My Most Difficult Organizing Job

Last week, I was explaining my work to someone, and they asked me a question I actually had never been asked before. They wanted to know what had been my most difficult job, and why.

I have been so fortunate to have absolutely wonderful clients over the past few years. There really have not been any horror stories - my clients have listened to me, trusted me, and been honest with me. I value the relationship I have with each client, and remain incredibly grateful they have allowed me into their lives to help them.

That said, one job does come to mind. The client wanted me to help unpack following a move - which is a great time to get organized! However, this person was also absolutely unwilling to consider changing any habits or getting rid of any items at all whatsoever. This person believed that I could wield some sort of organizer magic to make the stuff they owned take up less space and look prettier, without requiring them to put in any effort to change.


If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that’s not what it’s about. I do not wave a magic wand, and I do not do cosmetic fixes. I create an organizing system that works for each of my individual clients, and then I make it look beautiful. People come to me because they realize that their space is not working for them, and I do my very best work when they are willing to undertake change.

Plus, when you come right down to it, organizing and storage are limited by the rules of physics. There is nothing I can do to make a certain number of shirts suddenly take up less physical space. I cannot bend the space-time continuum! This is why I always tell people that organizing is not about the storage, it is first and foremost about the stuff.

So there you have it: my most difficult organizing job. And if that’s all I’ve had to deal with, then I count myself very lucky indeed!


Organize First, THEN Move

When I came across this article, I found myself nodding along to every word.  Liz Johnson's 4 Tips for Paring Down Your Belongings Before A Big Move are a clear, concise distillation of so many of the topics I cover with my clients who are going through moves.

I’ve seen firsthand that when it comes to moving, taking the time to get organized beforehand will pay huge dividends during the unpacking process.  You know those last few boxes that just have random junk shoved into them that you have no idea what to do with?  If you get organized before packing, those boxes won’t happen in the first place!

Photo courtesy of (Liz Johnson)

Photo courtesy of (Liz Johnson)

I’m working with an adorable family right now who just moved from an apartment into their first home (and are expecting their second child).  It’s such an exciting time for them, and so fun to be a part of their major life transition.  In fact – the husband joked with me last time I was over that I’m now part of the family!

However… I wish they had called me sooner!  We only had time for a couple of organizing sessions in their old place.  We got a lot done, but I could have helped make their transition even smoother if I had had the opportunity to go through all the spaces in the old apartment before the movers came.

Don’t get me wrong – they are still going to end up with a beautifully custom organized home at the end of all this!  But because we weren’t able to spend more time on the front end, they moved more stuff than they needed to and are now in the position of making keep/toss decisions at the same time as we make placement and organizational decisions.  It’s now a more complex and overwhelming process, and I’m glad I’m there to streamline it for them!

To be specific: if you’re moving and want help, call me with about 2 months of lead time.  I’ll help sort your belongings in your old place, manage your move, and organize everything during the unpacking process so that your new home works for you from the get go.  Moving can suck – but it doesn’t have to!


What I'm Organizing

I always keep my Christmas decorations up through the new year - it all seems like part of the same festive season to me, especially when we host a New Year's Eve party like we do most years.  But the time finally came to move on so I spent a couple of hours last week putting everything away.  I didn't take any pictures this year, but this post from January 2015 still just about covers it!  The same concept holds true with all things: organize them as you put them away so that there's no extra work when you take them out again.

I'm actually working with a really fun couple right now who belatedly realized the wisdom of organizing first.  They just bought their first home in San Francisco and, given that they were both busy with work and family and holidays, just had everything quickly packed and moved from their apartment.  They called me after spending a few weeks trying to unpack in their spare time and realizing that they needed to seriously declutter and create some organization systems in the unique nooks and crannies of their new home.  While I wish I could have started their project before the move to make it easier on them, it's still so much fun to help them set up their new home!

What organizing projects are you planning in the new year?


