HOW TO FALL BACK IN LOVE WITH YOUR HOME...Yes, I am getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit with some REAL life tips!

It’s safe to assume that we all have at least one area in our home that we are less than proud of (and yes, I can admit to more than one). It might be an overcrowded junk drawer that is so full and impossible to close on the first try that it leaves you aggravated each time you open it, or your bedroom closet that you know has some scary fashion statements hidden in the back but the thought of getting to them is too overwhelming. I totally get it. These little problem areas start to add up and then one day you get the “what happened to the house that I love?!” feeling.

When you moved into your home you were probably so excited about the space. Leading up to the move-in you had envisioned what life would be like when you finally lived there and how much easier your days would be because of the new beginning. It’s a chance to start fresh and things would be different in this home because you will make them different starting from the day you move in.

And then 6 months in you find yourself back to your old routine. Your kids’ shoes are piled up near the door, you can’t find the sugar in your pantry that you swore you bought last week, and you aren’t willing to address the mountain of papers that are accumulating in your kitchen, but by the size of the stack you know that you need to take time to get through the pile or else you might miss something important.

You have invested time and money into your home and it ideally should be the place where you love to spend time and not a home where you find yourself avoiding areas just to stay sane.

I see it happen on a weekly basis.

I can’t think of a situation where a client has come to me and said that they are perfectly happy with the current state of their home. Instead, they have the room that always remains shut so that when guests come over they don’t peek in the room and see the mess. Or the annoyance that comes with not being able to find a top sheet in the linen closet even though there are dozens of sheets spilling off of the shelves. Or the embarrassment of not knowing where to begin to declutter, but they have finally “given in” and know they need some help from an outsider.

So, what can be done? Is it actually possible to fall back in love with your home?

GIVE YOUR HOME SOME TLC
A problem is not going to fix itself without some sort of action, so give yourself time (seriously, even just 5 minutes will help) to think through a solution.

What issues do you have with your home and what can you do to fix it? If your answer is “everything” then take a step back and try to get more specific. Think about a time this week where you were frustrated by your home for some reason. Maybe you are sick of looking at your old mismatched living room furniture or you are frustrated that your kids aren’t putting their toys away (I promise these totally unrelated examples are related in some way).

Now, think about what’s not working in each situation.

  • Are your kids not putting their toys away because it’s too difficult to put back where it belongs? Are there too many toys that the mess becomes too much for them to handle? Are they trying to find a specific item but don’t know where to find it so they are going through everything to look for it?

Identify the problem, the solution, and work out the path to get there. Here are the same questions from above but with workable solutions:

  • Are your kids not putting their toys away because it’s too difficult to put back where it belongs? What’s your current storage situation? Are the toys supposed to go back on shelves and can your kids reach the shelves? I love using open-top bins with toys so that it makes pulling out toys and putting them away easy for kids. Are there too many toys that the mess becomes too much for them to handle? Think about when you go to a restaurant with three pages of entrees. How are you supposed to decide? Options can be too overwhelming! Your kids might be playing with a toy to see if it sparks their interest, but quickly move on to something else if that isn’t fun for them (and then move on to another toy...and then another toy...). Sure, in a dream world they would put something away before taking something new out, but that’s not always the case. Give them fewer entrees! Keep fewer toys at their disposal that you know they use and love. Consider rotating toys on a weekly basis, or put them in a bag for donation in your garage. If they haven’t asked about the toys in a month consider donating or giving to a friend. Are they trying to find a specific item but don’t know where to find it so they are going through everything to look for it? Label, label, label. If your kids can’t read use a photo label. Have a dedicated area for each type of toy (i.e. a shelf, a bin, an area of the closet, etc.). Show them how to put cars back in the bin that has a picture of a car on it (better yet, have them color that picture!) and over time the habit will be built and they will understand where things go.

USE WHAT YOU LOVE
Products range in every shape, color, and price point. If you’re in the market to add products to aide your organization, make a point to choose something that excites you and will make the process more enjoyable (even if it’s just fluorescent post-it notes) . It may sound silly, but having products that bring joy to even the most menial tasks are worth it. It’s common for clients to come to us with inspiration photos--either products that they have seen and love or rooms that they want to replicate. We always ask what makes our client like the photo/product, and we usually hear things like “I love how calm it makes me feel” or “I love how pretty everything is displayed” and we get it: when you invest in products you love you are more likely to get excited about using them. We recently had a client who wanted everything in their office to be acrylic because she liked the look of it. DONE. If using an acrylic desktop file will make the experience of handling your to-dos more enjoyable, by all means do it!

