To Pack or Not To Pack

To Pack or Not To Pack

We have helped hundreds of families move into their homes: unpack, put things away, make a house feel like home.

Inevitably there are those boxes that remain which make the homeowner grimace and wonder, “Why did we pack that and bring it here?” These items are often distracting and make it difficult to “finish” a room or a job. And we notice it is often demotivating for our clients. We frequently see these types of contents get stashed back in the box to be dealt with later.

If a move is in your future, here is our list of Wait, Don’t Pack That!

  1. The full contents of any given junk drawer in the house. Do yourself a favor and weed through these areas before your packing begins. The same is true for incidentals that are half used (and not likely to be used again) and stashed away in drawers. For example, a half used stash of tissues, the one shoe insert that hasn’t had a match in years, used finger nail files, random game pieces, etc. In general, we recommend taking a good pass through your drawers in all areas of the home.
  2. Clothing and toys that children have outgrown. Nothing clutters up a room faster while unpacking than unneeded children’s items.
  3. Mail from your previous address. This could be old mail or more current mail. It doesn’t matter. By the time you get it unpacked, it won’t be current anymore. Recycle any mail that does not need your attention.
  4. Magazines that you have been saving. These rarely pack well, and no one ever knows where to put them out of the box. Recycle these; you will likely get more.
  5. Liquids that have a top open. Oils, water, chemicals, they all find a way of leaking out once the seal has opened. One of the worst spills I’ve seen was a bottle of blue mouthwash that emptied into towels. The box smelled minty, but the towels were ruined.
  6. Expired food. Because it is expired food.
  7. Bedding and linens that no longer belong to anything.
  8. Papers and books quickly impact the volume and weight of your moving truck. If your moving company charges by weight, we strongly suggest donating unwanted books and eliminating old papers before packing them.

In general, the pre-move is a great time to evaluate your inventory. Do you still want Grandma’s napkin collection, or school papers from preschool? This is a great time to evaluate what you are storing–and if it is worth the effort to make the trek to your next residence. Think about unpacking it on the other end–does it have a legitimate home on the other side? Hopefully these simple guidelines will help lighten your load and make your unpack more productive.

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Note to Self: No More Paper Notes

Note to Self: No More Paper Notes

I always tell my clients, “a note to self now, is a growing pile of something that needs attention later.” Many clients who struggle with paper management keep loads of paper with randomly written notes. This is practiced without acknowledging the lack of time or desire to later decipher between which note matters. In reality, very little of it actually matters if it can’t be easily found. True action items have to be dealt with more readily, and in today’s world–without scrap paper. Here are a few tips we hope will help keep you mindful of when to take a note, and when to replace the habit with a different behavior to reduce your paper piles and that overwhelming feeling of “what is this, and why did I write this down?”

  1. Randomly written notes are not good for tracking things that require immediate action. Instead we suggest using a calendar (paper or electronic) to list your daily/weekly action items. If you use a list tool like one available in your phone, then be sure to delete it each day when you prepare a list for the next day.
  2. Do not write down phone numbers and addresses or keep business cards. If you have email or a cell phone, you have access to a Contact database which eliminates the need for kept paper. In addition, any legitimate business will have their phone number listed on their web site. Business cards need not linger around. Also if you own a scanner, many programs will let you scan the card directly into the database.
  3. Recognize when you are taking a Reference Note that requires no immediate action from other types of notes. Say for example, you wanted to write down an author’s name that you heard while talking to a friend. Now where are you going to keep this that makes sense in your home? Reference items are space stealers and are rarely found again to use. We suggest adopting an electronic note system like Evernote or the one built into your phone to keep things for reference of minor relevance. To avoid electronic piles, it is important to create reference categories such as: Reading List/Recipes/Favorite Wines, etc., and then date new entries under each category. I personally like to use my time in waiting rooms to clean up any old electronic notes I no longer care about.
  4. Do not keep cards and envelopes to remind you to write thank you notes. Upon receipt of a card, make sure the name and address is in your contact list. Recycle the envelope. Enjoy the card. Create a separate action item in your calendar or to-do list titled: “Thank You’s {date}” and list the names of those to recognize. Paper be gone!
  5. Resist the urge to keep mailed advertisements as reminders to call or research a service. Instead, send these directly to your recycle bin and make an electronic “Call” or “Research” list. It is important to put dates on these entries as months can go by before ever taking action.
  6. The dreaded grocery list need not be etched on paper. Notice I say List, singularly. If you use an electronic tool for this, be sure to delete each old list and replace with the most current one to stay up to date. You should really have only one functional grocery list at a time. Or check to see if your favorite grocer has an app that will allow you to create the list within their database. This will help you match discounts and coupons to the items on the list.

