Posted in Bedroom, Success Stories

Getting Ready for a Recuperating Guest

Natalie and Tom would soon welcome friends who often stay with them to ski. This time, the wife in the couple would stay in one of their guest rooms, recovering from double knee replacement surgery. Her husband would sleep in another guest room, close by.

As Natalie had indicated, I arrived to find the bed covered with neatly folded clothes. She was sure about parting with some, though we would discuss other items.

We carefully looked at all. She graciously decided to donate some to SCHIP’s Treasure Resale Shop, an interfaith program’s second-hand shop in Shelburne, VT. All of its sale proceeds benefit needy families and individuals in Shelburne, Charlotte and Hinesburg. I offered to drop off her contributions to SCHIP’s on the way home, and to send a tax deduction receipt for her taxes.

With a scratchy throat and a cold coming on, Natalie helped load donations into my car, and promised to send a photo of the bed, once it was made.



Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

Timely Tips, Holiday Edition, Vol. I

As the holiday season quickly approaches, here are a few tips to save time now, and maybe a bit of sanity, too. From the archives –

  • Find any gifts bought spontaneously through the year and stored who-knows-where.
  • Add all holiday events into a shared family digital calendar – every party, cookie swap, caroling event, concert.
  • If needed, drop off fancy holiday outfits at the dry cleaner’s.
  • Shop for non-perishable groceries and booze before stores get crazy, and place orders for any in-demand specialty foods that might be in shorter supply later.
  • Order any specialty clothes, pajamas, etc., that might need to be monogrammed now, in November, before a supplier’s production staff gets very busy.
Posted in Timely Tips

More Seemingly Random Organizing Tips

From the archives, here are some professional organizer’s tips.

  • To remember to use coupons and also to get them out of the kitchen junk drawer, store them in an envelope or photo flip book. Keep it in the car or, if you have one, a reusable shopping bag.
  • Items to store in a clear-pocket shoe bag (besides shoes!) – cleaning products, first-aid supplies, crafts materials, scarves and belts, toy action figures.
  • Your home has storage spaces that you may not have considered. One is space above doors. In the bathroom, a shelf with brackets can store spare towels. In the kitchen, hang blender or mixer attachments on the inside of a cupboard door, using command hooks.
Posted in Pantry, Success Stories

A Tale of Two Pantries

She posted a search for a professional organizer on the Front Porch Forum, Vermont’s online community bulletin board, accessible in all towns. She especially sought someone with experience. After several exchanged emails and a phone conversation, including about recipes that needed better storage, we set a date.

There are two pantry areas in the house. She is a massage therapist with a home practice, so she is especially concerned that those she treats there see tidy areas.

We decided to focus on the pantry closer to the kitchen. We first pulled out recipes that were stored in a crate lying on its side. I suggested organizing them in a three-ring binder, with side tabs for different kinds of foods, like breads/muffins, appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, etc. I showed her one of mine brought along for “show and tell.” It’s useful and fun to leaf through it when looking for yummy eats to make. It’s so low-tech as to be no-tech. It would take some time to develop, though ultimately can save time. No screen needed!

Next, working top to bottom, we cleared off the top shelf, storing there platters and other serving bowls used rarely, but still good to have handy. We consolidated other items, like cookie sheets. We brought to the garage some things to be tossed or recycled, and loaded others to be donated into her car.






Pleased with our results, she felt confident about clearing the clutter in the second pantry.

Posted in Closet, Success Stories

Transitions – the Seasons and Karen’s Closet

I know Karen from the pool. She has clothes in two different rooms at home. Would I come over to help her consolidate and move summer clothes into storage and fall items into “rotation,” as she called it? The timing would be good, since her husband was away on a vacation. We wouldn’t be in his way or otherwise disturb him. Of course!

To get rid of “visual noise,” I suggested that we first focus on the area directly in front of her closet. We cleared the top of a low chest and the window sill.


Next, we turned our attention to the top of her dresser and the coat rack next to it. A few small items were placed with her luggage, to be ready for her next trip. We started a box of goodies for visiting little ones to enjoy, including the colorful plastic rings.


Finally, we worked on the closet. We pulled boxes and bags from its top right shelf and the floor. We stored elsewhere some contents, and returned a couple of boxes with family photos and other items for her future consideration. We refolded some tops. We took a comforter out of the chest and placed in it swim goggles, and a handful of summer tops and shorts. They’ll be handy for packing when she and her husband go on their annual March sailing vacation, somewhere in the Caribbean.


In our next session, we’ll work on the second room where Karen has stored clothes.

Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

October Holiday Decorating

These days, there’s some conjecture about whether or not Halloween has become the second-most decorated holiday. Who really cares? It gives us opportunities to be creative and maybe also a bit outrageous.

Here’s a fun and incredibly inexpensive idea, from Amy Sedaris’s book
I like you: hospitality under the influence. The book is funny, creative and “spicy.” (Read: over-the-top and sassy.)

