5 Tips for Toy Organizing

On January 6, 2014, in Home Organizing, by Ellen Delap
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5 tips for toy organizing

The holidays have come and gone and your home might resemble a toy store! With the gifts from Santa and Grandma, your kids’ toys are probably overflowing. And, there might also be too many toys for your kids to really enjoy and for you to put away easily.

Now’s the time for toy decluttering and organizing to get things back to normal.

1. Teach Toy Organizing Skills

Uncluttering and organizing are skills that you can teach  your children.  Promote the idea that sharing your toys is a family value.  Then, just start organizing with a timer set for 15 minutes.

  • Ask your kids to donate 3 toys to those who have less.
  • If your kids are motivated, keep going.
  • Place the toys immediately into bags and have your kids drive with you to the donation location.  This can be a wonderful after Christmas holiday tradition for your family.

If you are meeting resistance,  you can ask your kids which three toys are most important to them. Sometimes, children need help prioritizing and making decisions. Reframing these decisions can help your kids think about their toys in a new way.  Once you know what is too important to part with, you can proceed from here with decluttering and donating.

2. Archive Special Keepsake Toys

Some toys are special. Archive the most precious ones in a 66 quart bin (affiliate link) labelled “Toys” and place this in storage.  As parents and grandparents, we know there are special items to keep. Our family has a set of metal trucks that my husband, son, and grandson have all played with and enjoyed.  Not every toy is special, so be discerning about what you keep and how much you keep.

Toys can also go on “vacation” from time to time. You can rotate some items seasonally and move toys to new locations in your home.  Your children will likely enjoy them again and again in new ways.  Toys on vacation can also be stored in 66 quart bins.

3. Use Kid Friendly Storage

Keeping items in easy to access and easy to return storage makes for great organizing.

Define the toy space (i.e., create zones for specific activities/toys). This will help the toys look more organized and help your children find (and put back) the ones they want to play with.

  • Decide how many toys you want available in one area.
  • Its best not to overload shelves or baskets.  Even if you can fit more toys on a shelf, use good judgment on how many to place there.
  • Add one item or group of items per basket.  The adage less is more definitely applies.

4. Create Play Zones

Consider grouping toys around themes, like kitchen and dolls together or matchbox cars and race tracks together. Your kids will play more when they see these toys together in sets.

  • Sterilite, 3-drawer bins (affiliate link) work great to store items near related toys.
  • Just like in a preschool classroom, store pretend food and dishes near the kitchen, and blocks and other building toys together, books together, art supplies together, and so on.
  • When clean up occurs, separate out the items into the storage spots.

As for Legos, multiple drawers (affiliate link) for different colors makes sorting and finding pieces for new creations easy. One clever mom came up with her own Lego storage solution. Check it out on Pinterest.

  • A  shelf for completed projects can help keep projects in process safe from destruction.
  • Store instructions in a drawer near the construction site.

5. Use Labels to Make Clean Up Easy

Everyone can help when storage containers are labeled!

  • The labels can be simple words or pictures or both.
  • Labels can be preprinted and adhered with  clear packing tape or Zots Clear Adhesive Dots (affiliate link).
  • Clean up more frequently than you think you may need, at least twice a day.
  • Frequent clean up sessions makes it easy to keep the space more organized.

Most importantly, with more organization and fewer toys, your children will be entertained for hours!




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It’s time to shake things up for 2014! When was the last time that you updated your living room or bedroom?  Moving some furniture or artwork and accessories around can give you a fresh perspective and breathe new excitement and energy into rooms that might have gotten a little stale. 

Think of your rooms as giant snow globes.  Imagine them being picked up and shaken about and realize that your belongings can land in an infinite amount of positions. 

shake it up 2014

Layout Your Space on Paper

While doors and windows can affect the placement of furniture, think about moving your sofa across the room. Or, consider breaking it away from the anchor of the wall and into the center of the room.  A fun and easy (free of back breaking labor!) way to try things out is by creating a furniture layout.

