Red, White and Organization

Jul 01, 2017

We all know the classic story of our country’s independence – Britain was imposing some rules we were not super stoked about and so we fought to separate ourselves, make our own rules, and start our own country. If this sounds unfamiliar, a quick google search should fill you in on what you slept through in 10th grade U.S. history class. Independence, however, separate from its July 4th connotation, is quite a familiar concept to most people. It is something you likely felt when you got your driver’s license, left home for the first time, or made your first large adult purchase. It is something we have seen our children emulate in their terrible two’s, insisting they can do practically anything and everything without help, noticing for the first time, they are their own people, separate from their parents. Later in life, we see our teenagers assert their independence as they find embarrassment in everything we do, rolling their eyes in superiority, and reminding us just how old and uncool we truly are.

Independence, however, also has its roots in organization. Though this may seem like a stretch, and an attempt to spin the holiday, hold your horses and let me explain. Simply put, disorganization attaches itself to your psyche and drags you down until you are one with the clutter. While that was undoubtedly dramatic, the premise that when one is disorganized, one is unable be independent as the disorganization consumes every part of you, is valid. If I walk into my office and it is disorganized (yes, even I have my moments – no one is perfect) I am unable to focus or get meaningful work done until it is back in order. Though this may speak to my hypersensitivity to clutter and disorganization in general, I do not believe it is so farfetched to believe that others experience this too. If you have ever watched the show hoarders (though an extreme example) you’ll know what I mean when I say when things are unorganized, you are unable to be independent, as the disorganization is like a leach that is always with you. It is not until one is free from the clutter that one can live one’s life to the fullest and feel truly independent.

So on this Independence Day, while of course celebrating our great country, and the men and women who protect our freedom, take a moment in between flipping the burgers, and icing cupcakes with red, white and blue, to also think about and plan your upcoming personal independence day…the day when you decide to take control and detach yourself from the clutter weighing you down.

Organizing – It’s All About Convenience

Jan 24, 2017

As most of us know, wanting your life to be organized, and actually maintaining an organized life, are two completely different things. Most people find that initially decluttering and organizing a space is easy, but keeping it that way (especially with kids in the house) is a much more difficult task.  The secret to this maintenance of organization is actually quite simple – it’s all about convenience. If keeping a space organized involves a lot of work, no matter how good your intentions, it is not going to stay that way.

I used to get frustrated with my eldest child for never putting his clothes in the hamper, despite my constant pleas to do so. When I stepped back and analyzed the situation I realized that, though a sorry excuse, putting his clothes in the hamper was not convenient, as the hamper was located in his closet. Realizing this, I moved the hamper out of his closet. Still, however, his clothes seemed to land everywhere but the hamper. Back to the drawing board. My second attempt at making the clothing’s journey from body to hamper as convenient as possible consisted of getting rid of the lid on my son’s hamper. This final act of convenience worked like a charm, and it has not been a problem since (knock on wood).

Example of very cute children’s laundry basket that does not get my approval – I vote for no lid!

Another example of the essentiality of convenience in maintaining organization can be found in my experience with toilet paper rolls. Most people look at an empty toilet paper roll and feel nothing. I am not one of those people. When I see an empty toilet paper roll, I see my child grabbing the last square off the roll and leaving it there.  Why would my children not just put a new roll on the holder? It seems like such an easy task!  After all, what else does one have to do while sitting there?  Apparently, it is not as convenient as one may think. The tedious task of taking the bar off, putting the new roll on the bar, and replacing the bar is quite inconvenient (at least to my children). Upon noticing this, I decided to work with the system as opposed to against it. I invested in a toilet paper holder which only requires sliding the roll off an open bar. This too, like the hamper situation, solved the problem.

Check out this DOUBLE toilet paper holder AND double rods, double the ease – woo hoo!

Sometimes as parents, we have to choose our battles. Trying to get your kids, or spouse, to keep the cleanliness and/or organization you have implemented may seem quite trying at times. If there are specific places in your house which always seem to cause a problem, take a step back, and ask yourself, “is there a way that keeping this organized or clean can be made more convenient?”

You already knew the definition of convenience didn’t you? I couldn’t help it.

Multiples – Seeing Double or Triple – Common Sense to Control Clutter

Dec 13, 2016

This morning, at the crack of dawn, I sleepily applied makeup for the day ahead. I grabbed the eyeliner at the top of my makeup bag and attempted to apply it. After a couple tries, I realized it was an old product, tossed it back in the bag, and searched for the newer version. But why did I throw it back in the bag? I will undoubtedly go through the same routine some other morning in the future with this product. Why not just throw it away? Because there is this devious voice in my head that tells me there will be some scenario in the future where I will need this defective product. If one is to appeal to reason, however, she will realize such a scenario is so obscure, it likely will never occur. Following this internal struggle with the devil on my right shoulder, and an angel on my left, I reached back in the makeup bag, found the old eyeliner, and tossed it in the trash can to avoid unnecessary clutter.

