May you find the organizing system that works best for you!

In Los Angeles, April showers were a blip on the screen and May flowers come up anyway. You gotta love L.A.

With a play on the word May – our organizing theme this month is simple: May you find the organizing system that works best for you!

Not all organizing systems are appropriate for all brain types. Left-brain dominate people may do well with a file system where papers are out of sight. People who rely upon visual cues may create a “piling” system instead. Knowing your brain type will increase the likelihood of maintaining a successful organizing system.

May all your de-clutter dreams come true.

1. Filing system. The point of having a filing system is find and retrieve the information you need when you need it. An effective filing system will save you time and minimize the chance that you will lose important documents and records. Filing is most effective when clearly labeled tabs contain the information on the label. This can include an array of information from finances to recipes. Keep like information together and file paper as soon as you need too. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find important records when you need them.

2. Binders. Binders are great visual file systems for everything you can imagine: tax information, emergency contacts, car maintenance, children’s artwork, medical information etc. Be sure to include tabs, sheet protectors, labels, and anything else you will need to keep things in a clearly labeled and easily accessible part of the binder. The binder will only be as effective as you make it. For example, shoving papers in the binder without putting them in the section they should be in can lead to more disorganization and frustration later on.

3. Piles. For those that have a difficult time putting things away, clearly labeled piles can often be helpful and require less effort.

4. Labels. How are you supposed to remember what’s in the bins or boxes in your home if they are not labeled? There is a difference between a box with “tree ornaments” and a box with “house decorations.” The easiest way to identify what you need when you need it is making clearly identifiable labels.

5. Drawer organizers. Any drawer can become the “junk” drawer where finding items can be difficult. Drawer organizers are great for organizing everything from office supplies to socks.

6. Family Calendar. Create a family calendar with a “to do” check list.  If you are in charge of managing multiple schedules keep all activities in one place to avoid overbooking and over-stressing.

7. Bookshelves: Bookshelves aren’t just for books! They can be used to fit bins that contain items off your dressers and floors. Find what works best for you.

8. Zoning: Create zones in your place, like with like. Every item should already have a designated ‘home’ so it can be put back instead of placed into a pile or left on the floor. Use vertical space, cabinets and shelving to create zones for your files, supplies, mail (envelopes, stamps, checkbook) and resources (books/research).

9. Paper: Don’t keep what you don’t need. The majority of what is filed never sees the light of day again. So before you put something away, avoid the “this may come in handy one day” syndrome. Ask yourself: Can I find this information anywhere else? If the answer is “yes” then discard the item. Be sure to download my “Paper Clutter: What To Keep and For How Long” to help you.

10. Use technology to help with your organization. With technology and websites like NeatReceipts, CardScanIntelliscanner, and ScanDigital, you can get rid of business cards, receipts, archive papers and photographs. Your smart phone also has calendar and notepad for you to jot down on-the-go notes you need to remember later on.

Lighten Your Footprint: Top Ten Tips to Celebrate Earth Day!

The month of April is generally a very pleasant time of year and people around the world celebrate the rites of Spring! We clear our gardens of last year’s growth and make the ground ready for flowers and beautiful blooms. Spring is traditionally a time of renewal, cleansing, and preparing for the long days of summer. Many people feel an energy shift during this time of the year. Days are longer and, with that, comes limitless possibilities about how and where to spend your time. It’s a good time for a little introspection, breathing new life into your 2017 goals to help ensure that you will meet them.

Events are held around the world in recognition of Earth Day, April 22nd, which was begun in 1969 in San Francisco, the City of St. Francis, allegedly, the patron saint of Ecology. Earth Day reminds us that if our carbon footprint is tiny, we may have some luck ensuring that the planet may survive the intensity of our desire for more “stuff.”

Here are your Top Ten Tips to minimize your footprint and celebrate Mother Earth!

  1. Take stock of what you’ve got. If you feel over-abundant, or that you just may have too many of one particular thing, now’s the time to decide: how much is enough?
  2. Consider a donation to The Story of Stuff Project, or at least view their amazing 20 minute documentary: The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard.
  3. Let the sun shine in! Clean the windows inside AND out, then shake out the curtains and wash them.
  4. Spring clean with a friend! Ask your favorite pal to help you with a major cleaning of your space – top to bottom. Reciprocate. Repeat as necessary.
  5. Participate in Earth Day events in your community.
  6. Improve your recycling habits. Think about this: Per year , an average family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, 26 gallons of bottled. That’s a lot of containers.
  7. Cut down on household paper; organize bills online. Here’s one cool way: https://www.finovera.com/
  8. Make this your new mantra: Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. Less is more.
  9. Buy yourself an awesome travel mug for your morning coffee. Be sure to take it into the coffee place when you stop in for a cup (and you’ll get discount on the coffee!)
  10. Don’t forget to take your re-usable shopping bags into the market. If you forget, kindly ask the person in line ahead of you to hold your place while you run to the car. It won’t be long until you always bring them with you!

