Time for ‘spring clearing’? Call a pro

The first clue you might need help is that you have a junk drawer. It might be in the kitchen, or maybe it’s in the laundry room.

“Everyone who calls has a junk drawer, maybe two or three,” says Regina Lark, a de-clutter expert and professional organizer and speaker — she spoke on “Spring Clearing” at the Ebell of Los Angeles last month via Zoom.

She is also an author —“Psychic Debris: Crowded Closets: The Relationship Between the Stuff in Your Head and What’s Under Your Bed” is in its third edition — and she is a productivity coach.

She was helping a client move when COVID-19 stopped us all in our tracks in mid-March.

While moving is an “essential business,” and her business specializes in residential, estate and corporate moves, the virtual organizing side of her business has risen exponentially.
Read more…

Creative Ways to Maximize Space in a Small House

Updated on February 19th, 2020

When you have a smaller home, every inch of space counts! If you’re feeling cramped in your tight quarters, don’t worry, making a small space more livable can be easy. To help you get started, we asked organizational experts for their best tips and tricks for maximizing space in a small area. Check them out and you’ll feel like you’re living large in no time.  Read more

‘A SUPERB JOB WELL DONE’ AS EXPRESSED BY COMPASS REALTY TO OUR TEAM 

This wonderful thank-you note for the organizing/clutter removal services that our team provided Compass Realty is greatly appreciated. 

“Regina, I can’t thank you enough for the superb job both you and your crew did for my client.  Throughout the week I visited my client’s old unit, as well as the new one and each time, I was amazed at your staff’s kindness, composure and compassion. They were totally engaged, professional – respecting his needs and wants. I was very pleased and so was he.  Please thank each and everyone involved…They should be very proud of themselves.” 

– Ken Shields, Compass Realty compass.com

How to Keep Comic Books in Mint Condition with Proper Storage

The proper storage of comic books is not complex. After all, artifacts made of paper and ink are among the most durable objects ever devised by humanity. If a comic book is a physical object designed to transmit important information through visual media, then it is surely among the most indestructible forms ever made. Practically nothing that you can do to a comic book would significantly impact your ability to read it. However, that is probably not the only value that you were thinking of. You are probably thinking of the value to collectors, and as everyone knows, the more pristine and unblemished a comic is, the more money it might be worth to the very richest collectors. Read more…

TOP TIPS: ORGANIZING FOR VACATION

Vacations require a lot of planning and list-making. It’s not just you that must become ready for your trip, but you’ll want to prepare your neighbors, deal with the mail, leave instructions for co-workers, and make plans to board your animals or arrange for house sitting. Whether you’re away for a long weekend or a month-long trip, pre-planning can take the anxiety out of preparing for some fun!

So if your summer plans give you an opportunity to get away for a while, here are our Top 10 Tips to get you on your way!

Happy trails to you!

1. Tell friends, family, and trusted neighbors where you are going and for how long. How might they can reach you in case of an emergency? Have the post office put your mail on hold if you will be gone for an extended amount of time. Be sure to contact your credit card company if you are traveling oversees. It is not uncommon for charges made in other countries to be “flagged” due to increasing credit card fraud/theft.

2. Make sure everything is up to date, specifically your passport and ID card. Confirm your reservations, pet or house sitter, the person who will water your plants, etc. Pay your bills or set up an auto-pay so you don’t have to pay late fees when you return.

3. Organize your home before you travel. In addition to cleaning as you normally would, clean out the refrigerator, take out the trash, do the laundry, spray for bugs, etc. Think of chores that are typically a hassle to do and need to be done only occasionally such as sharpening your knives. Take this time to take care of it.

4. Make lists. You should make a “Before We Leave” Checklist and a “To Pack” checklist. You don’t want to end up paying $8 for toothpaste at the Walgreens on the Las Vegas Strip. If you are not sure what you need to do before your leave or what to pack, click HERE for a for a “Before We Leave” checklist and HERE for a “To Pack” checklist to get yourself started.