The internal struggle referenced above is not unique to me. It happens for everyone. However, more often than not, we hold on to the old, broken, empty, or used item. In many areas of our homes, we tend to have almost empty bottles and then we buy a new product in anticipation of finding ourselves without. Usually, we buy the same kind of product, but perhaps a different brand. Caving to the excitement of trying something new, we end up dissing the old stuff – but still hang onto it – and begin using the new.  This is true for all kinds of toiletries, make up (foundations, lotions, hair products), even items found in the kitchen.

Before you know it, you have so many of the same types of things that are either almost empty, expired, or flawed, and yet you have trouble letting them go. In some cases, people have not just duplicates, but multiples of the same products. Hair and makeup are the worst offenders. How often have you gone into your bathroom, or a friend’s bathroom, and noticed tons of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles on the ledge? It’s understandable – what you found was once an awesome product, the best product you’ve ever used, is now replaced with an even greater product. The problem with this is that products do expire, money is wasted, and spaces such as countertops, drawers, medicine cabinets, under-sink space, and showers become too cluttered.

This problem is not without solution, however. A couple of solutions I have found include 1) finishing products before buying new ones; 2) buy new products, but store them somewhere else until you use up the current one; 3) Use the “1 in, 1 out” rule – when a new item appears, an old one must disappear; 4) Use less products – I know it’s hard to believe, but we really don’t need as much as we have. Chances that you would even notice if some of your products went missing are very low; 5) lastly, listen to the voice of reason in your head when you throw the eyeliner back in the makeup bag – pick it back up and throw it in the trash.

A cool bathroom product to help keep clutter to a minimum



Do you have clutter in your shower???

Organizing Spices – Raleigh

Oct 07, 2016

Chances are you feel much more comfortable cleaning out and organizing your spice drawer than your closet. It’s smaller, and seems less daunting – kind of like a toddler ;). I would argue, however, if you know how to do one, you also know how to do the other, as many of the principle organizing components are similar.

Humans are creatures of habit. From your husband never putting the toilet seat down, to your kids biting their nails, habits are engrained within our every move. Think about it – when you’re making a dish, are there a couple of spices that you almost always use? When you are in a rush getting ready to run the errands your husband forgot to do, is there a sweatshirt or pair of jeans you always throw on? Of course there are! Just as we have those same couple of spices that we turn to for almost every dish, we also have those clothes and accessories that are our go to no matter the occasion. Making sure these frequently used spices are at the forefront of the spice drawer or cabinet is just as important as making sure those go-to clothing items are in an easily accessible space in the closet. On the flip side, however, there are the spices that we only use for special dishes and the clothes we only wear for special occasions. These should be placed in the back of the closet or spice drawer since they will not need to be accessed often. Work with your habits and tendencies to make your life that much easier!

While some people strongly believe that spices do not expire or go bad, they do lose their potency and freshness after a while. Keeping these spices new and fresh will make your meals taste that much better (see the link below to my favorite spice shop in Raleigh). In comparison, clothing obviously does not expire, but it does get old, acquire holes and stains, and go out of style. Yes, I said clothes go out of style. I hate to break it to you, but tie dye is no longer in. It is important to keep both spices and closet items up to date. Purge yourself, your drawers, and your closets of expired spices and of clothing that just isn’t your taste anymore.

Organizing is not rocket science. Once you know how to conquer one type of organizing job, it makes tackling another exponentially easier. This is largely due to the fact that organizing revolves around a few key principles. Clean, minimize, and categorize. If you keep these three things in mind, any organizing job will seem less like hurricane force winds and more like a breeze.


If you live in Raleigh, NC, check out my favorite spice store


Dorm Room Sanity

Aug 07, 2016

Get ready – ready for your local Target store to be sold out of the most basic of items, because it is almost that time of year! Not just time for kids to go back to school, but time for kids to go off to college and move into dorms. In a Black Friday-esque stampede, moms rush the stores in an attempt to get everything their babies will need to survive away from home…and maybe some things they don’t need.

If you’re one of those moms this year, let me help you out. Though my own kids still have a couple years before they flee the nest, I have moved my fair share of friends and family members into dorms and there is definitely a strategy to survive and be successful amidst the chaos.