SPREAD THE LOVE
As you go through your home and identify problem areas and work through solutions, you may find that you have a bunch of stuff that you no longer like, need, or want. You may feel wasteful just giving it all away, but remember that there are so many ways for others to use items that are in decent condition. Plus, the positive feeling from giving back may make the whole process even better for you.

Items in good, clean, working condition can be donated (tip: towels can be donated to animal shelters!). Many donation centers offer pickups, but it could be just as easy to get it out of your house and drop off a load during your weekly errand run.

So, I’d love to know: what do you LOVE about your home? Are there any areas that need some extra TLC? Comment below and I’ll try to offer tips to help!

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Organizing with Kids: Top 4 Problem Areas

Organizing can be seem overwhelming for a host of reasons like lack of time, not knowing where to start and when you throw children into the equation, I know that it might sound and seem impossible. You’ve probably heard me say it before, but I stand by the belief that homes do not (and very likely will not) always be neat, but they can always be organized. And, organization with kids is possible.

Have you felt motivated to get your home more organized but in the back of your mind think “what’s the point?”. Maybe you worry that your children will mess up the time that you put into creating (what you thought was) the perfect system, or worse...you actually spend the time to get organized and the aforementioned scene actually plays out? This is a very common situation that I am faced with often.

My daughters and I were on Good Morning Washington earlier this week to discuss the top problem areas that I hear about from my clients when it comes to organizing with kids (toys, paper, homework/art, and food) and we shared what works in our home. Even as a professional organizer I’ve had to figure out what systems work best for my family (through trial and error in some cases) and these systems have worked for us over the years because they are flexible and adaptable, which is perfect for kids because their skills, interests, and independence are constantly expanding.

TOYS
Creating an assigned space for toys makes it easier for kids to know where to find what they're looking for and also where to put it back when they’re done. I recommend using open-top bins so that it’s easy to reach inside and also makes cleanup a breeze. To help get the kids involved with the process, have them create labels for their bins (either by writing out the words or drawing pictures of the category) to add to the outside of the bin, and if you are going to purchase a new bin consider having them get involved in the decision-making process to make it a bit more personal and interesting to them.

PAPER
I treat my kids paperwork like the daily mail: I go through the papers with my daughters to identify what is (1) TO DO (permission slips or forms) (2) TO READ (a note from the school or an assignment that they were graded on), and (3) TO FILE (items to be added to their “save” box). Now that my daughters are 9 years old and we’ve been practicing this routine for years, they have actually taken over this task which not only makes it easy on me, but also gives them some added responsibility. Once the “To File” folder gets full we do a once-over to make sure that they still want to keep what they’ve included inside the folder, and then I transfer the contents over to each of the girls’ “Save” boxes.

HOMEWORK/ART
The kitchen is the heart of the home for our family, and where my daughters do their homework each evening. When they were younger, this is the spot that they would spent their afternoons coloring and creating their latest masterpiece, and it’s always been helpful to corral supplies for easy accessibility. It’s important to us to have their frequently used supplies like pencils, scissors, and scrap paper in a central location that is easy to transport so that when they’re done--or it’s time to clear the table for a meal--cleaning up takes only a minute or two.

FOOD
When it comes to food, it’s all about keeping it accessible for the child. Use storage bins in the pantry and fridge to keep like items together and make it easy to see what's inside (and when it’s time to restock a certain item). In order for kids to make lunches on their own or grab their own after school snack, all foods need to be easily accessible. Move snacks in the pantry to a lower shelf that the kids can reach without asking for help. Likewise, in the fridge keep the options at eye-level or lower to make it easy for the kids to identify what should go in their bag.

All in all, organization for us as a family means that our routines and the products that aid our routines are easy to use and grow with our needs over time. For us, I have seen firsthand how being in control of my family’s routine has made the unexpected and out-of-control situations easier to manage.

I’d love to know: what other problem areas do you have in your home that you want to get organized?

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Client Before & After: Using the vertical space in a small utility closet

I am not sure if it’s the timing of the new year and people's increased interest in getting organized, but in the last few weeks I have had a ton of email requests asking for Before/After pictures of past projects. And, while I am more than happy to show off these transformations (I guess I should be doing this more often?), I started getting curious as to why people wanted to see them. A few of the responses I received included:

  • “I am curious to see where things start from and what you have to deal with on most projects”
  • “Your Instagram pictures only show so much and usually it’s only the after shots”
  • “I want to see that you have worked with disorganization and chaos worse than mine!”  

