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Saturday, June 07, 2008

just in case

so back to the picnic and back to the questions. what if i need it some day for a super cool craft project?

ah, the what if . . . ah, the super cool craft project. the what if i need it someday people are certainly a category of clients i see. we all suffer from a touch of the what if. those with the worst cases end up with their preparations for what might happen impeding what is happening in their lives right now. it's groovy, i know but how can you make space for new things to come in to your life when so much is already there?

one way to begin to tackle the problem is to set some sort of time limit - one month, six months, a year - and ask yourself whether or not you've had reason to use the item within the time frame. now i know your answer might be "no, but i still might. what if . . . " give it away. in the unlikely event that you actually do need the item again, you can get it. you are choosing your space over your stuff.

now craft supplies are a whole other ball of wax (or ball of yarn and brick of wax as the case may be). it's easy for a crafty beaver (my all time favorite reality tv show team name - joan lunden, 2005) to surround him or herself with all manner of supplies for all manner of crafts. i myself once had nearly a whole closet full of random pieces and parts and yarn balls and foam squares waiting for genius. in my case, it worked because i had the space. when i moved in with my now husband, i had to make some choices . . . alas, i figured out how much space in the new house could be reserved for "what if craft supplies" and the rest had to go - donated to a very happy first grade teacher. the truth was that when i was itching to do a project, i never had exactly right stuff anyway so i'd go buy what i needed for the project and then keep the leftovers just in case. just in case what? just in case i ever needed an L shaped piece of cheap batting?

and that is the key - decide how much space you have in your house to devote to crafts and fill it up. when it's full, you're done. from there, something has got to go for something new to come in. this afternoon i came upon the craft organizer pictured above. the different compartments look like they might accommodate a variety of crafty endeavors and the barely visible little pockets on the side could hold some small tools. it takes great advantage of vertical space too. so that if you've decided that you have a foot of closet rod to devote to crafts, this might be a good way to do it. check it out at (they also sell it for purse storage.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

old job old news

so about that gal from the picnic. she used to be a teacher. she isn't one now. she may or may not be one again. a big source of her paper clutter is her old teaching stuff - lesson plans, quizzes, tests, good ideas, etc.

as a former teacher myself, i know how hard it is to toss this stuff. you spent hours and hours creating it. the same is true for most anything you've created. it's hard to separate all the time and energy you put into it from the actual product. forget about the usefulness of that product to you now or how much space it takes up in your current life. it was hard, hard work to create it and if you toss it you feel like you're devaluing all that effort.

what to do? well, i recommend taking a trip through it all. the picnic gal knew she had everything in there from an entire unit on to kill a mockingbird to grammar lessons for different grade levels. my guess was that she also had random copies of handouts, some student work and some not-so-great lessons that she used on those incredibly tired days after parent conferences the night before. purging all this excess would certainly give her (and her husband, don't forget about that guy) more space.

having been away from it for a while she would now have a more objective eye to consider her work. she should ask herself with each piece of paper, "how would i grade this"? no reason to keep work that has a bad grade. even if she went back to teaching, she'd be unhappy using it. as an added bonus, if she actually did go back to teaching and taught the same books again she could pull an organized file on each novel she'd taught before. that file would only contain the creme de la creme - her best work - which she could use as building blocks for future.

when i stopped teaching, i must admit i did this and hung on to my creme de la creme for a while. eventually i wanted to use the space for my current life more than i wanted to keep old lesson plans that reminded me of a past life.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

the organizer is in

regular readers of this blog may have wondered where i went . . . well, this past weekend i went to a picnic to celebrate a friend's birthday. within only a few minutes the conversation turned toward asking me a million organizational questions. newlyweds . . . he's a minimalist, she's a maximalist . . . so many questions about paper and craft supplies and gifts long ago received. what if i need it some day for a return to the career i left? what if i need it some day for a super cool craft project? how can i give away a gift that someone gave me? how can i give away a sweater i paid good money for? what do i do about 10 year old financial records that need to be shredded?

