Organizing can be this way: You start with a desire to make something better and more efficient. You get started on that single task, but then you find that one thing leads to another, and suddenly you’re going on an unexpected journey around your home or office. Sound familiar?

The interconnectedness of the seemingly disparate parts that make up workable and efficient systems is among the many features I love about the organizing process. It takes you places, it helps you discover things, and it lets you improvise along the way. There are no “rights” or “wrongs” but what works for you, the individual. The process can be overwhelming and a complete diversion that ends in a larger sense of disarray than you could ever have imagined. I’ve been there. Who knew that giving laundry day a lift would provide one such voyage. (more…)

I love simplicity. I seek it out and it seeks me. Summertime seems to bring it to the surface: the non-essentials are stripped away and longer warmer days slow me down and invite me to savor whatever inspires and comes my way.

So what is simplicity?

Simplicity is about finding magic in the mundane. It’s about an unlikely pair – a garden hose and a shoe rack – becoming friends. It’s a backyard garden party with a “cup rinsing region.”

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A long ago discarded pair of pants are hanging over my desk. Well, that’s partially true. To be precise, parts of my pants and parts of two other peoples’ pants are hanging over my desk in a wall warming creation called The Traveling Elephant Quilt.

quilt hanging on office wall

detail of elephant quiltdetail of pants in quilt

The elephants are parading through space to an unknown destination, but the “traveling” part of the piece hails from my insanely talented, creative, and silly friend, Sharon. Throughout the earlier part of this year, I received sporadic emails from her that read, “Now where? Hee hee,” and “Elephants in Orleans, CA?” (more…)

Once upon a time, I decided it’d be cool to learn how to make a gigantic flat of luscious tomatoey goodness last a long long time. I would purchase San Marzanos from my friends at Mariquita Farm and turn them into sauce that I would stow in the freezer for the winter months. Freezing was great, but longevity was limited.

I’d always wanted to try my hand at canning, but the risk of accidentally creating a lethal stockpile of botulism kept any attempts at bay. I wanted professional guidance and in 2009, I stumbled upon classes offered by a the folks of Happy Girl Kitchen Co., a local independent producer of yummy things in jars. (Trust me, try the okra sometime!)

I signed up without hesitation and took a class…

tomatoes!chopping tomatoes

tomatoes and basil ready for canningjars of tomatoes in the canning pots

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Last week I learned that I am a finalist in the 2011 Los Angeles Organizing Awards for The Green Award for Most Eco-Friendly Organizing Service. And guess what? Voting is open to the public, and you can cast your vote here until December 24. (Just when you thought voting season was over!) (more…)

plastic bags knitted or crocheted into a reusable bag“Paper or plastic?” may soon be obsolete…at least in California. On June 2, the California State Assembly passed a bill (AB 1998) to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. The bill goes to the Senate later this month, and if it passes, the golden state will become the first in the union to ban the option.

In San Francisco, there is already a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags at chain grocery stores and pharmacies, and today, an expansion of the existing legislation is being introduced that could lead to more extensive city-wide elimination of plastic bags. This prospect makes someone like me very very happy.

The SF Department of the Environment provided a startling figure at their booth at a local farmer’s market last week: 380 billion single-use plastic bags consumed in the U.S. each year, and that translates to 1,500 per person. California consumes 19 billion of those bags each year – more than any other state. These numbers are astounding. Things have to change, and thankfully they are…slowly but surely. (more…)

Photo courtesy of Paho Mann (www.pahomann.com)

The ubiquitous junk drawer. It is the centralized repository where a plethora of useful and not-so-useful, like and not-so-like items seems to congregate. Think about it. Where else might you find a yo-yo with a broken string, rolls of tape, keys to unknown locks, full and half-used matchbooks, loose buttons, an undeveloped roll of film, outdated menus, loose change, and questionable batteries in one place?

The junk drawer seems to be a socially acceptable place for disarray. My professional organizer ears have heard few people express embarrassment about the condition of theirs. The drawer offers regular opportunity for impromptu treasure hunts. It also serves as a safe haven for things that are in the process of finding their way “home,” or that have no place else to live until, perhaps, they eventually find their way to the trash. For many, this collection and dispersal system works just fine.

But what if you wanted to rethink the junk drawer and remove some of the junk to make way for the more functional? (more…)

a free chair left on the sidewalkI heard about Give Your Stuff Away Day (today, May 15th) while on the phone with a colleague many weeks ago. She was checking her e-mail when she commented about an interesting link that had been forwarded by another professional organizer.

For those of us in the business, seeing people let go of things in order to pass them on to others is a regular occurrence, though for many, such an act can be an emotional and moral struggle. I have found that it is easiest for folks to say good-bye to anything when they realize their once treasure will become someone else’s new treasure. (more…)

Nearly a year and a half ago, my research about clothing recycling options led to an invitation for a personal tour of the San Francisco-based processing facility of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties.

Each regional Goodwill chapter is at liberty to establish its own programs and initiatives, and locally, these focus on the following triple bottom line: job training and skills development, revenue generation, and recycling.

Goodwill Industries San Francisco’s commitment to a sustainable environment has led to the creation of an environmental business which includes creative reuse, retail sales, and bulk materials sales that combined, keep tons of material out of the landfill. Among this is an annual 260 tons of salvage textiles.

Here’s a photo essay (of course my camera was in tow!) that reveals what can happen to clothing and textiles: (more…)

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