Secrets of an Organized Mom: From the Overflowing Closets to the Chaotic Play Areas: A Room-by-Room Guide to Decluttering and Streamlining Your Home for a Happier Family

Secrets of an Organized Mom: From the Overflowing Closets to the Chaotic Play Areas: A Room-by-Room Guide to Decluttering and Streamlining Your Home for a Happier Family

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by Barbara Reich
     
 

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Organizing guru Barbara Reich offers a life-changing program for your life and home.

Mothers can feel like life is running on a never-ending loop. Just when one problem or responsibility is overcome, another trips us up. But help is on the way: Barbara Reich has all the strategies for staying ahead of the curve—and she’s

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Overview

Organizing guru Barbara Reich offers a life-changing program for your life and home.

Mothers can feel like life is running on a never-ending loop. Just when one problem or responsibility is overcome, another trips us up. But help is on the way: Barbara Reich has all the strategies for staying ahead of the curve—and she’s wrapped them up into four easy steps that can be applied to any organizing project: 1. purge, 2. design, 3. organize, and 4. maintain.

The keys to Barbara’s success are simplicity and consistency. Room by room, she takes readers through the most problematic areas in the home— from the tornado-struck play area to the packed basement or storage unit. Barbara shows readers how to approach organizing in manageable bites— many of which can be dealt with in two hours or less. As the mother of thirteen-year-old twins, Barbara offers insight into the lives of crazed moms as only a mother could with tips like these:

• When it comes time to clean out the toy bin, keep only what your child plays with— educational toys “exist to make you feel guilty.”

• Throw away those kitchen gadgets you never use. A streamlined kitchen can mean the difference between another night of take-out and a healthy family meal.

• Your child doesn’t need to attend six birthday parties in one weekend. To avoid social overload, Barbara preaches the power of “No”—and there’s no need to follow it up with a why.

• Having trouble parting with your child’s artwork from three years ago? Scan or digitally photograph everything and create a gallery on your computer.

Combining the humor of a sympathetic friend and the no-nonsense advice of a true type-A personality, Reich offers clever, appealing solutions that are genuinely achievable for everyone.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a straightforward and concise narrative, organization expert Reich promises, “Whatever organizational nightmare makes you crazy on a daily basis, the antidote can be found here.” It’s a tall order to fill, but Reich delivers. Not just for mothers, “this book shows how every member of the family can breathe easier,” says Reich. She starts off by advising readers to identify their homes’ “hot spots” areas that drive them the craziest. Her four-step method to organization follows: purge, design, organize, and maintain. Ground rules, which make up the “Ten Commandments of Organizing” include beware of junk mail, get it off the floor, and use one type of storage container, hanger, etc. Reich gives readers recommendations on the best types of items to use, such as clear plastic containers with drawers and trays, and tells them what questions to ask themselves when trying to determine what items to donate, recycle, or toss. Chapters on how to organize specific rooms are extremely detailed and make the tasks feel doable: “A Walk on the Wild Side,” for example, tackles children’s bedrooms and play areas; “The Bare Necessities” covers the bathroom and linen closet. Reich’s book just might take the anxiety out of tasks that many find completely daunting and overwhelming. Agent, Richard Abate. (Feb.)
MomItForward.com
“Secrets of an Organized Mom gets you excited to organize your home. Who knew that was possible? It is packed with great tips to help you create a plan to organize your home in a fast and effective manner, which is a huge stress relief for busy moms. And she keeps it simple, so it’s perfect for organization rookies.”
Modernmom.com
“Barbara Reich gives busy moms the tools get their homes—and their lives—in perfect order. Secrets of an Organized Mom is stuffed full of helpful tips for tackling chaotic countertops, scary storage spaces and everything in between. All hail the Clutter Queen!”
From the Publisher
“Everyone should Barbarafy!”

“Reich delivers. Her book just might take the anxiety out of tasks that many find completely daunting and overwhelming.”

"Every mom should read Secrets of an Organized Mom. Power-packed with all you need to know to get and stayed organized, this book is the ultimate guide for anyone reorganizing, relocating, or just trying to make sense of the clutter."

“Barbara is a great editor. She took her razor sharp eye and cut a swath through my closet. When you can't see the forest through the trees, Barbara can. She's a true lifesaver!”