You might be asking if it is ever good to write anything down–and the answer is YES! It is good to write down passwords, account numbers, and personal identification information in the event that electricity is interrupted or databases are compromised. But these items should be kept together in ONE place.

We hope you feel inspired to challenge yourself–drop an old habit and pick up a new one; and leave all that paper behind. For more information about organization, visit us at



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4 Basic Steps to School Day Planning for Kids

4 Basic Steps to School Day Planning for Kids

We all remember the dreams we had as kids where we were anxious over things we forgot to bring to school or perhaps dreamt we showed up to class in our pajamas. These dreams are often a result of not feeling prepared. Planning ahead is an important skill to teach our kids–and perhaps the first opportunity to teach them to anticipate and plan their day is to include them in staging the things they need for each school day–the night before. Kids can be shown how to routinely consider these four categories each evening to begin to learn the art of preparation: clothing, homework and school supplies, lunches, sports or extracurricular gear. And here is how!

First, the school outfit. You can assign a drawer or a shelf or a spot on the dresser where kids can lay out all the items they will wear the next day. This includes socks, undergarments, and shoes, but also any special accessories like hats, scarves, hair accessories. And to make it fun, you can label this assigned area with the correct day of the week with interchangeable labels of your child’s liking.

Next we should get the book bag prepared. Each day the book bag should be emptied to remove contents not needed. Use a folder system inside that bag that allows your kids to transport things easily. For example, have a folder labeled “Completed Homework” to make sure homework from that evening is transported back to school. You can also have a folder labeled “Assigned Homework” so papers from school can be easily found once home. And a third folder can be labeled “Parents and Teachers” so info that is being sent home or to the classroom (which seems like more and more these days) doesn’t get lost at the bottom of the bag. If your child doesn’t have a locker or assigned desk, consider having a checklist of additional items that can be good to have in their pack, like: extra pens and pencils, extra notebook paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, lunch money, house keys, bike lock, etc.

If your child, packs a lunch, consider having them help or own this task. Getting them involved in what they eat, helps improve interest in the food they are eating. It also gives your child the opportunity to learn about which foods are healthy choices to include. If it is a toss up between packing a lunch and buying lunch at your house, make sure to have the school menu in a place like the pantry so kids can review and decide which lunch they will prefer that day.

And for extracurricular activities, I would first recommend a calendar within your child’s view that let’s them see what days they are practicing/performing etc. The gear preparation is much like the prep for clothes. Make sure uniform and gear are laid out or in their gear bag ready to go the night before in the designated staging place.

Practice makes perfect. You will see that your child gets better at this over time. And they will begin to connect the value of thinking ahead with the reward of being prepared with less anxiety over forgotten things. And you should all enjoy the benefit of easing into your mornings!

Happy school days!

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Lost to Found

Lost to Found

So many times when we lose or even just misplace things, it is because we set something in a place that was convenient in the moment. And a lot of times we end up repeating that behavior over again for the same objects. This results in assorted piles of miscellaneous things, lost items, and also prevents certain items from ever getting a permanent home–floating around in homeless purgatory for eternity.