When I was setting up my living room for my home (almost 8 years ago), I went old school, drawing out the room’s shell on paper in ¼” scale and cutting out the ¼”pieces of furniture using blue 3×5 cards. This was a fun way to figure out the layout because I could just shuffle the pieces around like a puzzle until I got the right fit.

Important Tip!  Make sure to note your cable jack and outlets, so that you can have the lighting and your TV where you want them.

Layout Your Space Using an App

Another even easier idea  is to use a furniture layout program on your computer!  I found a great FREE one on Better Homes and Gardens website called, “Arrange-a-Room,” which allows you to not only  quickly and simply shorten or lengthen walls, but drag and drop furniture pieces in as well.

Old school ¼” templates are a thing of the past with these programs.  Sofas and chairs have always come in different shapes and sizes, not just one, right?  This program allows you to manipulate the length and width of your furniture pieces, as well as color, so you can get an ideal representation of what your room can look like!  Technology is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Get Started!

1. Get help. Once you have a plan in place the physical work can begin.  Enlist the help of family and friends for large, heavy, and awkward items and let the transformation begin!  Furniture gliding pads (affiliate link) are a great investment for helping with those heavy items as well.

2. Get creative. When it comes to your framed artwork, use the same furniture program, but just give a measurement of the wall (where you will see your items as an elevation) instead of the floor (where you will see your items in a bird’s eye view).

And, use the rectangular dining table that you can modify to be the same size as your artwork!  That way you can play around with them until you get a nice grouping set and you’ll know the ideal spots to put those nails in.  Often the ideal height for a framed piece of art is 5’ or eye level.  Make sure you account for the heights of your furniture pieces, so you don’t have anything running into each other.

3. Get groups of three. Finally, play around with your accessories when all the furniture is in place.  Groupings of three are popular in interior design and offer a visual appeal as well as a sense of balance.   Think of one tall vase flanked by two smaller ones. Or, going back to paintings, you can group a pair of two smaller paintings, hang one above the other, and then put them next to one larger one.

Groupings of 3

Original Image Credit: All-free-download.com

However you decide to shake it up in 2014 … whether you update your room by just playing around with your accessories or by shuffling your furniture, I hope it brings you peace, joy and calmness this New Year!

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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize BlogHow often do you take breaks that involve mindlessly eating chips while scrolling through Twitter? While it still helps to take your mind off of work briefly, this type of respite is not very effective in rebooting the brain. The better break? Get up and move around to get the blood flowing and clear the mind (Bonus points if you take a walk outside!). In addition to providing mild physical exercise, walking has been shown to relieve stress, reduce fatigue and boost mood.

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You’ve Been Taking Breaks All Wrong. Here’s How To Do It Right. | HuffingtonPost.com |12.19.13



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*Product or book links are affiliate links.



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It was a wild and chilly Saturday night, and I was home alone unsupervised and finally folding the laundry I had been avoiding for a week.

It really was super cold outside …

… at least for us in Houston. We may not have had ice or snow like the rest of the country, but some people here covered their outside plants. That’s like DEFCON 5 blizzard preparation in other parts of the country.

While my friends up north were lamenting about ice, snow, and power outages on Facebook, we in Houston were in dire straits because it really was freaking cold. Really cold. So cold that people stayed in on a Saturday night.

That’s when things can get crazy.

The case of the lonely socks and “string bikinis”

There I was folding a neglected basket of laundry, minding my own business, when I saw it: a pair of bikini underwear with strings hanging off the elastic waistband. The strings were so numerous that underwear manufacturers would have reclassified it as a “string bikini.”

“Good gravy,” I muttered to myself, tossing them to the side. “These have seen better days.”

As I dug through the basket, I found a couple of socks missing their mates. How does this happen? It’s the age old question. Scientists can send people to the moon, but we can’t solve the mystery of why socks disappear in washing machines and dryers.

