Do you know that about 40% of food gets tossed?

When I see an overstuffed cupboard/pantry, fridge or freezer I feel a bit overwhelmed because I know at least 40% of that food will get thrown out. Either it will rot or expire before people get around to eating it.

Isn’t that crazy that about 40% of the food we buy ends up in trash because we don’t use it in a timely manner? That’s also a lot of the money down the drain. Imagine taking home 10 bags of groceries and the food in four of those bags will end up in a landfill. 

Recently I noticed my local grocery had a buy one/get one free promotion on fresh spinach. I took two containers of spinach. After walking out of the store, I realized I don’t eat spinach like Popeye the Sailor. Rather than waste food, I called a friend to see if he could use it and I shared it that night. When you see those buy one and get one promotions, don’t take the freebie unless you are willing to pass it along in a timely way.  

An easy assignment for your kitchen is to start with your spice collection. Take them all out of the cabinet and check for expiration dates. Spices lose flavor over time. Throw out the expired spices and recycle the bottles whenever possible. See what you have left. If there are duplicates, set those duplicates aside. If there are spices you brought for a special dish and don’t plan on using it again anytime soon, or you don’t like the taste, toss it. No reason for those unwanted spices to take up your valuable spaces. Now with what you have left: organize alphabetically, or by category (herbs vs baking spices), or keep in front those you use the most. Don’t rush to replace spices you threw out unless it’s something you do use. Need help to get started?

How organized is your cabinet under the sink?

Can you clean your cabinet under the kitchen sink in 5 minutes or less without making a mess? Can you put it all away in even less time afterwards? If this task takes you longer, there’s a pretty good chance you have too many items under the sink. Less is more, and with less, you can store things more easily, as I discovered a few months ago.

When water suddenly appeared under my fridge, I couldn’t figure out where the water was coming from. It was not from inside the fridge which was working fine. I tried to follow the line to see where the leak was coming from. Once I was able to pull out the fridge with a helper, I realized the water line to the ice maker had a hole. I brought in a plumber who thought he had the right length needed to replace the old line but it wasn’t. We had to reschedule for another day. In the meantime, the water line to the freezer was turned off. I put all the supplies back under the sink but in baskets so that when the plumber came back, it’d be quick to pull everything out for him to finish the job. Good thing I had those items better contained as a few weeks later the plumber came back to replace the pipes under the sink, unrelated to the original leak. It was quick and painless to take everything out and put away at the end. I only store items that I need access to use on a regular basis under my sink. Any duplicates or extra items are stored in other cabinets in the home.

Need help organizing your cabinets, I’m an email/call away.   

What to do with childhood memorabilia?

A college friend called me one night when she was visiting her parents. She was sorting through her childhood memorabilia as her parents were downsized before they moved into a much smaller home out of state. All of her and her siblings’ memorabilia was stored in the basement or in their childhood bedrooms, even though the children hadn’t lived in their parents’ home in 20+ years.

Once her parents made the decision to put the house on the market, they had to consider what they could take to their new and much smaller home. Taking the children’s memorabilia was not an option. The parents generously offered to pay for a storage unit for up to a year so each child could deal with their memorabilia on their own time. After that one year, the cost of the storage unit would be transferred over to the kids if they haven’t dealt with the stuff by then. My friend decided that was a waste of money and decided to pull the band aid off. She flew in to sort through her own stuff immediately so that her parents wouldn’t have to deal with packing and moving it to a storage unit.

I was proud of her for not wanting to go on the storage unit path. Once our stuff is out of sight, it is also out of mind and paying storage fees for things you don’t really want does not makes sense. Before choosing items to keep, she needs to think about where it will go in her condo. She also needs to think about the transportation cost to get it to her home. It was not an easy process for my friend yet dealing with it all now means she will not have to deal with it later. In choosing items to keep, focus on quality, not quantity.

A professional organizer can help to tackle your childhood memorabilia. You know how to reach me. 

Your home must be perfectly organized

Upon hearing what I do professionally, a common question I’m often asked is your home perfectly organized? In my home, I make it work for me and everything I have has a home.

When I run in races, I often get a new t-shirt or other swag. When it’s something I want to keep, something else goes. One in and one or two out helps to keep the balance in my home. 

People are surprised when I tell them that pretty much all my clients are organized. They may not be organized the way we see in magazines, or live in a picture perfectly organized space. But they know where important documents are when they need them. When they cannot find certain papers or they’re tired of seeing piles of papers in multiple rooms, then I get the call because they want to change that system. It can be overwhelming and even daunting to tackle papers by yourself. I can help change that.

With clients who have limited on time due to busy work and/or family life, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they own. I help clients eliminate a mess that’s bugging them. Sometimes lifestyle changes challenge systems that had worked before. Or our needs change and what was once used now just adds to the clutter (think children’s toys as the children grow).

I worked with Pearl who wanted to convert a spare room in the basement into a gym. It had all the extra furniture that didn’t have a home anywhere else in the house, as well as storage unit for her young adult children who moved back home after college. A room acting as a storage unit was a waste of space. Pearl was happy with the furnishings in the rest of the house and the unwanted furniture had no purpose and no longer fit with her style. We decluttered by moving the unused furniture out which allowed her to create the dream in-home gym she always wanted. I can help you remove those obstacles.

Note: These blog stories feature real clients and their organizing solutions. To maintain client privacy, all names have been changed.

