Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jewelry on display

I just set up an area for my jewelry to live. I have a wonderful jewelry tree that I got a couple of years ago that easily holds necklaces, bracelets and dangly earrings. The amount of jewelry that you see in the picture is probably about half of what I have. The rest is resting comfortably in the drawer below, waiting to get cycled back in. The silver jewelry box was a gift from my Aunt Lelah, and it holds all of my stud earrings. I like the blue dish because it gives me a colorful way to display some heavier pieces. Right now it has a few gold-colored items and I think they look nice together. I really enjoy displaying my jewelry, because when I'm wearing it I don't really get to look at it. My sister-in-law made many of the pieces hanging from the tree. She's a jewelry genius.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bathroom blitz

Inspired by a session I had with a client recently, I de-cluttered my toiletries and makeup. Going through the bathroom drawers and cabinets to toss old makeup and bath products is just as satisfying as going through the fridge and tossing out old food. It's also just as important. When you open your fridge, it's pretty obvious what items are past their prime, and you don't hesitate to throw them away because you know eating them could make you sick. The same thing goes for expired and old makeup. Germs abound in mascara, lipstick, anything you touch with your body parts, and the ingredients in lotions and makeups will go bad after a while.

Here are some guidelines about how long it's safe to keep and use these products, but it's really pretty simple: if it smells funny, throw it away. If you didn't remember owning it, throw it away. If it was your wedding makeup and you are no longer a newlywed, throw it away.

Tiny samples of expensive lotions that you've been saving up - either use them in the next week, or throw them away. If you find a bunch of travel-sized toiletries items, consider donating them. Here's my post about how to do that: Travel size toiletries donation.

Your bathroom will feel lighter, cleaner and you won't be worried that the next mascara you pick up is going to give you an eye infection!

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by pawpaw67

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Video review: Slimline hangers

I recently purchased a set of Real Simple slimline hangers in the color stone. Here's my video review:

Have you used another brand? What do you think?

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

IKEA season

IKEA is a magical place, where you can find almost any kind of furniture solution that you need for a reasonable price, while breathing the particle-board scented air, munching on Swedish meatballs and cinnamon buns and ultimately trying to fit extraordinarily long and heavy cardboard boxes filled with wood into your car.

My husband I have many, many pieces of IKEA furniture in our apartment. We just added a few more, as we ended up with some holes in our furniture floor plan after the move. Every time we go, we are reminded how awesome it is to have all the great choices, all the creative flourishes, all the macaroni and cheese you could want for $1.99. And they we realize how tiring it is to wind your way through the crowds of people and stuff, and how frustrating it is when they are out of the one thing you need to complete your shopping list, and how heavy these things are after you wedge them into the car, and when you have unload them at home and then spend three hours constructing an eight-drawer dresser.

Tips for getting the most out of IKEA:

  • Don't go on the weekend. Trust me, I've been there three times in the last week. The two times I went on a weekday, it was a breeze. On Sunday, it was a battle.
  • Go in pairs. You need someone to help maneuver the cart and all the oversized stuff. And someone to get the car while you wait with your giant boxes at the curb so you don't put your back out hauling them two blocks to the car.
  • Leave lots of time. Time can sort of stop when you are wandering around all the bedroom sets and kitchen floorplans. 
  • Eat a lot before, during and after to keep your strength up. I like to finish with a cinnamon bun on the way out. And don't forget to stay hydrated.
  • Make a list before you go of what you really need. Otherwise, when you get the Marketplace downstairs with all the 99 cent boxes and trash cans and whatnot, you'll be overwhelmed and end up buying tons of stuff you don't really need.
  • Try to limit your IKEA shopping trips to once a year. That's about how long it takes to forget the difficulties and start craving Swedish meatballs again.
Good luck, IKEA shoppers. It's worth it, but it helps to be prepared!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Friday, September 17, 2010

Remote organizing

It seems like I've been running into a lot of businesspeople who are branching out into online consulting. They have clients who live outside their normal work radius and they are able to service them by setting up an appointment and connecting via Skype or Google Chat, which has video capabilities. In this way, they can meet with more people who want to hire them, without traveling long distances, which saves both parties money and is also better for one's carbon footprint. At one networking event I attended this week, I spoke with an ayurvedic consultant as well as a pilates trainer who both work with clients in this way.

I'm fascinated by the concept, though I have always thought that "virtual" organizing is tricky. Sure, you can coach people verbally with organizing tips and strategies, but it's tremendously difficult to get an accurate picture of a disorganized situation without seeing it in person. The advent of video calling, made free and easy by fast Internet connections and new technology, makes that more of a possibility. If my client has a laptop equipped with a built in video camera, they can take me on a tour of their space, while I sit at my computer at home and give my expertise.

The drawback to this method is the lack of the hands-on organizing work, which is something that drew me to this field in the first place. I love working with the stuff, organizing it, tossing it out, taming it. It remains to be seen if remote organizing is as effective and satisfying as the traditional kind.

Creative Commons photo posted to flickr by Justin Ruckman.
Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nominate now for the 2011 L.A. Organizing Awards!

The 6th Annual Los Angeles Organizing Awards are set for Saturday, January 29, 2011. The exciting awards show to honor the best in the professional organizing industry will be preceded by a Red Carpet Cocktail Reception beginning with a Gala Industry Exchange. That means, before awards are handed our by our host, you get to mingle with the other attendees and also get exposed to some amazing products and services that are relevant to our field.

