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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Q&A With Organizing Guru June Bell - Part 2 (and Win Something!)

Yesterday, organizing guru and family coach June Bell shared some helpful tips with us to organize our homes and lives. Today she answers some more burning questions! And at the end, post your own organizing tips to win a copy of the book Reclaim Your Life...and Get Organized for Good.

Any tips on dealing with my inbox? I just can’t keep up.

I know what you mean! Many time management experts, including the venerable Julie Morgenstern, recommend checking email only at preset times so you’re not bouncing between your work and your inbox. That’s a great idea.

It’s also helpful to delete yourself from mailing lists of groups that no longer interest you. The spam filter is your friend, and so is the phone.

What do I do with all the artwork coming home from school? I feel guilty throwing it out but I can’t keep everything.

I’m not surprised that you mentioned this. This is a familiar problem. I’m the mom of a prolific kindergartener, and every week there’s a new batch of masterpieces to ooh and aah over.

Here are few suggestions for art:
- Send creations in a care package to the grandparents.
- Use large paintings as wrapping paper or note cards.
- Rotate new pictures through a large art frame, which can also hold up to 50 other works. (Check out the ones at
- At the end of each school year, put your favorite two or three pieces in an expanding folder or file. (Personally, I’m a sucker for anything with a little handprint on it.)
- Scan the artwork and store the digital images on a CD. Bottom line: It’s OK – it really is – to toss the rest when your kid’s not around. Honest!

Toy management. Need I say more?

Less is definitely more. Buy better toys, but fewer. Swap with friends. Weed out the junk relentlessly and constantly. And make sure to insist on a nightly cleanup, even if it’s just tossing all the stray Legos into their designated plastic bin. (Check out June's article on this topic in Parenting Magazine)

How about kids’ clothes?

At least twice a year – before school starts and over winter break, if you can – set aside an hour to comb through drawers and closets to weed out clothing that no longer fits. (You’ll need to do this more often for babies, who grow even faster than school-age kids.)

Sort it into piles: save (for younger siblings), donate, discard/rag bag (for clothing that is badly stained, faded or torn beyond repair) and consign/craigslist/sell.

How do you charge?

I provide a free 20-minute phone “meeting” for prospective clients. We’ll discuss problem areas and how I can help them create the changes they want to see. If they’d like to move forward, we’ll schedule a three-hour session at their home or office.

During that time, I’ll train a client in how to separate trash from treasures and we’ll create a system for managing paper, time or things that works for them. I’ll show them how making these changes will benefit them in all sorts of ways – from saving time and money to feeling better about their space.

How long will it take?

Most clients are delighted to find that the process takes far less time than they’d thought, thanks to a professional organizer’s guidance and an extra pair of (skilled) hands.

Where in the Bay Area do you cover?

I’m based on the Peninsula and serve the entire Bay Area. My website, (under construction), reflects that San Francisco-area focus.

How can they contact you for more information? or 650.483.3824. Her website is here.

Thank you to June for your words of wisdom! Do blog readers have any organizing tips of their own to share? Post your tips and my favorite one will win organizing book Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Vicki Norris. Make sure you leave your email address in the blog post (or email it to me at along with your tip - but you must also post the tip).

1 comment:

  1. A few things that help us keep sane:

    1. I have a "school binder" where I put all things school related- notices, rules, agreements, etc. It's easy for me to remember - put notice about class Spring Party in binder - and use - look in binder for info about Class Spring Party.

    2. I also have a "Kid Stuff" binder where I put info about places to visit and things to do. I use sheet protectors so I can stick the info in easily. Example: We come from from a visit to Happy Hollow and I put the info/brochure/map (you know what I mean) in a sheet protector in the binder. I also stick newsclipping about "things to do with kids" in there.

    3. We have a "give-away" box. Both my daughter and I use it. I decide where the stuff goes - sometimes to a friend's kid, sometimes to Grandma, sometimes to the Thrift Store. Meantime, it's there and easy for both of us to use. Warning: don't make the box too big! ;-) Also: put it in an easy to use accessible spot.

    4. We have a "Grab and Go" area, in our case, a set of shelves. Here we keep homework to grab in the morning, library books, things that folks have lent to us which we need to return, anything that is soon on our way "out" of the house.

    In our case, the "Giveaway" box sits on the top of the "Grab and Go" area. (Don't grab a giveaway by mistake! ;-) And here we also have my daughter's own calendar where she puts her own important events - birthday parties, visits from Grandma,etc. (I'm working on having her add like things when library books are due.) And we also have her class schedule - which days have PE, which have art, etc. which she uses to know what sort of shoes and clothes to wear to school. And this is all right by where we keep our shoes (we're a non-shoe household) and jackets.

    And above all this is a bulletin board for goals. We haven't made a lot of use of this one yet - it's a new addition - but I plan to. (It's a goal! ;-)

    Separate set of tips for car:

    Box of "comfort items" - u-shaped pillow for sleeping in car, stuffie, a book or two, small battery-run fan with soft blades because my daughter can't tolerate heat even with AC on, etc.

    Box where I can reach it: tissues, ziplock bag of almonds (healthy, we both like them), chewing gum, plastic mug (comes in handy!), sunglasses, and I forget what else but I know I use what's in there!

    Both these boxes can easily be tossed in the trunk if they are in the way.

    And in the trunk already:

    The "Scout Box" - good for earthquakes (I was in my car during Loma Prieta) or any other emergency - which contains:

    Old tennis shoes (because sometimes you need them in emergencies!), first aid kit, plastic poncho (you can also lie on it to change tire), paper towels, rag for checking oil, oil, snack bars, small Starbucks coffee in cans (because Mommy has a caffeine addiction problem and if there's an emergency she's gonna need coffee to deal with it... or at least not get a migraine! ;-), bottled water, box of wipes, bright colored scarf which can be used as scarf or to flag down help (it's REALLY bright! ;-), and I forget what else, but again, I know I've used it or someone else has, or will. Oh yes! Maps!

    Finally, also in my car - in the pocket of the door:

    Cotton placemats, napkins, and silverware from garage sales.

    I hate taking plastic silverware - why use petroleum for a throwaway use? I want that petro in my fuel tank! - but also, sometimes we eat in the car and it's super handy to use the placemats on our laps, have the silverware, etc. I wash them as needed and just pop back in car.

    Enough tips to win me that book?


    Cynthia (as in zimzamjamz!)

    Last tip: A scout box makes a great gift... not too expensive, either. Items don't have to be new, etc. Well, it helps to have unopened bottles of water... ;-) But aside from that... you can have fun putting one together... and they make great Father's Day Gifts!