Remembering Where You Put It

Yesterday, there was a solar eclipse. It wasn’t a total eclipse where we live, but it was still pretty spectacular to watch. We were also fortunate enough to watch the eclipse back in 2017. And we were able to watch yesterday’s eclipse safely because I saved the eclipse glasses from 2017, and I knew exactly where I had stored them!

Seven years ago, I knew that there would be another eclipse in 2024, and I didn’t want to face the uncertainty of not being able to find eclipse glasses. So I tucked each one into a Ziploc snack bag and put all three in an empty sunglasses case. I labeled it “ECLIPSE GLASSES” and put it in the bottom drawer of my desk.

Assiduous readers of my posts may remember that I gave my desk away during the pandemic (see “Transforming My Home Office“). I got rid of a lot of the contents, and what I kept I distributed among various places in my apartment, including living room end table drawers, closet shelves, and a new printer cabinet. It would have been very easy to lose track of the eclipse glasses at that point. However, I stood them up in the back of a closet shelf and they remained visible. I’m also in the habit of frequently reexamining my storage spots so that I can continually get rid of things I no longer need. It also reminds me of what I still have.

Last night, I received a text from a long-time client, who wrote: “Thanks to you, I had eclipse glasses — sat down to look for where we put them — I’d say it took me 2 seconds flat, first place I looked!” I was so gratified to read that her work with me had such a positive outcome and allowed her and her family to enjoy this momentous event.

When I work with clients digging through their stuff, they often say “Oh, I was looking for that!” This is so common that I wrote a post with that very title. As I explain in that post, the most logical place for you to put something isn’t necessarily the same place where someone else would put it. Our minds work differently, and we have different associations of what goes with what. The important thing is to be mindful about where you put things.

One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t put it down, put it away.” (I did not make that up, but I wish I did!) But don’t just put something out of sight. Put it in a place that makes sense to you. Keep with with other things that are like it, or in the place you are most likely to use it, or in a place will you will see it frequently so you remember that you have it.

The next eclipse will be in 2044. Who knows if we’ll even still be around. But if we are, I know where my eclipse glasses will be!

My family enjoying the eclipse of 2024

Double Your Space with Helper Shelves

One of my favorite organizing products is the helper shelf. You may not be familiar with the term, but I bet you have seen helper shelves in action.

Do you have different size dishes piled on top of each other in the cabinet but you’re tired of moving the smaller dishes every time you want to get to the larger ones? Then you need a helper shelf. It provides a higher surface for the smaller dishes but still gives you access to the larger ones. Here’s an example of a helper shelf:

Helper shelves work in spaces that are much taller than the items you want to store. In addition to dishes, they are helpful for cups, glasses, cans, and spices. Once you become aware of them, you’ll start noticing places in your home where they would be useful.

I was using helper shelves in my refrigerator to provide extra storage for shorter items. However, when I got a new refrigerator recently as part of my still-ongoing renovation, I found that I no longer needed them. I didn’t know where I would use them, but I knew that they would come in handy somewhere, so I put them aside and stayed alert to an opportunity to redeploy them.

The opportunity came when I was reorganizing the cabinet next to my computer desk. Long-time readers may remember that in 2020, I redid my home office, including donating my childhood desk and replacing it with a cabinet that doubled as a printer table. (See Transforming My Home Office.) That cabinet is full of office supplies and was starting to get a little unwieldy. Every time I took something out, everything shifted and needed to be straightened up again.

When I sat down on the floor to reorganize it recently, I remembered my helper shelves. Now I can pull out items out of the right side of the cabinet without disturbing everything else.

Helper shelves come in many different heights and widths, so be sure to measure your space and your items before shopping for them. Some of them have adjustable widths, which might work best for your cabinet. If you have a really tall cabinet, you can get helper shelves that are designed to stack on each other. You’ll find plenty of options at retailers like The Container Store, Amazon, and Wayfair.

Using Stuff Up

I love to use stuff up. It’s a great feeling to finish the contents of a container and then recycle or toss it, as appropriate. Now there’s one less thing cluttering up my cabinets!

The things I love to use up fall into two categories:

  • Things I use frequently.
  • Things I use rarely.

For things I use frequently, I generally notice that I am running low and have already purchased a replacement. So when I use up the old one, the new one is ready. Things that fall into this category are stuff like toothpaste, Tylenol, everyday makeup, and a box of 5,000 staples that I thought would outlive me.

For things I use rarely, it’s exciting to finish up something up that has been around for a while. I may not even buy a replacement because it gets used so rarely, so it gives me some free space. Things that fall into this category are stuff like specialized Band-Aids and colored printer paper.

So where does this system break down? For things that get used frequently, the system breaks down if I don’t have a replacement. If it wasn’t available at the store the day I noticed I was running low, I may forget about it and then find myself completely out of that item. Oops!

