Archive for the ‘Organizing General’ Category

All This Talk about Capsule Wardrobes: How to Create Your Own

How often do you say to yourself “I have so many clothes but nothing to wear”?
There is lots of talk these days about capsule wardrobes. I have read many articles, done the research and tried it with my own wardrobe. I will share with you my thoughts on how you too can create a capsule wardrobe.

First, you might be asking “what is a capsule wardrobe?” A capsule wardrobe is a wardrobe of around 30 pieces (you choose the number that works for you) that you customize to coordinate numerous outfit options. It’s usually derived from two or three basic colors, a few coordinating colors and two or three accent colors that help you dress with fewer clothing items. A capsule wardrobe does not include pajamas, workout clothing, or accessories (whew!). Of course, once you achieve a capsule wardrobe, you might be tempted to minimize those items too! Capsule wardrobes are often created by season, so as we approach fall you may want to start this process with your fall wardrobe.

The next question is, “why would you want a capsule wardrobe?” Having fewer items in your wardrobe means less to sort through as you decide what to wear and offers more space in your closet. Choosing your outfit for the day from a limited capsule wardrobe is fast and easy. Some folks decide on a capsule wardrobe to be more eco-friendly, do less shopping or to spend less money. According to the book Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline, Americans buy an average of 64 items of clothing a year! Inexpensive clothing is readily available and often on sale, so we tend to buy more clothing which is typically of lesser quality.

Any of you that know me can assume I am guilty of having more clothes than I need. OK yes, it’s true. I’m a “Certified Professional Organizer®” and I have a passion for fashion. Consequently, the idea of a capsule wardrobe seemed both challenging and interesting to me so I took an evening to create a capsule wardrobe from my current wardrobe. Here are the steps I took and recommendations I would give after applying the process myself.

1. Consulting with an image consultant is the best start, though not mandatory. I know it can be expensive, but it’s not as expensive as buying the wrong items of clothing for you in color, cut and style. You will learn a lot more from an image consultant than you expect. Kate Leser, The Makeover Expert® taught me:

  • My style – I’m sophisticated classic with a twist of drama. Maybe you are bohemian, town and country or rock and roll?
  • My best colors for cosmetics and for clothing – I got a fan guide of my best colors to carry with me while shopping!
  • My patterns – This one I was pretty much doing by default – large, angular patterns work best for me.
  • My most flattering shirt, dress, skirt and pant style – Tunics were out and pencil skirts were in!
  • My face shape, which told me my best neckline, haircut, glasses and jewelry – My chunky necklaces were often the drama in my style.

Wow! Imagine how much easier it is to weed out your closet and accessories when you know all this information!

2. Make a list of what is important to you in your clothing. You may list things like:

  • Material and texture
  • Comfort
  • Colors
  • Image/perception you want to create (business and casual)
  • Whose style you want to emulate
  • What your favorite items are to wear
  • Level of clothing care (I haven’t bought dry clean only items for years.)
  • Quality

… And anything else that comes to mind. There are no wrong answers here. Just write it down!

3.  With all of the criteria from above, start sorting the items in your closet into three categories.

The So Longs – These can be donated, consigned or trashed. Thank them for their time with you and send them off to their next life.

The Maybes – These are items that are not favorites but you can’t quite make a final decision to get rid of them. If you find yourself thinking too hard about an item, it probably falls in this category. Once you have sorted everything, these items will be easier to come back to for final decision making.

The Keepers – These are items that meet your criteria from steps one and two as well as those you love, look and feel great in. You know right away these are non-negotiable. Keep in mind that capsule wardrobe items are worn more often, so quality will be important in the items you select.

Once the sorting is complete, move the Maybes to another closet or storage space and move the So Longs to the trash or to your car for consignment or donation.

4.  Determine your basic colors. Take a look at your Keepers to select your possible capsule wardrobe items. Are you finding that your Keepers are showing up as potential coordinating colors? Do you see any trends in your Keepers? You may want to use these answers as you move into deciding your colors in the next steps.