Living With What Doesn't Work

Let me state for the record that I’m in love with our new house.  It’s cozy, cute, and traditional, with everything we need and nothing we don’t.  It’s the kind of place where I know we’re going to be happy here for many years, and I can see a lovely future of family, friends, dogs, celebrations, and quiet moments unfolding within its walls.

Well… it doesn’t exactly have EVERYTHING we need!

You can learn a lot about your organizational needs by living with something for a little while, and that’s exactly what has happened with our kitchen.  It’s a beautiful, airy space, done in a traditional style I adore – and can you believe that floor?  However, we quickly discovered that the way it’s organized doesn’t work smoothly with our lifestyle and the way we cook.

First, my husband is a really nerdy cook – he likes to use the latest devices and we own all kinds of ridiculous machines and gadgets.  This works out well for me, since he’s always working on something new, inventive, and delicious.  However, we’re finding that there isn’t room in lower cabinets for all these fun toys, and not nearly enough counter space to spread out on.

Second, I’ve always had the feeling that I wouldn’t like living with transparent upper shelving and it turns out that I don’t.  Especially now, when I have to put things in upper storage that I’d prefer to hide behind closed doors like smaller appliances, baking dishes, water bottles, and food storage. This post was oddly prescient!

Third, I grew up with double ovens and a separate cooktop, and I have found the transition to a range with single oven to be cramping my style.  I know these gourmet Wolf ranges are all the rage, but for the way we cook (especially for entertaining) we just need more than one oven!

We had wanted to start our renovation project immediately after move-in, but I’m now grateful that the process has taken long enough for us to be able to live in our space and truly understand what works and what doesn’t.  I think we made a mistake in our previous place of waiting too long to do work we knew we wanted to do (we started after 3 years and moved at 5!), but I do recommend taking some time so that you get the best possible results once you do start making changes.  Our plans have gone through significant revision between move-in and now, so I’m already confident that time was priceless!


Resources for an Organized Move Part 4

Our last move five years ago still stands out in my mind as an epically uncomfortable time.  Not only did I not get to use my favorite movers, but we were also unprepared for the sheer volume of stuff and didn’t strategize appropriately.  Learn from my mistakes and organize throughout your move so that you can reduce your own pain and suffering!

1)   Pack a suitcase for the week surrounding your move.  Even if you label every box correctly, it’s still going to take you a few days to find and unpack your closet.  Having a reliable stash of the clothes, accessories, and toiletries you need will go a long way towards making the transition more comfortable.

Photo courtesy of

2)   Get an inflatable mattress, and bring that, your packed suitcase, and a full set of towels and bedding (including mattress pad and all your pillows for maximum comfort) to your new place the night before the move.  That way, you’re not trying to make a mad dash to throw everything together in the morning before the movers arrive.  And, if you’re moving more than one or two bedrooms your move will likely take more than one day, so now you have a comfy and free place to sleep in the middle.  We love the queen sized Aerobed sold at Costco because it’s really easy to use and super comfortable – I actually woke up the first morning at our new place dreaming I was in my old bed!

3)   Make sure every box gets labeled with both contents and location.  This way, you only have to move a box into your new place once, instead of having to transport things from a giant pile in one room.

Each box had exactly the same amount of packing paper in it...

4)   As you’re unpacking, take the time to flatten and stack the newsprint that movers use to pad items as they pack them.  You would be amazed at the amount of space that stuff can take up.  Even if you crumple it as tightly as you can, it expands and practically becomes sentient.  Bonus: if you keep your boxes and packing materials neat and tidy as you unpack, they’ll be easier to sell or give away!

5)   Unpack your bedroom and bathroom first.  There’s takeout in the world so dishes can wait, but nothing will make you feel human like a good night’s sleep in your own bed and getting ready in the morning with all your stuff close at hand.

Let me know if you can think of any other must-have tips for moving!


... and we're back!

I’ve really enjoyed giving you a window into my life and how I organize it, but to be honest I haven’t had much to say on the subject over the past couple of months because of our big move.  We are about to embark on a pretty extensive renovation project, and so we’ve sort of been “making do” regarding decoration and organization. 