For things that get used rarely, the system breaks down if I forget that I have that item because I haven’t used it so long. Then I might end up buying a new one, and it’s not until I put it away that I realized I have a package already that’s almost empty. It’s so frustrating to have lost the opportunity to use it up!

When I work with clients, we often find multiples of the same item. If it’s an item that they use frequently, they’ll tell me that they wanted to make sure they didn’t run out so they bought a lot. But that’s not a good solution. Because they have so many, they don’t notice when they are on the last one, and they end up with none. Then they buy too many again. See the cycle?

If they have multiples of an item they use rarely, they’ll tell me that they forgot they had it or they couldn’t find it when they needed it so they bought another one. Often they didn’t even realize that they had multiples until I pointed it out, because they don’t have a good system for keeping similar things together.

Here are some guidelines for managing your stuff so that you don’t have too many or too few:

  • Buy only one backup for your frequently used items, and be diligent about replacing it after you start the new one.
  • Organize your stuff so that you know where everything is and you can see it, and keep like stuff together.
  • If you’ve been holding onto something for a long time and haven’t used it, toss it. A sure sign is that it has become dusty on top!

Revisiting Your Evening Wear

My niece is getting married next month, and I have been planning what to wear. I rarely get a chance to dress up, so it has been fun reminding myself what I already own.

If you are a longtime reader of my organizing tips, you’ll know that I advocate getting rid of any item of clothing that you haven’t worn in one year — with one exception. That exception is dressy clothing, because you don’t always have the need to wear them every year. However, I provide two conditions for keeping them: they must still be in style, and they must still fit you.

I have three nice dresses in my closet that would be suitable for the wedding, and I’m pretty sure I know which one I will wear. So I started thinking about the rest of the outfit.

I bought a pair of sexy black sandals back in 2013 for a family wedding. My feet are hard to fit, so I went to a shop that features a lot of comfy brands. I was impressed with this fashionable style and also impressed with the different ways to customize the fit of the shoe. I wore them to that wedding and then again in 2014 for another family wedding. I probably haven’t worn them since then.

I tried them on recently, and even though they still looked great, I was reminded that they were really not that comfortable for an entire evening. So I ordered some sandals online and decided on a fun (but comfortable) pair of gold sandals. As for the sexy black ones, I gave them away on Buy Nothing. Good riddance! Life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes, no matter how sexy they look.

A few days ago, I started thinking about what handbag to wear. I have a few dressy handbags that I keep wrapped in tissue paper in my closet. It has been so long since I dressed up that I didn’t even remember what they looked like! I unwrapped them this morning, and at least two of them are good options for this outfit — maybe all three — so I think I’m covered there as well.

When I’m working with clients on reviewing their handbags, we inevitably come across the stash of dressy purses. Many of them were inherited from mothers or grandmothers, and clients are reluctant to part with them, even if the purses are in disrepair. I have developed a good rule of thumb to help clients decide: is it big enough to hold your smart phone?

Back when our mothers and grandmothers dressed up, they probably took along their lipstick and a few other small things. They didn’t have to worry about smart phones. But most of us will take our smart phone with us even to a wedding, especially if we plan to take photos. So give your dressy purses the smart phone test, and give away any that are too small to fit your phone, not matter how cute the bag is.

So here’s my bottom line on dressy clothes and accessories. You have my permission to keep them even if you haven’t worn them in more than a year (assuming they still fit and are still in style), but you should still review them every year and be honest about what you are likely to wear in the future. Uncomfortable shoes and tiny purses: be gone with you!

Clothes You Don’t Wear That Often

When my clients and I review their clothes, I advise them to get rid of any item they haven’t worn in an entire year. I make an exception with clothes that are only worn on special occasions, as we don’t always get a chance to wear those every year. I offer two guidelines for deciding whether to keep the special occasion clothes: they have to still fit, and they have to still be in style.

If you have seen me in person, you might know that I am most comfortable in denim. My everyday outfit in most seasons includes a pair of blue or black jeans. There are some situations, however, that require nicer pants than jeans.

Every spring, I pack a few pairs of nice pants to take to my annual organizers’ conference. This year, I noticed that my nice pants had been unworn for long enough that they had dust along the top fold! I dutifully dusted all of them off before selecting the ones I wanted to pack. And I made a mental note to do something to prevent that in the future.

I recently did a search on Amazon. Ironically, what I wanted turned out to be called “shoulder covers”, even though pants don’t have shoulders. These are meant for shirts or jackets, but they were just what I needed

I ordered a pack of 10 shoulder covers, and now my pants are protected from dust:

If you also have clothes that collect dust, try them on to make sure that they still fit and haven’t gone hopelessly out of style. If they pass the test, consider some shoulder covers to keep them fresh.