5. Prepare your vehicle. Get the oil changed, fill the tires with air, check when the last time a major service happened and when it is needed again (found in the vehicles manual), etc. These kinds of checks will ensure you are not stranded on the side of the road. Bring jumper cables, a first-aid kit, flares and emergency supplies just in case that happens. I like to wash my car before a major road trip so the inside is clean and smells nice.

6.Fully charge electronic devices and don’t forget to bring the chargers. For some reason, chargers seem to be the easiest thing to forget and one of the more expensive items to replace when you are visiting a different area.

7. Create an itinerary. Itineraries are great tools because you know/decide what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. You can get the most out of being a tourist, or being on time if you’re on a business trip. Some important information to keep on your itinerary is:

  • Flight numbers/times and the confirmation numbers
  • Emergency contacts
  • Airport transportation information
  • Subway/bus maps
  • Local contacts (rental car companies, hotels, airlines)
  • Addresses of places you want to visit
  • If you are out of the country, the embassy number and address, and photograph your luggage, passport, and credit cards to keep on your cell phone.

8. When you travel, you should be sure to carry some essentials with you. Bring some snacks, drinks, and entertainment (tablet, book, magazine, crossword, knitting, playing cards, etc.) to help make the adventure fun. Take this time to not work, avoid email, and indulge in some hobbies you never really have time to do.

9. When you come back to your clean home, unpack immediately. Who knows when you will “get to it.” The easiest place to start is emptying all of your dirty clothes into the hamper and starting laundry.

I hope this makes vacationing less stressful!

Thanks for reading,

— Regina Lark

Top 10 Tips: Spring Clearing 2019

Spring is a good time to donate your un-used and unwanted items that take up valuable space in your home. You will lighten your load, reduce your carbon footprint, and feel better about your surroundings, and your donation is tax deductible! Others will benefit from your desire to clear your path of unwanted stuff! At the end of the Top 10 Springtime List below you will find a link for suggestions about where to donate darned near everything you no longer need or want. 

The Top 10 Springtime List of where many people store or stash and what is in those places, the stuff they probably no longer need: 

1. Kitchen: donate duplicate appliances, gadgets, pots, pans, coffee mugs and glasses to women’s shelters or thrift stores.

 

2. Bathroom: women’s shelters need unused soaps and shampoo (travel size from hotel stays, etc). 

3. Living room: Pack up those videos, DVDs, or CDs that no longer suit your listening or viewing tastes. Your multi-media boxes may be donated to thrift stores or GreenDisc.com 

4. Bedroom: in a word, clothes. Go through your closet and dresser drawers. Donate what you haven’t worn for a year or more, or what no longer fits, or you never really liked. Thrift stores will take your unwanted clothing. On the donation list below you will find places that want women’s business attire for poor women entering the job market. 

5. Kids’ rooms: Toys! Ask your children for input about toys and books they have outgrown, never played with, or otherwise will never use and donate to local shelters, churches, or thrift stores. 

6. Hall closets: empty hangers, suitcases and backpacks may go to thrift stores. Unused linen and towels to animal shelters

7. Dining room: napkins and tablecloths; wine glasses, decanters, water pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, platters and serving bowls. Unless these items are seasonal, choose your best and donate the rest to your local thrift store. 

8. Backyard: planters and pots, gardening hand tools, lawn ornaments gathering cobwebs near overgrown plants to Goodwill or similar place. 

9. Garage: sports equipment, sneakers, dust-collecting household tsotchkes that you will never use again but which never quite made it to the Goodwill. Board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, checkers and Backgammon remain popular thrift store items (just be sure you have all the pieces). These things can be donated to a thrift store. 

10. Book shelves: clear your bookcase of novels, “how to” books, or any book that you are certain you will never read again. Public libraries appreciate your donations. 