There are five finalists in twenty-four categories. Right now, the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (of which I am a member) is soliciting nominations. It's really easy to nominate, you do have to create an account, but you don't have to nominate in every single category, and though they'd like you to provide as much information for each nominee as possible, just do your best. The Awards are not only a fun party, but they can do a lot to raise the profile of an individual organizer. In particular, I would not have bought, read and loved Hellen Buttigieg's book Organizing Outside the Box if she hadn't won best organizing book at the awards last year.

So, you have until September 30th to make your nominations. Then, once the finalists are announced, you get a chance to vote for the winner! (Can you tell I'm on the PR committee of the task force organizing the awards?)

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Moving, stage six

Well, the move happened. The movers came, were awesome (here they are on Yelp, if you need a recommendation in the LA area), and in eight short hours all of our stuff was moved from one place to another. We turned in the keys to our old apartment yesterday. I feel a sense of achievement that all the preparation paid off, as the move itself was pretty stress free. Unfortunately, I didn't really anticipate how much work there would be to do once we were in the new space.

My husband and I are calling this apartment our "house with training wheels" because it's on the older side and our landlord isn't that hands on. He doesn't mind if we make improvements or changes, but if we want something done, we have to do it ourselves.

A sampling of the things we have done or would like to do to get our living space the way we want it:

  • We had all the locks changed, and a single key fits them all. My key ring is very minimalist now, yay!
  • We bought a lightly used washer and dryer. We hired someone to install them, but with a couple of Internet searches we could have probably done it ourselves. Next time, we'll know.
  • We've blown a fuse a few times already by using too many appliances at once. Not sure how to address that issue, but for now, we're trying to use things one at a time.
  • Right now we have vertical blinds, and we'd like to make (or convince my sister-in-law to "help" us make) curtains for our many lovely windows.
  • We have hardwood floors for the first time, and we're going to apply felt pads to the bottoms of our furniture to avoid scrapes.
  • We have lots of wonderful storage spaces, but deciding where to store what things is harder than I thought. I'm reminding myself that we have to live in the space for a while before we'll know what makes the most sense.
I could go on, but that would just be a to do list for me and you probably aren't very interested in that. Suffice to say, even though the moving part is over, the work of setting up house is definitely not. And for better or worse, there's no deadline (yet! I'm considering scheduling a housewarming party to create one.) and we can take our time setting things up the way we want them.

Thanks for listening throughout this process. If you're contemplating a move, getting a professional organizer in to help you shed things before you pack stuff you don't need, use or like is a great first step!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Moving: stage five

So the heat is on now that movers have been scheduled for Friday. I have never moved with professional movers before, and I am tremendously excited. The last time I moved was five years ago, and I remember the aggravation of trying to get my couch up a flight of stairs and around several corners. I did it, with the help of my husband, my father, my sister and a surreptitious dismantling of an emergency exit sign. Though I'm not sure how the movers will choose to remove the couch and get it into the new apartment, I figure they have experience with this sort of thing and it will work out.

My sister and the couch, September 2005.
There are a few things on the to do list before they get here, though. We are mostly packed, so today we're going to focus on getting the new place painted and clean. The apartment has already been painted a lovely navajo white, but we are adding color to three rooms. Painting is physically demanding, but also satisfying. Once I get into the groove, I like seeing the fresh color bloom across the walls. Pulling off the painters tape once everything is dry is quite pleasurable.

I normally use painters tape with clients to create handy temporary or semi-permanent labels; I've enjoyed using it for its proper purpose of paint prep.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A year ago: Preparedness, professional organizing and the Butler Bag

Here are selection of posts from late summer 2009. September has sort of snuck up on my this year, as I've been out of town, but I'm looking forward to fall as the weather changes (slightly--I am in Southern California), and as a culture we experience a renewal with back-to-school time and start peeking our heads around the corner to that most anticipated and dreaded time of year, the "holidays."

Are you an overbuyer? If so, you may need a professional organizer's help to tame your possessions and streamline your life.

September is National Preparedness Month. Are you prepared for the little and big things that might come your way today, this week, this year?

The 7 things that should be in every glove compartment.

A year later, I'm still in love with my Butler Bag. It keeps me organized and its bright red color energizes me. Only complaint - it can get very heavy - so I tend not to use it if I'm going to be spending a lot of time walking around.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hoarding stuff

In the course of my professional organizing business, I do not work with extremely chronically disorganized people. I generally work with people who are mildly disorganized and need extra help with their things. People often call me for a specific organizing project that they need help with, or to kick-start their own organizing efforts. There are some professional organizers who exclusively work with people with severely cluttered homes. These types of clients are often called hoarders, and they have come into the public eye of late with television shows like A&E's Hoarders. Below is a billboard for the upcoming season that I saw in New York last week.

The illustrates in very simple terms one aspect of what being a hoarder implies and is like. But the fact that the show is ostensibly for entertaining people surprises me. I'm currently reading a book on the subject of hoarding called Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. The book illustrates the dimensions of hoarding disorders from a scientific basis and through case studies with people who have worked with the authors over the years of their research. Unlike most books I read for my work, I would not recommend this one to the general public, unless you are dealing with a hoarding tendency in yourself or know someone who is a hoarder and want to gain insight into their situation. The book is very clear and well written, but the subject matter is heavy and the lives of the people documented can be depressing, though from a professional standpoint, the common traits that hoarders tend to posses are interesting to learn about.

I don't watch the show Hoarders, but I can understand the fascination people have for seeing how some people with the disorder live. Frost and Steketee site statistics that say 2-5% of the population may be hoarders. That is a lot of people, and shedding further light on this issue will surely help those affected by it.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email