“Secrets of an Organized Mom gets you excited to organize your home. Who knew that was possible? It is packed with great tips to help you create a plan to organize your home in a fast and effective manner, which is a huge stress relief for busy moms. And she keeps it simple, so it’s perfect for organization rookies.”

“Barbara Reich gives busy moms the tools get their homes—and their lives—in perfect order. Secrets of an Organized Mom is stuffed full of helpful tips for tackling chaotic countertops, scary storage spaces and everything in between. All hail the Clutter Queen!”

"Barbara Reich makes having an organized house look so easy! And it can be if you follow some of her tips and stick with it.”

New York Times bestselling author of Love Unscripted and Love Unrehearsed - Tina Reber
"Every mom should read Secrets of an Organized Mom. Power-packed with all you need to know to get and stayed organized, this book is the ultimate guide for anyone reorganizing, relocating, or just trying to make sense of the clutter."
host of the Judith Regan Show on SiriusXM - Judith Regan
“Barbara is a great editor. She took her razor sharp eye and cut a swath through my closet. When you can't see the forest through the trees, Barbara can. She's a true lifesaver!”
New York Times
“Everyone should Barbarafy!”
MacaroniKid.com
"Barbara Reich makes having an organized house look so easy! And it can be if you follow some of her tips and stick with it.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451672862
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
04/01/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
240,201
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Secrets of an Organized Mom


  • Despite the fact that I am filling this book with a lot of words about organizing, I don’t do a lot of talking on my client visits. When I arrive at the door, the last thing clients need is to be lectured on organization. They’re usually desperate by that point, and I want to show them right away how quickly they can feel a little more in control. Also, I find that most people learn better by seeing and doing.

    My clients’ time is precious, and yours is, too. So let’s dig in. The first order of business is to identify your home’s “hot spot.”

    A hot spot is the area that drives you absolutely the craziest. It could be a closet or a whole room. Either way, it weighs you down psychologically and slows you down physically. If you find that your search for a single hot spot in your home is turning into a laundry list of hot spots, then stop a moment and take a breath. Look at the list again. For sure, there is one thing that gives you greater anxiety than any other. That is your hot spot, and that is what you are going organize first. And if the very idea freaks you out, then you know you’ve chosen the right one. Meanwhile, don’t throw away the list—after you complete the most important task, you can gradually work your way through the rest.

    The next requirement is to open up your calendar and schedule the time to tackle your hot spot. Then make that time as sacred as if you had a paid organizer looking over your shoulder. In my experience, two hours is the right block of time to devote to each hot spot. Much more than that can be too tiring and overwhelming; less than that really isn’t enough time to make an impact. A few minutes of organization here or there isn’t going to scratch the surface, and by the time you return to the task a few days (or weeks) later, what little you cleared away has already been filled with more stuff.

    Because I want you to work in order of the areas that are highest priority to you, feel free to skip around in this book. If the office is your albatross, then don’t hesitate to go straight to chapter 10. If your children’s toy accumulation is driving you nuts, then off you go to chapter 4. The beauty of my system is that once you learn it, you can apply it to any situation. Therefore, expect some repetition of rules and advice, whether you’re bringing order to the kitchen or the bathroom or the closet. By the end of this book, you’ll feel like you could organize anything just by following the same basic principles. But don’t run off quite yet—first you need to learn the basics.
    The Four-Step Method
    No matter what area of the home you’re organizing, my basic method for tackling the job is the same. You’ll see this method in each chapter, and you can apply it to something as small as a drawer or as large as a room. Here are the four basic steps:

    1. Purge. You can’t be organized if you have too much stuff. This is why the first priority is to get rid of what’s broken, unneeded, unworn, unloved, and otherwise cluttering your space.

    2. Design. It’s time to create the infrastructure you need, from drawer dividers to shelves and filing cabinets.

    3. Organize. This is the fun part: Now that there’s a place for everything, we get to put everything in its place.

    4. Maintain. There’s no point in getting organized if you can’t stay that way, so the final step is to devise the systems that will keep you on track for the long term.
    The Ten Commandments of Organizing
    Let’s set a few ground rules that apply to any home, no matter the size. Consider these my Ten Commandments of Organizing:

    1. Do the thing that is most distasteful to you first. We already know how this wisdom applies to homework and paying the bills, and it works for organizing as well. If your desk makes you ill every time you look at it, then clean your desk. If you tackle the thing you hate first, your anxiety level will drop exponentially, and your quality of life will soar.