sound familiar? the good news about this gal is that she's aware of her challenges. the good news about her new husband is that he's aware of the challenges and he loves her anyway. sweet, huh?

i answered the questions for them on the spot over some yummy cabbage salad. i'll share them over the next several entries with you.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

spruce is for winners

apartment therapy is at it again. apparently they like to give things away to their readers and today they're giving away some sprucing!

readers need to write a little something about an organizational challenge that they wish they could have a little expert assistance with and one of them will be chosen as the winner. i'll be offering advice and a plan remotely (that means they'll send me some pictures and we'll talk on the phone). so, the winner gets a personal organizational coach and guru for two whole hours. see for yourself at apartment therapy and stay tuned for the before and after pics once the project is done.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

cue & aay temporary files

i'm trying to set up a filing system that will work for me. i am presently involved in a legal action, and the amount of paperwork is taking up every inch of my dining table and is a foot high. this-in addition to all my other business and usual interests! i am looking to set up portable files which can be destroyed after the legal matter is resolved.

– s, oakland, ca

if you decide to go it alone, i suggest that you scale the project way back. first, get yourself some post-it notes (the super sticky are my favorites). next, think up the categories that exist within your legal documents (some ideas: stuff from your side, stuff from their side, general info about the issue, stuff from both sides like depositions, etc.). label a post-it with each category and put each post-it on its own bankers box. next, just pick up a pile of papers, start going through it and toss each sheet into its correct box.

i'm not sure you should bother to file beyond that (it's hard to know without knowing more about the case) since you'll just be tossing most of this when the case is over. is it really worth your time? if you need to find something, you can go to its box and just scratch through one pile (instead of the whole mountain). if there isn't really enough to fill the boxes, you can use magazine holders (like these) and then repurpose them later for your "real" files. either way, you'll have your dining room table back!

there's such a thing as being over organized. my guess is that making general categories instead of making a whole filing system will help you avoid that horrible affliction.

what you need:
post it notes
a sharpie
bankers' boxes
magazine holders (optional)
several hours

do you have an organizing question for rachel and the sprucegirls? visit the spruce site to send it along. we regret that we cannot respond to organizing questions directly so stay tuned to the blog and you just might see your answer here soon!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

divide and conquer

unruly dresser drawers are a real bummer. one of the best solutions that we've found are these drawer dividers. they're called dream drawer dividers and they are nothing if not dreamy. they're spring loaded so they fit snugly and securely in the majority of drawer depths. the spring means they don't need drawer-ruining sticky stuff to stay put. plus, they're completely movable for when your drawers need a change.

beyond that, they're tall enough (at 4 inches) to keep clothing from making the jump over to the dark side. both bed bath and beyond and the container store carry them and they come two to a box. just what you need to make yourself a little sock library.

Friday, January 04, 2008

tip time! move it on

selling your stuff is a great way to spend a rainy weekend and make you feel a sense of accomplishment. right now, look around your house or apartment until you spot something that has lost its luster for you.

for me, it's this unusual display case that we purchased to use as a night stand for my husband. we bought it when we lived in a different house. it was actually perfect there. the top held some of his "special" work memorabilia that didn't really work elsewhere in our house. the bottom hid regular night stand stuff. all was good. then, we moved and the display case didn't fit in our new bedroom. so we tried it as an entry hall table, a sofa table and a side board in the dining room. in each of those cases, though, we actually had another piece of furniture that better served the purpose. so, our sweet little display cabinet became a giant piece of clutter in our tiny home.

once you've found your "thing", take a quick picture of it and post it right up on
craigslist. price it to sell and someone else will want to give it a good home. since it's raining all weekend, you'll be home to show it to her. once it's gone, you'll have cash and space. there's nothing like that feeling of catharsis that comes with walking into a room that used to have something that didn't belong.

in your effort to take back your space, selling just one thing is a great place to begin. just be careful, you may gain so much momentum that you'll become