the shrink ‘rap: issue 2

the shrink ‘rap: issue 2

In this issue:


Back to School

Organizing children for the daily school routine

It’s time for the kids to go back to school. Some of you might be sad, as the beginning of the school year always marks the end of the summer. It seems like time is flying by and you’ve enjoyed the extra time with your children. Others of you might be smiling (go ahead, you can admit it) that you may finally have some more time to get things done while the children are at school. Regardless of how you are feeling, the transition from summer into a new school year is always a change and sometimes a challenge.

Here are a few tips to ease the transition:

  • Reestablish the daily school day routine at the end of the summer by reinstating school day bedtimes. Likewise, get the family accustomed to waking up earlier by setting the alarm clocks for the same time you set them during the school year.
  • Set up a designated area of your home where your children can leave papers for you to review and sign. Possible suggestions – a basket near the front door, a file folder (one per child) on the kitchen counter or desk, or a binder that is kept on a family room shelf.
  • Avoid the last minute scurrying around the house trying to remember what your child needs to bring to school each day. Assign a basket, box, or shelf for each child near the door that he/she uses every morning when he/she leaves for school. This site can be the “drop” site for all items that need to be taken to school the next day – backpack, signed forms, lunch money, show and tell items, umbrella etc. Just grab the items and go!
  • Make sure you have a functional family planning calendar or system for keeping track of each family member’s activites. If your family is disorganized you’ll find yourself forgetting soccer practice or missing ballet lessons. Know when it’s your turn to carpool.
  • If you don’t want to struggle with algebra at 9:30pm, then establish a rule that your child needs to do his/her homework after school before going out to play or meet with friends. That way if he/she has difficulty with homework, you can be available and alert to help. If homework isn’t started until 9:00pm and your child needs some assistance at 9:30pm, it will surely be a long night for everyone. (And guess who has to drag them out of bed in the morning?)
  • Meet with your child(ren) at the end of each week and talk about what you (or they) are going to make for lunch all week. Asking your children for their input on what they want to eat helps them learn to plan, shows you care, and will most likely save you money. (Do you know how many sandwiches get thrown out at lunch because kids don’t like what their parents pack them?)

back to top

Time to Change

Change and organize your wardrobe for fall

The fall is my favorite time of year. I celebrate my birthday and my anniversary, and I start my holiday shopping. I enjoy the changing leaves and welcome the cooler weather. I’m so energized by the changing of seasons and somehow feel more relaxed as it starts to get darker earlier. Perhaps I feel that if it’s light outside I should still be working. I am energized by the wardrobe changes that I get to make in mid-September. But I know there are some of you that dread the task of lugging your summer clothes to the basement or making room for them in the back of your closet.

I offer these suggestions to help you change your wardrobe for fall (assuming you need to do this and don’t live in a tropical climate like Florida).

  • First things first. Don’t waste time packing up summer items for storage that you didn’t wear this year. If you didn’t wear it this year, you’re probably not going to wear it next year. Even if you do, it may not be in style.
  • Spots, tears or missing buttons on your favorite shorts? Ask yourself, “Am I going to be able to repair these shorts?” If so, “Is it worth it financially and timewise for me to make the repairs?”. If not, get rid ot the shorts. If you are going to repair an item, make the repairs before you store it. If you don’t do it now, you probably won’t do it next year. Why take up space storing damaged items?
  • There are always those in-between days when it’s not cold enough for a heavy sweater but not hot enough for short sleeves. Don’t make the mistake of packing away all of your t-shirts. Leave some out to layer under other articles of clothing for those warmer days.
  • If you’re waiting for the day when you’re going to lose weight and fit into your favorite pair of jeans again, remind yourself that if you lose weight you are going to be SO happy that you will want NEW jeans in the current style. If you MUST keep a “when I lose weight item”, only keep one item, not your entire wardrobe from high school. Times change, and so do you. Reward weight loss with new clothes, not clothes that tie you to your past.
  • Store sandals/summer shoes and accessories in plastic storage containers. Label each container, and if you have multiple family members, consider purchasing containers with a different color lid for each family member. Stored shoes may lead to stinky containers. Drop an air freshener or a few fabric sheets in each container to minimize odors. Rolling up old newspaper and stuffing it inside shoes will also minimize odors. If you do this, be careful with fabric or light colored shoes because the newspaper print may transfer on to the shoes.
  • Make room in your front closet or mudroom for gloves, scarves and hats. Store them in a basket or stuff individual items into the pockets of a hanging shoe rack.
  • Store hanging summer items in plastic garment bags to keep the dust bunnies away.
  • Fold short sleeve shirts and shorts neatly before storing them in stacking or under the bed plastic containers.
  • Do not store clothing unless it has been laundered. Otherwise, the dirt will set in and may cause other items in close proximity to smell.
  • As you move your fall wardrobe into your drawers and closet, place the items you use most frequently in the most accessible places. If you only wear a suit once a month, put your suits toward the back of the closet. Keep undergarments and socks in your top drawers.
  • Group like items together. It will be easier to get dressed in the morning and to figure out what you want to wear if all of your shirts, pants and/or skirts, and blazers are grouped together.
  • While unpacking your fall clothing, evaluate each piece and ask yourself if you love it, need it, look good in it, feel comfortable in it and plan to wear it. If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, consider donating your unwanted items to a shelter or other non-profit agency.