The basic colors will be for your basic pieces such as pants, skirts, cardigans, blazers, and shoes. Some typical basic colors might be navy, brown, gray, black white or winter white. I chose navy, winter white and clear white (which can be worn year-round in NC). I am always tempted by black as a basic, but my image consultant convinced me that navy was a better choice for me, and after testing it, I found this to be true!

Review your Keepers and select your 3 best basic color choices.

Basic Colors

Select your basic clothing pieces based on your basic color selection.

5. Determine your coordinating colors. These should be colors that coordinate well with your basics. For coordinating colors I chose pink, red and orange, (I know, bright, right?) all of which go well with all three of my basic colors as well as with each other! A good way to find some pleasing color combinations is to take a look at a color wheel.

Coordinating Colors

I did find that this coordinating colors step required a lot more patience than I expected. A single color such as red comes in a number of hues. Hold your items up against the pieces you hope to coordinate them with to be sure they work with at least four pieces of the capsule wardrobe. This is an important step, so take your time.

6.  Once you have your basic and coordinating pieces, you may want to pull in accent colors to add a pop to your outfits. Accent colors are good in pieces like scarves, jewelry, and shoes. They give an outfit an additional pop of color and lend personality to an otherwise uninteresting combination.

Accent Colors

Don’t worry about it being a perfect capsule wardrobe; there will be options going forward to switch things out or add things in as you see fit. Here’s the order I found easiest to sort by and also how I ended up putting 31 pieces in my capsule wardrobe.

0 Suits – I don’t wear suits, but I do coordinate other pieces for a “Cyndy suit” look that is still professional.
3 Pants – career – It’s a bonus if they can work as casual too
3 Pants – casual
1 Jean
4 Skirts
3 Tops – sleeveless (layering)
2 Tops – short sleeve
6 Tops – long sleeve (for more options select long-sleeved tops that can roll to shorter sleeves)
5 Second Layers (2 cardigans, 2 blazers, 1 denim jacket)
4 Dresses

So, there you have it! You’ve set up your first capsule wardrobe. It would be a good idea to throw together some outfits and take pictures of them with shoes and accessories reminding you of the many options you have available. Again, we are not going for perfect here. We are going for simplicity and allowing ourselves room for change. Below are outfit examples from my initial capsule wardrobe. I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your wardrobe choices.

In full disclosure, here I am now one month later having used my capsule wardrobe regularly and I have to admit, my creative side quickly felt limited. I was drawn to sneaking some Maybes back into the mix (guilt).

This process did confirm that, yes, with weeding, decision making and coordinating items in our closet we do have lots to wear, even in a capsule wardrobe!



Simplify Your Mornings, Organize your Bathroom

Here’s some quick advice on helping with beauty products. If you’re like me, you just love the idea of new products, new colors, and new possibilities! It’s not a bad thing, we just have to put some boundaries around it.
  1. Sort everything by category (hairspray, tanners, lipsticks, eye crème) onto a bathroom floor or a tabletop.
  2. Choose one of those categories you have sorted and check for expiration dates. This is a quick way to eliminate your first items without much thought. If it doesn’t have an expiration date sometimes it will have an unusual smell that will tell you it’s expired. You can also Google expiration dates on any category of items to get a more realistic perspective.
  3. Decide on the boundary/number of items in that category that you feel is realistic to keep. Now proceed to choose your top favorite items in that category. For instance, with lipsticks you might set a boundary of three brights and three neutrals. With eye creams and hairsprays you might select a limit of two. Doing it this way, you’re just saying yes to the best and setting yourself free of the rest. I did not mean for that to rhyme but isn’t that cool how that happened!
  4. Going forward, once you are down to just your favorites, I would recommend the one-in one-out maintenance program. When you bring home a new lipstick an existing lipstick has to go away. This way you can keep your beauty products to a minimum. When shopping, it causes you stop before you buy a new product and decide if you have one at home you are willing to give up for the new one.
  5. I then recommend keeping the larger products, like hair products, under the sink in a clear plastic bin that you can pull forward like a drawer to be able to get the items in the back. For smaller items, like cosmetic items, I like a train case which neatly tucks everything away for the day.