    2. Routines work. Do it the same way every time. Put your purse in the same place, your phone in the same pocket within your purse, and charge your phone next to your purse in the same place every night. It’s the foolproof way of never again misplacing anything.

    3. Freebies are not your friends. As far as I’m concerned, there are almost no freebies that are useful. Unless it’s a free sample of a product that you already use, then anything you get for free is something that you wouldn’t have bought yourself. Therefore, it’s unlikely to be something that you will ever use, and it will inevitably take up space in your home until the day when you get around to throwing it in the trash. This rule goes for free tote bags, gifts with purchase, water bottles, mugs, and T-shirts. Do you really want to walk around town advertising the merits of your bank?

    4. Beware of junk mail. Did you ask for the catalog that just arrived? No. So why would you give it a precious spot on your coffee table or in your entryway? And if you did ask for that catalog, then stop doing that, please! There is nothing in a catalog that you can’t find online, and catalogs encourage less thoughtful, less intentional shopping. Catalogs are lose-lose-lose. They take up space, they’re bad for the environment, and they encourage unnecessary spending. In short, catalogs are the enemy. The same thing goes for all other varieties of junk mail (credit card solicitations, etc.). Directly into the recycling bin they go.

    5. Store like with like, and designate a place for everything. I can’t tell you how many homes have batteries in multiple places, lightbulbs tucked away in various drawers, drawing pads in multiple rooms—you get the idea. Keep lightbulbs with lightbulbs so that when a light goes out, you know exactly where to look for a replacement bulb (and you know when you need to buy more). Having multiple storage locations is a recipe for frustration and breeds a chaotic environment.

    6. Store things where you use them. You’d be surprised how few of us do this. For instance, in many households, the daughter’s hair is combed and braided at the breakfast table because we’re all multitasking in the morning. So why would you keep the brush and ponytail holders in a drawer in the bathroom? Instead, keep these items in a plastic container (or tucked in their own drawer) in the room where you use them. The same goes for your makeup, your children’s art supplies, etc.

    7. Get it off the floor. The floor is not a storage option. Avoid having any boxes, bags, or toys that reside there permanently.

    8. Ignore sunk costs. The original price of an item is not nearly as relevant as whether you use it, will ever use it, and how much space it occupies in your home and in your mind. When deciding whether to get rid of something, don’t think about how much you paid for it—think only about whether you like having it around.

    9. Use one kind of hanger, storage container, etc. This is a simple remedy to what I call “visual clutter”—that feeling of anxiety when everything’s jumble and your eye doesn’t know where to go. Clothes hang better and more uniformly if they are all on the same kind of hanger. Moreover, your view of your clothing is made simpler and more calming if your hangers are all the same color. It doesn’t matter what kind of hanger you choose, just make sure they are all the same. This goes for storage containers as well. If all your containers are uniform in style and color, they will be easier to stack, and the visuals will be much more pleasing.

    10. Make a decision and act on it. This is the biggie—I saved the best for last. If you receive an invitation, respond yes or no. Don’t look at it, ponder it, then put it in a stack. Don’t look at it again in two days and then reshuffle that growing stack. The fact is, if you’re ambivalent, you probably don’t want to go, right? The same thing goes for unwanted items in your house. If you hate that lamp, why would you store it in your closet? Don’t delay making a decision: You hate it, so get rid of it.
    The Tools of Organizing
    As I’ve already stressed, my approach to organizing is all about simplicity. I don’t believe that good organization requires purchasing a ton of supplies. The whole goal of being organized should be having less stuff, not more.

    One of the major side benefits of being organized is that you save money when you’re not purchasing unnecessary or duplicate items. I feel the same way about the organizing tools that I recommend to my clients. Simple is best, and these items don’t have to be expensive. I don’t care what brand you buy—it’s much more important to me that the items are uniform, usable, and take up the right amount of space. You don’t need a lot of specialized items for every room of the house. In fact, many of my favorite items can be used in almost any room or closet. Finally, while purchasing these items involves some initial expense, I guarantee that the years of satisfaction and usefulness they’ll provide will be well worth the price.

    Here are a few general guidelines for items I strongly recommend, as well as a few things to avoid.
    RECOMMENDED:
     Automatic labeler. My passion for this organizing tool cannot be overstated. Get your box of stuff that you’ve created after storing like with like, stick a printed label on it (“lightbulbs,” for example), and suddenly, like magic, order is brought to chaos.