Top 10 Tips: Getting Un-stuck from the Inside

As you can imagine, I talk with a lot of people about clutter. I hear their stories about how clutter accumulates. Life transitions – birth, death, marriage, divorce, aging parents — sometimes knocks you off your game.  Many say that they just want to wake up one day completely and utterly clutter-free. Some people tell me they would almost welcome a slight house fire or some flood damage, relieving them of the burden of having to decide how to deal with the clutter.
One of the problems of having too much stuff is not knowing how to deal with the problem. A lot of folks feel stuck when it comes to taking action, or, in some cases, waging war, on the mess and chaos that comes with clutter. “Being stuck” has more to do with what you think and how you feel about the clutter, then about the actual pile of papers. Through my experience as a professional organizer and observer of the human nature, I have come to believe that our clutter could very well be the physical manifestation of negative messages we feed our brain. When we tell ourselves we are stuck (or immobile) we believe the message.
We’re already at the end of the first quarter of this year that is no longer new. What is keeping you from creating or moving toward your goal? What did you start the year wanting to accomplish and how is the concept of “feeling stuck” going to make the goal elusive? I say it’s high time to get un-stuck so you can accomplish what you set out to do!
And so I offer… the Top Ten Tips to help you un-stick from some of the places where you feel stuck!
  1. Quiet the mind and take a deep breath. Accept the situation as it is. It is what it is right now. And it is about to change.
  1. Understand these concepts: a) You are not your clutter. b) You are not lazy. c) Clearing clutter means that you have to make regular dates with yourself to get the work done.
  1. We tend to look at the clutter as a monolithic whole. But it’s easier to manage by looking at it in smaller chunks. So… make a list of each cluttered area in your life (be it physical or emotional) as it relates to feeling stuck. Make the list specific: what’s the clutter look or feel like? how long have you had it?
  1. We need to acquire knowledge about where we are at right now to make sense of how to work out of it. Drill down some more: How do you believe the clutter prevents you from creating or reaching a goal. How does the clutter make you feel stuck?
  1. When have you tried to de-clutter? What time of day? How much time did you give to the task? Write about how you have tackled the problem in the past – what worked and what didn’t? Do you keep trying to de-clutter the same way expecting different results?
  1. Re-define for yourself the words “failure” and “success.” I grew up with ideas about the definitions of success and failure. About a year after I started my professional organizing business I experienced months where growth was slow or felt non-existent. Instead of feeling like a failure I decided to re-evaluate what it meant to be a success. And so I decided that for me, a successful month for A Clear Path is the month I don’t have to borrow from my dad. So far, I haven’t had to borrow any money from my dad. See what I mean?
  1. Clutter has a way of muffling sound, it takes up the air, left alone long enough it’ll take on a musty odor. Spend quite time creating a vision in your mind (or cut from pictures and taped to a poster board) of what your ideally cleared spaces will look like, smell like, feel like, sound like.
  1. Think of tackling the clutter strategically. For every hour you take to de-clutter, you need an hour to reintegrate the stuff you intend to keep. Look at the list of your cluttered areas and figure roughly how much time you’ll need for each project. Once you start the process, you’ll know soon enough if you’re in the ballpark.
  1. Get your calendar and start making dates with yourself to clear the clutter. This is really important. Commit. Commit. Commit. Look at the big picture; be realistic. Do you have a lot of time off in the summer? Are you able to devote 2 hours every Saturday? Once a month? When do you feel most “up?” Are you a morning or night person? Schedule the sessions to give yourself every advantage.
  1. Habits: To keep the clutter away you may have to change a few habits. If you habitually drop your clothes on the floor at the end of the day, you may want to change how (or where) you change into your pajamas. You may have piles of mail that’s easily identified as trash for recycling. Think about sorting mail near the recycle bin before you even bring it into the space. If mail is dropped through a slot, sort it on your way to the household recycle container.