Then things got really crazy. I pulled my underwear and sock drawers out of the dresser, sat on my bed, and I went through each of them.

Wardrobe Purge

With the socks, I made sure the pairs were matched up, and the solo socks were put to the side. If the mates don’t show up in the next two laundry episodes, they’re out. I may even do my Heidi Klum imitation when I kick them to the curb. Psst! If you’re looking for things you can do with your unmatched socks, check out the book The Lonely Sock Club: One Sock, Tons of Cool Projects! (affiliate link).

Because I live on the Gulf Coast and can wear flipflops and sandals for 80 percent of the year, I really don’t have that many socks. (Hey – don’t hate me because I’m in a warm climate.) So, I stacked the paired socks all according to color and type so I can easily reach in and grab what I need without digging. For example, I grouped all the workout socks together, and then I put all the black trouser socks in another section.

Over in the underwear drawer, I sorted out the sad ones to throw away. It felt good to rid myself of ones I was avoiding wearing because they induce wedgies or had just worn out their welcome. Let’s be real. When your underwear gives you a wedgie, there is just no disguising how to remove it, and life is just too short to worry about how to deal with a wedgie.

The funny thing is that I usually don’t fold underwear. I just toss them into my drawer. But, since I was unsupervised and living life on the edge, I wound up folding them all so neatly and placing them into the drawer with dainty precision. It was frightening, but Martha Stewart would have been proud (btw, check out some of her printable homekeeping and organizing checklists).

Afterwards, I had to recover by drinking hot chocolate and watching BBC America.

How to start your own wardrobe purge

You, too, can have your own exciting wardrobe purge on a cold and blustery 40 degree night.

To get started, ask yourself:

  • Do I love it or hate it? If you don’t like it, it doesn’t fit right (or cause wedgies) or is not your style, ditch it. Donate clothes in good condition to charity.
  • Does it still fit? For my morning routine, I must be able to wear anything in my closet, and everything in my closet must be my current size and ready to wear. This saves me time and energy in the mornings. So, be sure to only keep things that fit and flatter you.
  • Do I wear it? If you don’t wear it, donate it. It doesn’t matter how much of a bargain it was when you bought it or how much you think you should keep it. If you never wear it, let it go.
  • Am I waiting for it to come back into style? The fashion mavens will tell you that if you were around the first time a particular clothing item was trendy, you don’t get to wear it the second time around. It’s okay. Let it go. The big shoulder pads we rocked in the 80s need to be left in the 80s or with football players.
  • What condition is it in? If you need to repair a seam or sew on a button, make a stack so you can tackle several pieces at once. If you’re not handy with needle and thread, most dry cleaners will make minor repairs. Otherwise, use a tailor.

I’m sure most of you will find other more interesting activities on a chilly Saturday night, but these are things that happen when a professional organizer is left home alone and desires to be wedgie-free.

*Original Image Credits: Rik Panganiban and Thomas Hawk

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Happy Holidays from the OTR Bloggers

On December 25, 2013, in General, by Deb Lee
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Today is Christmas Day in the United States and the OTR bloggers wish you good times and good eats! =) Whether or not you celebrate, may your day be stress-free and relaxing. Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from the OTR Bloggers



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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize Blog“In the first empirical study into how these orientations originate, researchers found that how adolescents perceive their parents’ work ethic is central to the development of their own work attitudes. People who perceive their father to have a strong career-orientation are more likely to be career-oriented themselves—but career-determined mothers have no effect on their kids’ work orientation. 

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Are You a Workaholic? Blame Your Parents | TheAtlantic.com |12.5.13



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The 5-Minute Organizing Challenge used to be a regular feature on Organize to Revitalize and then it went away for a little while. But, now it has been revived! Dan Loya, the newest OTR author, will share quick organizing challenges with you every month. ~Deb


It’s time for another 5-Minute Organizing Challenge! What can you do in 5 minutes to gain a little order in your life? Here are a few things that can each take just a few minutes to complete. This month’s focus is planning simple gift ideas that involve minimal effort to purchase.

