Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Mom Blogger's 5 Take-aways from a Session with Genius Organizing

...I spent two lovely two-hour sessions with Julia, the co-founder of Genius Organizing. I was so nervous about her visit (what would she think of my clutter? would she call TLC’s Hoarders?) that I straighted up and de-cluttered as much as I could before.  But there was no need to worry. When I met Julia it was like meeting a long-lost friend. We clicked right away. She did not bat an eye at some of the things I’ve saved—like too many of my kids’ baby onesies, too many of my college term papers, and too many shopping bags and remnants of gift wrap.  She helped me to part with them all.  Really, she is part organizer, part therapist. ... (More)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ahhhhh, Autumn!


When the weather turns cool, it always brings an invigorating freshness, but that's especially true this year, after the hot, hot summer we had in New York City. The chillier temperatures mean we go digging into our "deep storage" for coats, jackets, hats, scarves and gloves.  For many clients we work with, space is limited and so "deep storage" can just mean the back of the closet!  In that case, it's even more important to EDIT once in a while. As you start to pull out those jackets, coats, hats and scarves this year, remember - this is a PERFECT time to reclaim some closet real estate!

One technique to do this is to remove everything from the storage area.  Yes, everything!  As you pull each item out, ask yourself "When was the last time I wore this?  Do I like it?  Do I feel good when I wear it?"  We tell clients if they didn't wear something seasonal last season, the odds are practically none that they will wear it this one. It's time to let it go! Sometimes when you remove everything, you realize you have many more hats or scarves than you could, or do, actually use.  In that case, pick a reasonable number of those items that you can really use.  What is a reasonable number?  There is no true right answer to that question. It depends greatly upon how much storage space you have, and how much of a clotheshorse you are. But as you are editing, you are going to feel it in your gut that things are not right when you tell yourself that thirty scarves is a reasonable amount. Work backwards from there. Pick your favorites first, and let the rest go.

Before the real cold weather hits is a great time to get cool-weather things into the hands of people who can use them- those who are less fortunate and in need of some help staying warm this winter.  Remember- getting rid of some of your things does not mean you are being wasteful! Bag up these excess coats, jackets, scarves and hats, and put the bag by your door as a visual reminder to take it with you the next chance you get to stop by a donation center.  Or, better yet, carry it out today on this beautiful fall day, to your nearest donation center.  We have plenty of them in the City, from Housing Works to Salvation Army to Goodwill, and you can find them by name or zip code using this handy tool from NYC.gov.

In addition to things they don't really use,we often find our clients have clothing just languishing in the closet because it's in need of repair.  Storing an item needing repair in a closet, usually leads to the repair being forgotten.  As you pull out cool-weather clothing, use that process as your trigger and reminder of these items that may need a visit to a dry cleaner or tailor.  Get those items into a bag, label the bag if you have more than one bag needing attention, and put it right by the front door, as a visual reminder to take it and get those long-awaited repairs done.  Or, again, take it out today and get that process underway!  The sooner you get these items into the right hands, the sooner you get to enjoy them again.

Ridding yourself of cold-weather clothes that you don't use or love will free up valuable space in your closet, giving you better, easier access to the things you really do use and enjoy, and also makes room for new things, which we all inevitably acquire.  For the new things, to keep things from getting too crowded, we suggest a simple one-in-one-out rule - for every new thing that comes in, one old thing should go out, to donation if possible, or if it's in poor condition, then just to the trash.  This simple rule works wonders in keeping "stuff" at a manageable level. It is how we keep our own closets organized!
So, enjoy your favorite scarf and sweater again, and a city revitalized and refreshed by the changing season.  And, if you need help clearing out or updating your closets, or any other space, give us a call.  We would love to help.  

Happy Fall! 

-Wendy,
Team Genius

Monday, June 18, 2012

Picture Perfect


It happens to the best of us. Before the digital age, we all snapped hundreds of film photos, eager to preserve forever those birthdays/ proms/college parties/old boyfriends etc. We’d take the pics, develop them, admire them, and then more often that not, shove them into a shoebox, where they would stay.

