living better with less… returns

Products I specify for clients are well thought out and researched. Since I think before I do (or WHEN I think anyway… no one’s perfect) I have few second thoughts therefore very few returns. The key is there are five questions I ask before buying anything: 

  • Does it fit the function? (know what you’re storing before buying)
  • Does it fit the physical space? (always measure twice)
  • Does it fit the client’s aesthetic?
  • Does it fit the budget?
  • How easy is it to clean? 
How easy something is to clean is just as important as everything else. I hate products with so many little ridges and angles that collect dust and dirt. I’ve mentioned a few before. 

I’ve said this before, organizing products are tools. I don’t know anyone who would go into a hardware store and buy a tool without knowing what it is and how they would specifically use it. Yet people go into places like The Container Store and do just that all the time and wonder why they still aren’t organized.

living better with less… all or nothing

Being a realist, I’ve never understood the idea of ‘all or nothing’. The thought that if you can’t do something all the way or completely perfect (whatever happens to be your definition of perfect) that you wouldn’t do anything at all seems a bit extreme and rather ridiculous. Now of course there may be exceptions to this rule (there always are), but here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • living a more environmentally conscious life; instead of thinking you can’t or won’t completely change your lifestyle try just changing your lightbulbs to CFL, buy more locally grown food, switch to reusable bags, or whatever you know you can do and feel good about.
  • dieting; you couldn’t resist a home made brownie at a party. This doesn’t mean you have to throw your diet out the window. Just say oh well, enjoy the brownie and get right back to it.
  • home organizing/design; you know your home will never look like a page out of Real Simple magazine, but why not tackle one closet or one area of the home like your kitchen? Just having that one thing makes most people feel so much better…

living better with less… shame

Many clients express some level of embarrassment or shame on how their space looks. Afraid of how others, even I, will judge them for the condition of their home. While I understand why someone would feel that way, the reality is I give all my clients serious props for reaching out and asking for help to make their homes and lives better. Plus, it’s true that they are good at other things!
Beyond that, one of the skills that allows me to do my job is that I don’t see how things are, but rather how they could be. I see the potential, the way a client’s things could be rearranged and repurposed to create a beautiful functional space that the client can enjoy. It’s what get’s me excited to dig in and get started!

living better with less… getting to the root of the problem

Have you ever hated everything you own? That’s how I’ve felt for the past few weeks, more like months, about my entire wardrobe. Holding back from going on a major shopping spree (well, my wallet’s been holding me back more than sheer will power) allowed me time to think about what I’m really unhappy with, and I realized it’s my glasses. I had a pair that broke a year ago that were my favorite pair ever. I wore them for five years and when they broke tried to replace them with a similar pair but never love LOVED them. The 2 pairs above are the ones I just got and am crazy about them! Having them, now my wardrobe doesn’t look so bad after all…
The point is we all go through periods where we hate everything we own. The key is to step back and try to identify what the main problem is before taking any drastic measures. For example, maybe you just need to replace your coffee table instead of getting all new furniture. Have you ever had a similar experience?

living better with less… organizing principles

image courtesy of

I often tell people when organizing a space, it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel for every area or thing you’re organizing. I apply the same general guidelines to everything I do with a few minor changes.

For instance, in the bathroom keep your regularly used products in the medicine cabinet for easy access and extras (or oversized everyday products) and not so often used things in the lower vanity. Apply the same logic to your home office; there’s no reason to keep 50 pens and pencils and four reams of paper on your desk (unless you seriously use that much). Depending on how much storage space you have and how you work, keep a small kit near you: extra pens, pencils, eraser, stapler, and whatever else you need to function on a day to day basis, with any extras somewhere else and replenish as needed. If you find you’re constantly replenishing then store more in your easy access spot. Personally I keep my extras in the kitchen cabinet…

living better with less… organizing products

People tend to overcomplicate getting organized. They think that the more organizing products they have the better the results. I think these ‘magic’ products are just more stuff, and more stuff is not something most people need.

In many instances, I advise my clients to live with the changes we make for a while to see if adding something will really make a difference. For example, I generally install pull-out drawers for the lower cabinets in kitchens. For may people (especially those who own and/or cook a lot), it’s a no brainer. But for those of us who rent and aren’t sure how long we’re staying, it’s not always necessary. I’ve always had this attitude of only buying what’s truly needed to make an improvement but I have to say with the current economic climate, people are much more receptive to it.
For the above client who doesn’t have that much now that we’ve edited, and who’s not a huge cook, I didn’t think the drawer was an absolute necessity. Would it be nice to have, sure, but necessary to spend the $$ for it? We’ll see. She’s going to live with this for a week or so and let me know… 

living better with less… trying to remember



A fun side effect of being neat and organized is being called a neat freak and obsessive compulsive. It used to annoy me (just a little) but the truth is I just prefer having my things work for me, not the other way around. 

Take my skin care regimen. Products work best when used on a regular basis. I wash my face everyday with a gentle cleanser, use a scrub every three days, and a glycolic wash also every three days but not on the same days I use the scrub. After weeks of trying unsuccessfully to remember when to use something, I ended up either over or underusing one or the other. Simple solution; label the bottles so I don’t have to remember.

living better with less… new clothes

I did this last year but thought I’d share this money saver with you now…

I was sick of my spring/summer wardrobe and eager to go out and buy all new things. Lacking the funds to do so, I went through everything piece by piece, trying on what I hadn’t been wearing. It seemed the problem wasn’t that I didn’t like my clothes it’s that I didn’t like the way many things fit. To the tailor I went. Much cheaper, quicker, and less stressful than going out and buying all new things.


living better with less… negative thoughts


Before becoming a professional organizer, I had a job I didn’t exactly love. One nice thing was the walk to the office which unfortunately turned into a moaning session about anything I happened to be upset about at the time (like having a job I didn’t love), until one day I told myself to shut up and name 10 things I was grateful for. It was not something I had ever really done and it starting out a bit superficial, like “I’m grateful it’s not raining”, but soon became my morning ritual, and now is used whenever I find myself needing a little perspective. 

The norm seems to be to focus on what we don’t have, but we need to take the time to be grateful for what we do have. What are you grateful for today?