Top 10 Tips: An Organized New Year

This is the year! Welcome to 2017! Many people tell me that they want to de-clutter and get organized in this new year but haven’t a clue about where to start. They’re wondering how to clear out the old and bring in the new. The beginning of the year is a time for renewal, creating goals, and acting on particular projects. When you think about goals, be considerate of your physical, financial, and emotional resources. Goals move you toward the actual completion of a project (versus “resolutions” – which is only a “resolve” to do something). Most people can generally work on and complete three to five projects at a time. Before you start to work on your goals, de-clutter where you live now to get your place ready for your projects and plans.

Top 10 Tips: An Organized New Year

1. If you don’t plan to use the holiday gifts you received, return them to the store or donate them. Gift givers don’t want their gifts to become clutter! Separate emotions from possessions. They key to not cluttering is removing the stuff you don’t want.

2. Become more organized with your holiday decorations. Take it one step at a time; don’t overwhelm yourself with taking down all of the decorations at once. Re-use decorative boxes and wrapping paper. If you cannot re-use it, don’t save it. You may want to purchase inexpensive bins with color-themed lids to store your seasonal stuff.

3. Stay away from bargains. Just because an item is drastically reduced does not mean you need to purchase it. Ask yourself if you need it or if you have something similar.

4. Use a calendar. You should already have a calendar for the new year. Whether it is on your phone, in the workspace, or in your home, a calendar is the most effective way to keep track of events, plans, and meetings. And it’s just a good idea to write down goals and deadlines.

5. Divide, organize, and label. Whether it is new gifts, food, household supplies, or other necessities in the home, it is important to keep things together, organized, and labeled so you know what is what.

6. Organize your finances. Ask these questions:

  • Have you recently paid a bill late because you misplaced it?
  • Do you have a list of all accounts, numbers, online IDs and passwords?
  • Do you have a list of all retirement accounts and life insurance policies including beneficiaries?
  • Do you have a recent copy of your credit report?
  • Do you know your credit score?
  • Do you have wills, living wills and durable power of attorney documents?
  • Do you have a specific financial plan for paying down your debt and building your savings, with specific dollar amounts, goals and dates?
  • Do you need a financial organizer, planner, or similar professional to get on track?

7. Create an organizing system that is an extension of your natural habits. If you organize your mail at the kitchen, set up a mail organizing station in the kitchen.

8. Add more organizing efforts into your daily routine rather than subtracting old ones. It is easier to add a habit then to subtract one. For example: after you make a mess, clean it up.

9. Choose to stay organized every day. Take time each day to put items back where they belong. If an item has no “home,” give it one and make sure it stays there. Clean along the way.

10. Take time to organize yourself and your mind. Do the best to create a stress-free environment for yourself. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and overbook yourself. Set aside time each day to unwind and relax. If you are too busy to find time to relax, organize your schedule to set aside time.

Gifts That Don’t Create Clutter

The end of the year! It’s finally here! And yet it won’t leave until we spend time with, or thinking about people we love, or have brought us joy along the way.
In my world as a professional organizer  I walk into a lot of crowded spaces filled with things my client can no longer use, or they feel they don’t need or desire. So many of them tell me that some of the clutter is from gifts they’ve never needed but guilt has kept the gift trapped in their home!
I listen to the holiday gift-buying commercials. Before 12/25, television and radio ads encourage you to buy things that people will LOVE!! After 12/25, the ads change, reminding consumers that since they didn’t get the gift they really wanted, they can exchange it for something they’ll really love! No one, it seems, can win at this game of gift giving/receiving.
Here at a Clear Path we’re all about the gifting that doesn’t cause clutter! Being of service, cooking a great meal, helping someone organize… now those are gifts everyone can use!
So with a grateful heart I offer you, our top 10 list for the holiday season: Gifts that don’t create clutter!
1. Take people you love to dinner or cook for them.  Cook something you know the person likes to eat or take them out to one of their favorite restaurants or dessert spots. Some of the best memories are shared with loved ones at the table.
2. Help a friend de-clutter their closet. Start by emptying out the space you want to organize and create three piles: toss, donate, and keep. Help your friend by asking them, “do you really need/use that?” when deciding which items to keep. Each item you put back should have a “place.”
3. Professional organizer gift certificate. When you know someone who needs organizational guidance for tough jobs or putting an organizing system in place, a professional organizer is an effective way to get the job done.  You will also receive guidance on how to maintain an organized environment. For more information or to order a professional organizer gift certificate, call 818-400-9592 or e-mail regina@aclearpath.net.
4. Experience Gifts create lasting memories and can be described as more enjoyable and fulfilling than any material object. Whether it’s a tour of the city, a hot air balloon ride, a trip to the spa, your loved one will be happy to be spending time with you enjoying the experience.
5. A calendar. New year, new calendar. Everyone needs a new calendar during the year, make yours unique and special by gifting one with custom pictures or choose a theme you know the person receiving the calendar will enjoy.