Finding Time

“If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” ~Benjamin FranklinI remember taking a positive parenting course, though I don’t have children myself. I took it as a professional development course to have a better understanding and help my clients in a more supportive way. The parents attending were given homework—spend 10 minutes each day for the next week with each of their children doing an activity the child selects. The next week they came back to the class and were all amazed that they could not find 10 minutes each day to spend with their child. What an eye opener for all!

What is it you know you should or would like to be spending time on and never seem to “get around to it?” I know—you truly believe you will “find” the time and yet, as time goes on the activity doesn’t get done. So whether it’s time for date night, organizing or time to relax, it needs to be planned for physically on your calendar. That’s right, think of it as an appointment and treat it like one. If you had a dentist or PTA appointment you would give that time respect. Treat this new time with just as much respect. When a friend or coworker asks for that time you simply tell them “I am already committed at that time, can we look at another?”

This might be tricky for those of us who would like a spontaneous date night or spontaneous time with our children. The problem is that spontaneous time doesn’t just show up in this fast paced, technology interrupting world.

So, I challenge you this week to write down just one thing you know is important in your life, that thing that you have been meaning to get around to, but haven’t. Now take out your calendar and schedule it. Keep in mind you might need to use the recurring appointments option on your digital calendar.

Planning Around Obstacles

In the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhgigg, I found this interesting regarding the recovery of older patients after knee surgery.

“The patients who had written plans in their booklets had started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not. They had started getting in and out of their chairs, unassisted, almost three times as fast. They were putting on their shoes, doing the laundry, and making themselves meals quicker than the patients who hadn’t scribbled out goals ahead of time.”
Read the rest of this entry »

An Organized Work Space

Refresh your working space for the New Year.
Hey—February is already here … have you organized your office for a more productive 2015? So often we are running so fast that we continue running without stopping to evaluate what we might change to be more productive and less stressed. An organized working space is a great start! The number one question I hear when it comes to this type of project is “Where do I start?” To answer that question I’d like to share a 4-step process for getting your workspace organized.
  1. CLEAR – the old
    The New Year is a great time to clear off your desktop, old files, binders, books and supply closets. Statistics show that we only retrieve 20% of what we file, so be aggressive. Set up a shred bin and large garbage can for the items you can get rid of, there will probably be many. You may find information that is legal, tax or past client related which you need to hang on to should the need arise in the future. Create an archive box for these items and get them out of your current office space. You can retrieve them should the need arise in the future … it rarely does.
  2. CATEGORIZE – the physical items you are keeping
    Sort the items you want to keep by category. Some examples might be working files, resources, and office supplies (mailing, printing, and writing). Just create an area to categorize them as you are sorting. The next step will help you with containing them.
    This step is about finding the right containers for the items you have categorized.
    Here are some recommendations:

    • Open bins within arm’s reach of your desk labeled “In,” “Action/working,” “Pending,” and “To read.”
    • A desktop file to store all your recurring work folders on your desktop.
  4. PLACE the contained categories in an efficient location
    Set up regularly used items to be within reach while you are sitting at your desk. If you are right handed, items like office supplies, shredder, printer and the desktop file may work most efficiently to your right. I have a bookshelf to the right of my desk for easy access to binders, mailing supplies, my printer, the recycle bin and my client preparation supplies. Everything at the ready!
So, schedule blocks of time in the next week to allow yourself a more productive place to work. Start by clearing out the old. It doesn’t have to be done in a day. Commit 30 minutes each day until you feel like the faucet is off and your desktop and office space are working efficiently for you.

An Early Plan for a Winning Year

Often folks get to the end of the year and realize they did not “get” to do the things they wanted to do during the year. We think we will look into vacations or upcoming holidays later, and then miss the opportunities to enjoy the time. Well, the new year is here and this month I would like to help you plan a simpler and more fulfilling year. January is the month to coordinate with family and friends to set up a plan for 2015. Planning ahead allows you a smoother flow to the year, not to mention activities to look forward to throughout the year.