If you are stressed out about how close it is to Christmas (for those of you who celebrate it), use these ideas to purchase gifts in a snap. Here are five small challenges that will help you find gifts easily, so you get some much-needed relaxation instead of fighting the shopping crowds during the rush.

1. Gift Cards. Consider purchasing unique gift card for people on your gift list. Start by doing a quick online search for companies that offer the types of products one person on your list uses. You can customize the gifts to the recipient’s preferences, such as retails stores or wine and cheese shops. When you find it, buy it.

2. Services. For people on your gift list who would like to receive services, you can search for gift certificates. Identify one person on your gift list and check to see if there are gift certificates available for spa services, specialized classes, car tune-ups, or whatever service he or she likes most. Order the certificate and you’re done!

3. Memberships. If recipients on your gift list are fond of specific organizations, you can purchase a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month membership for them. Art museums, city zoos, professional associations…there are plenty to choose from (including this one from our sister company). Either call the lucky person and offer to pay it, or contact the organization and set it up.

4. Subscriptions. Consider if anyone on your list would appreciate a gift subscription to a magazine, like Real Simple (affiliate link), newspaper, or movie rental service. Be sure this is something the recipient really wants, because it can cause unwanted clutter otherwise. If it will be truly appreciated, set up or extend the subscription.

That’s it. You’re done with simple shopping that didn’t require you to leave the comfort of your home! What effortless gift ideas did you take advantage of this holiday season?


*Affiliate link on this page

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How to Apply Paper Filing Tips to Digital Files

On December 12, 2013, in Paper, by Stephanie Shalofsky
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Paper Filing TipsIn my November post, I shared a project that I worked on 4 years ago with an attorney client who split her time between 2 office locations.  We had created systems, which she still uses today, to organize her papers, emails and to-do list. I recently worked with this same client to create more effective procedures for managing both the digital and paper files that she and her paralegal need to access.

In addition, we also created a more efficient system for managing the daily tasks. As promised last month, here is a recap of this new project.

When my client called to ask for my assistance with creating some additional systems for her, she advised that part of the current challenge was that she worked from her company’s Central American office at least one week every month.  As a result of her work routine, my client was using a cloud-based system in addition to her paper files to manage her invoices and bill paying process.

The Solution: The Cloud

The cloud was a perfect solution in this particular situation.  However, the file setup wasn’t as organized as it could be.  After reviewing the process used for paying bills, it was clear that instead of having one “bills” folder as a place to collect all related documents, there should be a “bills to pay,” “billable hours,” and “bills paid,” folders, thus applying our tried and true paper filing tips to her digital systems.  This would not only mirror the paper filing system in the office but would also facilitate managing the invoice payment process.

Honing the System: Managing Paper

We then segued to the daily mail.  As my client’s paralegal had only been on the job for about four weeks, she wasn’t completely familiar with the kind of mail that was received daily, let alone what to do with it.  So, we identified the different categories of mail and then determined their disposition.

Mail that my client needed to see would be scanned and uploaded to a specific mail folder in the cloud; copies of invoices would be filed for the bookkeeper’s reference once they had been scanned and filed in the appropriate digital folder; and her paralegal would either discard or address the remaining items received via the mail.

By implementing these paper filing tips to my client’s mail and digital files, we were able to create a system that works for both my client and her paralegal.

But, we didn’t stop there …

Honing the System: Managing Communication

Our next focus was the communication process between my client and her paralegal.  At the onset of the project, tasks would be delegated, however, there wasn’t any procedure in place for monitoring the status of each one.

We scheduled a status update meeting or call for 5pm daily which would work regardless of my client’s work location. My client and her paralegal would review the status of key tasks, set deadlines for completing tasks, prioritize tasks, and determine if there was time to take on additional tasks so they could be delegated.

These daily review meetings wouldn’t take a lot of time, but the benefit would be significant in terms of managing the work flow from both my client’s and her paralegal’s perspectives.