Top 10 Tips: Organizing to make your Halloween a Treat

It’s officially Fall in Los Angeles although you wouldn’t know it: the weather forecast for today is 95 degrees. But judging by the plethora of pop-up Halloween Costume stores, it’s obvious the fall season has arrived!

Halloween has grown into a special day for young and old alike. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

In LA, one of the biggest costume parties of the year is the celebration of Halloween on the streets of West Hollywood (check it out HERE – you’ve got to go at least once!) 

To ready yourself for the festivities, A Clear Path Presents:

Top 10 Tips: Organizing to make your Halloween a Treat

1.  Prepare your costume ahead of time. There is always a last minute rush for Halloween costumes, or are you that one person who actually ends up wearing a sheet with two holes cut out? Don’t be that person! If you are on a budget, inexpensive costumes may be found at thrift stores and discount clothing retailers (Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc.). You can also exchange costumes with a friend or relative or make your own.

2. Make lists and calendar priorities. Make a list of everything you and your family need to do before Halloween. Give yourself “deadlines” to get a costume ready, prepare treats, RSVP to events, etc. If you are a visual person, write these items on a calendar and use a different color for each family member’s “deadline”.

3. Organized decorating. Time to collect the Halloween décor from years’ past. Notice if they are all placed in one spot or if the decorations are scattered throughout hiding spots in you home. Be mindful of how the decorations will be put back. Make sure the decorations do not interfere with daily life throughout your home.

4. Keep your pets safe with these tips from www.petmd.com:

  • Keep Halloween plants such as pumpkins and corn out of reach
  • Keep pets confined and away from the door during Trick-or-Treat time
  • Don’t leave pets out in the yard on Halloween
  • Trick-or-treat candies are not for pets
  • Don’t keep lit pumpkins around pets
  • Don’t dress your pet in a costume if it irritates your pet
  • Try on pet costumes before the big night
  • Make sure your pet has the proper identification in case of an accident

5. If you are organizing a Halloween Party, plan ahead. Make sure the invitations are out, you have an RSVP list and a meal plan, decorate, and get the Halloween party activity supplies (bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, etc.) ready beforehand.

6. Carving pumpkins. Make sure you have all of your pumpkin carving tools (or just a lot of kitchen knives), and a designated pumpkin carving area. When you gut the insides, dispose of the waste right away, perhaps in a compost box, roast the seeds, or find a use for the pumpkin insides

7. Take reusable bags with you when you go trick-or-treating.  Paper and plastic bags may easily tear, spilling Halloween treats and disappointing children. Reusable bags are much more durable and better for the environment.

8. Organize the treats you bought ahead of time. If you are expecting a rush of trick-or-treaters, place various treats into a “treat” bag that each trick-or-treater can grab.

9. Clean up as you go along. Whether you’re baking, carving pumpkins, making a costume, or decorating, cleaning up as you go along will save time and probably a headache.

10. Storing Halloween decorations. Follow these simple tips:

  • Designate a place
  • Storage bins
  • Label everything
  • Store similar decorations together
  • Discard or donate

Top 10 Tips: An Organized Earthquake

Be Aware! Please prepare!

“It’s coming. I can feel it in my bones,” said Isabel, a client who asked for help assembling the family earthquake kit. I reminded Isabel that of course it is coming, here in West Los Angeles we live about as close to a fault line as anyone would want!

Personally, I think it’s kind of kooky that everyone living in California does not have an earthquake kit. Heck, I’ve got a kit in my car, one next to my front door, and a canvas bag beneath my bed, just near the head of my bed. The bag contains tennis shoes, jeans, socks, underwear, hoodie, reading glasses, flashlight, water purifier, batteries, and cash (small bills). I am ready for WHEN (not if!) the next big EQ rocks L.A!

September is Emergency Preparedness month. In an ideal world we’d like it very much if we didn’t have to think about what may befall us or our family. But we live in a world where disaster can strike at any moment. I know a lot of folks who want to hold on to their stuff “just in case.” But the chances of a big earthquake occurring, are probably higher than the chance you’ll need that extra toaster you’re holding onto for “just in case.

When I moved into my apartment I purchased two small, 1-person EQ kits at a local Surplus store. You can also find them at places like Lowe’s or Home Depot, or you can build your own. For local resources throughout the state, visit the website for the California Earthquake Authority.