Often the lost zones for this offense are in entryways, on kitchen counters, or in junk drawers, if we are lucky! The key to becoming unlost first is to have established AND convenient homes for these hot little items, and second, to practice consistently hitting those homes instead of the lost zone. The reward: no lost time, no thwarted frustration.

We all know that keys and phones are major lost-and-found items. We like having hooks by the entryway door to hang our keys and the phone resting on its charging station. Convenient access is key.

How many times have you found yourself thinking, “but, I layed it down right here?” Laying things down almost always results in lost stuff. Here is our Lost List and suggested simple homes for an unlost existence:

  1. Sunglasses: It might be a little unconventional, but I like to make a home for my sunglasses in my car. The car is where I need them most readily. But also, the car is rarely that far away from where I am. If this is not a practical home for you, then a designated spot near the entryway will help keep them handy as you make your way outside.
  2. Jewelry/Watches: We sometimes remove jewelry in the bathroom, in the kitchen when we are cooking, or when we are relaxing in our favorite chair. In addition to jewelry boxes, we like jewelry trays that sit at these spaces and assist us in setting down our valuables in a mindful way.
  3. Thumb drives and SD Storage Cards: These items are extra slippery it seems! We suggest only one home for these at a desk or drawer in an office area. I like to put them in a pen-holder cup inside the drawer.
  4. Phone Chargers: I find that if we have a car charger and a home charger, the need to move chargers around decreases. Have  a charging station in your home that never moves and one available at your desk/office area to cover your mobile lives.
  5. Stuff from your pockets: In the laundry room and/or in the bedroom a clear glass jar where we can immediately empty our pockets creates a place for us to see what we have been carrying around with all day.
  6. The remote: A designated basket on the coffee table or end table will ensure that we all know where the remote should land when the tv is turned off.
  7. Notes we leave ourselves: I suggest not writing them on paper that can be lost. Keep notes to yourself in your phone or on your favorite app and they will be with you as long as your phone or mobile device is with you.
  8. Gift cards/discount cards/membership cards: An app like Mobile Pocket will allow you to digitally store and present membership cards. But for discount and money cards, a business card file is a good place to store these if they won’t fit well in your own wallet.
  9. Lost Socks: Keep clips or a basket in your laundry room for those mismatched socks that are hard to find. That way the whole family can search for the lost pairings.

And to ensure that we don’t make ourselves late looking for keys, book bags, wallets, and purses, we love Tile for finding that which has eluded us:

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Build-A-Better Garage

Build-A-Better Garage

Is your car perched outside most of the time? Do the kids’ bikes take all the covered parking? Are boxes of stuff starting to pile up in your garage? Well, you are not alone. Studies show that 75% of homes use the garage for storage space (courtesy of Life at Home in the 21st Centrury). Furthermore, a full garage is usually the precursor for renting offsite storage–a potentially costly choice.

Because of changes in temperature, your garage is not the best place for your goods–especially papers, clothes, electronics, etc. But there is a way to keep tools, lawn gear, sporting equipment, and kids toys from commanding precious floor space.

We believe one of the best items to incorporate into the garage for improved storage is the ceiling-mounted storage shelf! This sturdy storage option is a sleek way to get items off the floor without changing the configuration of the garage floor plan.
garage shelf, garage storage, custom garage system

Overhead shelves are great for things that can be stored away and used occasionally. But for tools and lawn care items that we want to keep on hand, we like the versatility of slat wall with hooks for hanging almost anything. Just one wall with a strip of slat wall can hold a variety of items. But you will really be amazed how much can be held when running slat wall the full length of the upper part of one wall.
Custom Garage Storage

Specialized hooks such as these allow for the storage of anything from long-handled tools to sport balls and cleaning solutions.
Custom Garage Storage Systems Custom Garage Storage with Slat Wall

And don’t forget the hook for paper towels! We do a lot of things that get hands dirty in the garage!

