There’s a change in the air…

Here we are in mid-September. Summer is officially over. The kids are back in school. You can feel a hint of crispness in the air when you walk out the door each morning. The changing of the seasons got me thinking about a lot of things. I’m inspired to muse about the changes I anticipate for myself, and particularly, my business.

Rachel and Company is nearly 10 years old! Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think about it. I’m so proud of all of the iterations my business has gone through to get it to where it is today. While I don’t miss the growing pains of starting a business from scratch, I do appreciate all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.  I haven’t been alone in this adventure. You’ve been with me on this crazy and wonderful journey navigating life as a working mom to two beautiful twin girls, experiencing divorce, and even finding love again and getting remarried.

My business has shared many of it’s own milestones, too. Today, Rachel and Company has helped over 1,500 families get organized. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be featured in print and television. Most recently, I launched a brand new online course on how to conquer back-to-school organization. Through it all, I’ve treated every success and challenge as a growth opportunity, and I’m so happy to translate these lessons into tried-and-true tips that I can share not only with my clients, but with others who see the value in what I do. For that, I’m so grateful.

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I’m happy to report that Rachel and Company is as busy as ever and we are getting to help tons of more clients on a daily basis. For those of you who know me, I don’t like to let things get too comfortable. I’m constantly thinking about how I can take my business to the next level; finding new areas for growth, and pushing the status quo.

So what’s ahead you might ask? I’m excited to create more online classes, expand the rachel-company.com Shop page, and continue to partner with other amazing groups to promote new ideas and offerings. There are companies that I’ve grown to love and products that I turn to time and time again as both a parent and an organizer, and I want to share them with you! You may have noticed my recent post where I shared my love for Mabel’s Labels and partnered with their team to share how we use the product in our home (with a discount code exclusive to Rachel and Company readers), which I am excited to continue to do with brands in the future. I am often asked what products I use and love, what we use with our clients or what products I recommend for a specific age group or area in the home, so I’ll be partnering with companies that will make it possible to share that type of information with you all.

You have taken the time out of your day to read what I have to say and I want to make sure I am using your time wisely and providing value to you and your home. I’m also flexing my speaking chops by exploring themes that relate to how organization can make life just a little bit easier.  Curious about how getting your kitchen in order can lead to good nutritional practices? That’s what we talked about at a recent event at the Four Seasons in Washington, DC on Tuesday evening led by dietician Ashley Koff, RD for her monthly Better Health Powered by Better Nutrition series.  Expect to see more of these types of partnerships in the weeks and months to come.

At the end of the day, organizing will always be at the heart of what this business is about, but don’t be surprised if you see some new developments, too.  That’s what growth and change is all about. Rachel and Company wouldn’t be what it is today without you. That’s why I want to know:  

What are the organizational challenges you want to learn more about? What are some of you favorite products or brands that you use in your lives to make things less stressful, easier, etc.? Are you ready to boost your organizing game? I know that I am. I’m here. I’m listening.


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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.

Emergency Preparedness: How to get your essentials organized

With the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and Harvey, it has put emergency preparedness at the front of my mind (and yours too, I’m sure) and now more than ever I find it important to address emergency preparedness and being organized for an emergency. While I don’t live in an area that was impacted directly by the storms over the last couple of weeks, I —like many of you —have friends and family living in the regions where devastation occurred. I’ve had a chance to ask what they took with them (or didn’t) in an effort to tweak my home’s existing emergency preparedness kit. To my surprise, I have work to do...and you may too.

While it may be your inclination to be prepared for everything, there are some essentials that take priority and should always be on hand for these types of situations. Of course, what you keep and need in your emergency kit (or bag or room...I’ve seen and heard of both!) will vary depending on the type of disaster, so I am going to focus specifically on creating and organizing a basic supply kit that would be helpful —and likely necessary —regardless of the type of disaster.

