Where Are My Keys????

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Keys Choosing a place to put your keys the minute you come in the house is a really productive thing to do. How much time have you wasted searching for those &$%(*@ things? They're small, they get into tricky spots quickly, and they don't come when you call.

The best place is right inside the front door (or whatever door you use). If there's a table there, station a cute bowl or basket on it. If not, put a hook in the wall. Just use a cup hook or get something fancier. Some key holders have the word KEYS in big letters on them. If that helps you remember to use it, all the better. I don't recommend the kind with doors; you need to see it.

Put your keys there all the time. It doesn't matter if you're leaving the house again in 5 minutes. The idea is to get used to having that go-to spot for the keys. Save your cursing for the next traffic jam. 

To recap:

  1. Devise a way to stash your keys right near the door
  2. Put them there ALL THE TIME you're in the house, everyday
  3. Start today

Store your jewelry with the Gem Genie

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bags-on-ring_smaller-300x300Today’s post is about the Gem Genie, a jewelry organizer created by local gal Brody McHugh, who lives in Mill Valley.

Brody’s inspiration was her own jewelry drawer. Over time, she’d collected stacks of tiny boxes, larger boxes, zippered bags, bags with little snaps, etc.

Her jewelry took up a lot of space in an awkward configuration. All the containers were opaque so she often hunted for particular pieces, or forgot about them entirely.

The small containers made it easier to pack pieces for travel, but they were impractical and irritating in many ways. Fine chain necklaces were protected in their boxes, but there was still no way to keep them from devolving into a tangled ball of gold that she didn’t have the time or energy to deal with.

First she experimented with that old standby, the ziplock bag. To keep necklaces untangled, she used a separate ziplock for each item. Although the bags took up less room than the boxes, they were still adding up. And they weren’t very nice to look at.

Next, she played around with lightweight, sheer fabric that she made into bags. They were more appealing visually and didn’t add bulk. A grommet came next, as a way to hang the bags and attach them together on a ring.

She also created a card insert so the necklaces would hang inside the bags and be easy to remove and replace.

Gem Genie provides a space saving way to organize jewelry so you can see and enjoy what you have. It works well for home storage and the system makes it simple to select jewelry for travel and pack it safely into the fabric envelope that comes with the set.

Brody is currently working on a genie for makeup, another boon for the ladies, especially ones who travel or are just plain busy. Whether in a hotel room or your own bathroom, the makeup genie bag system makes your makeup viewable and easily accessible.

I asked Brody for her favorite organizing tip and, you guessed it, it involves bags! Her work requires her to carry a mobile office around. It’s important for her to be able to find and access her supplies quickly, so she keeps them in transparent bags, sometimes nested inside each other. Great tip!


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Centerpiece I love it when simple changes make a big difference. Example: a pile of fruit on your dining table is just a random pile of fruit. Put the fruit in a bowl or basket and, voila!, you've got a centerpiece.

My client was bugged by some items out on his coffee table, but didn't really want to put them elsewhere because he used them all the time. The remote control(s), the TV Guide, the stereo controller and a note pad were fairly neatly arranged on the table, but they looked, well, unorganized.

We discovered an attractive wicker tray in the pantry and stationed it at one end of the coffee table. All the items fit snugly inside without piling. What a difference! Not only did the table now look more orderly, but it's easy as pie to use and put back any of the items.

See if there's a horizontal surface at your house that would benefit from containers. They can be trays, shallow boxes, ceramic dishes, woven baskets or whatever fits the bill.

Flower centerpiece from roblisameehan's photostream

Give Your Belongings a Home

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Cover design2 Time for a new book chapter. I've been posting them every Wednesday but yesterday, well, I forgot. So, herewith, Chapter 5, or buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #5

Assign Homes

It’s much easier to put things away when you know where they go. How do you know? You just decide. Base your decision on how much there is, whether you need it to be handy and what size and shape container makes sense. For example, paper can go in stacking trays, wall mounted slots, cute baskets, paperboard magazine holders; etc. Use what appeals to you and what is logical to you.

