Rethinking the “junk” in the junk drawer

Photo courtesy of Paho Mann (

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rolls of tape, keys to unknown locks, full and half-used matchbooks, loose buttons, an undeveloped roll of film, outdated menus, loose change, and questionable batteries in one place?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? Continue reading

New vroom and a little more room…

Sometimes we must say good-bye to an old friend. A couple of months ago, I ended a love/hate relationship with an inexpensive hand mixer that I acquired nearly 18 years ago. It was one of my first appliance purchases when I moved to San Francisco, and being that my apartment then, like every apartment I’ve lived in since, had the notable feature of the mostly counterless kitchen, holding onto this little utilitarian and occasionally used tool made sense. Sort of.

Over the past couple of years, apparently, I uttered a few audible criticisms of the mixer while trying to wrestle batter or potatoes from it’s clutches. It just wasn’t up to snuff, yet, I persevered. Cuisinart hand mixerAnd then came the change I didn’t realize I was waiting for: on my birthday, my sweetie surprised me with a sexy, seven-speed, cranberry-colored hand mixer. Ooooh! I literally jumped for joy when I unwrapped the birthday bundle, but not just because it was really beautiful and made cool vroom vroom! sounds. It had the inherent potential to make some aspects of cooking and mixing things fun again. Continue reading

Revisiting a Rebuilding

It’s early April, and that means Rebuilding Together season is in full bloom. This is my third year participating through the local affiliate – Rebuilding Together San Francisco (RTSF) – of the national organization that brings skilled and unskilled volunteers together to make improvements in the lives of low-income, senior, and disabled homeowners and nonprofit and community facilities.

I realize that for the majority of volunteers, RTSF projects begin and end when the project begins and ends. They get in there, they do the work, and they get to relish in the physical transformation that unfolds beneath their paint brushes and between reaches for their toolbelt. That is one part of the transformation – the visible.

There is also the invisible that happens over a period of time as a homeowner, for example, eases into the changes. Life is suddenly a little bit different and greatly enhanced. They probably have new paint on their walls and the kitchen faucet no longer leaks. It’s possible their belongings have been purged and rearranged and that all takes some getting used to. (Think about a small home remodel and how invigorated yet discombobulated you feel when it’s finished.) As with most clients I’ve had the honor of collaborating with, the result of our work often yields unforeseen changes. Continue reading

She’s got the whole world in her hand

holding a child's artwork and wondering how to recycle it
"The World," by Drew, age 6

It’s a world that brings joy, but it will cause pain if handled without care. This world is made of a crayon-marked crumpled piece of paper gingerly held together by straight pins and a rubber band-as-equator. A hand-drawn American flag impaled by a toothpick marks the location of the creator’s home.

“My brother was making a globe in science class, so I wanted to make one too,” said six-year-old Drew about the inspiration for this piece when I interviewed him via his mother via e-mail.

His mother, my friend Barb, told me about this sweet creation and how she didn’t quite know what to do with it. Continue reading

Outboxing the inbox

a row of rural mailboxesThis may sound somewhat radical, but one of my goals for the year is to have no more than 10 e-mails languishing in my inbox for more than 24 hours at a time. I’m doing this as an experiment to see how feasible it really is, and so far, so good!

Over the past several months, both friends and clients have asked about “the inbox,” and how best to manage all the stuff that keeps on keeping their boxes so full. Unlike the little box at the end of your driveway or the mailbox in the lobby of your apartment building, the capacity of the electronic mailbox is infinite. “To infinity .. and beyond!” as Buzz Lightyear says, is good a good motivational approach for some things, but when it comes to the inbox, it behooves many to rein it in a bit. Continue reading

Organizing POWER

POWER flagOver the past few months, I have been chief instigator and coordinator for a group of fellow San Francisco-based organizers for our participation in Get Organized (GO) Month, an annual event sponsored by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). During our bi-monthly meeting in November, our group of eight agreed to seek out several San Francisco-based nonprofits to which we would offer pro bono organizing services.*

When beginning the search for eligible nonprofits, a call to my esteemed and enthusiastic colleagues at Rebuilding Together San Francisco (RTSF) proved fortuitous on many levels. Their facilities application deadline had just closed for the 2010 National Rebuilding Day activities. Within a day or so, they identified two facilities whose applications specifically mentioned the need for organizing assistance, and one of those seemed to be a likely venue for RTSF’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day undertaking sponsored by Kaiser. There we were, two entities searching for a venue to assist in the month of January. Bingo! Continue reading

Clearing your plate and tidying up 2009

girl licking her plate cleanYes, I realize it’s a little early to begin thinking about resolutions and goals for the new year, but if you’re like me, I bet you have a few remaining goals or undertakings to achieve this year. And might one of of those goals be to avoid carrying over some of this year’s items into 2010?

What may be occupying mental and/or physical space on your proverbial plate of things to do? Maybe you’ve been avoiding a chore or a household task. Is there a project that is almost complete but needs a little attention to bring it to a close? Maybe you need to start a project so you are poised for a new endeavor come January. Whatever they are, write them down and then say them out loud. Open your calendar and schedule time to make them happen. It’s time to clear your plate and make room for the next course!