Some planning items to consider for the year are:

  1. Budgeting for events and vacations
  2. Vacation times and locations
  3. Holidays – where and what events to attend
  4. School vacation or work service days and who will watch the children
  5. The shopping required for holidays, vacations and events

Keeping in mind that these events may require some appointments with or changes to:

  • Your boss (request the time off now)
  • Your friends and family (if you are going to be out of reach)
  • Your household service professionals
    • Newspaper
    • Dog sitter
    • Housekeeper
    • Post office ( to hold deliveries)
    • Security system contact
  • Your credit card provider
  • Car servicing for long trips

Coordinating for planned upcoming events this far ahead of time ensures that you have the dog sitter, bosses approval and/or finances to make it happen smoothly.

Here’s to a full and enjoyable 2015!

Simplify Through Holiday Planning

The  ultimate goal of Christmas is to spend quality time with family and friends. With so much to do during this time I encourage you to see how you might simplify your holiday. To simplify you may want to decrease the number of gifts exchanged, select only the most important events to attend, ask family to bring a dish for the holiday dinner, say “no” to those invitations not on your family’s favorites list or delegate activities that feel laborious to you like fixing foods or wrapping presents.
This month I have included a checklist for planning your time and activities. In preparing this list, I put the items in order of importance in timing. I also realize that many of these items may not apply to your holiday preparation, but they may remind you to consider eliminating or scaling back on an activity. Take a few minutes with your calendar to schedule the activities that are essential to your holiday and schedule a time to complete them. Having a plan on paper gets the overwhelm out of your head and allows you to be more relaxed in order to ENJOY the holiday.
Here’s to a simple holiday with friends and family!

My Holiday Planning Checklist

 Plan holiday location and travel
 Research other local holiday events and activities
 Confirm and schedule the school holiday events
 Determine family wardrobe needs for events such as the family dinners, school events, church, and parties
 Schedule a  photo shoot for holiday cards
 Plan who and what will need to be cleaned in the house or make sure cleaning lady is scheduled for your needs
 Plan activities of visitors are coming to town
 Create list of family  gifts to be given and ideas for the gifts (establish list deadlines)
 Create list of gifts for non-family (hairdresser, post man, teachers)
 Plan time for shopping for gifts
 Get pictures taken for holiday card
 Shop for gifts – think of events and perishables, not clutter. (See Cyndy’s previous email on non-clutter gifts)
 Research activities and local events to keep the children entertained when school is not in session
 Purchase the tree or bring the artificial tree from attic
 Put up your tree and decorate it
 Bring down outdoor decorations from the attic and decorate the outside of the house
 Bring down holiday tabletop and soft good items from the attic and decorate the inside of the house
 Purchase firewood
 Order gifts online to ensure delivery by the holiday
 Gather addresses for Christmas
 Purchase Christmas cards
 Ensure children take teacher gifts to school
 To the post office to ship any presents.
 Plan meals and appetizers.
 Plan grocery shopping for non-perishables
 Pack for traveling
 If entertaining, plan dishes,  linens, silverware etc.
 Make ornaments with the kids
 Wrap the presents … or … find someone to wrap the gifts. You don’t want to be doing this the night before.
 Add voicemail message to your phone regarding your holiday hours
 If celebrating the New Year make plans
 Apply your plan for cleaning the house or ensure the cleaning service is still planning to arrive
 Shop for the perishable grocery needs
 Take a look at your front porch and see how it looks for visitors. Does it need cleaning?

Clutter, Communication and Couples

Better family life through a plan for clutter.

Clutter often takes up space needed for other things such as guests in the guest room and cars in the garage and working space in an office. It can easily overwhelm a home, as we continually bring in new things, but don’t necessarily send things back out at the same pace.For November, I’ve decided to share some thoughts on the importance of couples having clear communication to control clutter. This is a topic that often comes up on my first visit with clients. By communicating a shared plan and setting up boundaries for your space and your stuff you establish a way to be more comfortable in your home together. Gather your spouse or family and have a discussion as to your family guidelines for clutter.Coming to an agreement about your clutter is about asking the right questions. Here is a list of typical clutter categories and a few questions to lead your discussion.