Another ceiling-mounted storage solution for the garage is the pulley system that can hold anything from bikes, to go carts to kayaks. They hold up to 150 pounds and are relatively easy to install into ceiling studs.
Garage Storage and Organization

Now that you’ve saved so much floor space, we can start to think about shelving. For the garage, we suggest using shelves with the height to support tubs–about 15 inches in height. Tubs will help keep the elements out like dust and debris.

Do you have a considerable amount of recycling housed in the garage? For those of us who challenge the limits of our one designated receptacle, built-in DIY recycling bays may also be worth the floor space.

These tips will not only improve your storage potential but they will help improve your garage and home value. And we think that is a better investment than offsite storage!

For more garage ideas, visit our page at:

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Build-A-Better Laundry Room

Build-A-Better Laundry Room

Our laundry rooms have a lot of work to do, and so often they are built as bare rooms with limited storage features. We usually see wire shelving above the washer and dryer or perhaps cabinetry or a mixture of both.

In this space, we need to be able to store dirty laundry, fold clean clothes, have space for laundry baskets, hold laundry cleaning supplies and other household cleaning items. We may iron here. We may also allow wet clothing to hang dry. It is also nice if you can keep household staples like lightbulbs and batteries here. There is a lot to do–and we need a creative plan to make it all happen comfortably and efficiently.

For especially small spaces we like to consider the possibility of open front cabinetry without doors–either high on the wall or low with a countertop. This is because the swing space for doors require a lot of open area that we may not have. In addition, from the upper cabinetry a hang rod is an important feature for clothes drying or clothes prepping.

Whenever possible we try to include a set of a least 3 shelves deep enough to hold laundry baskets ready to receive clean clothes. This could be in its own shelving bay or in the above mentioned areas. For the dirty clothes, we look for options that keep the clothing off the floor. Pull out wire laundry bins that are part of the cabinetry for lights, darks, delicates are most useful. We have also used laundry bags that hang from thimble hooks on the wall to separate and hold dirty laundry.
Laundry room in a small closet by Birdie Brennan Custom Closets & Organizers

A feature that is often overlooked for the laundry room is the convenient and versatile slat wall with hooks and bins for holding anything from long-handled cleaning tools to laundry pods and loose change. You need only a small rectangle of space on the wall to get the benefits that slatwall offers. It can even be placed strategically behind the door and out of sight.
Slatwall storage Storage Bin on wall

A great feature to consider if you iron, is the built-in ironing board. Again, relieving floor space to perform this chore and reducing the need to set up the apparatus can be a real saver of time and space.
Folding ironing board for custom closets

And here are a couple of fun things we like to include in the laundry room: a beautiful jar atop of the washing machine for collecting loose items in pockets, and we love any organizational tool that helps match socks which have become unpaired. We think a sign like this keeps this task fun!
Sorting Socks

We have a lot to do in the laundry room, so we need a space that WORKS!! Can you imagine how your laundry room can do more? For more ideas, visit us at

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Building a Better Pantry

Building a Better Pantry

Whether you have a small reach-in pantry or a spacious walk-in, there are some universal elements that help separate a so-so storage area from a fully functional space.

Let’s start with shelf height. Varying the shelf height can make a world of difference for increasing storage efficiency. We need to be able to store tall items like paper towels, large boxes of cereal, and corded electrical appliances. But we want to avoid wasted space for the small items like canned goods, juice boxes and pet treats, etc. We recommend varying shelf height from 10 inches to 18 inches tall to maximize space.

One of the features that can be worth the splurge, especially for reach-in pantries, is the glide out shelf. Making the back part of the shelf accessible is beyond convenient; it makes items discoverable. Glide outs allow you see what is lingering in the back rows and gives you quicker access. Let’s face it, bending over and looking into dark spaces means you are not going to easily find what you are looking for. If glide outs aren’t an option, then under-the-shelf lighting can help improve the search for items in dark places.

Also in the top three recommendations are vertical shelves that can store oversized platters, baking sheets, cutting boards, and so much more. These kitchen tools are difficult to store in our conventional kitchen spaces, so I like to include tall shelving with vertical dividers in the pantry whenever possible.