Of course, all these questions got me thinking and I have decided to share more Before and Afters! You all have asked, and now I am going to deliver. And while all the photos you will see are not professional (they’re from our iPhones), if you can handle the not-so-professional photography you will hopefully see some of the transformations--both big and small---that we have worked on with our clients.

First up, a recent project of a client that moved into a newly-renovated row house in Washington, DC that is full of charm but slightly lacking on storage space.

At the close of the home’s renovation process, our client knew that she would need to make the most out of the storage closet located off of her kitchen, and we jumped at the chance to help maximize this space along with others in the house. So, listen up all of you with smaller closets...there is hope for all of your storage needs and dreams! :)

Here is the “BEFORE”: Completely bare kitchen closet

Utility Closet - Before.JPG

Before designing a solution, we had to figure out what was going to go into this space. Here is what needed to fit inside the closet:

  • Appliances (again: it’s a row house so the kitchen cabinets and drawer space were occupied with the commonly used items like glassware and dishes)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Outdoor gardening supplies
  • Stock household items (garbage bags, napkins, paper towels, food storage bags and wraps, and a variety of filters and refills ranging from the Brita to the vacuum)
  • Kitchen towels and aprons
  • Placemats
  • Paper products and plasticware
  • Broom, mop, and Swiffers
  • Step stool
  • Vacuum
  • Bike pump

For a closet that measured just under 3 feet in length (in the closet world that is pretty small!) we knew that the best solution would be to use as much vertical space as possible.

Here is what we designed, had installed, and then organized into the space:

Utility - After 1.JPG

We used The Container Store’s elfa line to add four shelves up the wall that are deep enough to hold appliances, but functional enough to still grab items easily from the top shelf without worrying about hitting the door frame. This closet also had a hidden bump-out on the right that we wanted to make sure would still be accessible for our client’s larger items like her broom, mop, swiffer, and step stool.

We used wire baskets to store the cleaning supplies, separated by categories: multi-purpose cleaners, specialty cleaners, and outdoor gardening supplies, and put the bulkier stock items on a shelf of their own.

Below the shelves are five deep and wide drawers where we put the loose items like dish towels, paper products and plasticware, and filters and refills. We could have added shelves down the entire wall, but we love that the drawers keep the products contained and categorized (and the labels make for easy access).

So, there you have it! A blank closet space that is now completely functional and maximizes the space due to a bit of closet design and organization. An, “Aha!” moment for our client because hey, the potential was there and she just needed “outside eye” to weigh in.

What tricky storage situations have you overcome in your home? Are there any space-saving tips or products that you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below!

And as a friendly reminder for our DC area-based readers: we’re hosting an organizing workshop at West Elm DC this Saturday! We’re discussing our organizing tips, solutions for the tricky areas in your home, and showing you how to combine function + style using our favorite West Elm pieces (oh, and every attendee will leave with an organizing starter kit that includes The Playbook).

People have asked if I am going to be preaching what you “should be doing” like how to keep things clean at all times and how to implement impossible strategies that include color coding your closet. My answer: absolutely not! This isn’t a workshop that is designed to make you feel bad about the state of your home organization. There is no perfectly organized, clean, calm house (unless you know something I don’t), but this workshop is where you will hear about realistic and stylish solutions that work in a busy home (we know that there isn’t enough time, you work, you have kids, you have a life!) and get your questions answered. Please join me and the rest of the DC area attendees who are in the same boat as you!

Click here to grab your ticket!

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ORGANIZATION PRODUCTS: A REFLECTION OF YOUR STYLE. PLUS A MINTWOOD HOME GIVEAWAY!

I am a firm believer that organization and design go hand in hand, which is why we always are mindful of our client’s aesthetic when making organizing product recommendations and creating long-lasting organization solutions. By keeping in mind the palette and feel of the home’s existing interior and furnishings, the organizational design that is put into place can make a home not only beautiful, but truly functional. Have you ever walked into a room in your home where you knew that it just didn’t feel right? I am not sure if you have ever been conscious of why that might be, but creating organizational systems that also fit in with the design of your house overall can contribute to your feeling when you are in the space. Don’t you feel different when you are in a room and everything in there just seems to fit together and flow not only in the design of the space but how it functions?