Fortunately, that’s all about to change.  Plans and permits are in process, and I’m starting to work on interior design for the spaces that won’t be changing.  Hopefully I’ll be able to bring you some new approaches to organizing, particularly regarding small spaces (our new single family home is actually smaller than our old condo in terms of finished square footage!), and some fun comparisons between old and new organizational strategies.

As ever, I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m an ultimate authority on home organization.  I do have an organizing process I believe in and trust, and I show you how I use that process in my own life so that you can see how it works. 

I always welcome comments and questions, and love hearing that something I’ve done inspired you!  The most remarked upon post by far?  This one on how I organize my nail polish!


Resources for an Organized Move Part 3

I firmly maintain that the best movers in San Francisco are Delancey Street Moving and Trucking.

The Delancey Street Foundation is a residential rehabilitation organization for ex-convicts, substance abusers, and the homeless. The moving service is one of the businesses they own and operate to train their residents. The program is over forty years old and has seen amazing rehabilitation results, and I encourage you to check out their website.

This background drew me in when I was looking for movers to help me transition into my first apartment ten years ago, and the experience could not have been better.   It was so positive, in fact, that I hired Delancey Street again when I moved to LA for graduate school – you can use them to move long distance between any of their locations.  In fact, out of four moves in my adult life, I’ve only used another moving company once, and that was because Delancey Street’s long distance trucks were completely booked when I wanted to move back to SF from LA.  I used a reputable company and suffice it to say, the comparison was eye opening.

Photo courtesy of Delancey Street Moving and Trucking

The bottom line is that the Delancey Street movers are respectful, careful, and they HUSTLE.  The prices are very fair for the high quality of service that you get.  And Delancey Street’s integrity cannot be beat: they tell you immediately if anything happens and do their best to make it right.  During our recent move, one of the guys accidentally dropped a box as he was carrying it out of our old house.  Immediately, he set it down and opened it in front of me to check the contents and confirm that nothing was damaged.  I’ve done every move by myself, without my husband present, and I’ve always felt completely comfortable with all the guys – this last time we were joking around about college football as they ran up and down the stairs!

There are a couple things you should know when you hire the Delancey Street movers.  First, they are busy for a reason, so you may have to try calling a couple of times to get through to a person (don’t bother leaving a voicemail).  Second, they cannot transport alcohol.  While this is a hassle for those of us who may or may not have extensive wine and whiskey collections (ahem…) it makes sense to not expose people in various stages of addiction recovery to alcohol.  And not one word of a lie, my husband and I were more than happy to spend half a day schlepping our own booze to our new house so that we could rest easy and know Delancey Street was handling the rest.

Oh, and don’t forget to stop by a Delancey Street lot for your Christmas tree this season!  They have all the most gorgeous trees and their lots do it up right: candy cane striped poles, lots of lights, Christmas music playing, the works.  They also sell fresh wreaths, garlands, and Christmas lights to complete your holiday décor.


Weekly Peek

On Brand

If you follow me on social media (and you should! I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Yelp) you'll see that I've updated my image.  I had headshots taken by Shelah Osbrink of Sweet Light Studios, and I could not be happier with the results!


...and after!


We have officially been in our new house for 2 weeks today.  We've managed to unpack most of the boxes and arrange the little furniture we have to make things livable.  We've even had our first guests over - close friends only, since seating options are minimal at the moment!

Pearly Whites

I just had my semiannual checkup with my dentist, and my husband is going in next month when he gets his braces off after an epic 3-year slog with the most perfectionist orthodontist in history.  It sounds bizarre, but I adore my dentist Dr. Jeremy Velasco.  A friend of mine referred me years ago and I've been a loyal client ever since.  Dr. Jeremy himself is friendly, kind, and obviously cares about his work and patients.  All his hygienists are really nice and particularly good at striking that weird balance of conversation when you have your mouth full of dental tools.  Plus, the front office ladies are super sweet and remember everyone by name!  If you feel like visiting the dentist is always impersonal and an upsell, give Dr. Jeremy a try - I once asked about a whitening treatment my friend raved about and he talked me right out of it since I didn't actually need it!