Even now, in the digital age, our photos can pile up. Friends print them and send them to us, or we print them, and then maybe give them a moment of glory on the fridge door. Then of course we take them down, and into the shoebox/desk drawer/old Tupperware container they go. Some of us have photos EVERYWHERE. Mixed in with memorabilia, jammed into a huge cardboard box – they’re all over the place.

We love our photos, and we feel like all of our photos are precious. (Even the ones of you from college, doing a beer bong while dressed as a sexy cat.) But all these pictures can be incredibly overwhelming. Even if we do ever get them into albums (not likely), over time, albums aren’t really the way to preserve them for years down the line. The only real answer to photo organization today is, of course, scanning. But who has time for scanning? That’s probably the most tedious job on the planet, no? Well lucky you, YOU now have time for scanning. Because we’ll do it for you!

Genius Organizing knows how difficult photo organization can be, and we’re really excited to offer this service.  How it works: we’ll come get your pics from you, take them away, and then scan them into whatever photo format you desire. We can save the files to an external hard drive, an internal hard drive, a CD, Dropbox, tumblr, or a digital photo frame. However you want them! And also, we can even sort and organize your photos first!

So if you’re tired of kicking those photos from your bar mitzvah back under the bed, by all means, drop us a line. We’ll gladly take care of them for you!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Yes, That Milk Does Smell Funny

As organizers, we are constantly coming across expired goods in people’s homes. Expired beauty products, expired medications, expired food - you name it. It can be easy for people to lose track of expiration dates, and then when they do discover something is past its prime, they’re never quite sure if they should toss it or not. So here’s a little helpful info on expirations – what they really mean, and why they’re important.

Did you know that in the US, expiration dates are not required by law? The only item in the states that is required to have an expiration date is infant formula. All of those other dates – on everything from our yogurt to our pasta - are done voluntarily by the manufacturers.

And a good thing, too! Eating food past it’s expiration date is never a good idea – though many of us do it, thinking we’ll just “chance it.” Because of this gamble with the fates, around 76 million people a year get sick from expired food. True, there are some items (like bread and cereal, for example) that don’t exactly turn into poison the day after the expiration. But even those things can develop things like mold and weevils if left for too long.

Food that has gone bad has an increased chance of giving you something nasty - like a listeria infection – so pay attention to the dates listed, and if you smell that milk, and “aren’t sure” well then toss it! Same goes for meat products and vegetables. In general, it’s best to do a weekly shop for your groceries, so that you never have food that is sitting around for too long. Yes, this can be a pain, but not quite as painful as a night of vomiting.

The USDA provides a handy translation of all the “sell by” and “best before” lingo, which I’ll share here:
• A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
• A "Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
• A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
• "Closed or coded dates" are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

But expirations obviously don’t apply to just food. Another important date to take note of is the one on the side of your medicine bottle. Some medications, if stored properly, can last up to three years after the expiration date. However, it depends on the medication. Some medications can alter over time, and form different, toxic compounds that would be dangerous if ingested. While other meds like insulin and nitroglycerine can lose their potency over time, which means the medicine won’t be as effective. If you have some expired meds you aren’t sure of, take them to a pharmacist and ask. If they aren’t usable, then ask if the pharmacist is he or she has a recycling program. (Disposing of meds in a drain or trash can lead to contamination of water or soil.)

Funnily enough, the expiration dates we tend to pay the least amount of attention to are on the very items we probably use the most – body and beauty products. It can be tricky to see what the issue is with using a lotion or mascara past a certain time – but these dates are also there for a reason. The agents in many anti-aging and acne creams go bad after a certain time, so it’s important to pay attention to any changes in consistency and color. If it looks funny or runny and is past its date – it should be tossed.

Makeup brushes and makeup itself can be crawling with bacteria over long periods of use, which can lead to things like blemishes, or even worse, cold sores and pink-eye. Sunscreen is another big one. If it’s expired, it should probably go. It isn’t worth the risk of a bad burn.

