How to travel like a pro

Summer is peak travel time, which can mean vacations and fun trips. It can also mean waiting in lines, travel delays, and impatient, exhausted kids. But there’s help and hope. This week’s guest blogger, John Cloonan, travels almost weekly through the U.S. These are some of his tried-and-true ways on how to travel like a pro.

travel like a pro

Dulles flickr user Eric Salard via Creative Commons License

Airline Travel

TSA Precheck
It’s invaluable! At a cost of about $16 per year, the ROI on your time is high, even if you only fly a couple times per year. TSA Precheck lets you enjoy expedited security screening – keep your shoes on, leave your 3-1-1 liquids in your bag, and more. Nice!

Southwest Rapid Rewards:
I fly exclusively on Southwest, and I’m in the A boarding group because of status. Getting on the plane first lets me choose the seat I want. For me, that means getting off the plane first. You might aim for a different goal, like an exit row or bulkhead seat. No matter what, it’s easy for you to get in Southwest’s A group, too. $12.50 per flight gets you early check in, putting you in A. Or if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can book a Business Select seat, which puts you in A1-A15. Sometimes you can buy an upgrade at the gate for as little as $32.
I also prefer to check my bag, and my carry on is small enough for underseat stowage. This allows me to pack everything I need, and makes moving through the airport easier. It also allows me to get off the plane faster and more easily. This is also another reason I fly Southwest – no fee for one bag.

RELATED: How to Pack like a Pilot

Car Rental

National Car Rental and Hertz offer “grab and go” rental car service. All you have to do is sign up and reserve a mid-sized car. National’s app allows you to choose your date and location and reserve in one click. (Hertz may offer the same, I don’t know.) National also has Drop and Go, where you just park the car and leave the keys and they email you the receipt.
Marriott Hotels‘s app allows you to check in ahead of schedule. You walk in to the hotel, the desk hands you a key, and you’re in. You can also check out via the app in one click.
– I carry a number of electronic devices that use a microUSB connection to charge. Rather than carry a bunch of individual chargers, I purchased a 6 outlet USB smart charger and 6 short microUSB cables for about $30.
– In my backpack I use a Grid-It organizer to control cables and small items.

The Results

So what does all this do? Picture my recent trip from Atlanta to Minneapolis.

– I bypassed the long bag check line because of my Southwest A-list status, which you could do by buying a Business Select ticket.

– I skipped a 40 minute wait in security by using TSA PreCheck, and I got to keep my shoes on and laptop and liquids in my bag.

– I was one of the first 10 people on the plane, so I got an aisle seat near the front.

– I got off the plane quickly because I was near the front and didn’t have to get a carryon from the overhead bin.

– I grabbed my bag, grabbed a car, and drove to my hotel.

– I walked in, told the desk my name, and they gave me my room key.

– On my return, I checked out of my hotel with one click. I drove to the airport, parked the car with the keys in it, dropped my bag, and sped through TSA.

I had enough time to have breakfast and write this post before boarding! Easy, convenient, and seamless. And even though I was flying alone, imagine how much easier these steps would make traveling with kids in tow.

What do you think of John’s suggestions on how to travel like a pro? Share in the comments!


The very best part of being a professional organizer

The very best part of being a professional organizer to help someone celebrate and recognize something significant in their life. Here’s just one example.

Yesterday, I arrived at the home of a long-term client. We had planned to continue the work we were doing in her guest bedroom, but when I walked in the door, she was bursting with excitement. She shared with me that after several months of hard work and commitment, she had reached her personal weight loss goal of 40 pounds. She asked if I would be okay if we switched gears a bit and worked on her closet for our time together that day. Uh, yeah!

RELATED: Client Testimonial ~ Aicha B. 

Ladies, many of us know how thrilling it is to work hard and then be able to pull out all of the clothes in our closet that we’re too small for, right? When we got upstairs to the master bedroom, there were NINE large trash bags of clothes ready to be taken to Goodwill. But those bags weren’t only loaded with clothes. They were loaded with frustration, struggle, and the lack of self-care.

RELATED: Body Image Issues & Closets

best part of being a professional organizer

Goodbye, old self!

When I left her home a few hours later, she she had an organized, functional closet that she loves and that is full of only the clothing she enjoys wearing and that fits. Helping a client recognize and celebrate an important life event? Her parting comment? ‘This was SO much FUN!’ Absolutely, the best part of being a professional organizer.

Jennifer’s epiphany on saving stuff for your kids

saving stuff for your kids

Saving stuff for your kids – there isn’t a parent I’ve worked with who hasn’t wanted to save some of their kids’ stuff to pass down later. Totally normal and awesome! But sometimes what’s meant as a gift can turn out to be a burden.