First word of advice: If you can get the bed lofted, do it! Dorm rooms are tiny, tiny places, and your kid is going to need all of the storage space he or she can get. Lofting the bed increases the amount of storage space tenfold. Unless your kid sleep walks, I promise they are old enough to not roll off the bed and hurt themselves. As I’m sure you’ve heard many times before “stop being so overprotective, mom!”

Another important piece of information: If your kid is going to school in another city or state, Bed, Bath and Beyond runs a service where you can go to your home store ahead of time, pick out the things you want to buy for the dorm, and they will have it all ready for you to pick up at a store in the city to which your child is moving on their specified move-in day. It makes the process much easier, so you don’t have to participate in the day-of shopping craziness. You will undoubtedly be making a trip to the store to get the last minute things you forgot anyways. Trust me, that one run will be enough to put your sanity in check.

The most underrated necessity of dorm rooms: Hooks. Buy all of the hooks! You might not use them all, but it’s okay to have extras. The temporary hooks that peel off without damaging the wall’s paint are great for dorm rooms. Your kid is going to have things to hang (i.e. towels, coats, etc.). If they do not have the hooks, those items are going to end up thrown on the floor or shoved in the closet. The general rule of thumb is, if everything has a place to go, it is a lot easier for everything to stay organized. Make sure every item has a designated home.

The dorm room cannot replace home, but I assure you, your kid is going to be fine. Make it homey and cozy with a rug, a nice bed spread, and a picture or two of you. Deep breath. You’ve prepared them as much as you can. They are ready, even if you’re not. It’s time to let go.

New Years: Resolutions and Reality – by Ann Goulian

Jul 13, 2016

It was the end of 2015, when Sane Jane proposed her New Year’s challenge to me: Every day of January get rid of one more thing from your house. On January 1st get rid of one thing, on January 2nd get rid of two things, and by the end of the month I should have freed myself of over 600 things.

A few details first — my name is Ann Goulian and at the time of this experiment I was 13 years old. I had shared with Sane Jane the state of increasing disorder in my room and she helped me understand how a chaotic, messy room could affect my school work and ability to relax. Her plan seemed drastic, but I was up for the task.

I began this challenge with enthusiasm, eager to organize and declutter my room, but when it came time to part with the many useless tschotchkes that I have accumulated over the years, I did so reluctantly. Everything suddenly seemed to have some sort of sentimental value or hidden purpose. But you know what they say “new year, new me”, and so, with only a brief bout of second-guessing, I parted with an old pair of sunglasses on January 1st, thus beginning the most productive month of my life.

The first 16 days of the challenge passed smoothly, in fact I had a list of things that I planned to get rid of over the next days. I was ahead of the game. Old trophies, gone. Ratty sweatshirts, out. Dull pencils and weak pens, bye-bye. Small clothes, good riddance!!!

Finally the hardest decision so far, what to do with my collection of American Girl Dolls? My parents had a small fortune wrapped up in those things, and I only played with them once in a blue moon… and that was years ago. I had delayed giving these away off, telling myself that someday my children would love to play with these “chic, vintage” dolls. After much deliberation, I packed up some 100 items and took them up to Asheville for my little cousins. My decision to say goodbye to Kit and Ruth and all their belongings was good for a couple of reasons. First, I do not miss them at all… and why would I, I was never attached to them. Second, it cleared up closet space, and an entire storage ottoman, perfect space to become a dumping ground for many other things!! And third, my little cousins were so excited to get a whole new set of dolls to add to their collection. That made everyone (except my cousins’ mom) including me,very happy.

So, where’s the catch you ask. This challenge cannot possibly be so easy. Welllll, you’re right. I was KILLING the challenge for the first week and a half but after that things started to slow down. I would scour my room searching for something to toss. After much deliberation I usually turned up something I could part with. Apparently, these items had such little purpose in my life, that I can’t even remember what they were.

Since I completed Sane Jane’s challenge almost six months ago now, I’ve had time to reflect on the experience and also see whether I’m able to stay on top of the clutter as it tries to reaccumulate in my space.

In retrospect, the positives of this challenge terrifically outweighed the negatives. While it is undeniably hard to say goodbye to things that have little memories or sentiment wrapped up in them, saying goodbye is an important part of life. Having more than one souvenir from my trip two summers ago, is unnecessary. Life is a never ending cycle of friends, jokes, adventures, and memories, but in order to have room for the new things in your life you have to clear out some of the old ones. This clearing is done mentally, but was greatly helped by the physical removal of old things weighing me down. Once my room was empty on January 31, I had plenty of space to fill with the souvenirs I knew I’d be collecting over this year. I look forward to repeating this process next January, to start 2017 on a clean (literally) foot.


