Ask yourself these 4 questions before buying a thing

I know, I know. We all know the lure of the ‘Target run.’ Go in for milk and cereal, come out with an entire new bedding ensemble, shoes for the kids, and that $20 candle that finally hit the clearance section. But then you go home and find 6 old comforters, shoes that your kids have already outgrown but never had a chance to wear, and enough candles to hold a seance. So every time you experience ADOS (Attention Deficit, Oooh Shiny!) Disorder, take a deep breath and ask yourself these 4 questions before buying a thing.

Ask yourself these 4 questions before buying a thing

Photo Credit: Flickr User jeepersmedia via Creative Commons 2.0.

1. Do I really NEED this?

If you truly do, fantastic. If you’re wavering on that yes, chances are you don’t need it at all. So often, I hear a client wants to hold onto an item solely because ‘I liked it’ or ‘I think it’s pretty.’  Just because you like something or think it’s pretty doesn’t mean it has to come home with you. (I’m a sucker for a really yummy-smelling candle, but how many candles can one woman use at a time?)

RELATED: Organizing After Divorce – We’ve split up, now what about our stuff?

2. Where (specifically) would I put this in my home?

Can you identify a very specific home for this item? If you can’t easily identify a spot, chances are you can live a happy life without add and not clutter up your home.

3. Can I afford this?

In this instance, ‘affording it’ doesn’t mean room on your credit card. Are you truly in the right spot financially to make this purchase. This obviously applies to larger purchases like a car, new golf clubs, or new furniture. But $5 drive-through Frappuccinos add up incredibly fast.

RELATED: Misconceptions about Organizing – 4 big ones!

4. Can I get this without buying it?

In the book for a new book? Most urban library systems (including Fulton County) now offer e-books on loan. Having a party? Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on decorations or tableware you’ll use once then have to find storage for, considering renting it from a party rental company. Bonus – they’ll likely drop it off and pick it up after your event.

With a little bit of practice, you’ll find that you ask yourself these 4 questions without even really being aware of it. And selective buying plays a key role in keeping an uncluttered home. Will you try this practice next time you walk into a store?

The Friday Flip-Through Can Save your Sanity

It’s Friday, and in this area of the world, we’ve made it through our first day of the new school year. Are you already getting overloaded with paper? For this week’s #FiveMinuteFriday, consider implementing this tip that has been proven to save time, stress, and paper overload: the Friday Flip-Through.

What’s the Friday Flip-Through, you ask? Most kids don’t have homework on Friday nights, so set aside that time to go through their backpack together. This is the time to sign permission slips, toss any old homework or other papers that don’t need to be kept, and clear out any clutter that might be weighing down that backpack. Once you and your kids are in this habit, it really should take no more than five minutes per kid.

friday flip-through

Forget a day or something unexpected happen? That’s life, but immediately get back on schedule. And let your kids know ahead of time, so they expect it every Friday.

Would you implement the Friday Flip-Through with your kids? Or have you created a different system to manage all of the paperwork that comes from school? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Best Organizing Books ~ Clutterninja’s Top 10 Recommendations

Today (August 10) is National Book Lovers’ Day, and in honor of that, I thought I’d share what I consider the 10 best organizing books. These cover the gamut from basic how-to’s to a more academic look at the current research and treatment options for compulsive hoarding to helpful tips to keep your child’s backpack from exploding AND make sure their homework gets home (and completed. And turned in.)

So, in no particular order, my 10 best organizing books recommendations!

Organizing From the Inside Out
Julie Morgenstern

Julie barely needs a last name in the professional organizing industry – if you mention ‘Julie’s book’, chances are that the rest of us will know of whom you speak. This book is one of her first and is considered part of every good organizer’s library.

Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff, the Organized Approach to Lose Weight by Decluttering Your Life
Dorothy Breininger

Dorothy is well-known to ‘HOARDERS’ fans as the lead organizer of many, many episodes. In this book, Dorothy shares her personal story of connecting her physical and emotional health to the physical clutter in our lives.

The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School & Beyond
Donna Goldberg, Jennifer Zwiebel

This is, quite honestly, the best book I’ve read on helping children organize their school life. Many times, it’s not a memory issue or not paying attention that keeps your child struggling. It’s not being taught basic organizational skills. I refer to this book frequently when I work with children.

best organizing books


Getting Organized in the Era of Endless
Judith Kolberg

Judith is a true thought leader in the productivity and professional organizing industry. She has written several books, but this title focuses on how the 24/7 culture of social media and immediacy has affected our ability to focus and be productive.

Organizing for the Creative Person
Dorothy Lehmkuhl

A fantastic resource for artists, graphic designers, and other creative people who struggle with many of the more ‘traditional’ systems of organizing.

Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, & Hoarding
Dr. David Tolin, Ph.D., Randy O. Frost, Gail Steketee

David Tolin is one of the preeminent researchers of compulsive hoarding, and a familiar face to fans of A&E’s ‘HOARDERS.’