To save space, I recommend taking items out of the store boxes and transferring them to specialty containers that fit your shelving. This is especially true for dry goods like pasta, flour, snack foods and health bars, cookies and candies. We like Binz brand containers and OXO air tight storage. The containers will hold more than the boxes they are sold in and will save you space. Have fun with your storage products! Containers and baskets help define the look of your pantry. Another favorite space saver includes food stairs for canned goods and spin trays for condiments, oils and vinegars.
Pantry Storage Pantry Storage Pantry Storage Pantry Storage

Do you need dry shelving for root vegetables? Do you have soda or bottled water? Are you a collector of shopping bags? Will wine and spirits go in this area? Will you hang long-handled cleaning gear here? Specialty built-ins are available for these items and many others. Being prepared with an inventory list will help determine which features will save you the most space and have the most impact on your daily life.

Big or small, the right features can make a huge impact on how well your pantry functions! Can you envision the perfect pantry? We have more ideas for you on our page at

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A Better Reach-in Closet is not out of Reach

A Better Reach-in Closet is not out of Reach

We don’t want to treat all reach-in closets like they are exactly alike—but there are definitely features we like to include to vastly improve the storage potential of the standard bedroom reach-in. Most reach-ins have only one hang bar and one shelf that spans across the closet. This is both aggravating and boring. *Sigh* But here are a few storage ideas that we think will immediately upgrade your frustrated reach-in closet.

Let’s start with hanging clothes. We want at least one side to have double hang rods. This will house shirts, pants, and skirts–the majority of our clothes–and will take less than one-third of the width of a single hang rod. Also, if you have dresses or long coats or suits, we suggest space dedicated to a rod for medium-length clothes. Typically, the space required for medium hang is just a fraction of the space of the double hang. Depending on the amount of clothes for this space, you may even be able to get the medium hang on the interior walls of the closet as shown below.
Reach-in Closet

There could even be opportunity to wrap the inside wall of your reach-in with shelving like this–turning dead space into invaluable storage:

Reach-in Closet

We always try to illustrate an option that includes a hutch or drawer space. Drawers are almost always needed for undergarments, scarves, or other small accessories. If you have jewelry, watches or mobile devices, we like the idea of lining the top drawer with a custom fit jewelry liner. This gets the clutter off of our dresser tops and stored away.

Jewelry Storage

We don’t think drawers are needed for bulky clothes like sweaters or jeans, etc. Open cubbies at the top of the reach-in closet could be a better alternative to store bulk clothing, hats, purses and travel bags. Open cubbies can either go to the ceiling or just below the ceiling at about 11inches.

Drawers and Shelves for Storage

One of the more important improvements for a reach-in closet includes getting the shoes off the floor. Open shelving above the drawers, above the hanging clothes, or along the full length of the wall should remove the shoe clutter from your floor.

Closet Storage and Organization

For reach-ins, we find these space saving accessories to be a need more than a want: The telescoping belt rack and tie rack. Most reach-ins don’t have wall space for hooks. Having these built in is just so convenient.

Belt Storage

I’ve got to give honorable mention to this space-saving feature: a glide-out mirror. It not only saves floor space, but can make your dressing routine go much quicker!

Swivel mirror for wardrobe closet

So there you have it! A mini-diagram of a reach-in closet that stores more and also functions better overall! Storage can be functional and beautiful! We hope this helps you imagine the possibilities. For more ideas, visit us at

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Staying Focused to Beat Clutter

Staying Focused to Beat Clutter

As organizers, we work with clients who are overwhelmed with belongings for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there are challenges with space or challenges with time, there might be illness or family circumstances that require shifted attention, some may simply have acquired more than is desired. To tackle our overgrown piles, we have to dedicate several blocks of hours to sort, remove, repurpose etc. But for some, such an exercise is impossible. It is not for a lack of effort or desire. Decluttering often gets to the heart of the problem for those who have challenges with focused attention.