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What would you need to get through the day? I’m not talking about the “nice-to-haves” that you’ve grown accustomed to like shampoo and slippers, but what you need to stay healthy, like water (a gallon/person), food (enough non-perishables to last a couple of days), a flashlight, battery-powered radio (with extra supplies), money (in case ATMs are no longer accessible), first aid kit, critical medication, and then sanitation needs (like moist towelettes and garbage bags). Remember, some of these items will expire eventually, so don’t feel the need to completely stockpile for the “just-in-case” moments (unless of course you are notified in advance of a natural disaster or chance of power outage and are notified that extra necessities will likely be required). Depending on the number of people in your household all of these items should all fit in a large clear bin, and we recommend choosing one that is easy to carry (so avoid bulky or awkwardly-shaped bins) and if they are weathertight that is extra handy in case of water damage.

Next, let's talk about how to get your papers in order. You're likely keeping more paperwork than necessary as it is, but it's important to create an essential information file box that you can easily access and quickly grab in case of emergency. You'll want to take your existing filing system and create copies of the critical items, which are the ones that you can't afford to get ruined. These are documents that would be difficult to replace and are vital in case of an emergency and/or loss, so I recommend storing them in a secure, weather/fireproof file box. Your file box may vary based on your needs, but below is a quick list of what document copies should be stored inside. Want to take it a step further? Create a backup digital version on a USB just in case something happens to the hard copies.

  • Birth certificates
  • Passports
  • Legal documents
  • Insurance information (life, house, car, and medical)
  • Updated will
  • Power of attorney information
  • Spare keys (house, car)
  • Key contact phone numbers (family, doctors, etc.)
  • Account information (logins, account numbers, list of pertinent bills)

Once you’ve created your kit and essential file box, store them in a location that is easy to access in a hurry and communicate the location with your family so that everyone is aware of where to find the essentials if they are ever needed.

I’m curious: do you have an emergency kit or prepare plan? What’s included? Share your take in the comments section below!


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JOIN ME NEXT WEEK!

Tuesday, September 19th from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

I'm partnering with the Four Seasons Georgetown and dietician Ashley Koff RD for her monthly Better Health Powered by Better Nutrition series on September 19th! Join us in a discussion on how organization can enable better health and tips on how to organize your fridge and pantry (just in time for Fall). The session is open to the public, so hope to see you there!


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.

Crushing the Controversy: The Benefits of Labeling

How do you feel about labeling? I know that for some people the thought of pulling out a label maker or creating DIY tags to indicate categories around your home seems so far fetched or even unnecessary. Maybe the effort to do it just seems too time consuming (why spend time making labels when you can barely get out of the door on time as it is?) or the aesthetics of having text stuck around your house and belongings just doesn’t appeal to you. I totally understand...but before you toss all hope of using the labeling method out the window I want to share some reasons why I am and always will be pro-label.

As cheesy as it may sound, labels are the glue that hold your systems together. They are the structure to support the system that you’ve worked hard to put into place (like organizing your pantry) and keep categories together. In your pantry, for example, when there is no indicator for where the food should be put back it will likely be put wherever it is most convenient which can lead to categories quickly becoming lost and undone. Labels help to identify categories, give a home to every item in your home, and make it possible to keep up the organization over time.

Organizing should be intuitive for the user (which is why I always say to keep like items together) but when there is room to be more specific a label can cut out wasted time and energy and direct the user to exactly what they are looking for.

In my home we label areas that are touched by multiple users, which for us is primarily in the kitchen and with my kids’ stuff. During our back to school prep we introduced more labeling techniques to make our morning routines easier. I’ve included what’s worked for us and why I recommend using labels (of any and all kinds!) to our clients.

MAKES IT EASY TO IDENTIFY THE USER
With identical twins who not only wear similar clothing but also really don’t want the other twin borrowing their clothing, shoes, or accessories, having personal labels on their items has made it possible to know which items belong to each kid, which is a lifesaver during outfit selections the night before each school day. The girls have loved the labels so much that they have even started labeling their school supplies...that way they know which pencil is always theirs!

