Too many tutus

I was shopping for baby presents and came across a cute book aimed at 1st graders, Fancy Nancy: Too Many Tutus, by Jane O’Connor. It caught my attention because it focused on tackling the overabundance of a particular favorite item.

Nancy is a young dancer who can’t fit new dance outfits into her stuffed closet. Over the course of the book, she learns to let go of some beloved, but outgrown, worn out and duplicate tutus in order to make room for the new ones. The book also includes a gentle lesson about sharing with friends and a younger sibling.

The book is short and sweet, but the lesson applies to any of the things we collect as part of our hobbies and enthusiasms. Knowing when to give some of them up is not only a good lesson for the kids to learn, but a friendly reminder for adults too.

If you get a chance to read the book, let me know what you think of it. And if you’ve learned any other good organizing lessons from a kid’s book as an adult, please share your piece.

Elesheva E. Soloff is a professional organizer with Soloff Space Solutions, based in Boston, MA. email:
Elesheva E. Soloff is a professional organizer with Soloff Space Solutions, based in Boston, MA.
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Everyday Orgnaizing

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®Upon returning home from getting my hair cut, I realized how many little things I organized. I can name 10 steps I took:

1. Hung up my keys
2. Hung up my coat
3. Put my gloves and hat away
4. Took of my boots and put them on the mat
5. Put my pocketbook away
6. Took my check book out of my pocketbook and put it back where it belongs
7. Put my book away (I brought a book to read at the hairdressers.)
8. Wrote my next hair appointment in my datebook
9. Tossed the hair appointment notice
10. Collected the mail and put it in it’s “to sort” location (I won’t go into the steps I took to process the mail. That’s a whole other blog entry.)

So, are you asking why I’m discussing the details of my return-home-routine? The small habits and routines we do on a daily basis help us keep our belongings, information, and environment organized. Without my routines, there is a greater chance of misplacing things, of appointments getting missed, and of items getting lost. Having a home for my keys, pocketbook, checkbook, etc. is the first step to creating order, but unless I take the time, each time I return home, to actually put them there, the order doesn’t last. It works the same for my next hair appointment. Having a datebook for me to write in my next appointment is the first step to creating order. The follow-up steps are to write my appointments in the datebook, and to reference it daily, so I won’t miss appointments. Therefore, I’d like to wager that if you’re willing to perform daily organizing habits and routines upon returning home, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an organizing success.

© February 2014, Janine Cavanaugh, CPO® All Rights Reserved

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Why not to clean up?

At a recent networking event I was talking to an acquaintance about the work I do. I mentioned that I encourage my clients not to clean up their spaces before I arrive. She gave me a horrified look.

It brought back childhood memories of my mother telling me to clean my bedroom before the cleaning lady came. I never understood the point of cleaning my room so it would get cleaned by someone else. There is a family disagreement about why. My mother told me it was so I would have an easier time finding my favorite things later, but my sister remembers being told that it was so that the cleaner would have more time to do deep cleaning. I assume that part of the reason was to lessen the embarrassment of the mess before the cleaning person could see it.

I have heard people in all walks of life say that they’re too embarrassed to have a professional organizer come over because their place isn’t clean enough. But as I explained to my acquaintance, I need to see what a new client’s typical set-up is. It helps me identify their specific challenges, and work with their routines and spaces so the changes we make are easy to maintain. If everything looks neat on the surface, it’s harder to identify the organizing problem spots.

I’m not saying don’t take out the trash, but think of an organizer as similar to a car mechanic. If your engine makes a funny sound, one does not hope it stops before bringing the car in to a shop. Usually you want the mechanics to hear exactly that sound, so they can identify and fix the problem. Instead of being embarrassed by a mess, look at it the way an organizer does, as a sign that your storage spaces/systems could do a better job of meeting your needs.

Elesheva Soloff portrait Elesheva E. Soloff is a professional organizer with Soloff Space Solutions, based in Boston, MA.

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Value of Labeling

by Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®
Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®
While on vacation I read an article on the plane about David Beckham.  Did you know he’s really into Legos?  While reading, I was reminded of a client of mine.  I helped her organize her son’s room and his large Lego collection.  He liked them sorted by theme, so we put different themes into different containers.  That action would have been futile unless we labeled them.  We labeled the containers in two ways, with words and stickers that related to the themes.  Labeling is an important part of organizing, because it clearly indicates where an item belongs, and reinforces where an item needs to be returned. Do you think David Beckham had his Lego containers labeled?

If you’d like some assistance with using labels to help you stay organized, please contact me.

Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®

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3 Simple Ways to Make Your House Guest Friendly

With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner now is a great time to scrutinize your home with the eyes of a guest. I have listed three rooms that are focal points while entertaining and can play a large role in hospitality:

1) The entry– Make sure it is clear and easy for people to move through. You do not want your guests to feel as though clutter is leaning in over them as they enter your house. Create a home for all your jackets and shoes, and set up an area where you can quickly hang visitors’ jackets.

2) The bathroom– People who visit you during a large gathering can spend a lot of time in this room . Besides storing your toiletry items so they are not in plain view, consider setting out a basket with replacement toilet paper, soap and air freshener. You can take this concept a step further and provide little essentials and emergency supplies guests might need while away from home for a long day.  By providing a little bit of comfort your guests do not have to awkwardly hunt around your bathroom for items they may need.