back to top

Kitchen Basics

Organizing your kitchen for maximum efficiency

A kitchen is the most frequently used room in a house. It’s often COMMAND CENTRAL for many families. To make the kitchen functional for the multitude of activities that take place there requires organization. Consider how each family member uses the kitchen and set up the organization system accordingly.

  • Consider each family member’s height when putting frequently used items in drawers or cabinets. If you have young children who are able/allowed to get their own water from the refrigerator, store their plastic cups in a lower cabinet. Doing so will give them independence, keep them from nagging you to get them a drink and prevent them from climbing up on the counter to get a glass. If the person who cooks most frequently is on the shorter side, do not store items like cooking spray or spices on the top shelves. Convenience is key to an organized kitchen. Make sure frequently used items are easy to reach for those who need to reach them and out of reach for those that don’t (for safety reasons of course.)
  • When planning your meals for the week, review your family calendar. If you plan big meals for the week and then remember the scheduled activities, food may be wasted.
  • Create a master list of food and staple items that you purchase from the grocery store. Make multiple copies of this list and hang one on the refrigerator or inside a cabinet. When someone finishes up an item, a check should be marked next to that item on the list. When you head off to the grocery store, grab the list and go! Decrease the time you spend creating your shopping list. (Remember to add items for new recipes or special treats to the list before you go to the store.)
  • Use hooks or small wire baskets inside cabinet doors to create more storage space. Hooks are great for dish towels and pot holders, and wire baskets make small items like spices and sponges easily accessible.
  • Use drawer organizers to keep your silverware and utensils organized. You can purchase stacking drawer organizers to double the drawer space.
  • Keep your kitchen up to date by throwing away expired products and duplicate utensils.
  • If you only use small appliances like your food processor twice a year, consider storing them outside of the kitchen in the garage, basement or hall closet.
  • Utilize the space above your cabinets for decorative pottery or appliances that are used infrequently.
  • To keep cereals, crackers and snack foods fresh, use clear vacuum sealed plastic storage containers. They allow you to see when you are running low, keep out air and bugs, and stack neatly to conserve space.

back to top

Water Cooler Rap – Simple Tips for Daily Living

Quick tips for dealing with E-mail

  • Schedule specific times during the day to check your e-mail (i.e. when you first log on to your computer, right before lunch, and before you turn off your computer for the day). Resist the urge to check it every 15 minutes, as this wastes time and causes you to lose focus on other tasks that you were working on or still need to complete.
  • Set up subfolders within your Inbox for categories relevant to your personal and/or professional life (i.e. e-mails from or related to clients, projects, family).
  • Establish filters for incoming e-mail so that your messages get directed to specific folders.
  • Delete junk mail immediately. Likewise, if you receive travel alerts from sites such as Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and you know that you are not going to be traveling within the next few months, delete them. These types of e-mails are useful when you are making travel plans. Otherwise, they just act as distractions and take up valuable space in your Inbox.
  • Make sure to include a subject in each e-mail message that you send and ask your contacts to do the same. A subject in the subject line can typically clue you in regarding whether you or not you need to respond to the e-mail ASAP or can wait until later.
  • If you need to send someone a large file (pictures, a multi-page spreadsheet), ask them how they would like you to send it – as a ZIP file or as individual files in a few separate e-mail messages. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a system freeze due to a file that is too large for your system to process. If you know someone is sending you a large file, state your preference regarding how you would like to receive attachments via e-mail.
  • Don’t assume that everyone reads their e-mail messages as frequently as you do. If you really have a time sensitive issue and suspect that the individual may not read your message in a timely fashion, call the person instead.
  • Conserve space in your e-mail by saving messages to your e-mail systems’ Personal Folder or a drive on your network. Have you ever tried to send a message or not received one because your e-mail system was full?

back to top

We’re excited to include our first submissions to The ‘Shrink Rap’s “Ask the Organizer” section. Please continue to submit your questions by e-mailing them to Every submitted question related to organizing will be included in a future issue of The ‘Shrink Rap.

Ask the Organizer

Q: How do you organize all of the paperwork that comes home from school? With 2 children in school this fall and 2 to follow in years to come, I want to organize completed school work, school newsletters, lunch menus, PTA info, school calendars, etc. – Tiffany, Florida

A: Tiffany,
Your best bet is to have two filing systems – one for current or upcoming events (the week’s lunch menu, newsletters about upcoming meetings, papers to sign) and one for past or completed documents (graded school work).