11. Bonus! Here’s a great list for where to donate and recycle a whole lot of stuff! https://aclearpath.net/resources/ 

Regina Lark
A Clear Path
www.AClearPath.net
regina@aclearpath.net 

Images used are from the following sites
serenehousecleaning.com/index.php/2016/06/10/organize-the-garage/
designsponge.com/2016/11/10-well-organized-kitchens.html
closetamerica.com/how-deep-clean-your-walk-closet-organized-look-year-round 

 

The Myth of Tidying Up

When someone calls upon the services of a Professional Organizer, rarely is the service one in which the Organizer is asked to “tidy up.” More likely, the person calling the Organizer has determined that her home is greatly impacted by miles of files and 8-tracks and cables. Stacks of newspapers cover floors and tables are laden with, well, everything. The person calling has finally thrown in the towel, conceding she doesn’t  possess the ability – either physically, cognitively, or emotionally – to roll up her sleeves and tidy up. When a chronically disorganized person calls upon the services of an Organizer, the living space is light years from the “tidying up” phase.

The country is a-buzz with tidying up. A Netflix program, “Spark Joy,” has taken us by storm! Keep grandma’s flatware set if it sparks joy; thank the item and wish it farewell, if it does not. Audiences seem to be as fascinated with “Spark Joy” as they are with “Hoarders: Buried Alive.” The common denominator is, stuff.

In my life before organizing, I taught history as a community college professor. History, algebra, earth science, political science, psychology, and about twenty other required and elective courses comprise the curriculum of an Associative Arts degree. I could easily make the case that certain pieces of data, or perhaps an equation, or maybe even knowledge concerning events of the past may become useful at one point along the adult life-cycle. The AA degree is a compilation of knowledge and information that scholars and others deemed necessary for a traditional education.

When a potential client calls for help, I can’t help but notice, that what was not taught in school are the very things we encounter every single day of our lives: papers and “stuff.” Since we aren’t taught what to “do” with that which we bring through the front door multiple times each day, we stack, pile, overload, and overwhelm our space. I scratch my head and wonder why home organizing, or paper-training-for-people, is never a part of any curriculum, at any age, on any level.

Back to the cable shows. We are fascinated with other people’s “stuff.” We’re either trying to figure out how to de-clutter our own “too much stuff,” or we look over the shoulder of the person who hoards and think “thank goodness I don’t have THAT much stuff.”

Professional Organizers are in a unique position to ensure that the homes of our clients are made safe, healthy, and accessible. The “stuff” we encounter? It’s just “stuff” – and the acquiring of “too much” is learned behavior. Transforming external spaces is something we organizers do really well; helping our clients transform the internal spaces [managing time, relationships to stuff, behaviors, etc.] is an ongoing process. For the chronically disorganized, “tidying up” is never a one and done deal. It’s fantasy to think clearing the clutter magically cleared away the very habits that created the crowded spaces, making “tidying up” less a reality [show] and more of an urban myth.

Top 10 Grateful Tips

1. Thankful for the memories. If you save items because of the joy they bring you, rather than utilitarian function, display them in a manner that keeps the objects from cluttering your home but are still visible. The above items are places into a box that is the same size as the table and then covered with glass so the items are visible and the table is still functional.

2. Thankful for the unused space behind the sofa that allows more storage space. In general, there are a lot of places in the home that are often overlooked or are a space we would not ordinarily think we can use. The accent table behind the couch allows for more space to place items you would want when you’re on the couch or passing by it.

3. Thankful to those that help us keep our home comfortable and clutter-free. Whether it is friends or family at one point another person has helped us keep our home organized. Although, it helps to assign chores or write a “to-do” list to be checked off daily to ensure that no task is forgotten.

4. Thankful for inventions made for people that can’t help but forget something when rushing out the front door.

5. Thankful for hidden storage. Furniture that doubles as storage is becoming increasingly easier to find. Although, it is not hard to create a cluttered “junk” pile in hidden storage spaces because no one sees it.

6. Thankful for visual people that create fun ways to stay organized. Something interactive like a wall (literally)-calendar brings to the user. Not only does a calendar create an entertaining and visually appealing way to keep track of monthly events, but it also encourages the user to actually use the calendar and help with time management by taking up the whole wall.