     Clear plastic containers with drawers. I call these the “little black dresses of organizing” because they’re so versatile. They’re particularly great for children’s art supplies and smaller toys, and they can be just as effective for toiletries, travel supplies, you name it. They can be stacked on a bookshelf in a child’s bedroom, and if the child wants the one with crayons, he can pull out the drawer and then return it when he’s finished. If the drawers are clear, he can see crayons inside. If the drawer is also labeled, he can read that there are crayons inside, which is a little bonus for those budding young readers. Genius.

     Plastic containers with lids. These boxes are best for under-bed storage (out-of-season clothes, wrapping paper) or upper-level storage for items that you don’t retrieve often (holiday decorations). You can stack them, which maximizes your storage. If the containers are all the same style and in the same color, they will look neater and more organized. Moreover, if they’re labeled, then you’ll never again have to wonder what the heck is in that box at the top of the closet.

     Bins. Open-topped storage is best for items that are retrieved often, especially by young children, who will find tops cumbersome. Even adults can find a lid annoying when they need something in a hurry. Bins are particularly great for organizing hats, scarves, and gloves in closets; they can also be good for pet supplies and toys.

     Coated cardboard boxes with lids. Also called art files or document boxes, these are the best system ever invented for storing your children’s artwork and memorabilia. More on this in Chapter 11.

     Decorative containers. No one wants a sea of plastic in the living room, so in public spaces, your choice of boxes and bins should lean more toward something that fits your decor, whether wicker, fabric-covered, wood, or whatever else pleases you. Just remember Commandment 9, and make sure they all match.

     Trays. These can be found at any price point to fit any decor, and they are the perfect way of bringing intentional order to a collection of items that might have seemed random otherwise. Whether used on a desk to corral a dish of paper clips, a stapler, and some Post-its, or on a kitchen counter to hold a pepper grinder, dish of garlic, and some vinegar, they’re a miraculous organizing tool. Plus, my clients are relieved when I tell them that not everything has to be hidden away in a drawer or storage container.
    NOT RECOMMENDED:
     Containers that are too big. When we have a lot of stuff to store, our tendency is to buy the biggest boxes or containers available. However, that encourages us to keep too much and also to put potentially unrelated items in the same container. Under-bed and out-of-season clothing storage can be on the larger side, but you don’t want extra-large and unwieldy storage containers in your closet—and certainly not on an upper shelf, where they’d be hazardous to retrieve.

     Mismatched containers. No matter how attractive they are individually, these are a no-no. In homes where there have been several attempts to get organized over the years, it’s common to find all different kinds of containers in various styles. It’s better to have some containers than none at all, but over time, and as budgets allow, I encourage my clients to divest themselves of what’s unmatched—not just because it doesn’t look great but because it cuts down on storage space when boxes don’t stack neatly.
    Deciding to Donate, Recycle, or Throw Away
    It’s not all that difficult to figure out what you need to get rid of. Every item in your home can be put to the same test, whether it’s clothing or a tablecloth or a piece of furniture. I call it the Barbara Reich Eliminating-Clutter Quiz:

    1. Is the item in good condition and/or can it be repaired?

    If the answer is NO, out it goes.

    Hint: If it’s broken, then fix it. If it can’t be fixed, then get rid of it.

    2. Have I used it/worn it in the last year?

    If the answer is NO, out it goes.

    Hint: Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. If you haven’t had occasion to use it or wear it in a full year of normal activity, out it should go.

    3. Will I ever use it/wear it again?

    If the answer is NO, out it goes.

    Hint: You squeaked through the last question by telling yourself that the item might come in handy at some point in the future. But really, how likely is that set of circumstances ever to occur?

    4. Am I holding on to it because someone I love gave it to me but I hate it?

    If the answer is YES, out it goes.

    Hint: If you don’t like it because it doesn’t suit your taste or lifestyle, why are you keeping it? It’s not doing anyone any good stuffed in your closet or begrudgingly dragged out for show once a year.

    5. Is it justifying the space it’s taking up?

    If the answer is NO, out it goes.

    Hint: If the item is large and used rarely, do you need to use it at all? And on those very seldom occasions when you might need such an item (whether it’s skis or folding chairs), can it be rented or borrowed?

    6. If I discarded it and found I needed it later, is it replaceable?

    If the answer is YES, then get rid of it.