In just three  short hours, we were able to create easy to implement solutions for addressing my client’s concerns by simply applying our top paper filing tips, and creating effective communication systems.  So far, all systems seem to be effective based over the last six weeks (since the project was completed). Win!

What systems do you use to keep control of important papers and to keep the lines of communication open?

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Original Image Credit: Fabio

Original Image Credit: Fabio

Photo slideshows are a great way to grab someone’s attention and demonstrate personal and/or professional successes.

They are fantastic for…

  • Sharing personal updates with family and friends (e.g., what the kids have been up to)
  • Showing potential clients your work portfolio (e.g., before and after photos of a home renovation)
  • Exhibiting a line of products (e.g., how your products are used)
  • Displaying arts and crafts projects (e.g.,  creations of your own or masterpieces from your kids)
  • Celebrating the progression of something (e.g., losing weight)

I recently updated my website’s home page to freshen it a bit and add a little pizzazz. One of the things I did was add a photo slideshow that showcases some of my work and give readers some visual inspiration without having to click on anything or leave the page.

You can see it here: http://www.the-organizing-boutique.com.


In order to put together this totally tubular slideshow on my home page, I used a free service called PhotoSnack. I found it to be simple and quick to use, and I would recommend you check it out if you’re in the market for slideshow software.

The many amazing features of the PhotoSnack app:

  • Easy to use
  • Upload photos from various sources like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and more!
  • Use stylish templates
  • Add music to your slideshow
  • Create links within the slideshow
  • Select transitions between slides
  • Simple to share on social media, send in emails and embed in websites or blogs
  • Edit existing slideshows


  • Create as many photo albums as you want
  • Compatible with mobile devices
  • FREE!
  • View stats when logged in (i.e. how many views)



If you’ve used Photosnack or any other slideshow software, please let me know your thoughts about it in the comments section below. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Thanks and happy photo sharing!

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Holiday OrganizingThe first thing we think about at the holidays is spending time with our family.  The holidays are an important time to gather together, but this can be more than a little complicated with a blended family.

Keeping your holiday plans simple and practical can help create blended family fun. Being organized can keep the stress down, helps keep the lines of communication open, and smooths out the rough patches of the holidays.

Here are four holiday organizing tips for your blended family that can help you enjoy the season to the fullest.

Kids first

Whether your kids are 5, 15 or 25, they come first at the holidays. Start by asking them what is most important to each of them. Their ideas will help you prioritize your holiday plans and gifts.  Using their priorities as your guide for activities, you can then keep a calendar of your holiday commitments.

Be sure to add in school and church related activities, like a holiday play or winter party.  Your kids will appreciate your support and you will enjoy being a part of their every day activities.  Sit down with your partner and share the responsibilities making these plans happen.

Plan ahead, way ahead

Block out time ahead for your family celebration in advance.  If your kids are not visiting during the actual dates of the holiday, you can choose a date to celebrate on a weekend.

Coordinate and communicate dates ahead of time.  When you communicate clearly the dates and times your celebration, this will help ensure that everyone, including grandparents, extended family and friends, will be included. Visitation dates and time can vary, but work toward consistency so your kids know what they can count on.

New traditions, new fun

Blending your family can be a great time to create new traditions.  The new holiday routines can be as simple as when you decorate your tree, dinner with new recipes or at a special restaurant, or sharing traditions like celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas in your home.

Sometimes wacky fun can be the most interesting and enjoyable, like watching the same silly Christmas movie each year or crazy Christmas sweater competitions. Or. you might simply change things up each year for the holidays. Find fun in small, simple ways that include a little (clear) communication.

Be prepared with snacks and beverages, whatever the plan, since food usually brings everyone together.

Remember the joy of the season

A holiday filled with love and laughter is likely your goal.  Don’t let the small overrule the big.  Keep perfectionism in tow and your expectations reasonable. Be realistically optimistic in creating a fun time together.

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