when you are deciding where it should go in the garage.

5. Purge the unnecessary. Get rid of the items that you no longer need. Since it could have been a while since the last time you took a good look at what you are storing, your needs may have changed and some items could be let go of. We often find that kids gear (bikes, beach toys, outdoor games) are the biggest area that build up over time.

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6. Organize the rest. Now it’s time to load everything back into the garage. Start with the items that you access the least (seasonal items) and store them on higher shelves or in the back of the garage. Then, take the items that you use most frequently (daily or weekly) and give those priority space. For example, if you are an avid gardener then keep your supplies on a shelf that is easy for you to access without having to grab a ladder or shift items out of its way. As always, we find that corralling categories using sturdy bins keep the contents organized and labeling each bin (or shelf) makes it multi-user friendly.

BEFORE AND AFTER

So, what organizing projects are on your summer to-do list? Leave a comment below for us to focus on in our future “how to” posts!

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

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.

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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.