25 Small Organizing Projects

Jul 08, 2016

Over many years, I have worked with clients from various backgrounds and walks of life. Though different in many respects, I noticed small organizing projects they had in common. Believe it or not, whether you are 80 years old living alone, or 30 with five kids and four dogs, you likely have a medicine cabinet and/or a junk drawer that needs some TLC. The following is a list I compiled of these organization projects virtually everyone could stand to tackle. It would be great to make a goal of conquering some of these over the summer when it is just too hot to go outside and you need things to keep you busy.

1. Clean out that infamous junk drawer. I realize it’s called a “junk” drawer for a reason but come on, the point of organization is to minimize and categorize all the junk you have. I’m not suggesting giving up your junk drawer, just giving it some attention once in a while.

2. Go through the glove box in your car. No, you don’t need 70 napkins and the stuff from your junk drawer that made it to your car.

3. Clean your car – vacuum it out, sort through the trunk, get all the wrappers and trash your kids have thrown in the back despite your pleas for them not to.

4. Gather up the recipes you’ve clipped and take the time to read them to decide if you are really going to use them. That ten cheese bacon cheeseburger dip that sounded appealing six months ago might need to get tossed since your new diet has taken effect.

5. Tackle the cabinet under the sink in your bathroom. Organize those cleaning supplies and maybe even put them to use, wiping down the cabinet.

6. Clean out the medicine cabinet – ditch those empty and expired pill bottles.

7. Take all the wire hangers from your closet back to the dry cleaner so they can be reused.

8. Look at all of your winter shoes and donate the ones you did not wear last season. Do not lie to yourself here – if you didn’t wear them last season, you’re not going to wear them next season.

9. Sort your food containers and toss the ones that do not have lids. No lid, no love.

10. Go through the cans in your pantry. If you haven’t come up with a reason to use the can of “cream of asparagus” within the last year, chances are you aren’t going to in the future – give it to an organization that will use it, like a food pantry.

11. You probably have more mugs than you need — take a peek into that cabinet and part ways with any extras you find.

12. Corral the clutter on your coffee table.

13. Clean out your purse. Get rid of or file receipts, toss old make-up and pens that don’t work.  Almost everyone can stand to do this.

14. Donate any handbags that you haven’t used in the past six months.

15. Clean out your night stand drawer(s). If this is where you hide the condoms, remember they expire. 😉

16. Trash empty bottles in your shower – five empty shampoos are not going to do you any good.

17. Toss old make-up that you keep passing over day after day or that is expired. Use this link to see how long make-up lasts.

18. Add some hooks to your closet – you can always use extra hooks.

19. Clean out your linen closet.

20. Clean and organize the spice drawer in your kitchen. Are there spilled red pepper flakes at the bottom? Do you have multiples of certain spices? Clean it, organize it.

21. Sort through that big pile of mail – recycle the junk, cherish the checks, reluctantly open the bills.

22. Group pantry items by category (i.e. snacks, cans, pasta, etc.).

23. Label the containers in the pantry.

24. Get rid of old undergarments. It’s something not a lot of people talk about, but your underwear and bras do reach the end of their lives eventually.

25. Make a list of things that need to be replenished or replaced.

This list may seem overwhelming – it is not meant to be. Instead of taking it in as a whole, look at individual projects and focus on those. You do not have to do all of these, just the ones that apply or those for which you have the time. Organization is all about small steps adding up to big results. Set a summer goal for yourself, whether it involves these small projects, or a project of your own. You can do it. All it takes is a determination and dedication to the cause. Go forth and organize!