Take ‘Jennifer’ – a classic example of the ‘sandwich generation’ – an older GenXer, she is raising her children and has been taking care of her aging mother simultaneously. Until last summer, when her mom passed away.

Flashback to three years ago. I began working with Jennifer with the goal of organizing her kids’ old schoolwork, toys, baby items, and other mementos. She made a significant investment of time and money to organize American Girl furniture, Brio trains, wooden blocks, miniature tea sets, books, plush animals, you name it. We filled a large walk-in closet plus much of a crawlspace with bins of clearly labeled items – all waiting to be passed down to her children down the road.

And then last summer, her mom died and Jennifer became responsible for her mom’s estate. Days led to weeks led to months of poring through everything her mom had saved – old greeting cards from strangers, her husband’s files and paperwork from a business gone for decades. And yes, every toy and stuffed animal that she was convinced her now adult children would want. Almost a year later, Jennifer and her siblings have sold their mom’s house and had a major estate sale, but are still working through an entire storage unit of stuff.

This stressful and emotional experience led to a huge epiphany. In saving so much stuff for her kids, she was doing the exact same thing her mom had done! She realized that the last thing she wanted to do is to leave this enormous burden of stuff for her kids to have to work through. And so we’ve been working together again to go back over what she had previously thought was priceless. The result? She’s kept about half  – but it’s the most sentimental stuff. The family christening gown, a very carefully selected representation of much-loved toys, the family Bible.

The lessons learned? There is value in revisiting stuff you’ve already organized. Before you worry about what kind of bin to buy, what labels to print, put some good thinking into whether there is value in keeping the items first. Ultimately, make sure your legacy is one your kids can savor and look back on with admiration and love.

10 gorgeous office organizing products to make your desk sparkle!

Whether we work in a corporate office or in a home office tucked beside the kitchen, most of us want our work space to not only work well, but look fantastic, right? And if our work space is attractive to us, we’re much more likely to spend time in it. Here are 10 gorgeous office organizing products to help you get there!

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Target’s Threshold Wooden Hanging File Box

Target’s Threshold brand is a fantastic line of home decor – but they offer beautiful organizing products, too! This wooden hanging file box complements many different styles, is portable, and would work well in a masculine office setting as well. Don’t need a hanging file box? Get creative! This would also work well to hold documents that need to be shredded. When it’s full, just grab it by the handles and drop your shred and head to Office Depot.

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Target’s Nate Berkus Tabletop File

Also from Target, is Nate Berkus’ Tabletop File. For those who love a clean, minimalist look with gold-toned metals, this is a perfect idea for your daily Command Center. Use the included five hanging files to keep track of your Action Items: To Pay, To File, To Do, etc.

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SeeJaneWork Nickel Caddy

Love bright, shiny silver tones? Me, too! This Nickel Caddy from SeeJaneWork is a fabulously stylish desktop solution for your action items, mail center, or (as shown), organizer for journals and more.

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SeeJaneWork Copper Letter Sorter

Also from SeeJaneWork comes the Copper Letter Sorter. What a beautiful way to keep your desk sorted AND stylish! Use it to hold incoming mail, report cards that need to be signed, or stationery and mailing supplies.

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The Container Store’s Latte Parker Collection

These fabric-covered collection is the Latte Parker Collection from the Container Store. As you can see, it has several different options to best fit your organizing needs. This is also a stylish option for a masculine look (i.e. your hubby’s home office!)

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The Container Store’s Edison Letter Tray in Tangerine

But, if color is your thing, you’re totally covered. The Edison collection from the Container Store, also has several options and loads of colors – from bright sherbets like this tangerine to a more subdued glossy navy. The bright colors also make these perfect for your kids’ homework station – color code by child!

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Rustic Marche Wall Pocket (The Container Store)

If you’re going for a rustic vibe, take a look at the Rustic Marche collection. These wall pockets are so multi-functional. Use one per family member to contain mail, schoolwork, permission slips, etc. Or use them in a bathroom to hold magazines. You can even use a few to create your Command Center to hold incoming mail, bills, etc.

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Whitmor Magazine Files (Amazon)

How cute and colorful are these? If you have magazines to corral, these can totally do the job in style. But they can also be color-coded to hold each kid’s schoolwork, or books by subject. These are the Whitmor Magazine Files, available through Amazon.

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Martha Stewart Stack+Fit Inbox with Drawer via Staples

How could any list of stylish home products not include Martha, right? And for good reason. The Office by Martha Stewart Stack+Fit Inbox with drawer is well made and comes in a few different colors, aside from this soft aqua. It has a drawer perfect for mailing supplies and stationery or those office supplies that you need to have immediately at hand. The collection is available at Staples.