Yes, it can feel wasteful to toss these things – whether they’re food items, antibiotics, or eyeshadow – but it’s definitely a case of better to be safe than sorry. You’re better off spending the few dollars needed to replace the item, than shelling out for a doctor bill!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

UPGRADE - Better Products Do It Better

Macaroni Kid asked us for some expert commentary for their site and this is what we shared with them. Now we are passing on the information to you! Here it is:

As a Professional Organizer, I am always on the lookout for products that make life easier and more organized. There are products that are sufficient, but I get very excited when I discover products that are even better versions of what we already have. This sort of thing jibes with what I try to do while organizing my clients- take a look at what is there and offer a way to make it a bit better. That is what I love about the following products and services:

SipnGo Bag Bottle- This product is a lightweight, portable water bottle that rolls up and snaps up tight when empty. I have carried Camelbak and SIGG bottles, which were ok, but they were heavy and occasionally leaked and were even a bit heavy in my bag after I drank all the water. This bottle, which comes in fun colors, is pretty lightweight when full and featherlight when empty. It is BPA free, dishwasher safe, and recyclable. The only drawback that I have experienced is that it is easy to lose the cap that snaps over the spout. However, replacements are available on the Sip N’ Go website www.buysipngo.com. I find that unusual, in a good way. So many things that we break or lose, we just cannot get a replacement or a spare part for. Try this bottle!

GoPicnic – My usual experience shopping for a picnic goes as follows:
I try to remember all food groups/categories and struggle to choose something from each. Then I buy jars of spreads, entire boxes of cookies and crackers, bread for everyone, packages of lunchmeat, trays of vegetables, bags of fruit, containers of nuts….these items are expensive when added up, heavy and bulky to carry, and often get left uneaten by fellow picnickers but are too sloppy to repack and take home. When I first encountered a GoPicnic packaged meal I was floored! These are picnics in a box! They can also be used on the go- my suggestions are to bring them on an airplane or a road trip. They are nutritious and well balanced- each box contains protein, fiber and fruit, and often a sweet treat! The whole meal has been planned for me (they have good taste too- some really flavorful choices!), is lightweight and compact for carrying, and is shelf-stable. I’d much rather buy a set of these for my picnic pals then keep doing what I described above. BONUS: GoPicnic offers vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and kosher meals too! How thoughtful to include so many special diets. I love them for that.

Denim Therapy – This service is the gift that keeps on giving. Each time I wear my designer jeans that have been through Therapy, I am continually astounded and pleased with my decision to use this service. Here is how it works: You either mail in or drop off your jeans (in Manhattan, New York). You fill out a form stating what you want done that you send along with the jeans. They email you an estimate for you to peruse and approve. Then they repair your jeans to the point where you can barely pick out where the rip or hole was. This is because they do not patch – they weave in new cotton thread perfectly matched to the type of denim you give them. You probably haven’t thought much about this, but go take a look at your jeans and notice how they are many different colors and some even have white thread mixed in with blue. The jeans I brought in were of the latter kind and they wove both white and the same shade of blue right in there. And this service costs a whopping $7 per inch! I mean, WHAT? I was thinking of replacing my holey jeans (my best pair) but instead of trying to find them again and shelling out well over $100 for them, I paid a mere $7/inch to have the holes in the crotch repaired. Unbelievable! They also offer hemming, hardware replacement, tailoring and other services. Run, don’t walk!

The Spongester – There are other ways to deal with the issue that the Spongester addresses, but none as good as the Spongester handles it. This product is a bi-level stainless steel sponge rack, labeled Good Sponge and Evil Sponge, separating and clearly marking your different sponges. Different in what ways? Dish sponge from scrubber sponge, human sponge from pet sponge, meat sponge from dairy sponge in a kosher household, meat sponge from veg sponge in a multi-diet household….I am sure there are other sponge distinctions that I haven’t thought of yet, and would welcome hearing about them in the comments section!
Before the Spongster, I had repurposed a small Ikea silverware drying rack with two halves for my sponges, but truth be told I could usually not remember which sponge was for what purpose. That has changed with this product, as long as I can recall what the Good one is for and what the Evil one is for. If you can, you will never use the wrong sponge on the wrong place again!

