Monday, August 31, 2009

National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month. I think this specifically means that this month a spotlight is put on disaster and emergency preparedness by federal agencies. But preparedness is always a good policy, so I think this is a great opportunity to talk about all kinds of preparedness.

I’ve already written about preparing for every day, as well as a bit about preparing for emergencies. Preparedness means being physically and mentally ready for something that is coming down the road. In this sense, organized people are almost always preparing for something. Brushing our teeth and flossing in the morning means we’re preparing to get good marks from our dentist at our check up in three months, as well as preparing to show off our smile to our significant other and to have a successful day at work not worried about our breath. Preparation takes forethought and a bit of effort, but much less effort than it takes to scramble to get something done that could have been done ahead of time.

Preparedness comes in many forms. It can mean preparing for your child to be ready for the school year by stocking up on school supplies, new shoes and getting them a haircut. It can mean preparing for an earthquake by making sure you have adequate earthquake insurance in addition to food, water, cash, battery powered lights, etc. located in your home, office and car. Preparedness can also mean being ready for a flash of inspiration by keeping pen and paper in your purse. You can write down ideas for your blog, phone numbers and email address and a reminder that you need an oil change—something you might remember in the car, but forget by the time you get into your house.

So, in honor of National Preparedness Month, take a moment to think about your life. Are you prepared for dinner tonight (meal prep, clean dishes)? How about for work tomorrow (clean clothes, lunch, presentation materials)? What about for the possibility of getting in a fender bender on the freeway (insurance and registration, paper and pen to exchange details in your glove box) or having your hard drive fail (external back up hard drive or remote storage via the Internet)? Pick one thing you’ve been putting off getting prepared for (making a will, figuring out Thanksgiving plans) and decide to do it this month!

Screenshot from National Preparedness Month website.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by Seattle Municipal Archives

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who needs a professional organizer?

I’ve already written about a few reasons why hiring a professional organizer is a good idea, and here are some more reasons to consider. If you recognize any of the following scenarios in your or a loved one's life, you might want to hire a professional to come in and make some positive changes:

  • You know you have a tape measure somewhere, but it it’s easier and faster to just make a special trip to Home Depot to buy another one instead of wading through all your stuff to find the one you have.

  • You buy a few packs of undershirts on sale for your significant other since his are all yellow and holey. It turns out the ones you got have the kind of neck he doesn’t like, so you keep meaning to return them, but time goes by and you keep passing the same unopened packs of shirts on a side table for months, until the store won’t take them back anymore.
  • You go grocery shopping and aren’t sure if you need toothpaste or not. You buy it anyway, then go home and find you have an unopened box in each bathroom cupboard and a value-pack in the garage from your last trip to Costco.
  • You buy food items bulk but don’t use up the items quickly enough before they go bad or start gathering dust.
  • You go to your bookshelf and find three copies of the same bestseller you haven’t gotten around to reading but can’t find the Spanish-English dictionary you’re sure you have somewhere that you need in order to translate the manual on programming your DVR, since you can only find the directions in Spanish.

Overbuying is a key sign of disorganization. Imagine the time and money you could save if you could find the tape measure, return the undershirts, knew you already had toothpaste and didn’t have to store items duplicates. If you could put your hands on the English version of your DVR directions, you wouldn’t even need your Spanish-English dictionary, which could be found right where it belongs on the reference shelf of your bookcase. Sounds like it can’t be done? It can, with the help of a professional organizer who can take an outside look at your life and make suggestions that can totally change your perspective and attitude about your time and space. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by redjar

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tiny tech time saving tips

Here are some very quick ideas that can save you a bit of time here and there on your computer. If you find yourself spending a lot of time doing the same thing over and over, take a second to check in with the process and see if there is something you can do to automate it a little bit.

I like Firefox, too.
  • Program your email provider to automatically include a signature with your contact information so you don't have to type your phone number, website, Twitter username or blog url over and over again.
  • If security isn't an issue, use a web browser that offers to save your username and passwords and use that feature.
  • Put your most frequently visited sites as shortcuts in a browser toolbar.
  • Take advantage of autofill. Let your computer and browser earn its keep by guessing what you are typing, and when they get it right, press enter instead of typing out the word or address all the way.
  • If you have new people visiting your home or business frequently, type up a thorough set of directions and save it as a pdf that you can attach in an email. Don't forget to include the full address including zip code so they can map it if they want. If you have a particularly difficult to find location, take a screenshot of it on Google Maps and annotate it with a program like Skitch if necessary.
  • Use the search function on your computer to find missing files. Saving files with names that actually describe the contents will help a lot.
  • Make sure your Internet connection is the fastest possible for your area.
Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by laihiu