Keep the documents for current or upcoming events near your family calendar so you can mark due dates or events on the calendar as soon as you receive each paper. Keeping the system near the calendar will also provide you with easy access to review, sign and/or respond to the paperwork before the due date. I recommend a free-standing hanging file system with one folder for each child. Assign each child a color and then use a corresponding colored marker to note events on your calendar for that child. Another option is to use a binder with divider tabs and set up a separate section for each child. You can punch holes in the documents or to save time, just slip each document into a plastic sleeve.

The key to maintaining your second system for completed school work is to throw out irrelevant information as soon as it becomes dated. Old lunch menus and notices about past field trips and parent/teacher meetings can be thrown out as soon as the date has passed. Completed school work can be filed in a standard file drawer or box, using one box or drawer per child. If the child is older, it may be helpful to file the work by subject with one folder for each subject.

At the end of the year, sit down with each child, clear out the files and sort through the school work from the previous year. Instead of keeping every spelling test marked A+, just keep the one with the most difficult words on it. Keep special projects or artwork of significance, not every drawing your child created during the year. If you keep everything, you will be left with mountains of paper after a few years and a lack of storage as your children continue to create masterpieces. Purchase an acid-free memorabilia box ( to preserve the special projects and papers from the previous year and add to it as each year passes.

Q: My husband and I have let our travel photos get way behind – years’ worth. Now, it seems like an impossible task to even begin trying to organize them. We have envelopes and envelopes of photos. We also don’t know whether it would be best to put them in yet another big photo album, or whether organizer boxes or some other system would be better. How do you address clients’ needs when they have a lot of photos to organize? We don’t use a digital camera yet, so we don’t have CD/ROM/digital as an option.

Another problem we have relative to photos is: What do we do with the albums once they’re filled? We have many albums, and most of them are different types and sizes. We presently have them stored in an antique trunk, but the trunk is so heavy, we can barely move it. We seldom get in it to look at it because it’s such a task to get to them. With this many albums, what’s the best way to store and display THOSE? We already have bookshelves, but those are overflowing with books – another problem. – Janice, Nebraska

A: Janice,
The first thing you need to do is schedule a time to start organizing your photos. If you wait until you have some “free” time, you’ll be waiting forever and the pictures will continue to pile up.

Once you have scheduled a day to start the organizing process, figure out whether you want to organize the photos by events (such as a vacation), year or the people in the photos. Start sorting the piles accordingly, and make sure to label each pile. At the beginning, don’t concern yourself whether they’re organized within each category. Just get everything into the appropriate major category.

Consider having family and friends over to help with the process, especially if they are in the pictures. It’s a great time to reminisce, get help with the project and spend time with loved ones. Order take-out or serve hors d’oeuvres so you can take a break and relax when needed. Offer friends and family copies or negatives of pictures.

Make sure to toss pictures that are blurry or contain images of people you don’t know or remember!

Once you have all the pictures filed into the major categories, then work on one pile at a time to divide the pictures up into smaller categories. For example, if you have a major category entitled 1977, sort the pictures within that pile into the 2 separate vacations you took 1977, each family member’s birthday in 1977 etc. Then you can put each of the smaller piles in chronological order (only if you care to of course).

Follow this process until you have sorted through every major category of pictures. Now it’s time to put them all away!

You have a few options. You can continue to use albums or purchase some photo boxes. You can also scan your pictures into your computer by using a scanner and save them on your computer, CD or disk.

If you decide to use albums or photo boxes and are interested in preserving the photos so they don’t tear or yellow, you will need to invest some money in purchasing acid-free pages or boxes. Some places to try for acid-free photo storage solutions –,,

Photo boxes may be a better option in terms of storage for a few reasons. Putting photos in piles for photo boxes is a lot less time consuming than putting each photo in an album page. Photo boxes are also smaller and can be stacked on top of one another to preserve storage space. These boxes can be stored on top of bookshelves, in closets, under the bed etc.

If you continue to use albums, I would recommend finding a style that you like and purchasing multiple albums in the same style and size. In addition to using your antique trunk for the storage of albums, you can also put them in stacking baskets or decorative boxes.

One thing to keep in mind – Do not store photos in extreme or damp climates as these conditiions will damage the pictures. Make sure to label your computer files/disks, boxes or albums so you can retrieve photos easily.

Good luck!

back to top

Need more help getting organized? Call Cluttershrink® for more information on receiving hands-on assistance organizing your home, office or relocation. Phone consultations, customized seminars, mentoring for new organizers and gift certificates are also available. Call 215.431.0590 or e-mail Crystal Sabalaske at

Posted in Ask the Organizer, Clothing, E-mail, Filing, Kids, Kitchen, Mail, Photos