Ok- go forth and try these “build a better mousetrap” takes on products we already have, and see if they don’t improve on your existing experiences! Enjoy doing things a little better!

-Nicole

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Gift of Guilt

Are you holding on to toys never used or enjoyed by your child that you didn’t purchase? Are your closets overflowing with linens and Precious Moments figurines from your dear Aunt Frances?

When friends and family give you or your family a gift there seems to be this terrible feeling of guilt if you were to even think about throwing away, donating or re-gifting, no matter how unnecessary the item is.

The time has come to free yourself from Gift Guilt. If your home is becoming unmanageable because you are holding onto items you don’t use or need then where is the gift in that?

Tackling the tricky Gift issue is tough. We hear it all the time “I hate that thing, but my Father-in-law gave it to me, I can’t get rid of it- I feel bad” or “We keep getting so many toys from my parents and we just don’t have the room. I don’t know what to do.”

The people who give you gifts love you and want you and your family to be happy. If these gifts are making your life harder then it’s time to do something about it.

Here are some great suggestions for ridding your life of Gift Guilt.

Address it head on with honesty:

Talk to the generous person and suggest alternatives. This seems gauche but as a person who loves to give gifts, I’d much rather the receiver enjoy what I’m spending my money on. For instance for a gift for kids, suggest intangibles such as donating to a college fund or giving the gift of an experience like rock climbing or movie tickets.

Keep on Giving:

Making charitable donations can be a great way to avoid altogether receiving a present you will never use or don’t have the room to keep and will consequently feel guilty about giving away. Really research what you feel passionate about and see if your gift can go to help others.


Be Specific, B-E-Specific:

On shower, birthday and holiday invites you can make it easy for the giver and make it work for you by directing people to the items you really need. Registries aren’t just for weddings and babies anymore.

Monday, October 18, 2010

To throw away or NOT to throw away…that is the question!

While organizing papers with our clients, we are constantly asked, “Do I need to keep this?” when we come across bills, receipts, financial and medical documents.

Here are some definitive answers you can apply now to get your files into shape, and then moving forward for the rest of your life.



Toss Every Month:

-ATM & Bank Deposit Slips AFTER you’ve checked your on-line statement.

-Credit Card Receipts AFTER you’ve checked your monthly statement.

-Sales Receipts for minor purchases AFTER you make sure you have no intention of returning the item or if it has no warranty.







Toss After One Year:

-Monthly Bank and Credit Card Statements (if you don’t itemize deductions.) You can also get all this information ONLINE.

-Monthly or Quarterly Brokerage and Mutual Fund Statements (as long as your year-end
statement clearly shows the total amount you’ve paid in interest and property taxes over the course of a year.)

-Phone and Utility Bills (as long as you don’t claim a home office on your taxes.)

-Paycheck stubs (your year-end W-2 serves as proof of income for the year)


Toss After 3-5 years:

-Explanation Of Benefits Hang on to EOB forms at least until you are sure that a particular medical bill has been paid in full from all sources (e.g., a combination of Medicare and supplemental insurance or primary and secondary health insurance policies). This may require confirmation from the original medical provider with a statement showing a zero balance. After your bill is paid in full, you might want to keep EOBs in an inactive storage file for up to three to five years longer "just in case." It is not uncommon for some medical providers to send bills long after a medical service has been provided. Having EOBs on file can help document the status of previous medical claims.


Toss After 7 years:

-W-2 & 1099 Forms

-Year-End Statements from Credit Card Companies

-Canceled Checks & Receipts/Statements For:
Annual Mortgage Interest and Property Taxes
Deductible Business Expenses
Child Care Bills
Out of Pocket Medical Costs
Any other Tax-Deductible Expense


Toss NEVER:



-*Annual Tax Returns* (you can toss after 7yrs but never to just be safe OR ask the preference of your accountant)






-Year End Summaries (from any financial institution)

-Confirmation Slips that list the purchase price of any investments you own

-Home-Improvement Records

-Receipts for Major Purchases

-Beneficiary Designations

We hope this clears things up. Print out this list and put it in the front of your file drawer so there is never any doubt!