To make the Nosey Tissue Ghost, you’ll need two sheets of facial tissue. Lay one out flat, then ball up the other one and place it in the center of the flattened sheet. Use monofilament (clear fishing) line to tie the head off at the neck. Dot with a felt tipped pen to mark eyes. Using clear tape, attach some more line to the top of the head.

Where to hang it? From a tree, from a front porch ceiling, anywhere where it could cause a stir. Clear fishing line is especially good, because it’s strong and will help to make the ghost look like it’s flying through the air. The local hardware store sells 500 yards for $3.00. (Once added to your craft supplies stash, it’s likely to come in handy for other uses, too.)

A few hung together could be even better. Boo!

Posted in Suggestions, Timely Tips

Set Boundaries to Control Clutter

Leafing through a magazine while getting the car’s oil changed recently, I read some interesting tips. A few are worth sharing.

Set boundaries to control clutter.

  • If you can, consider open storage. Closed cabinets and lidded boxes make it temptingly easy to stash new stuff.
  • Limit collections, like craft supplies or memorabilia, to one drawer or bin. Once full, purge. If you can, resist the temptation to fill another bin.
  • Unsure about how much you really use an item? Place a removable dot sticker on it, with the date. If not used for several months, it might be time to donate or give it away, as long as you’re not adding to someone else’s clutter.
Posted in Gardening, Seasons, Timely Tips

Season Transition Plant Care

This Timely Tip first appeared in late September of last year. It’s that time again!

Now that summer’s officially over, you’ll want to care for outdoor plants. Here are some suggestions found online.

1. You’ll want to move your plants indoors when temperatures regularly drop below 60, and definitely before they get as low as 45 degrees F. If you can, plan to gradually transition your plants indoors, putting them in a shady spot for a few weeks before bringing them inside.

2. Decide where the plants will go in advance. Try to match the conditions outdoors, putting plants that were in bright sunlight in south-facing windows. If not possible, at least try to gradually move plants to lower-light areas over a few days or weeks. They may still lose leaves in response to the reduced light, but you can try to minimize the loss.

Note: Without any windows in the way, plants get more sun outdoors than they do inside. Use this as inspiration to wash your windows (both inside and out, if possible). Your plants will appreciate it and, if it’s been a long time since their last cleaning, so will you!

3. Inspect your plants to see if any have outgrown their pots and need to be repotted. If they do, be sure to choose a pot with drainage holes, and the appropriate new potting soil. Lightly prune plants that have gotten leggy while outside.

4. It’s really important to inspect your plants for pests and problems before you bring them indoors. Soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes to force any pests out in search of air. Drain thoroughly before bringing indoors. If you want to be extra sure that you’re not bringing in any uninvited guests with your plants, you may even want to quarantine them in a room separate from other plants for a few days.

5. Once you’ve got your plants transitioned indoors for the season, be sure not to overwater. For most plants, that means letting the soil dry to the touch before watering. You may find that the dry indoor air from your heat source(s) means that plants need nearly as much water in the winter as they do in the summer. Since they’ll grow less in response to less light, fertilizing monthly or bi-monthly during the winter should be sufficient.

Happy gardening and transition from summer to fall!

Posted in Timely Tips

School Year Sanity – for Parents and the Students in their Lives

Now that the school year is well underway, are you getting stuck and/or frustrated by some of its organizational aspects? From the archives, here are some suggestions for school year sanity.

• Paper, paper, paper. To manage health forms, reports and other papers from school, use an app to snap a photo with your phone. It becomes a PDF. Possibilities – ScanSnap or Tiny Scanner.

If you’d rather not use technology, a bin for each student might help. Clear plastic, a foot or so long and a foot high, should do it. Check it daily for tasks; empty as needed. Be disciplined!

Another option – a cardboard sorter, with a slot for each member of the family. Assign each student the task of placing in it any papers with needed parental action, and ask him/her to always tell you about them.

• Phone notices and apps. Enter into its calendar school days off, early dismissals, and events (games, concerts, etc.); into its contacts the main office, nurse and guidance counselor. Add to the contacts list the names of parents and their linked activities. It could help if you have to send texts.

Posted in Timely Tips

To Welcome Fall with Taste and Smell

Sometimes, September seems to be the nicest month here in Vermont. This year is a prime example. It’s been warm and sunny, with more of the same predicted. Even so, the season is changing to fall. Among other signs, leaves are turning, and some valleys are blanketed with morning fog.

If, like me, you’re always sad about the end of summer, here are some suggestions from a local food coop which, to my mind, might ease the seasonal transition. If you drink coffee, you might add a shake or two of pumpkin pie spice to your cup. Mine, from a national discount grocer, includes cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Sure to tickle your taste buds, it’s yummy!

Next, here’s a way to delight your nose. Suggested by a local food coop, it’s about “brewing” a batch of stovetop potpourri to make your home smell like a fresh fall harvest. Mix water, a spice and slices of one or two fruits in a saucepan, simmer, and the scents will fill your home. Apple slices and cinnamon sticks will be fall-like. To remind you of the woods, use limes and pine. For the holidays, you might try oranges, cloves and vanilla. The bulk spice bins at your local coop might have what you want, and you can get the exact amounts needed for stovetop magic.