Staying Organized

Do I dare say that spring is here at last?  I’m not sure, but I certainly hope so.  I think spring is a happy season.  It brings renewed energy and desire to take control of our surroundings and lighten our loads.  If, for you, that means getting and staying organized, then the article below is written just for you.


Creating Guidelines


As a Professional Organizer I’m often asked by the homeowners I work with, “How can I stay organized?”  They explain that they spend time creating order and buying cool organizing products to help them stay organized, but in two months, things look just like they did before.  In addition, their cool new organizing products are not helping or worse, they’re not even being used.

The best way to answer their question is to share this example.  Imagine you have  magazines all over your house, piles of them here and there, and you have a hard time throwing them out.  You decide something needs to be done with them.  So, you purchase a few magazine racks to help corral them.  Great!  Problem solved, right?  No!  In a few months the magazine racks are overflowing and magazines are finding their way to other parts of your house again.  So, what can you do?
You need to complete the organizing process.  I call it the ‘creating guidelines phase’.  By purchasing the magazine racks you have created a place for them to be kept, but now you need to create some guidelines for yourself pertaining to those magazines.  The guidelines help you  decide how long to keep each magazine and when you have enough magazines.
Guidelines take the form of questions, and I find it helpful to write them down.    Here are a few examples:
1.  How long will you keep a single magazine issue?
2.  What are the deciding factors for keeping an issue longer than the given timeframe?
3.  What is the maximum number of magazine issues you will keep at one time?  (As many as will properly fit in the magazine racks?)
4.  Once that maximum number is reached, will you practice the one in, one out rule?

5.  What will you do with the magazines when it is time to get rid of them? (Recycle them, donate them to a daycare, leave them at your doctor’s office, give them to a senior center?)

6.  How frequently will  you go through the racks to prevent stockpiling?

Answering these six questions and establishing a system to process your magazines, enables you to keep them organized.  By practicing the process and having a little self discipline you should be able to stay organized.
These guidelines can be modified to fit other items in your space.  If you are struggling with the creating guidelines phase’ I recommend using the six sample questions listed above to help you establish organizing systems for the things and paper in your life.


©2010 Janine Cavanaugh, Professional Organizer.  All Rights Reserved

Intangible Gifts

I compiled a list to offer as an alternative to giving ‘stuff’ or ‘things’ for the holidays. Let’s face it who really needs more ‘stuff’ that others choose for us? What about the children in our lives, do they really need more ‘things’, and do you really want to make more space in your home for all those ‘things’? As a way to reduce clutter and eliminate waste, I’d like to suggest intangible or consumable gifts for the holidays.

Intangible & Consumable Gift Ideas © Janine Cavanaugh, Professional Organizer

Restaurant and coffee shop gift certificates
Food or beverage gift baskets
Tickets to a concert, sporting event, play or show
Movie passes
Gift certificates for a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure
Flowers, floral arrangement, or live wreath
Memberships to a fitness center, gym or the YMCA
Phone card or phone minutes
Passes to a museum, zoo or aquarium
Donations to a charity in receiver’s name
Game or movie rentals
Gifts of your time to a senior relative
Day pass to a spa
Home made coupons for baby sitting, household chores, or together time
Plans for a weekend get away
Grocery store gift cards
Utility or heating bill assistance to someone in need
Behind the scenes adventures at an aquarium or zoo
Firewood or fire starters
Homemade goodies or preserves
Ski lift tickets
Passes for bowling, indoor golf, or paint ball
Art, music, or dance lessons
Edible arrangements
Household goods basket with detergent, soap, sponges, etc.
Music downloads
Gas station gift cards
Calendars or date books
Bath and shower products
Perfume or makeup
Cologne or shaving products
Chocolate or candy

Garage & Attic Cleanup

The leaves and temperatures are falling, and before we know it the gift giving season will be upon us.  Before that happens why not take the opportunity to organize two areas in which autumn is the perfect time to work, our attic and garage.  The temperatures, now, are just right for tackling these two areas, and once we’re finished we’ll be ready for packages, gift bags, and bows.

Autumn Days


Our attic and garage are the storage areas in our home and are usually filled with a variety of items.  Therefore, when it’s time to organize them, we’re faced with making decisions about items we don’t want, but aren’t sure how to get rid of, and on items that we think we should save, just in case.  I’d like to offer some solutions.

First of all, getting rid of items safely can be time consuming and troublesome, but with a bit of effort we can make it happen.


Solutions for getting rid of items:

1.  Contact local recycle stations.  They’ll clarify what can be recycled and when they offer bulk trash, and hazardous waste removal.

2.  Contact second-hand shops and drop off unwanted items.  Try SaversSaint Vincent De Paul or Goodwill.

3.  Contact donation centers and see if they’ll pick up at your door.  Try Big Brother Big Sister Foundation, Salvation Army or the Epilepsy Foundation.

4.  For information about electronic recycling try one of these websites,, or

5.  Call a junk removal company.  Try Clean Out Your House or 1-800-got-junk.


Solutions for saving items just in case:

1.  Ask yourself the following questions:

A.  Has it been used in the last 5 years?

B.  Will it be used in the next 5 years?

C.  Does it fit into my current life style and serve a purpose for me and my family now?

If you answered ‘no’ to all three of these questions it is time to let go. Toss, donate, or sell the item.  If you need more convincing ask yourself the following questions:

D.  I need this item when…?

E.  I use this item when…?

F.  I love this item because…?

If the phrase “but I might need that someday” escaped from your lips, the jig is up.  Let it go and move on.


If you’d like more assistance or a personal helper call me for a complimentary consultation at (508) 699-6652 or email me.  I’d be happy to help you.

Manageable Amount

Janine’s list of manageable amount.

I’m sharing these numbers to help you establish a guideline for yourself. I understand that everyone has different sized homes, lifestyles and family requirements.

Number Janine currently has followed by Janine’s recommended manageable amount.

bath towels  –  3 sets /  2 sets per person
sets of sheets  –  3 sets /   2 sets per bed
coffee mugs  –  6 / 3 per coffee drinker
light bulbs  –  12 / 2 per kind
items on bathroom vanity –  0 because only have pedestal sink / 5
umbrellas  –  3 / 1 per person + 1 per car
vases  –  8  / 2 per size
items on daily to do list  –  5 / no more than 5
pocketbooks  4 / 1 per season
home improvement projects started  –  2 / no more than 3
cleaning products  – 8 / 10
vacuums  –  1 / 1 per floor
sets of dishes  – 1 set of 12 / 3 sets at most
beach towels  –  5 / 2 per person
spatulas  –  4 / 2 per size
hats  –  5 summer hats, 5 winter hats / 4 per person
containers for leftovers  –  25 / no more than 35
craft projects started  –  4 / 3
open bottles of shampoo  –  2 / 2
conditioner  –  1 / 2
dish detergent  –  1 / 1
laundry detergent  –  1 / 1
hand soap  –  2 / 1 per sink
items on refrigerator  –  10 / leave 2/3 of fridge uncovered
boxes of holiday decorations  –  14 small in size / no more than 7 large bins
salt & pepper shakers  –  1 / 2
pairs of glasses  –  2 /3
flash lights  –  5 / 2 per floor + 1 per car
plastic bags from grocery store  –  10 / 30


©2021  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer |  All Rights Reserved