The Secret Lives of Hoarders: True Stories of Tackling Extreme Clutter
Matt Paxton

This book is a collection of in-the-hoard stories from one of the best-known experts on hoarding and extreme clutter, Matt Paxton from A&E’s Emmy-winning series ‘HOARDERS.’  It is a fascinating look inside the clutter, but most importantly, the very human struggle against the mental illness that is compulsive hoarding.

best organizing books


Conquering Chronic Disorganization
Judith Kolberg

Yes, Judith shows up twice on this list, and for good reason. She knows her stuff AND she is exceptionally skilled at explaining the how’s and why’s of what works for you. This is the very first book I read on organizing, and I still use it as an active reference in my work.

Benji’s Messy Room &  Suzie’s Messy Room
Jonda Beattie, Diane Quintana

These last two books on the list are storybooks, written specifically for young children, to make picking up their rooms fun! They are very cute, kids love them, and they learn some basic organizing principles.

Have you read a book that you feel belongs in the Top 10 of Best Organizing Books? What did you love most about it?

How to survive the first day (or five) of school

Getting the kids back to school can be one of the most stressful weeks in a parent’s year. Here are 4 things to keep in mind that will help you survive the first day of school. Or the first five.

survive the first day of school

Photo Credit: Flickr user TyHatch via Creative Commons License 2.0

How to Survive the First Day of School

Stay calm

Even with the most meticulous planning, things may go astray. The chances that it may be life-threatening are slim to none. Stay calm, take a deep breath, and move forward.

Let expectations go.

This is real life, not Pinterest. Enough said.

Leave room for flexibility.

Build in extra time to deliver a forgotten lunch or signed permission slip. Build in extra time in the mornings for a while. If you build in a bit of extra time and one thing goes wrong, you can address it without your entire schedule falling apart.

Take care of yourself, too.

Drop them off at the bus stop or school, then grab a coffee. Sit in your car and just breathe. Even if it’s just 5 minutes to yourself – take it.

How to make going back to school a total nightmare

How to make going back to school a nightmare? Just follow these simple steps – after all, we have plenty of time, right?

how to make back to school a nightmare

Bedtime, Schmedtime

We only have about two weeks at this point. Our kids have had no bedtime for months, but surely they can adjust to getting up early over one weekend, right?

RELATED: The Georgia Tax Free Weekend 2016: Everything You Need to Know

The School Supply Shuffle

No worries. It’s much more fun to hit the splash pad for the millionth time than hit up Target 48 hours before school starts to buy notebooks and crayons. I’m sure everything our kids need will still be in stock. Right?

Bus Stop Bingo

Bus stops and schedules never change from year to year, right? Make sure to wait until the night before to consider checking for schedule changes.

RELATED: Homework Station, Before & After

Johnny’s Needs a What?!

Make sure to wait until the day before little Johnny’s first day of soccer practice to get his doctor’s clearance. A crowded, overbooked doctor’s office is fun for everyone!

A Grocery Sack Does Not Make a Good Backpack

Check out Lauren’s backpack from last year? Nah, it’s probably under the sofa with last year’s schoolwork still in it. Just make sure to pull it out at 10pm the night before school starts. It probably doesn’t smell too horrible.

Sounds like fun, right? School starts here in just over TWO weeks. Now is the time to get our kiddos in bed on time and get prepared for the new school year. It may not be as fun as summer, but skipping the planning can turn school into a total nightmare.








Georgia Tax Free Weekend 2016: Everything You Need to Know!

Georgia Tax Free Weekend 2016: Everything You Need to Know

Shhhh. Can you hear it? Children all over the state, moaning that they only have a few weeks of summer break left. Which means it’s back to school season. Before you grab that school supply list and burn rubber to save 7%, here are a few things to keep in mind for the Georgia Tax Free Weekend 2016.


Yes, jeans, shorts, t-shirts, and shoes are tax-free this weekend. But jewelry, handbags, watches, and sunglasses aren’t. And if your teenager is begging for those $140 designer jeans, those aren’t tax-free. No clothing items over $100 are, period.

RELATED: Before & After: Homework Station


All computers and peripherals are tax exempt this weekend, as long as each is under $1000. Which means if your teen or college kid is angling for a Mac, your only shot is the MacBook Air 11″, which starts at $899. OUCH. Also not included are computer cases or bags, any cell phones, digital cameras, TVs, or gaming systems.

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Photo Credit: flickr user laffy4k via Creative Commons

School Supplies:

All items must be less than $20 each – including backpacks! Me? I’d much rather spend $50+ on a good quality backpack like this one at L.L. Bean and have it last years than spend $20 on a new one every single year. (My L.L. Bean I got in 9th grade? It lasted well into college. Just saying.)

Another thing to keep in mind when buying school supplies? Make sure to really look at what you’re purchasing. Those dollar-store notebooks might be half the price, but guess what? They’re frequently less than half the pages. So you’re not saving a penny.

RELATED: Parenting & Kids: Let’s Talk about Organization

The Take-Away:

Are there deals during our Georgia Tax Free Weekend 2016? Sure. Are they worth racing to the store to save 7%? When’s the last time you raced out the door for a 7% off sale? That, and I’ve never been a big fan of mall traffic and parents elbowing each other in the ribs to get that very last pack of 8-count Crayola crayons.