CUTS DOWN ON TIME AND MONEY WASTED
Honestly, before I became a mother I would have never understood the importance of labeling my kids’ clothing. But after the many times where clothing gets either left behind at the end of the day at camp or just confused in the sea of similar items during dance class, I can’t say how much MONEY and TIME I have saved over the years simply by throwing a label on my kids’ stuff. From the inside of their clothing and shoes to the outside of their school supplies and bags, labels have made it possible to keep all of their stuff in check so we make it out the door and back home with everything that we left with at the beginning of the day.

HELPS MAKE DAILY TASKS EASIER 
Like most families, my kids go through a lot of laundry between school and their many activities. Oftentimes I can’t tell the difference between their clothing (a common problem with identical twins–ha!) so having labels on their clothing tags makes it so quick for me to divide the load between the correct rooms.

Also, when it comes to meal prep we often find ourselves reserving leaning on leftovers for quick meals at the end of the week, so it is incredibly handy to know when I actually made the food that we’re about to consume just in case it’s time to toss it. But don’t just limit labeling to the fridge! Pantry labels make it not only super easy to navigate between the categories but also gives everything a designated spot, which makes it easy to tell when something needs to be replaced (and therefore add it to the grocery list) and easy to unload the groceries in their correct place.

I’d love to know: do you use labels in your own home? What areas do you keep labeled? Or are you completely against them? Tell me in the comments section!

*This post is sponsored by Mabel’s Labels, a company that our family has used and loved for many years. Mabel’s Labels is offering 10% for all Rachel and Company readers now through September 15th. Use the discount code RACHEL10 to receive your savings at checkout!

The Home Hour Recap: Decluttering Our Lives & Our Closets

Last month I chatted with Kirsten and Graham from the The Home Hour podcast and I’m so excited to announce that it’s now up on iTunes! In the 45-minute segment we talked a lot about closet organization, decluttering tips for your home, and of course back to school (tis the season!).

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I know I’ve said it many times before, but I really do work with people just like you on a daily basis and I think that this episode highlights some great areas that you are totally going to relate to. Kirsten and Graham brought really good questions and situations to the table and I loved that I got the opportunity to answer them on the podcast because I truly hear these types of questions on a regular basis from each one of my clients. I was an open book and shared my approach for organizing, which included answers to:

  • How to introduce systems when you are hindered by lack of square footage
  • When to justify keeping items that no longer fit
  • Why being neat does not mean the same thing as being organized
  • How to identify goals and create systems that will work for your family
  • Why products are not always answer to getting organized
  • How to (finally!) re-purpose the Kaboodle that has been sitting in your attic since 1990

I touch on everything from how to stop decision fatigue, the motherly instinct to be prepared for those “just in case” situations, and why I focus more on being a realist instead of a minimalist.

For you parents out there make sure you tune in around minute 35 where I focus on back to school. Kirsten and Graham hit the nail on the head when they called back to school the  “New Years for parents” and I couldn’t agree more. Back to school season is such a good motivator to start off the school on the right foot and make resolutions to have an easier year than the one before. You remember the influx of papers and the chaotic morning routines and you are ready to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The good news is that I actually just created an online course to help you with this resolution. This is your opportunity to work with me (regardless of where you live!) and make positive change in your home and routine this school year.

My online course From Chaos to Calm: Taking Back Control of Your Back-to-School consists of six in-depth video modules that will transform how your family approaches the school year. We’ll cover everything from setting up a family command center to decluttering your kid’s closets. My tried and true methods come from years of helping clients establish organizing systems for their homes, not to mention my own experience raising twin girls!

Each module will include worksheets with product lists and step-by-step guidance on how to implement all the great organizing tips presented in the videos. You’re encouraged to practice implementing these systems in your own home to find what works best for your busy back-to-school routine. Rest assured - you won’t be alone in this journey! You’ll have the additional support of our private Facebook group to share your experiences and corroborate ideas.

