Fridge Organization Tips: Our Washington Post Facebook Live segment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

KIDS' CLOSET ORGANIZATION

As a parent to twin 9-year old girls and as an organizer with my fair share of exposure to kids’ rooms (as in hundreds of kids’ rooms), kids’ closets are one of our most requested areas to (1) organize and (2) discuss how to organize. I recently discussed my experience working in (and designing) custom kid’s closets with The Wall Street Journal. Closets are area that for many seems to be too big of a beast to tackle for many reasons. With kids, it’s inevitable that systems will never be perfect. Not only are kids less interested in keeping up with the systems, but their needs/interests/clothing are constantly growing and evolving.

I have been in countless closets where clients are amazed (and embarrassed) at the items that they pulled out. Clothes that are multiple sizes too small, too big, or damaged. Shoes with a missing mate. Backpacks full of last year’s schoolwork.

You might ask yourself how all of the stuff got here in the first place. How it went from a simple clothing rod and shelf to total disarray. Life happens. Children acquire a lot of everything (clothes, shoes, books, art, hobbies, toys, etc.) and there is no way to keep it all in check without a solid system in place.

In order to create a system that will be successful for you and your family it is important to think about your needs, identify how you and your children use the space, and figure out what you want for it to look like.

There are a few questions that I always ask the client before getting started on a closet design or organizing project:

  • What are the ages of your children? User accessibility is key, so if there are little ones who are expected to reach their clothing it is important to incorporate low clothing bars, drawers, and/or step stools to make items easier to reach. Also, chances are the clothes have not had a quick size-sweep in a while, so review everything to make sure that they are still the proper size for your child.Tip: store hand-me-down and seasonal clothing, store them in either the back of the closet or in clear bins on a shelf. Label the bin with a description and size of the contents (i.e. Spring/Summer Dresses, Size 7/8)
  • What do your kids wear on a daily basis? Similar to adult closets, the most frequently used items should be most easily accessible.  Seasonally-appropriate apparel, school uniforms, and easy-to-grab options should be categorized and within reach.
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  • Are clothes kept anywhere else in the house? Account for any clothes that may be stored under the bed or are away in seasonal storage during your review. You’ll want to make sure you get rid of any items that are outgrown or damaged and take inventory of what you are holding on to in order to make sure the closet is maximized based on your needs. For example, if you are building closet for your child and know that they they have a lot of pants and shorts, consider adding shelves or deep drawers to allow for folded items to be stored.
  • Who puts away the laundry? Like I mentioned, user accessibility is key. While many systems start out great, oftentimes they fail because the user doesn’t know how to keep them up. Assign a spot for everything using labels and dividers (from the inside of drawers to the outside of shelves and even in between the hangers) so that when it’s time for someone to put away the clothing they know where it belongs rather than placing it wherever it fits.
  • What else needs to be stored in the closet? When you are accounting for what will be stored inside of the closet make sure to think outside of just clothing and shoes. Does your child have accessories (i.e. hats, belts, ties) that need a dedicated area? Or are there hobbies that need to be kept in mind (i.e. dance bags, sports uniforms, etc.). Knowing what items need to fit inside the closet before loading it back in will make it easier to create dedicated areas for each category.  

And a couple of things that I always keep in mind:

  • Choose adjustable whenever possible. Shelves, racks, and drawers that can be easily adjusted in height and placement make it possible to adapt to the changing needs of your growing children.
  • Keep a donation bin nearby. Any parent knows how quickly kids change sizes, so have a basket in available to toss in any outgrown clothing. Once a basket fills up take that as an indication to make a run to your local donation center.
  • Add personality in the basics. From clothes hangers to drawer pulls, there are plenty of opportunities to tie in your child’s interests into their closet. Choose items in their favorite color or interest (i.e. football knobs or pink and purple patterned pins) to make your kids more interested and excited about their closet.
  • Tie in the room’s aesthetic. Want to spruce up the overall look of your kid’s closet? Make the space an extension of your home’s aesthetic by tying in design elements that elevate the overall look.  I’ve seen everything added from wallpaper and carpeting, custom window seat storage, and accessory storage that can make a child’s closet not only functional but also beautiful.

I’d love to know: do you struggle keeping your kids’ closets (or your own!) organized? Are there any systems or tricks that have proven to be successful for your family? Share you input in the comments section below!

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

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

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 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.

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.