I also believe that organization doesn’t mean creating rigid systems that control your life, or purchasing plastic bins to contain everything in an orderly fashion. Organization should tie into the way that you currently live your life, and the products that aid the organization should be a reflection of your style.

Just as you take care of your favorite piece of clothing or shoes to keep them in good shape, we think that keeping up with organization falls into the same thought process. If it’s easy to put something away because you know exactly where it goes (and fits), it’s a lot easier to keep up with. And, if you love the products that you’ve invested in there is a good chance you’ll be more inclined to keep up with the system.

It should come as no surprise to hear that we have an ever-growing list of products and retailers that we turn to during our product selections. We are always conscious of our clients budget and style, so it’s important for us to know what’s out there so that we can find the best fit for our clients.

And because we know how integral great design can be in the organizing process, we’re hosting a giveaway with one of our favorite online retailers, Mintwood Home!

Mintwood Home is an online marketplace for home decor, among many other amazing items. The Mintwood Home team has carefully curated products that are not only beautiful, but super functional. We love that they offer unique alternatives to classic pieces so that you can make functional pieces feel a bit more you.

Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a selection of home design pieces (that are great for organizing!) from Mintwood Home, and--in case you need a little push in the right direction to get organized--we’re also giving away an online consultation with Rachel and Company!

One lucky winner will receive:

  • A selection of four Mintwood Home’s home pieces (great for organizing): Hexagonal White and Gold Tray, Glass and Brass Jewelry Box, List Notepad, and Hashtag Bookends. (retail value of $200)
  • An online consultation with one of DC’s top professional organizers, Rachel and Company: a 30-minute phone consultation to discuss an organizing challenge for one area of your home, followed by a detailed plan and recommended product list. (retail value of $250)
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Name *
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TO ENTER:

  1. Enter to win using the form above
  2. Want to increase your changes? Follow both Rachel and Company (@rachelandcomp) and Mintwood Home (@mintwoodhome) on Instagram
  3. On Instagram, use the comment section below to tag a friend who loves organizing and home design just as much as you do (each friend tagged is an additional entry!)

Winner will be announced on January 26 (contest closes 1/25/17 at 11:59 EST).

GOOD LUCK!

Organizing with Kids: Keepsakes

When I started my company in 2007 I had no idea where I would be a decade later, but I love looking back on old client folders (I’m working on digitizing all of my historical documents), my first client before and after photos, and even the original branding and marketing collateral. It’s fun to see how much has changed, how much has remained the same, and remember the good (and sometimes bad) that happened along the way to shape who I am as business owner now.

My identical twins were born shortly after my company took off, and next week they are turning 9 years old (NINE?!). I’m completely in denial that in the very near future I will have a double dose of preteen fun but I am slowly starting to comprehend that I can’t control what is ahead even though my Type A brain wants to sometimes! :)

While I was learning how to balance being a mom to two newborns at the same time as running my own business, I leaned on organization to get me through. I definitely could not control the demands that my daughters would have throughout the day or anticipate the learning curve that comes with running a small business, but knowing that I had set up the rest of my life (i.e. my calendar, the contents of my home, etc.) in a way that was easy for me to manage in the midst of all of the unexpected and unknown during those early years.

Regardless of how crazy motherhood can be, I never want to forget those moments. As daughters of a professional organizer, it was inevitable that my daughters would practice what I preach. We try to edit their clothes and toys on a regular basis, and they are pretty great about letting go of school papers and artwork at the end of each week. Of course, like all of us, there are things that are special to them (and even myself!) that they want to hold on to. Just as we do for our clients, we like to dedicate one box for each family member to store their keepsake items. Recently we were introduced to Savor, a company that creates beautiful keepsake boxes to curate the items that we want to preserve.

Each year we like to pull out my daughters’ keepsake boxes to take a look back on the memories from years past, how much they have changed and how much we have stayed the same. We love that The Library: School Years Keepsake Box includes a Birthday Survey--an easy way to track and look back on changes from last year. For kids, each year can feel like a lifetime and it’s easy for them to forget what happened when they were younger. I love having a place for them to peek back into their younger years and for me to reflect on those early days when I was a new mom pursuing a career that I’ve grown even more passion about nearly 9 years later.

I’d love to know: What keepsakes have you held on to over the years? How do you store your family memories?

This post is sponsored by Savor, a company that believes in saving what matters most. Definitely check out what Savor has for babies, kids and families. I am a true believer in saving what matters most and doing it in a stylish way. Their products also make great gifts!

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