I am so excited to kick off the course on September 11 and would love to see you there. So, from now through Labor Day I’m offering 30% off of the course registration! Just use the code LABORDAY during checkout to receive the savings. Join me for one-on-one professional organizing advice, easy-to-follow video modules and materials, and product lists for everything that I recommend and use in my own home. The class size is limited so I’m only sharing the discount code with my blog and newsletter followers because I want to make sure you grab your spot while there is space available!

I’d love to know if create new resolutions in September, what clothing you’re hiding in the back of your closet or attic, and what is one area you just can’t seem to get organized. So, leave a comment below and let me know your biggest back to school, closet, or organizing conundrum!


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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.

Morning Routine Tips for Back-to-School

I don’t know about you, but I depend on routines and schedules. From when I grocery shop to when I get my work done, it is all scheduled out an out as best as it can so that when life’s inevitable hiccups throw a wrench in my plan I know how to get back on track. This also gives us time for more enjoyable things. I’m not one to “wing it” when it comes to getting tasks and priorities handled (some people disagree with this but our family thrives this way), and getting my kids up and out the door before school is no exception.

In our household I have implemented morning routines to create order, independence, and also to keep us on time and get us out the door without forgetting the essentials. Over the summer months our schedules look a lot different than they doing during the school year, but since we are a few weeks out from the first day of school this is the time we start getting back into the habit of the routine. Now that my twins are entering fourth grade in a couple of weeks they are still using the same morning routine that we set in place years ago, only now they are able to handle a lot of the routine on their own without my assistance (which I love!).

If you’re interested in adopting some tried-and-true tips that have worked in a busy household with young children, I’ve included the morning routine tips that have worked for our family over the years below. For younger and older kids, the same morning routine tips apply but your involvement will be determined on their age and how much responsibility/independence you’d like for them to have.

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  • Keep clothing sorted in color order. When choosing what to wear each day it’s helpful to keep an organized closet, especially on the days when kids are requesting a specific shirt or perfectly-coordinated outfit.  My girls like to choose their own outfits, so keeping their drawers and closets sorted in color order (and by type) makes it easy to find the exact article of clothing that they want to wear that day.
     
  • Make outfit choices the night before. There is so little time in the morning to be spent choosing what will be worn that day, so we find it to be helpful to select outfit (and accessory) choices the night. My girls know that if they make their selections in advance that means that they can have a few more minutes of sleep each morning. All options are sorted within arms' reach and in open bins, low hangers, and drawers to make it easy to see and grab.
     
  • Work backwards to create your morning timeline. We give a time limit for each task (hair=5 mins, breakfast=15 mins, etc.) to figure out how much time is needed to get everything done and determine the wake-up time based on how long everything will take so that we have enough time to get it done and out the door on time. We always build in an extra 5 minutes to account for something to take longer than normal (let’s be honest, we depend on this extra time most days!).
     
  • Set our fridge and pantry up in advance. I've learned that my girls enjoy their lunches more when they are the ones actually making the decisions on what goes inside. Our fridge and pantry is set up so that the girls can reach in and grab an option from each category (fruit, vegetables, protein, etc.), so all they have to do is grab and fill. Each night I wash and set out their lunchboxes, containers, and water bottles so that in the mornings the girls can get started without waiting for me to pull out their essentials.

(PS- want to see how my girls make their lunch each morning? Here is a video that they made on their lunch routine.)

  • Keep extra essentials in the downstairs bathroom. In our house we keep toothbrushes and hair supplies in a bin underneath the downstairs bathroom sink. That way as we're heading to the door to grab backpacks and put their shoes on they can stop in the bathroom for final preparations instead of taking longer than necessary to run upstairs.

I’m curious: What does your morning routine look like? Are there any back-to-school tips you’d like to share? Please 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.