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

Favorite organizing tools

I'm a big believer that you don't need anything more than time and a little inspiration to get organized, but there are a few items that can really help you get and stay organized. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Sharpies: It only takes seconds to make a label with a Sharpie and a piece of painter's tape. I prefer black Sharpies and white removable labels.
  • Binder clips: Better than paper clips, and the various sizes hold papers and more together with ease.
  • Apron: Stick your Sharpies, labels, tape and a pair of scissors in the pocket and you are ready for any organizing job.
  • Ziploc bags: Cheap and effective way of corralling everything from crayons to tea bags. Easily labeled with your trusty Sharpie!
  • Clear plastic boxes with snapping lids, preferably from Really Useful Boxes, in a variety of sizes. Get more than once of each size so you can stack them in places like closets and garages.
  • Libraries, or anywhere you can rent or borrow something you only need temporarily.

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

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preparing for moving to college

Though I haven’t had to get ready for back school season in a while, the memories of packing and moving to college are much fresher in my mind. Going away to school for the first time is thrilling, and if you don’t have older siblings or friends to guide you, it can be a bit disorienting to find yourself in a new place, having to bring all the possessions you think you’ll need and want with you. Here are some tips to make that initial transition easier, and more organized:

What to bring:

  • Flip flops, shower caddy
  • Laundry bag. Baskets are nicer, but they take up too much room.
  • Healthy snacks. Skip the candy, ramen and chips and go for dried fruit, nuts and low-fat microwave popcorn (The popcorn smell will be sure to attract some of your hall mates and is a great ice breaker-provided you share).
  • Climate-appropriate clothing. Whether you are moving from southern California to northern, or all the way from Florida to Maine or New York to Hawaii, you’re definitely going to need different outerwear. Don’t be caught sweltering or freezing, research the climate and order clothes online if you can’t get appropriate clothes near you.
  • Fan or white noise machine. A fan will give you an alternative to the background noise of your neighbor's GTA4 marathon and also get some air circulation into your room, avoiding stale smells.
  • Checking account. Well before you leave, set up a checking account at a bank that has branches near your school, if you don’t already have one.
  • Walking shoes. College life invariably involves a lot of walking, especially when you don’t have a car. Be nice to your feet and don’t wear flip flops everywhere.

What to leave:

  • Flats of bottled water, food. You’ll be able to get those things on campus or nearby. You’re going to college, not to a bomb shelter.
  • Expensive electronic equipment. It invites thieves and is usually unnecessary.
  • Formal clothes and shoes. Maybe bring one nice dress or blazer. Otherwise, college tends to be pretty casual. You might want to invest in pajamas that could double as streetwear, though.
  • Any heavy, bulky items or pieces of furniture. Your dorm room will come furnished with the basics, and you probably won’t have room for anything else. Plus, you’ll be moving again, either back home or to a transitional space or new room in four to nine months, and you won’t want to haul or store anything major.
Not a breakfast of champions

These tips will help, but remember, there’s no way to fully prepare for college life before you experience it for yourself, and you're going to make lots of mistakes as well as have the time of your life. So good luck and be safe!

Livable Solutions has more great tips, as does Unclutterer's college life tag.

Creative Commons shower caddy photo posted to Flickr by Noricum

Creative Commons Easy Mac photo posted to Flickr by bucklava

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

Monday, August 10, 2009

Organizer's blog digest: back-to-school

I don't have kids, yet. I don't live with any school-aged kids, and even though I always get that rush of anticipation and possibilities every time I step into a Staples and smell the perfume of binders and pencils, I haven't prepared for a school year in a long time. Also, the second week of August has barely started and I refuse to believe that summer is transitioning into fall, and the school year, so quickly. But apparently it is for many families, so here's a round-up of some great back-to-school advice, tips and organizational know-how for those of you who might need it:
It's good to be back! blogger Melissa Searcy writes about how best to organize your child's closet in preparation for back to school, but the advice is great year-round. So easy to forget that if they can't easily reach the bar, they won't be able to hang up their clothes!

Always-inspiring Aby at Creative Organizing Blog gives some great tips on setting up an organized homework station. Having the right tools might not help homework get finished, but it will help it get started!

Monica Ricci has seven awesome tips for back to school season on her blog Your Life. Organized. As a child I always laid out my next day's clothes before I went to bed...maybe it was sign of my future profession?

As far as school supplies go, Organizing Solutions "Clear the Clutter" has the brilliant idea of checking to see what you have before you go out and buy new. Aby posts about too-cute lunchbox notes, both store bought and homemade.

Finally, here's a breakdown of how to plan your time in the weeks leading up to the first day of school from Shaina at Food for My Family via Mandi at Organizing Your Way. Best tip: start getting your child into the bedtime and wake up schedule that they'll need to be on once school starts a few days early so they will be ready.

Hope this information will help ease your transition from summer to school!

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