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Cynthia Rowley Desktop Organizer in Yellow Leaves (Staples)

And last but not least, this bright and cheerful Cynthia Rowley desktop organizer from Staples packs a lot of storage into a small unit – including a small drawer, small spaces for paper clips or binder clips, and room for your business cards.

So whatever your style aesthetic, whatever look you’re working toward at home, you absolutely can have function and style at the same time! Which was YOUR favorite office organizing product? Talk back at us in the comments!

*Note: None of these links lead to affiliate sales. I share products because I like them. Also, all photos are property of the company linked.

The 3 Most Unrealistic Organizing Trends Today

Y’ALL. In the words of the late Joan Rivers, can we talk? Some of the recent organizing trends that are making their way through social media (especially you, Pinterest!) are killing me. True organizing is creating systems to help your life flow better, not to make life an endless task list of things to do to make your home LOOK great, but take a lot of work to maintain AND isn’t realistic for the vast majority of us. So today, let’s talk about the three most unrealistic organizing trends out in the world today.

Color Coded Bookshelves

Quick! Name your favorite book. Now, tell me what color its spine is – without peeking. Anyone? Bueller? That’s what I thought. While color coding a large book collection certainly looks lovely, but actually being able to find the book you’re searching for? Much more desirable – and realistic.

unrealistic organizing trends, color coded bookshelf

Photo Credit:


Over-Organized Pantries

Ooooh. Ahhhhh. Again, pantries like this look stunning, but take a lot of money AND time not only to get your pantry looking like this, but to keep it looking this way. Most of us barely have time to do the actual grocery shopping. Don’t waste an hour or so every week decanting your Cheerios into a $20 bin. (Even the blogger who owns this pantry admits she spent four years (!!!) buying  and ‘hoarding’ these lovely, durable, but very expensive containers.)

unrealistic organizing trends, perfect pantry

Photo Credit:

Origami-Style Folding

The end goal of getting organized is to spend time doing what you love, not spending every waking minute creating origami swans of your toddler’s socks. To quote a meme from last year, ain’t nobody got time for that. If the laundry is done, and it has a home that’s not your sofa, you’re good. I promise.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

unrealistic organizing trends, konmari, how to fold

Photo Credit: Pinterest










Are you sensing a theme? If anything, it’s to not go overboard. We all have varying definitions of organized, and that’s awesome! If you enjoy spending your free time color coding or origami-folding clothes – more power to you! But ultimately, I believe that our goals are very similar. Keep it simple, be able to find something when you need it, and have the time to spend doing what you love with who you love. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Is your clutter making your family sick?

Is your clutter making your family sick? The internet is full of articles talking about how clutter can affect your mental health – from increasing levels of stress to clinical depression and hoarding behaviors. But does a cluttered home impact your physical health? You bet it does.

is your clutter making your family sick

RELATED: Organizing Tips for Healthy Eating

The more disorganized and cluttered your home is, the harder it is to keep it clean. The increased levels of clutter create a perfect home for bugs, rodents, dust mites, and mold and mildew to collect and grow. How do you see this?

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Mold-related illnesses
  • Food poisoning from old or spoiled food

Every client I’ve worked with who struggled with hoarding disorder also struggled with dust allergies and asthma. And these risks aren’t just related to hoarders. Two non-hoarding clients have been able to take their kids off their asthma medications – solely due to our work to declutter and organize their homes. Some studies are showing now that the single most important factor in kids with behavioral issues is living in a disorganized and chaotic household.

RELATED: Organizing Vitamins & Supplements

So, when you think that decluttering your home is just a ‘nice to have’, think about those late night asthma treatments, the allergy meds, and the stress and strain that illness has on you and your kids.

How to Organize Cords, Easily!

Does this mess look familiar? Tangled cords and cables are one of the most consistent problems in most homes. And that should be no surprise. With phones, tablets, laptops, and more, we’ve never been so connected. And those connections all take cords, chargers, earbuds, and cables. Let me share a super easy and fast way of how to organize cords.

First, toss any that you no longer need! Chargers from phones you no longer own, earbuds that hurt your ears, cables from a router that you haven’t owned in ages.

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Now that you’re down to only the cords and cables that you need, grab a roll of Ativa Hook & Loop Fastening Tape. I got this roll at Office Depot. It has 15 feet for only $12.99. That’s a lot of cord control at a fraction of the cost of those fancy silicone cord wraps!

RELATED: Cord and Cable Control Unit ~ Products We Love!

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What I love most about this Ativa cord wrap is that it is entirely customizable to your needs. Just do a rough measure around your bundled cord and cut what you need. That’s it – measure, cut, and wrap. Keep it simple!