Shipping dress and shoes ahead of time

I have the tendency when traveling to the East Coast, I travel to two states. Usually because I’m traveling to clients for organizing time. One year I had to be in NYC for a wedding and then go to Boston for clients. A dress and dressy shoes to wear at a wedding tend to take up a lot of unnecessary space in my carry-on suitcase. I did the next best thing, shipped my dress and shoes to a family friend till I arrived. After the wedding I shipped them back home while I continued on to my next destination. I could’ve taken a bigger suitcase, true but it costs more to put under a plane plus I was in motion while in Boston. I needed the suitcase be a small size I can carry around with me.

It definitely was a risk sending the package ahead. The package may not arrive in time, at all or get stolen. It was the risk I was willing to take. I wore the jewelry, I was planning on wearing at the wedding, while traveling as shipping valuable or sentimental jewelry is not recommended.

Flatten those boxes 

There are many benefits of being an Amazon Prime member or using similar companies that ship for free. Items you need/want come to your door without you needing to go into a store for convenience. BUT some of us find ourselves drowning in boxes which takes up a lot of space wherever they are stored. One of my clients suffered a leak in her basement, right where she was saving all her boxes. Unfortunately, those soggy boxes cannot be recycled so into the trash they went. I recommend flattening boxes whether you are going to save (just a few) or you plan to recycle them. Recycling bins do fill up quickly when boxes are not flattened and folded. Flattened boxes mean more room to add other recyclables into the bins. Keep a knife or scissors near where you open your packages so you can flatten the boxes right after you open them. If you are unsure whether or not you will return items, be selective about what size boxes to hold on to, and be firm about how long you will hold on to the selected boxes. There is no reason to hold onto more than one or at the most two boxes of the same size boxes unless you do ship out a lot. Even a handful of flat boxes are easier to store than unflattened boxes. Keep only what you actually need and will use. Remember less is more.

Let’s Elesheva this

 Wait what is “’Elesheva’ this?” Yep, you heard that right. A number of my clients as well as family and friends mentioned to me that they use my name as a verb when it comes to shopping, organizing and even decluttering their homes. I’m flattered and proud that it helps them with letting go. When they shop or are in the process of moving, they ask themselves, “what would Elesheva say about this item or that item?”  

It doesn’t matter what label you put on it. Having an internal reminder that less is more can be helpful. When you add something to your collection, you can also subtract and be happy with the sum of your effort.

Do you have terms or words you use to help as your internal reminder when you are shopping and/or decluttering? I’d love to hear what works for you and your family. 

Laundry can be your best friend while traveling

With the different way airlines are bumping up prices, I had every intention to bring only my carry-on suitcase and a backpack on a three-and-half-week trip to both coasts this past summer, which meant being very strategic with my clothing needs including planning laundry time.

I know a fair amount of people dislike doing laundry for any number of reasons. Since I love clean clothes, I’m a fan of laundry. Whether I go away for a weekend or 2+ weeks, I use the same red carry-on suitcase. Not only I was strategic with packing, I also knew that I could do laundry when needed to. I had enough clothes to last me the entire hiking week.

Because it was during a heat wave, the laundry bag was growing daily. After camping for a number of days, we ended up staying in a youth hostel for one night and my eyes perked up seeing two huge washing machines and dryers. Combining my friend’s clothes and mine made it worthwhile to spend the money for clean clothes for the last couple days of the trip. We’d be fine waiting to do laundry at the end back at my friend’s home but it’s nicer to have more options of clean clothes to wear while hiking.

Of course, I did another load of wash before flying to the East Coast as I needed some of the clothes to wear to work with my clients once I’m there. That’s the other strategic part, packing multipurpose clothes that I can wear both for hiking and for when I work with clients, as appropriate. Thank goodness I do not need to wear a suit to work with clients.

What’s your favorite packing trick for carry-on when traveling to multiple cities?

To ship or not to ship while traveling

In one of my last few blogs I spoke about spending a week camping on the West Coast, and then flew directly to the East Coast to work with clients. Thankfully having local friends to borrow camping gear from made a big difference. Plus being able to leave behind work-related items at my friend’s place meant that I was able to travel light while camping. After the week-long hiking trip, I had a couple more days to hang out in the city before I flew to the East Coast. One of the things I needed to do was visit a post office. There were a few things that I didn’t need to bring with me to the East Coast so I shipped them home. In this case I shipped home my hiking boots, a small camel pack, a book given by my friend, plus local edible souvenirs. While those items would have fit in my luggage, not packing them meant my suitcase was lighter allowing me to comfortably schlep between flights and on public transit.

What was the best thing you shipped home while traveling multiple states or countries?

Importance of consolidating papers

One of the many reasons people have a hard time finding certain important documents such as medical history, passport/social security card, financial paper is because they lack a consistent system of filing whether as hardcopies or digitally on the computer or in the cloud.

Years ago, Natalie bought a summer home. She kept her summer home papers in envelopes. Over many years these packets multiplied and were stored in different rooms in her home. Some packets included copies of documents mixed with the originals. She has a lot of unnecessary copies to deal with and it was confusing for Natalie. We got all those packets together and sorted through to weed out duplicates from the originals. This was important because she wishes to sell the summer home and needed all the important documents related to it in one place. Downsizing the amount of papers and finally organizing documents related to her summer home in a binder helps her tackle the next step, selling it.

Important papers can be stored in a file cabinet, bookshelf or binders. The place doesn’t matter. The main thing is that the important papers are together and organized so individuals can get what they need when they need it. Any irrelevant documents should be thrown in a bag to recycle or to shred.

This can apply not only to summer properties but to estate planning. Make it easier for your spouse, family members or friends to find necessary documents when they are needed. If you wish to speed up your decluttering papers, I can help.

Note: These blog stories feature real clients and their organizing solutions. To maintain client privacy, all names have been changed.