Photo courtesy of Alpine Meadows base cam 10:56 a.m. 11/6/15

Think Snow!

The first snow of the season came to the northern Sierras this week, and skiers are chomping at the bit to get out there.  It has snowed on Halloween weekend for the past 3 years straight, so I'm still not holding my breath about what that might mean for the rest of the season, but it's great to see the fluffy white stuff falling again!  Be sure to check out Unofficial Alpine (or the Unofficial Networks page for your mountain of choice) to get the real story on snowfall, mountain opening, and more local issues.

Resources for an Organized Move Part 2

So, you’ve decluttered your clothes, shoes, and accessories using my recommended techniques, and successfully sold your higher value furniture on Move Loot.  What about the rest of the stuff you want to get rid of?

Another really great option for getting furniture out of your life is good old-fashioned donation.  There are several nonprofits that run thrifts stores that gladly accept furniture donations, and some even pick up.  I’ve used Out of the Closet in San Francisco with great results, and I love that all proceeds benefit the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

I try my very best to minimize the amount of stuff going into the landfill, especially when undertaking a move.  But sometimes, some stuff is just junk.  My husband and I have gone the DIY route before: rending a Uhaul van, loading it up, and dropping it off at Recology in San Francisco.  It’s not the most fun way to spend a day, that’s for sure.  This time, we decided to save time and headaches by calling a junk hauler, especially since there were bulky items involved like an old fridge that had been sitting in our building’s basement for easily 15 years (why?), an enormous carpet ruined by nail polish, and heavy, rusted metal shelving purchased by a previous owner.

To get rid of things that are potentially toxic, such as batteries and paint, check your city’s waste disposal organization.  If you live in San Francisco, Recology will do a one-time pickup of toxic material for free!  We definitely availed ourselves of this service to dump a shocking quantity of paint from prior color schemes.

Of course, coordinating all of these services to conscientiously dispose of your unwanted stuff can take a lot of time and energy. Fortunately, many professional organizers work on moves and I’m one of them, so call me if you need help with your upcoming move!


Weekly Peek

The Move

It happened, you guys.  It was a two-day process: the movers came one day to pack, and the following day to transport.  This pic used to be our bedroom and became a staging area for boxes - yikes!  Once again we could not have been happier with our experience using Delancey Street Moving, and I'll be expanding on that in an upcoming post.

It's All for the Babies!

I've been volunteering on the committee that organizes the Signature Chefs Gala to benefit March of Dimes San Francisco, held this year on November 12.  We've put together an amazing event, with tastings from over a dozen local wineries, over a dozen local restaurants including Michelin starred chefs and reality show champions, and a truly stellar live auction with items from exclusive Giants owners seats to one of a kind experiences like a walk-on role on a hit TV show and luxury getaways to Belize and Hawaii.  I hope you'll join me on November 12 to support healthy moms and healthy babies!

Sittin' Pretty in the Skybox

Last weekend was homecoming at Stanford, and my husband and I were the grateful recipients of Skybox tickets to the football game against Washington (a friend of my mom's wasn't going to be using her tickets and heard it was my husband's birthday!).  He's a proud Stanford alum and I'm a HUGE Stanford fan (sorry to my alma mater, but rooting for Princeton just doesn't have the same thrill), so we were like two giddy kids running around up there.  Of course we had to sample all the free food, catch up with staff we know from our old jobs, check out the balcony, and of course watch the game gobsmacked from our 50 yard line seats.  It may never happen again, but we made the most of the experience!

New Digs

I'm pleased to report that Petunia is greatly enjoying the new house.  The back lawn and deck catch the morning sun perfectly, and she has been enjoying many a snooze strategically placed to make the most of it.