The act of sorting and decluttering requires the repetitive and focused actions of reviewing and categorizing items for long periods of time. In addition, there needs to be a plan and follow-through for the things which remain. For those who struggle with focus, the ability to perform unilateral repetitive tasks and to remain undistracted through completion is especially challenging. For clients with attention deficit conditions for example, usually after 25 minutes or so of sorting, clients will tell me they are feeling overwhelmed and are having difficulty remembering the sorting categories we established. Some will exhibit frustration and a lack of desire to continue, others may get sidetracked and spontaneously start doing a different task, others will complain of boredom.

This is because the ADD/ADHD mind is an active mind, capable of multitasking and moving along many activities in quick succession. The slow, observant pace of sorting is understimulating for minds seeking constant activity. The most important way to help friends or family members with focus challenges complete a sorting exercise is to allow them to talk through items being sorted. Telling stories or recalling memories associated with the items helps keep fast-paced minds engaged and active. As professionals, we use the stories being relayed to determine where items belong or whether items are important enough to save. We provide the sorting direction, and our clients provide the context.

Once the process of sorting is achieved, you will want to follow-through with finding homes for kept items. This type of follow-through is difficult for most clients–not just those with focus challenges. Logical placement and easy access is key in determining proper homes. Labelling and coding practices will be important reminders for those who struggle to remember placement. And I like to create a placement key as a written reminder of where we left things. As professionals, we hope to help you stay mindful and undistracted so you can achieve your goals and get your time back.

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Conscientious Threads

Conscientious Threads

For all the donating I do for clients, I find myself marveling at the ability of charities such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, National Kidney Services to absorb all the incoming materials. From my perspective, the quantities have increased dramatically. Just this past Friday, I was at a Goodwill in Oakley, Ohio. At 11:30 in the morning, I pulled up to the back donation parking lot and realised all dozen bins were full, and 4 cars were waiting behind me. To Goodwill’s credit, when I went back after lunch, they had the bins under control and several more were available for use. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a limit to how much can be accepted, and-does our throw-away society test those limits?

This year especially, I have seen a striking increase in the amount of clothing being purged and donated. To illustrate our high consumption levels, the LA Times reports that we purchase 80 million pieces of clothing annually–a whopping 400% increase from a decade ago. And a statistic regarding our disposal practices from Wikipedia states that clothing is the fastest growing component of household waste and has risen 30% in the last 5 years. High consumption and High disposal is almost always a lethal environmental combination.

I began to wonder about something I had not considered before: the idea of sustainable clothing. Can it make a difference? And what is sustainable clothing and its associated best practices?

Sustainability from a pre-production standpoint means reducing the amount of resources needed to grow textile fibers–reducing the overall use of raw materials such as water or agrichemicals that are toxic to the environment. Sustainability post-production means practicing the three Rs: reusing, recycling, reducing.

According to Wikipedia, cotton is not a sustainable crop for a number of reasons and suggests these alternatives for sustainability:

    1. Organic Cotton uses no agrichemicals
    2. Soy fabrics are made from soy husks-a byproduct of soy production-and are fully biodegradable post-production
    3. Hemp fabric use less water to grow and is naturally pest resistant
    4. Bamboo uses less water, grows quickly, and is naturally pest resistant
    5. PET plastics–recycled plastic pellets that make polyester thread–30% less raw materials than virgin polyester

Post production, one of the fastest growing industries is textile recycling. Our fibers can be repurposed and upcycled to become insulation, stuffing, and other textile byproducts. Nearly 90% of clothing that goes to charities ends up recycled. If you have clothing that is not in good condition, simply mark the bag as “scrap material” and drop off at a local charity that practices textile recycling. Other post production best practices include buying less and purchasing better quality materials that last longer or that you will love longer.

At the end of the day, we vote with our wallets; and what we purchase or don’t purchase can a difference. Here is a list of sustainable brands and stores which follow sustainable practices:


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