Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tips and Tools: Holiday gift getting

Right about now is a good time to think about gifts that you would like to receive for the winter holiday of your choice. Even if you tell them not to get you anything, you will still likely receive some presents from friends and family. Brainstorm some ideas…stuff you need, stuff you think it would be cool to have that you would never buy for yourself, stuff that won't clutter up your home (think consumables and gifts of experiences). Then, drop some hints to those people who typically get you presents in conversation by first asking them what they want (also good to know for planning purposes), and following up with a few things you want.

I love getting handmade soap as a gift.

The best way to get what you want is to give a clear idea of what you’d like, and most people will be grateful for any hints of what to get you. It’s tough to come up with brilliant gift ideas at least twice a year (birthday, Christmas) for the same people over and over. So help them out, and maybe get something you really want this year.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by soapylovedeb

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 28, 2009

10 best reasons to get organized

I've been giving a lot of thought to the tangible benefits of getting and staying organized. I see them in my own life, and in my clients' lives every day, but I wanted to share a few of them here.

  1. Save time: always know where to find things.
  2. Save money: never have to buy duplicates of things you already own but can’t find.
  3. Improve your financial situation: no more late fees or dings on your credit score for not paying bills on time.
  4. Increase efficiency: make lists so you only have to go to stores once to get everything you need, group errands geographically and use the Internet to cut down on trips to faraway places by having things delivered.
  5. Increase your sense of calm: lessen the day-to-day chaos in your life and focus on the things that are most important to you.
  6. Decrease friction with people you live with: when there’s a sense of organization and a place for everything, discord over people’s stuff (usually) goes away.
  7. Broaden the scope of your physical and mental world: when we feel held back by disorganization and chaos, we use it as an excuse not to redecorate the apartment that is stuck in 1988, or not to embark on a creative project we’ve been thinking about for years. No more excuses. Do it!
  8. Give loved ones security: having your end of life wishes written down, your estate planning finished and a plan for how to dispose of your property after your death lessens the stress that your loved ones will have to endure during that difficult time. Do you really want to leave a house crammed top to bottom with stuff for your kids and grandkids to deal with one day?
  9. Make emergency situations easier: when you’re prepared for emergencies with important papers, information and objects located, backed up and insured, those difficult times will be less so.
  10. Increase happiness: if your neutral mode for going through life is an organized one, it makes it possible for the ups to go higher and the downs to dip shallower. Try it!
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 25, 2009

Organizer’s blog digest 5

Check it out! Here are some of the best of the best organizing-related blog posts I've seen lately.

Brandie Kajino, the Home Office Organizer, has a guest blogger this week, Jeri Dansky, who finds amazing and beautiful organizing products on her blog Jeri's Organizing and Decluttering News. Jeri's post talks about the ten best office organizing products, and boy are they great. This is a must read! I especially love her straight line filing method and the mention of an in box. My in box is a huge part of my organizational system.
The Bneato blog has been running a series about key clutter all week. Definitely a good idea to take a look at your key ring and take off any that don't open anything you own anymore (such as a car you sold three years ago). Here's one of their posts on recycling your old keys as scrap metal.

Mandi at Organizing Your Way has been covering a really important topic this week: digital clutter and the best way to organizing your computer files. There's lots of great info there, but I particularly think her post on backup solutions is a great overview of the options out there. Read it, then go backup!!!

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 24, 2009

Pre-holiday organizing

The holiday season seems to encroach upon us earlier and earlier every year, so I’m reluctant to even bring it up in this last full week of September, but we’re on that slippery, speedy downhill slope towards Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/etc. I love all of those holidays and the fall-to-winter season in general, but I truly feel that they are best enjoyed in small doses. If you spend three months prepping for Christmas, you’re going to be all Merry Christmas-ed out by the time the 25th comes around, let alone be raring to party on New Year’s Eve.

However, you can do a bit of pre-holiday organizing that hopefully won’t kill the holiday joy in you yet. Here are some ideas for getting the process gently started:

  • Popular Halloween costumes can sell out early, so plan ahead if you’re going to purchase topical costumes.
  • Don’t buy Halloween candy far in advance unless you have a place to store it where it won’t get raided before the 31st. If not, you’ll just have to buy more when the holiday actually arrives.
  • Think about ordering your Thanksgiving turkey in advance if you want a specialty one, such as an organic free range bird.
  • Book holiday airplane flights now, in addition to rental car and hotel reservations if necessary.
  • Keep an eye open for deals on holiday cards and stock up in advance if you really like the card, the price and have somewhere to put them out of sight until Thanksgiving.
  • Order holiday stamps online and have them delivered with your mail.
  • Plan your gifts budget ahead of time. Instead of having a massive credit card bill in December or January, open a savings account for your holiday gifts and have money deposited automatically each month into year all year long, then you can pay cash for presents.
  • Think about gifts you can buy online and have delivered by the company, avoiding post office lines.
  • Alternately, consider patronizing local businesses for your holiday shopping to help the local economy, and make sure you bring a good book to the post office with you.
  • Brainstorm clutter-free gifts that your friends and family might like and that you and your family might like to give. Clutter-free gifts can be consumables, gift cards or gifts of experiences or services.

Good luck getting through the next 91 days!

Creative Commons candy corn photo posted to Flickr by calmdownlove

Creative Commons Christmas card photo posted to Flickr by wordridden

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 21, 2009

Tips and Tools: Informative notes

When you are filing something away—whether it is an invoice, photograph or business card—you always think you’ll remember what service you invoiced for, who that guy standing next to your sister in the photograph is, and which florist handed you her card at your last business mixer. But more often than not you won't remember that information a week, let alone a year, down the line.