3) The guest room– If family members stay the night for a few days be sure the guest room dresser and closet have ample space to comfortably accommodate a visitor’s clothes. It is also pleasant for a guest to come into a room with bed linens and towels laid out for them so they do not need to ask you where to find them.

Rebecca Burley
A Spacious Place

Rebecca Burley
Rebecca Burley
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The Simpler the Better

Receiving a thank you note in the mail is pleasant. It’s even more pleasant when you’re being thanked for something you didn’t realize would make an impact on the other person. This happened to me when I offered a simple organizing solution to a Realtor I had met at a networking event. She asked me if I had any ideas how she could keep all her real estate forms portable and organized. I suggested a portable accordion file. The next thing I know, I’m reading a very sincere thank you note that makes me smile. It just goes to show you, sometimes the simplest organizing solutions are the best solutions. In this case, find a good home for paper and things.

Here are a few more simple organizing solutions that I’ve offered to my clients…

1. Standing a baby bath tub on end, so it took up less room in the closet where it was stored. Be creative and unconventional with your personal organizing solutions.
2. Moving a daily used utensil drawer up to the second spot instead of the third drawer down. Make it easy on yourself to do daily tasks.
3. Asking a spouse to pay some of the monthly bills in order to spend less time on the task. Delegate and ask for help when you can.
4. Tossing the brown, brittle, dead flowers in the vase on the dresser even if they were your wedding bouquet. Evoke cherished memories with happy thoughts, not objects.
5. When you’ve finished knitting, put your knitting project back in the bag. Getting in the habit of putting things back in the places we’ve assigned them to go fosters organization.

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®

© September 2013 Janine Cavanaugh, CPO® All Rights Reserved

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®

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Gift cards, love ‘em or hate ‘em

Ahhhh, summer in the air brings high school graduations, college graduations, birthdays, weddings, even times to appreciate your staff – and that means gifts. Sometimes all those presents come in extremely small packages… gift cards.

Gift cards, in my opinion, are both a blessing and a curse. The reason I say this is because it is a fabulous gift to allow people to choose what they want. In addition, the cards are easy to mail and don’t require tons of boxes or wrapping paper to make them look like presents. They are a curse because people forget about them or lose them in piles somewhere in their homes. I’ve encountered this a number of times, not just with clients but also among friends and family.

Clients have shown me awesome tricks for making sure they use their cards:

  • Keep them on the fridge
  • Designated drawer just for gift cards
  • Designated box on a shelf that is visible and accessible

I’d love to hear from my readers about tips you use to ensure that they use up the gift cards you get.

Elesheva Soloff portraitElesheva E. Soloff is a professional organizer with Soloff Space Solutions, based in Boston, MA.

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Greeting Cards Organized in Hanging File Folders

A client of mine loves to give gifts and send greeting cards to friends and family.  She had been keeping her cards in several baskets but they were not in any order.  After sorting the cards into similar categories: birthday, holiday, sympathy and so on, and purging some cards that she no longer cared for (especially the free cards sent by charitable organizations as a thank you for your donation) we needed a way to organize the cards.

card drawer

The volume of cards was considerable so the card storage boxes that can be purchased at Hallmark would not cut it.  My client already had a two-drawer filing cabinet in her bedroom that was not being utilized.  After emptying the filing cabinet, we madefile tabs with her categories and put the cards in the hanging files.  This makes it much easier for her to see the collection she has and choose a card to send.

This project was very simple and the feedback I have received is that it is working great.  I couldn’t ask for better!

Hillary Adams CaseHillary Adams Case is a Professional Organizer with Living Peace LLC of Salem, MA and Winchester, MA.  Check us out at  Or call (617) 519-5693.

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Yard Sales

Selling what you no longer want or need is one way of bringing in a bit of extra cash, so long as you know what you’re in for. Yard Sales are a lot of work. If you want to give it a try here are my top 5 tips:

1. Spread the Word – if no one comes, you won’t be selling a thing. List your sale locally, both on line and in print. Share the date with friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers.
2. Price to sell – remember people are looking for bargains. Group things together by price and have a colored sticker code. This beats having to print up or write up price tickets.
3. Get a permit – some towns require a yard sale permit. You don’t want to have to pay a fine, if your town requires a permit, and you don’t have one. Check with your town hall before you plan a yard sale.
4. Donate after the sale – establish the rule that nothing from the sale goes back into the house or garage. Instead pick a donation location before the sale and set up a pick up date or drop off date.
5. Have cash on hand – make a trip to the bank before your sale so you’re prepared. Only accept cash as payment, and have plenty of change and singles to make for smoother transactions.

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®

© June 2013 Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer® All rights reserved.

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Piles on the Stairs: Proceed with Caution

The other day, I put a couple of papers on the stairs to take up with me next time I go up.  I told my husband that’s why I put them there.  Then he asked a very sensible question: “Should we get a basket to collect things on the stairs?”


Right now, those papers are intruders on the stairs. They are the only things there, and they don’t belong. I’ve made a pact with myself that if something is on the stairs, I MUST take it up with me the next time I go.  But, if there is a basket there, I know that things will begin to “live” in the basket.  The basket gives those papers, socks, gadgets, etc. permission to be on the stairs. Once things have permission to be there, the longer they will stay.

If you decide to put things on the stairs like I did, proceed with caution – both organizationally and in terms of safety.

Amanda DAmanda Darlack is a Professional Organizer with Living Peace LLC of Salem, MA and Winchester, MA.  Check us out at  Or call (617) 519-5693.

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