    Hint: This applies to all those items that seem practical—spare extension cords, fans, umbrellas, bags, etc.—but aren’t used. If you don’t currently need them and they’re highly replaceable, then ask yourself: Isn’t your space much more precious than that item?

    One you’ve realized how much you can get rid of, you have to figure out how best to dispose of all that stuff. My clients can get positively gleeful once they start filling trash bags—it’s such a relief to get rid of all that junk, they practically skip to the curb while carrying them out. But it’s true that all those bags of garbage can look mighty wasteful from an environmental perspective.

    I encourage my clients to donate as many of their unwanted items as possible. I also rail against bringing so much stuff into our homes in the first place. (I’ve threatened to cancel some of my shopaholic clients’ credit cards.) We’re all guilty of buying too much food we don’t eat, too many clothes we don’t wear, and too many toiletries we don’t use. It’s time to put an end to that. If you follow the advice in this book, you won’t just be more organized, you’ll also save money, and you’ll be doing your part to save the earth.

    Of course, plans for the future don’t address what to do with the current mess in your storage unit or basement or closet. For that, you need some guidelines:

    • Paper can be recycled, and that goes for everything from documents to school papers to magazines—confidential documents can be shredded and then recycled.

    • Electronics are trickier. If the item is broken or outdated to the point that donation isn’t possible, then the next best alternative is to locate a nearby safe-disposal program, which should be a computer search away. In some locations, such as New York City, the trashing of certain electronics will be banned in the near future. As more communities move in that direction, finding disposal programs will become easier.

    • Clothing must be clean and in good condition in order to be acceptable for donation. If it’s not, then sad to say, it belongs in the trash. The good news is that if it’s stained and bedraggled, that means you wore it out and it served its purpose.

    • Bedding can be donated if it is in very good condition. Crib bumpers are considered a safety hazard, so they should be tossed once they’ve served their time or, better yet, not used at all.

    • Furniture (especially upholstered) can be challenging to give away. Transportation of large items is a complicating factor. And beds can be seen as potential bedbug havens—in fact, even unupholstered wood furniture can be suspect. But there are many thrift stores and nonprofits that will gladly accept furniture donations, and I strongly encourage you to pursue that avenue first. Some organizations will even come and cart it away for you.

    • Toys and baby equipment are increasingly difficult to donate. For one thing, safety regulations change and product recalls occur, which is especially an issue for strollers and car seats and some baby furniture. Anyone who remembers the lead paint scares of recent years knows that those lovely wooden trains that your child treasured might be looked at with a skeptical eye by someone else. Positively no one wants used stuffed animals (bedbugs again). Toys with small pieces (choking hazards) can also be difficult to donate. And some nonprofits will accept donations only of brand-new toys. So what to do with that old bucket of LEGOs and all those plastic dinosaurs? Maybe you have a friend or relative who would love to have them, or maybe you know of a family in need. Perhaps a local school or hospital would be interested. If not, then they, too, are destined for the trash. This is all the more reason to buy fewer toys for our children and to focus on toys that will stand the test of time (for more about this, see chapter 4). The more disposable the toy, the likelier it is to end up in a landfill.

    For more advice on how best to dispose of and donate your unwanted items, go to my website: www.resourcefulconsultants.com.
    Ready, Set, Go
    As I said, I don’t like to lecture and sermonize, I like to get to work. Now that you have the basics under your belt, it’s time to follow Commandments 1 and 10 and delay no further in pursuing your dream of organizing your home. We’ll begin with the space you encounter first when you walk in your front door.

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  • What People are saying about this

    Set Designer for The Good Wife - Beth Kushnick

    “As both a mom and a decorator, I know that the spaces we work and live in have a huge impact on our sense of well-being. Barbara's insight and advice make the seemingly insurmountable tasks easy, and leave you with a new-found sense of clarity and direction.”

    New York Times bestselling author of Love Unscripted and Love Unrehearsed - Tina Reber

    "Every mom should read Secrets of an Organized Mom. Power-packed with all you need to know to get and stayed organized, this book is the ultimate guide for anyone reorganizing, relocating, or just trying to make sense of the clutter.

    host of the Judith Regan Show on SiriusXM - Judith Regan

    “Barbara is a great editor. She took her razor sharp eye and cut a swath through my closet. When you can't see the forest through the trees, Barbara can. She's a true lifesaver!”

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