To improve their effectiveness, label your containers. You may think it’s obvious but your brain will recognize a labeled container much faster than an unlabelled one, which makes putting things away easier.

Right now:
If you don’t have containers yet, start by labeling your piles with Post-It Notes. Note: try to resist buying containers until you know what size you need.


Yes, You Need an In Box

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What’s the quickest way to clear off your desk? Stuff everything into your in box. That’s where it should have gone first anyway.

Don’t fool yourself that having everything out where you can see it is helping you get things done faster. Stop setting things down on the counter, or the edge of the desk, or on top of the printer until you can get to them. Use one spot, your in box, to collect everything and then go through it every day, or more often if need be.

The beloved Wikipedia has an entry on David Allen that succinctly describes how to use an in box. I don’t think it’s verboten to put things back into the in box, however, if you aren’t ready to decide on them. Such a rule is likely to encourage you to make a separate pile and that would mess up the system. The point is that everything you need to do something about is in that box until you do something about it.

Here are some more in box benefits:

  • You know where things are. If there’s an important piece of paper you haven’t dealt with yet, it’s in there.
  • You desk will be free of clutter. If you routinely have non-paper items in transit on your desk, get a big enough in box to hold them (computer peripherals, books, stray socks, whatever)
  • You’ll be able to find things that often get hidden under the piles, such as your planner, address book and calculator.

Try it for a few weeks. You can start out with a cardboard paper box. Practice putting everything that’s on the desk and in your hands when you come in the door into the in box. When you sit at the desk, go through the box as described in the Allen article. Even if you don’t do this religiously, you’ll still gain the three benefits mentioned above.

Your in box need not be cheesy black plastic. The Container Store has a nice looking wooden box. This rattan basket is from Ikea. An in box need not come from an office supply store, but it needs to come from somewhere, so go get one!

Label Storage Containers with Pictures

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Last week I went to Kangaroom Storage’s brick and mortar store (360 Langton Street, Suite 105, San Francisco) grand opening with my pal/colleague Victoria Roberts-Russell. We saw lots of clever products for the home and colorful, fun ones for kids.

I asked designer Patricia Richman what hot concepts the company is currently working on. She said one of her favorites is designing products that encourage pre-reading kids to organize their own stuff. Labeling with words is incredibly helpful to keep things orderly and labeling with pictures does the same trick for little kids.

At right is a mini two-section sorting hamper with large plastic-covered slots on the front to add picture labels. This one was set up for laundry. Colored items go in the right side and whites (there would be an uncolored-in picture here) on the left side. It could also be set up with pictures of the two kids who use it, or with photos of dolls on one side and cars and trucks on the other side. You get the picture.

It’s never too early to get everyone in the family pitching in to keep the home organized, so I love this idea.

Ways to Make Decluttering Easier

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Getting stuff is easy. No one has a problem with that. So why is getting rid of stuff so hard? Mainly because no one reminds you to do it.

So here are some quick ideas to make disposing of unwanted items easier:

  • Have waste baskets in every room. More than one if necessary. It may seem like a no-brainer, but I have witnessed people putting junk back on their desk because there was no waste basket handy.
  • Put donation bags in your closets. Every time you come across something you don't want, toss it in the bag. When it's full, take it to the Goodwill. Repeat.
  • Be generous with recycling containers. Put them wherever you need them; under your desk, in the kitchen, by the mail sorting center.
  • Make use of Freecycle.org and the free section of Craigslist.com. It's amazing what people will take off your hands for free.

Other ideas are having a clothing swap with your friends or starting a white elephant table for your club or organization meetings. Get creative! The easier it is to get things out of your life, the more you'll do it.

Bonus hint: free stuff is still stuff! Don't take stuff just because you didn't have to pay for it. It can become clutter even faster than store-bought stuff.

Crumpled wastebasket via Apartment Therapy.