7. Thankful to park your car in the garage. It’s not uncommon for the garage to become an extension of your house rather than a place to park your vehicles. If it is necessary to store items, do so in an organized fashion. Utilize wall space to help.

8. Thankful for pets! Though pets also can dirty your home, they inspire creative solutions to help us live in organization.

9. Thankful for closet space. Closets can be turned into a mud room, office, reading room, storage center…basically a closet can be anything you want it to be! If there is a closet in your home or office that is fully being used, use the closet to create a productive space.

10. Thankful FOR YOU. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have an incredibly diverse and unique clientele that inspires me in the work that I do. I am grateful for my clients, colleagues, friends, family, followers for supporting the work I do helping others. I’m especially thankful for the Clear Path team: Mary, Cathy, Tina, Kimi, Joyous, Nicole, Stephanie, Toni, Richard, and Liam. I would not be where I am without you.

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, and batteries. 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 home I purchased two 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: http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit. For local resources throughout the state, visit the website for the California Earthquake Authority: https://www.earthquakeauthority.com/

  • 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!).  Many products described below can be found at: The Epicenter: https://theepicenter.com/

1. Tools: You may want to have some or all of these tools stored in a bin for easy access:

  • Fire extinguisher large 5-20 pound, type ABC
  • Crow bar, 1 ft min.
  • Leather gloves
  • Multi-function pocket tool or knife
  • Plastic tarp, 9×12 ft min
  • Nylon rope 100 foot
  • Duct tape
  • A multi-purpose tool for shutting off gas and water main valves.
  • Portable generator. Make your selection based on what really needs to be powered and the run time of the model. Our recommendation is for a maximum size of 5 HP, 2250 Watt 120 vac only. To get a 230 vac generator will require an 8 HP motor, and your run time will drop in half. Typically, the only items in your house that will require 230 vac is an electric heating system, an electric water heater, or an electric range. What you really need to power is a refrigerator, a few lights, and a radio.
  • Power converter for running 120 volt items from car battery.

2. Light: I lived in the San Fernando Valley when the ’94 earthquake hit Los Angeles at approximately 4:00AM and it was very dark inside and out. Disaster or not, you want to always have access to light.

  • Flashlight with 2 set of spare alkaline batteries and one spare bulb. Newer LED flashlights are also available and run much longer on a set of batteries. Store the flashlight by turning one battery in the wrong direction to avoid the inevitable corrosion.
  • Lantern battery – kerosene or propane powered. Store fuel or batteries, but never use fuel-based lighting until you are sure gas leaks are eliminated.
  • Long life candles.
  • Waterproof matches or lighter

3. Communication: Chances are pretty good that cell towers will become inoperable for a time. Get ready with other methods of communication.

  • 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.
  • This solar/generator survival radio is available from Epicenter. We recommend this radio for your supplies in your car as well.
  • Pen, pencil, and paper pad.  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.  An easy way to stay in touch with family far away.
  • List of important phone numbers, including your out of state focal
  • Weather radio or police scanner.  A bit expensive, but a weather radio is a must in tornado or hurricane country.

4. Your home:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  •  Change the batteries 2x/year in the carbon monoxide and fire alarms throughout your home.

5. Store at home:

  • Water: 30 gallons per person (2 gallons per person per day for 1 week).
  • Canned goods: ready to eat soups, meats, veggies and fruit. Make sure you know when they will expire.
  • Cooking: Barbecue, 40 pounds charcoal, and two cans of starter fluid.  Or a propane unit with two 20 pound containers of propane.  A propane camp stove may also be used.

Store the following items for use with above:

  • Pot and pan for cooking
  • Kitchen knife
  • Silverware
  • Styrofoam cups
  • Water proof matches or lighter
  • Zip lock bags
  • Can Opener
  • Aluminum foil

6. Keep your car safe: Think of your car’s trunk as a big steel supply cabinet.  Keep your supplies in the trunk along with other items like tools, jumper cables and spare tire. Even if you are at home when a disaster strikes, and your home is well stocked, you may still need the supplies in your car. Your house may not be safe to enter, or may catch fire after a disaster like an earthquake.