Here is the official list of what is and is not exempt!

georgia tax free weekend 2016

georgia tax free weekend 2016

georgia tax free weekend 2016


Combining households without driving each other crazy

combining households, merging households

So you just got married. Or you made the big step of moving in together. Congratulations! But maybe now you and your beloved are staring at two lives worth of stuff. Because who really needs two blenders or two coffeemakers?Combining households can create stress and strain in an already nerve-wracking situation. Here are a few of my best tips to combining households smoothly.

RELATED: How to Have a Low-Stress Move

  • It sounds obvious, but move forward with the excitement that you’ll be building on your life together. That’s more important than any coffeemaker or blender or side table.
  • Combining households is a process. Don’t worry about a deadline, if possible. Rushed decisions, made just to ‘be done’, can be frustrating. You really liked those sofa cushions!
  • If it’s within budget and you guys get stuck trying to blend styles, there are interior decorators and professional organizers who will help you through this process by using what you have and creating an aesthetic that pleases both you and your beloved!
  • If you start with the question ‘Do we want to keep this?’ and the answer is yes too often, change the question!
    • Ask ‘Does this have value to you?’
    • Ask ‘Is this worthy of creating a space for?’
    • Ask ‘Does this hold meaning for you?’
  • As with most organizing projects, start with the least sentimental stuff first. It’s far easier to make a decision on which TV to keep than how to deal with your partner’s most treasured items from childhood.

RELATED: Problems with Perfection – Does perfectionism have you stuck?

It’s worth repeating: combining households is a process. It’s well worth taking your time and doing it well.

‘Antique’ Stores: You can’t take it with you

A few weekends ago, my partner, John, and I took a relaxing trip up to the north Georgia mountains. A heavy work schedule had left us both craving some quiet, unscheduled time together. It was wonderful. As we walked through this tiny mountain village, we came across the Nacoochee Village Antique Mall near Helen, Georgia. We spent almost an hour sipping our coffees and wandering around the labyrinth of rooms stuffed to the gills with old records, hard-sided luggage from the 1950s, and loads and loads of old china, knick-knacks, and ‘collectibles.’

Surely, everyone’s come across one of these stores, right?

you can't take it with you

We laughed at unique little items that we couldn’t even tell what purpose they served, old signed photos of every old music star on the planet, and the general randomness of it all. I started thinking about a client who’s been struggling to deal with her deceased mother’s estate – and then it hit me.

Stores like these – crammed full of stuff no one really wants – are where most of our ‘prized possessions’  will end up after we’re gone.

The gifts we never really wore or used, but kept just because they were given to us. The items we never really used, but kept because we had inherited them. The items we never got rid of, because we just didn’t take the time or even think about. The stuff we bought, not because we needed it, but because they were on sale or because we were just bored. The stuff we assumed had value because we were told by advertisers that it did.

And when we’re gone? Hours and weeks and months spent by our loved ones having to pore over a lifetime of…stuff. It was a really depressing moment. And then…it doesn’t have to be like this. We can be conscious of what we buy, how long we keep it, and learn how and when to let things go.

When we learn to edit our collections and keep what truly has meaning for us, those items become even more meaningful. And, like Elsa, we find freedom in letting the rest go. Because you can’t take it with you.

5 Tips to prepare for sleepaway camp

Oh, yes. It’s almost that time. The school year is over, and it’s time to turn our attention to summer. If your kids are heading off on their own, here are 5 tips to prepare for sleepaway camp.

Pack a personal first aid kit

Yes, the camp is well-supplied. But how nice will it be to have a kid with their own personal first aid kit? It’s immediate, and even most elementary kids should know how to clean and bandage a minor wound. (Note: For younger kids, please remember that removing any medications from the kit is important.)

5 tips to prepare for sleepaway camp

This is a great kit available on Amazon and REI.

Expect filth. Lots of filth.

Plenty of kids don’t care about a fresh, clean outfit each day – especially if their days involve tromping through the woods, being tipped over in a canoe, or climbing trees. The whole point of camp is to get out into nature, isn’t it?

Don’t overpack

See above regarding filth and your kid(s) not caring.

Don’t expect lots of communication

In this super-connected world, it’s easy to get nervous if your kid goes two days without a text or Instagram of what they’re up to at camp. But again, the whole point of sleepaway camp is to leave the devices alone and get out into nature, along with learning some independence and life skills. Hopefully, they’re having too much fun to remember to text, email, or Instagram! Remember – The more fun they’re having, the less you’ll hear from them.

Ziploc Bags – Use them, love them

This is actually a trick I picked up years ago from a fellow blogger, and it totally changed the way I packed for the kiddo in our house. Pack each complete outfit in a one gallon Ziploc bag – everything from undies to socks to outfit. This is especially great if your kid is challenged with matching tops to shorts or just learning how to pack.

5 tips for sleepaway camp

This awesome trick generally works for sizes up to girls’ 10-12.

What are your tried-and-true tips to prepare for sleepaway camp? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

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!