Summer time Sanity with Sane Jane – June

Jun 25, 2016

It’s finally summer! The time of year when the sun it out (often too much), the kids are out of school (sometimes driving you crazy), and relaxation can ensue (though it’s never enough). Though summer is a time for vacations and recreation, it is also a time when we frequently stray from out typical routines. No longer is everyone up and out of the house by 9 am, or back in bed by 10 pm – it’s a time of year where the rules, and consequently one’s organization, get tossed out the window. How about some summertime sanity?
Part of summer is maintaining an easy going nature about the kids’ stuff being thrown around the house and letting go of the ropes a bit. However, this is not a time to let all hell break loose and say screw it, because before you know it, it will be fall and you’ll want to be able to easily return to your organized ideals. So what’s the Sane Jane solution to an organized summer? As always, think ahead, take initiative, and be prepared for the chaos that is about to commence.
Firstly, look around — where did your kid’s backpack end up after the last day of school? Regardless of its placement, have your child clean it out and put it in its rightful place for the summer (on a designated hook, packed away in the closet, etc.). On the other hand, take the plunge and throw away the backpack if it’s torn, worn, or broken in any way. It’s not too early now to buy a new one if need be. If you shop online, popular styles and colors go quickly, so staying ahead of the crowd and purchasing this essential item before the back-to-school rush may be beneficial.
Secondly, stock up on sunscreen, bug spray, and other small summer necessities. Keep one in your garage or mudroom, one in your beach bag, and one in each vehicle. People are always stuck somewhere wishing they had their bug spray or sunscreen. Plan ahead and this won’t be you!
Lastly, there is the summer specific problem of pool towels. I’m sure we can all relate to the frustration of knowing we have a ton of towels, but being unable to find them when we are rushing out of the house for a day on the water. If your family goes through towels as quickly as mine, you may want to designate a space in the garage so you can grab them and go.
Take a deep breath. Summer is about having fun and enjoying the company of others. Utilize these tips and continue planning ahead and you will find yourself more able to enjoy the season without worrying so much about staying sane. Tune in next month where I will provide some quick and satisfying organizing projects to tackle when you are wanting a break from the heat.

Does Your Family Argue Over Taking Each Others Chargers?

Feb 24, 2016

There is a war going on in households all across America. It is a new war, caused by the rise of technology and innovation. If you have kids, chances are, you are fighting this war. For lack of a better term, we shall call it the iWar.

We have all been there. You are sitting at home, on the couch, looking at your phone, when that pesky little warning sign appears: low battery! You become frantic, running around the house trying to capture a charger before the screen goes black and all is lost. But alas, your charger is nowhere to be found. In a moment of perhaps not your best parenting, you yell at the kids, accusing them, for the millionth time, of stealing your charger. As a last resort, you end up taking the life source that is your child’s charger. So begins the battle.
I have learned that the iWar is a never-ending series of battles in most people’s homes today. Everyone is always losing their chargers, stealing each other’s, or accusing each other of taking them.

If you can relate to this, you are not alone. Almost all of my clients that have children have expressed that they are constantly fighting this war too. As parents, we end up stooping down to the kids’ level when fighting and accusing of each other of stealing chargers. And while it seems like such a silly thing to get mad at each other about, it is the focal point of most arguments in so many households.

Do not think the war is limited to chargers, either. The battlegrounds also extend to earbuds. I used to find rocks in the dryer (it was kind of cute), now I find earbuds (not so cute and more costly than rocks). The kids can’t find their earbuds, or just do not want to go out of their way to look for them, so they take the most convenient pair. Even when people color code them, it does not seem to deter others from taking them.

How and when will this war end? Will the United Nations need get involved and have peace talks? What is the ultimate solution to the iWar? I’m surely no Secretary of State, but I can suggest ordering a bunch of knock offs as extras and having them around the house as neutral options. If that doesn’t work, try patience, understanding that there are certainly worse problems we could have, and realize that though our battle fronts may look different, we are all in this war together.

Try these sights to stock up on some extras:

Officials blame the latest power failure on too many cell phones being recharged at once.

Organizing Children – Raleigh, NC

Dec 20, 2015

Put plainly, my children’s sanity is synonymous to my own sanity. I am sure many parents can relate to this feeling of personal well-being, being so heavily tied to the well-being of your offspring. My youngest son and I recently went through the process of cleaning out and organizing his four inch school binder. What a task. Sitting at our dining room table, papers strewn everywhere, we balled up scraps and threw them across the room in an act of playful productivity. We got rid of unnecessary papers, organized papers that he still needed with new dividers, and went through over 200 paper reinforcements. When he came home the following day from school he was ecstatic, exclaiming how much lighter he felt as a result of having the binder be so organized. On top of that, he said he felt much more productive in school as he was able to easily find everything he needed, and had a specific place to put all of his schoolwork. He was efficient and productive – All the result of his newly implemented system. Now I know this sounds like a cheesy advertisement for binder organizing, but it is not. Rather, this is a story of how such a simple organizing task can bring so much happiness and productivity to my son…and consequently, to me. I equated my son’s decluttering experience to the feeling I get when I clean out the refrigerator. The cleansing of crumpled paper with bent edges and torn holes, old assignments, scraps stuffed into the binder’s pockets, and cracked plastic dividers, similar to ridding the fridge of old condiments, sticky shelves, dead lightbulbs and rotten fruits and veggies. When I clear out the fridge I feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as clarity, knowing how simple prepping and cooking will be as a result. With this, I can empathize with and connect to my son. Though our organizing projects may be different, the resulting feeling is shared.