Your car will be one of your most important resources after a disaster strikes.  Keep it mechanically sound, and pay close attention to the exhaust system.  A leaking exhaust system could kill. Replace your battery every 2-3 years.  In an emergency, your car battery will need to run the radio and heater for extended periods.

7. Prepare for disaster on the job: 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 contact. Keep the area under your desk free of waste-paper baskets and the like. This 6 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. Emergency supplies at work:

  • Emergency water rations
  • MRE’s (Meals ready to eat, or coast guard food rations)
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Flashlight with extra batteries of chemical light stick
  • First aid kit

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 family plan: 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.

11. Bonus Tip: Make a commitment to de-clutter the crowded places in your home or apartment. Find a secure and smart place for your disaster supplies, and be sure to create a clear path so getting out is easier

Thanks to: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for great emergency response ideas.

Top Ten Tips: Manage and Plan Your Time

This time last year found me getting ready for a nearly 2-week vacation. Being away from my life wasn’t the easiest (or worst!) task I’ve had to shoulder. I learned a lot about planning, delegating, letting go of control, and figuring out how to relax.

I’ve discovered that for me, relaxing isn’t just about hanging out doing nothing. In order for me to relax, I find that having routines and systems in place are important so that I can accomplish daily goals. Having routines helps me feel like I can also plan my down time (yes, that has to be scheduled, too!), which for me looks like a long bike ride, or a power walk, dinner and movie with a friend, or spending time with a good book.

In celebration of my learning to relax, I’m happy to send some tips and strategies to help plan and manage your time, put a little routine in your life, and relax for a change without feeling guilty.

Have a great month!

  1. Evaluate your morning. Do you wake up and immediately check your phone or e-mail to begin solving problems? Consider easing yourself into the day with an early morning walk, cup of coffee, or nice breakfast to center yourself before beginning each workday.
  2. Get rid of the rain clouds that follow you around. Is there a daunting task you’ve been putting off? Maybe you’ve been meaning to organize your junk drawer or unpack from your vacation last month. Though you can certainly survive and function without doing these tasks right away (which is why they are still unfinished), you will feel better after you finally say no to procrastination and get on with at least one, small project.
  3. Do you know where your time goes when you’re sitting in front of your computer? You could be over- or under-estimating how much time you actually spend online. Consider using a free time tracking tool such as www.rescuetime.com to evaluate how to best use your time.
  4. Set a cleaning routine and stick to it. It’s easier to spend ten minutes cleaning the kitchen after dinner each day than an hour once a week when the dishes pile up. It is also stressful to be looking at a mess for an extended period of time. Write out a cleaning routine for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
  5. Take time to be present. When you find yourself overwhelmed and reacting to several situations at once, spend five minutes on deep breathing, self-awareness, and collecting yourself mentally. When you are ready, make a list of what you need to do and then act on which is the most urgent. Delegate tasks if you are able.
  6. Auto-schedule the payments for your bills. This way you will not have to spend time paying them over the phone, online, or via mail. Instead, spend five minutes each month reviewing the charges to ensure they are correct.
  7. Evaluate items in your home and ask yourself what purpose each item serves. If it serves no purpose, why is it taking up space in your home?
  8. Create a checklist for activities. This could include: gym bag, information for the pet, home, or babysitter, school bag, extracurricular activities, overnight bag, etc. Save these checklists as word documents and update them as necessary. Keep a print out in the mudroom or kitchen to review before leaving the house.
  9. Keep all of your passwords in one safe place or use a password service. This will save you time with the “forgot your password” link and also expedite the login process in the future. Here’s a handy link.
  10. Ask for help. Honestly, I think one reason I get a lot done is that I ask for help on the tasks I don’t like or find difficult to manage. I’ve traded “time” with friends and colleagues. I helped a friend organize her kitchen, and she agreed to edit a few articles I’m writing.
  11. Bonus: Feel free to contact me for any time-related issues – let’s chat and see what we can figure out together! 818-400-9592

Stay cool!

Regina