So, when you’re doing the action of filing, take an extra second and a permanent marker to write as much extra info on the item as you can to give yourself context in the future when you need to recall information about it. That extra information will help you decide if you want to keep the invoice, will help you (and your kids, and your grandkids!) know that that guy was your sister’s friend Juan, and will help you remember that you met the florist at the business mixer in the fall of ’09 and she said she’d give you 15% off if you used her services. The added notes will also make it easier to decide if it’s okay to let go of that item when you’re paring down your files, your photos or your business cards.

So, keep a pencil and Sharpie always at the ready and mark down names, dates, events, descriptions and even a “discard after” date if you are really feeling confident!

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 18, 2009

Tips and Tools: Media clutter

Do you have any media for which you no longer have the player? With media formats being tweaked and upgraded all the time, it's time to realize that your VHS tape collection is now totally out of date. If you don’t have a VHS player, please get rid of all your old tapes. You can donate them or unload them on Freecycle if you don’t feel comfortable just trashing them. eHow actually has some unique and useful ideas for recycling VHS tapes. Also, be sure to check your tapes for personal ones before getting rid of them. Family videos can be transferred to DVD at lots of local places and also by mail. I’ve used VHS to DVD and had a good experience, but I’ve heard good things about Costco’s service. Locally, ScanDigital has good word-of-mouth.

Don’t stop with VHS. Audio cassettes, laserdiscs, film and floppy disks are all becoming archaic, and if you don’t regularly use them, either get rid of them or safely store the ones you can’t bear to part with. By no means keep them in the prime real estate near your television, home theater or computer. Only keep current, watched media next to where you use it.

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by jm3

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 14, 2009

The story of the rubber cement

One of my favorite creative projects is to make collages out of photos and words found in magazines and newspapers. They make great cards since you can personalize them or make them themed. They are also a nice way to reuse reading materials you’ve finished with and give them new life, as well as are easy to make and inexpensive. All you need is some cardboard or paper and glue.

I like to use rubber cement to affix the pieces of my collages because it is fast drying and doesn’t make a big mess. The last time I made a collage, I thought I put the pot of rubber cement in the upper left hand drawer of my desk, where always keep it, but when I went to glue something a few weeks later, it wasn’t there. I spent several minutes looking in each of my desk drawers, then in the art supplies, then in the kitchen drawers. I couldn’t figure out where the rubber cement had gone. I asked the other person who lives in my house. He told me he hadn’t used it or put it anywhere else. I believed him...really! I was frustrated, because I ended up having to tape the thing I wanted to glue.

I didn’t want to buy a new bottle, not so much because of the $1.59 expense, but because I knew I had a bottle and did not want to clutter up my house with a duplicate, since I was sure the one I had misplaced would turn up. I held strong, didn’t buy a replacement, and sure enough, one day I opened the top desk drawer for a paper clip. The orange lettering on the back of the rubber cement bottle suddenly caught my eye. The rubber cement had been put back in the wrong drawer, and I hadn’t ever seen it when I opened up that drawer to look for it. I was relieved, to say the least, and immediately glued the thing I had taped. Much better. But I recalled the lost minutes of my life looking for the thing in the first place. If only I had been present in the moment of putting away the glue and put in its regular drawer, just a few inches to the left of where I tossed it in a hurry to clean up my project mess.

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 8, 2009

Reviewed: Butler Bag

After having long coveted one, I received a Hybrid Butler Bag in Red Licorice for my birthday last month. I immediately switched the contents of my old purse, also a bright red color, which had always garnered lots of compliments, but was wearing out after three years of continuous use. It took about a week to get used to the bag’s layout of compartments and figure out how to best use them, but once I got the hang of it, I fell in love.

The beauty of the Butler Bag is that there is only so much room to hold stuff, and no more. The compartments are dedicated spaces for you to put your belongings, so you can keep your makeup in one, your cell phone in another, etc. But there is not unlimited space. At first I couldn’t figure out where to put my iPod Touch, notebook or reading book, but then I realized there is wonderful space on either side of the built-in compartments perfect for storing something hard and flat, like a book or journal. There are also two slim pckets on the outside of either end. I haven’t decided what to use those for yet. They aren’t quite roomy enough to put car keys in, but maybe after I continue breaking in this bag I’ll find a use for them.

Here are some pictures of my bag, empty and full:

And if you like what you see, click here to get the Butler Bag! I'm a Butler Bag affiliate, so if you click on the link and buy something, I'll get a small commission.

I recently found out that they are disctonintuing both the original Butler Bag and the Hybrid, the one I have, for good, and will instead come out with new designs every quarter. I’m sure the new bags will have compartments and be just as functional as the old bags, but I suppose fashion-conscious consumers might want to have the choice of an updated look more frequently.

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 3, 2009

Preparing for every day: Glove compartment

Our cars are an extension of our homes and we spend a ton of time in our cars every week. A glove box or glove compartment is not a place to store empty candy wrappers and take out packets of soy sauce (or, usually, actual gloves). To the contrary, a neat and orderly glove box with a few necessary items can make stressful times like traffic accidents and being pulled over a little bit less intense.

The 7 things that should be in every glove box:

  • current registration for your car (not the registration for every year since you’ve owned the car)
  • current insurance information (again, not every insurance period is necessary. Just what is valid now)
  • pad of paper
  • 2 pens
  • area map (even if you have GPS)
  • extra sunglasses
  • travel pack of tissues

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