RELATED: Old Cables & Cords ~ 30Day Challenge: Day 13

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How much better is that? Your cords are organized, contained, and won’t tangle – which also means they’ll last longer, too!

5 Best Things to Do Before Getting Organized!

Over the years as a professional organizer, you start noticing trends. Trends with people’s expectations, actions, and habits. Here are my 5 best things to do before getting organized!

5 Things to do Before Getting Organized

Let Go of ‘Perfect.’

  • No one’s home is perfect – not even the homes of professional organizers. We juggle jobs and spouses and kids, too!
  • One universal truth about perfectionists: they are never done, and are rarely happy with their progress.
  • Stop looking for perfect. Start looking for functional, efficient, under control.

There is no ONE way to Organize

  • Just as we’re all different, there are endless ways to organize just about anything. As a professional organizer, it’s a key part of our job to discover the right way for you.
  • This is why many people will try several different products, fail, and then believe that they ‘can’t’ get organized.

Define your Goal(s)

  • You have to know what the destination is before you start driving.
  • Think of what you want your end result to be.
    • For your kitchen, is it ‘being able to cook dinner in less time’? Is it ‘I want a pantry that promotes healthy eating’? Is it ‘I want all my kids’ stuff off of my kitchen island’?
  • Having a clearly defined goal to work toward will help keep you focused and help make the tough decisions.

Commit to the Process.

  • Getting organized is very similar to hiring a personal trainer. If you only go the gym every once in a while, you don’t expect great results, right?
  • If you want real results that last,  commit to the process.

Yes, It can be fun and enjoyable!

  • Client Lisa: ‘My favorite part is seeing all of the clutter leave my house – it’s like a huge weight off of my shoulders!’
  • Client Denise: ‘This is better than therapy! It’s the best birthday present I’ve ever bought myself.’
  • Client Elise: ‘I always feel better after we’ve worked together.’
  • Client Joy: ‘I was dreading this project, but you made it so FUN!’

Related: Problems with Perfectionism – Does Perfectionism have you stuck?

Related: Organizing for Healthy Eating

Keep Critical Documents Safe: What to Know

A friend reached out to me over the weekend and asked about the best way to keep critical documents safe. Great question – and one that many people don’t put a lot of thought into until their home catches fire or gets burglarized.

What falls under the category of ‘critical documents’, you ask? Anything that someone can use to steal your identity or would create havoc if it were to go missing.

Critical Documents include:

  • passports
  • marriage licenses
  • birth certificates
  • divorce settlement and child custody papers
  • Original Social Security cards
  • Life insurance policies
  • Homeowner’s insurance policy
  • Copies of your will(s) – originals are best kept at your attorney’s office

So what are your best options to keep your critical documents safe?

Safe Deposit Box

Ah, the safe deposit box. The stalwart of security. While safe deposit boxes are still used and are generally secure, there are things to keep in mind. Access can be inconvenient (only during bank hours) to disastrous (you can’t access a living will immediately) depending on the situation. Also keep in mind that the contents of a safe deposit box aren’t insured by the FDIC.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User -JVL-

At-Home Safe

More and more people are investing in an at-home safe to keep critical documents safe. Access is certainly more immediate, for sure. Most safes are insured by your homeowners’ policy, but always check with your insurance agent to make certain. And there are several things to keep in mind when purchasing a safe. The awesome people at Freshome have a fantastic article to help you out.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Dave Jones.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Dave Jones.

How do you protect your critical documents? Did you decide to go with one of these solutions or did you come up with something different?


How to Fold a Fitted Sheet: Just don’t!

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What are the first words you think of when I say ‘fitted sheets.’? Aside from some cursing, I generally hear fewer words and more groans and griping. Does anyone know how to really fold them, aside from Martha Stewart? It’s one of those skills we think we should know, but we’re not quite sure why. So many clients ask me how to fold a fitted sheet!

RELATED: Organizing Towels & Sheets ~ 30 Day Challenge

So here’s one of my favorite tips about how to fold a fitted sheet – Don’t! No, I’m not suggesting balling them up and shoving them into your linen closet. I’m suggesting you eliminate the problem at the source.

Most of us put fresh sheets on the bed every week. And most of us do laundry several times per week. That tells me you need one set of sheets on the bed, and one set in the laundry. That’s two sheets sets. Neither of which you need to fold because they’re always either in the laundry process or they’re on the bed, right?

RELATED: Kids & Laundry ~ #ThinkAboutIt Thursday

So why do most of us have a linen closet stuffed to the gills with sheet sets, even though we only put one set on each bed at any one time! So, take an honest look at your linen closet. Choose the two nicest sheet sets for each bed in your home. Donate the rest to your closest animal shelter.

And never fold a fitted sheet again!