This month’s Top Ten Tips to provides additional resources, ideas, and ways to prepare for what we all know can occur at any moment (even though we’re also in denial!).

An Organized Earthquake 

1.   When shaking begins:

  • Lie down length-wise next to a bed or couch so you don’t get crushed by a collapsing table or desk. 
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you’re sure it’s safe to exit. 
  • Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you. 
  • Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake. 
  • Roll over and lie lengthwise against the bed on the floor! That way the bookcase or glass doors near your bed lands on the bed and not on you!) 
  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground. 
  • If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place. Stay in the car until the shaking stops. Avoid overpasses or underpasses.

2. Secure your items, placing pesticides, flammable containers, and breakable china on the bottom of cabinets with a secure latch. Consider consulting a professional to learn how to make your home sturdier. You can bolt bookcases to wall studs, install strong latches on cupboards, and strap the water heater to wall studs.   

3. Know how you will communicate/stay up-to-date after the shaking stops.

  • AM/FM radio.  Store at least 3 sets of alkaline batteries for standard units. Inexpensive radios are available from your local Radio Shack.  The best radio is one that has rechargeable NI-cads built in and may be charged with the built-in solar cell, or by cranking on a built-in generator handle.  
  • Pen, pencil, and paper pad to leave messages.  Store in zip lock bag. 
  • Stamped postcards.  Store in zip lock bags. 
  • Your house might be gone, but if you still have a mailbox, the mail will continue service.  This is an easy way to stay in touch with family far away. 
  • List of important phone numbers. 
  • Weather radio or police scanner.

  4. Keep your home secure. Find out where the utility shutoffs are for water, power, and gas. Place a flashlight or an emergency light next to your breaker panel. Place a wrench in your water meter box located near the street and attach a tool on your gas meter for turning off the gas. Evaluate each room in your house. Ask yourself: what will fall on my head, or will keep me from getting out if it fell?  Secure anything you find.   

Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit. Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches. Also be sure to store household chemicals on a bottom shelf of a closed cabinet. Never store bleach and ammonia in the same cabinet.  These chemicals, when mixed, will create a deadly toxic gas.   

5. Locate a place in each room of the house where you can go to in case of an earthquake. Make sure family members also know where this space is. 

6.  Go to a designated public shelter if your home had been damaged and is no longer safe. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).   Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.   

7. Know what to do if there is an earthquake at work.  Read your company’s evacuation plan. Note the designated meeting locations for after an evacuation. Each time you enter a room, take note of the exit routes and locations of fire extinguisher and medical kits. Keep your own personal supplies in your desk in a single pack of some kind that you can access quickly.  Along with your supplies, store a pair of walking shoes.   Be sure you have composed a card to carry in your wallet or purse with important phone numbers including the number of your out of state phone contacts. Keep the area under your desk free of waste-paper baskets and the like. This six-square foot area might be home during a few traumatic moments. If you are not at your desk when something happens, don’t count on being able to make it back.     

8.  Inspect utilities: Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.   Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.   Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes. 

  9. Know and understand your neighborhood. Contact your school district to obtain policy regarding how children will be released from school. Know the location of the nearest police and fire stations, as well as the route to the nearest hospital emergency room. Meet with neighbors and find out who has medical experience. If you are taking this preparedness thing seriously, share this information with the households next to you.  

The more people you can convince to prepare, the greater your group resources. Remember that you will be called upon by all around you for help, especially by those who didn’t take warnings seriously. Show neighbors where the utility shutoffs are and provide them with a list of contact phone numbers. Ask how to turn off your neighbor’s utilities.   

10. Come up with a plan in case of an emergency. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. Here is a great chart to help you and your family come up with a plan in case of an emergency. Thanks to ready.gov, environment.nationalgeographic.com, and theepicenter.com for great emergency response.

Spring is Clean! Clean is Spring!

dumpster-reginaAlthough Los Angeles has yet to experience winter this year, by the calendar, Spring is just around the corner. Our March Clear Path newsletter gives you a very cool array of strategies and ideas for moving forward on your ideas to clear and clean and create the space you need, want, desire.

Here’s a fun 2-minute organizing idea – if it takes 2-minutes or less to complete a task, “just do it.” If a task takes longer than 2-minutes (and most tasks do) – at least start it by calendaring the date to begin, listing supplies you made need, scheduling time with a friend (or your favorite Organizer!) to help. Here – this article should help with the 2-minute organizing idea!

Have fun, clear your head, your space, and your place! Happy almost Spring!