  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Toys
  • Technology
  • Tools
  • Holiday decorations
  • Mail, paperwork and Magazines
  1. What is it that we want for our home and family regarding these categories?
  2. Who would be responsible for the final decisions on removing clutter in the different categories? Which categories require more than one approval?
  3. Are we planning on having additional children? This question will be important in regards to toy and clothing hand-me-downs.
  4. What boundaries should we put on each category? Boundaries might be the amount of space such as bookcases, closets, drawers, cabinets and garage space or the amount of time we hold on to certain items.
  5. How can we better control incoming potential clutter as a family?
Keep in mind that Santa is coming next month with more things that may become a future round of clutter. Have you decided on some non-clutter gifts? Stopping the flow of stuff coming in is a good plan towards reducing clutter.I often find myself using my quote: “The best get lost in the many.” Whether it’s a favorite toy, sweater, or item once thought lost; clearing out the excess clutter allows you to find and then enjoy the things that are most important.

5 Tips to Plan for the Upcoming Holidays

Plan Ahead and Reduce Upcoming


Holiday Stress


Yes, I realize it is only October, but the holidays are soon upon us! I am pulling out my fall decorations from the attic to set the mood. Hello my pumpkins!

Start Planning today for the activities and commitments of the upcoming holidays. It takes a lot of weight off when the holidays arrive. Jot down your families intentions for the upcoming holidays and give yourself a small project each week to move you forward in preparation. Did you miss making reservations last year? Was the gift giving overwhelming at the last minute? Did you wish you had put in your catering order before the caterer or grocery store was at their capacity and could not help you?

Well, here are 5 tips to take some of the stress off of November and December. Let’s enjoy our holidays as it is meant to be.
  1. Plan, plan, plan – start now laying out what you’d like to be doing and what you might eliminate or change this year.  
  2. Delegate some of your responsibilities. Can a caterer prepare your sides? Can the kids wrap the extended family member’s gifts? Can you give a heads up to the visiting families that this year is potluck and have them sign up for what they would LIKE to bring? Make your requests now so other can also plan and prepare.
  3. Change up your gift giving. Our family no longer exchanges gifts. I believe I enjoy the holidays even more this way! If your family isn’t up for that try creating a dollar limit. Some families purchase gifts just for children under a certain age, others do a one-on-one only exchange so that each person buys for only one other person.  Throw some ideas out there now before others start their holiday shopping – or at least give them time to consider it, even if it doesn’t happen until next year.
  4. If you just can’t think of limiting gift-giving … give and request gifts that won’t be clutter. Restaurant gift certificates, gas cards, theater tickets, a fishing expedition, tickets to the Ice capades, or a basket of edibles are all good options.  Each November I post the “Non-clutter Gift List” for even more ideas. Stay tuned… it’s coming next month.
  5. As you move through your holidays, make note of how you go about your activities such as meal preparation so that you can make it even simpler next year.
So, before it is late October … and then November, grab a paper and pen and a quiet spot to consider your thoughts and intentions for the next two months. Trust me; it is worth the investment. It will reward you in joy and time with family and friends for the holidays!

Organizing in the Basement

September 4, 2014

Though we have few basements in North Carolina I remember the time I spent in our basement in Ohio where basements acted as an additional floor. We had a storage area, our washer/dryer, our garbage, a bedroom, bath living space and kitchen all within our basement. That laundry and storage area is where I started loving organizing at just 12 years old!

Here are a few of my grown-up organizing tips for your basement:

* Store smaller luggage in larger luggage to save space and store travel accessories with your luggage to remind you to take them.

* Use boxes with colored lids to designate the storage of holiday items, for example use red for Christmas and orange for Halloween.

* Shelving is vital in a basement for storage. Keep in mind that flooding may happen and you’ll want as much as possible out of the water.